Thursday, July 30, 2009

Week 9

In this week’s share:

1 pound yellow wax beans

6-ounces arugula

1 Napa cabbage

1 head of red Romaine lettuce

Tomatoes (1 or 2 depending on size)

1 bunch of basil

1 12-ounce bag of snow peas

2 large red onions with green tops

Garlic (see storage tips below)

There are a number of items in this week’s share that can combine nicely. Below is an adaptation of a recipe for Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula & Basil Dressing that Maryellen developed for a Fine Cooking magazine last summer. It makes use of the yellow beans, arugula, tomatoes, basil and onion tops in this week’s share.

This recipe for Hoisin Pork with Napa Cabbage (click on recipe name to connect to link) is a nice week-night stir fry. Kids are apt to like this one. Instead of using red bell pepper, as the recipe suggests, you can throw in some of your snow peas. And finely slice some of the green tops on your red onions in place of the chives. Or if you’d like to make use of your snow peas on their own, here’s another tempting stir-fry recipe: Sesame Chicken with Ginger and Snow Peas. To be truthful, we can’t say we’ve tried either of these recipes. But we’ve known author Tony Rosenfeld for many years. He’s a gifted cook, and writes recipes that work for real people living real (busy) lives. So we feel pretty comfortable recommending these two recipes.

We’re big on garlic. It finds its way into our dinners pretty much every night. So, to us, a bulb a week doesn’t seem over the top. If you’re not using up your garlic that fast, however, take heed. So long as you store it in a relatively cool (but not refrigerated), dry location and out of the sun, it will hold up for a good long while (unlike the garlic you’ll find in the supermarkets that typically comes from China). And if you feel like using up a bunch, here’s yet another Tony Rosenfeld recipe for slow-cooking garlic in extra virgin olive oil. It tempers and sweetens the garlic’s flavor and results in a creamy texture—much like roasted garlic. Only, you don’t have the sticky mess of squeezing cloves out of the skins, and you end up with a garlic-infused oil with which you can cook or use to make salad dressings. Spread the garlic and oil on a slice of a crusty bread and top with sliced tomato and basil (from your share), some goat cheese if you like too. It makes a simple appetizer or side to a salad. Slow-cooked garlic is a natural in pasta dishes. Use for a pizza topping. And if you still can’t use it up within a week’s time, put it in an airtight container and freeze for later use. We often make a double batch. It’s that good.

Yellow Wax Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula & Basil Dressing

Serves four.

1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1 small strip lemon zest, about 3 inches long and 1/2-inch wide, white pith removed

3 tablespoons cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. kosher salt; more to taste

1 lb. fresh yellow wax beans, trimmed (long ones snapped in half)

1 cup arugula, rinsed and spun dry

1 tomato chopped into ½-inch pieces

¾ cups (5 oz.)1-inch-wide fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegine), halved

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice; more to taste

Fill a large (8 qt.) stockpot ½ full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Put the basil and lemon zest in a medium-to-large sieve, immerse it in the boiling water and blanch for 5 seconds. Remove, tapping the sieve over the sink to shake off excess water. Turn off the burner but leave the water in the pot with the cover on. Roughly chop the lemon zest. Put the basil and lemon zest in a blender and pulse a few times to chop the leaves. With the blender running, pour the olive oil through the lid’s fill hole and process for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the blender and continue to purée until smooth, 30 to 60 seconds more. Transfer to a small dish or liquid measuring cup, and cover. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the salad.

Return the water to a boil over high heat. Remove the cover and add the salt and then the beans. Cook until the beans are crisp-tender or fully tender, depending on your preference, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Spread the beans on a large rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate to cool completely. If making more than an hour ahead, cover with plastic wrap.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled beans with the arugula, tomatoes, and mozzarella. Drizzle with the basil oil and the lemon juice. Toss with tongs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more lemon juice.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Week 8

This past week our green beans were prepared by American Hotel chef Lee Wolver for an upcoming Rachel Ray segment on the Food Network. Lee uses a lot of our produce as well as our chicken in his menu. If you haven't been to the American Hotel in Sharon Springs (or haven't been lately), now is a beautiful time of year to check it out. Well, any time of year it's a really pleasant place to dine.

Walla Walla Sweet onions have arrived. These big, bulbous onions make us smile. They have a nice balance of bright sweet flavor and zesty onion bite when served raw, be it in a green or pasta salad or a sandwich. Sliced thick, they brown beautifully on the grill. Sliced thin and slowly cooked over medium to medium-low heat in olive oil and/or butter (stir occasionally), they melt down into a perfect portion of caramelized onions. Ideal in a pasta dish or bruschetta. These are very juicy, fresh onions not meant for on-the-counter or cupboard storage. Keep in your fridge.

