Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 CSA Week 12

It was raining when I woke this morning, and I knew rain was forecast throughout the day, but for 15 or 30 minutes after I ate breakfast the precipitation abated, and that was enough time for me to make the questionable decision to ride my bicycle to the farm. By the time I left in the afternoon the rainfall had been heavy for hours, and it was becoming heavier. I arrived home as saturated as if I'd been pedaling in a stream.

These wet and cool days are the most recent way this season has differentiated itself from 2010. Last year, hot weather persisted well into September, and we learned to work with crops that were frequently parched. Heat loving plants--tomatoes, eggplant, squash--thrived, while crops best suited for a cool autumn--broccoli, cauliflower and other brassicas--were nonexistent in the fall CSA shares. This year our summertime crops have been as slowed by the conditions as their cool weather counterparts have been invigorated, and we are learning to modify our expectations for each harvest accordingly. We are reminded that farming is a long-term project: each season is uncharted territory in which the lessons of the previous season are semi-applicable, and we work toward the day when our accumulated experience is enough to dispel the unknown that lies in each variable we encounter. Sometimes I'm not sure we'll reach that day: it is possible that for farmers and others who work within and against the conditions of the world success will always be short-term mastery and long-term apprenticeship. With that in mind, we'll apply each water-logged lesson of this August to this water-logged August, one harvest at a time. If nothing else, we're unlikely to be caught on our bicycle in another unseasonably cold downpour, at least not before September.

The share this week:

Mixed Beets
Summer Squash
Yellow Wax or Purple Filet Beans
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Lemon Basil
Bunching Onions

Notes about the food:

* Please note that tomatoes are listed above with a deliberately vague lack of reference to whether the share will include heirloom varieties, cherry tomatoes, or red slicers. It is likely that you will receive some combination of two of those three possibilities, but we won't know for certain until we complete the harvest. The tomato plants have been affected by the wet, cool weather, and they are producing fruit more slowly than they might in sunnier conditions. As a result, we're not comfortable predicting whether we'll have enough of any given variety for a full share. Tomatoes will be ample, but we won't know anything more specific until shortly before distribution.

Please also note that tomatoes often split in the rain. When the plants receive an input of water that is faster than the fruit can accommodate, the tomatoes grow too quickly and develop seams that may tear if the tomato is left on the plant. We distribute tomatoes that have begun to crack but not cracked so fully that the wound is wet. As long as the cracks are still superficial and dry, the tomato will store well. If you select a tomato with a deeper split, plan to eat it soon.

A CSA member recommends the following recipe. It calls for plum tomatoes, but she uses whatever is ripe:

Linguine with Tomato-Almond Pesto (Pesto Trapenese)

3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 large handful fresh basil leaves
1 to 2 large garlic cloves
several sprinkles of sea salt
6 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound linguine

In a large skillet, saute the almonds in a little olive oil until toasted. Let cool, then blend them in a food processor or blender until they are in coarse pieces--"The size of orzo." Scoop them out of the processor and set them aside.

Put the basil, garlic, and a few pinches of sea salt into the food processor and chop. Add the almonds back to the food processor (keeping them separate will keep them from getting too finely chopped as you get the basil and garlic to the right texture) with the tomatoes, cheese and olive oil and whirl briefly. Season it with freshly ground pepper.

Cook your linguine until it is al dente and could use another minute of cooking time. Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water and drain the rest. Immediately toss the hot linguine with the pesto and mix quickly so that it drinks the sauce up a bit. Add more pasta water if needed. Serve this lukewarm, or at room temperature.

The recipe for this risotto was in a Sunday section of the Wall Street Journal that was given to me because its cover story was about Iceland:

Tomato Risotto

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced small
1 tablespoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
4-6 cups water
1 pound juicy, ripe tomatoes
2 stalks celery
2 cups Carnaroli or arborio rice
4 tablespoons basil, chopped medium-fine
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Set a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Sweat onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.

In another pot, bring water to a simmer.

While water heats up and onions cook, juice tomatoes and celery. If you don't have a juicer, pulse tomatoes and celery in a food processor or blender until liquefied. Push through fine mesh strainer, reserving juice and discarding solids.

Turn onion pot's heat up to medium-high and stir rice into the sauteed onions. Toast 2 minutes, or until grains are hot and opaque.

Deglaze pot with 2 cups simmering water. Stir until liquid is absorbed and season with 2 teaspoons salt. Adjust heat to keep risotto at a steady simmer. Add another 1-2 cups water and continue to stir often.

Once liquid is absorbed, add another 1-2 cups water and continue to stir regularly.

When rice has cooked for about 15 minutes, or once it is five minutes shy of al dente, stir in tomato juice. Cook, while stirring, 4 additional minutes, or until risotto is creamy and rice is al dente.

Quickly stir in 4 tablespoons olive oil, basil and parmesan. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Taste and season with salt, if needed.

In a small bowl, mix cherry tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Garnish risotto with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

* The preferred use for tomatillos at Dover Farm is to make salsa. I posted a similar recipe last year, but it is worth repeating. The recipe is a template--experiment with proportions and ingredients (roasted garlic is a good addition, for example). The key is to roast the tomatillos in a dry skillet, in their skins, to maximize their flavor.

Salsa Verde

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeno peppers
or 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
salt to taste

Roast tomatillos, in their papery skins, in a dry skillet until skins brown, 5-7 minutes. Remove skins. Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, and sugar in a food processor or blender and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.

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