Monday, September 26, 2011

CSA Share Week #17

Fall has arrived. We can see it in the lengthening of the trees’ shadows. We can hear it in the quietness of the air and the occasional call of a single Blue Jay swooping between the trees. We can smell as the colorful decaying leaves begin to accumulate on the ground. And our CSA members can taste it in this week’s share—with the arrival of winter squash and sweet potatoes.

We continue to hear of more and more farmers that have been completely washed out for the season. Many fellow growers and CSAs are done prematurely for the season. On our farm, many of our fall crops were damaged or lost to the extreme rains. The fields look so barren. But we are fortunate to still be standing and still able to offer a variety of vegetables in this week’s share.

Note on last week’s corn: A few members reported they found a worm in their fresh corn last week. We are sorry to hear that, but it’s actually not such a bad thing. It’s an indication that your corn has been organically grown and with certified organic seed. Corn is a tricky crop to grow pest free. Conventional corn can be grown with pesticides spliced into the seed, so that it’s in the plant tissue. So corn can be sold as “spray free” but contain a pesticide component in the plant itself.

For the future, if you see a bug or worm in your corn, simply cut off that portion of the corn cob. We know, it’s not a comfortable sight to discover. Usually pests invade at the tip. Cut it off and you’re set to enjoy the rest of the ear of corn.


1 head escarole

6 1/3 ounces salad mix

1 bunch swiss chard

2 delicata squash

2 heads of garlic

1 bunch leeks

3 bell peppers

1 bunch radish

sweet potatoes


Delicata is a favorite winter squash here at the farm. It’s a great weeknight squash. Creamy in texture and nutty in flavor like a butternut squash, but not a big project to cut up and cook. In fact, don’t even bother to peel them.

Perhaps the simplest way to cook it: slice it in half down its length, scoop out the seeds, brush cut sides with oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, and roast on a heavy duty sheet pan with raised edges in a 375 degree oven. At Free Bird, we like to start the roasting process cut-side down until it’s nicely caramelized underneath where the flesh touches the pan. Flip once it’s richly golden brown to finish cooking through (if the squash flesh is not already fully tender when pierced with a fork). Sorry—we’re guessing on the time: about 30 minutes? Check after 20 minutes, just to be on the safe side. To serve, rub the flesh with butter and, if you like, lightly drizzle with maple syrup. Or melt a few tablespoons of butter with chopped rosemary in a small saucepan. Add ½ cup of cider and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until the cider mixture is reduced by about half. Drizzle over the roasted squash halves (cut side up) and serve.

Alternatively, slice the squash in half down its length. Then slice each half into thin slices to make half-moon slivers. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread in a single on a heavy duty rimmed baking pan (like a jelly roll pan). Once golden brown on the underside, flip and continue to cook until golden brown and tender. The skin will shrivel and tenderize so it can be eaten (no need to slice off). In the last few minutes of roasting toss with minced garlic and some minced rosemary, if you like. Or serve with the cider glaze in recipe above.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CSA Share Week #16

We have the best CSA members. We really do. And this weekend’s Open House at the farm was a strong reminder as to just how lucky we are. It was a gorgeous fall-like day—the sun warm and relaxing. We took a tour of the farm’s main growing field, where Ken was able to talk about our farming philosophy, answer members’ questions, and show members how and where things grow. Then members shucked corn and helped set up a large table of food for a pot luck lunch, which was chock full of delicious, healthy food. (see recipe below for Neil's dish we all really loved)

We enjoyed hearing from members as to how the CSA has enriched their lives—whether it has meant eating more healthfully, trying vegetables they would never have tried, enjoying how fresh everything tastes or insuring one’s family is eating sustainably-raised food. And we were inspired by just how much of a commitment members expressed for the farm. (We can always use that kind of morale boost.)

Thanks to all those who took a day off to come here to the farm (we know, we’re far). We wish the day could have stretched on longer.

This week’s share is showing just a glimpse of how the farm has been hurt by the drastic weather events of late August and early September. Call them Irene and Lee. The result: slim pickings. And, yet, we’re among the lucky ones! We have something to offer—just not many things we had planted for. At one of our farmer’s markets in the Hudson Valley we heard from many, many people that their CSAs were simply done for the season. Wiped out. Kaput. We appreciated hearing their tone of compassion for those farms. As it’s not an “us” vs. “them” kind of thing. We’re all in it together. We’ve all been hurt. Some just more seriously than others.

