Monday, September 12, 2011

2011 CSA Week 16

Last year I noticed that on several occasions I put on rain pants before it began to rain and then proceeded to work comfortably in whatever inclement conditions ensued. This was a notable improvement of my previous tendency to wait until I was in the midst of a rainstorm to acknowledge the weather and don protective clothing, and I decided my new-found attention to preventative measures was a sign of maturity. And I was proud to count this rudimentary example of common sense among my attributes until earlier this season, when I realized during one of the heavy rainfalls of August that without my noticing my raincoat and rain pants had grown so old and permeable that they were best considered decorative rather than functional, and I was wearing them to no effect except an exacerbation of my wet condition. Intending to trick myself into acquiring a new rain outfit that would actually repel rain, I threw out the old set and then promptly undermined my claims of common sense and self-reliance by failing to replace it before our region was beset by 1. A hurricane, and 2. The extended aftermath of a tropical storm. If I have been unduly wet in recent weeks, and a little cold, it's my own fault.

Personal comfort aside, this August was one of the wettest on record, and September has scarcely been drier. By last Thursday our fields were saturated so that as the rain fell it pooled and then diffused itself in fast-flowing rivulets across many of our planting beds. We picked peppers that were underwater, and we stood in water well above our ankles to harvest cherry tomatoes. To see our plants submerged was a strange, disheartening experience, tempered only by the soggy awareness that there was not a thing we could do about it. It felt like the culmination of a waterlogged season, the point at which our summer of work might be fully undone. Since then we have had a few dry days during which to assess the state of our fields, and the situation does not feel as bleak as when the rain was pummeling the soil and the water was rising around our feet. Many of our planting beds are still choked with water, and the lifespan of the crops in those beds will likely be shortened, but our ability to produce food on the farm as a whole is not compromised. Each season is different, and the overabundance of water is part of this year's unique set of challenges. And if we're foolish enough to meet those challenges without a raincoat, we're not so foolish as to be ungrateful for what we've been spared: In a season in which farms throughout the northeast have been subject to flood damage far worse than our own, we consider ourselves lucky to accept the rain as it falls, to learn from its excess, and to work successfully in spite of it.

The share this week:

Red Russian Kale
Red or Chioggia Beets
Sweet Peppers
Red Onions
Husk Cherries or Green Beans

Notes about the food:

* Kale is among the crops that have thrived in the cool, wet conditions, and after a few weeks of summertime absence from our harvest schedule, we're happy to have it back. Its success during trying times in our fields is indicative of the give-and-take of each season. 2010 was hot and dry well into the autumn, conditions that prolonged the life of our tomato plants and other heat-loving crops but were deleterious to the kale and cabbage and other cool weather crops that we plant for harvest in the spring and then again in the fall. Brassicas were almost fully absent from the share at this time last season, but those plants that were unable to produce in the extended summer of 2010 have grown vigorously in the reduced temperatures and increased rainfall of this season, and we have reason to be enthusiastic about the kale, broccoli, and the rest, even as the tomatoes--so strong at this time one year ago-- continue to weaken. One is coming and the other going, so for now, two recipes that include kale and cherry tomatoes during this week of their overlap:

Lentil, Kale, and Cherry Tomato Salad

1/2 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup green lentils
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 lemon, juiced
8 slices whole grain bread
1 clove garlic, halved
butter, as needed
salt to taste

Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil with the lentils. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil, red chili flakes, and tomatoes in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook until tomatoes begin to soften, then set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the kale and cook until wilted and a vivid dark green. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Drain the olive oil from the tomatoes into bowl or small jar. Add the oregano, lemon juice, and a generous pinch of coarse salt. Whisk with a fork until combined. Adjust the acidity and seasoning if necessary.

Toast the pieces of bread and, while still warm, brush with cut side of the garlic clove and spread with butter.

To serve, drain the lentils, toss with the prepared dressing, tomatoes, and kale and season to taste with salt. Arrange a slice of toast on each plate and spoon a generous portion over top. Sprinkle with a coarse finishing salt if desired.

Raw Kale Salad with Avocado, Cherry Tomato, Onion, and Toasted Walnuts

2 cups kale, torn into bite-sized chunks
1/2 of a small avocado, cubed
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon toasted walnut pieces
1 tablespoon sliced red onion
1/4 of a fresh lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place the torn kale in a mixing bowl, pour in the olive oil, and squeeze the juice from the lemon over the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and mix thoroughly.

Toss in cherry tomatoes, avocado, and toasted walnuts, and continue to toss until well mixed. Add salt to taste.

* This is the final week for edamame. You'll notice that some of the leaves on the plants have died back, and that the pods have darkened. These changes in appearance are normal as the plant ages, but you'll find the soybeans themselves unchanged. As I said before, I rarely eat these as anything other than a stand-alone snack, but they are also easy to incorporate as part of a more elaborate presentation:

Roasted Corn and Edamame Salad

2 ears fresh corn, unhusked, or 1 1/4 cups cooked corn kernels
1/2 cup edamame, steamed and shelled
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped or grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Soak fresh corn in cold water about 30 minutes. Heat grill on high. Grill corn in husk, 10 to 15 minutes, turning once. Let cool. Remove husks. Cut corn from cob into a bowl; combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

* I rarely post about food that is not in the current week's share, but it is possible that you have been wondering how I have spent my free time lately, and the answer involves basil. Whether basil is in the share again this season is dependent on how the final planting recovers from being forced to grow in a lot of mud, but we're optimistic. Until then, if you have some basil at hand, and some free time, I recommend you revisit the cookie recipe from week 9. When I first posted the recipe I hadn't made it. Now, it is basically how I spend my weekends.

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