photo by donna

Week 15 from Geauga Family Farms.  I think they’re getting better—the lettuce is fresher, there’s less signs of travel in the soft vegetables. As I’ve pointed out before, just because you grow heirloom fruits and veg, doesn’t mean they’re good. You’ve got to be a good farmer or grower.  And just because you grow excellent fruits and veg, doesn’t mean they’re still excellent when they arrive on the table of the family that purchased the CSA.  Every part of the process matters.

Fun CSA this week: I’m not a huge fan of cherry tomatoes—too much skin relative to the amount of flesh, and frankly, I don’t love them enough to blanch, shock, and peel them.  But last night, photographing a bacon and eggs pizza for the new book, I had some leftover dough and cheese, but no more bacon.  So I simply sliced a couple handfuls, put them on the cheese, baked till crust was done, covered it with torn basil from the garden, et voila.  Fabulous way to use those little buggers!  They give great acidity to the rich cheese and floral basil. Highly recommended.

Here’s a great recipe for homemade pizza (and some gorgeous pizza shots by Donna).  Just replace the bacon with halved or sliced cherry tomatoes, top with basil after cooking.

We also got more green beans this week, excellent.  We have beans once a week at least.  With the weather going cooler, I’m going to roast them with cumin, garlic and chilli flakes.  My mom used to roast acorn squash halved, scoop out the seeds, mash a half a stick of butter with the flesh and eat it straight out of the shell with lots of salt and pepper.  I may try soup, since I’ve got chix stock on hand and haven’t tried soup with this kind of squash—dice the squash, saute in butter, add some chix stock, puree with hand blender, season with lots of fresh thyme or freshly dried thyme, salt and pepper. Toast the seeds with butter and garnish the soup with them.  Tomatoes—tomato-basil pasta, a summer staple with a cool technique I want to video this week for using tomato water.

Definitely time to start pickling the hot peppers.  No Hungarian/Cubanelles—apparently people complained they were too hot and no one knew how to use (pickle, or stuff with meat and grill, or you can make a really cool spicy mustard sauce—see Symon’s book, where it’s called Sasha Sauce).

The lettuce, it’s pretty tasteless, so will need some serious work, adornment, and good vinaigrette.  And, of course, there they are, five red bell peppers, but only two are ripe … sigh. Is there a green pepper support group?


28 Wonderful responses to “Cherry Tomato Pizza Margherita
(CSA Week 15)”

  • Todd

    Another dreaded zucchini! I tried your sauteed zucchini last night. Gained a new appreciation for it. Added julienned red pepper and pine nuts. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Lindsay

    I have a recipe for acorn squash where the squash is sliced into rings, laid on a baking sheet, and the middle is filled with a mixture of breakfast sausage and bell peppers, brushed with molasses and baked. It’s quite good. I’m also sure I prefer acorn squash to butternut, but I’m not quite sure why.

    That lettuce looks like a good candidate for a hot bacon dressing. Mmm!

  • Victoria

    I’m surprised. I like cherry tomatoes – if only for the fact that in the dead of winter, they can be used to make Marcella’s garlic-scented tomato salad, and they are not disgusting.

    I love tomatoes, and I dream of living someplace where they are beautiful all year long.

    That would for me be Shangri-la.

  • Tags

    My grandmother used to make a mishmash of eggs, green peppers, ground veal, pork, & beef, tomato sauce, grated Italian (naturally, nee Mincarini) cheese, celery, onion, fresh basil, parsley, and thyme and put it in a tabletop roaster (what today would be a huge, deep rectangular crockpot) a long time.

    She called it mishmash, pronouncing it as if there was an umlaut over the a. She put it in Mason jars and took it to picnics at the beach to be spooned onto Italian rolls.

    I miss Grandmom, even though she took the exact recipe to her grave.

  • Susan

    I made a tomato pie last night with all fresh veg’s. I made the crust infused thyme and onion salt and par baked it. I added a layer of zuchinni and yellow squash sliced very thin. Added a layer of fresh corn quickly blanched in boiling water, cut from the cob and mixed with minced jalapeno pepper, black beans and diced onion. A layer of cheddar cheese and a couple layers of sliced tomatos, topped agressively with pepper and parmesan cheese. It was out of this world. Everything was heated just to the point that it burst forth it’s flavors, sweated only a little and remained just crunchy enough to let you know it was all fresh. Served it with a choice of fresh mayonaise or sour cream. Devine!

