Harmony Valley Farm
By Chef/Farmer Andrea
Jorge, Jose Luis, Leonardo and Silvestre trimming turnips.
As I began writing this article, the snow was just beginning to fall gently outside my window. As I do the final edits to this on Wednesday morning, November 6, I am happy to report that we woke up to a beautiful white valley blanketed in about 4 inches of snow! Yes they said it may happen, but I’m not sure any of us were really ready to accept it. So this morning we faced the reality that winter is here. We pulled out the snow shovels and buckets of sidewalk salt, pulled on the snow boots, and started our winter shoveling workout. Over the past few weeks we’ve watched the weather and strategized. What do we need to do before it rains? Will it freeze overnight? If so, how long will we have to wait in the morning before the air temperature is above freezing so we can send a crew to the field to harvest. Will the double cover over the daikon be enough to protect it from damage if the temperatures really drop into the twenties? How many people do we need to get all of the Brussels sprouts harvested before the sun goes down today? Are we going to have enough dry and somewhat warm days to be able to plant garlic, horseradish and sunchokes for next year? We’ve hustled, we’ve worked hard, and with the exception of more tat soi and maybe some radicchio in two weeks for CSA boxes, our 2019 harvests are complete. Miraculously, garlic, horseradish and sunchokes are all planted thanks to our hardworking crew that understands the importance of getting these things done before the ground is covered in snow as it is this morning. Now what?
All hands on deck to harvest Brussels Sprouts before the big freeze!
“What do you do during the winter?” This is a common question we get asked every fall, so we thought we’d give you just a little insight into what we all do once the harvests are complete, the ground freezes and the snow starts to fly. Last weekend the first group of our crew members departed en route to sunny, warm Mexico. We’re always sad to see them go, but the huge smiles on their faces as they say their goodbyes is all we need to see to know it’s time. They’re anxious to see their families and ready for a little rest. Before Thanksgiving we’ll say goodbye to another group and then the final members of our field crew will return to Mexico before Christmas. I asked some of our guys what they plan to do once they get back to Mexico. Most of them plan to take a few weeks off to rest, relax and spend time with their families. Of course there will be some holiday celebrations and at least one family will be celebrating with their sister who’s getting married in December. After a little R & R, it’s back to work for many. Some will spend the winter months doing construction on their homes, taking care of repairs, making improvements, etc. Others will find work driving truck, working on vegetable farms near their homes, or managing their own businesses back in Mexico. The months will go by way too fast and before we all know it, April will be here and it will be time for them to head north to Wisconsin again.
Nestor and Manuel M. sorting firewood.
Our field work has transitioned from harvest to clean-up and preparation for next year. This is the time of year we clean up brush piles, cut firewood, pick up sandbags and row covers, clean fallen trees out of waterways, and winterize machinery. We still need to mulch the strawberry and garlic fields and then we’ll officially be finished for the year!
In the packing shed, we’re still rockin’ and rolling as we whittle away at the pile of storage vegetables we’ve stockpiled in our coolers. We still have over 350 bins of vegetables in storage, plus sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions and garlic. We hope to sell out of most items by Christmas time, but we will carryover some vegetables into the new year that we’ll wash and pack in January. Yes, we do still have a crew in January! We have about 10 crew members who work with us year round. During the winter months they take care of all the winter cleaning projects, harvest curly willow and pussywillow, prepare the greenhouses and then start planting in the greenhouses in mid February.
After the holidays are behind us and we ring in a new year, it’ll be time to get serious about laying out the framework for a new growing season. Amy has already started inventorying the seeds we’re carrying over into next year. The first seed catalog has arrived and we expect more in the mail any day now! Richard, Rafael and I need to lay out the plans for next year’s crops. What crops will we plant? Which field will we plant them in? How much do we need? Do we have seed or will we need to purchase it? Our growing season technically will start when we plant those first onion seeds in the greenhouse in February! That’s not far away!
Our seed cooler nicely organized and inventoried.
Kelly and Gwen will have plenty to occupy their time with once 2020 CSA sign-ups start rolling in after the first of the year. Gwen will be working on the new CSA calendar and they’ll be busy processing orders. Andrea will be doing some traveling to meet with some of our wholesale buyers throughout the region as well as working on improvements to our food safety program. Richard will be working on his crop plan with Rafael as well as ordering field supplies such as drip tape, row cover, and plastic mulch. Of course if it snows, we’ll all be spending a lot of time shoveling and clearing snow as well!
Crew harvesting curly willow in February.
While much of our crew will be enjoying sunny Mexico, those of us remaining in the cold of the upper Midwest do hope to have a little time to relax as well. We’ll take some time off for Christmas and New Years and we’ll close down the farm for one week at the end of January so our crew can have a little winter break. Hopefully we’ll have some time to do some snowshoeing and build a snowman or two! Kelly and Gwen haven’t decided where they’ll be going for winter vacation, but I am looking forward to traveling to Italy for the first time with my friend Kay from JenEhr Farm! Richard is anxious to do some woodworking and has chosen to have a ‘staycation’ so he can work on building a bed frame with a beautiful live edge walnut headboard.
Winter does mean a slower pace for all of us, but the work doesn’t stop. Animals will still need to be fed, coolers will need to be managed, and we need to work diligently towards our winter goals so we’re ready for another growing season next spring! While this hasn’t been the easiest year of farming and we’ve had some challenges to surmount, we’ve also had many blessings and many more things that have gone well. We’re grateful for all our crew members who helped us pull off yet another year of farming. We wish them all safe travels home and will look forward to seeing them next spring when we’re all refreshed and ready to do it all again!
Cooking With This Week's Box
Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away! One thing I like about this time of year is that it’s a great time to collect vegetable recipes! One of my favorite recipe collections to peruse is Food 52’s Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker. Whether you’re looking for vegetable recipes for Thanksgiving dinner or just to enjoy throughout the winter, there are some good finds in there! For example, this Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin with Herbs and Cheese is a tasty twist on a traditional potato gratin with the addition of parsnips and butternut squash! I also found this recipe for a Brussels Sprouts Gratin. I’ve never used Brussels sprouts like this, but it’s hard to go wrong with a gratin. If you are looking for something a bit more on the light side, try these Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Sriracha. Maybe you’ll discover a fun, new recipe to introduce to your friends and family for the holiday, or perhaps you’ll just have fun trying something new on a regular old day in the kitchen. Don’t forget, next week is a meat only delivery week. So, I’ll plan to see you back here in two weeks!—Chef Andrea
Hello Everyone! I can’t believe we’re down to the final four boxes and we are still having trouble getting everything in the box! Well, one reason is we have these beautiful tat soi to pack this week! So lets start off this week’s cooking chat with a simple dish, made in one pot. Our featured recipe this week is Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi (see below). This is one of those very adaptable recipes, which has already been adapted several times! Ok, lets talk ramen for just a moment. I have to confess, I’ve never eaten instant ramen noodles. I know, how did I ever survive my college days!? If you think ramen starts and stops with those little instant packets of ramen noodles, I’m happy to fill you in that ramen is more than those little packets. Ramen noodles originated in Japan and “ramen” stands for a “pulled noodle.” I was happy to find a package of ramen noodles in the grocery store that were not only certified organic, but I was also able to buy just the noodles—no mysterious flavoring packet included. You could substitute udon noodles if you like and you could make this with any green of your choosing. If you aren’t feeling ramen noodles this week, maybe you’d prefer spaghetti? This recipe for Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tat Soi was our featured recipe last year!
Certified organic, gluten free ramen noodles!
As we move into the winter months, cabbage becomes our stand-by green and can end up on our table in many different forms. Richard always wants cole slaw, but I like to shake things up a bit with recipes like this Shredded Cabbage Salad with Apples
. The name of this salad seems pretty simple, but it’s a classy salad that combines the flavors of an Indian chutney with the creaminess of a traditional cabbage slaw. It has a creamy curry dressing with raisins and apples blended in for a sweet contrast to the spicy dressing. Another simple way to use this week’s green savoy cabbage is for this simple Irish recipe for Fried Cabbage & Potatoes
. A little bacon adds some richness and flavor, but the vegetables dominate. The German Butterball potatoes this week are a great variety to use in this way. You can serve it on its own or put a fried egg on top! Eat it for dinner or in the morning for breakfast. You know what would be good with this dish? Biscuits!
I’m not sure what has gotten into me, but it’s been a long time since I last made biscuits. I did some searching and found several tasty vegetable-inclusive biscuit recipes. Check out this one for Garlic Butter Biscuits
or this one for Roasted Garlic Parmesan Biscuits
. I also found a recipe for Caramelized Onion Biscuits
which is a perfect fit for this week’s Scout yellow onions. Serve these biscuits for breakfast, with a bowl of soup, or just on the side of a hearty fall/winter meal.
Carrot Cake Balls, photo by Rocky Luten for food52.com
I’m always looking for non-traditional ways to use vegetables, such as in desserts or for breakfast. If you didn’t have a chance to make the Oatmeal Parsnip Chocolate Cherry Cookies
we featured in the newsletter several weeks ago, add them to your list for this week or for this holiday season. We don’t think twice about using carrots in cake, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of carrot pie. Google can help you find anything though, so when I went searching I found this tasty recipe for Chai Carrot Pie
. If you aren’t afraid of breaking tradition, you might even decide to add this pie to your Thanksgiving Day line-up of desserts! If you prefer to keep your carrots in the traditional carrot cake fashion, perhaps you’d at least be willing to try this twist on the traditional, Carrot Cake Balls
. These don’t require any baking and are something a little less indulgent but every bit as decadent. Use them as a healthy snack or breakfast item to fuel you through the cold winter days. Ok, one more somewhat non-traditional way to incorporate sweet potatoes into breakfast. Make a Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl
! This is super easy. Just take cooked, mashed sweet potatoes and blend them with nut butter and cinnamon. Top it off with raisins and cinnamon and you have a warm, nourishing alternative to hot breakfast cereal.
Despite the fact that there is an endless array of possibilities for how you might use sweet potatoes and butternut squash, I often tend to just cook them and eat them with butter. So I’m challenging myself to use them in some more interesting ways. This recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato Dip
is described as “hummus vibe without chickpeas.” Serve it with pita bread, crackers or fresh veggies for dipping such as slices of winter radish or carrots. You could also use this as a spread to make a quick veggie wrap stuffed with tat soi, shredded carrot and maybe some leftover chicken. I also am intrigued by this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Onions
. Cut the recipe in half to serve 4 as it calls for 4 pounds of butternut and there isn’t that much in the box! You will roast the butternut and then toss it with herbs and spicy red onions. Serve it slightly warm or at room temperature—it’s kind of like a salad and kind of like a side.
Vegetable Feature: Tat Soi
by Andrea Yoder
I look forward to this vegetable every year and consider it to be one of our staple greens for these late season CSA boxes. I had never seen tat soi before I came to Harmony Valley Farm. I remember the first time Richard showed me this vegetable. It was so beautiful I almost didn’t want to eat it….but that feeling quickly passed and I dove in! It’s also packed with nutrients which make us healthy, but also give it a rich flavor. I suppose I should back up and tell you what this gorgeous vegetable looks like! You’ll recognize the tat soi in your box this week as the large, dark green flower-like vegetable with long slender light green stems and rounded spoon-like leaves. It is a relative of bok choi and has a mild mustard flavor that has been sweetened by a few frosty nights. Both the leaves and the stems are tender and may be eaten raw or cooked.
This is one of the last crops we plant during our main season, with the intention to harvest it as late as possible. Depending on the weather, we are usually able to leave it in the field until mid-November. While this plant usually grows upright, as the temperatures start to decrease it lays itself flat to hug the ground for warmth. The result is a very open, flat rosette that has a deep, dark green color that intensifies with cold weather. Tat soi is very resilient to cold temperatures and can recover after being frozen, which is why it’s a unique selection for this time of the year. We do put hoops and a field cover over them to offer them some protection from the really cold nights. If you see some outer leaves on your tat soi that have a white to grayish hue, you’re looking at a little frost damage. You might also see some stems that have kind of a wrinkled, loose appearance. This happens sometimes when the stem freezes and then thaws. These stems and leaves are still good to eat and those frosty, cold nights are what make this green taste so mild and sweet!
If you’re looking for recipes that use tat soi, your search will likely turn up pretty slim. Expand your search to include recipes that feature bok choi, spinach or even chard as tat soi can be used interchangeably in recipes with any of these greens. Tat soi leaves and stems are tender enough to be chopped and eaten raw as a salad. Use it to make a beautiful winter salad with shredded carrot, slices of beauty heart or purple daikon radish and a light vinaigrette. Turn it into an entrée by adding a protein such as seared beef, fish or tofu. Tat soi is also a quick-cooking tasty green to use in stir-fry and pasta dishes. It’s also a nice addition to brothy soups such as miso soup or hot and sour soup or use it in a tasty bowl of ramen such as in this week’s featured recipe.
It’s best to store tat soi in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. To prepare it for use, turn it over and use a paring knife to cut the stems away from the base. Wash the stems and leaves vigorously in a sink of cold water. If you’re using it to make a salad or stir-fry, make sure you pat the leaves dry or dry them in a salad spinner. If you’re using them in a soup or just wilting them, just shake a little water off of them. Savor the last of this year’s greens!
Vegan One-Pot Ramen Noodles with Tat Soi
Yield: 3-4 servings
This recipe was borrowed from alexandracooks.com with just a few minor changes. It is her adaptation from a recipe for “Better-Than-Take-Out Stir-Fried Udon” originally published in Bon Appetit magazine. The original recipe included ground pork, which you could also add to this recipe if you wish.
Alexandra’s recipe calls for green savoy cabbage, but she offers this note: “This recipe can be adapted to what you like or have on hand. I love draining noodles over things like cabbage and dark leafy greens to soften them just slightly. If you want to add carrots, sweet potato, or other harder vegetables, you could shred them in the food processor to ensure they cook quickly.” So, I (Chef Andrea) took the liberty of adapting this recipe one more time to include this week’s tat soi!
7-8 cups tat soi or bok choi, leaves and stems thinly sliced
6-8 oz ramen noodles (could substitute rice or udon noodles)
10 ounces Cremini (or other) mushrooms
1 small knob ginger, about an inch long, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
⅓ cup mirin
⅓ cup soy sauce
1 medium red onion, finely minced
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
2-4 tsp toasted sesame oil
Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, for serving
Fill a large, wide sauté pan or Dutch oven with water and bring to a simmer. (Alexandra recommends using a wide sauté pan to make this a one-pot endeavor, but you could also simply use a small saucepan to boil the noodles and then a separate large sauté pan to sauté everything together. Cleanup will still be minimal.)
Place the thinly sliced tat soi in the colander you will use to drain the noodles.
Add the ramen noodles to the simmering water and cook for 30 seconds. Using a fork, separate them a little bit and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes. You don’t want them to be fully cooked, more like 85% done. Drain the noodles over the tat soi, being careful the noodles don’t slip over the sides. Keep colander in sink. Reserve your pan.
Meanwhile: chop the mushrooms and mince the ginger and garlic.
Heat the 1 Tbsp of olive oil in your reserved sauté pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with a pinch of kosher salt, stir. Let cook undisturbed for 1 minute, then stir and continue to cook at medium-high heat until the mushrooms begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the ginger, garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to the pan, and stir to combine. Add the reserved noodles and tat soi. Add the mirin and soy sauce. Use tongs to stir and combine. Simmer for just a few minutes.
Add the onions, sesame seeds, and sesame oil, and using tongs again, stir to combine.
Serve immediately, passing hot sauce of choice on the side.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Purple Daikon Radish: Soy-Pickled Daikon (see below); Daikon Apple Slaw (see below)
I love learning about new vegetables, and this week we have another purple beauty to share with you! In this week’s box you’ll find beautiful bright purple daikon radish. Some people love radishes and others are still learning to like them. If you’re in the latter group, I hope you’ll stick with me and hear me out. This is a delicious and beautiful radish to eat! Daikon radishes originated in Asia, so it’s fitting to go to Asian cultures to figure out what to do with them. One of this week’s featured recipes is for Soy-Pickled Daikon (see below). These are so very easy to make, so if you don’t do anything else with the daikon, at least make this recipe. These pickles can hang out in your refrigerator and you can eat them in small quantities as a condiment with vegetables, meat or grains. While there is some vinegar in the brine, they are more sweet and salty as opposed to sour or overly acidic. In traditional Chinese cuisine pickled vegetables such as these are often served with rice porridge, which leads me to the next featured recipe, Congee with Chicken and Greens (see below). I thought this was a fitting recipe to go along with the Soy-Pickled Daikon since Congee is rice porridge! There is no one single recipe for Congee as it is one of those common household recipes that everyone puts their own spin on. This version includes chicken and greens, which could be bok choi, red mustard or kale from this week’s box. Feel free to make it your own and garnish it with whatever toppings you like, such as cilantro which is also in this week’s box. Serve it with some of these pretty Soy-Pickled Daikon on the side. Congee is simple to make but has a long cooking time. If you want something that is more “set it and forget it,” check out this recipe for Congee in an Instant Pot. I’ve also included a simple recipe for Daikon Apple Slaw (see below). This is a crunchy, fresh salad with a light vinaigrette. The tartness of this salad would make it a good accompaniment to fatty, rich foods such as short ribs or grilled chicken thighs.
Brussels Sprouts Ceasar Salad, photo by Alpha Smoot for food52.com
We’re excited to be sending the first Brussels sprouts this week! Use them to make Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts, or use them raw and turn them into this Brussels Sprouts Casear Salad! Make sure you cut this recipe in half because it calls for 2 pounds of Brussels Sprouts and you only have 1 pound in your box. This will then serve 3 to 4.
Now that we’ve seen the first snowfall, soups are going to become more of a regular part of our weekly meals, starting with this Silky Ginger Sweet Potato Soup. This is a good recipe to hang on to and make throughout the winter as it will warm you both by its temperature as well as the warming ginger. If you want something a little more hearty, use sweet potatoes to make Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili.
Did you see the cute little butternut squash we have this week!? These cuties are delicious just simply baked, but if you want to do something more with them, turn them into Vegan Butternut Black Bean Nachos. The nachos are topped with chunks of roasted butternut and there is a sauce, reminiscent of nacho cheese sauce, made from pureed butternut squash. If nachos aren’t your thing this week, maybe pizza is? If so, here’s a knock-your-socks-off recipe for Sweet N’ Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Cider Caramelized Onions & Bacon. There’s a lot happening on this pizza, but all of it will be well worth your time!
