Tuesday, June 8, 2010

CSA Share Week #2


How does your garden grow…?

At our first farmers’ market in late May, an older gentleman politely approached our stand to ask: “Do you have any tomatoes?” We gave the spiel about how locally grown tomatoes don’t normally appear until some time in July. “Well,” he countered, “I thought you might have some left over from last season.”

Though this man’s rebuttal was surely unique, all too often we field questions about when tomatoes and many other vegetables will be available. Our neighbor once asked us if we’d have Brussels sprouts for a Father’s Day dinner. Really, when everything from tomatoes to winter squash and apples and berries can be found year round in supermarkets, why should the average person be familiar with the cycle of a Northeast growing season?

As a CSA member you will get to experience this cycle first hand with your week-to-week shares. Early in the season you’re typically eating lots of salad and greens, as these light, leafy, highly nutritious vegetables are something that will grow relatively early in the growing season.

Many of the crops that you’ll be receiving further into the summer, such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant, need a lot of heat to grow, flower, and produce fruit. These plants not only take time but simply can’t be planted until the threat of frost is past in late May.

As growers, we do have some tricks up our sleeves to help some of these slow-to-grow, heat-hungry crops along. For instance, we start these high summer crops on heated grow mats so that the seeds will germinate well before the ground outside is warm enough. And the young plants then get a head start in our greenhouses, which warm up beautifully inside even when it’s 50 degrees outside—so long as it’s sunny. Once it’s warm enough we then transplant them into the fields.

We could have tomatoes in June. A close grower friend does just that. But then he has to charge $3 to $5 per tomato just to cover all his costs—from purchasing nursery-raised plants in winter to burning fossil fuels to keep his greenhouses heated early in the season. We enjoy a fresh tomato, but not that much.

If you’re new to the idea of truly eating in accordance with the growing season, there is this online chart that maps things out fairly well (except somehow it’s got peppers appearing in June; that can’t be). This is just a guide and not specific to what we grow or when we’ll definitely have a crop. But when you start feeling antsy, wondering when you might see a fresh cucumber, this trusty chart might prove useful.

½ pound salad mix (baby lettuce greens, nothing spicy)
1 bunch green garlic
1 head escarole
1 bunch spring onions
1 bunch swiss chard
½ pound spinach
1 bunch Easter egg radish
1/3 pound (4.8 ounces) arugula
1 head red leaf lettuce

Since this is the time of year you can expect a lot of greens (see letter, above), we thought we'd share with you a couple of our favorite main-course salads that use some of this week's share contents.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Baby Greens
Serves four.

For the dressing:
2-1/2 Tbs. Champagne or white wine vinegar
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salmon:
4 6-oz. skinless salmon fillets, preferably center cut
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
8 oz. mixed baby salad greens (about 8 lightly packed cups)
4 radish, very thinly sliced crosswise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar with the orange juice and zest, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the dried cherries and set aside.

Cook the salmon: Season the salmon fillets on both sides with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon, flipping once, until barely cooked through and a rich golden brown crust develops on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.

Finish the dressing: Using a fork or slotted spoon, remove the cherries from the orange juice mixture and set aside. Slowly whisk the 1/2 cup olive oil into the orange juice mixture until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble the salad: Combine the greens and radish in a large bowl. Add about half of the vinaigrette to the salad, toss, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the salad among 4 large plates or shallow bowls. Set a piece of salmon on each salad and sprinkle the cherries around the fish. Drizzle some of the remaining vinaigrette over each fillet and serve.

© Maryellen Driscoll, Free Bird Farm


Spinach and Artichoke Salad with Couscous Cakes and Feta
Quick-to-cook couscous cakes make this meatless main-course salad satisfying.
Serves three.

For the dressing:
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. sour cream
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh mint
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the couscous cakes:
3/4 cup couscous
Kosher salt
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1-1/2 tsp.)
3 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil

For the salad:
8 oz. spinach, washed and dried (about 6 lightly packed cups)
1 14-oz. can artichoke bottoms, drained, rinsed, and sliced
4 to 5 radish, very thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. crumbled feta (about 1/4 cup)

Make the dressing:
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, sour cream, and mint. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and honey, if desired.

Make the couscous cakes:
Put the couscous and 1 tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water to the couscous, cover the bowl with a pan lid or plate, and let sit for 4 to 5 minutes.

Coarsely chop the garlic in a food processor. Add the parsley, if using, and pulse until finely chopped. Add the chickpeas and 1 tsp. salt and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Uncover the couscous and fluff with a fork. Stir in the chickpea mixture, eggs, and lemon zest until well combined. Press the couscous mixture into a 1/4-cup measure, smooth the top, and invert the measuring cup to release the cake onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining couscous mixture to make 9 cakes.

Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Add 5 of the couscous cakes to the skillet and use a spatula to lightly flatten the cakes so they’re about 3/4 inch thick. Cook, flipping once, until crisp and golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil to the skillet and cook the remaining cakes the same way.

Assemble the salad:
In a large bowl, toss the spinach, artichokes, and radish with about three-quarters of the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper and divide among 3 large plates. Top each salad with 3 couscous cakes, sprinkle each salad with feta, and drizzle with the remaining dressing.
© Maryellen Driscoll, Free Bird Farm


Radish. Radish--whether you're using for salad or simply as a snack with a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkling of Kosher or sea salt--seems all the more tasty when thinly sliced. If you don't have a mandoline or v-slicer, it can be tricky thinly slicing such a small, round object. The trick is to keep the radish from rolling: slice the stem and root end off first, then set on a cut end and proceed to thinly slice.

Green Garlic. One of our favorite hallmarks of spring is green garlic. Subtle in flavor, it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient. Like a green onion, you can use the white and green portions. It’s all edible. We often using the white portions for sautéing in anything we’d normally use traditional, cured garlic. The green portion is delicious thinly sliced or minced and used as a garnish on top of eggs, pasta or a salad. Or fold into tuna, pasta or a grain salad. Store in your refrigerator.

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