  • JD

    We use the following as a sauce for grilled tri-tip or on toasted baguette slices with goat cheese.

    Parsley Cherry-Tomato Sauce

    1 ½ lbs Tomatoes, Cherry — (about 5 cups)
    6 tbsp Oil, Olive — extra virgin
    1 cup Parsley — firmly packed fresh flat-leaf
    1 clove Garlic — sliced
    1 tbsp Vinegar, Red Wine
    ¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
    ½ tsp Salt


    Preheat oven to 425F.

    Toss together tomatoes, salt, red-pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup oil in a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish. Roast on lower rack until tomatoes burst and release their juices, about 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, pulse parsley and garlic with vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a food processor until chopped, then transfer to a bowl.

    Stir tomatoes with their juices into parsley mixture. Slice roast across the grain and serve with sauce.

    Leftover sauce keeps, covered and chilled, 5 days.

    Makes 4 to 6 main-course servings.

  • Mo

    Hi Michael,
    I’m a Farmer and provide produce to a CSA as well as a Farmers Market and several restaurants.
    At our CSA we have a ‘swap bin’ where our members can swap food they don’t like for something they do want. We often put market leftovers, or specialty restaurant items we only have a small amount of, or that might appeal to only a few people (like hot peppers, cardoons, burdock..) in the swap bin.
    Our swap bin is very popular.
    You might suggest it to your Farmer?

    Also, I agree with the importance of post harvest handling but when you say; “just because you grow excellent fruits and veg, doesn’t mean they’re still excellent when they arrive on the table of the family that purchased the CSA.”
    I feel my responsibility ends when you pick up your food.
    What you do with it from that point to your table is up to you 😉
    Seriously, how does your produce look at pick up? If it isn’t stellar I wouldn’t accept it…I know I wouldn’t give it to our memebers if it didn’t look perfect.

    • marcella

      Ours has a swap bin too but you have to swap all of something. Meaning, if you don’t want your green bell peppers all the bell peppers go in the trade bin and you take out the one thing you do want. I wouldn’t be able to keep the red ones and give back the green ones.

      As for where responsibility ends. Our CSA delivers to central pick up areas. So, for us it’s not a matter of going to the farm for pick up, looking at it first and talking to the farmer. So transport, in my opinion, is part of the CSA responsibility since they are delivering. That farmer may not be, but that’s not true of all CSA’s

  • deana@lostpastremembered

    My dearly beloved is not a vegetable eater so I have to go with the farmer’s market rather than a CSA. What I love about them is the pre-determined package makes you reach out for new and exciting things to do with your bounty… you never disappoint with great ideas.

  • Dave M

    Michael, what does it mean, “replace the bacon”? This part of the instruction leaves me confused. :^)

    One of my favorite pizza combinations is tomato AND bacon!

  • Rhonda

    Hi Michael.

    I 90 percent agree with you on the cherry tomatoes. The 10% disagreement comes from a farmer that I go to and can get those right off the vine (for a limited time). Our local Farmers ROCK!!!! The tomatoes taste (& should taste) like candy. My math comes from seasonal availability. That’s all.

    Then, after the season is over, I go back to the hate and think of the slave labour in Florida that is sending those thick skinned tasteless cherry tomatoes to us in the dead of winter and fight the owners to take tomatoes off of the menu — Lose — yadda, yadda, yadda, and then I make sure that we have “green” cleaning supplies to clean with because we have to “do our part”.

    On another note, there WAS a support group for people who like green peppers but then they actually tasted the green peppers, got lucky, found belts and hanged themselves from the shower.

    Natural Selection….

    Oy. As it appears, I am a skosh cranky today.

  • jen

    I find this surprising about the quality of produce in your CSA. I grew up in Madison (Lake County) and recall the fruit and vegetables of my youth as being absolutely perfect (we bought from West’s and Secor’s, down the street on Rt. 20 in Perry).
    Here in Chicago, I go to my local Logan Square farmers market, and the food comes from even farther away than a trip from Geauga Co. to Shaker Hts. or wherever you pick up. I had a CSA last year that arrived in a 3/4 bushel box, and everything was always in fantastic shape. Occasionally I’ll see some greens that look wilty from sitting out in the heat, but everything in your photo above looks great.