Every now and again you just need a simple meal of a good, homemade burger. What goes with burgers? Fries! Jazz up burger night with Carrot Fries with Curry Dipping Sauce! Life is about balance though, so now that we’ve had our fill of (healthy) nachos, pizza and burgers, lets make sure we eat our greens too! We are nearing the end of greens season, so lets make the most of these last fresh ones. Not sure what to do with red mustard? Check out this article and find “10 ways to Use Mustard Greens”. If you don’t use them to make congee, you could also use either red mustard or this week’s baby bok choi to make this recipe for Vegan One-Pot Ginger-Scallion Ramen Noodles. This is simple, warming, nourishing, and who doesn’t love noodles!
(Freezable) Stuffing with Caramelized Onions & Kale
photo by Rocky Luten for food52.com
Don’t forget the lacinato kale! Have a spaghetti squash hanging around, use it to make Spaghetti Squash with Kale Pesto. Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, so you could also get a jump start on cooking for the big day and use the kale to make (Freezable) Stuffing with Caramelized Onions & Kale. While you’re caramelizing onions, you might as well do some extra and turn them into Caramelized Onion Dip. You could pre-caramelize the onions, freeze them, and then make the dip the day before Thanksgiving. You have to have snacks to munch on while watching football, right!?
That’s a wrap for this week. I’ll see you back next week with one more fresh from the field green and we’ll get started on planning for Thanksgiving! Have a good week—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Purple Daikon
by Andrea Yoder
It’s been several years since we included daikon radish in CSA boxes, but you know we have an obsession with gorgeous purple vegetables and couldn’t resist trying this purple daikon! This is our first year growing this variety, called bora king. Its beautiful purple color, which extends through to the center, is what first caught our attention, but it has some other great qualities as well. First of all, it’s much smaller than traditional white daikon radish that can grow to be more than 12 inches long! It’s hard for a small family to eat that much radish and white daikon is one vegetable I don’t like to have remnants of hanging out in my refrigerator due to its pungent aroma. This purple daikon, however, is much smaller which makes it more manageable to use. It also has a delicious, slightly sweet, balanced radish flavor. It does still taste like daikon, but I think it’s a little more balanced flavor than some white daikon that can be pretty pungent.
Daikon radishes are classified as a winter storage radish and are an important part of many traditional cultures throughout Asia. Because of its ability to be stored, it’s an important winter food both because it’s available but also because it is high in nutrients including vitamin C which can help keep us strong and healthy throughout the cold winter. Radishes are actually one of the oldest cultivated food crops and there are literally thousands of different varieties. In the book, Roots, by Diane Morgan, she cites the following history: “Radishes are likely indigenous to Europe and Asia and are believed to have been first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean before 2000 B.C., probably in Egypt, where they were reportedly included in the daily rations, along with onions and garlic, given to the workers who built the pyramids.”
Daikon radish can be used in a variety of ways, both raw and cooked. In Chinese and Japanese culture daikon radish is often pickled, another tactic to help preserve this food and so it is available throughout the winter. Pickled daikon radishes, such as the recipe included in this week’s’ newsletter, are often served as a condiment. One of this week’s recipes is for Soy-Pickled Daikon, borrowed from the book Phoenix Claw and Jade Trees, a book about traditional Chinese cooking. The author explains that pickled vegetables, including daikon, are often served with rice porridge. After reading this I had to go do a little research and found that congee is the name given to rice porridge. I am by no means an expert on Chinese food, culture or history, but I am always intrigued to find out about traditional dishes. Congee is often eaten for breakfast, but it really can be eaten at any meal of the day. It is a dish that came from peasant food and is a way to make a small amount of rice go a long way. My understanding is that there is no one or right recipe for congee, rather everyone has their own version they identify with and the one they like is probably the one their grandmother made! This week I have included a recipe for Congee with Chicken and Greens. This is a fitting recipe to go along with the Soy-Pickled Purple Daikon which can be served as a condiment alongside this dish. This week’s box also has plenty of greens to choose from (bok choi, red mustard or kale), all of which are appropriate for this recipe.
Now that we’ve talked about congee, lets get back to daikon! Daikon radish may also be used in salads and other fresh condiments, often paired with other vegetables and dressed with a light sauce or vinaigrette. Daikon radishes are also used in stir-fries and braised dishes. It was interesting to learn that in some areas of China daikon is used in braised stews and soups, such as what would be equivalent to our beef stew. Whereas we would use potatoes, they often use chunks of daikon radish. Of course, remember daikon has a lot of nutritive value, so adding it to hearty broths and stews is a great way to fortify the soup. Daikon radishes are also traditionally used in Korean kim chi, which is once again an important food to eat both for nourishment and health throughout the winter.
Store daikon radish in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic to keep it from dehydrating. It will store for at least 4-6 weeks if not longer.
Soy-Pickled Daikon Radish
“Pickling in soy brine is one of China’s ancient methods of preserving vegetables. Any firm vegetable can be used for pickling once its moisture is leached out using salt and sugar.”
Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer, or more as a condiment
1 medium or 2 small purple daikon radish (12 oz)
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
Soy Pickling Brine
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp white rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
Peel the daikon radish (just remove a thin outer layer) and slice it very thin (for the best results, use a mandoline to slice them). Put the daikon slices in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Stir the daikon well to make sure the salt is applied evenly and let it marinate for about 30 minutes at room temperature. At this point the moisture will have bled out of the daikon and collected in the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze as much of the liquid out of the daikon as possible and discard all the liquid.
Sprinkle the sugar over the daikon and mix well. Let the daikon marinate for another 30 minutes at room temperature. As with the salt, a pool of liquid will form at the bottom of the bowl. Once again squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible and discard all the liquid.
Add the ingredients for the soy pickling brine to the daikon and mix well. Transfer the daikon and brine to a storage container, cover, and refrigerate at least overnight or for up to a month.
Serve the pickled radish in a small bowl with some of the soy brine.
Recipe borrowed from Phoenix Claw and Jade Trees, by Kian Lam Kho.
Congee with Chicken and Greens
“Congee is a smooth rice porridge, and it’s really all about the toppings. Even in its plainest form, however, it’s wonderful. Top with hot sesame oil, Kimchi, scallions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, cilantro, or anything else that calls to you.”
1 cup white rice
10 cups water, stock, or whey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 boneless, skinless single chicken breasts (4 to 6 oz each)
1 ½ cups tender greens, cut into thin ribbons (spinach, tatsoi, bok choi, mustard greens, or any other green you have on hand)
Combine the rice and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook for 1 ½ hours, stirring every so often. It will seem like there is too much liquid and not enough rice, but it will thicken. When it does, add 2 tsp of the salt.
Rub the remaining tsp of salt over the chicken breasts. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken into thin slices, about ½ inch. Add them to the pot, stirring the chicken into the hot rice. Stir in the greens. Continue to cook until the chicken turns white and the greens are soft, about 5 minutes.
Note from Chef Andrea: As indicated in the introduction, you can garnish congee with any additional ingredients you’d like. I’d recommend some chopped cilantro on top and serve it with the Soy-Pickled Purple Daikon Radishes on the side!
For a coconut congee, replace 2 cups of the liquid with a can of coconut milk.
Replace the chicken with sliced pork tenderloin or tofu.
Recipe borrowed from The Homemade Kitchen, by Alana Chernila.
Daikon and Apple Slaw
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Sesame Seed Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
3 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp sambal oelek (or any other chili-garlic sauce)
1 tsp sea salt
2 green onions, including green tops, thinly sliced (or substitute thinly sliced red onion)
1 large crisp apple such as Granny Smith
12 oz daikon radish, peeled (2 small or 1 medium)
To make the vinaigrette, using a mortar and a pestle or a spice grinder, grind the sesame seeds to a powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground sesame, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, oil, sesame oil, sambal oelek or chili garlic sauce, and salt. Add the onions and stir to combine. Set aside.
Peel, half, and core the apple and cut into sticks about 3 inches long and ¼ inch thick and wide. As the apple sticks are cut, add them to the dressing and stir to coat to prevent browning. Peel the daikon and cut into sticks the same size. Stir to combine the apples and daikon with the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until chilled before serving, about 30 minutes. (The salad will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.)
Recipe adapted from Roots, by Diane Morgan.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Italian Garlic: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
Broccoli OR Cauliflower: Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad with Chickpeas
Orange Carrots: Carroty Mac and Cheese; Carrot, Feta and Almond Salad
Peter Wilcox and/or Mountain Rose Potatoes: Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream; Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic
Red Onions: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
Red Mustard: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Spinach or Salad Mix: Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato Quesadillas; Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
Mini Butternut Squash: Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens; Roasted Honeynut Squash
Parsnips: Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies (see below); Parsnip, Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle (see below)
Green Savoy Cabbage: Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream; Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage
Last week at market it seems like our customers were finally ready to embrace root vegetables. For the first time that I can remember in the history of HVF, we sold out of both parsnips and rutabagas! This week we’re facing our first hard frost with temperatures dipping into the 20’s, which makes us all ready to make the transition to hearty fall and winter fare. Lets kick off this week’s chat with dessert—why not?! Parsnips are delicious in soups, stews and other savory preparations, but they’re also delicious in baked goods and desserts such as these Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies (see below)! This recipe is the creation of my friend, Annemarie of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison. I asked Annemarie to make a special sweet treat for our Harvest Party and the one requirement was to include parsnips. She knocked our socks off with these delicious cookies. If you weren’t able to join us for the party, be assured these cookies are worth making! The other recipe featuring parsnips this week is Parsnip, Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle (see below). I made these muffins for the market crew earlier this year when we had overwintered parsnips. They were so delicious! Both of these recipes are good ones to tuck away and use for your Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. A bit non-traditional, yes, but both recipes that will impress your guests!
While we’re talking roots, lets tackle carrots. Everyone loves a good mac and cheese, so why not try this recipe for Carroty Mac and Cheese. It’s rich and creamy, but the carrots add a sweet, earthy balance. Serve this as a main dish or a side. If you’re looking for something a bit more on the lean side, consider this recipe for Carrot, Feta and Almond Salad.
Did you notice how gorgeous the red mustard greens are this week! This is my favorite time of year to enjoy red mustard and one of my favorite recipes to use it in is this one for Red Lentils with Winter Squash and Greens. You could also use spinach in this recipe, but mustard greens are always my first choice when making this recipe. It also makes use of this week’s butternut squash. If you don’t use your butternut squash in the lentil recipe, then consider making this simple Roasted Honeynut Squash. If you aren’t familiar with Honeynut Squash, this title is referring to a specific variety of mini butternuts called Honeynuts. They are a personal-sized mini butternut as well. In this recipe you do nothing more than bake the squash and top them off with cinnamon, salt, pepper and butter. They are so delicious you don’t need anything more than these few simple ingredients.
We’re always excited to kick off sweet potato season, so pull out all of your favorite sweet potato recipes and lets get started cooking! We featured this recipe for Sweet Potato Quesadillas featured back in one of our 2007 newsletters. You build a quesadilla with mashed sweet potatoes, cheese and greens. You could use either spinach or red mustard in this recipe. Prep all the components in advance and you can pull off a quick dinner in about 10-15 minutes! I am also going to mention one of my all-time favorite sweet potato recipes. If you’ve been with our farm for awhile this recipe will likely not be a surprise, but it’s so good I want to share it with everyone again! Try these Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes. They are so delicious!
Before we move to above ground vegetables, we need to talk about potatoes. This recipe for Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic is one of my favorite, simple ways to eat potatoes. I also really like the simplicity of this Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream, a recipe we featured last year. This soup is very simple, but very satisfying. If you don’t use all of your cabbage to make this soup, consider trying this recipe for Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage. With a name like that, I have to try it! There’s a video link for this recipe as well….and you’ll have to check it out for yourself to find out what makes it so delicious!
Suspiciously Delicious Cabbage, photo by Julia Gartland for food52.com
Now that we’ve dealt with most of the vegetables that grow underground, we can turn our attention to the last item in the box. Use this week’s cauliflower and broccoli to make this tasty recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad with Chickpeas. Enjoy this salad as a main dish for lunch or serve it in a smaller portion as a side dish.
It’s hard to believe, but after this week we only have five more CSA boxes in the 2019 season. I’ve already started planning the contents of our final boxes and I have to tell you, we have a lot of vegetables to try and squeeze in before the end of the season! Have a good week and I’ll see you back here next week for more delicious recipes!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Parsnips
By Chef Andrea
Parsnips fill an important place in our seasonal Wisconsin diets because of their ability to store well through the winter, both in our refrigerators as well as in the field. Parsnips are one of our largest crops and this year we planted 3.5 acres. That may not sound like very much, but in the world of parsnips it is quite a lot and will yield tons of food! Parsnips are a challenging crop to grow because their seeds take about 2 weeks to germinate and we have to plant them early in the spring when the soil is still cold. They also have a very long growing season which means more management in the field to keep them healthy and keep the weeds under control. Parsnips are often described as being a white carrot. While they do resemble carrots, they are not really just a white carrot. They have a distinct flavor that is much different from a carrot. They also have the ability to survive if we leave them in the field over the winter. We’ll harvest most of this year’s crop this fall, but we will leave some parsnips in the field with plans to harvest them next spring. It’s a little risky, but parsnips can be overwintered in the field and when we dig them in the spring they are even more sweet and delicious than they are this fall!
Parsnips are a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a variety of ways. Their sweetness really comes out when they are roasted, which is one of my favorite ways to prepare parsnips. They also make a nice addition to a fall root mash or mix them with other vegetables in hearty soups and stews. You can also use them in baked goods, similar to how you might use carrots. I’ve used them to make parsnip muffins that are similar to carrot cake and this week we are featuring a recipe for Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins (see below)! You can also use them to make quick breads such as Andrea Bemis’ Spiced Honey Parsnip Bread. You can also use them in cookies. Make sure you check out the recipe for Parsnip Oatmeal, Chocolate, Cherry Cookies (see below) in this week’s newsletter!
Parsnips pair very well with other root vegetables, wine, shallots, apples, walnuts and a variety of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger. Some people really like the distinct flavor of parsnips, while others may still be learning to like them. If you’re in the latter group, I’d recommend that you start by using parsnips in a baked good or use them in small quantities mixed with other vegetables in soups, stews or a simple root mash.
Store parsnips in the coldest part of your refrigerator in a plastic bag. They will store for several weeks under these conditions, so don’t feel like you need to eat them all right now. When you are ready to use them, Scrub the outer skin with a vegetable brush and trim off the top and bottom. If you are making a pureed parsnip soup and want it to be snow white, I’d recommend peeling the parsnips. If you aren’t looking for an art display presentation, I would recommend skipping the peeling part of the process.
Parsnip Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Yield: approximately 40 cookies (2-3 inch diameter)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
⅓ tsp nutmeg
1 ¾ cups oatmeal
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 Tbsps white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups parsnips, shredded
1 cup finely shredded coconut
1 pkg (10 oz) chocolate chips (1 ¾ cup)
¾ cup dried cherries
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in oatmeal and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine vegetable oil, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix until smooth and well combined.
Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, incorporating well after each addition. Add the parsnips and stir to combine.
Last, fold in the coconut, chocolate chips and dried cherries. The dough is going to be very stiff and you may feel like you are not going to be able to incorporate all of these last ingredients. Trust the recipe and keep working them in. It will come together! Don’t forget to scrape down to the bottom of the bowl!
Drop by the tablespoon full onto a cookie sheet. Do not flatten the cookies, they will spread out as they bake. Bake in a 350°F oven for 14-16 minutes. The cookies should still be a little soft in the middle when you take them out of the oven. They will set up nicely as they cool. If you want a crispier cookie, bake them a little bit longer. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
This recipe was created by Annemarie Maitri, owner of Bloom Bake Shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Annemarie dreamed up this cookie recipe when I asked her to make a sweet treat for our Fall Harvest Party this past September. She was so pleased with the creation that she added it to her cookie menu for the fall! Thank you Annemarie!
Parsnip, Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle
Yield: 12 Muffins
5 oz raw parsnip (approx 1)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
½ cup butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)
¾ cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup plain yogurt
¾ cup powdered sugar
4-5 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a muffin tin.
Peel and finely grate the parsnips. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the poppy seeds and parsnip.
In another bowl, use an electric mixer or wooden spoon to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each in well. Beat in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract, blend well and then add the yogurt and combine.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, alternating three times.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, filling them ¾ full.
Bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the drizzle topping: Stir lemon juice, teaspoon by teaspoon, into the powdered sugar until it is a runny consistency. Drizzle over the completely cooled muffins.
This recipe was borrowed from veggiedesserts.co.uk
, a very interesting food blog written by Kate Hackworthy. If you like this recipe, check out her blog where you’ll find more delicious baked goods featuring parsnips as well as other vegetables!
By Chef/Farmer Andrea
This year's sweet potato vines in July.
We’re excited to be delivering the first of several weeks of sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are an important crop for us, not so much because they are a big money maker, but more so because they are an important part of our diet and we love to eat them! Richard may or may not admit this, but I think he also likes the challenge of growing a tropical plant in the upper Midwest! As with every crop, you just never know what kind of a year you will get. Up until 2016, we had always had a sweet potato crop to harvest. Some of you may remember fall 2016 when we had a devastating 100 year flood at the end of September. Sadly, our sweet potatoes were planted in field #65, right next to the river. The rain started to fall, the river started to rise and quickly became a raging, angry beast that came out of its banks and flooded our beautiful sweet potato field. It was heartbreaking as we were only one week away from harvest. Even now it’s hard to write about that year when we lost the entire sweet potato crop. We all survived with plenty to eat, but a winter without sweet potatoes just isn’t right! We came back in 2017 and had a pretty good year. The crop wasn’t perfect, but we were just thankful to have something to harvest! In 2018, Richard and the crew were determined to have a knock-out sweet potato year. Their determination paid off and we had the best sweet potato crop in the history of Harmony Valley Farm! We harvested over 30,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and they were gorgeous! It’s hard to match a crop like that, but we set out to do so again this year.
