Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CSA Week 19

I have been thinking recently of the ways in which humans have an adversarial relationship with the conditions that surround them. We insulate ourselves against the cold, we expose ourselves against the heat, and we create light against the dark. We constantly work to make a sphere of our own influence against what the world offers, and when we are unsuccessful, or when the conditions are insurmountable, we are uncomfortable. I appreciate farming in New England because we are regularly forced to work in a variety of the conditions that antagonize us, without recourse to full shelter when it is raining, or cold, or hot. We experience the world as a world relatively unencumbered by our efforts to modify it. On mornings such as this morning we experience rain as rain--that which wets the ground and those things upon it--and in it we are damp things, working. It is a privilege to know what it is to be wet or cold, and to know that those conditions can be fled when the work day is over, and we are grateful for it. There is a poem I like by Wendell Berry (a guy whose work I avoided for a while, for irrational reasons); I think of it in relation to this premise, and I apply it to a lot of things in life:

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Try it in the most basic sense: leave the lights off as the day becomes dark so that you may know evening as evening and night as night and neither as things electrically illuminated; spend one minute being cold in the outdoors on a winter morning before putting on your coat, and for one minute know winter as winter. The ability to experience the world in a passive way without fully relinquishing our combative relationship with our surroundings--to know that we can be dark or cold and can then modify our environment to suit our comfort--is a special thing.

What was I saying? Oh--we harvested the share this morning in the dim light of a late dawn, in the spitting rain of a cold autumn day. It was fine.

Swiss Chard
Hot Peppers
Sweet Peppers
Heirloom Tomatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Husk Cherries
You-Pick Tomatillos, if you want them

*If you are familiar with radicchio, you know that it usually has the appearance of a tightly packed head that is the size of baseball or softball and is crisp like a cabbage. We've harvested some of the plants slightly before that stage because we have found that some of them are bolting (going to seed) before the head is fully formed. What we're offering, then, are beautifully colored heads of radicchio that are akin to lettuce in terms of texture and firmness. They still have the distinct bittersweet flavor of mature radicchio, and are excellent cooked as well as in salads. Two recipes with prefatory by Elizabeth Schneider, from Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables:

Salad of Radicchio, Red Pepper, and Avocado

"Brilliant-colored, this refreshing salad of bitter radicchio, crisp red bell pepper, and creamy avocado spotlights radicchio's unique qualities."

2 small heads radicchio (about 1/2 pound)
2 medium red bell peppers
1 medium avocado
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Pepper to taste
4 Tbsp olive oil

1. Core, rinse and thoroughly dry radicchio. Cut into bit-sized pieces. Stem and seed peppers, then cut into thin julienne strips. Quarter and peel avocado, then cut across into thin slices or dice. Combine all in a serving bowl.

2. Blend lime juice, salt, and pepper. Gradually beat in oil. Pour over the salad and toss gently to coat the leaves. Serve.

Spaghetti with Radicchio, Anchovies, and Garlic

"When I first saw cooked radicchio, I was taken aback: where was the gorgeous garnet leaf with its sturdy crispness? But after a few tastes I began to understand the subtle changes the escarole-like leaf underwent when subjected to heat: an intensification of flavor and broadening of range to reveal its bitter-to-mellow-to-sweet spectrum. Although its brilliant red is lost once sauteed, radicchio gains an altogether new taste coloring."

1 pound spaghetti
1/3 cup full-flavored olive oil
2-3 tsp finely minced garlic, to taste
1 pound radicchio
2-ounce can anchovies in olive oil, sliced (do not discard oil)
2 Tbsp minced chive
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
Black pepper to taste
1 cup finely grated provolone

1. Drop spaghetti into a large kettle of well-salted boiling water; stir until water returns to a boil. Cook until just barely tender

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet; stir in garlic; cook over moderately low heat until just golden. Add radicchio and toss for a few minutes over high heat, until just wilted.

3. Drain pasta and toss in a heated bowl with the anchovies and oil. Add radicchio, chives, parsley, and plenty of pepper and toss well. Add half the cheese and toss. Serve at once with the remaining cheese on the side.

*When preparing the leeks, let's not stray from the standards, especially when they are fully appropriate for autumn:

Potato and Leek Soup

The white and pale green part of 2 large leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound potatoes
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves or

In a large heavy saucepan cook the leeks in the butter with salt and pepper to taste, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are soft but not browned. Add the water, the broth, and the potatoes (cut into 1/2-inch pieces), and simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. In a blender puree 1 cup of the soup, stir the puree into the remaining soup with the parsley, and season the soup with salt and pepper.

Or let's stray slightly, and incorporate the sweet potatoes. Like the recipe above, this is from Gourmet Magazine via Epicurious.

Sweet Potato-Leek Pancakes

1 large russet potato, grated
2 cups coarsely grated red-skinned sweet potato
1 leek, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only, about 1 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 275. Mix first 8 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop sweet potato mixture by 1/4 cupfuls onto skillet. Using spatula, gently flatten each mound to a 3 1/2-inch diameter round. Cook pancakes until brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to skillet as needed. Transfer pancakes to plates. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

*We couldn't be happier with the Swiss Chard. The leaves are large and undamaged by insects, and their colors are deep and full. We think they make beautiful bunches, and we hope you've been enjoying the abundance. A CSA member shared this recipe with us:

Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard

1 pound swiss chard (multiple colors preferred)
1 medium onion (diced)
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
2 cloves garlic (minced)
3 Tbsp white or cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse chard, pat dry, and remove stems. Chop stems diagonally into small pieces. Stack leaves, roll up, and slice in 1-inch strips; keep separate from stems. Set aside.

In deep saucepan saute onion in 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients along with chard stems, cover and cook for 8 minutes. Place chopped leaves on top of the mixture (do not stir in), cover and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir and serve.

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