For the environment’s sake this summer, make it “Jersey Fresh”


As summer unfolds, the environmental wonders of the Trenton Diocese beckon us to the seashore, the bayshore, rivers, lakes and farmlands of the four counties.

It’s always a good time to consider all that God has given us. This year, with the release of Laudato Si’ – Pope Francis’ encyclical promoting the well being of all creation, it seems especially appropriate to spend some time reflecting on the bounty we’ve been given. In Laudato si – All Praise to You – the pope asks us each to participate in developing an “an integral ecology” which “comprehends our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings.”

Summer brings out the best of those surroundings and the season always makes me mindful of living in harmony with nature – especially at the table. It’s the reason for pulling off the highway and stopping at farmer’s markets to select “home grown” produce plucked from area farms.

This is a mindset inherited from my grandparents who actually experienced “Jersey Fresh” produce at their front doorsteps in Newark in the old days each week when the driver of the horse-filled cart laden with the best of the season announced himself with the ring of a bell.

It’s a tradition passed down in the family from them and treasured. The advice they gave was worth following: focus on God’s gifts of the season: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, blueberries and melons in the summer; squash, cauliflower, and the like in the fall.

With those mandates ringing in my ears, I set off recently to the Trenton Farmer’s Market around the corner from the diocesan Chancery, for a look at what early summer had to offer.
As it turned out, beets and cucumbers were in abundance as were Jersey grown green house tomatoes.
Though I’m eagerly awaiting the vine ripened versions for which New Jersey is known, it was good to add these early varieties the cardboard box of produce I toted home.

Here are two recipes, adapted from the internet, which feature some of these first fruits of the season. Both focus on beets, a family favorite in our house for generations. Feel free to substitute ingredients according to your taste.

Beets & Cucumbers

Summer salad

Ingredients:

– l lb beets – red or golden or mixed
– 1 lb Kirby cucumbers, peeled and cut into thin slices
– 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
– ¼ cup red onion, cut into very thin, half moon slices
– ½ cup apple cider vinegar
– 2 tablespoons flat, Italian parsley, chopped
– salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions: Trim the beet stems to 2 inches and wash them well. In a large saute pan, cover the beets with salted water and cook over medium heat until they can be easily pierced with a fork – 30 minutes. Drain and submerge the beets in a bath of ice cold water. Remove the skins and root ends with a sharp paring knife and discard. Cut the peeled beets in half and then in ½ half moon slices. Combine the beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, vinegar and parsley in a large bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Beet Relish

This easy to make, Scandinavian-style relish adds a tangy flavor to beef or fish offers a tangy compliment to adds a tangy flavor to beef or fish and is sweet/sour touch to beef tangy flavor relish can be served with relish can be served with beef or fish.

Ingredients:

-4 med. fresh beets
-1 cup cider vinegar
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 cup chopped, sweet onion
-2 tsp. prepared horseradish
-1/2 tsp. salt

Directions: Again, cut stems down to two inches and carefully wash beets,  In a large saute pan, cover the beets with salted water and cook over medium heat until they can be easily pierced with a fork – 30 minutes. Rinse in cold water; peel off skin. Dice or shred, as desired. You should have about 1 1/2 yield. In medium saucepan heat vinegar and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add onions, beets, horseradish and salt. Boil for 10 minutes with the pan covered. Chill thoroughly before serving.

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