Tuesday, June 29, 2010
CSA Week 5
If you aren’t clued into all the hustling that is going on in the fields and behind the scenes here, it’d be easy to think this thing called farm life is relatively tranquil--unless you’ve been monitoring the traffic in our driveway for the last month. The activity starts around 6:30 a.m. when a large, diesel truck rumbles up our driveway. That belongs to a local excavator, who has been digging a 1-million gallon, 3/4-acre pond on our farm. This pond is a big deal for us. We received a grant through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to build the pond as the primary source of water for irrigating our fields. It was the first grant we’ve applied for, and it was a boon to be selected as a recipient.
Up to this point, we’ve naturally relied on rain to keep our plants adequately hydrated. And when that’s not enough, we’ve irrigated using water pumped from a well. The well has miraculously never run out, no matter how dry the summer, but it can only pump water to the fields in small segments (we’ll not bore you with the technical details as to why), and the amount of acreage upon which we grow keeps expanding. So, to have a pond like this is a significant form of insurance for when we face drought conditions. It also simply allows us to have more control over our environment, so we can grow better crops. The grant includes the cost of irrigation line, a pump, filters, etc. So, really, we couldn’t feel more fortunate.
The pond project has meant daily visits from USDA field agents, an occasional fuel-truck delivery, a periodic visit from a large-equipment repair trucks (there seem to have been a few breakdowns), and an entourage of pickup trucks somehow affiliated with the contractor. Between that, the day-long hum of excavating machinery at work behind our fields, and the usual traffic in our driveway—harvest vehicles, staff comings and goings, supply deliveries, random (sometimes very random) visitors—the farm has been buzzing.
Right now the project is in its final stages, and, fortunately, we’ve been getting ample rain. The pond is dug but the “spoils”— the equivalent of 1 million gallons of displaced dirt, now need some re-arranging. So this past week we’re seeding, planting, harvesting and weeding to the background hum of a bulldozer at work.
It has been exciting to watch it all develop, and the excavation site makes a great post-dinner destination for the kids when Ken has to work until dark. By then the day’s traffic has quieted, and all seems at peace as we walk over the mounds of spoils and gape at the giant hole, trying to imagine what it will be like when it’s full of water, surrounded by a grassy border, and no longer quite the mud pit our children in the meantime are quite enjoying.
IN THIS WEEK'S SHARE:
1 head frisée
1 bunch basil
1 head red leaf lettuce or bag of salad mix
1 head green cabbage
1 bunch broccoli
1 bunch spring onions
1 head curly leaf kale
1 bunch rainbow swiss chard
Frisée salad with peaches, avocado & pistachios
1 head frisée, rinsed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons raspberry or red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup thinly sliced green onion tops (from the fresh onions in this week’s share)
½ cup pistachios, toasted
2 peaches, pitted and sliced into thin wedges
1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic scapes (hopefully you have some left over from last week’s share)
Add the frisée to a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and honey to blend. Whisk in the olive oil. Whisk in a large pinch of Kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Drizzle all but a couple tablespoons of the dressing over the frisée, sprinkle with the sliced onions, and, using tongs, toss to evenly distribute. Add the peach slices and garlic to the remaining dressing and gently toss to coat.
Mound the frisée on four salad plates. Arrange the avocado slice and then the peaches on top. Sprinkle the pistachios on top and serve.
© Maryellen Driscoll, 2010
Roasting kale until it’s shattery crisp is one way to coax finicky eaters into enjoying this highly nutritious green. Children and adults alike eat them as if they’re chips. Serve as an appetizer, snack or with a meal.
Tip: To quickly remove the stem from a kale leaf, wrap your hand around the stem at the base of the leaf. Firmly hold the stem with your other hand as you run your wrapped hand up towards the leaf tip, quickly stripping the leafy portion from the stem. Discard or compost the stems.
1 bunch of kale from this week’s share, washed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Heat the oven to 350° F. Meanwhile, strip the kale leaves from the stems (see tip, above). Tear the leaves into large, bite-size pieces. Thoroughly dry in a salad spinner. Transfer onto a clean kitchen towel and blot just to make sure the kale is dry.
Mound the kale on a heavy-duty, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and cider vinegar and toss with your hands to evenly coat the leaves. Bake in the oven, turning the leaves once they’ve begun to crisp, after about 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and continue to cook until crackly crisp but not browned, 8 to 12 more minutes. Do not let the leaves turn brown; they’ll taste burnt and bitter. Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.
Kitchen Tool of the Week. A salad spinner is one of the more worthwhile kitchen gadgets to own, and it’s not just great for drying salad greens. Use it to store the delicate salad mix (mixed baby lettuce leaves) you’ve been seeing weekly in your share. The basket lets air circulate around the greens to prevent damage from too much moisture, while the lid on the salad spinner helps keep just the right amount of moisture in. The greens tend to hold well this way through the entire week.
You can also use the salad spinner to spin out any excess moisture from your kale before trying this week’s addictive crispy kale recipe. It’s also handy for spinning excess moisture from greens, such as this week’s swiss chard, before adding to hot oil for a sauté or stir fry.
Storing basil. Fresh basil doesn’t hold well in the refrigerator. So use as soon as you can. If you can’t use immediately, store stem end down in a cup of water and loosely cover the leafy top with a plastic bag. If you don’t have the ingredients for pesto and want to find a way to store it long term, finely chop with olive oil in a blender or food processor. You can then add to tomato sauces, pasta dishes, winter soups or risotto in the winter.
Ideas for using your share contents this 4th of July weekend:
Spring onions: caramelize the white portion of the onions (bulb end) and use as a bruschetta topping with thin slivers of basil and goat cheese; if you’ve a stockpile, make into an onion tart; thinly slice the green tops and use in anything from scrambled eggs or egg salad to tuna salad a garnish for hummus or tossed in a pasta dish
Garlic scapes: make pesto (see last week’s recipe) and top on grilled,
homemade pizza along with fresh mozzarella or toss with pasta, fresh mozzarella, feta or goat cheese and basil for a simple pasta salad
Cabbage: make cole slaw with a light dressing using rice vinegar or lemon juice, sour cream and walnut oil
More on salad dressings. A couple weeks ago we talked homemade salad dressings--how much better they taste, how simple they are to make. Jamie Oliver's weekly Food Revolution newsletter includes a link to what he calls Jam Jar Dressings. He sums up the subject really well, in his quintessential Jamie way, and offers a handful of great salad dressing recipes too.
Posted by Free Bird Farm at 6:57 AM