September Summer

It was with a sigh of relief that we turned the calendar page from August to September. At the height of summer, August was composed of smoke-filled skies, temperatures close to 100, and thunderstorms that would not quite quench our thirst. We took a few afternoons off, celebrated the cooler temperatures and wind that drove the smoke out of the valley.
And now, we are careening towards fall. Or so we thought.

September continues to surprise us as the busiest month of the season for farming. Our harvest list now fills two pages and the bathtubs in our wash station are overflowing as the bounty of both summer and fall collide. Summer squash, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, and eggplant won’t quit. Our loyal standbys of carrots, beets, kale, and chard are still holding strong. The long-awaited tomato harvest is finally upon us, along with its cousins: tomatillos, ground cherries, and the full rainbow (and heat) spectrum of peppers. Potatoes are ready to be popped out of the ground.  And my personal favorite, Brussel sprouts, are ready too. Shallots and garlic are already cleaned and cured.  And if we pause in the midst of this blur, we can see winter squash lurking under giant leaves and turning golden in the nearly-autumnal sun.

When we set up for CSA pick up, the tables stagger under the weight of the harvest. This means that September is the most exciting time of year for cooking (and if you’re going for extra credit, perhaps that means canning, freezing, dehydrating, and pickling). When I open the cookbooks I’ve carted from the Northwest – where the growing season is longer and California is not so far away – I often have to adapt recipes to fit with what is available here in Montana. September, though, needs no substitutions, and is the time to go all out! With only three weeks left in our CSA, this bounty will not last forever.

Last night I enjoyed a delicious slice of ratatouille pizza from The Clove Cart, which I think the perfect emblem of the September harvest. This month, I’m going to be making Mediterranean-inspired dishes like this salad, from Cornucopia at Home.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 3 cans of garbanzo beans
  • 4 oz feta cheese
  • Salad greens
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Dressing:

  • 2-3 tsp cumin
  • 2/3 c. olive oil
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • sun-dried cherry tomatoes – I used about a pint, before dehydrating

Notes:

The original recipe calls for spinach, but our spinach at Orchard Gardens is not quite ready. Lightly steaming chard or kale works nicely.

I dried the tomatoes overnight on my dehydrator; oven-drying would also work.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Chop the eggplant into cubes and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a baking tray and roast until tender, about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Set aside to cool.

Blend all dressing ingredients in a food processor (or immersion blender) to create a thick tomato puree.

Drain and rinse garbanzo beans. Chop feta into small cubes. Place in a bowl with the eggplant and spoon the dressing over, combining gently. Serve on a bed of greens.