-Ken & Maryellen

P.S.- for those who were fans of the gingerbread made at the Open House, here is a recipe that’s similar to what she followed in the King Arthur cookbook:

3 pounds Tongue-of-Fire heirloom shell beans (info. follows)
6.4 ounces salad mix
¾ pound fresh edamame
6 ears sweet corn*
1 bunch carrots or other item
Sweet bell peppers
1 melon

*Natural sugars in sweet corn turn to starch rapidly. If you can’t cook the corn immediately (Tues. night), wrap in a damp towel and then tuck in a plastic bag and store in your refrigerator’s produce drawer to help preserve it best.

TONGUE OF FIRE SHELL BEANS.  At Free Bird, shelling these Italian heirloom fresh shell beans is a family affair. If there’s extra after a market, we all sit on the back of the truck and start shelling away—prying open the colorful mottled shells and flicking the beans into a communal pot. If we aren’t finding something to laugh over while sharing in the task, we simply enjoy the time together just being quiet. And then we cook up a big pot. Whatever beans you cook up and don’t eat, drain and freeze in zipper-locked bags and enjoy later on in a stew or pasta or with sautéed greens and lots of garlic. These beans are creamy in texture and mildly nutty in flavor, similar to a cannellini bean. A lot of our market customers buy them to make pasta e fagiole (pasta and beans).
TO COOK THE FRESH SHELL BEANS: place the shelled beans (pods discarded) in a pot of water. Add a bay leaf and any aromatics you have on hand, such as a chopped carrot, parsley stems, or an onion, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are creamy in texture all the way through, about 30 minutes. (Taste to test for doneness.)

HOW TO FREEZE PEPPERS. As you may be noticing, the farm had one heck of a pepper crop this year. If you’re not sure what more to do with your peppers, stash them in the freezer. They hold up beautifully. First, remove the stem and core and then slice the pepper into strips or chop up. Place in a freezer-grade ziplock plastic bag removing as much air out the bag as possible. Then freeze. Pull the peppers out any time this winter when you want to make a stir fry, a pasta dish, chili, soup,… They hardly even need to be thawed before throwing in a hot pan.

Neil Doshi's Fabulous Stew:

Hello everyone,

I went to the open house at the farm the past weekend and brought this dish for our potluck lunch. A few people asked me to share the recipe for the newsletter so here it is. It is a slightly modified version of a dish my girlfriend and I had in Turkey. All the ingredients are easy to obtain except for the last two, but both of them are optional. The resulting stew is great hot, cold, or at room temperature. It only gets better the next day and is great with some some pita. The prep and cooking time is under an hour.

1 medium-sized italian eggplant (1/2" cubes) or a few skinnier eggplants cut into rings (about 1/4" thick) with the skin on
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 onion (cut along the grain, julienne)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-4 Tomatoes chopped (see notes)
2 tbsp of tomato paste
1-2 tsp of turkish pepper paste (optional - see notes)
a few pinches of turkish pepper flakes (optional - see notes)

Add olive oil to a stewing pot of some sort (I used an enameled dutch oven)
I turned the stove to medium heat (I wasn't going for any caramelization or browning)
Fry the peppers in the oil for about 5 minutes
Add the onions and fry for another 5 minutes
Add the garlic and fry for about a minute or so
Add the tomato paste and the option pepper paste and powder and fry for a few minutes
Add the tomatoes and cook on low for 10-20 minutes until a sauce forms

While this is going on, pan fry the eggplant on high in a different pan until browned and thoroughly cooked with a high heat vegetable oil to prevent smoking.
You can press out some of the oil from the eggplant after it is cooked with some paper towels because it will have absorbed quite a bit.
Stir the eggplant pieces into the vegetable stew and turn off the heat after a minute or two.

1) You can use whole fresh tomatoes (I like roma tomates) with the skin & seeds or tomatoes from a can of whole peeled tomatoes without the liquid (its too salty). You could even add some whole cherry tomatoes in addition to the cut up tomatoes that form the sauce.
2) Turkish pepper paste is basically the red pepper equivalent version of tomato paste. I used something I picked up in Turkey, but you can buy something similar at Kalustyan's called "Biber Salcasi".
3) Turkish pepper powder is a dried pepper powder that is made from a mild to medium red pepper. Once again, I used something that I bought abroad, but they have two versions at Kalustyan's that you could try called "Kirmizi Biber" and "Biber Tursu". Alternatively, you can use a little bit of the usual red pepper flakes (cayenne) or some hot paprika.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CSA Share Week #15

