Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 CSA Week 5

The farm is nearly full. After months of starting seeds and transplanting seedlings the season has turned to summer and the only corner of our fields unoccupied by vegetable crops is that in which a puddle precluded us from planting cucumbers at the beginning of this week. At times of great activity on the farm, when there is no planting bed that doesn't require attention and to weed or harvest or trellis one crop is to do so at the temporary expense of another crop of equal need, I am reminded that all such work is precipitated by the relatively calm act of planting a seed. But to plant a seed is to commit to the lifespan of the plant it produces, and in the way that work begets work we now find ourselves caring for a crowd unruly compared to the kernels we introduced to the soil during the first days of March. Each seed contains not only the potential of a plant and its vegetable crop, but the map our work that will follow its sowing. The hustle and care and attention that structures our days in this part of the season was present in each seed we sowed during a quieter time, and if we are surprised to find that they have grown to fill the ground around us it is because we remember that time, and it was not long ago.

The share this week:

Green Curly Kale
Rainbow Chard
Dandelion Greens
Chioggia Beets
Napa Cabbage
Purple Top Turnips
Baby Bok Choi
Sugar Snap Peas

Notes about the food:

* The Napa cabbage is adding some heft to the share this week. It is excellent either cooked or raw, and each head is large enough that you have the opportunity to try it both ways. I'll include a recipe for basic sauteed Napa cabbage, and two recipes for raw cabbage salads, but the variations are endless. From The New York Times, Food and Wine Magazine, and The Seattle Times, in that order:

Sauteed Napa Cabbage

1 large or 2 small Napa cabbages (about 2 pounds), cut horizontally into 1 1/2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a sink filled with cold water, wash the cabbage, lifting it in and out of the water, and drain in a colander. Heat the oil in a saucepan until hot, add the butter, and as soon as it melts add the wet cabbage. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes, until the cabbage is wilted and tender but still slightly firm. The cabbage will sizzle initially and then will stew as the water emerges from it. Mix in the pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Napa Cabbage Salad

1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 pound Napa cabbage, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350. In a pie plate, bake the almonds for 5 minutes. Let cool.

2. In a bowl, mix the oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. Add the cabbage, scallions, and cilantro and toss. Add the almonds and season with pepper. Toss again and serve.

Napa Cabbage Slaw

8 cups shredded Napa cabbage
3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 fresh mint leaves

In a large bowl, toss together cabbage and carrots. In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Stir until sugar dissolves, then pour over cabbage mixture. Toss until slaw is coated and top with mint leaves.

* It is not a summer crop, but we planted a late bed of bok choi just to see what would happen. What is happening is the plants are beginning to flower while small, so we are harvesting them this week, bunching several together, and calling them baby bok choi. You'll notice their appearance is slightly buckshot. Unlike their springtime counterparts, we didn't cover the plants in this succession with floating row cover (they wouldn't have made it even to this size with the additional heat), and as a result they were preyed upon by brassica-loving insects. Be assured that the taste isn't compromised. Try this recipe from a magazine called Real Simple (and note that it includes cilantro, which is not in the share this week but will soon enter the rotation of herbs we offer):

Bok Choi and Pineapple Slaw

1 pound baby bok choi, thinly sliced
2 cups thinly sliced pineapple
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

In a medium bowl, toss the bok choi, pineapple, and cilantro with the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

* I like white vegetables. Two weeks ago I visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History for the first time, and in a special exhibit called The Language of Color I enjoyed looking at an arctic fox and some other white mammals, but nowhere was it mentioned how refreshing it is to cut into a vegetable such as a turnip and be greeted by a pristine round of the color. To do so has a cooling effect on a warm day, and I think some of that refreshement translates to their taste when eaten raw. Grate them over a salad or chop them into matchsticks to enjoy with hummus or another vegetable-friendly dip. Or, if you can bear to sully their arctic complexion (and turn on the oven during summer), try them roasted. A friend of the farm recently improvised a pan of roasted turnips sweetened with maple syrup, and a quick internet search led me to something similar, with embellishments. From Fine Cooking:

Roasted Turnips with Maple and Cardamom

3 1/2 pounds purple top turnips, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
kosher salt
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 475, and line baking pan with foil. In a mixing bowl, combine turnips, oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Toss to coat well. Place turnips in pan, and roast for 20 minutes. With a large spatual, flip the turnips, and continue to roast until tender and nicely browned on a few sides, about 15-20 more minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in maple syrup, vanilla, and red pepper flakes, and then the coriander and cardamom, until sauce is heated, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the turnips to a large mixing bowl. Gently reheat the sauce, if necessary, and stir in the lemon juice. Toss the suace with the turnips. Add half the cilantro and salt to taste and toss again. Garnish with remaining cilantro and serve.

* We can't discuss pigmentation without mentioning the chioggia beets that are in this week's share. The red and white bullseye pattern of their flesh will blend to a uniform pink when they are cooked, but take a minute to enjoy their unique pattern before subjecting them to heat. Their light-red skin is pleasing too, and is matched by a set of leaves that are a lighter green than those of standard red beets. Be sure to eat those greens as well as the root (beets are closely related to chard, so beet greens combine well with that crop), and note that the beet itself will have a milder, less "beety" flavor than their solid red counterparts.

CSA Notes:

* The landscape of the farm is not the only thing that is nearly full. Our CSA is five shares away from being fully enrolled, and we expect those shares to sell soon. If you are one of the several members who has asked about the availability of additional shares, and if you or a friend are still interested in purchasing one, please act quickly.

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