Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 CSA Week 4

I have had other reasons to think about the cyclical nature of our work. (And this is why you read the blog, right? Recipes, tips about the food, and notes from my ongoing attempt to navigate the flow of time?) Last fall, when the CSA season ended and November slowed our work on the farm, I left the area and stayed away for the coldest parts of the year. (Joshua remained for a longer time, putting the farm to bed and ensuring that all would be orderly upon our return at the end of winter.) I packed my things and moved out of the house where I had been renting a room, knowing that I'd return to Dover and to the farm but unsure whether I would return to the same living situation. And so, when I did return after four months to the same room I had recently vacated, the psychological distance created by my departure was disproportionate to the time that had passed, and as I moved back in I had the disorienting sense of nostalgia for a living space I also felt I had never left. (I was happy to be back. The house was built in the second half of the eighteenth century, and the room I occupy is in the oldest part of the house. The ceiling is inches above my head and the wooden furnishings rattle at my step, so I often feel like a giant. It is likely that easy access to nutritional resources more complete than those widely available in 1760 has helped skew the height:ceiling proportions in my favor, but I like to walk between the dresser and the bed and think that with my stature and dignified beard I would have needed only to develop a calm yet assertive oratorical style to have been president of this colony back in the day.)

To leave the farm and then return to its routines resulted in a similar sense of disconnection from the time that had actually elapsed. When we began to harvest for the CSA this spring it felt as if no more than the usual week had passed since we last performed such work. The intervening months were compressed by the recurring nature of our tasks, and I had the sensation of occupying an elongated present across which my experience was spread thin, as if I had started harvesting turnips sometime last year and have yet to stop. The future, too, stretches to meet us. Last week we sowed 90 trays of seeds--a few of which are pictured above--that will grow to be the last crops we harvest this fall. As the season begins we are preparing for its completion. Of such shards and inklings of past and future are each of our days constructed, and we undertake our work always in the midst of their confluence.

The share this week:

Red Russian Kale
Rainbow Chard
Collard Greens
Sugar Snap Peas

Notes about the food:

* A CSA member reported to us that she recently enjoyed chard cooked with caramelized onions and olives, and she was kind to provide a recipe:

Chard with Caramelized Onions

1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 bunch Swiss chard, rinsed and chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lemon, juiced

1. In a cast iron skillet, cook the onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until they begin to brown. Stir in brown sugar, and continue cooking for a few minutes.

2. When onions are brown and tender, stir in chard and olives. Cook until chard is slightly wilted. Stir in capers and salt, and continue cooking until chard is completely wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with black pepper and squeeze lemon over the top.

* Collard Greens are the latest addition to our springtime arsenal of leafy greens. I tend to cook them lightly and eat them while they are still moderately tough, but almost any recipe will recommend that you cook them for a longer time than the other greens we offer. They are especially fibrous in a way that is similar to the kohlrabi greens; I recommend pairing the two in either of the following recipes, both of which are easily varied to suit personal taste.

From Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables:

Braised Collards with Ginger and Chili Pepper

"Collards treated this way become chewy-soft, with an earthy freshness and pleasingly nippy bite."

1 pound collards, cleaned and cut in thin strips
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 jalapeno, stem and seed removed, minced
black pepper to taste

1. Combine greens with broth in non-aluminum pot. Simmer, covered, until tender but not mushy. Timing will vary, but 35 minutes is average.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet; stir in onion and garlic. Soften slightly over moderate heat. Add ginger and jalapeno and stir for a moment.

3. Add collards and stir over moderate heat until liquid has almost evaporated. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining tablespoon butter and black pepper.

Note: You can substitute turnip greens in this dish, or combine a variety of greens for a particularly interesting effect: kale, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, mustard greens--any and all.

Spicy Collards

"Based on a dish that is part of a complex Ethiopian assembly, this relatively uncomplicated treatment demonstrates another useful approach to a favored Southern green. Serve the soft, aromatic leaves--which become more like spinach than cabbage when cooked this way--with a complimentary grain, vegetable, or egg dish for an unusual vegetarian meal."

1 1/4 pounds small-stemmed collard greens
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Drop collards into a large pot of boiling, salted water. Boil until tender; timing varies, but about 15 minutes is average. Test often. Drain leaves well, then chop fine.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in pan; stir in shallots and cook on moderately low heat about 3 minutes, until soft. Add ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Toss for a minute.

3. Add collards and stir 3 minutes, to season and warm thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter, cut in small pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* As for the kohlrabi, it has had two weeks to grow since it was last in the share, and you'll see it has not wasted that time. Now you can do everything you did with kohlrabi previously, but you can do it bigger.

* I mentioned last week that of the varieties of kale that we offer I think Red Russian makes the best raw kale salad. The following recipe actually calls for lacinato kale, which was in the share last week, but is good with either. If you have both on hand, make the salad with some of each. (In the case of the Red Russian variety, always tear rather than chop it. The massaging action this provides will sweeten the leaves.) From In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite:

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

1 bunch kale
2 thin slices country bread, or two handfuls good, homemade coarse breadcrumbs
1/2 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus additional for garnish
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a pinch
freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Slice (or tear) kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. you should have 4 to 5 cups. Place kale in a large bowl.

2. If using the bread, toast it until golden brown on both sides and dry throughout. Tear into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, or crumbs to your liking.

3. Using mortar and pestle or a knife, pound or mince the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and whisk to combine. Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well. (The dressing will be thick and needs lots of tossing to cover the leaves.) Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with bread crumbs, additional cheese, and a drizzle of oil.

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