csa week 15

It has been “help thy neighbor” week here on Breeding Road. It all began last Friday around 3:30 pm. Knee deep in our own must dos, Ricky, our neighbor, stopped by begging for assistance. A team of workers slated to return that very afternoon never showed and he had 4 wagons of tobacco lined up and heating up at his barn. Once the wagons are loaded, the tightly packed leaves of the tobacco plants will rot right there if they are not unloaded. At an hour or more to unload each wagon, he had his work cut out for him. “Say no, I hate to be here on a Friday, I know it is off limits, but I had to ask”. About an hour and a half later we were able to let Andy, George and Sasha go and help while Paul and I stayed back and wrapped up the harvest and preparations for delivery day. Later that evening, grateful as anyone can be, he spelled out the week ahead: he needed all the help available to complete his tobacco harvest. Everyone here was happy to oblige and the past week was a series of days marked by everyone’s absence. They would come and go: fill their water bottles, grab a bunch of apples or a melon, check on things. Basically the crew spent as much of their days as possible helping our neighbor. When in one of Ricky’s fields late Sunday morning, our other neighbor Mark stopped by to ask Paul to accompany him on a trip to our agricultural supply house in nearby Casey County. Mark is putting up his own high tunnel after years of watching us. He is trying to diversify his own operation and pursue his life’s dream of raising flowers. We have done nothing but advise and encourage him about “alternative agriculture” and it is a thrill to help him on this project. Of course, Paul said yes to a Monday morning trip with Mark. Neighbors are valuable anywhere, but here in the country they can make or break you. Ricky and Mark have helped us countless times over the years and taught us so much. When our equipment is broken, it is theirs on the loan. They have plowed our fields, castrated our pigs, hauled and helped in any way they can and it is always wonderful to return the favor. It just so happened all the favors got cashed in this week. Now, at the week’s end the harvest is complete and we are all hoping for the rains to come and cool us down. Then, truly, all would be perfect. Have a safe and lovely holiday weekend.
In your basket:
summer squash
hot peppers
Roasted Ratatouille
2 small onions cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
2 red bell peppers peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.), peeled if desired and sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick, slices then cut in halves or quarters, depending on size
2 medium summer squash trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
15 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
4 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1-1/2 lb. total), peeled (with a serrated vegetable peeler; otherwise, skip the peeling), cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil (a chiffonade)
Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets (12×16-inch sheet pans are a good size) with foil and top with a sheet of parchment. In a large bowl, toss the onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, and 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Spread the vegetables evenly over both sheets. Don’t spread the vegetables too thin or they may burn (they shrink a lot as they cook).
Roast, stirring the vegetables a few times and swapping the positions of the pans once, until the vegetables are slightly collapsed or shriveled, starting to brown, and very tender, about 45 minutes. If the vegetables look like they may burn, turn down the heat or pile them closer together. If they look dry, drizzle on a little olive oil. Divide the tomatoes between the two pans and continue to roast until the tomatoes soften and shrink and the other vegetables are well-browned, another 30 to 50 minutes. Scrape all the vegetables and any juices into a serving bowl. Toss with the basil, taste for seasoning, and serve warm.

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