The heat and dry conditions felt sudden last week, but we have since had a decent rainfall and time to come to terms with the fact that it is, after all, July. Before last week I had since March 1st ridden my bike to the farm every workday but one. Riding not without a significant tendency toward distraction and wobble, laden with soil from the farm and wearing a backpack over-filled with vegetables, singing top-40 radio hits in my head and sort of out loud, thinking of myself as a solitary, begrimed counterpoint to the spandex-clad pelotons that populate Dover roads, it could be obstinacy--a simple pleasure congealed to compulsion--that kept me uncovered on the occasionally cold and wet days of our extended spring, but whatever the reason you'll know that the single day I chose to drive was particularly inclement. I think of it now because it was the day in early April on which we planted the beets that were in the share this week and last. We worked that morning in a cold, unremitting rain, transplanting the beets one at a time into soil saturated by water enough that we could call it mud and watch it harden in the following days to a slick crust hardly conducive to the production of healthy plants. We dried ourselves at intervals by the woodstove and completed our work with a semi-useful stubbornness, and the beets eventually overcame their disadvantageous origin and found their way in the compacted ground. Their harvest during this first week of summer weather reminds me of their beginning, and of the fact that however jarring the sudden arrival of this season may feel it is inextricable from the season past, stitched to it by the work we began in April and continue today. We've followed a thread through sucking a mud and a cold day that would keep anyone off their bike, and here we are: a warm month and an abundant harvest.
The share this week:
Red Russian Kale
Napa or Green Cabbage
Summer Squash or Zucchini
Sugar Snap Peas
Notes about the food:
* Parsley, which for the purpose of this week's photo shoot I have inexplicably situated on top of a toy wooden bus, is another one of my favorite things we grow. Although it is often relegated to the role of garnish, I insist there is no shame in enjoying it--stems and all--as a stand-alone snack or prominent component of any meal. But, because I suspect you are unlikely to share with me the lonely joy of eating a full bunch of parsley like it's a candy bar, I am including two recipes that are not shy about the fact that parsley is an intensely nutritious, intensely flavorful dark leafy green that deserves better than use as a neglected scrap alongside your hamburger. The first is from The Food Network, the second from a 2003 issue of Gourmet:
4 ounces Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
6 tablespoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Wash and dry the parsley. Remove leaves from stems and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, walnut oil, sesame oil, honey, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the parsley and sesame seeds and toss to combine. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving so that the flavors to meld.
Beet and Parsley Salad
2 medium beets without greens
1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Trim and peel raw beets, then cut into very thin slices. (If you have one, a mandoline is the best kitchen tool for this.)
Toss beets with parsley, salt, sugar, and pepper in a serving bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle vinegar on salad and toss again. Serve immediately.
* The first thing to know about fennel is that its taste is reminiscent of black licorice. When used as a garnish, the fronds will imbue any dish with this flavor, and a small amount of them will go a long way. The licorice taste is more subtle in the bulb, and will be affected by cooking. The bulb is versatile: it adds crunch when chopped into salad, it is easily sauteed or baked, and it is delicious when lightly glazed with olive oil and grilled. I hope you'll experiment freely. For more involved recipes that incorporate fennel, as well as beets, chard, and kale, consider the following soups:
Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir
From Bon Appetit, January 2011
Note: Kefir is a drink that looks and tastes like yogurt, usually made from cow's milk or goats milk. It's in the dairy section. Can't find it? Substitute plain yogurt. I think this soup is also good served cold.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped fennel bulb
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 large beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 cup unflavored kefir
Additional unflavored kefir
Fennel fronds (for garnish)
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion, chopped fennel, and fennel seeds. Saute until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add cubed beets and stir to coat. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until beets are tender, 18-20 minutes. Puree soup in batches in blender. Return to same saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup unflavored kefir and season soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Rewarm soup, but don't boil.
Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with additional unflavored kefir; garnish with fennel fronds.
Barley Soup with Greens, Fennel, Lemon, and Dill
From Bon Appetit, February 2010
4 cups water
8 cups vegetable broth
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
3 cups chopped onion
8 cups coarsely chopped kale leaves (one 7-ounce bunch)
6 cups coarsely chopped chard leaves (one 7-ounce bunch)
5 cups spinach leaves (about 5 ounces)
3/4 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel fronds
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, crumbled
Bring 4 cups water, 2 cups broth, barley and 1 teaspoon sea salt to boil in a large pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with sea salt, and saute until golden brown, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add sauteed onions and remaining 6 cups broth to pot with barley.
Add kale and chard to soup. Simmer until greens are tender, about 15 minutes. Add spinach, green onions, dill, fennel fronds, and mint; simmer 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season soup with sea salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice, thinning with more broth, if desired.
Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle each with feta cheese, drizzle with oil, and serve.
* We are introducing the summer squash and zucchini slowly. The plants have begun to produce enough for the CSA, but barely. Beginning this week we'll harvest everything and divide it among the shares, and as the summer continues the plants will produce more and they will be joined by a second succession of everything squash-related, so don't feel antagonized if you receive as few as 1 squash per share this week--more are on the way. I'll provide further notes about the varieties we are growing as their abundance increases.
* Have you been to the movies recently? I saw The Tree of Life last weekend, and I've hardly stopped thinking about it since. If you think that ours might be a world in which gain and loss are constant and simultaneous, and that any accounting of such things must consider equally the cosmically-scaled and the infinitesimal, you might enjoy this movie. Anyway, it's something we can talk about while you collect your vegetables, if you want.