This recipe comes from BAG's Executive Director, Usha Thakrar. Usha is an avid (and talented) cook and baker, whose creations frequently supplement staff meals and put a little more pep in their step at the end of a long day of gleaning. In this recipe from last September, Usha shares a tasty, nourishing ratatouille perfect for using up abundant summer veggies. Whether you have eggplant, peppers, and summer squash stashed in your freezer from last season, or whether you're just dreaming of next September's savory creations, enjoy this recipe in the spirit of summer!
Call it “Guilt Alleviating Ratatouille”
There was a big corn glean today and I had decided not to go as I had worked both days over the weekend. But I felt guilty so I decided to cook and bring the food to the team. My fridge was full of the veggies from my CSA (all gleaned)…
1 leek (chopped)
2 bell peppers (cubed)
1 large (or 2 small) eggplant (cubed)
1 zucchini (or summer squash) - (cubed)
2 - 3 tomatoes (chopped)
4 - 5 cloves of garlic (minced)
Red or white wine
Tomato sauce (one can)
1 -2 bay leaves
Heaping teaspoons of basil and oregano
Pinch of rosemary
Heat the oil. Add the garlic, bay leaf and leek. Sauté until soft.
Add the eggplant, wine, herbs, salt, pepper and 1/3 of the can of tomato sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes (until eggplant is tender).
Add zucchini and peppers and another 1/3 of the tomato sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes and add tomatoes and the rest of the tomato sauce.
Cook until veggies are tender (or slightly crisp if you prefer).
Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with rice or a crusty bread.
Our Volunteer Potluck on February 15th was a blast. We had the best time celebrating our 2019 season in style...feather boas and funny hats, to be precise!
We acknowledged our longtime Executive Director, Duck Caldwell, who steps into her new consulting role at BAG after many years of leadership. We officially welcomed Usha Thakrar, our new permanent ED, who joined us in July 2019 and has plunged into life as a gleaner with tremendous enthusiasm. And we recognized the commitment of our volunteers, whose hard work made it possible for us to glean well over 900,000 over the course of the season.
Most importantly, though, we ate, drank, and laughed together, sharing an impressive potluck spread and some of Usha's trademark orange pineapple punch.
Enjoy these photos of this fabulous night, captured by the amazing Bob Durling Photography! And if you missed out on the festivities, don't worry: as winter flies by, our summer potluck will be here before we know it.
It may be February, but New England farmers' markets are still brimming with local produce. While some area apple growers have emptied out their inventories and turned off their coolers for the rest of the winter, others are still marketing a veritable rainbow of apple varieties. Here's an easy and delicious recipe that calls for a moderate quantity of applesauce; try making your own from a few pounds of softer apples, as you make room in your own fridge for your next farmers' market haul! Or head to the market and mix and match different utility or cooking varieties for a one-of-a-kind applesauce...and a cake that surely won't last very long!
Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
for the frosting:
What I’m about to tell you may be shocking. You may want to sit down and set your cup of coffee in a secure place. But you may in fact want to try this at home.
I did a bad job of grocery shopping this fall, and one morning in October I was truly at the bottom of the barrel. No eggs, no fruit, no oatmeal, no yogurt, no nothing. At least, nothing the average person might describe as “part of a complete breakfast.” But I needed to get out the door and get to work for a busy day of gleaning. In between berating myself for poor planning and seriously considering “borrowing” breakfast from one of my roommates, I remembered what I had brought home from work the night before.
A dozen cider donuts.
One of the many farms that donates surplus produce to Boston Area Gleaners has a large farmstand, which is busy all fall selling produce, apples, cider donuts, and other homemade treats. We pick up produce regularly from this farm, but once late fall rolls around, the donuts start appearing, and our staff bring home stacks of bread trays filled with slightly stale but ever so tasty homemade cider donuts.
The BAG staff is a crew of hungry people working hard, and it’s not usually difficult to polish off a plate or two of treats. But dozens of donuts is another story. We made a little display in one of our coolers, so that food pantry staff could snag some while picking up orders. The stacks slowly dwindled. But only slowly.
So I brought a bag of cider donuts home. And on that chilly October morning when my options had truly run out, I took a donut, sliced it in half like a bagel, toasted it until the whole house smelled of cinnamon, and buttered it heavily. That’s right. I ate a toasted donut with butter. In fact, I ate two, because the first one was so insanely delicious. And then I went in to work for a long but rewarding day of harvesting fruits and vegetables for hunger relief.
It may come as a surprise that someone who is building a career around nutrition and food access would be willing to eat a plateful of buttered fried dough for breakfast. And sure, I’ve eaten my fair share of raw carrots while pulling them out of the ground. But I challenge you to consider what “part of a complete breakfast” really means.
Does it mean always eating only the most nutritious, filling, fiber-rich foods, with no added sugar and only good-for-you fats? Do we have to label our actions as “bad” or “guilty” when we enjoy foods with butter or sugar? Or can we include foods that are comforting, convenient, quick, and fun in our understanding of what “complete” could be?
One of the joys of being a gleaner is cultivating a respect for food that goes beyond the clear implications of how nourishing it is. Comfort foods, celebratory foods, and on-the-go foods all have a valid place in a person’s life. And although BAG’s mission is to expand access to locally-grown foods rich in vitamins and minerals, we have to recognize the cultural and emotional value of all foods, regardless of where they fall nutritionally.
I invite you to expand your idea of what a “complete” breakfast, meal, or dietary pattern can be, to include how food fits into the context of your life at any given moment. Those toasted, buttered donuts were better than I ever imagined a stale donut could be. If you ever have stale donuts in your kitchen, I encourage you to give it a try.
By Leah Costlow
The Gleaner Cookbook: