Did I ever tell you guys about the time that joining a CSA almost killed me?
No? Really? Hmmm. You would think that’s something I would have mentioned seeing as how I divulge every other inappropriate detail of my life.
Okay, well, better late than never!
The story goes like this.
Hi, my name is Joanne and I am a control freak.
(I asked The.Boy. about this the other day and he said “Well, only about your cookbooks. And your spices. And running. And going to bed before 11. And your stand mixer. And did I mentioned your cookbooks?” Um, yeah. I’m kind of overprotective of my cookbooks. What’s your point.)
I’m especially bad when it comes to food. I menu plan like a crazy person and when things don’t go quite the way I intend…well. Let’s just say it’s not pretty.
So being part of a CSA was pretty much torture for me.
Our pick-up day was Tuesday so Wednesday through Friday I was fine because I had my food, I knew what I was making, no problem.
Then came Saturday. Grocery shopping day. Also known as hair-pulling-out-of-severe-stress day in the Eats Well With Others household.
Because….how does one grocery shop without a menu plan? And how does one menu plan when one has NO IDEA what vegetables one is going to be graced with on Tuesday? And really, the ultimate question, how does one go a WHOLE 24 WEEKS LIVING LIKE THIS?!?!?
It was like being on an episode of Top Chef where, yeah sure, you know what the challenge is going to be but you also know that as soon as you go to Whole Foods, get back to the kitchen, and start prepping, Padma is going to inform you that the rules have changed and everything that you’ve bought is totally useless. Except, unlike in Top Chef, there is no money prize nor do you get to stare at Tom Colicchio’s adorable bald head for hours on end.
And all you get is dinner. Whooptie do.
That’s not to say there weren’t things I loved about my CSA.
I loved the satisfaction I got from polishing off an entire share that was meant to feed a family of four. All by myself.
I loved knowing that all of the veggies I was eating had been pulled from the (organically fertilized) ground just hours before.
But mostly…I loved all the heirloom tomatoes. We got pounds and pounds of them and, even though I know I paid for the CSA at some point, by the time tomato season rolled around it felt like I was getting them for free (especially when I saw the price of heirlooms at the farmer’s market. Eep!).
Sigh. I do miss those tomatoes. They were almost worth the nervous breakdown. Almost.
Which is why I was eternally grateful when I saw that this year, Trader Joe’s started selling local heirlooms by the box! At a reasonable price!! Major win.
So I still get all the satisfaction of walking home with my little cardboard box chock full of local farm fresh tomatoes. But I get to do it on my time, on my terms, when I want to. No hair pulling required. Totally menu plan friendly.
Probably my favorite thing I’ve made with those tomatoes this summer…is this gratin. I didn’t have super high hopes for it but I have to say, it was amazing. It tastes exactly the way that summer feels. Bright and fresh and full of sunshine and happiness. And really, you just can’t go wrong with that.
Tomato, Squash and Red Pepper Gratin
Serves 4-6, adapted from Cooking Light August 2012
- 5 tsp olive oil, divided
- 2 cups chopped red onion
- 2 medium red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 lb yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup almond milk or 2% reduced fat milk
- 3 oz aged gruyere cheese, shredded
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 oz French bread baguette, torn
- 12 oz heirloom tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 tsp oil and swirl to coat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squash and garlic and cook for 4 minutes. Place the veggie mixture in a large bowl. Stir in the quinoa, basil, thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper. Taste for seasoning.
- Combine the remaining 1/4 tsp salt, milk, cheese and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the milk mix to the veggie mix, stirring until just combined. Spoon into a 9×9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
- Place the bread in a food processor. Pulse until coarse crumbs form. Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tsp olive oil to the pan, swirling to coat. Add the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes or until toasted.
- Arrange tomatoes evenly over the veggie mixture in the pan. Top evenly with the breadcrumbs. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until topping is browned.
For more light and healthy recipes that use summer tomatoes, check out Cooking Light’s tomato recipe round up here!
Also, here are some oldie but goodie recipes of mine that use summer tomatoes:
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Red Onions, Dill and Feta
Homemade Spaghetti with Heirloom Tomatoes, Capers, Anchovies and Chile
Cannellini Beans with Fresh Basil, Tomatoes, Capers and Zucchini over Polenta
Spelt Berries with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Pasta with Tomato Peach Sauce
Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and Tapenade Pizza with Goat Cheese