Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CSA Week 18

To work the same five acres of land for a full season is to cultivate a sort of stillness. Not a stillness that is to be confused with idleness, but a stillness that is the result of the fact that during our working lives we rarely stray from this small piece of land, and of the fact that while here our efforts are concentrated on plants and soil that are never farther from us than a short walk, and are usually within arm's-reach. Plants and soil are by nature still things; they change constantly but slowly enough that we must tend them with patience, caring for them over the course of months as if we are rooted to the same spot as they. This has been on my mind because I had an unusually social weekend, first with an assortment of friends in the Pioneer Valley and then on the farm of a friend outside of New Haven, Connecticut. For more than two days I was in motion between people and places, and I was excited and happy and my attention was lifted from the ground and spread to several simultaneous points, and at the end of each day I was exhausted. This is a good thing, but it was a jarring contrast to the careful and stationary attention the farm requires. My heart moves slowly between states of being, and the varieties of stillness and motion have been on my mind as I acclimate again to the careful and focused pace of the farm.

Does that make sense? I probably should not use this blog to pursue trains-of-thought about potentially vague subjects. Until I don't, let's agree to practice a stillness that is neither idle nor vacant. Let's lie down with the cat, or watch the sky, or grow a plant, or sit down and carefully eat an array of vegetables. To that end, here is what's in the share this week:

Swiss Chard
Lacinato Kale
Heirloom Tomatoes
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes (while supplies last!)
Red Beets
Hot Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Husk Cherries
You-Pick Tomatillos, if you want them

*Eggplant can be delicious when battered and fried. Here is a recipe that you can use as a template, but be creative when making the batter. Eggs can be beaten and used for some of the liquid, and nutritional yeast is a good addition if you have it.
1 medium eggplant, trimmed, unpeeled, and sliced into uniformly thin strips
Olive oil for frying
3/4 Tbsp sea salt
8 oz. bottled soda water
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Prepare eggplant: Put slices in a bowl, add 1/2 Tbsp salt, and let sit 20-25 minutes. Pour off liquid before dipping in batter.

Make the batter: Pour the soda into a bowl, stir in flour 1/4 Tbsp salt slowly, using a whisk or fork to mix.

Fry: Bring oil to high heat. Coat eggplant in the batter, use fork to place pieces in the oil, and fry 5-6 minutes, until golden brown on both sides and batter puffs up. Drain on absorbent paper towel just long enough to remove excess oil. Serve hot.

*Sadie Miller sent a recipe that I've been saving for a time when we had both kale and chard, and that time is now. The recipe calls for only one of the greens, but I think you should use a little of both. It also includes garlic and cilantro, both in this week's share. (If you see Sadie, by the way, and you probably won't because she lives in Belchertown, congratulate her--she was recently engaged to be married.)

Giant Chipotle White Beans

1 pound of large, dried white beans (corona, giant limas, gigantes, or any giant white bean you can find), rinsed, picked over and soaked for up to 24 hours

Chipotle-tomato sauce:
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 big pinches of red pepper flakes
2 pinches salt
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers

Cilantro Pesto
1 medium clove garlic
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
big pinch salt
2/3 cup kale or chard, washed, de-stemmed, and finely chopped
1 cup queso fresco or feta cheese (or a combination of the two)
1 1/2 cup whole-grain bread crumbs, toasted in a skillet with a Tbsp of olive oil

Drain and rinse the beans after their overnight soak. Then place them in a large saucepan and cover with an inch or two of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are cooked through and just tender. This can take anywhere from an hour to two hours (potentially more) depending on your beans, but do your best to avoid overcooking. Remove from heat, salt the beans (still in bean broth) with about a tablespoon of salt--enough that the bean liquid is tasty but on the salty side. Let the beans sit like this for ten minutes or so before draining and setting the beans aside.

In the meantime, make your tomato sauce. Place the 2 Tbsp olive oil, red pepper flakes, couple pinches of salt, and chopped garlic into a cold medium saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant--you don't want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and the fresh oregano and heat to a gentle simmer, this takes just a couple minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the adobo sauce--carefully take a taste...If the sauce needs more salt add it now. More chipotle flavor? Go for it.

