The conditions this past weekend were a sort of autumn ideal in which warm, summer-like days were transplanted perfectly between cool October nights. The days bore no humidity and the nights no threat of frost, and all hours continued their concessions to the softening light of the season.
Before the weekend, though, there were cold nights, and for the first time this season we were subject to the unique discomforts of harvesting in near-frost conditions. It stings our fingers and stiffens our hands to pick crops that are sheathed in icy condensation, and on such mornings the time we spend working before the sun rises enough above the trees that our fields are fully lit and slightly warmed can be arduous. Last Thursday, to divert my attention from the stinging pain in my fingers, I wrote a short song and then sang it repeatedly, sort of out loud. It's basically a recap of all the Spanish I have learned in the last six months:
vegetables en Espanol!
Not only did the song not distract me from the fact that my hands might as well have been submerged in ice-water, it was accompanied by the sad realization that although I have been working alongside a native Spanish speaker for half a year, and our work has consisted entirely of growing vegetables, I have learned to say the names of only four vegetables in Spanish, and one of them is really more of an herb.
Which reminds me-- The weeks pass quickly, and things left until the end are often left undone, which means that the antepenultimate week of our season is as good a time as any to thank Gustavo, our native Spanish speaker and tireless helper, whose fault it certainly is not that my capacity for language acquisition has scarcely improved since the beginning of our acquaintance, in terms as sincere as can be expressed on a blog, for his hard work, his positive attitude, and his friendship. We are indebted, and we are grateful.
The share this week:
Winter Brassica Greens
Beets or Mixed Roots (Kohlrabi, Parsnip, Rutabaga)
Broccoli or Cabbage
Notes about the food:
* Mizuna is a feathery green in the mustard family. Its peppery flavor and subtle spiciness are reminiscent of arugula, but it is generally milder than that crop. Consider it a good compliment to lettuce and other salad greens, and don't overlook the decorative aspect of its shape when adding it to any dish. We are harvesting these leaves when they are still young and tender, so their tendency to wilt may be noticeable, especially if the day of harvest is warm. As always, cut the stems slightly when you get home and place the greens upright in a bowl of cold water, and they will revive.
Two recipes from The New York Times:
Mizuna with Potatoes and Shallot Vinaigrette
1/2 pound potatoes, cut in irregular bite-size chunks
6 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 large shallot, slivered
4 ounces mizuna
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
1 teaspoon freshly crushed black peppercorns
Place potatoes in a saucepan with cold water to cover. Season water liberally with salt. Bring to a simmer and cook just until potatoes are tender, 6 to 8 minutes, then drain. When potatoes stop steaming, transfer them to a wide bowl.
Combine oil, vinegar, and salt to taste, and drizzle about one-third of this dressing over potatoes. Add shallot. Fold together with a rubber spatula. Dressing will pick up creaminess from potatoes. Set aside.
Place mizuna in a second wide bowl suitable for serving. Toss with half of the remaining dressing. Add potato mixture and fold in gently. Halve eggs lengthwise, and cut in crosswise slices 1/8-inch thick. Scatter over salad, add remaining dressing, and fold once or twice very gently. Dust with crushed pepper, and serve.
Turkey and Mizuna Salad
For the salad:
2 cups mizuna
3 cups shredded or diced cooked turkey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 serrano chili, seeded and chopped
1 bunch scallions, white part and green, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
2 broccoli crowns, cut or broken into small florets, steamed 4 to 5 minutes, refreshed with cold water and drained on paper towels
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk or plain nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon turkey stock or water, for thinning if using yogurt
Line a platter or bowl with mizuna.
Season the turkey with salt and pepper, and combine in a large bowl with the chili, scallions, cucumber, cilantro, red pepper, and walnuts.
Combine the ingredients for the dressing, and mix well. Toss with the turkey mixture. Arrange on top of the mizuna and serve.