It's a Desert, but not a Food Desert

 The "Before" Photo. Agricultural bounty of the Eastern Province. Who knew?

The "Before" Photo. Agricultural bounty of the Eastern Province. Who knew?

In the United States, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)--those weekly farm box subscriptions--are common. But here? Not at all. We are extremely fortunate to have a CSA subscription with a certified (by a German certifying organization) organic farm less than two hours from our residential compound. They deliver to our door. We get a gigantic box of produce every week--there's so much that we split it with another household. Next week will be the last of the weekly deliveries until the start of the next growing season. Here, that's sometime in October. 

Yesterday a new box was delivered--and a bunch of last week's vegetables are still in the fridge. Also, we're going out of town this weekend. (To Ireland. For three days. But that's another story), Seems everyone is bailing out for the weekend; I couldn't give these beautiful vegetables away! Drastic measures were necessary. So I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, and now the freezer is stocked.

As you can see from the photo above, I had a bunch of cucumbers to deal with--and cucumbers turn disgusting and mushy if you freeze them. But not if you liquefy them first. Therefore: cold cucumber soup. My recipe (adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon) called for crème fraîche, but instead I used something called sour yogurt (below.)

 Ever heard of sour yogurt? Me either, until I spotted it today at the grocery store. It was just a bit more tart than regular, plain yogurt--like sour cream, but not as heavy. There are so many fermented dairy options in the Middle East: yogurt, laban (like drinkable yogurt, but a different set of probiotics), three different weights of cooking cream, and I'm probably forgetting others.

Ever heard of sour yogurt? Me either, until I spotted it today at the grocery store. It was just a bit more tart than regular, plain yogurt--like sour cream, but not as heavy. There are so many fermented dairy options in the Middle East: yogurt, laban (like drinkable yogurt, but a different set of probiotics), three different weights of cooking cream, and I'm probably forgetting others.

Full fat? Yes. Every time. (There. I said it. Shall we talk about religion next?)

The cucumber soup turned out great--rich and creamy, but because I didn't peel the cukes, a little crunch remained. We'll see how that works out when the soup comes out of the freezer sometime in the future. 

 Extra virgin olive oil from Syria

Extra virgin olive oil from Syria

Next up: clean-out-the-veg-drawer gazpacho! (You probably saw that coming, given the ingredients in the first photo.) I used all of those tomatoes. No, I didn't peel all those little things. I never peel tomatoes. Who has that kind of time? In a blended soup, can you even tell the difference? I can't. 

All of the bell peppers went in, too, and those fat, purple scallions--that first photo shows them after I cut off the scraggly green tops. To these I added garlic (also from the CSA, if you can believe it! Forgot to include it in the photo), lemon juice, cilantro, and a healthy plug of beautiful green Syrian olive oil. I do not talk politics here (or religion--except for the Gospel of Full Fat), but the world needs to know that Syria turns out some gorgeous olive oil. Hope it continues to do so.

While all this cold soup production was happening, I had a zucchini bread in the oven. See those pale green little summer squashes in the first photo? Those function just like zucchini, so I put together a loaf that includes walnuts and dried cherries.

After the zucchini bread came out, I cranked the oven up higher and put in the eggplants, whole, directly on the oven rack. I roasted them, turning them a few times, until they were soft. I scooped out the flesh and boxed it up for freezing. Sometime later, I'll thaw that out to make baba ghanoush. We eat a lot of that around here because of the CSA box. I like it better than its milder cousin, hummos. (The two are basically the same, except baba ghanoush uses eggplant and hummos calls for chick peas.) 

 Gazpacho, roasted eggplant, cucumber soup, and zucchini bread.

Gazpacho, roasted eggplant, cucumber soup, and zucchini bread.

The end result: what you see above, plus a full dishwasher. I had to do some rearranging in the freezer. Not surprisingly, this stuff joins earlier attempts to stem the weekly vegetable tide, plus several white lumps of my husband's frozen pizza dough and more than enough shredded cheese to cover them. (Our motto: why make enough food when you can make wildly too much?)

  All that food, and none for Eddie the Cat.

All that food, and none for Eddie the Cat.

Eddie the Cat provided scathing editorial commentary all afternoon. He seemed to understand that I was cooking food for the other members of the household, and he would get nothing. Nothing.