Make the cilantro pesto by combining the clove of garlic and cilantro in a food processor. Pulse while you drizzle in the olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a 9x13 baking pan (or large oven-proof casserole/dutch oven) toss the beans with the tomato sauce and the greens. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in the top third of the oven for roughly 25 (if you're using queso fresco) to 40 minutes. I look for cheese to start browning and any visible beans to get a bit crusty. Remove from oven and let sit for about ten minutes. Top the beans with the breadcrumbs and just before serving drizzle with the cilantro pesto.

*A CSA member actually asked us to post more pictures of ourselves. I'm complying because I'd forgotten how adorable your farmers were back in June:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CSA Week 17

It's the equinox, the second time this year neither light nor dark has been stifled in favor of the other. We lose a few minutes of daylight each day, and to arrive at the farm when the sun rises is to arrive each day a few minutes later. The extra sleep is mandated by the season, and we appreciate it. When the sun does rise its light is soft and the air is cold, but it is a cold unique to the season, a cold that contains within itself the assurance of future warmth. These are the cold mornings of warm days, conditions that exist in measure as equal as the light and the dark and invigorate because they do not threaten permanence. For those of us who felt diminished during the hottest parts of summer, exposed by the brightness and enervated by the humidity, the gentle daily fluctuation is soothing. It's certainly worth another opening paragraph about the weather.

Here is what's in the share this week:

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes
Collard Greens
Swiss Chard
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Husk Cherries

*During college I would often retreat to the home of my friends Mary and George. There, I could spend an autumn day doing schoolwork in the warmth of a household not at all reminiscent of the nearby campus, and I could end the day with a home-cooked meal. On at least one of these occasions I arrived to the sight and smell of tomatoes simmering on each of the stove top's four burners. George, who is an excellent cook, was making tomato sauce and tomato soup in quantities appropriate to freeze for the winter, and I spent the day in the midst of their preparation, in a haze of tomato-based aroma. With this in mind I called George and asked for tips and recipes concerning all things tomato. You're advised to heed his suggestions:

George Ferger's Tomato Soup

The quantities given here are for a 3-quart (medium-sized) saucepan. When I make this soup, I generally do so with the idea of freezing it in pint and/or quart containers for the winter, so I triple the measurements, filling the three pans in stages as I work through the cooking process. On a personal note, I like to save time so I am not fussy about tomato skins. I never skin a tomato I plan to cook. I do however at least slice each tomato open to be sure nothing objectionable is inside (you never know--one summer every 30th or so plum tomato had a moldy growth buried in its core). Most of the time I blend the cooked mixture once it has cooled sufficiently. If you want a coarser texture in a soup, dice everything a bit finer so any bits of skin will be unobtrusive. That will take longer, of course; a second strategy to add texture is to blanch diced vegetables (zucchini or yellow summer squash, bell peppers, etc.) in boiling water for a minute and then drain and add them to the blended tomato mixture. The times mentioned are for fresh organic vegetables. In my experience, they require less cooking time than most store-bought produce. Note: the bulghur acts to thicken the soup mixture. Tomatoes vary in their juiciness so you may need more or less. If the mixture is too thin, just add a bit more bulghur--it cooks in minutes. If the mixture is too thick, just add a bit of water. This can even be done at the blending stage if necessary.

2+ quarts coarsely chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 chopped carrots
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt + black pepper to taste
2 heaping Tbsp medium-coarse bulghur
other diced vegetables of one's choosing
1/2 cup each chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley) or 1 tsp each dried
1-3 fresh hot peppers, chopped, or crushed chili flakes to taste, or cayenne or tabasco, or a jar of salsa (if desired)

Saute the onions and carrots over medium heat in the olive oil for a few minutes, then turn down the heat and stir in the garlic. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir frequently. Add all the other ingredients and cook for about another 20 minutes. (Total cooking time should be less than an hour.)

George's Tomato Sauce

This recipe is similar to the one in The Victory Garden Cookbook (Fall Freezer Tomato Sauce). Like the soup recipe above, feel free to either make the sauce smooth or coarse in texture. The same methods as above apply.

2 1/2+ quarts chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 chopped carrot
1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cans organic tomato paste (6 oz. can)
1 tsp each of these dried herbs: thyme, oregano, basil. And powdered bay leaf is fabulous if you can get it. If you use fresh herbs instead of dried, throw them in by the handful.
1 tsp salt + black pepper to taste
1-3 hot fresh peppers, chopped, if desired, or a jar of salsa (I like the medium hot), or cayenne or tabasco to taste. Some people may want to cut back on the herbs mentioned if you want the sauce spicy.

