Romeo – Fall is here and one activity people love to do is go to a cider mill--warm sugary donuts and fresh apple cider, what’s not to love? Plus you can pick your own apples, but that’s not the only thing you can pick. Did you know you can also get tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, even peppers? Well, you can! At Westview Orchards in Romeo, they have a bountiful fall harvest that you can pick yourself.
Westview Orchards has been in the area for a long time, starting in 1813 before Michigan was even a state. Their rolling hills and fertile soil are great for growing all kinds of things. Katrina Roy, part of the 6th generation that is running the orchard shared her advice for how to get the most out of your you-pick experience.
At Westview Orchards when you sign up for “You-Pick” on the weekdays it comes with a free wagon ride and a pass for farm fun. You start off by picking out the container size for the things you want to pick (like a pint for raspberries, a bushel for apples, etc.) You pay upfront and are allowed to pick as much as will fit into the container. This is done to minimize contact during COVID-19. To get out to the orchard there is an open-top wagon ride where guests are asked to social distance from other parties. Once you get out to the garden pick as much as you want!
You can pick apples, raspberries, pumpkins, zucchinis, tomatoes, eggplants, and all kinds of peppers. They have sweet peppers, spicy jalapeños, and even unusual ones like the purple Tequila pepper. The trick with most of these veggies is to pick them when they easily pop off the vine or bush, that is generally a good sign they are ripe. The same goes for the raspberries. A trick to picking apples, so as not to bruise them, is to gently turn them upside down, and they will just pop off.
For storage, keep the produce cold and dry. Katrina strongly discourages you from washing them and putting them in plastic bags right when you get home, as that is a breeding ground for rot. Instead, just dust them off with your hands and put them in a colander and in your fridge. Since you are picking these veggies straight from the farm, instead of them being processed and sent to a grocery store, they should have a much longer shelf life than produce you get from the store. So take home as much as you want, and then get creative in the kitchen.
Our Live in the D team did just that and wanted to share their recipes with you. Here is what they made:
Kila’s Caprese Salad
-1 ripe medium tomato
-2 medium-sized yellow peppers
-5 or 6 fresh mozzarella pearls or 3 or 4 slices of fresh mozzarella
-2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 tablespoon balsamic reduction
Cut tomatoes and peppers into slices. Remove seeds from peppers. Either on a plate or on top of a bed of lettuce, lay your tomatoes and peppers in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle mozzarella pearls on top of vegetables, if using slices, arrange them with tomatoes and peppers. Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then balsamic reduction on top. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Tammy’s Stuffed Zucchini Boats
-1 giant zucchini
-1 lb. ground lamb or beef
-1 yellow onion diced
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1-2 tsp. dried oregano
-8oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
-Salt & pepper to taste
-Shredded Italian mix cheese(mozzarella, provolone & parmesan) or feta
-Hot sauce for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Cut the zucchini in half horizontally and if it’s easier to work with cut each of those halves in half vertically creating four segments. Scoop out the zucchini halves creating ½ inch thick zucchini “boats.” Put the cored zucchini cut side down on a microwave-safe plate and microwave 2-3 minutes until somewhat soft but still firm. Season the interior of the zucchini with salt (and pepper if desired).
To make the filling, brown the meat until cooked through, then drain off the fat and set aside. Sauté the onion in the same pan, then add the garlic and oregano and cook until softened. Add the can of tomatoes, season with S & P, and simmer gently until heated through. If the mixture appears dry add a small bit of stock or water.
Scoop the meat mixture into the zucchini creating a mound of meat in each. Top with shredded cheese and bake on the upper rac k of oven until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Serve with hot sauce if desired.
Natalia’s Pumpkin Flan
-3/4 cups sugar for the caramel
-2-3 Tbs. of water for the caramel
-4-5 eggs (5 if medium-sized)
-2 cups of pumpkin puree (or 1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree)
-12 oz. can of evaporated milk
-14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
-1 pinch of ground cinnamon
-1 pinch of ground nutmeg
-1 pinch of salt
Put sugar in a large all stainless steel saucepan along with 2-3 tbs of water. You will want enough water to barely cover the sugar. Heat over medium heat until sugar turns to a golden-brown color and slightly bubbles.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a mixing bowl beat the eggs lightly and add the remaining ingredients, stirring lightly after each addition. Mix thoroughly after all the ingredients are added.
Pour mixture in the saucepan with your caramelized sugar. Take your saucepan (with sugar and mixture inside) and place it inside a larger baking pan. Fill the larger pan with room temperature water, until the water reaches almost the top of the baking pan. Place the big pan with the flan saucepan inside of it on the center rack of the oven. Bake it at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.
Test for the right consistency by inserting a butter knife through the center of the flan. If it comes out clean, the flan is cooked, if not test again in five minutes. Once ready Insert the table knife along the side of the flan and go all around to loosen the edges and allow the saucepan to cool. Once the saucepan is cool to touch, place it in the refrigerator for about 1 hour (can be longer). After an hour, take your saucepan out of the refrigerator. Place your serving platter over the flan saucepan and flip it upside down until the flan drops in the platter. If it is necessary, tap lightly on the bottom of the saucepan until you feel the weight of the flan on the bottom platter.
You must use an all-steel saucepan. Saucepans with wooden or rubber handles are not oven safe. Any leftovers can be refrigerated. It will last for 3 to 4 days.
Michelle’s Peppers and Pepperoni Pizza
1 Pizza Dough (store-bought, or follow this recipe here)
-1 onion, finely diced
-28oz. of Whole Tomatoes (canned or fresh)
-1.5 Tbs Tomato Paste
-1.5 tsp dried thyme
-Salt and Pepper to taste
-A handful of finely chopped basil
-2 Tequila Peppers
-1 Green Pepper
To make the sauce, sauté the finely diced onions in some olive oil for a few minutes until fragrant. Add in tomatoes, tomato paste, and thyme and cook them low and slow until they break down into a sauce. Season them with salt and pepper to taste. This can take an hour or more, low and slow is the key. When the sauce has your desired consistency, turn off the heat and add in the basil. Allow the residual heat to cook the basil. Store in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.
To prepare the peppers for the topping, fire-roast them over a gas stovetop or with the oven on broil. They should have scorch marks. Carefully put the peppers into a plastic bag to trap the steam, this will loosen the skins. Rub the burnt parts of the skin off, and dice the peppers.
To make the pizza, dust the dough with flour and press out a crust. Gently stretch the dough into a round pizza shape by moving it from hand to hand, letting gravity do some of the work. Top the pizza with the sauce, mozzarella, and toppings.
Put a pizza stone or steel on the top rack of your oven, and put it on the highest heat setting your oven can get to (for most ovens, this is 550F). Let the stone/steel heat up with the oven for about 45 minutes. Then switch the oven to broil. Put the pizza onto the hot stone or steel using a cornmeal-dusted peel or flat cookie sheet. Watch the pizza cook, it does not take too long, about 5-10 minutes, then remove and enjoy!