We planted this year’s crop on June 1. We get our sweet potato plants from two organic producers in North Carolina. Due to a cold, wet start to their season, they shipped our plants about 10 days later than we had planned. Nonetheless, the field was ready before we received them so we were ready to start planting them the same day they arrived! Most of the plants survived the transplanting process and took off. Overall, the crop looked to have a good start. We fertilized and delivered nutrients as needed, but there were periods of time when the soil was wet and saturated, despite the fact that we grow on beds covered with plastic mulch for heat gain. I mentioned earlier that sweet potatoes are tropical plants. They thrive in hot, dry climates. In wet conditions, you often end up with scraggly roots and the plants don’t set potatoes as they should. This year’s yields came in at about 50% of last year with an estimated 17,000 pounds. The potatoes are nice and tasty, we just didn’t find as many potatoes per plant as in previous years. Our two main varieties this year are Covington and Burgundy. Both are orange fleshed sweet potatoes known to be sweet and flavorful. We also grew Murasaki sweet potatoes, a white fleshed Japanese variety. We haven’t had much luck with these potatoes in past attempts. They have never yielded very well and the potatoes are always very small and skinny. I can’t help myself though, it’s a delicious potato with sweet, moist white flesh. Somehow I managed to convince Richard we needed to try them yet again this year. Surprisingly, the yield was significantly improved and we harvested the largest potatoes we’ve ever seen on this variety! Evidently this variety actually thrives with a little more moisture. Despite a disappointing yield, we did make some important observations that will help us raise future crops and we’re always happy to have something instead of nothing. We do plan to deliver sweet potatoes in most, if not all, of the remaining CSA boxes and we’ve allocated some to offer as a Produce Plus offering before Thanksgiving as well as part of our End of Season special offering. We also partner with the Lakewinds Food Co-Ops in Minneapolis and they’ve done an outstanding job selling and promoting our sweet potatoes in their stores in previous years. This year we’ll send a few their way, but not nearly what we or they had hoped for. Because we knew our yields would be low this year, we saved every little potato when we were harvesting. Typically when the potatoes are more abundant we would leave some of the little guys in the field. But this year, every potato is precious to us. So we have some potatoes we’re sorting out as “Baby Bakers.” Evidently we’re not the only ones in the country who have small, fat potatoes. Within the last year other companies have started selling these baby sweet potatoes as well. They are completely usable potatoes, just much smaller than the historical industry standard. You’ll likely receive some in your box before the end of the year. They are the cutest little things and are actually easier in many ways to work with compared to some of the bigger potatoes.
Freshly washed sweet potatoes.
After we harvest the sweet potatoes, we bring them into our nursey greenhouse in wooden crates. We stack them up and once they are all harvested, we start the curing process. When sweet potatoes first come out of the field they are not very sweet and flavorful. The skins are also very tender and delicate, so we have to handle them very careful with gloved hands to minimize any surface damage to the skin. We hold them at a temperature of 85-95°F with humidity of 90-95% for 7-10 days. During this time the greenhouse feels like a sauna! This process helps to set the skins so they’ll last longer in storage. It also develops the starches into sugars, making them a truly sweet potato!
Sweet potatoes are best stored at a temperature of 55-65°F. Do not store them in your refrigerator or at temperatures less than 50°F or they’ll get chill injury. Store them in a cool, dry location or on your countertop until you’re ready to use them.
There are so many things you can make with sweet potatoes ranging from sweet potato casserole to sandwiches, fries, soup, cakes, pies, donuts, salad and more! Of course, one of the simplest things you can do is just bake them and eat them right out of their skin with a touch of butter!
Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
1 pound sweet potatoes
1 cup packed kimchi (approximately 7 ounces), chopped finely
1 ½ tsp finely chopped garlic
1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Serrano chiles (The amount of chile pepper you use may be adjusted to your liking and will also be dependent upon the heat of the kimchi. If you do not have fresh chiles available, you may also substitute pickled jalapeño or a pinch of dried red pepper flakes.)
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
About ½ cup vegetable oil
Peel sweet potatoes and julienne (very small strips) using a mandolin or the shredding attachment on a food processor. You should have about 6 cups of sweet potatoes once they are cut.
Stir the potato together with the remaining ingredients except for the oil. Let the mixture stand at room temperature until wilted and moist, about 5 minutes, then stir again.
Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Using 2 serving spoons, scoop up some of the sweet potato mixture in one spoon and use the other one to compress the mixture and form a rough patty. Care- fully slide the patty off the spoon and into the hot pan. Repeat the process to add another 4 or 5 pancakes to the pan. You will need to do several batches to cook all the pancakes.
Cook until golden brown, 1 ½ to 2 minutes, then flip the pancake. Add a little more oil if necessary. Cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels or to a baking rack on a sheet pan. Hold the pancakes in a warm oven (set at 150-200°F) until you are finished frying the pancakes and are ready to serve them. Add oil to skillet between batches as needed.
Serve warm with a dipping sauce of your choice. The original recipe was accompanied by a soy-vinegar dipping sauce, but I prefer to serve them with a dollop of sour cream or sour cream mixed with lime juice and cilantro.
If you have extra pancakes leftover, they can easily be cooled and frozen. When you are ready to use them, reheat the unthawed pancakes in a 375°F oven.
This recipe is a long time favorite! It was originally published in Gourmet magazine and can be found at www.epicurious.com.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Broccoli OR Cauliflower: Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup; Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce
Peter Wilcox Potatoes: Swiss Chard and Potatoes
Orange Carrots: Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below); Italian Wedding Soup; Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce; Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread
Calibra Yellow Onions: Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below); White Bean and Escarole Pizza; Utica Greens; Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup; Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic
Baby Beets: Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread; Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic
Red Chard or Red Mustard: Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan; Swiss Chard and Potatoes
Escarole: White Bean and Escarole Pizza; Italian Wedding Soup; Utica Greens
Red Cabbage: Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below); Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below); Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread
Salad Mix: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic
Spinach or Baby Arugula: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheeseand Honey Balsamic; Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan; Swiss Chard and Potatoes
This week we have another beautiful vegetable to feature, red cabbage! We love to eat and grow vegetables with a variety of colors. Of course you know that color also equals flavor and nutrients! It’s win win on all fronts! This week I’ve shared a recipe for Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below). I’ve been making this recipe for years and it comes from Lorna Sass. Her book was one of the first vegetarian cookbooks in my collection and I still reference recipes in it frequently. This is a very simple recipe to make and goes well as a side along with a bowl of soup. The second recipe in this week’s feature is also a salad, Warm Red Cabbage Salad (see below). This recipe comes from one of my other favorite vegetarian cookbook authors, Deborah Madison. You could add pancetta or bacon to this recipe if you like.
Last week our featured vegetable was Escarole. We featured two recipes using this delicious fall green. If you didn’t have a chance to make the White Bean and Escarole Pizza or the Italian Wedding Soup, take some time to try one of these recipes this week. I’m not sure how I missed this in my research, but a friendly market customer this past weekend told me about a traditional recipe using escarole called Utica Greens. It’s very simple and includes prosciutto, wilted escarole and hot pickled cherry peppers with a crumb topping of herbs, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. I’m going to have to try this one!
If you don’t use all your garlic when cooking the escarole, turn it into Roasted Garlic Butter. You can use this on bread and sandwiches, or put a dollop on top of grilled steak or roasted winter squash.
One of my favorite parts about the farmers’ market is talking to customers about the dishes they make with our vegetables. In addition to the recipe for Utica Greens, I got a tip on this Melissa Clarke recipe for Lemony Cauliflower and Carrot Soup. I haven’t tried this yet myself, but some of our longtime CSA members tell me this is a super simple soup to make and there’s no dairy in this. The creaminess of the soup comes from pureeing the vegetables and the addition of lemon brightens all the flavors in your mouth. If you receive broccoli instead of cauliflower, consider this recipe for an Asian Broccoli Salad with Peanut Sauce. This recipe calls for edamame. If you don’t have any in the freezer, I’d suggest that you substitute some chopped sweet peppers or carrots in their place.
Looking for a quick lunch option? This is a great week to make Winter Veggie Wraps with Carrot-Miso Spread. Instead of shredding the carrots and using them as part of the vegetable filling, they go into making a flavorful, healthy spread for the wrap. You can stuff these with the toppings of your choosing, but the recipe suggests shredded red cabbage and beets. What a perfect recipe for this week!
The other thing I want to use the baby beets for is a simple roasted beet salad. The baby beets we’re delivering this week are perfect for roasting whole and then using them to make a delicious salad with any of this week’s greens as a base. This simple Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Balsamic can stand alone or serve it as a side dish to a meal.
There are a lot of greens in this week’s box, so I wanted to share the link to this recipe for Creamy Penne Pasta with Greens and Parmesan. We featured this recipe in a newsletter back in 2007. You could use chard, mustard or spinach to make this recipe. It’s simple to make and you can add chicken or sausage to it if you so desire. Here’s another recipe for a simple greens based recipe, Swiss Chard and Potatoes. You could use this week’s Peter Wilcox potatoes for this recipe.
I believe we’ve cooked our way to the bottom of another box. Before I close, I just want to let you know the sweet potatoes are about half way through their curing process. It looks like we’ll be able to start washing them for CSA boxes as early as next week! Start pulling out all of your favorite sweet potato recipes and get ready! Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Red Cabbage
By Chef Andrea
We call it red cabbage, but others may refer to it as purple cabbage. Perhaps it’s splitting hairs to debate whether it’s red or purple when the bottom line is that it is simply gorgeous! Red cabbage is different from our green cabbage in several ways. First, it’s obviously much different in color which means it also has a bit of a different nutrient profile. Purple and red pigments in vegetables indicate the presence of chemical plant compounds called anthocyanins. We talked about these several weeks ago when we delivered the black nebula carrots. Anthocyanins have many health benefits including being antioxidants that combat free radical damage in our bodies. Thus, they play a role in cancer prevention as well as enhance cardiac health and boost our immunity, amongst a long list of other benefits. In addition to the benefits from anthocyanins, red cabbage also offers all the similar benefits of other vegetables in the Brassica family including phytonutrients called glucosinolates and sulfuraphane. These two nutrients are important for reducing the potential for carcinogens to damage our tissues while also assisting the liver with detoxifying the body. Red cabbage heads are also more dense and the leaves are thicker in comparison to green savoy cabbage or the sweetheart salad cabbages we delivered earlier in the season.
Red cabbage may be eaten both raw and cooked. One of the simplest ways to use it is to just slice it very thinly and mix it in with salad greens or other vegetables when making vegetable salads or slaws. It can also stand alone to make beautiful and tasty slaws and salads which may be served either cold or warm. This week I’ve included a recipe for a simple Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below) that I’ve been making for many years. Red cabbage is also often used to make braised red cabbage, a more common part of German and northern European cuisine. Recipes for braised red cabbage will often include apples, juniper berries, caraway seeds and either red wine or red wine vinegar. This is a good place to talk about how to retain that bright purple color when cooking red cabbage. When you cook red cabbage, you can retain the bright purple color by adding an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice. If you don’t add acid and cook it for any period of time with the lid on the pan, the cabbage will turn to more of a blue-green-gray color. This is kind of a fun kitchen experiment to do with kids so they can see how the color pigments change when in an acidic versus basic environment. Beyond braised red cabbage and slaw, there are a lot of other ways to use this cabbage. While I don’t have any experience using red cabbage in Indian cuisine, I did find some interesting recipes using Indian spices. I also found a recipe that used the red cabbage to make Purple Cabbage Paratha, an Indian flatbread. You can also use raw cabbage in spring rolls and wraps such as this Winter Veggie Wrap with Carrot-Miso Spread that we featured several years ago. It’s also a great stir-fry vegetable, however I’d recommend using a sauce that has some citrus in it to help retain the bright purple color.
Some other foods that are complementary and are often used with red cabbage include the following: apples, oranges, lemons, currants, onions, shallots, caraway, juniper, clove, star anise, red wine, vinegar, carrots, beets, blue cheese and goat cheese. Red cabbage stores well, so don’t feel like you have to use it all right away. It’s best to store red cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You’ll be surprised by how much you will get out of a head once you start slicing it! If you don’t use all of the head, simply wrap up the remainder and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it again.
Red Cabbage Slaw with Maple Mustard Dressing
Yield: 6 servings
“The compliments will start pouring in for this tasty, gorgeous salad, which you’ve thrown together in about 5 minutes….Don’t be tempted to leave out the juniper berries: They are the secret ingredient that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.”
1 tsp coarsely ground juniper berries
½ to ¾ cup Maple-Mustard Dressing (see below)
1 ½ lb red cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, grated
⅓ cup tightly packed minced fresh parsley
Sea salt to taste (optional; you may not need it)
Recipe borrowed from Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.
- Stir the juniper berries into the maple-mustard dressing and, if time permits, let set for an hour.
- Just before serving, toss the cabbage, carrot, and parsley in a salad bowl.
- Toss in just enough dressing to coat the salad. Add salt to taste if desired.
½ cup sunflower oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp dry mustard
Pinch of salt
In a small jar, combine all of the ingredients and shake well.
Use immediately or refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe borrowed from Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.
Warm Red Cabbage Salad
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
The cabbage is cooked just enough to soften it, then tossed with apples, goat cheese and roasted walnuts. This is a very nice salad for fall when both walnuts and apples are newly harvested. For variation in flavor and color, mix the cabbage with other greens, such as spinach or curly endive.
15 to 20 walnuts, enough to make ¾ cup shelled
2 tsp walnut oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 small red cabbage
1 crisp red apple
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 to 4 oz goat cheese, broken into large pieces
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
½ tsp marjoram, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Crack the walnuts, leave the meats in large pieces, and toss them with the walnut oil and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toast them in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they begin to smell nutty. Then remove them from the oven and let them cool.
Quarter the cabbage and remove the core. Cut the wedges into thin pieces, 2 to 3 inches long, and set them aside.
Cut the apple lengthwise into sixths, cut out the core, then slice the pieces thinly, crosswise.
Put the garlic, vinegar, and oil in a wide sauté pan over a medium-high flame. As soon as they are hot, add the onion and sauté for 30 seconds. Next add the cabbage and continue to cook, stirring it with a pair of tongs for approximately 2 minutes, or until just wilted. The leaves will begin to soften and the color will change from bright purple-red to pink. Season with salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and more vinegar, if necessary, to sharpen the flavors. Add the goat cheese, apple slices, herbs, and walnuts. Toss briefly and carefully before serving.
Recipe borrowed from The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison with Edward Espé Brown.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Italian Garlic: White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below); Italian Wedding Soup (See below)
Escarole: White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below); Italian Wedding Soup (see below)
Our nights are getting colder and warm hats have become part of my daily attire again. We haven’t had a frost yet, but we may see one before the end of the week. These cool nights are great for sweetening crops, such as the escarole in this week’s box. This is an interesting vegetable that is delicious both raw and cooked, however I think it’s at its best when cooked. A traditional, simple way to cook escarole is to saute it in plenty of olive oil along with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes. The Italian way is to cook it until it’s very soft, silky and tender. While this makes a delicious side dish on its own, you can also take this base preparation and put it on a pizza. One of this week’s recipes is for a White Bean & Escarole Pizza (see below). In this recipe you use a flavorful white bean puree as a base to spread on the crust and then top it off with the cooked escarole and parmesan cheese. Of course, you can add meat if you like. The second recipe featuring escarole this week is for Italian Wedding Soup (see below). This is a classic way to use escarole and it’s a super simple soup. Get the kids to help you form the meatballs and the rest will come together quickly. The escarole will become silky and soft when cooked in the broth and is a nice complement to the fattiness of the pork.
Sadly, we’re nearly finished picking peppers and if we do get a frost this weekend that will officially mark the end of pepper season. This week we’ve packed three more little jalapenos, which could be used to make this Honey Lime Jalapeno Vinaigrette. Use it as a salad dressing or as a marinade for fish or chicken.
While we’re talking salad dressing, I want to share this recipe for Hot Bacon Vinaigrette. You can use this vinaigrette to make a wilted spinach or chard salad, but it can also be tossed with roasted cauliflower/Romanesco, mini sweet peppers or potatoes right after you take them out of the oven.
Fall is the time of year when brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc really thrive. You don’t have to do anything fancy with them and sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. Try this Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. You can make this with broccoli and/or Romanesco. As for the cauliflower this week, last week I found this recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Bake. This is basically a combination of roasted cauliflower with pizza toppings! I have a feeling this recipe might become a family favorite!
This week’s purple majesty potatoes are a great variety to use in this recipe for Breakfast Potato Nachos. This is a recipe we featured in a previous newsletter. In this recipe the potatoes are sliced and baked to make a chip that takes the place of a traditional nacho corn chip. Top off the potatoes with beans, sour cream, jalapenos, and all the traditional nacho toppings!
While carrots can make their way into many dishes as a base flavoring ingredient, you can really make them shine when they are the main ingredient, such as in this recipe forCarrot, Feta and Almond Salad. I love carrot salads because they are super easy, but also tasty and convenient to make.
Here we are at the bottom of another CSA box. Wish us luck as we continue to dance around the weather and try to get root crops harvested in between the rains! Even though we’re approaching the end of our season, we still have more delicious vegetables for you including Brussels sprouts, Black Futsu squash, tat soi and more! Have a good week—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Escarole
By Chef Andrea
This week’s featured vegetable is escarole. Many people mistake escarole for a head of green leaf lettuce. While they do look very similar, they have some differences. For starters, escarole is in the chicory family and is considered to be a bitter green. Escarole is a frost tolerant green, which is why we plant them as a late season crop. Cool temperatures result in a more balanced flavor in this vegetable. If you eat a little bit of the leaf when raw, you will notice it has a mild bitterness. While escarole may be eaten raw, I think this vegetable shines at its best when cooked. When you cook escarole, the green wilts down into a smooth, silky green and the flavor mellows out so it is more balanced, slightly sweet and less bitter. The center leaves are sometimes light green or slightly yellow and the outer leaves are more broad and a bit more thick when compared to leaf lettuce. If you are going to use escarole raw, I recommend using the center leaves for raw preparations as they are often more tender.
Escarole is a popular green in Italian cuisine. There’s a classic preparation for escarole that some Italian cooks call Scarola Affogata, which means “smothered escarole.” In this dish, garlic is sautéed in olive oil until golden, then chopped escarole, salt, red pepper flakes and seasoning are added to the pan. The greens are cooked until they are soft and tender. This is then served as side dish, or you can use the greens for another purpose, such as on top of a pizza as we’ve done in this week’s recipe, White Bean and Escarole Pizza.
Escarole is also often used in winter soups along with white beans and other vegetables. This week one of our featured recipes is for a classic Italian Wedding Soup. This soup actually has nothing to do with weddings. It has its origins as a peasant soup made to make use of meat scraps, stale bread and basic vegetables all cooked in a flavorful broth. One thing that makes this soup unique and kind of fun is that it includes mini meatballs which are traditionally made with pork, but you could also use ground chicken or turkey if you prefer.
Escarole pairs well with other fall vegetables and fruits such as apples, pears, persimmons, lemons, oranges, garlic, onions, beets, potatoes and butternut squash. It is also often included in dishes with white beans and lentils. Additionally, it pairs well with hazelnuts and walnuts as well as butter, prosciutto, bacon, cheese (including blue cheese, Parmesan, and gruyere).