Saute the onions and carrots in the oil for a few minutes, then stir in the garlic. Turn heat to low and stir in the tomatoes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add herbs / salt / pepper / spices and stir. Drop the tomato paste in the center of the simmering mixture and blend it with a fork, then stir everything well. After it has all simmered slowly for a total of 45 minutes or so, turn off and let cool before blending and placing in freezer containers. If you like, add diced vegetables for variety and texture, stirring them into blended mixture after it has cooled a bit. Bell peppers and summer squash don't need to be cooked before freezing. Cut green beans (for example) will need blanching from 1-3 minutes, depending on their size.

*I have an inordinate affection for parsley. I eat it like a main course, but maybe you don't, and maybe you're wondering to do with it. Try this dip from Epicurious, it's easy:

Chick-Pea, Garlic, and Parsley Dip

a 19-oz. can of chick peas, rinsed and drained (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped and mashed to paste with 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves, washed and spun dry
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In food processor blend all ingredients except oil until smooth. With motor running add oil in slow stream. Season dip with salt.

*Pumpkins are available for sale at the farm stand. They are divided into three categories of size, and they're priced to sell. What you see is what's available--when they're gone they're gone, so consider us for all your pumpkin-related needs, and don't wait to celebrate the coming of autumn and "harvest season".

*You probably remember Krapp's Last Tape. It is good equinox literature, although in the play it's vernal:

Hm...Memorable...what? (He peers closer.) Equinox. Memorable equinox. (He raises his head, stares blankly front. Puzzled.) Memorable equinox? (Pause. He shrugs his shoulders, peers again at ledger, reads.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CSA Week 16

Here is what's in the share this week:

Swiss Chard
Heirloom Tomatoes
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Husk Cherries
Red Onions

*Each week we are happily surprised by the continued production of our heirloom tomatoes, but the week will come when the plants are no longer producing enough fruit to supply the CSA. If you want to use some of the current abundance to prepare for a day beyond the end of tomato season, consider making tomato sauce and either freezing or canning it. Here's a sample recipe, but experimentation is encouraged:

4 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped garlic
4 cups diced onions
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 chopped fresh basil
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Submerge the tomatoes for about 10 seconds; remove and peel the tomatoes with a paring knife or your fingers. Don't remove seeds or juice--it's from these areas that a tomato gets a lot of its flavor. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions and salt, stir to coat, cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat to prevent burning, until soft and golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and oregano and cook, stirring often, 2 to 4 minutes.

Pour in wine and vinegar; bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits with a spoon. Cook until reduced slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and any juice; return to simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are mostly broken down, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Stir in basil and pepper. Transfer the sauce, in batches, to a blender or food processor. For a smoother sauce, blend all of it. For a chunkier sauce, blend 1/2 and combine the the unblended portion.

This sauce can be eaten fresh, or preserved by freezing or canning. Freezing is the easiest and most risk-free option, but if you want to try canning, refer to this blog post by a friend of the farm. The post is specifically about fruit, but it mentions the basics and includes links for further information.

*The corn this week is from Sunshine Farm in Sherborn. We're happy to be supporting another local farm business; please see the Week 14 post for information about our decision to buy sweet corn rather than grow it ourselves.

*This is the last week that fennel will be in the share, which means it is the last time this season you will wonder what to do with fennel. Make amends for past uncertainty with either of these recipes, both from Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables:

Sauteed Fennel With Lemon

"As basic, useful, and versatile as simply sauteed peppers, mushrooms, or snow peas--any or all of which will enhance it, as variations."

2 medium fennel bulbs
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
pepper to taste

Trim and reserve fennel leaves (and cut off and reserve top stalks). Quarter each bulb lengthwise; cut each quarter crosswise in very thin slivers. Mince 1 Tbsp of the fine leaves.

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet; toss fennel slices to coat. Add salt. Continue tossing frequently over moderate heat, until tender--about 10 minutes.

Toss with lemon zest and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with minced tops.

