Monday, August 8, 2011

2011 CSA Week 11

It's true, I was in Iceland last week, and it's likely that as Joshua wrote the blog, or performed the harvest, or weeded the beans, I was doing something more along the lines of sitting in a thermal hot spring or looking at a puffin. This time of year requires an especially large amount of work on the farm, and to leave for six days felt like a bit of a coup. It's truly thanks to Joshua's redoubled efforts and the help of several friends and volunteers that I was able to travel, and I returned to the farm jet-lagged but refreshed, and grateful for the rare opportunity to spend some time away during the summer. If you haven't tried a work situation in which your co-workers are so fully supportive of your most inconvenient extracurricular activities that they will perform their own job and yours while you remove yourself to some fjord near the arctic circle, you really should.

Welcome to the halfway point of the 2011 CSA season. After eleven weeks of ascent toward this mid-point we find ourselves once again at the time of year when all things seem to accelerate, and we are preparing for a swift descent toward October. Now more than ever our sense of time is confused by long days that accumulate into short weeks, and milestones that seemed distant yesterday are upon us today. We are creeping toward a thing that is itself rushing toward us: halfway is followed by the end, and now is an appropriate time to pause and remind ourselves to enjoy all good things while they last. Starting with the tomatoes, maybe. I'd suggest starting with the parsley, but I've been enjoying that excessively for what seems like ages.

The share this week:

Green Curly Kale
Summer Squash
Red and Golden Beets
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
or Black Cherry Tomatoes
New Girl Slicing Tomatoes
Bunching Onions
Italian Basil

Notes about the food:

* The light reflected on each of the tomatoes pictured to the right is the camera's flash. A short, intense thunderstorm crossed the farm this afternoon, and as I stood in the sunlight and sorted our tomatoes I could see it raining on the far side of our fields. You've seen our fields--the far side is not too far away, and the rain moved toward me as I moved the tomatoes to a sheltered place so that by the time I was ready to photograph a few the sky had fully darkened and rain was general over all our fields and the flash was activated. It was sunny again within a few minutes.

Please enjoy these first tomatoes of the season. The plants have been laden with fruit for a few weeks, but the tomatoes have been slow to color. We expect their productivity to increase as August continues, and as it does I'll provide a more thorough primer of the varieties we grow. Until then, please note that we harvest at a few stages of ripeness. Some of the red slicing tomatoes in this week's share will be a full, deep red-- these are the most ripe, and are ready to eat now. Others are less thoroughly red-- their shoulders will be an intermediate yellow or orange. We recommend selecting tomatoes based on when you think you will eat them. Those not fully colored will continue to ripen if stored in a warm, dry place (a brown paper bag on the kitchen counter works well). In general, the paler the color the longer you can store them before use.

* The following recipe calls for golden beets, but no one will stop you if you use those in combination with another beet variety. I'll go ahead and admit this is from Martha Stweart Living:

Golden Beet Salad

6 golden beets, trimmed
6 ounces green beans, trimmed
coarse salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 loosely packed fresh torn basil
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wrap beets in parchment, then foil, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 60 minutes. Let cool completely. Peel and cut in 1/2-inch cubes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Prepare an ice-water bath. Cook green beans in boiling salted water until bright green and crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to ice-water bath, and drain. Cut beans diagonally into thirds and add to beets.

Mix vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Toss with vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in torn basil and goat cheese. Garnish with additional basil leaves.

* Summer is a good time for a constant supply of recipes that make use of summer squash. From Eating Well:

Creamy Gorgonzola Polenta with Summer Squash Saute

2 14-ounce cans vegetable broth, divided
1 cup water
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 small summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Combine 2 1/2 cups broth and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in cornmeal and pepper until smooth. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very thick and no longer grainy, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in Gorgonzola; remove the polenta from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in zucchini and squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften and brown in places, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Stir in the remaining 1 cup broth and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and the vegetables are tender, 1 to 3 minutes. Stir in basil; serve the saute over the polenta.

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