Store escarole in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. You will need to wash the leaves well in the same way you would wash head lettuce. The heads we’re delivering this week weigh on average between 0.75-1.0 pounds each.
Italian Wedding Soup
Yield: 8 servings
1 small onion, finely chopped
⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 large egg
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken broth
2 cups carrots, small dice
1 pound escarole, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, pork and pepper. Using 1 ½ tsp for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven until lightly browned.
- To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the meatballs, carrots and escarole and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the escarole is tender, about 8-12 minutes.
- Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Finish soup with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe found at www.foodnetwork.com.
White Bean & Escarole Pizza
Yield: 4 servings
2-3 cloves garlic
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ of a large head of escarole (8 oz)
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pizza Dough, enough to make a 12-14 inch crust
Olive oil, additional as needed for the crust and finishing
2-3 oz pepperoni or salami (optional)
3 oz shredded Parmesan cheese
- While you make the toppings for the pizza, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- First make the bean puree. Place garlic cloves in a food processor and blend until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the beans, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and lemon juice. Blend until the beans are smooth and all the ingredients are well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors develop, then taste the beans and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding salt, pepper, vinegar and/or lemon juice as needed. The consistency of the beans should be smooth and spreadable. Thin with a few tablespoons of water or a little more olive oil if needed.
- Next, prepare the escarole. Heat 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil in a medium sautè pan over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and garlic. Sautè until the vegetables are softened, then add the escarole. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in the red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and continue to stir periodically as the escarole wilts down. Once the escarole is wilted, add the red wine vinegar and continue to cook until nearly all the liquid is reduced. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Shape the dough and place it on a preheated pizza stone or pizza pan. Brush the crust with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the par-baked crust from the oven. Spread the bean puree evenly on the crust. Depending on the size of your pizza, you may not need all of the bean puree. Save any unused portion and use it elsewhere. If you are using pepperoni or salami, lay it out on top of the bean puree. Evenly distribute the escarole on top of the crust. Top off the pizza by spreading shredded Parmesan over the whole pizza.
- Return the pizza to the oven and bake it an additional 15-20 minutes or until the crust and cheese are golden brown.
- Cut into 8 pieces and serve hot.
Recipe by Chef Andrea, Harmony Valley Farm.
Year after year we are reminded, and more so in recent years, just how important cover crops are to our farming and ecosystem. Throughout the season, we’ve made reference to cover crops. Earlier this year Richard gave us a glimpse into his new strategy of inter-seeding cover crops in the spaces between our raised beds for the purpose of keeping the soil in place should we get hard, fast, pounding rains that have washed our soil off fields in recent years. We’ve learned some things about this strategy and will be evaluating improvements we can make next year. Every year we are once again amazed at the benefits cover crops offer. Plants have a powerful ability to hold our fields together and offer many other benefits to our farming and ecosystems. They have always been a priority at Harmony Valley Farm and we’ve known for a long time that they are beneficial. Nonetheless, we continue to learn more about these amazing plants and what they can do for all of us. So, for those of you who have been with our farm for many years, this week’s article is not totally new. For those who are recently new to our farm, we want to give you an opportunity to gain insight into how we employ cover crops and why they are important. Not all food is created equal and it’s up to you to make an informed decision as to what type of farming practices you want your food purchases to support.
Whtie Dutch Clover sharing space with our melon crop.
In recent years the term “Regenerative Agriculture” has been introduced in the context of finding solutions to mitigate climate change and steer our future in a more positive direction. We’ve mentioned this term in previous articles, but here’s the specific definition of this term taken from the definition paper available in full text at regenerationinternational.org:
“ ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity—resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.
Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density. Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter. This not only aids in increasing soil biota diversity and health, but increases biodiversity both above and below the soil surface, while increasing both water holding capacity and sequestering carbon at greater depths, thus drawing down climate-damaging levels of atmospheric CO2, and improving soil structure to reverse civilization –threatening human-caused soil loss.”
The following is an excerpt from a newsletter article Richard wrote in 2017 along with a few updates that he has added (in italics). While we utilize and plant cover crops throughout the season, we are currently in the height of cover crop planting time as we race to get crops off the fields and plant cover crops so they can put down roots and maximize their growth potential before winter sets in. This will continue to be a topic we keep at the forefront and it’s an important one for all of us to continue to learn about. It’s going to take both more farmers adopting these practices as well as consumers who support these practices to drive positive change in our current climate predicament.
Cover Crops 101: Keep It Covered!
By Richard deWilde
We’ve been using cover crops for over 40 years, mainly as a means of enhancing soil quality. Only recently have we learned that cover crops are an important tool we can use to help mitigate climate change, both by reducing excessive atmospheric carbon as well as their role in making our soils more resilient to erratic weather conditions. We know that soils with high organic matter hold water better in drought conditions and are able to drain better in times of excess moisture. There are many benefits to including cover crops in farming systems and, from a farmer’s perspective, I can’t understand why every farmer wouldn’t want to plant them!Cover crops are crops we plant in our fields before and after our vegetable cash crops. While we plant vegetable crops with the intention of harvesting them for sale, we seldom ever sell a cover crop. There are other reasons why we plant cover crops. Our farming system developed from the work of Rudolf Steiner, JI Rodale, and William Albrecht, early advocates of using cover crops in organic systems as a means of keeping the ground covered at all times. In theory, this is a basic principle of nature that allows us to use plants to capture solar energy from the sun to enrich the soil and prevent erosion. We don’t like to have bare ground over the winter as it is very vulnerable to winter winds, etc and we don’t want to lose our precious topsoil! Cover crops, in certain locations, also help to filter and purify water to keep our waterways clean, and enhance and encourage biodiversity of soil microorganisms that help us increase the organic matter in our soil as well as hold nutrients in place so they are available for the next vegetable crop that will go in that field. While this all makes sense in theory, in practice it all comes down to management!
A well-established cover crop planting in late fall
Many of our long term crew members understand our goals with regards to planting cover crops, but in the heat of the busy late summer and fall harvest season when we need all available hands on deck to harvest, it’s easy to put planting cover crops on the backburner to plant another day when harvest is done. However, our crew members understand planting cover crops is a priority and work diligently to make sure they get planted as soon as possible. As soon as we finish harvesting a crop and are done with it for the season, we prepare the ground and plant the cover crop even if it’s just two beds out of the entire field! Time is of the essence in the fall and our goal is to give the cover crop as many growing days as possible to get established before the temperatures drop and winter sets in. Cover crops may also be planted into a standing vegetable crop at the time of last cultivation. This allows us to have a soil-improving cover crop already growing in the shade of a cash crop, ready to take over as soon as the cash crop is done and any remaining portion of the plants are chopped! We use this method in crops such as asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb. We have also expanded this practice to include our fall broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. All of these already have an established cover of small clovers and grass. In these scenarios, the cover crop not only enhances the soil by increasing organic matter, but the cover crop also helps to compete with weeds and forms a mulch of sorts when the cover crop plant “winter kills.”
Side by side cover crops planted one week apart
We have two main cover crop mixes we plant. One mix includes plants that will “winter kill.” Even though we may get some frosty nights and cold temperatures late in the fall, the plants in this mix continue to grow, albeit slowly. Once the ground freezes solid their growth stops. This mix includes Japanese millet, oats, field peas, crimson clover and a few other clover varieties. The benefit to planting a cover crop that winter kills is that the plants will not grow again in the spring and we can prepare that ground early in the spring to plant vegetable crops since the cover crop residue will work into the soil very easy without a lot of green crop plant matter to get in the way.
Crimson clover cover crop
Our second mix consists of plants that can go dormant during the winter, and then resume growing again in the spring. We plant this mix in fields that we won’t need to plant very early in the spring. This allows us to leave the cover crop in the spring so it can grow and we can maximize its benefits. We usually cut or chop the cover crop just before it goes to seed. This mix consists of cereal rye, rye grass, mammoth red clover, hairy vetch as well as Alice clover and red clover. In addition to serving as a sponge to take up available nutrients and hold them in place for next year’s crop, the rye also makes a good mulch that we cut and bale. We take the bales off of one field and put them on another field to mulch in between beds of vegetable crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and garlic. The clovers and vetch are able to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, which means we don’t have to apply fertilizer! If we have excess rye grass beyond our needs for mulch, we may choose to bale some to use as feed for our cattle and goats through the winter or sometimes we just chop the crop back onto the field and work it into the soil. This is referred to as a “green manure” crop.
Richard evaluating biodiversity in this multi-species planting
We have embraced this practice and are always looking for ways to improve the system. Over the past few years we’ve increased the diversity of plants in our cover crop mixes. While it is more complicated to make these mixes, we appreciate the plant diversity and the different beneficial attributes each plant brings to the mix. Each variety also supports its own unique microbes that interact with the plant at the root level. We are also learning that there is also a synergy between organisms that multiplies the benefits exponentially. Little is known about this interaction, but it is believed that the microbes communicate and function as a larger, very complex organism that can move water and nutrients across the field to plants in need. How cool is that! We will continue to invest both time and resources into planting cover crops as the benefits of doing so far outweigh any management challenges we may juggle. Maintaining and improving the health and resilience of our soils is crucial to our ability to continue to produce vegetables with maximum nutrient quality. We also want to do our part to maintain clean waterways, prevent soil erosion and maximize CO2 capture through our practices to do our part to mitigate climate change.
Onions on raised beds with inter-seeded cover crops
As we continue our conversation about the future of our food system and what we want it to be, we feel it is important for you, the eater, to understand the growing system and practices we employ. Not all food is created equal and it’s up to you to make an informed decision as to what type of farming practices you want your food purchases to support. There are some conventional, chemical farmers who are trying to improve their soil quality with cover crops and are taking advantage of the assistance and incentives offered by the NRCS (Natural Resources and Conservation Services). While this is good, it’s hard to make much positive headway when the cash crops being planted require chemical inputs that damage and degrade soil as well as cause other problems to the ecosystem and environment around them.
Australian peas, with nitrogen capturing nodes on their roots.
We hope you too can appreciate the benefits of cover crops in an organic farming system and will continue to learn along with us as we learn more about their role in our future. We also hope you will choose to support local producers who prioritize integrating cover crops into their agricultural systems. We’ll do our part, but we need the support of consumers to turn the tide and shape our food system into the future.
Closing Note: If you’re interested in learning more about Regenerative Agriculture and the work being done worldwide to promote these practices, visit www.regenerationinternational.org
Cooking With This Week's Box
Black Nebula Carrots: Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below); Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below)
Red & Yellow Onions: Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below); Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below); One-Pot Vegetable Curry
This week we have a fun, new vegetable to cook with! Yes, I know
carrots are not a new vegetable, but the Black Nebula Carrots are a new type of carrot and they are super-cool! I’ve never cooked with a carrot that has this much intense color. I’m not usually a fan of carrot soup as I find it to be kind of boring and it isn’t a very filling soup. When I started researching this purple carrot, I was in awe at the beautiful purple color I was seeing in pictures of purple carrot soup. Would the color really be that vibrant? I have never eaten purple soup, so I had to give it a try. This week’s recipe for Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils (see below) is not your typical, boring carrot soup. This is a simple soup, but it has a lot of flavor. When I tested the recipe, I took my first bite and said out loud to myself (I was the only one in the kitchen), “Wow! That is delicious!” I spiced up the lentils with one finely chopped Korean pepper that gave it just the right amount of heat without being too hot. I really like coconut milk, so I added a little more instead of water. This soup is sweet, flavorful, smooth and just downright beautiful!
The second recipe is for a very simple Carrot and Parsley Salad (see below). I’ve made this before with orange carrots, but I have to say it is quite striking with the black nebula carrots. When you look at the recipe you might think, “there’s not much happening in this salad.” I thought the same thing the first time I made it. I can’t explain it, but the simplicity of this salad is what makes it so delicious. Of course that is assuming you have delicious carrots and fresh parsley! Serve this as a side dish with a sandwich, roasted or grilled meat, fish, etc. Leftovers are also good for a few days.
This week we’re finishing off the last of our jicama. Use it to make this light, creamy Jicama Apple Slaw that we featured in our newsletter several years ago, or check out last week’s vegetable feature article and the recipe for Baked Jicama Chips. When the jicama is gone, we’ll finish off the packing by substituting potatoes. Use them to make this One-Pot Vegetable Curry. I love this recipe because you can vary the ingredients depending on what you have available. In addition to a little potato, I’d recommend including either broccoli Romanesco and/or cauliflower along with sweet peppers!
We’re in the midst of salad season and have a lot of options to choose from with salad greens this week. I want to try this version of a creamy Greek vinaigrette. The creaminess comes from including Greek yogurt. Use it to make a Tossed Salad with Greek Vinaigrette. You can choose what to put in/on the salad. My recommendation is to use either the head lettuce or salad mix as the base of the salad. Top it off with slices of sweet peppers, thinly sliced red onions, olives, and feta cheese. Before we’re finished with sweet peppers, make this recipe for Creamy Roasted Sweet Pepper Dressing. This would be another good dressing to use on salads this week!
Squash & Poblano Quesadilla
with Pickled Jaoapenos and Chipotle Creama
I’m going to wrap up this week’s chat with a few of my favorites from past newsletters. Every year I make this Spaghetti Squash and Leek Skillet Gratin. If you have a few leeks still hanging out in your refrigerator, put them to use in this simple yet hearty gratin. I like this recipe because it’s another one of those transition recipes featuring sweet peppers as the last of the summer veg paired with leeks and spaghetti squash representing fall. My other two favorites will make use of the baby white turnips. If you want to use them in a cooked dish, consider this recipe for Creamy Turnip Grits and Greens that we featured earlier this year. The finishing touch on this dish that brings it altogether is the hot sauce vinaigrette at the very end. Don’t skip this step—it’s what brings it altogether! Lastly, I wrote this recipe for White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette several years ago and I still like to make it. It’s simple, fresh, light and flavorful.
Ok, that wraps up this week’s box. Before I go I’d like to thank everyone who came to our Harvest Party last weekend. Even though the crowd was small, we all had a good time and I had a lot of fun making the 20 Vegetable Harvest Chili! Several of you asked for the recipe. I need a little time to scale down my adaptation to a reasonable batch size. In the meantime, here’s the original recipe for Chili Con Carne that I fashioned my recipe off of. It’s a recipe I used as a basis to make chili for the crew when I was cooking as the Seasonal Farm Chef back in 2007! Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Black Nebula Carrots
By Chef Andrea
We have a fun vegetable to feature this week—Black Nebula Carrots! They are such a dark purple color they really do look almost black! This is the first year we’ve grown this variety. Many purple carrots are disappointing because the purple color is only on the skin and once peeled, the purple is gone and you basically have a yellow or orange carrot. When we saw this variety, we were enticed because it was touted to have really good color. Little did we know we had stumbled on a really fun and interesting carrot!
While black carrots are new to us, they are actually the original type of carrot first recorded and thought to have originated in the middle East, specifically Afghanistan. Orange carrots are actually a newer carrot that is the result of horticulturists’ efforts to hybridize older varieties. The original carrots were actually purple/black and yellow. When I first saw this carrot come off the wash line, I have to admit my first thought was “oohh, these are not so beautiful.” We’re accustomed to seeing more refined carrots with uniform shapes, smoother skin, etc. This carrot has a different look that I would describe as being similar to how I would describe an old turtle. This carrot looks ancient and weathered. These carrots are less refined with some odd twists and bumps that make every carrot unique. They also have more root hairs that grow in clumps and don’t come off with washing, giving them kind of a crusty, old look. As I started working with this carrot though, I came to realize its natural beauty and I couldn’t help but think that it also contains an ancient wisdom that will benefit all of us.
There are some things you should understand about this carrot before you use it. For starters, I’d recommend you peel it. This isn’t my typical line, but I do think the finished carrot product benefits from peeling first. You’ll notice the color permeates throughout, right down to the core! The deep, rich color comes from a group of plant compounds called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give fruits and vegetables purple, blue and dark red colors and are found in foods such as beets and blueberries. They are powerful plant compounds that benefit our bodies in a variety of ways. They help prevent cancer, are cardio-protective, anti-inflammatory, and may even benefit our neurological health. The previous sentence doesn’t do justice to the health benefits we reap from eating anthocyanins, which is why it’s so important to include a variety of plants in your diet! The color compounds in these carrots are so rich, some people actually use them as a natural dye for textiles, Easter eggs, etc. Yes, they will stain your hands, possibly your cutting board, and your clothes. I can tell you that the discoloration on your hands will go away in a day or two, especially if you hand wash a few dishes. The stain on my cutting board also faded quickly.
You can eat these carrots both raw and cooked. The purple coloring will spread to other ingredients, just as when making things with red beets. They are delicious roasted, but will also retain their color nicely when stir-fried, boiled and steamed. They also make a beautiful and nutrient dense juice. I didn’t try this myself, but I found several references that say adding an acidic ingredient to the juice, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, will turn the juice bright pink! There are a few traditional preparations from the Middle East that utilize black carrots. The first is called Carrot Kanji. This is a fermented black carrot juice drink that is part of northern Indian culture. It also includes mustard powder and chili powder with the purpose of keeping the body warm in the winter. In Turkey they make Salgam which is another fermented vegetable drink.
As I’m still learning how to use and appreciate this carrot, I decided to start with some simple preparations that would highlight the innate beauty of this unique carrot. So this week’s featured recipes include one simple soup and a salad. Don’t be fooled by their simplicity, they really have a lot of delicious flavor in them and you just feel good knowing you are giving your body such a powerhouse of nutrients! Let me know how you use your carrots and have fun!
Carrot Parsley Salad
Yield: 3-4 cups
4 cups peeled and shredded purple
or orange carrots (1-1.25#)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 medium red onion, small diced
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 to 4 Tbsp cold pressed flax oil or extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
3 Tbsp toasted unhulled sesame seeds, optional
Place shredded carrots in a medium bowl and add the parsley and onion.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, oil and ¼ tsp salt. Whisk to combine and then pour the dressing over the vegetables.
Mix well and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Take a little taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking with additional salt, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar. If using, stir in the toasted sesame seeds.
The salad tastes best when served immediately, but any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
Recipe adapted from Amy Chaplins’ book: At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen.
