Hot, hot, hot that sums up our feelings these days. The watermelon are beginning to ripen, the potatoes need to be out of the fields immediately, and any day now the okra will start popping off (and then it never stops). We harvested over 400# of tomatoes last week and this week seems poised to be even more. Everything just feels really heavy this time of year and the days are long. We drink more water than you could imagine and its still never enough. As with every season, as long as we make it through July we are golden and this year is no different.
This week’s share includes all the nightshades: tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, potatoes, and a few peppers (mostly mild cubanelles; but also maybe a jalapeno or thai chile). This family of crops thrives when paired with aromatics, such as thai basil, scallion, garlic, and shiso, so get to making some deliciousness happen in the kitchen. In case you are unfamiliar, Shiso is used throughout Asia both medicinally and as an herb, especially popular in Japanese, Korean, and southeast Asian cuisines. In Virginia it is known as Perilla and is a native plant that is common throughout the Piedmont. On our farm we have the green variety and it grows on the edges of wood lines and in other slightly shaded areas. The wild variety is not as pungent as some cultivated types, but it is still amazing used in herb salads, spring rolls, and even granita; check out the recipe below
Vietnamese Salad Rolls (Gỏi cuốn)
When we make these we let everyone prepare their own, as it makes for a really fun meal activity. As the recipe states, you can substitute various herbs’ we particularly like thai basil, shiso, and mint together. We always add julienned slivers of scallions and sometimes substitute shredded pork or shrimp for tofu. For dipping sauces we use a traditional Nuoc Cham and peanut sauce (recipes below).
Dai Mint and Tomato Salad – Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid
The Dai, like the Chinese, prefer their tomatoes a little green, just before their fullest sweet ripeness. Perhaps it’s an aesthetic question: The mix of green and red is more interesting to the eye than the uniform red of ripe tomatoes. Or perhaps it’s beacuase tomatoes enter the regional cuisine as a slightly sour vegetable, rather than with the sweetness and ripeness as their prime characteristic. All of which is to say that you should, as we do, use the tomatoes that please you. This salad is simple to make and delicious. It’s like a half-pounded Mexican salsa, ideal for scooping up with Thai-Lao Crispy rice crackers or sticky rice or pork cracklings.
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
a little minced chile, jalapeno (optional)
1 cup tender mint leaves or Thai basil, coarsely torn
2-3 scallion, trimmed, sliced lengthwise into ribbons and then cut crosswise into 1-inch lengths
5 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced1 Tbls hot chile oil
Place the garlic and salt in a large mortar and pound together. Or place them in a large bowl and use the back of a flat spoon to mash them against the side of the bowl. Add the fresh chile, the mint, and the scallions and continue to pound or mash to soften and blend. Add the tomatoes and gently pound or mash until broken up a little. Add the chile oil and toss well. Serve the salad mounded in a shallow bowl, with the juices poured over.
Note: If the mint is coarse or rough, finely chop the leaves; or substitute Asian basil leaves.
Shiso Granita – Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
15 green shiso leaves
¼ cup granulated sugar
Place the shiso leaves in a medium-sized bowl or 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Heat the sugar and 3 cups water to boiling in a medium saucepan, stirring the sugar to dissolve. Pour the boiling sugar water over the leaves and steep until cool. Set a strainer over a plastic container large enough to hold 3 cups and strain out the leaves. Cover and transfer the shiso-flavored sugar water to a freezer shelf. Let sit, undisturbed, in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove to the countertop, open the lid, and gently stir in the crystals that have formed on the perimeter. Repeat this operation every 30 minutes, breaking up any larger crystals as you go. The finished granita should be flaky. Serve alone in a glass bowl or goblet. This is also wonderful served alongside Fig Ice Cream and Plum Sorbet. Keeps frozen for several weeks.