Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 CSA Week 18

After more than a week of certain autumn the recent spate of muggy days have felt like a retreat toward summertime. This is the time of year when warm weather is equally as possible as cold, when the transition from one season to the next feels more like a series of fluctuations than a linear narrative of cooling temperatures and shortening days. Fall arrives and summer immediately asserts its lingering presence and so on in a series of interlocking days that fail to establish a middle ground between the two seasons until suddenly, one morning, it is irrevocably cold. In the midst of this unpredictability I was reminded of this time one year ago, and although the daily specifics of whatever jagged overlap of seasons characterized our work in September of 2010 are lost to me, I was aware--in the way that odd dates or events remain as arbitrary cairns in our memory--that this same weekend last September was unexpectedly warm and humid. I remembered visiting friends in Northampton on the 25th of September last year and my mild discomfort in the wet air and the difficulty I had falling asleep in an upstairs apartment, and I was struck by this unexpected annual symmetry revealing itself amidst our present discontinuous progress toward autumn: A welcome glimpse of the larger patterns in which we participate, one changeable day at a time.

The share this week:

Green Cabbage
Hakurei Turnips
Bok Choi
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
You-Pick Husk Cherries

Notes About the Food:

* We had our suspicions last year that because we are farming a low, wet piece of ground it would be difficult for us to grow potatoes. We planted a small amount as an experiment, and our hypothesis was confirmed by the poor yield and small size of what we harvested. Well-drained planting beds are at a premium for us, and to successfully grow potatoes for the CSA would require a larger percentage of the most desirable parts our fields than we can spare, and the resulting space issues would jeopardize our other crops. We weighed our options and decided that even if it doesn't make sense for us to grow them, we'd like to offer potatoes in the share. So we budgeted accordingly, and this year we are happy to provide potatoes from Allandale Farm. It was truly a pleasure to arrange the purchase and to visit the farm in Brookline to pick up the potatoes. In addition to last week and this week, expect potatoes from Allandale in one more share before the end of the season.

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

For the Dressing
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 ounces soft goat cheese
2 to 3 sage leaves, cut into thin slivers (optional)

Make the dressing. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings, and set aside.

Scrub the potatoes and cut into 3/4-inch dice. Steam above 1 inch of boiling water until tender but not mushy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss while hot in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste, the onions, parsley, goat cheese, and dressing. Sprinkle the sage over the top and serve.

* The New York Times (the source for all of the recipes in this post) described cabbage as a "versatile vegetable for hard times," and I was pleased to search for recipes that include cabbage alongside potatoes and uncover a plethora of adjectives synonymous with "rustic," many of which referred to a bygone notion of Irish peasantry. Nothing wrong with that:

Smashed Red Potatoes with Cabbage

2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut into thin shreds across the grain
2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
2 heaped tablespoons chopped scallions
2/3 cup low-fat milk (more as needed), warmed
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives (optional)

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender all the way through when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes. Do not drain the water, but using a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes from the pot to a bowl. Cover tightly and allow to sit for five to 10 minutes. Then, using a towel to hold the potatoes steady (because they're still hot), cut them into quarters.

Meanwhile, bring the water back to a boil, add more salt if desired and add the cabbage. Cook uncovered until tender, five to six minutes. Drain.

Heat the butter or oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet, and add the scallions. Cook, stirring, until they soften, about three minutes. Add the potatoes. Smash the potatoes to a coarse mash in the pan with a potato masher or the back of your spoon. Stir in the hot milk, and mix together well until the potatoes have absorbed all the milk. Stir in the cabbage, and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the chives, stir together until heated through, and serve.

Cabbage is also a versatile vegetable for fancy times, and such times may call for a tart:

Cabbage and Caramelized Onion Tart

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, cut in half root to stem, then thinly sliced across the grain
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small cabbage, shredded or chopped (about 6 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup, tightly packed (2 ounces) Gruyere cheese
1 pie crust (
NYT recommends this recipe)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they begin to sizzle and soften, about three minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic. Stir everything together, turn the heat to low, cover and cook slowly for 45 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are very soft, sweet and light brown.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat in another large skillet. Add the cabbage. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to wilt, then add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the cabbage is tender and fragrant. Stir in the onions, simmer together uncovered for about five minutes or until there is no longer any liquid in the pan, and remove from the heat.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9- or 10-inch tart pan and line with the dough. Beat the eggs and milk in a bowl and season with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper. Stir in the onions, cabbage and cheese, and combine well. Scrape into the tart pan, and place in the oven. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until the top is lightly browned.

*Cabbage is another cool-weather crop that we grow in the spring and fall, and so is bok choi. Add it to the arsenal of greens returning after a summer's absence, and try it in an easy stir-fry:

Stir-Fried Bok Choi or Sturdy Greens

12 to 16 ounces bok choi or sturdy greens, such as collards
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 slice ginger, minced
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Rinse bok choi and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer, and place the bok choi in the steamer basket. Steam 1 minute, remove from the heat and rinse in cold water. Squeeze out excess water and drain on a kitchen towel.

Combine the broth or water, rice wine or sherry, soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl and place within arm's reach of your pan. Have the remaining ingredients measured out and near your pan.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds, until fragrant. Add the bok choi or greens, sprinkle with salt and the sugar, and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Stir the cornstarch mixture and swirl into the wok, then stir-fry for 1 minute, or until the greens are just tender. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Remove from the heat and serve.

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