Roasted Purple Carrot Soup with Curried Lentils
Yield: 3-4 servings as a main or 4-6 servings as a side dish
1.25# purple carrots (3-4 carrots), peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp coconut oil or vegetable oil (divided)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 medium onion, small dice
2-4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 to 1 ⅔ cups coconut milk
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp minced fresh Korean chili or ¼ tsp dried cayenne pepper
¾ cup brown or green lentils
1 ½-2 ½ cups water
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
Cilantro, chopped, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the carrot pieces in a medium bowl, drizzle with 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil or vegetable oil and sprinkle in 1 tsp salt. Toss to combine and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast the carrots for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking. You want the carrots to be tender and just starting to get crispy. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside.
While the carrots are roasting, prepare the remainder of the soup and the lentils. In a medium saucepot, melt 2 tsp coconut oil. When the oil is hot, add ginger and onion and saute until the onions are translucent. Add 2 cups water or vegetable stock and 1 cup coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Cover to keep it warm.
To prepare the lentils, first melt 1 Tbsp oil in a small saucepot. When the oil is hot, add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and fresh or dried chili. Stir to combine and cook briefly until the spices are aromatic.
Stir in the lentils along with 1 ½ cups water. Bring the lentils to a simmer, then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. You may need to add additional water and cook the lentils for an additional 10-20 minutes. You want them to be soft and tender with just a small amount of liquid remaining in the pan. As they start to soften, stir in ½ tsp salt. Once finished, remove from heat and keep warm.
Now it’s time to assemble the soup. Put the roasted carrots in a blender along with the gingered coconut milk mixture. Blend until well combined and very smooth. Taste a little bit. At this point you will likely need to add more liquid to get the soup to the consistency you desire. You can add either more coconut milk, water, or stock. If you add coconut milk the soup will be a little more rich and sweet. Adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and freshly ground black pepper as well.
Return the soup to the pan and bring it to an appropriate serving temperature.
Ladle the soup into a bowl and top with the curried lentils and fresh cilantro.
Recipe adapted from www.nourishdeliciously.com.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Purple or Orange Carrots: Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below)
Jicama: Baked Jicama Chips (see below); Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below)
Cilantro: Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below)
Welcome to another week of CSA eating! This week’s vegetable treasure is a bit less flashy than most vegetables. Jicama is a humble vegetable, but one we’ve come to love and appreciate—both because we like to eat it and because we like the challenge of growing it! It’s often eaten raw as a snack or used in raw salads and slaws. One of this week’s featured recipes is for Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing (see below). Eat this on its own as an accompaniment to a sandwich or bowl of soup, or use it as a topping on tacos or even a lettuce wrap. This recipe for Black Bean Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps calls for serving them with a mango salsa, but they’d also be good with the Jicama Carrot Slaw! The second featured recipe is a simple one, Baked Jicama Chips (see below). Everyone loves a good vegetable chip and of course every chip needs a dip. My suggestion is to turn the poblanos in this week’s box into Caramelized Onion & Roasted Poblano Dip. I’ve mentioned this recipe in previous years because it’s a good one and is on my favorites list! It’s a good dip for chips, but it’s also good on baked potatoes, spread on sandwiches, and stirred into scrambled eggs.
We’re moving into fall greens and that means leafy green salads are back on the menu! This week’s boxes will contain either spinach or baby arugula. Fall greens go very nicely with fall fruit such as pears and apples. This week I have two suggestions for fruity greens salads. The first is an Apple Cranberry Spinach Salad. This salad features fresh apple, dried cranberries, walnuts, feta and a honey-dijon dressing that is more of a vinaigrette than a creamy dressing. You can eat this as a side salad or add some cooked chicken and turn it into a main dish salad. The second recipe is an Arugula Salad with Pears, Prosciutto and Aged Gouda. This is a slightly different take on a dijon based vinaigrette, which is a nice contrast to the fattiness of the prosciutto and gouda as well as the sweet pears. Of course, you can mix and match your greens in these two salads.
We also have salad mix this week! I like to keep a jar of one of my favorite, basic salad dressings handy for quick salads on the fly. One of my favorite go-to recipes is for Balsamic Vinaigrette. If you have a jar of this in the refrigerator, you can build a quick salad in no time at all! Toss it with some fresh salad mix and then start adding toppings as you wish. You might include some thinly sliced red onion, sweet peppers, shredded carrots, dried or fresh fruit, toasted almonds, and the list could go on!
Sadly, this is our last week for leeks. One of our members used her leeks last week to make this classic leek dish, Leeks Vinaigrette. I have to mention it because it is not only a simple, classic way to prepare leeks, but also because she said it’s kid-approved and accepted! Of course, I can’t resist a good quiche and I love the way the silky leeks mix with the creamy custard of a quiche. So, perhaps you’ll join me in making Leek & Mushroom Quiche. Serve it for breakfast, dinner or brunch alongside this Cauliflower Slaw. Of course you can substitute broccoli Romanesco for the cauliflower in this recipe. This dish also includes some sweet, dried currants, toasted almonds, and a light vinegar based dressing.
Eggs are typically in abundance around here and Richard always loves a good deviled egg. How about making these Jalapeno Popper Deviled Eggs! Eat them as a snack, add them to a dinner menu, or pack them and take them for lunch!
Lastly, while food is our medicine on a day to day basis, sometimes during the winter cold and flu season we need a little extra immunity protection. Start now and make this Honey Fermented Garlic. Keep a jar of this in your kitchen and use it as your own homemade way to prevent and ward off colds, flu, etc this weekend.
That brings us to the bottom of the box. Before I close, I want to extend one final invitation to you to join us at our Harvest Party this coming Sunday. We’ll have lots of good food, games, activities and more. We hope you’ll join us for the day and come prepared to reap the benefits of being immersed in nature!
Vegetable Feature: Jicama
Jicama is the odd-shaped vegetable with brown skin occupying one corner of this week’s CSA box. It is also known as yam bean, Mexican yam or Mexican turnip and is native to Mexico. The name of this vegetable is pronounced [HICK-uh-mah] or [HEE-kuh-mah]. It is a tropical plant that resembles a bean plant with bean-like vines and seed pods. The jicama grows underground and is a tuber that can produce multiple tubers off the one main stem.
On the outside jicama is not the most attractive or flashy vegetable. Peel away the brown, leathery skin and you’ll find a solid white flesh inside that is mild in flavor, crunchy with a slight sweetness and slightly starchy. You can eat jicama both raw and cooked. One of the most basic ways to eat jicama is to slice it into sticks and give it a squeeze of lime juice and a light sprinkling of chili powder and salt. Jicama also pairs well with fruit including citrus (oranges, grapefruit, limes), pineapple, mango, and apples. It is common to see jicama slaws, salads and salsas that also include fruit. It also pairs well with avocado, hot and sweet peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, seafood, onions, and garlic to name just a few complementary ingredients. In Asian cuisine you may find jicama used in stir-fry type preparations. When stir-fried, jicama should be added towards the end of cooking to retain the crisp texture. If you let it get just slightly soft, it has almost a potato-like flavor and texture.
When we first started growing jicama, we realized by accident just how important post-harvest handling is to the overall quality of the vegetable. Jicama needs to be “cured,” similar to how we cure sweet potatoes after they are harvested. We held the jicama in one of our greenhouses for a week after harvest at a temperature of 68-77°F with high humidity of about 95%. This process helped to set the delicate skins so they will store better. Jicama is very sensitive to chill injury, so it is best to store it on your kitchen counter until you are ready to use it. If you store it in the refrigerator, you’ll notice the quality will deteriorate quite quickly. Once you cut into it, store any cut jicama in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days.
We can’t deliver jicama without giving credit to one of our crew members, Jose Antonio Cervantes Gutierrez (aka JAC). JAC is responsible for introducing jicama to Harmony Valley Farm. Without his influence, we likely wouldn’t be growing this vegetable! One day we were working in the greenhouse and he presented me with a handful of seeds in a small packet. He asked if I thought we could grow it here? Well, I had no idea how to grow jicama and had only eaten it several times. We decided to give it a try and after several years of learning we are finally getting good results! I asked him why he brought those seeds with him when he came to work here that year. There is a large farm not far from where he lives that grows large amounts of jicama. He would pass by their fields, see the jicama and was intrigued by it. He said he brought them because he had tried planting them at home, but couldn’t ever watch them grow because he had to leave to come here to work! So, he brought the seeds with him so we could plant them here and he could watch them develop! JAC’s favorite way to eat jicama is to eat it raw with a squeeze of lime juice and salt or lime juice and a sprinkling of Tajin, a seasoning mix made from salt and a specific type of chile.
We don’t grow jicama every year, but it has a permanent spot on our list of “vegetables we grow every 2-3 years.” We’re grateful to JAC for introducing us to something new and we’re glad you, our members, have grown to appreciate it too!
Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Honey-Lime Dressing
Yield: 8 servings
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp fresh lime juice
¾ tsp honey
¼ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp salt
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound jicama peeled & thinly sliced (1 small or half of a large)
2 large or 4 small carrots, grated
3 Tbsp minced cilantro
½ jalapeño pepper, seeded & minced
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, honey, cumin and salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the jicama, carrot, cilantro and jalapeño pepper.
Add the dressing and toss to coat.
Baked Jicama Chips
Yield: 4 servings
2 medium or 1 large jicama, peeled
2 tsp olive oil
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or baking racks if you have them.
Cut the jicama into super thin slices. Try to achieve similar thickness with all the pieces. You can cut the jicama using a mandolin or just a sharp knife.
In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, lime juice and zest, chili powder and salt. Add the jicama slices, and mix well so that all the slices are fully coated.
Place the slices of jicama in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, or until they begin to brown and get crispy.
By Farmer Richard
Harvest crews working to gather harvest before the storms hit
Recently we came up on the one year anniversary of the 2018 fall floods. While we are thankful we have not experienced another major weather event like that in this growing season, the weather patterns of 2019 have made this season another extremely challenging year to be farming. We started out with a cold and wet spring which made planting seeds and transplanting plants from the greenhouse very challenging! We are all avid weather map and forecast watchers and our crew is 110% with us. We made good planning decisions and when a hint of dry weather looked imminent, we pulled out all the stops to prepare ground, plant and transplant. On those days, we worked until it was too dark to see and if the forecasted rain missed us we continued the next morning. We pushed the limits, we transplanted in the rain, we harvested in the rain. We had to take some time off when the storms were severe. When we did get some fast, heavy rains, the extensive repair work we did to creek bottoms and berms last fall proved to be effective and mostly held and protected fields!
Black Futsu Pumpkin plants starting to
flower earlier this season
Despite the challenges, we did manage to plant all our crops fairly timely, even when it was wet and cold. In late May and early June the weather shifted to the other end of the spectrum and became extremely hot and humid! The heat loving plants took off and made up for lost time! Unfortunately, so did the weeds. We had to play our cards right to make weed control a priority when it was dry enough and pushed the limits at times to complete some critical cultivation. Hot and wet weather also brings its own problems with disease, poor pollination and even nutrient problems. In early summer we were seeing some disease and fertility problems in some of our crops. We collected leaves from some of the affected plants and sent them off to a laboratory for a sap analysis (kind of like a blood test for plants) to diagnose the problems. With results in hand, we set out to correct some nutrient and microbial deficiencies likely caused by the excess water. We applied copious amounts of beneficial organisms, soluble nutrients and trace minerals that the plants needed and saw some dramatic responses in our pepper, eggplant and squash crops. We also had several weeks of growth during that hot period where plants that should have been setting fruit were not doing so (tomatoes, melons, squash and watermelons), which resulted in low yields. Despite our best efforts, only one of our five sweet corn plantings was the quality we had hoped for. Sadly, the cold wet conditions followed by the hot and wet weather not only took a toll on our crops, but our native pollinators as well. We rely on their services and were concerned that many of our native pollinator creatures were very late to show up. Thankfully the populations seem to have recovered. While we all would’ve liked to have seen more tomatoes and sweet corn in the box, we have been able to include most items we had planned for in the CSA boxes. So, while you may have been just minimally affected by our crop deficits, our bottom line has taken a hit with some of our crops that we plan to have in quantities that allow us to supply CSA boxes and then have extra to sell to wholesale buyers. The good news is, we did have some better weather in August and our fall crops actually look quite nice! Time and again, Mother Nature continues to provide for us, even when she’s at times a bit cantankerous.
Farmer Richard inspecting cover crop
As we head into fall, we’re happy to report our cover crop plantings have been timely and some fields have well-established cover crops that we’ll reap the benefits of next year. Some of our fall crops are coming in ahead of schedule, including celeriac, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips and winter storage radishes. We’ve already started harvesting many of our root crops and will continue doing so until they’re all in. The sweet potatoes look promising, but need a couple more weeks of growth. Fall greens, such as escarole, look very nice, but the recent 80°F weather has them coming in earlier than we had hoped for. Sadly, we did lose 50% of our spinach stand last week when we had 4.5 inch or rain, but we have more plantings coming and they look promising. In the midst of vegetable farming, we’ve also managed to get sufficient hay put away for our animals despite forecasts of hay shortages in the rest of the farming community. If Mother Nature will afford us just get a couple of dry weeks to get our roots harvested and plant garlic, sunchokes and horseradish for next year, we would be most grateful.
Despite the challenges of this season, we are proud of the CSA boxes we have delivered this year. The boxes have been plentiful, colorful and delicious. If you’ve been pleased with your shares this year, we’d appreciate your help in spreading the good word about our CSA to your friends, family members, work associates, etc. We’re hopeful that our membership numbers will grow for the 2020 season, but we need your help to make that happen! Yes, we’re already laying out plans for next year!
As I reflect on the past few months, I realize we have learned a lot from this season! As we’ve dealt with crop challenges due to fertility, etc, we have all became more aware of the very subtle differences in the many shades of green of our plants which will help us care for our plants better in the future. We watched for blossoms, pollinators and fruit set as we learned to observe and listen to our plants more closely. As we learn more about the value of our microbial communities in the soil, we have gained a new appreciation for the role they play in our environment and still have trouble fathoming the billions of micro-organisms that surround us! We realize we are all part of a living organism. There is a life force that emanates from the soil, the plants, the animals and people. The many families that depend on our farm and the many that we provide nourishing food for are all a part of our farm and community. I want to close with a quote from an interview with Michael Phillips, an organic orchardist growing in New Hampshire. He wrote a book entitled Mycorrhizal Planet
and was featured in an interview in a recent issue of Acres
magazine. He says “The plants and fungi have always sung what I think of as a soil redemption song—and they’ll continue to sing it—and that is what makes life possible on earth. Our job is to emulate all these good teachings and to make it part of our agriculture, part of our communities, part of our innate understanding of what it is to be a caring human on this blessed planet.”
Cooking With This Week's Box
Welcome back to another week of cooking! We are officially two-thirds of the way through the 2019 CSA season. Can you believe it?! Things are happening fast here at the farm. Summer crops are winding down and as they do, fields are cleaned up, cover crops are seeded and we’re getting ready to put them to bed for the winter. Root crop harvest is underway and we continue the transition to fall vegetables and dishes. This week we’re featuring broccoli raab, a vegetable we started growing because customers were asking for it! We’ve found fall is the best tasting time of year to grow this vegetable. This week’s recipe is a main dish Mediterranean Gratin with Almond Breadcrumbs (see below). While many gratins are rich and creamy, this is a lighter gratin. Imagine you’re sitting on the coast of Italy when you eat it, sipping a glass of red wine. This gratin features sweet peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic that are then combined with broccoli raab and either beans or ground pork. The acidity of the vegetables mellows out the broccoli raab and the crunchy topping helps bring it altogether. I also want to mention this recipe we featured last year for Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Raab. It’s easy and delicious and you might just find it can be a family favorite.
I’ve been waiting for our Korean peppers to ripen to red, as that is when I believe they have the best flavor. Thankfully they’re ready to send to you this week! If this looks like a lot of hot peppers, don’t worry, I’m going to tell you what to do with them! Last year when we featured this vegetable I shared two simple recipes. The first is for a HVF Fresh Korean Chili-Garlic Sauce. This is very similar to gouchujang, a traditional Korean chili paste that is used extensively in Korean inspired cuisine. Last year I made a batch of this and then divided it into small jars and put it in the freezer. I thawed them one at a time and used little bits at a time when I needed some heat in a dish. I also used it to make these Spicy Korean Style Gochujang Meatballs. They were so delicious! Tuck this recipe away and make these meatballs for your 2020 Super Bowl Party! The other recipe you can make with the Korean chili peppers is for Salt-Cured Chiles. I kept a jar of these in my refrigerator all winter long and just pulled from it little by little whenever I needed a little heat in a stir-fry, taco meat, etc. Even if you aren’t into hot peppers, I encourage you to make one or both of these recipes and use the peppers throughout the fall and winter. While these are hot peppers, they are very flavorful and you can get the effect of the flavor without burning your tongue off! Adjust how much you use to your liking.
While we’re talking hot peppers, lets deal with jalapenos too! How about this recipe for Jalapeno Popper Dip?! This would be another good Super Bowl party recipe. Freeze the jalapenos and you can make it this winter!
I always think about using leeks in a traditional potato leek soup, but I probably wouldn’t have thought to make Potato Leek Pizza! One of our members posted her version of Potato Leek Pizza which included bacon. What a great idea! I also remembered this recipe for Carbonara with Leeks, Lemon and Bacon. This was a popular recipe when we posted it several years and it’s perfect for this week because it also includes corn and sweet peppers!
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to eat baby arugula. I like the flavor of arugula better once we start to have more mild temperatures and the pungency and bite of arugula pairs well with fall fruit such as apples, cranberries and pears. This week I’m going to use the baby arugula to make this Arugula Salad with Walnuts, Blue Cheese, and Cranberries. This would be delicious as a side along with a pasta or pizza dinner.
It’s nice to have lettuce back as an option for salads as well. The Green Boston Lettuce this week has tender, more delicate leaves, thus is best used with a light vinaigrette instead of a heavy creamy dressing. Use it to make this Boston Lettuce Salad with Citrus Honey Vinaigrette.
Last, but not least, we’re happy to have cauliflower and broccoli Romanesco coming in! I came across this recipe for Cauliflower Patties. I’ve never used cauliflower for anything like this, but they look cheesy, garlicky and delicious. Paired with one of the aforementioned salads, they would be a great dinner option. I also like just a simple roasted broccoli Romanesco, so might just have to do this recipe for Garlic and Lemon Roasted Broccoli Romanesco.
photo by Mark Weinberg, from food52.com
That’s a wrap folks. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to mark your calendars for Sunday, September 29 and plan to join us for a fun day at the farm as we celebrate fall with our annual Harvest Party! I’m planning to make a delicious vegetable chili featuring 20 different vegetables! Think I can pull that off? Come find out and see if you can guess all 20 vegetables!
