Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Week 13

In this week’s share:


purple cauliflower (tastes great and holds its gorgeous color when cooked)

1 lb. fresh edamame (see cooking info. below)

2 to 3 tomatoes

8-ounce bag of spinach (not baby in size but tender enough for eating in salads)

1 lb. green beans

2 jalapenos

1 bunch carrots

2 red onions

It’s hard to believe this is our last August share. Where did the summer go? Oh right, we hardly had one(!). Here’s a photo (above) of Ken (right) and our go-to staffer Karl (left) setting up to plant some fall crops in the field. Karl came here from Asheville, NC, to work a season on the farm with us. Some of you have met him. He’s great. Hard working, personable, and lots of fun.

Edamame. Pronounced like eh-dah-mah-may. That would be the name for the small, fuzzy pods with flat, nutty-tasting beans you're seeing for the first time this season in your weekly share. This link: sums up well how to cook and serve. Our kids chant this fresh soy bean's name when we serve it for dinner. Finger food. Very simple, very tasty.

Tomatoes. Somehow our failing tomato plants are still producing some but an ever-dwindling crop of tomatoes. See last week’s blog for information on how we were affected by this year’s late blight.

Crop report. There’s a frost warning tonight in an area of the Adirondacks about an hour north of us. Any mumblings of this “f” word, let alone in August, make us shudder.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Week 12

In this week’s share:
3 tomatoes
1 large, round Italian eggplant
1 cucumber
1 bag of salad mix
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
¼ pound arugula
1 walla walla sweet onion
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of carrots
1 ½ pounds Italian heirloom fresh shell beans (see tips below for cooking and storing)
1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of leeks

We have a CSA member who periodically e-mails us with descriptions of some of the dinners she puts together through the week using her share. It’s inspiring to read about the healthy dinners she is serving to her family of four. And it’s rewarding to see how her CSA share has inspired her to make the most of what comes from the farm. She tells us that this is something she especially enjoys about the CSA: it forces her out of cooking the same thing over and over again.

On the farm, we too can fall into the trap of cooking the same thing over and over again (especially when everyone is working such long hours this time of year). So we glean a lot from talking to (or e-mailing with) CSA members and farmers’ market customers, some of whom are truly accomplished cooks (domestic and professional). This can be especially useful with less obvious ingredients like the colorful Italian heirloom fresh shell beans in this week’s share, pictured above.

We’ve heard from a number of people that they use them for succotash. One farmers market customer planned to use them to make minestrone soup. One chef—confit. We use the beans as many ways as we can think of, as we love their creamy texture and nutty flavor. They’re great in a pasta dish.

Using ingredients from this week’s share, here is one suggestion for using the beans:

Penne with Caramelized Walla Walla Onions, Fresh Shell Beans and Tomato.
We’ll try to flesh out a specific recipe for the future, but, in short, caramelize sliced onion in extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat until deeply golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside. Dice tomato and sauté briefly in a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat adding minced garlic towards the end. Toss the penne with the tomatoes, onion, and beans—adding a little more olive oil if needed. Season to taste with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve with shaved parmigiano reggiano. Some capers would be nice too. Or, even better, stir in some pesto if you have any made from the basil you’ve been getting in the past weeks’ shares.
(For more detailed instructions on how to caramelize the onions, see this recipe for Caramelized Onion Cheeseburgers. You might be tempted to try this recipe too. It calls for both the Walla Wallas and arugula in this week's share.)

The beans would also be great on a grilled pizza with (from this week’s share): arugula, caramelized onion and goat cheese.

Or freeze them. Cook, following instructions below, and freeze in zipper-lock freezer-grade bags to use in soups or stews this winter.

