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The Box

The contents of the dairy box can make for some yummy summer meals. (Enterprise photo — AmyScattergood)

We’re still in the middle of the pandemic. Schools are closed. So are summer camps. Restaurants are beginning to re-open with limited capacity — but many people are still avoiding eating out.

As a result of the COVID-19 statewide shutdown, farmers were dumping milk and produce because there was no market for them. And more New Yorkers than ever are using food banks because of layoffs and shutdowns of non-essential businesses.

Governor Cuomo put it this way: “We have people downstate who need food. We have farmers upstate who can’t sell their product. We have to put those two things together. It’s just common sense.”

And so, the state government stepped in to help with the Nourish New York program. This program provided $25 million in state funding so food banks could purchase the surplus food and give it to those who need it. It does two things: helps people who are food insecure to access healthy food, and at the same time provides relief for cash-strapped farmers who have lost many of their markets.

“During this pandemic response, we continue to come together as a statewide community, first to mobilize and expand our healthcare sector and now to help meet struggling New Yorkers’ nutritional needs,” said State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

The food distribution is done safely. People do not get out of their cars, and volunteers, wearing masks, place food boxes in their cars. This week I picked up food for three families. And there was so much milk that they were giving more away at the farmers’ market.

“Nourish New York will be a lifeline for our families and our farmers who have been struggling with changes brought on by COVID-19,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “The agricultural industry has continued to give back to New York communities during this time; however, they have seen devastating losses financially as a result of lost markets, such as schools and restaurants.”

So what’s in the boxes? The dairy box contains individual containers of yogurt and string cheese, as well as cottage cheese, sour cream, and milk. The vegetable box holds a bag of potatoes, a head of cauliflower, zucchini and summer squash, carrots, two types of lettuce and oranges.

It’s hot, and we want to spend time outdoors rather than slaving in a hot kitchen. Here are some ideas for using the food in the box.

Summer Salad

Ingredients:

1 bunch lettuce

2 Tomatoes

2 Cucumbers

Scallions, chives or sweet onion

Sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)

Salt and pepper

Feta cheese and croutons, optional

Directions:

Wash and shred the lettuce (do not spin dry; you want a little clinging water). Place in salad bowl. Add diced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sliced scallions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Fold in sour cream or yogurt.

Top with crumbled feta cheese and / or croutons, if using.

Serves 2 – 3.

Zucchini and Potatoes in Creamy Dilly Sauce

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon butter or oil to coat bottom of skillet

1 or 2 potatoes

1 onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon turmeric, optional

1/2 cup sliced carrots, optional

1 or 2 cloves garlic

3 – 4 cups diced zucchini (yellow and green combination is nice)

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup milk

1 – 2 teaspoons flour

1 cup minced fresh dill or minced fresh parsley, or mint

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt butter or heat oil in skillet. Peel or scrub potatoes. Cut in half lengthwise; then cut in 1/8-inch slices. Add to skillet and sprinkle with salt; cover, and cook on medium-low about 5 minutes while you peel and dice onion. Add onion, stir, and continue cooking over low heat, covered, while you cut up the carrots; throw them in and sprinkle with pepper and turmeric. Peel and mince garlic, and add. Dice up the zucchini, and stir in. Cook everything on low heat until vegetables are tender.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, milk and flour. Add a little of the liquid from the simmering veggies. Stir to combine and stir into the veggies to make a sauce. Chop about a cup of fresh dill and stir in.

Serve as a side dish. Serves 3.

Option: to make into a main dish, add diced cooked chicken breast or chopped hard-cooked eggs.

Cheesy Skillet Pasta with Cauliflower

and Carrots

Ingredients:

8 oz. pasta or noodles of your choice

1/2 teaspoon salt

A little butter or oil for the skillet

1/2 – 1 onion

1/2 – 1 cup sliced carrots

1 head cauliflower

1 cup diced summer squash

8 oz. cottage cheese

1/2 – 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

In a large pot, heat water with salt. When boiling, add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain when done, reserving some pasta water.

While noodles are cooking, melt butter or heat oil in skillet. Peel and dice onion; add. Sprinkle with salt, cover, and cook about 5 minutes while you cut up the carrots; throw them in. Wash cauliflower and separate into florets; add to the skillet, along with about a cup of water from the cooking pasta. Cover and cook until tender, 7 – 10 minutes. Add some thinly sliced zucchini or summer squash and cook another minute or two.

When vegetables are tender, add cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, and cooked drained noodles to the skillet. Stir to combine, and serve.

Serves 3 – 4. Serve with a salad of fresh greens and tomatoes.

Try this dish with other vegetables like Broccoli, brussels sprouts, or greens like kale, collards or Swiss chard.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Words are my world.

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