Have a great week—Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Broccoli Raab
In this week’s box you’ll find a big bunch of green leaves. Wondering what it is? It’s broccoli raab! While its name would lead you to believe it’s a type of broccoli, it actually is in the mustard family. It is considered to be a slightly spicy bitter green, although this effect is minimized by growing it in cooler temperatures. We find the flavor of this green to be more balanced and pleasing when we grow it in the fall compared to when we grew it in the spring and summer. If you look closely near the base of the stem, you just might see a little broccoli-like head starting to push up through the center of the plant.
While this green may be found all over the world, it’s typically associated with Italian food, a region of the world where this green is quite popular. Broccoli Raab pairs well with ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, almonds, olives, white beans, sausage or pork cuts and red pepper flakes. When you’re looking at recipes that use broccoli raab, you’ll typically find many of these ingredients. In many traditional Italian recipes, broccoli raab is prepared very simply by cooking it along with garlic in olive oil until it is very soft and tender and then is finished with a splash of vinegar. Fatty olive oil and tangy vinegar help to tone down the bitterness. While you can eat broccoli raab raw, it is most always cooked. It’s tender enough that it doesn’t require a very long cooking time, unless you prefer to have it super soft! It can be boiled, steamed or sautéed. Broccoli raab is often used in pasta and bean dishes, but it can also be incorporated into toasted vegetable sandwiches, pizza, soups, etc.
Store this green in a bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Wash it well in a sink of cold water, then shake off extra water before using. Nearly all of the plant is usable. I generally just trim off the lower portion of the thicker stems.
Mediterranean Gratin with Almond Breadcrumbs
Yield: 6-8 servings
12 oz penne or other similar pasta
1 pound ground pork OR 1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced sweet peppers
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes
½ cup pitted black olives, chopped (optional)
¼ cup fresh or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 cup dried bread crumbs or panko
½ cup toasted raw almonds, finely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup red wine
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch broccoli raab
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
While you assemble the components for the gratin, preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes. You want the noodles to be starting to soften, but you do not want them fully cooked. Once they are cooked to this point, drain the pasta. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
If you choose to use ground pork, preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the ground pork, then remove it from the pan and set aside. Clean out the pan and then return it to the heat to proceed with cooking the onions. If you are not using the pork, just skip this step and move on to step 3.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the preheated skillet. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Saute the onions for 10-14 minutes, or until softened and starting to caramelize. You may need to reduce the heat to medium low to keep the onions from frying and browning. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, olives, parsley, 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to the pan. Saute the vegetables for another 8-10 minutes.
While the vegetables are simmering, you can prepare the topping. In a small mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, finely chopped almonds, Parmesan Cheese, ½ tsp salt and 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Stir to combine.
Next, add the red wine, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar to the pan with the vegetables. Continue to simmer for another 10-12 minutes or until the tomatoes are very soft and the liquid has reduced by about half to two-thirds.
Chop the broccoli raab into bite sized pieces and add to the pan. Stir to combine. As the greens wilt down, continue to stir them into the vegetable mixture. Add the pork or beans, then simmer an additional 5-10 minutes. Taste a little bit of the mixture and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more vinegar, salt and pepper as needed. At this point you want there to be some liquid in the pan, but it shouldn’t be soupy. If it looks like there’s too much liquid, simmer an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Put the cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add the hot vegetable mixture. Stir to combine well and then spread it in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spread the bread crumb and almond mixture evenly over the top of the pasta mixture. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the base is bubbly.
Remove from the oven and serve while warm.
Recipe adapted from one in Mark Bittman’s book Dinner for Everyone.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Jalapeno Peppers: Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos & Chipotle Crema (see below)
Delicata Squash: Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos & Chipotle Crema (see below)
Lets kick off this week’s Cooking With the Box discussion with two simple recipes that just might have a chance at being family favorites. Lets start with dessert first. Last year I found Deborah Madison’s recipe for Fall Flan with Maple Yogurt and Caramel Pecans (see below). It was actually a sweet potato flan recipe, but it is just as delicious with winter squash as it is with sweet potatoes! I adapted the name to “Fall Flan” and here you go. I really like this recipe because it’s very simple and streamlined. Basically all the flan ingredients go into the blender to be mixed, then you pour it directly into custard cups or ramekins and bake it in the oven. Once it’s baked and cooled, you can serve it with a dollop of maple yogurt (simply stir maple syrup into plain yogurt) and, if you want to go all out, make the caramelized pecans to put on top. If you’re short on time you could also just do a spoonful of premade vanilla yogurt and some simple chopped nuts. Besides being simple to make, I like this recipe because it relies on the sweetness of the vegetable along with a little maple syrup to give it its sweetness. Aside from the touch of sugar on the nuts, there is no refined sugar in the recipe! I also like it because it can be dessert, an after-school snack, or you could even have it in the morning for breakfast. It’s delicious eaten warm, at room temperature, or chilled. You could even bake it in short pint jars so you can put a lid on it and take it to go for lunch!
The second recipe we’re featuring this week is a Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapenos & Chipotle Crema (see below). Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe. There are multiple steps to get all of the quesadilla components prepped, but once you have the components it takes no time to make the quesadilla. This is a good recipe to prep on the weekends so you can pull off a simple, hot dinner in 15 minutes or less during the week! This recipe calls for delicate squash, but you could also use sugar dumpling, butternut or even kabocha squash in its place. The key is to keep the slices of squash thin.
If you aren’t feeling like quesadillas this week, how about pizza? This recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash and Poblano Pizza also caught my eye and is a great recipe for this week’s vegetables. It calls for butternut squash, but you could use roasted kabocha squash or even the delicate in its place. Top it off with some crumbles of queso fresco and fresh cilantro for a tasty vegetable pizza!
I have to admit, tomatoes have been a challenge this year and we haven’t been able to offer you the variety and quantity we had planned for. Nonetheless, we’re thankful for what we have and still can enjoy a few old favorite recipes as well as a few new ones! This past week I came across this simple, yet flavorful, recipe for Tomato Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas. While the rice is cooking, you mix fresh garlic with lemon, chopped walnuts, basil and olive oil. That makes a dressing of sorts that is tossed with tomatoes, cooked rice and chickpeas. This makes a delicious vegetarian main dish, or you could serve a smaller portion as a side dish along with chicken, fish or steak. Any kind of tomato can work in this dish.
While we’re talking about tomatoes, I should mention this recipe for Cod with Leeks and Tomatoes. This is a light dinner option featuring the lean cod with tangy tomatoes and silky leeks. A nice, light simple meal to mark the final days of summer.
What do you do when you only have a few ears of corn to work with? Use the corn as an accent ingredient instead of the main attraction! I love adding a small amount of fresh corn to dishes because it lends a little pop of sweetness, color and a little texture contrast. Here is a simple recipe for Pasta with Swiss Chard & Corn. This is a pretty quick and easy recipe to assemble. If you have some leftover chicken or steak you could toss it in for a little extra protein, or even stir in a can of tuna. Here’s another take on corn with pasta in this Bell Pepper & Corn Pasta Salad. This is a colorful salad featuring sweet peppers, red onions, corn and fresh herbs. The recipe calls for basil and parsley, but if you could also use some of the cilantro in this week’s box if you like. Take this for lunch along with a deli meat sandwich or serve it for dinner with a grilled burger.
I love chard because it can be used in so many different ways, both raw and cooked. If you haven’t yet found a use for it this week, consider making this Restorative Rainbow Chard & Leek Soup. I like to balance some rich meals with some lighter meals and this soup works for that purpose. Silky leeks mingle with the chard leaves which soften in the hot broth. Arborio rice adds some starch and body to the soup and it’s finished with fresh herbs.
It must be a pasta kind of week! I have two more recipes based on pasta. Check out this colorful Beet Pesto & Greens Pasta! This recipe uses both the beet roots and the green tops! While we typically make pesto from green leafy vegetables, this recipe turns the root into a “pesto” type sauce that is tossed with the pasta and the greens are wilted in with the hot sauce and pasta. This will definitely be an attention getter!
And the final pasta recipe of the week, 15 Minute Lo Mein. I like vegetable lo mein because you can eat it hot or at room temperature and you can toss in any vegetables you want! Carrots, sweet peppers, onions, etc are excellent options for the week, but you could also include the leeks. Kids will love this recipe too, I mean who doesn’t love a bowl of noodles!
Ok, we’re rolling into the home stretch. If pasta wasn’t comforting enough, read on for a few more comfort food ideas! Mashed potatoes anyone? I had forgotten about this recipe for Sweet Pepper Mashed Potatoes that I developed several years ago. Purple Viking potatoes are a great choice for this recipe. You can use either the Ukraine or Italian Frying peppers to make this recipe. These potatoes are light and fluffy and full of flavor! Serve these with Skirt Steak with Cilantro Garlic Sauce for a complete meal option.
I grew up in a meat and potatoes Mennonite community. At nearly every celebration dinner or potluck they would serve either mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes. So, if you don’t make the mashed potatoes this week, consider Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks!
Ok, we started this week’s chat with something sweet, so lets end it on a sweet note as well! Lets turn those carrots into some kind of a baked treat this week. Perhaps a loaf of this Carrot Coconut Bread or this Easy Carrot Coffee Cake. Both would be a great option to enjoy as you sip your Sunday morning coffee, read the newspaper and embark on a day of relaxation.
And that officially brings us to the bottom of another box. I’ll see you back again next week! Cross your fingers for a little more corn and get ready for the Korean chili peppers! Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Orange Kabocha Squash
By Andrea Yoder
This week we’re packing one of our longtime favorite squash varieties, orange kabocha. You’ll recognize this squash by its bright orange skin and rounded, disc-like shape. This variety is also sometimes called a Japanese Pumpkin and is similar to other squash varieties such as orange kuri and buttercup. The flesh is dark orange in color and has a silky, custard-like texture when cooked.
This is a versatile squash and may be used for a variety of preparations including soup, puree, baked goods, curries, stews or simply roasted. Most of the time this variety may be used in recipes that call for buttercup, butternut, or orange kuri as well as any recipe calling for pumpkin. The flavor of this squash is excellent and surpasses even the best tasting pumpkin.
There are several ways you can cook this squash. My easy, low maintenance method is to just cut the squash in half, remove the seed cavity and put the squash halves, cut side down, in a baking dish. Add a little bit of water to the pan and bake the squash at 350°F until the squash is soft and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and turn the halves over so they can cool. Once cool enough to handle, scoop the cooked flesh out of the shell and either mash or puree the flesh. You can use it to make a simple squash puree seasoned with spices of your choosing and a pat of butter. Orange kabocha puree can also be used in baked goods and desserts. This rich, sweet flesh makes a delicious pie filling and yields rich, moist, flavorful quickbreads, muffins, pudding and soufflé.
Aside from baking, kabocha squash may also be roasted or simply steamed. In Japanese cuisine, kabocha squash are also referred to as Japanese pumpkins. Known for their simple, clean preparations, you’ll find Japanese recipes for kabocha squash to be equally as simple with just a few ingredients. Slices or chunks of kabocha squash are often steamed or simmered in a simple dashi broth with kombu seaweed and sometimes miso, soy sauce and sometimes sake. This is a classic and common way to prepare kabocha squash in Japan. It is often a component in Japanese bento boxes (healthy Japanese take out) and is often served as a side dish. You can also roast kabocha squash as you would prepare any other root vegetable or potato for roasting. When prepared this way the exterior of the squash gets nice and crispy while the flesh inside stays moist and sweet.
One Pot Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry
While this squash can usually be held for longer storage, I would encourage you to eat this week’s selection sooner than later. We’ve already seen some of them starting to deteriorate, so watch them carefully and if you notice any spots starting to form on the exterior, cut that area out of the squash and cook the remainder immediately.
Fall Flan with Maple Yogurt and Caramel Pecans
Yield: 6 servings
1 cup cooked, mashed winter squash (kabocha or butternut) or sweet potatoes
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ tsp ground ginger
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Caramel Pecans & Maple Yogurt:
1 tsp butter
½ cup pecans
1 tsp sugar
1 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp maple syrup
- Heat the oven to 325°F. In a blender, combine the squash or sweet potato, spices, maple syrup, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and ¼ tsp salt and puree until smooth. Divide the puree among six custard dishes.
- Put the custard dishes in a baking pan and pour hot water into the pan until it reaches at least an inch up the sides of the dishes. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. The flans should be set and barely quiver when shaken. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- While the flans are cooling, melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Add the pecans, dust them with the sugar, and turn to coat evenly. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted, caramelized, and coats the nuts. Turn the nuts out onto a plate, add a pinch or two of salt, and let cool. Chop finely or coarsely, as you like.
- In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup and the yogurt. Taste, and add more maple syrup if you wish. Serve the flan topped with a spoonful of maple yogurt and a little heap of chopped crisped pecans.
This recipe is an adaptation of one originally published by Deborah Madison in her book, Vegetable Literacy.
Squash & Poblano Quesadilla with Pickled Jalapeños & Chipotle Crema
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1-2 delicata or sugar dumpling squash, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
2 poblano peppers, deseeded and sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
3-4 Tbsp sunflower oil, divided
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 can (16 oz) refried black beans
⅓ cup water
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
8-12 small corn or flour tortillas
Pickled Jalapeños (optional):
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup sour cream
¼ tsp chipotle powder
Juice of ½ a lime
Salsa, for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
If making the pickled jalapeño, put salt and vinegar in a bowl, stir to dissolve the salt. Add the jalapeño slices and let set until ready to serve.
Prepare the spice mixture by combining garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, cumin, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Note: Half of the spice mixture will be used for roasting the squash and onions. The remainder will be used for the refried beans.
Place squash slices in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with sunflower oil and sprinkle with about ¼ of the spice mixture. Toss to combine and coat the squash pieces evenly, then spread in an even layer on one of the baking sheets. Repeat the process with the sliced onions and poblano peppers, spreading them in an even layer on the second baking sheet.
Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes or until slightly browned and cooked through. Once the vegetables are done, remove from the oven and cool slightly.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the refried beans. Add 1 Tbsp oil to a small pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sautè for 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining spice mixture and the beans. Stir for a minute. Add water and bring to a simmer. Let the beans simmer over low heat for 10 minutes with the lid on. Remove from heat and set aside.
While the beans are simmering, make the crema. Combine sour cream, chipotle powder and lime in a bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
Prepare the quesadillas: Spread a thin layer of refried beans on each of four-six tortillas (depending on the size). Divide and evenly spread the squash, onions and peppers on each tortilla. Top each with shredded cheese, then press another tortilla on top, gently.
Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add just enough oil to lightly coat the pan. Once the oil shimmers, carefully place the quesadilla in the pan, cheese side down. Cook until the bottom side is golden brown, then carefully turn the quesadilla and repeat on the other side. Repeat the process until all quesadillas are toasted.
Cut each quesadilla into halves or quarters and serve, hot, with the crema, pickled jalapeño slices, cilantro and salsa of your choosing.
Recipe adapted from tuttalavita.ca
By Chef Andrea
Winter squash…where do I start!? Growing up we ate squash in basically one of two ways—pie or a simple puree with butter. It really wasn’t one of my favored foods and I had no idea winter squash could be used in so many ways! I also had no idea there were so many different kinds of winter squash! In my world, I only knew buttercup (my mom’s favorite), crookneck (the giant ones my grandma grew to make pies), butternut and acorn (likely the two most well-known). Now that I’ve expanded my culinary and agricultural boundaries, I realize the world of winter squash has so much more to offer, both in variety and culinary experiences. So, if you’re in the group of folks who are yet to embrace winter squash, I encourage you to keep reading. Trust me, there are so many ways to prepare squash, there have to be at least a few keepers for your recipe collection!
Last week we officially finished our 2019 winter squash harvest! Winter squash can easily be damaged by a frost, especially if the vines have started to die back, exposing the squash. This year the squash were ready well ahead of the first frost and are now safely tucked away in one of our greenhouses for storage. Over the next few months we’ll be packing a variety of different squash varieties in your boxes, each with different characteristics and attributes. While there are hundreds of different types of winter squash, we have narrowed the selection to less than 10 categories. We’re starting off the season with Delicata or Sugar Dumpling and Kabocha squash. Over the next few months you’ll also receive several different types of butternut squash, spaghetti squash, festival, and the newest kid on the block, black futsu.
When the seed catalogs come in December, it’s easy to be wooed by all the different varieties. As we make our selections we have several different criteria in mind. First of all, we’ve trialed a lot of squash over the years so we tend to stick with some of our historically strong producers, ones that have disease resistance and are high yielding. But those aren’t the only two qualities we look at. Of course, it has to taste good! We are looking for varieties that are both sweet and flavorful. Spaghetti squash is really the only squash we grow that is not intended to be sweet, but we have chosen the variety we believe has the best flavor! We also want to keep things interesting for you over the course of the final few months of our CSA season, so we try to grow squash that have different colors, shapes, textures and uses. While we intend for you to (eventually) eat the winter squash, they can also add beauty to your home in the meantime!
As we journey through the season, watch your What’s In the Box
newsletter for more detailed information about the individual varieties of squash. For now, I’m going to cover some basic information applicable to most varieties. First, the ideal temperature for storing squash is between 45° and 55°F. This is a bit more chilly than most of your homes, so know that it’s ok to store them on your kitchen counter at a warmer temperature as long as you keep your eye on them. You do not want to store squash in the refrigerator
or in an uninsulated garage where the temperatures could dip below 45°F once winter sets in. At temperatures less than 45°F squash is vulnerable to chill injury. You need to check in on your squash periodically. If you notice any sort of a spot starting to form or any signs of deterioration, you need to intervene immediately. A small spot doesn’t mean the squash is bad or needs to be composted, rather it means you need to eat it right away! Just cut away the bad spot and use the rest. If you leave it unattended, the spot will continue to grow and consume your squash….which is what we do not want to happen! Even if you are not quite ready to eat the squash, I encourage you to cook it anyway. Winter squash is a great vegetable to cook in advance and freeze. It’s super quick and easy to pull precooked squash out of the freezer in the middle of the winter and heat it up to eat as a side dish or incorporate it into baked goods or other dishes. The main thing is, don’t let it go to waste! If I have a pile of squash on my counter, I like to bake a lot at one time…the oven is already hot, and if you’re going to make a mess it’s better to clean up just once!