How to Cook Fresh Shell Beans
Shell the beans, discarding the pods. (If you have kids, recruit their help with shelling.)
Cover the colorfully mottled beans in chicken broth or water with a handful of added aromatics—such as (from your share) some leeks, carrot, parsley stems (save the leaves and just add the flavorful stems), and a bay leaf. Either keep the aromatics in large enough pieces that you can easily fish out or bundle in cheesecloth. Bring the water or broth to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender (30 to 45 minutes; taste to check for doneness). Sadly, the beans will lose their color and mottling as they cook. Drain in a colander.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Week 11

In this week’s share:
3 tomatoes
2 pounds red potatoes
1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of swiss chard (see cooking tips below)
1 bunch of carrots
1 bag of salad mix
1 pound of green beans
2 large onions
1 bulb of garlic

(green bean harvest at right)

Crop Report: Late Blight
In the 10 years we’ve owned our farm, we’ve never experienced weather quite like we’ve had this summer. When July had passed, it was somehow consoling to hear the media report that there had not been a July this cool since some time in the early 1800s. We knew it was bad, but, in fact, it was historically so. With such cool, wet temperatures, we also knew it wasn’t going to be a great year for tomatoes. But, instead, it’s been a disastrous year. The cause: late blight introduced to the Northeast through starter tomato plants imported from the South and sold in stores like Home Depot and WalMart to aspiring home gardeners.
Sadly, our farm has not been immune to the effects of this airborne plant disease. This week we had an agent from Cornell Cooperative Extension come out to our farm to confirm that both our tomato crop and potato crop had been affected by last blight (note: it is not harmful to humans). What this means for CSA members, is that what tomatoes we’re able to share in this year’s CSA season is severely limited and will be short lived. This is pretty disappointing for us to report. We grow more than a dozen varieties of tomatoes (including heirlooms) and put a great deal of time into preparing for this crop—pounding thousands of stakes into the ground, pruning the plants, tying them to the stakes as they grow. Not to mention, since we also sell our produce at farmers’ markets, it’s a significant income loss for our family.
That said, we’re not ones to bellyache or give up. We took a chance weeks ago planting some broccoli plants on the late side, and, thanks to this summer’s lack of heat, we have a gorgeous broccoli crop in the middle of August. And weeks ago, when it started to look like we just weren’t going to get much heat this summer, we compensated by planting crops that do well in cooler times (radish, peas, greens). So, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief that each week’s share has still been abundant.

If you’re interested in learning more about late blight, there was a terrific op-ed this week in the New York Times: You Say Tomato, I Say Agricultural Disaster.

On a lighter note...Swiss Chard. For quick use of this leafy, nutrient-rich green, we like to sauté it. Here’s an excellent recipe for the basic technique of how to sauté swiss chard as well as a host of ideas on how to embellish. If you’re looking for a recipe suited to more of a special occasion, this Creamy Parmesan Swiss Chard Gratin is decadent.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Week 10

In this week’s share:
1 lb. green beans
½ lb. mix baby lettuce greens
3 cucumbers
1 bunch of carrots (standard, purple or Parmex—a stubby, Parisian market variety suited to freezing.)
1 bulb of garlic
1 Walla Walla large, sweet onion
3 to 4 tomatoes
Patty pan squash
1 bunch beets
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch basil

Green beans. These are so fresh, there’s little you have to do to make these taste great. We usually cook them in a large skillet with a few tablespoons of butter or extra-virgin olive oil and a small amount of water (about 3 tablespoons) over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil, cover the pan for just a couple of minutes to steam-cook the beans ever so slightly (they’ll turn bright green). Remove the lid, toss with tongs and let the remaining water cook off. Tossing periodically with tongs to cook the beans evenly and coat with the melted butter or oil. Remove from the heat once crisp tender. Season with a large pinch of Kosher salt and serve.

Cilantro. We liked this recipe for cilantro coconut rice that one of our members shared with us last year (feel free to share recipes in the comment section of this blog!).

Another member shared with us how she kids manages to get a lot of our vegetables into her kids and spouse by making spring rolls—grating or slicing into fine julienne carrots, yellow zucchini, cabbage, and/or cucumbers and wrapping in rice paper. You can add shrimp or tofu as well as your cilantro or basil. A sweet-and-sour-type dipping sauce sweetens the package deal. (Recipes anyone?)

What to do with all those cucumbers. Snack! Also, we just made this homemade falafel with tomato and cucumber salad. It was a hit with lunch guests and really simple. You can also make a Thai-style cucumber salad and served with grilled satay. Or if you like the idea of Thai food but can’t find all the ingredients for satay, this Grilled Thai Chicken is simple and so delicious. We try to cook this at least once every summer.