    This got long, but agree with the farmer above – if you’re disappointed or have issues with veggies from transit bruising or being picked too long before delivery, ask your farmer!

    • ruhlman

      there were issues earlier in the year with some lettuce already showing some rot, green beans with a white fungus on them.

      But it’s gotten much better and last week’s delivery was pristine.

  • Mantonat

    Someone once told me that Italians rarely ever eat cherry tomatoes raw, but usually halve them and make a quick pasta sauce with olive oil. Any truth to that? Personally, they are my favorite – straight off the vine.

  • BlacksmithJK

    Back when I was in the restaurant biz we would take halved Acorn Squash and mound them up with a meatloaf mixture and bake the whole thing. I like a spicy sausage mix with the sweetness of the squash but creative license can really take over here.

  • Maven

    I have just recently found your blog and it is now a must read for me. As a person who attempted to grow my own heirloom vegetables this summer, I have to agree with you. It is essential to know what you’re doing! Despite ending up with the craziest garden ever, I ended up with some beautiful swss chard so it wasn’t a complete bust 🙂

    • ruhlman

      Thanks, Maven, and welcome. Your about page doesn’t say were you blog from. I haven’t read your blog yet, but you could be living in Australia for all I know.

  • Jeanne

    For CSA overloads of tomatoes, I love to whirl fresh tomatoes (any kind) in the food processor with chopped onions, garlic, fresh basil, and some olive oil and salt. No cooking needed–serve on hot pasta. Doesn’t need any separate cooking. Heaven.

  • Dan at FoodieLawyer

    OK, Michael, we’re now hooked on the CSA idea, and next summer we are definitely going to find a Dallas-based CSA. Thank you for further inspiration!

    We grow our own cherry tomatoes with great success, although the Texas heat makes our tomatoes require frequent watering. We also grow some basil in the same pots as the tomatoes. I’m not sure if the basil growing alongside them makes the tomatoes more flavorful, but who doesn’t need more fresh basil in their life? With a bit of fresh mozzarella and some high quality, you have an instant Caprese salad.

  • NYCook

    Ruhlman, I am not a huge cherry tomato fan either, so I usually turn them into demi-sec’s aka oven dried tomatoes, and store them in a jar with basil and thyme covered in olive oil. Then when l make confit byaldi l will toss them with the cured and smoked small dice pork jowl l had cooked earlier, so it renders its fat, in which l cook the onions. Then l layer them on top of fresh tomatoes layered in overlapping circles in my cast iron and cover them with squash and eggplant also layered in overlapping cirlces. Toss squash and eggplant with generous amounts of olive oil, thyme, maldon salt, before putting in pan and your good to go. To really gild the lilly l crack two eggs in a little nest i create in the center of all these circles, shave parm or pecorino on top about ten minutes before l want to take out the byaldi and cook till desired doneness of eggs. The dried tomatoes with the pork add an amazing depth of flavor.

  • Kim Graves

    I think you’ve hit on the problem with CSA’s in general. Not every farmer is good at growing everything. Some are good at tomatoes, some are good at lettuce. But with a CSA, you can’t pick and choose. And if you have limitations – I’m a diabetic and so don’t eat root vegetables – a CSA is even more problematic. For these reasons, we prefer to buy at the farmer’s market where we can pick and choose from the best that each farmer has to offer.

  • Kimber

    It’s good to have friends that belong to CSA’s also that you can swap with, especially if you have preferences to choices offered. I too have an acorn squash memory of my Mom’s where she baked them in halves unseeded with butter and some brown sugar that tasted like dessert (thanks for taking me back there) fyi, nice pizza combo; fresh tomatoes with bacon and chicken, and cheese of course.

  • MW

    I can’t believe I haven’t seen these posts sooner. This is great veggie inspiration. I belong to a CSA in Manhattan (both vegetable and fruit share) and post photos/recipes every week ( – It’s All Fare). It’s great to see what other ppl are doing.


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