Fennel a la Grecque

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 large garlic cloves, halved
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 tiny dried hot chili-pepper, or 1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 medium fennel bulbs
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Lemon Slices

Combine water, vermouth, garlic, fennel seeds, thyme, bay leaf, chili (crumbled), salt, and sugar in saucepan. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, until ready to use.

Trim and discard fennel stalks, saving feathery leaves. Trim base of bulb slightly without removing core. Cutting across as you would a loaf of bread, progressing from one short side to the other, make even slices 1/4-1/2 inch wide.

Heat oil in wide skillet (12 inches or more). On moderately low heat brown slices lightly in single layer, turning once, about 10 minutes.

Remove garlic from prepare bouillon and discard; add liquid to fennel with lemon juice. Cover and simmer very gently 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer about 15 minutes, or until fennel is very tender.

Cool. Gently lift slices into serving dish. Pour liquid over. Cover and chill.

To serve, snip fennel leaves and sprinkle on top. Arrange lemon slices over all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

CSA Week 15

The quality of today's harvest is belied by the picture at the left, which was taken with a cell phone and makes our bell peppers look like they are in an aquarium or something. I'm including it anyway, because I like the murky luminescence of the produce, and the way the peppers appear to be situated in defiance of gravity. The image is a striking contrast to the reality of our recent days on the farm: The air is clear, the light is clean, and our produce is copious. It is September, and although we are psychologically accelerating toward the end of the season and a time when growth is slow, our harvests have been getting bigger, and with a total of fifteen items (not including you-pick snap peas) this is our largest share thus far.

It comes at a time when we truly are thinking of the season's end. With the tractor we erased half a field's worth of cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, melons), and many of our empty beds have been sown with cover crop. And each week our astonishment at the date is renewed: The calendar is moving while our hands and minds are on vegetables, and the conversations that last week began "I can't believe it is the last week of August" this week begin "I can't believe it is the first week of September," with no diminishment of actual surprise. Time is moving fast, it's past before we realize it is present. Here's a lot of produce for ballast:

Heirloom Tomatoes
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Summer Squash / Zucchini
Bell Peppers
Husk Cherries
Sweet Corn (from Volante)

*Is it obvious that I'm not really a cook? We spend the majority of our time growing food, and it would make sense if we were accomplished preparers of the food we grow. Joshua, I think, has some kitchen experience and enough intuition to make consistently good meals, but for me food preparation is a regular source of shame. I eat a lot of vegetables (I don't think we grow anything that I don't like to eat), but my preparation methods are rudimentary, to say the least. So it is with some irony that I provide a few recipes each week. Some of them I've made, but many of them have been sent to me by friends of the farm or culled from an internet search. I try each week to select recipes that prominently feature at least one item from the CSA share, and ideally include a few items. If you have a favorite way to prepare anything we grow, please be in touch, and we'll share the tips and recipes with the CSA community. Until then, I'll keep providing the recipe findings of a kitchen incompetent.

*It was a cursory internet search that helped me find these two recipes that include mizuna, the spicy green in the share the past two weeks. The first is from the Whole Foods website (I have mixed feelings about this) and the second is from epicurious.

Wok Sauteed Mizuna with Minced Chicken

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, finely chopped
2 tsp canola or peanut oil
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped water chestnuts
1/2 tsp chile paste
1 tbs lime juice
1 pound mizuna
1/4 finely chopped scallions

In a medium bowl, mix egg white with 1/2 tsp of the tamari, garlic, and chicken. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add chicken mixture and cook, stirring constantly, 4 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside. Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in skillet or wok. Add carrots, onion, and water chestnuts and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add remaining 1 tsp tamari, chile paste, lime juice, and mizuna and cook, stirring often, until slightly wilted. Return chicken to wok and toss well. Garnish with scallions.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese and Kalamata Dressing

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
5 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 ounces mizuna
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes (assorted colors and shapes), cut into slices and wedges
1 pound burrata cheese (burrata is a fresh mozzarella filled with cream and curds)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Puree oil, olives, and vinegar in blender. Season to taste with pepper. Scatter mizuna over large platter. Arrange tomatoes over mizuna. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper; drizzle with some of the dressing. Cut burrata into 1-inch slices; scatter over tomatoes. Sprinkle burrata with salt and pepper; drizzle with some of the remaining dressing. Scatter sliced basil over salad. Serve salad with remaining dressing.