“You know what I call this?” the Urban Farmer said while proudly photographing the rickety wooden crate full of fresh-picked vegetables. “A case of the Mondays,” he said beaming with pun pride.
He chose another caption for his photo, not wanting to offend those stuck in Monday drudgery. I have often hesitated on sharing a pure joy lest it be regarded as boastful, so I understood his reserve. I’m not sure if this stems from deep-rooted American values or a Christian upbringing or both, but hiding happiness is RIDICULOUS, no?
I may be riding the emotional highs of listening to a lot of Elizabeth Gilbert wisdom, but who wouldn’t be happy watching that barefoot boy celebrate his dream farm on a weekly basis? Truth be told, Mondays with the Urban Famer were so far from the Mondays I once knew. On Mondays, man, woman and dog piled into the red truck, picked vegetables in the sun and then delivered them to the supporters who made this year’s farm efforts possible. Why would we hide that happiness from imagined miserable people?
Today is the last of these CSA Mondays for this season. There will still be farm work to do- bulbs to plant, invasive trees to cut, flowers varieties to select- but the CSA routine concludes today, just as the foggy, gray, frosty mornings are blanketing the fields. It feels more special than sad, more celebratory than conclusive. This was the beginning, and so much is in store! There is still so much room for expansion, so many lessons to teach, so many lessons to learn, and best of all, there will be so many new dishes to eat!
The farm calmed my Mondays, calmed my spirit and inspired new kitchen experiments. Monday after Monday, I combed the fruitful tomato vines in search of the bright reds, burgundies and yellows. Despite the challenging weather, the vines persisted with an inspiring abundance. However, the frost brought a new color spectrum- the greens!
I knew fried green tomatoes from the movie title and perhaps the occasional menu item, but I’d never eaten them or made them. I’m sharing Monday happiness with you in the form of these fried green tomatoes. The recipe is loose, like cooking with my mom and her mother before her. Both women knew to follow their instincts, adding a pinch or heap here and there, so allow your traditions and whims to transform this recipe accordingly.
Pasta Sauce with Garden Vegetables & Beef
yield: 4-5 servings
Note: This recipe took advantage of our final harvest of eggplant, green peppers and fresh rosemary. Adjust according to your own garden surpluses or taste preferences. Skip the beef for a vegetarian option. I recommend serving with Jovial’s Organic Gluten Free Brown Rice Tagliatelle. The wide noodle really soaks up the sauce!
1-2 Tablespoons sunflower oil or butter
1 small red onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 small eggplants or 1 medium eggplant, cut in chunks (our farm eggplants were pretty small in stature)
2 green peppers, cut in chunks
8 oz organic baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
28 oz organic crushed tomatoes with basil
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef (grass-fed/local/organic)
salt and pepper
In a large sauce pan or skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until softened, stirring frequently and adding a splash of water as needed to prevent burning/sticking.
Add the eggplant, peppers and mushrooms. Once slightly softened, add the tomato sauce and fresh rosemary, stirring to combine.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the ground beef, stirring and breaking down the meat as needed. Cover with a lid and simmer until meat is cooked and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the sauce simmers, prepare the Fried Green Tomatoes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Note: The quantity of tomatoes is up to you and availability. I fried a colander’s worth of tomatoes, but I continued to increase the liquid and batter as I went. The ingredient quantities are really fluid, just add a splash of milk or a sprinkle more of cornmeal as needed. Warm leftover fried green tomatoes in the oven, or serve with sunny-side-up eggs for a breakfast treat!
green tomatoes, rinsed, stems removed, sliced
cold pressed sunflower oil for frying (organic/non-gmo)
1 egg (pasture raised/organic)
1/2 – 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk (local/organic)
1/2 cup organic spelt flour (recommended: One Degree Organic Foods’ Sprouted Spelt Flour)
1/2 cup organic cornmeal (mine came from this magical place)
dash of herbs de provence
Whisk together the egg and milk in a bowl; set aside.
Combine spelt flour, cornmeal, and herbs de provence in a shallow bowl or pan.
Dip tomato slice in egg mixture, then dredge in cornmeal mixture.
Pour oil to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in a large cast-iron skillet; heat to 375°F. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels or a rack.
Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt. Serve warm.
Serve pasta, sauce and fried green tomatoes with a sprinkling of parmesan, a side of garlic bread, a glass of red wine and a huge dose of happiness!