Farm report.
This is a busy week. We're in the throes of squeezing a pretty giant garlic harvest in along with everything else we're trying to normally do in a week. So everyone is working straight out. No days off. Dinners late. Everyone stinking of, aaaah, garlic. And the crop looks great.

In this week’s share:
1 pound of green beans
1 big Walla Walla onion (refrigerate; for more info., see above)
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of Swiss chard
1 bulb of garlic
Green cabbage
½ pound of salad mix
Cauliflower—purple or white
1 head of escarole (not to be confused with lettuce)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CSA Share Week 7

On Sugar Snap Peas
As you may have noticed, we care a lot about quality. At a farmers’ market last week, Maryellen just didn’t have the heart to sell the salad mix that was harvested for that day. It just wasn’t looking as good as it should. Now salad mix is a popular item at our markets, and farmers’ markets are an important means for supporting our farm, but, to us, that’s all the more reason not to sell something that doesn’t meet our standards.

So it felt a bit strange this week, packing up sugar snap peas for the CSA shares knowing that, because the pea plants were at the end of their life cycle, some of the peas were showing their age, with less-than-smooth shells and some with “rust”—little dark spots you’ll sometimes see on mature green beans too. In this situation, however, we urge you to look beyond any cosmetic imperfections and taste. These peas are delightfully sweet and snappy and meant to be enjoyed just as they are, fresh and whole. It would be a shame to let them go past in the field.

Of course, we gave you a heaping pile, so if you would rather, they can be shelled. Some children prefer to eat them this way, including our food-fussy toddler. It requires some effort, of course. We peel open the pod, “ooh” and “ahh” over what’s inside--how many peas there are, how big and plump they look, …. and he pops them into his mouth while we eat the sweet leftover pods. Our 4-year-old daughter, who likes to go out to the sugar snap pea crop after dinner for “dessert,” gets in on the game too and inevitably adds an element of sibling rivalry—who can find the most peas in a pod.

Crop Report

With all this remarkably cool, wet weather we’ve had this summer, many of our plants simply aren’t progressing as usual. Usually we’ve heaps of green beans and the beginning of our tomato crop coming in at this point in the season. The plants are standing, they’re just in need of some sun and heat to progress. Hopefully they’ll both be part of your share soon.

In this week’s share:

1 bunch of leeks

1 bunch of purple carrots

1 big head of broccoli

1 large bag of mesclun mix

1 head of garlic (okay to leave out and cure on countertop at this stage)

1 bunch of radish

Mixture of patty pan squash, zucchini, and yellow summer squash

Heaping quart of sugar snap peas

1 bunch of green onions (store in the refrigerator)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

CSA Share Week 6

We’re so glad to be seeing those purple carrots. We think they’re pretty amazing. If anything, we love that our 4-year-old daughter eats them like they’re candy. Now if only our toddler would take after her that way. This variety, called Purple Haze, has more carrot taste than just about any other carrot we’ve eaten. Certainly, it beats the woody, flavorless ones we too often encounter in stores. They’re terrific as a fresh snack, but we also love to roast them as it concentrates their sweet flavor. Before roasting, wash the carrots but don’t bother peeling. Toss with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in a 425° F oven on a baking sheet with raised edges until they feel tender when skewered with a fork, 25 to 30 minutes. About halfway through cooking, do shake the baking pan back and forth so that the golden undersides of the carrots roll to face upwards.

In this week’s share:
1 bunch purple basil (see storage tip below)
1 head of Romaine lettuce
1 red cabbage (see recipe ideas below)
1 bunch of green onions (make use of the fresh, green tops!)
5 zucchini
1 head of garlic (you can let “cure” on the countertop--out of direct sun—for longer storage)
1 bunch of beets
1 bunch of purple carrots

Basil is delicate and quick to go by. Store it in your fridge, stem side down in a cup with a little water. Tent the leafy tops with a plastic bag to protect from the refrigerator’s cold air.

We know cabbage is the kind of thing some people can’t get enough of and others don’t know what to do with (or just don’t like). Here are a couple of recipes that might convert the latter camp.

Red Leaf & Cabbage Salad with Grilled Tarragon Chicken
If you have red leaf lettuce left over from last week, that’s what this recipe calls for. Otherwise, substitute with this week’s Romaine. And don’t hesitate to substitute the fresh tarragon for this week’s basil or last week’s parsley, if you still have that on hand. Don’t bother buying a shallot. Use the white bulb part of one of your smaller green onions.

