Hi CSA members,
Get this: the summer of 2012 was too hot to grow beans. And maybe peppers and eggplant, too. Turns out, all of those vegetables drop their flowers (which would have otherwise been pollinated and turned to fruit) at temperatures above 85 degrees. Now I know this comparison is getting old, but coming from Alaska my thought was that heat in general is a good thing for hot weather crops like beans, and peppers and eggplant. You know, the ones we couldn’t grow in Alaska because it was too cold there. I spent one season growing here in the Northeast, though, and I remember bucket loads of beans coming out of a single row of plants. Our yields to this point were disappointing this year, and I thought it might just be something to do with our soil or plant spacing. But then we picked 67 pounds of beans in the last 3 days. I remembered another farmer telling me earlier this season that yields were down for some crops because of the intense (and prolonged) heat we’ve had this year, but I kind of dismissed the comment as heresy, my anti-cold attitudes from Alaska being so strong. After our recent yield improvements, though, I looked up some extension articles and found out she was right. I never would have thought. I thought they grew beans in the South! How do they grow anything in the South? Anyway, what the recent cooler weather means for you is that you get almost twice as many beans as in recent weeks – over a pound!
A small round striped squash called Sweet Dumpling, which definitely lives up to its name. Try just cutting it in half, taking out the seeds, filling the cavity with butter and roasting it in the oven until soft enough to be easily pricked with a fork.
See recipe below
I’m making this sauce as we speak, which is a great way to use your tomatoes and peppers for the week. It makes about a pint, all of which we ate during one steak dinner….
Katie’s Beet Cake
Mimi’s sister does not like beets. But she likes our beets, at least when they’re dolled up with a little chocolate. I’m not sure this is the recipe she used, but her chocolate beet cake earlier this summer was a huge success.
Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting from joythebaker.com
Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake
adapted from Fine Cooking November 2001
For the Cake:
2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
For the Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod
1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem. Place clean beets in a piece of foil. Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil. Seal up foil. Place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
Remove the beets from the oven. Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely. Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.
Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane. Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans. Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan. Cut it out and place inside the cake pan. Butter the parchment paper. Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan. Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk. Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter. Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients. Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.
Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan). Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.
To make the Frosting:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth. Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Beat in the beets. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky. Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate. Top with a generous amount of pink frosting. Spread evenly. Place the other cake on top of the frosting. Top with frosting. Work frosting onto the sides of the cake. You will have extra frosting left over. Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice). Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.