Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CSA Week 5

The weather has wasted no time becoming fully appropriate for summer. It will be July before this week is over, and it has been hot. For many of our crops this is a good thing: squash, tomatoes, eggplant, and other things evocative of the season should grow well in the heat. Other produce--especially the brassicas (broccoli and cabbage, as well as kale) are less tolerant of the heat. Those crops will eventually succumb to the temperatures, but we have already begun sowing their fall successions. In the coming weeks we'll plant more of everything in the cabbage family, and they'll be ready for harvest when cooler weather returns. Such is the cyclical nature of the farming season. As for right now, we're pleased with today's harvest--it's the largest of the season thus far. Here's what's in the share:

Kohlrabi -or- Turnips
Beets, red -or- chioggia
Kale, lacinato
Summer Squash, zephyr
Sugar Snap Peas
Green Garlic

Notes about the food:

*Green Garlic refers to garlic harvested before the bulb is fully formed. You'll notice that skin hasn't developed over the bulb, and that it hasn't segmented into cloves. These things will happen in the next few weeks, at which time we'll harvest the entirety of our crop. At that time we'll cut off what's left of the green leaves and let the bulbs dry before distributing them. For now, we're offering the entire plant, leaves and all. Use it as you would a green onion--chop the bulb as well as the stalk and include in your cooking as you would a regular clove of garlic. Keep in mind that it won't store as long as a fully developed garlic plant, so use it soon.

*We've harvested the broccoli with some of the stem and some of the leaves. Please eat them as well as the florets--they contain a lot of the nutrition that is in the crop, and they are similarly flavorful. We have worked on farms in the past that harvest the broccoli leaves and sell them separately, bunched like kale. The florets--the part of the plant that you are probably most accustomed to eating--are the part of the plant that will flower. If left unharvested, each of the tightly bunched kernels in the head of broccoli will produce a yellow flower.

*Risotto has a reputation for being difficult, but it isn't. It requires your presence at the stove for a period of constant stirring, but otherwise it is not hard to make well. I recommend the following recipe for beet risotto, which I've taken from a cookbook called Almost Vegetarian.

2 medium beets, topped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 small onion, chopped

1 tbsp orange zest

1 cup arborio rice

2 tbsp raspberry or lemon vinegar

pinch of sugar

1 tbsp sour cream or yogurt cheese

1. Put beets and bay leaf in a saucepan and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, over medium heat, until the beets are cooked through, about 40 minutes.

2. Remove the beets with a slotted spoon, then strain the cooking water and discard the bay leaf. Pour the cooking water back into the saucepan. Slip the skins off the beets.

3. Chop 1 of the beets and set aside. In a food processor puree the other beet and stir into the strained broth. Cover the broth and keep it at a gentle simmer over low heat.

(The portion of the recipe above--the beet broth--can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator, and used as a base for things other than the risotto that follows.)

4. In another large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and orange zest, and saute over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the chopped beet, and stir well. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated with the seasonings and is glistening, about 2 minutes.

5. Add the vinegar and stir until it evaporates, about 2 minutes.

6. Using a ladle, add about 1 cup hot broth. Stir constantly over medium heat until the broth has been absorbed. Add another ladleful of broth and keep stirring until it has been absorbed.

7. Continue the process, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring in this way until the kernels are plump and no longer chalk white in the center. This should take 25-30 minutes altogether. the rice is almost done when the kernels are still separate but starting to bind, and there are pools of broth on the surface. It is done when the liquid had been absorbed, and the kernels are bound in what looks like very ricey, yet somewhat creamy, rice pudding.

8. When the risotto is done, stir in the sugar, cream or yogurt cheese, and stir well to blend. Serve at once.

*Are you watching World Cup soccer? I think Spain and Portugal are playing as I write, and on my imaginary calendar I've highlighted the Germany-Argentina match that will be played next Saturday.

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