Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CSA Share Week 7

The farm's big garlic harvest has kicked in. Ariel washes recently harvested garlic before it gets hung in the barn to cure.

About 12 years ago Ken’s sister joined a CSA when she was living in Hoboken, NJ and working in the city. The CSA concept back then was new to us (and unknown to many). So when we asked her how she liked it she said it was a good experience but with one caveat: she didn’t see any tomatoes in her share until late July. Little did she know, that’s about when tomatoes appear in the Northeast (unless grown in a greenhouse).

We try to remember this anecdote every year, as tomatoes seem to be a gold standard for many CSA members, and one that’s easily misunderstood—even by the sibling of a vegetable grower . Tomatoes are a crop that require a lot of sun and heat and time to come to fruition (along with peppers, melons and eggplant). Most varieties require about 60 to 70 days of growth after transplants are planted into the ground. And since you don’t want to plant a tomato transplant in the ground before the risk of a frost is over (late May, to be safe), tomatoes grown outdoors don’t usually prosper until mid- to late-July.

These dog days of summer we’re finally experiencing are good for ushering the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant along, but we’re not there yet. Hang tight!

Meanwhile, it’s a good time to enjoy some other crops that have finally come in, like fresh green beans. Beans are labor-intensive to pick. You’re not only picking one bean at a time but also having to search through a jungle of a knee-high plant to pick only the ones that are to size (leaving the smaller ones on the plant so they can fill out). Some CSAs actually don’t offer green beans because they require too much labor to pick. Some have their members do their own picking. Since most of our members can’t do that (we're a bit too far), we take the time to make sure you can enjoy these fresh.

On the weather front (what’s a farm letter without talking about the weather…) we finally got a bit of rain Monday. Hopefully it’s enough to give the soil a good soaking. After the dry stretch we’ve had in July, the plants could really benefit from some rain. Hard to imagine being for want of rain after this spring, but here we are, needing it now.

¾ pound green beans or yellow wax beans
1 bunch beets
1 bunch basil
6 1/3 ounces salad mix
1 bunch large, mild fresh onions with green tops
1 bunch swiss chard
¾ pound sugar snap peas (pods are edible, no need to shell) or 2 cucumbers (whichever one your distribution site didn’t get last week)
1 large or 2 small to medium zucchini

This recipe comes from the Fast, Fresh & Green cookbook by our friend and former Fine Cooking executive editor Susie Middleton (Chronicle Books, 2010). This is a terrific book to own—“more than 90 delicious recipes for veggie lovers.” And it comes in a soft cover ($16.41 on amazon.com). Susie has a great approach to food—she offers a lot of fresh ideas, most of which are doable on a weeknight but remarkable enough to serve to guests.

Stir-Fried Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Balsamic Butter (from the Fast, Fresh & Green cookbook by Susie Middleton)
Serves 2 to 3.


1.In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar.
2.Pull or cut the stems away from the chard leaves. Cut or rip the leaves into 2- to 3-inch peces and wash and dry them well. Rinse the stems and slice them crosswise into ¼-in. pieces
3.Heat the peanut oil in a large nonstick stir-fry pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (it will loosen and spread out), add the pine nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they’re all lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully, because they brown quickly. Remove the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the pine nuts to a heat-proof plate or pan, leaving behind as much fat as possible.
4.Return the pan to the heat, add the chard stems and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re shrunken and beginning to brown lightly, about 5 minutes. (They will begin to crackle in the pan as moisture evaporates.) Add the garlic and stir-fry just until fragrant, a few seconds. Add the chard leaves and ½ tsp. salt and, using tongs, toss the chard leaves in the pan just until wilted (30 to 45 seconds). Scrape the balsamic mixture into the pan, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and toss and stir until it’s melted. Fold in half of the pine nuts. Transfer the chard (including all of the stems and liquid) to a small serving bowl and garnish with the remaining pine nuts.

The Farm's 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 beets and concentrates their sugar, so they’re both succulent and caramelized sweet.

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, pesto, or serve with a balsamic vinaigrette. Crumbled fresh goat cheese also goes well with the beets and the vinaigrette or pesto. The roasted beets 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

A note on zucchini. This is the 3rd week in a row we have zucchini to offer. With zucchini, we have to constantly harvest the “fruit” off the plants, or the plants will stop producing new zucchini. So, since we have it, we decided to include it for another week. If you have a grill, that’s a favorite way to prepare it here on the farm. You can use the technique from the following recipe Maryellen wrote for Fine Cooking last summer. If you don’t feel like buying chives, you can make a similar oil using basil from this week’s share.

Grilled Zucchini with Chive Oil

Or if you don’t feel like cooking, you can riff off of her recipe for

Two-Color Zucchini Ribbons with Mint and Olive Vinaigrette
Don’t worry about using 2 colors of zucchini. One will do. And feel free to substitute the frisée with some of this week’s baby salad greens. (No sense in going out and buying produce if you don’t have to.)

And then there’s always zucchini bread…!

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