Seattle being Seattle (read: located above the 47th parallel), we are expecting almost 16 hours of sunlight on the summer solstice this week. These long hours of light don’t always herald summer’s arrival, though. We usually say that summer starts after the Fourth of July in Seattle. We hope.
You know what else doesn’t start until July? My CSAs. Yes, that’s right, plural, CSAs. Two big boxes of gorgeous produce–one mostly fruit and the other mostly veggies–for twenty weeks. I can’t wait.
For those of you in the Seattle area who haven’t thrown your lot in with a CSA yet, there are lots of great options in our area, but I truly love the two that we are getting this year. The first is from Tonnemaker’s organic farm and orchards, which provides a weekly box of unbelievably fragrant and impossibly delicious summer fruit: cherries, apricots, peaches, melons, pears, and apples were some of the highlights last year. They grow many varieties that I had never heard of, let alone tasted, and a few months of their fruit was enough to make me truly mournful about having to get through the winter without it. Tonnemaker’s is located in Eastern Washington, so they also provide some of the hot-weather produce that we’re starved for on this side of the Cascades: Tomatoes! Eggplants! Peppers!
The other CSA, our old standby now, is Nash’s Organic Produce. They’re located out on the Olympic Peninsula, but they deliver to a few Seattle farmers markets. Nash’s hooked us years ago with the Sweetest Carrots I Know, then reeled us in with greens galore and broccoli that tastes like a different vegetable from what you buy in a store. Nash Huber and his team are also known for their activism and innovation in environmental conservation and protecting farmland, for which Nash received the 2008 Steward of the Land award from the American Farmland Trust, so that’s nice too.
Of course it’s not too late to sign up for either CSA! Just click those links above (or–you’re so lazy!–click here for Tonnemaker’s and click here for Nash’s). And once those boxes start rolling in, we’re going to be in veggie heaven around here.
In anticipation of summer vegetables, I grilled a couple eggplants based on this recipe from Food and Wine that my mother-in-law recommended. I could have eaten the marinade with a spoon, but it was quite subtle in the finished dish, so if you want to take the easy way out you could just sprinkle the eggplant with olive oil and salt. Most of what you’ll taste here is the smoky eggplant and cooling yogurt sauce with a background of cumin and big, herbaceous basil flavor as you crunch into the torn leaves. In other words, it tastes like summer.
Grilled Eggplant with Cumin-Basil Yogurt Sauce: On a rimmed sheet pan, mix 4 Tb. olive oil, 2 Tb. lemon juice, 1 Tb. soy sauce, 1 tsp. curry powder and 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more to taste). Slice a couple of eggplants into 1/2″ slices and spread them out on the marinade, then flip them to coat the other side. Set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together 1 1/2 c. plain yogurt, 1/2 c. coarsely chopped basil, 2 tsp. ground cumin, a minced garlic clove, a big squeeze of lemon, and a few good pinches of salt. Let stand until eggplant are cooked, then taste and adjust the flavors before serving.
Grill eggplant slices on medium-high heat about 4 minutes on each side, turning 90 degrees after 2 minutes if you want cutesy grill marks. (The eggplant slices should release easily from the grill after a couple of minutes; if they don’t, you can give them a little longer and/or consider turning up the heat.) Transfer grilled eggplant to a 400 degree oven until completely tender, about 10-15 more minutes. Serve with yogurt sauce.