Grilled Red and Green Cabbage Slaw
Grilled cabbage? Why not! Doesn’t everything taste better on the grill? And you get to make use of your green onions too.
Here are some tips on how to get around buying ingredients you might not have for this recipe:
Substitute basil or parsley for the tarragon;
Use all red cabbage (no need to go buy yourself a green head);
Also, don’t feel like you need tarragon vinegar. A red or white vinegar, even balsamic, can make a fine substitute.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

At right: Colorado Potato Beetles Attack (read below how we fight back, one bug at a time)

CSA Share Week 5

NEWS: We’re Now Certified Organic!
Weeks after our farm inspection, we’ve finally received notice: we’re officially Certified Organic. We appreciate the number of people who encouraged us to do this because they believed in us, knew we were in this for the long haul, and believed the benefits of being certified would outweigh the work (and cost) involved in being certified. But what really inspired us to move forward on this was the ongoing frustration of knowing we followed all the rules but legally could not call ourselves “organic.” The certifying process was challenging, as expected. We started as early as January. Ken spent a day at a winter workshop going over all the ins and outs of the application and then spent hours filling out paperwork, which included a 15-page application addendum just to be able to package our salad mixes in labeled, sealed containers. But the paper work involved with being certified organic pales to the physical work that truly distinguishes us from conventional growers. Case in point: Colorado potato beetles (see pic above). They’re all over our potato crop. But instead of spraying them with a chemical pesticide, we hand pick them one by one. Or if there’s a good cluster of them, you can brush them off as a bunch into a container. Left to their devices, these bugs will at the very least affect a crop’s yield. At worse, they’ll kill the crop. This year they’re pretty bad. If not for the tireless efforts of a few people over the course of nearly two days this past week, our potato crop would likely have been ruined. Okay, the two days of work also involved hand weeding as they went along too—yet another difference between organic growing practices and conventional. We simply don’t use chemicals to kill weeds. The list of differentiations could go on, but it seemed fitting that we receive our approval the week we’re hand picking bugs from the field.

Rain, rain go away…
Many people are asking if all this rain is becoming a problem on our farm. Yes, it is. The ground is too wet to prepare seed beds. So we can’t directly seed into beds for new crops, and plants long ready to be moved out of the greenhouse and into the field are overdeveloping in their pots for lack of prepared beds to plant into. Of course, all this rain and lack of sun isn’t so great for what’s in the fields either. Certain crops become vulnerable to disease (last year this is what seriously compromised our tomato crop), and many simply don’t progress without much-needed sun. Bees don’t like all this rain either. So they’re not out helping to pollinate important crops like green beans, squash, cucumbers and melons.

Despite all this cool, wet weather, we did manage to pull together a nice, big share for the holiday weekend:
· 1 bunch of swiss chard
· 1 big head of red lettuce
· 1 bulb of fresh garlic
· Quart of snap peas
· A few zucchini
· A few yellow summer squash
· 1 head of broccoli
· 1 bunch of radish
· 1 bunch of spring onions
· 1 bunch of carrots—the first of the season
· 1 bunch parsley

As bountiful as this might seem, you can easily work through half your share in a meal. For example, this is what we had for dinner the other night: penne with grilled onions, zucchini (or summer squash), chard with olives and goat cheese (feta or shaved parmigiano reggiano would work well too). Then we had a big salad on the side.
This isn’t exactly a recipe, but here’s some general info. on how this was prepared: thinly slice ¼ head of garlic (see instrux below) and gently simmer in extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat until fragrant. Remove from the heat and grate zest from half a lemon into the oil. Cut off the onions green tops and slice the lower bulb part in half lengthwise. Cut the squash diagonally into ¼-inch thick ovals. Brush onions and squash with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill over medium-high heat until golden brown—3 to 5 minutes per side. Rinse the chard and the lay the bunch on the grill spread out some so that it wilts and some lightly browns, flipping after a couple of minutes.
Chop the onion and chard (discarding the thick lower part of stems if desired) and toss with pasta, chopped olives, garlic oil, the grilled squash, and some reserved pasta cooking water (as needed). Add a generous squirt of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and minced parsley.
About fresh garlic: at this stage in the season, the garlic can sit out on the counter. It won’t spoil. It will just lose moisture and “cure.” Refrigerating will help keep the outer papery layers stay supple so you can use all but the woody stem in the middle of the bulb. We’ve been halving the garlic (top to bottom), removing the woody stem, and slicing thinly across the half bulb. No need to extract individual cloves yet. It’s all edible. Store whatever is left in an airtight container in the refrigerator.