Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CSA Week 11

We estimate that two inches of rain fell in less than one hour last Thursday afternoon. I was riding my bicycle home from the farm when the shower began, and the water moved across the pavement in streams that accumulated faster than they could disperse so that by the time I got home I had seen cars parked in water up to their undercarriages. Our soil is more absorbent than the surface of a road, and the farm welcomed its own pummeling. The fast infusion of water was a relief to the crops in spite of its violence: we're not equipped to irrigate our fields, so after several consecutive hot and dry days we welcome rainfall of any kind. The well, too, from which we draw water to wash the crops we harvest and from which we fill buckets to water our seedlings benefited from the shower. It had been intermittently dry in recent weeks, and we had been relying on water from the well of a neighbor. (The fact that we she gives us water and we give her vegetables makes me feel like we're part of an apocalypse economy in which currency doesn't exist that is neither edible nor potable.) Warm days and rainfall that is ample but not constant are the best conditions we can hope for, and both have been provided this season.

The season, by the way, reaches its halfway point this week. This is the eleventh CSA distribution, and there will be eleven more. It is going fast, and we are mindful of the fact that the second half of anything is faster than the first. It will be October before we fully realize that it is August, and then it will be winter. Please take the time time to enjoy this week's harvest, and the harvests of all the weeks that remain.

Here is what's in the share:

Heirloom Tomatoes
Slicing Tomatoes
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Hot Peppers
Golden Beets
Summer Squash

Notes about the food:

*Eggplant is one of the loveliest things we grow. The plants themselves are solidly rooted and adorned with large triangular leaves, and amongst these bloom small lavender flowers. In the hottest parts of the summer these flowers dropped without producing fruit, but the temperatures have been slightly cooler in recent weeks and the plants are finally laden with the deeply colored, glossy eggplant that we've been waiting for. We've been preparing them by cutting each unpeeled eggplant in half, spreading both halves with olive oil and wrapping them along with a few cloves of garlic in tinfoil. Baked like this for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees they become soft and infused with the flavor of the garlic--we've then chopped them as an addition to pizza or pasta, but they are also a good stand-alone sidedish at this point.

*Treat the fennel as a plant with two complimentary parts. The bulb is crunchy and makes a good addition to raw salads. It is also excellent grilled--slice it into strips and brush with olive oil and grill alongside other summertime staples. The fronds are more herb-like, and their flavor is reminiscent of licorice. A little bit goes a long way to flavor soups or salads. Try this easy salad from a website called "vegalicious":

Orange, Beet, and Fennel Salad

2 large beets, peeled and cooked
2 medium oranges, peeled and segmented
1 medium fennel bulb

for the dressing:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fennel frond, finely chopped
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp agave syrup

Peel the oranges and cut them into segments. Slice the cooked beets in fine circles. Clean the fennel and cut off the bottom part of the bulb. Slice the fennel into very thin slices or shavings. Assemble these components on a plate and drizzle with combined dressing ingredients. Garnish with sprigs of fennel.

Or try this Ratatouille recipe from Epicurious:

1 bulb fennel, stalks discarded
3 red bell peppers, pierced with tip of knife
3 yellow bell peppers, pierced with tip of knife
2 medium zucchini, quartered
1 medium eggplant, quartered
About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head garlic
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In large saucepan over moderately high heat, bring 2 quarts salted water to boil. Add fennel and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, rub red and yellow peppers, zucchini, and eggplant with olive oil and transfer to large baking sheet. Cut off top 1/2 inch from garlic head. Wrap in foil and transfer to baking sheet alongside vegetables. When fennel is tender, use tongs to transfer to sheet and rub with oil. Roast vegetables, turning occasionally, until tender and slightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer roasted peppers to large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let all vegetables stand until cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. Peel and deseed peppers, then finely dice. Remove seeds from zucchini and finely dice. Finely dice eggplant. Core fennel and finely dice. In large saucepan over moderately high heat, combine diced roasted vegetables and tomato sauce. Squeeze garlic from skins into pan. Simmer mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened with very little liquid remaining, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Serve immediately.

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