Before we officially move on from the topic of storage, it’s important to understand that not all winter squash are intended for long term storage. There are some squash varieties that naturally have a thinner skin and/or higher sugar content. Typically, these are the squash that will taste the best right out of the field. However, these are not the varieties of squash we would expect to store well into the winter. The thicker the skin, the greater protection for the squash. We handle squash very carefully when we’re harvesting and packing it, taking care not to damage the skin which can become an entry point for bacteria and cause the squash to deteriorate. But life happens and chances are your squash may get a bump along the way, which is why we encourage you to stay in tune with your squash! Squash that are high in natural sugars are great, but typically don’t have as long of a life. So that’s another consideration to keep in mind when storing squash. Finally, the storage potential of squash is directly related to field conditions. If we’ve had a wet, cold season and there is leaf disease in the field, the squash are generally more vulnerable to decay in storage and won’t last as long. In other years that are more dry and we see less disease pressure, we see very little decay in storage and can often store squash until the next spring!
Now that you know how to store squash, lets talk about eating it! Winter squash is easy to cook and you have several options. The method I employ most frequently is to simply cut the squash in half, scrape out the seed cavity, and bake it. I place it, cut side down, in a baking dish and add a little bit of water to the pan, enough to cover the bottom of the pan and come up about ¼-½ an inch on the squash. I bake it in the oven at about 350°F until it is tender when poked with a fork. Once tender, I remove them from the oven and flip them over so the cut side is up. I allow them to rest until they are cool enough to handle, then scoop out the flesh. I usually puree the flesh in a food processor so it is smooth. Now it’s ready for use in soups, desserts, etc. This is the easiest method, but you don’t always want puree, sometimes you want chunks or pieces to work with. Most winter squash needs to be peeled, but there are some varieties with thinner skin that can be eaten. The Delicata and kabocha squash we’re delivering this week are two varieties that have thinner skin and many people choose not to peel them. It’s totally up to you! Where I’m going is that squash can be cut into chunks or smaller pieces to be roasted, boiled, steamed, baked or otherwise incorporated into dishes, etc. I also want to mention that the seeds of many varieties are also edible! Typically the smaller squash have more tender seeds, whereas kabocha seeds generally have a thicker skin and are not as tasty. Once you scoop them out, rinse them to remove any flesh, then dry them in a dehydrator or just air dry. After they are dried, you can toast them as you would toast any other nut or seed either in a hot pan on the stove top or in the oven.
As with many different vegetables, I always like to look around the world to see how different cultures use squash. Squash is one of those vegetables that is found worldwide, so there are a lot of different possibilities to explore! I’m fascinated by Japanese culture and was interested to find out that two of our new squash trials this year are actually varieties originating in Japan. The Black Futsu Pumpkin is a Japanese heirloom variety and Tetsukabuto means “steele helmet” in Japanese. It was touted as the “squash to survive the apocalypse” by the seed catalog, which is another way of indicating that it has the potential to be stored for a really long time! In Japan, kabocha squash in particular is a common food and is often eaten as a side dish. It is also prepared with tempura. You’ll also find winter squash in Asian cuisine such as Thai curries and stir-fries. It’s also a part of the diets of different European countries where it is used to make gratins, silky soups, souffles, desserts and more. Winter squash is also part of Middle Eastern cultures, showing up in Arabic stews and preparations alongside ingredients such as lamb, tahini, and pomegranate.
Winter squash can be incorporated into any meal of the day! Use it to make frittatas, quiche and breakfast casseroles or stir squash puree into oatmeal or even a breakfast smoothie! You can incorporate winter squash into desserts such as the flan recipe featured in our vegetable feature about kabocha squash. Some varieties are also delicious to use for making cheesecake, breads, cookies, cakes, pies and more. Roasted squash can become a topping for pizza, or use it to make quesadillas and pasta dishes. Don’t be afraid to incorporate squash into preparations like risotto, croquettes, fritters and dumplings.
If you ever find yourself wondering what to do with winter squash and can’t find ANYTHING to make with it, give me a call or send me an email. I’m certain I can find something you can make with it!
Cooking With This Week's Box
This week we move into late summer as we start the transition into fall. Peppers are ripening like crazy, zucchini production is tapering off, melons and watermelons are nearly finished, and we’ve started winter squash and root crop harvest. I enjoy cooking with vegetables coming in this time of year as most of them are very versatile and can play well with summer vegetables and fall vegetables. A good example of this is this week’s featured vegetable, leeks. Leeks are a late season allium, the last allium we’ll harvest this year. There are classical preparations that pair leeks with summer vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, but they also complement fall vegetables like spaghetti squash and celeriac. So this week we’re featuring two recipes. The first is a Herbed Leek Tart (see below) that is very simple and in terms of tarts, it’s on the rustic end. You don’t need a tart pan to make this one, it’s more of a crostata where the pastry is just laid out on a baking sheet and is folded around the filling. This filling is a simple leek, herb and sweet pepper filling. This could serve as dinner along with salad or a bowl of soup. Leftovers reheat well and are good eaten either hot or at room temperature.
The second recipe this week pairs leeks with celeriac, more of a fall root vegetable. This is a simple recipe for Celeriac & Leek Soup (see below), courtesy of Farmer Andrea Bemis. It’s a lean soup based on leeks, celeriac and potato to thicken it. At the end you stir in a dollop of crème fraiche or yogurt to add some richness to the soup and bring it together. The combination of leeks and celeriac makes a nice silky, smooth soup.
If you don’t use celeriac to make the featured soup recipe, consider making this Wild Rice & Celeriac Gratin. You can keep it vegetable based, or it’s also good with chunks of chicken or turkey mixed in.
This week in our Facebook Group a member shared this recipe for Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad, a recipe I’m anxious to try. This salad is built off of a base of cabbage and is topped with toasted almonds and ramen noodles as well as mango and edamame. The whole thing is dressed with a simple Asian vinaigrette that you make by shaking all the ingredients in a jar. You can make this salad now, or save this recipe and squirrel away some edamame in the freezer so you can make it later in the fall or winter when cabbage is abundant. This is a nice refreshing salad to liven up your winter mealscape. I also think it would be nice to add some thinly sliced sweet peppers or shredded carrots for some extra flavor and crunch.
While tomatoes haven’t been as plentiful this summer, the tomatillos have been producing very well! If you’re tomatillo-ed out for now, I encourage you to make another batch of tomatillo salsa and tuck it away in the freezer. If you don’t want to make salsa right now, at least clean the tomatillos and freeze them so you can make salsa later! Tomatillo salsa can be used for more than just dipping chips in it. Here’s a few ways you can put it to use. Check out this recipe for Avocado Tomatillo Breakfast Tacos which are topped with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. These tacos call for spinach, but you could easily substitute this week’s beet greens in place of spinach.
If you’re going to make a batch of tomatillo salsa, you might as well use it for multiple recipes. Here’s another recipe, courtesy of the same blog (loveandlemons.com), for Smoky Sweet Corn Tostadas. For this recipe, you make a creamy sweet corn hummus that gets spread on crispy tortillas and topped off with sliced jalapenos, onions and tomatillo salsa.
If you didn’t have a chance to make the Red Pepper, Lentil & Tomato Salad featured in last week’s newsletter, I encourage you to check it out this week. It’s easy to make and can serve as a main dish or a side salad. It’s also very colorful with sweet peppers and grape tomatoes in shades of red to orange!
This may be the last week for watermelon. The easiest thing to do is cut it in half, grab a spoon, position yourself in a comfy chair on the patio and just eat it right out of the rind! If you want to put forth a little more effort, but not too much, make this 1-Ingredient Watermelon Slushie! While we’re making drinks, what better way to mark the end of melon season than Sangria! Here’s a recipe for Chardonnay Cantaloupe Sangria. While it calls for cantaloupe, I think this would be delicious made with any of the melon varieties in this week’s box.
I don’t typically pair beets and corn together, but why not?! This is a simple, refreshing recipe for a Beet & Corn Salad with cilantro and onions dressed with a light vinaigrette. It would be a nice accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken or serve it alongside the Herbed Leek Tart for a full vegetarian dinner.
I think that concludes this week’s cooking adventure. Pretty soon we’ll be picking the Korean chili peppers, which have become one of my favorites for making chili garlic sauce to stash away in the freezer. I’m also excited to start experimenting with recipes for the new Black Futsu Pumpkin! Jicama will be coming in, likely before the end of the month. There are so many delicious things yet to come! Have a great week!
Vegetable Feature: Leeks
By Andrea Yoder
We’ve been enjoying a variety of vegetables in the onion/allium family since our first box all the way back in May. From ramps and chives to overwintered spring onions, scallions and most recently sweet onions. This week we’ll add leeks to the list. Leeks are a favorite fall allium that, as Chef Deborah Madison says, “add more of a whisper and less of a shout.” Leeks have a more delicate, mild onion flavor and are cooked using more delicate cooking methods to yield a soft, silky finished product. They have fewer sugars than onions, so they will not caramelize in the same way as an onion. It’s best to sweat leeks, meaning you cook them at a lower, more moderate heat to soften them but don’t try to brown them.
Leeks have a long white shank that turns to more of a bluish green color as you reach the top of the leek. The shank is made of many thin layers and is the portion of the leek most often used. However, the green portion on top is equally edible and at the very least should be added to stock for flavor. Throughout the growing process, dirt is hilled up on the leeks to cover the shank and block sunlight which keeps it white. As a result, dirt may get between the layers. While you need to take care to carefully clean the entire leek, the upper portion may have a bit more dirt between the layers and may need a little more attention. I find it easiest to wash the exterior of the leek and then slice them. Place the chopped leeks in a sink of clean, cold water and swish them around to remove any dirt. Remove the leeks from the water and place in a colander to drain. If there isn’t much dirt between the layers, you may also just place the sliced leeks in a colander and rinse them.
Leeks pair well with many fall vegetables including potatoes, celeriac, and fennel. They are often incorporated into cream soups, gratins and egg dishes such as quiche. A traditional use for leeks is to make Leek & Potato Soup, of which there are many variations. In our opinion, Purple Viking potatoes are one of the best potatoes to use for Leek & Potato soup, which is why we included them in this week’s box! It is best to take your time and cook leeks more gently and slowly over medium heat. Sauté them over low heat to just sweat them until softened. When cooked in this manner, leeks become creamy and have a silk-like texture. They pair well with white wine, lemon, cream, cheese, apples, walnuts, chicken, bacon, fish and fresh herbs to name just a few ingredients.
Store leeks loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
Celeriac & Leek Soup
Yield: 4 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, diced
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small or 1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium to large potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (plus more to thin as needed)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Crème Fraiche or plain yogurt, for serving
Minced parsley, for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, celeriac, potato and a hefty pinch of salt. Stir well. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the soup cool for a few minutes before transferring the soup (you may need to do this in batches) to a high speed blender and pureeing until completely smooth and creamy.
Return the soup back to the pot, stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasonings. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock or water. Keep the soup on low heat until ready to serve. Serve with a drizzle of crème fraiche or plain yogurt and minced parsley.
Recipe borrowed from DishingUpTheDirt.com, by Andrea Bemis.
Herbed Leek Tart
Yield: 2 tarts (8 servings each)
3 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 4 medium)
½ cup chopped sweet pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp herbes de Provence (or may substitute dried thyme)
1 package (15 ounces) refrigerated pie crust
1 tsp whole milk
2 Tbsp chopped almonds or walnuts, optional
In a large skillet, sauté the leeks, red pepper and garlic in oil until tender. Remove from the heat; cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese, mustard and herbs; set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each sheet of pastry into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to parchment-lined backing sheets. Spoon leek mixture over pastry to within 2 inches of edges. Fold edges of pastry over filling, leaving center uncovered. Brush folded crust with milk; sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Using parchment, slide tarts onto wire racks. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers.
Recipe borrowed from www.tasteofhome.com.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Yellow or Red Grape Tomatoes: Red Pepper, Lentil & Tomato Salad (see below); Sweet Corn Risotto
Red Seedless Watermelon: Chill & Eat! No recipe needed!
This week the box is filled with a lot of sweetness, starting with our featured vegetable, Sweet Peppers! There are a lot of peppers in this week’s box. If they are red, yellow or orange, they are sweet. If they are dark green, those are poblano peppers which have a mild to medium heat. Poblano peppers were our featured vegetable last week. If you didn’t have a chance to try our featured recipes last week, I’d encourage you to consider both Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblanos and Caramelized Onions and Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Poblanos and Corn. Both recipes call for about 2 medium poblano peppers and they are both recipes that appeal to a wide range of eaters. But lets get back to the sweet peppers. Ever since I picked up Yasmin Khan’s book Zaitoun, I’ve had my eye on this recipe for Red Pepper, Lentil & Tomato Salad (see below). Now that the sweet peppers are ripening, it’s time to actually make this! This salad is substantial enough to serve as a main dish, or you can eat it as a side. It’s packed with the flavors of summer, leftovers are good for a few days, and it’s pretty easy to make. You can make this salad with any of the sweet pepper varieties in the box, including mini sweet peppers.
Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Poblanos and Corn
Before we leave peppers and move on to the other box items, I want to mention that it’s time to make a batch of Jalapeno Cream Cheese. This recipe calls for several jalapenos, but for most individuals, one jalapeno is likely enough. This is one of my favorite summer cream cheese spreads for bagels and toast.
One of our other “sweet” vegetables in this week’s box is sweet corn! Earlier this week, Andrea Bemis posted this recipe for Tomato, Zucchini & Corn Pie with Almond Crust on her blog. This recipe is another one that screams to be made in the summer and it includes fresh tomatoes, zucchini and sweet corn. I’m also excited to try Andrea’s Almond Crust as a gluten-free alternative. I’ve also been remembering how delicious fresh sweet corn is in Sweet Corn Risotto with a little fresh tomato salad on top, so that is on the list for this week as well.
While our melon and watermelon season are short and a little late this year, at least they made it before Labor Day! These two selections need little to no explanation as to what to do with them. They are sweet and delicious on their own, so cut a melon in half, grab a spoon and just eat them. Yes, scoop them right out of the rind. If you do want to do something a little extra special, make these tasty little Melon Prosciutto Skewers. They’ll be a simple, yet impressive addition to a Labor Day picnic.
We’ve been enjoying a plentiful harvest of tomatillos this year and while salsa verde is a great way to use them, you can also use them in other ways such as this Raw Tomatillo Salad. This recipe combines tangy raw tomatillos with smoky chipotle chiles, fresh cojita cheese and suggests scooping it up with tortilla chips.
Last weekend we finished harvesting all of our potatoes! In the coming weeks we’ll be delivering a variety of different kinds. This week we’re featuring our Rose Finn Apple Fingerling potatoes, an heirloom selection known for being a tasty potato. Whenever I think of fingerling potatoes, I think crispy! Last week this recipe for The Best Pan Roasted Potatoes was featured on Food52.com and I immediately thought of making this recipe with the fingerling potatoes. In this recipe, the salt actually goes on the bottom of the pan, so I’d recommend cutting the fingerling potatoes in half and putting them in the pan cut side down. The cut side of the potato will be crispy, salty and delicious. Serve these for breakfast along with eggs, for dinner along with a grilled steak, or just make the potatoes and serve them with fresh corn on the cob, boiled edamame, tomato slices, and wedges of fresh melon. That my friends is the beauty of delicious, simple summer vegetable cooking.
The Best Pan Roasted Potatoes
photo by Rocky Luten, from food52.com
If you don’t use the potatoes as mentioned above, and you haven’t eaten all of your mini-sweets by the time you get to this point in the article, I’ll mention another one of my favorite recipes using both potatoes and mini sweet peppers. This is a simple recipe for Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & Mini Sweet Peppers. I like to make this with fresh potatoes and peppers, but you could also make this in the dead of winter with mini sweet peppers that you pull out of the freezer (hint, hint—freeze some mini sweet peppers!).
Before edamame season is through, I always have to make Fried Rice with Edamame and Corn. While I vary the vegetables in fried rice throughout the year, one of my favorite combos is edamame and fresh sweet corn. This is another recipe that can be made in the winter with vegetables you pull from the freezer, so if you have some extra corn, cook it, cut it off the cob and freeze it along with some edamame. You’ll be glad you did when you pull it out in the winter to make this recipe.
Fried Rice with Edamame and Corn
As we close out this week’s Cooking With the Box conversation, we’ll end with this recipe for
Summer Minestrone Soup. This is a great soup to make as we move out of summer and slide into fall. Use this week’s green beans, zucchini and other summer vegetables in this classic Italian soup.
We’ve reached the bottom of another delicious box of vegetables. Next week the box contents will likely shift a bit. We’ll still have plenty of peppers, hopefully some zucchini and tomatoes, but we’re also planning to start pulling leeks along with green top celeriac and our final crop of green top beets. Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Sweet Peppers
By Andrea Yoder
The peak of pepper season typically marks the point in the year where late summer collides with fall. At the end of this week we’ll be turning another calendar page, Labor Day will come and go, children will return to school and soon we’ll officially say good bye to summer. Peppers are one of my favorite vegetables to grow and eat and they so gracefully represent this unique point in our growing season. They play well with summer vegetables, but can also dance with fall and winter selections. They are easy to eat, right off the stem in all of their crispy, raw glory. Roast them and they become soft, sweet and smoky in flavor which can add a sweet richness to sauces, soup, sandwiches and more. While pepper season usually lasts several weeks, I never get tired of peppers and always make sure I have enough frozen peppers in the freezer to span winter, spring and early summer until the next crop comes in. I use them throughout the winter on pizza, add them to pasta dishes, mix them with root vegetables and roast them with chicken, add them into winter soups and stews, and of course they end up in scrambled eggs, quiche, frittatas and egg bakes. Peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to preserve, so even if I don’t feel like I have the time to tackle preservation projects, I know I can always successfully freeze peppers. Peppers do not need to be cooked before freezing. So, at a minimum, freezing peppers requires the time it takes to wash the pepper and put it in a bag. If I have a little extra time, and to save some freezer space, I’ll actually remove the stem and seeds and cut them into smaller pieces. Really, it’s that simple and you’ll really appreciate having them in the dead of winter!
We grow several different types of sweet peppers. All peppers start out as green peppers when they are immature. While we eat green peppers, peppers are really fully ripe and at their peak of sweetness and flavor if we let them turn color to be fully red, yellow or orange. Our mini sweet peppers are our all-time favorite variety and the sweetest and most flavorful pepper we grow. While there are many snack peppers available in the marketplace today, we believe our peppers are more flavorful than commercial seed varieties. We’ve been saving our own seed for well over 15 years and our variety is not just carefully selected, but also well adapted to our area.
