Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 CSA Week 14

We went to sleep on Saturday night expecting a hurricane and we woke Sunday morning to a tropical storm. Our scant meteorological training doesn't allow us to parse the difference, but through the window it had the appearance of nothing more than a very blustery day, and we felt lucky that our worst expectations were not met. We spent a pleasant day indoors and at night I enjoyed using a headlamp to navigate my room. And this morning, although my bike ride to the farm was significantly re-routed by fallen trees, the air was clear and lovely, blown clean by the weather, and we returned to a farm that showed few effects of the tumult. We made note of the standing water in many of the fields, we replanted some broccoli and cauliflower plants that had been uprooted and laid on their sides, and we then continued with work as we would on any Monday. The only casualty has been my ability to include pictures alongside what is written here, but I'll add them as soon as my computer access is no longer limited by power outages. It may take a few days, but check back if you want to see onions drying in the greenhouse, or what a few quarts of cherry tomatoes look like close-up. We hope that you and your family weathered the day safely, and that you have experienced no greater storm-related inconvenience than this small delay.

The share this week:

Red Beets
Carrots or Parsnips
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Italian Basil
Storage Onions
Sweet Corn

Notes about the food:

* For a long time I didn't enjoy working with tomato plants. They are fragile and susceptible to disease and they require extensive support in order to remain upright, and I felt that maintaining a large crop of them was picky, delicate work fraught with potential failure. I still think those things are true, but as I've spent more time working with tomatoes my confidence has improved, and as I become less reluctant to involve myself with the things I have become increasingly convinced that they are always worth the effort.

Our tomato plants were certainly battered by yesterday's weather, but despite my ongoing concerns about their fragility they fared better than we might have expected. Which is to say, they are still alive. Their stems were not snapped in the wind, and their fruit was not blown to the ground. They were not helped, though, by the rain: The greatest current threat to their longevity is the consistent precipitation that has kept their soil wet. In it, they show signs of a suffering that is probably irreversible, and our best hope is that it will be prolonged by as many warm and dry days as we can get. Until they succumb, we hope that you'll enjoy the continuing abundance of tomatoes, and consider each week that does not bring their complete demise a success.

Farro Pasta with Tomato Vinaigrette

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (heirlooms, Roma or cherry)
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1 pound farro or whole-wheat tagliatelle or spaghetti
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed

Pound garlic, with a pinch of salt, into smooth paste with mortar and pestle. Stir in vinegar.

Core tomatoes and cut in 1/2-inch dice. If using cherry tomatoes, remove stems and quarter, or halve if small. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes with vinegar-garlic mixture and half the basil. Cover and marinate 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7-10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid and then drain well.

Add oil to tomatoes, and season to taste with salt. Toss pasta with tomato vinaigrette. Stretch sauce with a few tablespoons reserved cooking liquid until sauce turns juicy and coats the noodles. Taste and, if desired, add salt and an extra splash of oil or vinegar. Toss in remaining basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* That recipe was printed in The Wall Street Journal, the Sunday food section of which I continue to stumble across and then cite on this website. This edition was a particularly fortuitous section of newspaper to find on the ground because it included an article about basil, and we have fielded a lot of questions recently about how to best store basil. I'll quote the article on that point, and I'll transcribe one of the several recipes it provides:

"Basil is happiest when it's treated like a delicate hothouse flower. As soon as you get your bunch home, trim about 1/2 inch off the stems, put the basil in a glass of cold water and put a plastic bag over the setup. Leaving plenty of air around the basil leaves, tie the bag closed around the glass with twine or a rubber band and refrigerate; change the water daily. Encased in it's greenhouse, really fresh basil will keep for five days or more. Alternatively, you can wrap the trimmed stems in a wet paper towel and store the basil in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. For long-term storage, make a thick puree of basil and olive oil and freeze the almost-pesto in an ice-cube tray. When the basil is solid, pop the cubes and seal them in airtight plastic bags."

Basil, Mozzarella and Plum Salad

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, cook for 30 seconds, then drain and run under cold water to cool. Squeeze as much water as possible from the leaves, then chop finely. Put basil and 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in food processor, add pinch of salt and process until well blended. Let rest 15 minutes, then pour through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard the solids and reserve the oil.

Toss 2 handfuls mixed salad greens with 1 tablespoon basil oil, salt and pepper, and divide among 4 plates. Slice 8 basil leaves and toss with 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cubed, 2 black plums, pitted and cubed, 1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped, the juice of 1/2 lime and 2 tablespoons of the basil oil. (Refrigerate remaining oil for another use.) Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice and spoon equal amounts of the mozzarella mixture over the greens.

* Edamame are green soybeans, and you'll receive them on the plant. To prepare, simply remove the pods from the stem and steam them until they are dark green, 10-20 minutes. For a snack or hors d'oeuvre season the pods with salt and fresh lemon juice and suck the beans from the pods directly into your mouth. (They are also good seasoned with soy sauce.) To incorporate as part of another dish, simply squeeze the beans from the pod once they are steamed.

* You'll certainly hear more from us about parsnips, so for now I'll mention them only in the context of a recipe that a CSA member recently shared. The timing is good, because this salad pairs them with beets, also in today's share:

Shredded Parsnip and Beet Salad in Pineapple Vinaigrette

For the pineapple dressing, put in the blender:

1 15 oz can of pineapple chunks, or 2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave or honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad:

1 pound beets peeled and shredded (best shredded in a food processor)
1 pound parsnips peeled and shredded (best shredded in a food processor)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mint

Mix the salad and dressing with tongs. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

No comments:

Post a Comment