Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CSA Week 3

The harvest for this week’s CSA share finished early enough that there was a little time to catch up on a few things in the fields. The last tomato stakes were pounded into the ground. Young, delicate tomato plants were carefully tied to the stakes or to overhanging wire trellises (seen here in farm pic). Row covers used to protect spring plantings from cold and wind were pulled off and rolled up. And a cool breeze helped dry things off some after a weekend of rain, so at least no one was working with five pounds of mud clinging to their work boots.
The deficit of rain we experienced in May has been plenty compensated for this first half of June. The long-term forecast this week calls for more rain and cool temperatures-- no higher than in the 70s. This is concerning, as such cool, wet conditions are a welcome mat for mildew and disease, such as dreaded blight, to plants. We’re looking anxiously for some strong sun.
CSA members are on the cusp of seeing a little more variety (that is, less lettuce) in their shares. If you eat a lot of salad, like we do, you can be assured that we do try to offer some kind of salad green just about every week of the CSA season. So, if you haven’t been making your own salad dressings, now might be a good time to start (see the basic vinaigrette recipe below). While we’re sure there are a few decent bottled dressings out there, the majority of commercial dressings are harshly flavored, greasy, and heavy. You can’t toss and gently coat the mix of delicate baby greens you’ve been getting in the last 3 week’s shares with glop. So we strongly encourage you to try making your own. It’s really a cinch.

In this week’s share:
1 bunch beets
1 bunch green garlic
½ pound salad mix
1 head red leaf lettuce
1 bunch spring onions
1 head bok choy
1 bunch cilantro

Early Bird special: We have some extra radish and escarole this week. It’s not enough for everyone, so it’s first come, first serve (we’re going on the hunch that not everyone is going to be lunging for more of either). We’d rather share it with CSA members than see it go to waste.

If you’re not familiar with cooking beets or are looking for some fresh ideas, The New York Times published a nice article on what makes beets so great and healthy a couple of years ago. It includes a handful of tempting recipes for both the beets and their greens. Beet greens are delicious and nutritious, a good source for beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and calcium.

How to sauté beet greens:
For an easy weeknight preparation, slice the greens from the beets, rinse and pat or spin dry. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the greens and a tablespoon of thinly sliced green garlic. Using tongs, stir and toss the greens until wilted. It should take just a few minutes. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve with a squirt of lemon juice and some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Or drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with some crumbled blue or goat cheese.

Basic Recipe for Roasted Beets
If you’ve never roasted beets, you’ve got to try it out. The dry heat of the oven tenderizes the beet and concentrates its sugars.

1 bunch Free Bird Farm’s beets, scrubbed but not peeled
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Cut off the tops and trim the bottoms of the beets. If medium in size, slice into wedges, from top to bottom, so that the wedges about 1 ½ inch thick at their widest point. Small beets can be sliced from top to bottom in half. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Pile the beet wedges or halves on the baking pan and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt, and toss to evenly coat. Spread the wedges out evenly on the baking sheet, cut side down, and roast until the undersides of the beets have begun to brown and become crispy, about 20 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the beets and continue to roast until they feel tender when pierced with the tip of a knife or the tines of a fork, about 10 to 15 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve with the skins on or slip off by rubbing the skin portion of the wedges with a sheet of paper towel.

Roasted beets are wonderful on their own with a little butter and salt or a squirt of lemon, or serve with a vinaigrette. They will keep for five days in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. Make a salad with chilled roasted beets, mixed baby greens (from this week’s share), almonds, blue cheese and a vinaigrette.

© Maryellen Driscoll, 2010

Basic Vinaigrette
Yields 5 to 6 Tbs.

At its very simplest, a vinaigrette is a blending of vinegar and oil. Neither two ingredients like to naturally mix, so you often will see recipes that call for a little Dijon mustard used to help emulsify or bind the two main ingredients (as well as add a flavor boost to the vinaigrette). Once you get comfortable with this basic recipe, you can start branching out—trying different vinegars, combinations of vinegars or lemon, orange, or lime juice, adding thickeners like sour cream, yogurt, or even just a little mayonnaise for creaminess, blending in different fresh minced herbs or chopped capers or olives.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced or mashed to a paste (or 1 tablespoon minced green garlic from this week’s share)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, freshly squeezed lemon juice or other vinegar; more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Honey to taste

Add the vinegar to a small bowl or a liquid measuring cup (I like to use my 1-cup Pyrex because it doesn’t tip and makes it easy to pour onto the greens). Add the oil slowly to the vinegar while constantly whisking with a small whisk. (If you don’t own a small whisk, I highly recommend one for this; an inexpensive one is just.) Add the garlic, a pinch of Kosher salt, a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper and a generous drizzle of honey. Whisk to blend. Taste, adjusting the amount of vinegar, oil or other ingredients to your liking.

Tips: It’s helpful if you make the vinaigrette just before serving the salad, since it will separate if it sits. If it separates, whisk until once again evenly blended.

To serve, pour the vinaigrette sparingly over a bowl of greens and toss with a pair of tongs (another favorite kitchen tool). The greens should be pleasantly coated. Taste and add more vinaigrette if needed.

Once dressed with a vinaigrette, greens won’t hold overnight; so dress only as much as you plan to eat.

Double your recipe, use only as much as needed, and store the rest in an airtight container or clean jar with lid in the refrigerator. Before using again, pull the vinaigrette out of the refrigerator so that it can come to room temperature (olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator but return back to a liquid at room temp.). Shake with the container or jar lid on to evenly re-blend the vinegar and oil before serving.

If you have kids, involve them. Let them add everything but the olive oil, which they can whisk in while you slowly pour the oil in or vice versa. If the oil gets dumped in too quickly and doesn't blend, actively whisk it until it's blended (maybe when they're not looking).

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