“Twelve days, sixteen inches of rain.” That’s how a fellow farmer in the region grimly summed up the last week and a half here—post Hurricane Irene. Excessive rain here in our county. Flooding. Landslides. Damns breaking. Roads closed. Schools closed. Residents and businesses evacuated.
At the farm, even our best-drained, high ground soils were so saturated that there was nowhere for the water to drain off. Many of our fall crops appear to have been ruined or substantially damaged.
We do our best to keep the focus on silver linings here. The loss we’re experiencing on the farm is short term (specific to this season). We haven’t had entire fields permanently washed away, and we’re not located in flood plains where river waters contaminated with chemicals and human pathogens have leached into our soil. And, looking beyond our region, there are much more serious natural disasters occurring in parts of the world where the consequences are life-threatening shortages of food.
But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t disappointed. We had done everything right to prepare for a strong end for our CSA members. Plants nurtured in the greenhouse since mid-July for the fall harvest were transplanted into the ground on time. Direct seedings were done right. Everything planted in abundance. Much work, time and money invested so that the next 7 weeks would be a banner finish.
This is truly a test for all of us—the farmers and the CSA members. We’ve had a number of market customers asking where’s the broccoli, when will we have spinach, are there any more tomatoes … ? When we explain the situation, they not only have been quick to understand but also have been more than willing to adapt and make do with whatever our fields are yielding. We hope our CSA members are able to share in that spirit of understanding.

1 bunch turnips with edible greens or radish
5 ½ ounces arugula
7 ¼ ounces salad mix
3 sweet peppers
2 cucumbers
1 eggplant
¾ pound green beans
1 head garlic
2 to 3 red onions

*Amounts or type of vegetable with asterisk varying depending on your distribution location and what you received last week; we always strive for balance.
Winging It: quick menu ideas from the farm that combine items from this week’s share
• sautéed eggplant with garlic, wilted arugula, and kalamata olives served over polenta
• Panini with caramelized red onions, arugula, roasted peppers and goat cheese
• Wilted turnip greens with garlic and chopped walnuts

The following is a recipe a couple of our Cooperstown CSA members recommended to us, adapted from:
1 mid-small eggplant
3 mid sized tomatoes
1/4 a jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
1 large onion
8 cloves of garlic
4 cups veggie broth (2 cans)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese to top
1. Lightly oil a baking pan and preheat the oven to 425
2. Cut the eggplant, tomato, and onion into 1/2 inch thick slices and spread out on the baking pan. Peel the garlic and lay the cloves, uncut on the pan. Also add your slice of jalapeno pepper – but make sure you keep track of where you put it.
3. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove the garlic. Put the rest back in the oven, turn the heat down to 400 and roast another 15-20 minutes.
4. Remove the pan and put the onion, garlic, eggplant, and tomatoes in a soup pot. Remove the jalapeno completely – just the oil from baking it will be plenty hot.
5. Add the veggie stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn down the heat a little and cook until the veggies are all tender. About 10-15 minutes.
6. Blend the whole soup in a food processor until completely smooth, then return to a low heat. Add the cream, milk, and a little less then 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Cook, stirring often, for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and eat with bread.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CSA Share Week 14

Happiness is…fresh melon.
For us here, it’s “back-to-school” week, but technically it is still summer! And melons are an icon of summer we can’t get enough of here. We’ll be transporting more than 1000 pounds of melon from the farm to the city this week. So bring an extra bag so you can lug your cantaloupe or watermelon home.
Watermelons do not further ripen off the vine. Canteloupe do. The best way to tell if a cantaloupe is ready to eat is if the nub end gives when you press into it with your thumb and the “button end” has a sweet, aromatic melon scent to it (versus a “green” smell). If it isn’t quite ripe, just leave it on your countertop until it does yield when you press it with your thumb. It should only take a day or two. It’s worth the wait.
It’s really hard not to talk about the weather. After all, we are farmers. We live according to it, and, boy has the weather been weird. This past week our region was declared a federal disaster area, and many here are coming to difficult terms with the significant damage caused by Hurricane Irene. We lost about 15 percent of our fall crops to flooding, but that’s nothing to complain about. We were lucky. We personally know 2 farms devastated from flooding. One farmer friend lost 5 feet of topsoil from 15 acres of cropland. Now it’s just bed rock. Many people lost their homes. Meanwhile, the state is investigating “compelling video evidence” of a tornado touching down not far from here during one of Sunday’s thunderstorms. Good grief.

1 head green curly leaf lettuce
6 1/3 ounces salad mix
1 red cabbage
4 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow or orange)
2 jalapenos
2 serrano peppers (spicy)
4 tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro
1 large mild onion
1 bunch turnips (great for salad; cook the greens!) or 1 bunch radish
1 melon