Orange Italian Frying Pepper
We also really enjoy growing and eating Italian frying peppers. Italian frying peppers are long, slender peppers that, despite their name, may be eaten either raw or cooked. We have both red and orange varieties and both have pretty good pepper flavor and sweetness. One of our other unique sweet pepper varieties is the Ukraine pepper. This is another pepper that we save our own seed. It’s actually not available commercially and we got the seed from a woman who brought it from Ukraine. We like this pepper because it’s a heavy producer, often with as many as twelve peppers per plant. This pepper resembles a bell pepper, but they are smaller and have a pointy bottom instead of a blocky bottom. They also ripen to more of an orange red color instead of bright red. They have a thick wall which makes them a good candidate for roasting. They’re also a good pepper to use for stuffed peppers.
Roasting Sweet Peppers on Stovetop
While sweet peppers are delicious eaten raw, they can also be sautéed and roasted. You can roast peppers, whole, over an open flame such as on a grill or just on your stovetop if you have gas burners. Otherwise, peppers may be roasted under a broiler in the oven. When roasting peppers, you want to blacken nearly the entire exterior of the pepper. Once blackened, put them in a bowl and cover them so they steam for about 10 minutes. Remove the cover and once they are cool enough to handle you can peel away the black skin. Once you have roasted the pepper, it’s ready to use however you’d like. Slices of roasted red pepper are a nice addition to sandwiches, grain or lentil salads, or use them to build an antipasto platter. You can also use roasted sweet peppers to make a delicious cream sauce, dressing or soup.
Peppers are high in vitamins A & C as well as a whole host of other phytonutrients, so munching on a sweet pepper also has nutritive benefits. I mentioned above how easy it is to preserve sweet peppers so you can enjoy them throughout the year. Watch your email for our produce plus offerings coming as early as next week. You’ll have the opportunity to purchase larger quantities of peppers if you’d like to preserve more than you receive in your box each week. Enjoy!
Red Pepper, Lentil and Tomato Salad
Yield: 4-6 servings as a side dish or 2-3 servings as a main course
1 cup brown or green lentils
5 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste (approximately 2 Tbsp)
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet peppers, ¼ inch pieces
1 cup quartered small tomatoes (red or yellow grape, etc)
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 ½ Tbsp basil leaves, roughly torn, plus more to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ½ oz feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Cook the lentils in a saucepan of simmering water until they are soft but still have some bite. Depending on the freshness of the lentils, this will take 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the vinegar into a small bowl and add the red onion. Stir well, then leave the onion to soak (this removes some of its pungency).
Once the lentils are cooked, drain them, rinse with warm water and place in a serving bowl. Immediately squeeze the lemon juice and 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil over the lentils and stir well. Leave to cool completely.
Stir in the red onion (drain and reserve the vinegar for the dressing), sweet pepper, tomatoes, lemon zest, garlic and basil.
Dress the salad by combining 2 Tbsp of the reserved vinegar, the remaining 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Pour over the lentils, mix well, then taste and adjust the seasoning. You may want to add a bit more of the vinegar, lemon juice or salt to balance out the flavors.
Just before serving, strew with a few more basil leaves and the feta, if you are using it.
Recipe borrowed from Yasmin Khan’s beautiful book, Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen.
By Gwen Anderson
Sweet corn, the iconic summer vegetable. You can hardly drive a mile in the countryside without running into fields’ worth of corn of some kind (and probably not the tasty sweet corn type). But you know right away what it is, with its tall stalks, long green leaves, and silky ears. Even in the city, farmers park their trucks, beds piled high with the golden goodness, off the shoulder of the highways and in busy parking lots to sell their crop to passersby (but the back of the truck is a hot place for corn, and allows the sugars to quickly convert to starch). Everyone loves sweet corn, which is exactly why we grow it. Richard has a saying: “Some crops you grow for profit. Some you grow to make friends. We grow corn to make friends.” How do we make friends with sweet corn? By prudently selecting the right varieties, careful planning, vigilantly combating pests, and having an expert harvest crew. If everything is done right, we will have the best sweet corn ever.
The process starts with selecting the best corn seed. Like with all lifeforms, genetics plays a vital role in the characteristics that show up in corn. All types of corn, whether field corn, decorative corn, popcorn, or sweet corn, are the same species: Zea mays. The genes needed to make corn sweet instead of starchy are recessive genes. The starchy gene is the dominant gene. Genes come in pairs, one from each “parent.” If the genes passed down from the “parents” are the same, that is the characteristic that is displayed in the “child.” However, if the genes in the pair don’t match, it is the dominant gene’s characteristic that is displayed. Take humans for example: Brown eyes are a dominant trait, blue is recessive. If both parents have blue eyes, they will have children with blue eyes. If one parent has blue eyes and the other has brown eyes, the children could have either brown or blue eyes. If both parents have brown eyes, the children could still have brown or blue eyes. It really just depends on what kind of genes the parents are carrying.
There are three recessive “sweet genes” in corn: sugary (su), sugary enhanced (se), and supersweet or shrunken-2 (sh2). Su is the oldest of the sweet corn varieties to have been cultivated. It has around 9% sugar content which quickly converts to starch once it is harvested. The short shelf life of this sweet corn is traded off for good corn flavor, mild sweetness, and a creamy texture. Se corn has between 16-18% sugar content and has a slower sugar to starch conversion rate than su corn, which means that sweet flavor is more stable. The kernels on se corn are also extremely tender; so tender they are easily damaged. Sh2 corn has about 35% sugar and has a super slow rate of converting sugar to starch. The kernels are also thick, so it stores well. However, those thick kernels also make for a crunchy eating experience. But remember how genes come in pairs? It turns out genetics isn’t exactly as cut and dry as recessive and dominant genes, and by mixing the recessive traits we can make new kinds of corn: Synergistic (su and sh2 mix) and Augmented (sh2 and se). Synergistic corn blends the sweetness of sh2 corn with the creamy texture and tenderness of su corn while giving it a long enough shelf life to do some traveling. Augmented corn does basically the same thing, just with the se corn instead of the su corn. All these hybrids were created by naturally crossbreeding the corn. We do not use any GMO altered seeds of any kind, nor do we use seeds that have “seed treatments” that contain various poisons such as neonicotinoids.
With this lesson of genetics under our belts, we pick up a seed catalogue. Farmer Richard has done plenty of trial and error, and has also learned to trust the advice of our experienced seed rep, Phil Timm. We buy all of our corn seed from the same company because of the relationship we have built with Phil. With his help, we try new corn varieties and also have been able to find our favorites: Nirvana, Sweetness, Kickoff, and Awesome.
During the winter, we plan which crops we are going to plant and where. This helps us decide how much seed we are going to purchase. With the plans made and the seeds purchased, it is a waiting game for the right time to plant. We normally plant corn, weather permitting, around May 1st. For the first planting of sweet corn, it is essential to pick a variety that has “cold soil vigor.” We also wait for the perfect time to plant it: a day with nice, bright sun that will be shining for the next 24 hours. Depending on the soil temperature, we are able to play around a little with how deep we plant the seeds. For example, we would plant the seeds more shallow if the soil was still too cool in order for the sun to warm the seeds better and encourage them to germinate. However, this can be risky because birds love corn seeds. Last year, the red-winged blackbirds found our first shallow planted corn in the field, dug it up and ate a good portion of the crop before it could germinate!
Sweet corn in early July this year
Another thing we need to keep in mind when we are planting our sweet corn is what kind of sweet corn we are planting. Because of sweet corn’s complicated genetics, it is important to keep sweet corn isolated from other types of corn; this is even true for different types of sweet corn! Corn is wind pollinated, so we need to be cognizant of preventing cross-pollination. It is recommended to keep at least a 250 foot distance between corn varieties that will be tasseling up at the same time to avoid cross-pollination between the varieties. Another option is to time the plantings to ensure at least 14 days between the estimated tassel dates to keep corn from cross-pollinating. If we follow these guidelines, we are able to keep the true genetics of the variety of corn we plant which is then displayed in the characteristics of the corn we pick. When Richard took me out to one of our corn fields last week, it was situated in a beautiful field next to our winter squash crop, surrounded by wildlife habitat, forest, and rolling hills. It was picturesque, to be sure, but it was also very far away from any other potential corn fields.
I mentioned the importance of knowing when the corn is going to be “tasseling up,” or getting ready to be pollinated to create the kernels. The pollen of corn is in the tassels. Corn takes 65 to 90 days to mature, and that range is broken into 3 different sub-seasons: early varieties (less than 70 days to mature), mid-season varieties (70-84 days to mature), and late varieties (more than 84 days to mature). If we were going to be planting different types of corn together, we would want to make sure that they were in different sub-seasons. By planting corn from different sub-seasons, we can continue to deliver corn as long as possible throughout corn’s growing season, while also avoiding the potential for cross pollination between the varieties.
Sweet corn field during harvest time
Earlier I had mentioned how the red-winged blackbirds had found our first crop of corn last year. Birds are only one of the pests we have to combat when growing sweet corn. We have a couple different tactics we use to try to deter birds, but like all deterrents, they need to be in place before the animals figure out there is tasty corn to be had. We hang “scare eye” balloons with long silver streamers on poles out in the field. These “scare eyes” work on the same principle that protects moths that camouflage themselves with large eye-like patterns on their wings: big eyes mean big predators. The silver streamers reflect light and move in the wind, also scaring the birds away. We also have fake owls and hawks posted on the fence lines. These fake birds of prey are solar powered and have moving heads, keeping an ever-vigilant eye on the fields for us and keeping pesky corn eating birds at bay. The fence these sentinels sit on is plastic mesh tied to poles we place in the field that are 6 feet high. This fence is a deterrent to deer, but again, only if they don’t know what is on the other side of it. Corn is a much tastier treat then grass and leaves, and sweet corn is so much better still than the field corn that is growing elsewhere. The fence also doesn’t do much to keep raccoons out. So, in addition to the fence, we have an electrical ribbon running through the mesh near the bottom of it to surprise and deter any raccoons who try to pass through the fence.
Richard explaining how the fake owls work
Now that we have the critters dealt with, there is one last pest we need to protect our corn from: Earworms. Earworms are moth larvae that hatch from eggs that are laid on the silks of corn ears. When they hatch, they spend a few days on the silks before they eat their way down into the ear of corn. To combat the earworms, we use an organic approved Bt spray, a naturally occurring bacteria that is toxic to the earworms. We have pheromone traps set up in the cornfields that attract the moths when they are ready to start laying eggs. When we have moths in the traps, we know it is time to spray the corn. With the right timing, the newly hatched earworms eat the Bt we’ve applied to the corn silk and die before they can damage the sweet kernels inside. Again, timing is everything and we only want to spray when necessary.
Richard checking the pheromone trap for earworm moths
With the pests dealt with and the corn crop mature, the next step is harvest. At one time, we had a mechanical corn harvester. We would run it through the field, harvest all the corn at once, and then need to sort through the corn when we brought it back to the packing shed. This lead to a lot of corn that would never be ripe and good, thus it was wasted. We decided we were going to go back to hand harvesting the corn. This allows us to pick only the best ears of corn at the right moment, leaving the unripe ears to grow up and become the best that they can be as well. Every person on our corn harvest team was trained by Farmer Richard on how to look and feel for the best corn in the field. Ripe corn will have nice “shoulders” at the top of the ear, whereas an unripe ear will be pointy. If the corn looks like it has shoulders, the next step it to feel the tip, by where the silk is. If the tip is soft, it is ready to be picked. If it is still a little stiff, it needs a few more days to let the kernels inside grow up and fill the rest of the ear. If the ear is ready to be picked, you grab the ear and twist it down, making sure you snap off as much of the stalk and leave it behind as you can. If you have too much stalk left on the ear, you’ll have to go back later and break it off before you pack it for shipping. Once the ear is picked, you place it in your bag and move onto the next one. And all of this happens in a split second!
Richard harvesting sweet corn
When your bag is full, you bring it to the wagon and get ice on it right away. This is a crucial step because icing the corn and keeping it cold slows down the sugar to starch conversion, and lets you enjoy the corn for a longer time! When harvest is done for the day, the wagon brings the corn home where we ice it again before putting it in the cooler so it can be completely cooled. At this point, we have done everything we can to ensure that we have grown the best corn ever. It is now your job to make sure you keep your corn cold before you are ready to use it. Always store sweet corn in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days of receiving it.
Did we achieve “the best corn ever” this year? We hope you have enjoyed this article about the iconic summer vegetable and have learned a thing or two about how we bring it to your table. With all the hard work we put into it, we sure hope we managed to make a few friends along the way by giving you a few sweet ears of our golden goodness this year!
Sweet corn being iced before being stored in the cooler
Cooking With This Week's Box
Yellow Spanish Onions: Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Pobalanos and Corn (see below); Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion (see below); Fresh Corn Salsa; Cucumber Honeydew Salad with Feta; Grilled Chicken with Honeydew Salsa; Zucchini Panzanella Salad
Italian Garlic: Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Pobalanos and Corn (see below); Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion (see below)
Poblano Peppers: Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Pobalanos and Corn (see below); Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion (see below)
Red or Rainbow Chard: Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion (see below)
I don’t know what it is about poblano peppers, but I look forward to them every summer and can’t get enough of them! So, I’m excited to share them with you as this week’s featured vegetable and I have two tasty recipes as well! The first recipe is one I developed by accident one night when I really didn’t have a plan for dinner. While these accidents don’t always turn out, this one was actually a keeper. So I introduce to you, Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Poblanos and Corn (see below)! This is kind of a cross between a frittata, quiche and some kind of burger based casserole. It has just the right amount of creamy cheesiness without being overpowering and the sweetness of the corn goes well with the background flavor of the roasted poblano peppers. This got the Farmer Richard and Captain Jack seal of approval! It also reheats very well. I actually baked it off, cooled it and then sliced it into portions the next day then reheated it in the toaster oven for lunch.
The second recipe is for Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion (see below). This recipe caught my eye because it’s simple, but got good reviews for having a lot of flavor with a short list of ingredients. I also liked it because it includes greens, specifically chard which is in this week’s box! Serve this dish with warm corn tortillas, rice, or just eat it on its own.
We’re also excited to include sweet corn in this week’s box! Farmer Richard knows how to grow delicious sweet corn and I think you’ll be pleased with this! Eat it off the cob, or cut it off the cob and use it in recipes such as this Fresh Corn Salsa made with sweet peppers, onions and tomatoes. This is delicious to just scoop up with chips, or spoon it over a grilled pork chop or baked fish.
Summer isn’t summer without sweet corn and….MELONS! While we’re on the topic of salsa, I’ll share this recipe for Grilled Chicken with Honeydew Salsa. I don’t often think of eating melon in savory preparations, but if you get Honeydew Melon in your box this week, it’s a good option for using in something savory like this salsa or Cucumber Honeydew Salad with Feta. If you get the Sweet Sarah Cantaloupe in your box this week, consider using it to make Cantaloupe Lime Popsicles or Jerk Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Melon Salsa. As for the French Orange Melon, these are delicious eaten just as they are. If you want to try something different, may I suggest this Prosciutto Melon Salad? The salty prosciutto is such a nice accompaniment to the flavorful, decadent melon and a little drizzle of high quality balsamic vinegar helps finish it off.
Despite the fact that we’ve been picking zucchini for weeks now, we still haven’t run out of things to make with it! Last weekend I tried this recipe for Blueberry Lemon Zucchini Muffins which turned out great! This recipe for Zucchini Cornmeal Pancakes is a recommendation shared by a member in our Facebook Group. These are a more savory pancake that I think would be good served with just a pat of butter or top them off with Tomato Jam.
On the topic of tomatoes, I came across this collection of 47 Recipes You Can Make With a Pint of Cherry Tomatoes. Of course cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, sunorange tomatoes, etc can be used interchangeably in recipes. There are some good suggestions in this collection including Zucchini Panzanella Salad and Cheese Tortellini with Tomatoes and Corn. Before we finish our conversation about tomatoes, we need to talk sandwiches. Richard has started his BLT marathon, although he’s only had two sandwiches this week (…. the week isn’t over yet). But you don’t have to go to the trouble of frying bacon to enjoy a good sandwich. Consider Merrill Stubbs recipe for My Best Tomato Sandwich. The key to this simple sandwich is a) good bread and b) good mayonnaise spread generously. This is the simplicity of summer!
This week we’re sending another pound of edamame, fresh soybeans. This was our featured vegetable last week. If you didn’t have a chance to try last week’s recipes, I’d encourage you to check them out. I really enjoyed the Thai Quinoa Bowl. It was filling, packed in a lot of vegetables, and the tofu was excellent! In fact, Richard (who is not a fan of tofu) actually said “This is really good! It’s the best tofu I’ve ever had!" It’s also easy to prep all the components in advance which means you can assemble a quick lunch or dinner in less than five minutes! The other recipe we featured last week was for Sushi Salad with Brown Rice, Edamame, Nori and Miso Dressing, another great salad to have in your back pocket for a quick meal option.
That wraps up another week of summer cooking. I’ll end with a little teaser….watermelons coming next week! Have a great week—Chef Andrea
Cooking With This Week's Box
By Andrea Yoder
Poblano peppers have come to be one of my favorite peppers over the past few years. Why? Flavor. Poblano peppers are dark green with wide shoulders and a pointy bottom. They have a thinner wall than bell peppers, but thick enough that they hold up to roasting very well. In fact, roasting is the process that takes the flavor of a poblano and brings it to its full potential. Poblanos do have some heat which is on the mild side, but in some years moves up to a medium heat level.
Caramelized Poblano Chile & Onion Dip
While poblano peppers may be used raw, I mentioned their flavor is enhanced with cooking and more specifically, by roasting. Roasting peppers is very easy and can be done over a direct, open flame or in the oven. If you have a gas stovetop, you can roast the poblanos directly on your burners over a high flame. If you have a small rack, you can put that over the burner. The other direct flame method is to roast them on a grill. If you want to use an oven, it’s best to roast them under a broiler. If you don’t have a broiler, you can roast them in a very hot oven, they likely won’t blacken as much. You want to roast them until most of the skin is blackened. You’ll have to turn them periodically to blacken all sides evenly. Stay close and don’t walk away because sometimes this happens quickly, especially under a broiler. Once the skin is charred, put the peppers in a covered bowl or a paper bag so they can steam and cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, use the back of a knife to scrape away the skin. Remove the stem and scrape away all the seeds from the inside of the pepper. Now you’re ready to add roasted poblano peppers to whatever dish you’re preparing!
Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Poblanos and Corn
2-3 poblano peppers
1-2 sweet peppers
1 pound ground beef
2-3 tsp vegetable oil (if needed)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups corn kernels (from about 2 ears corn)
4 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp butter
⅓ cup half & half or cream
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Yield: 4-6 servings
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast the poblano peppers and sweet peppers either under the broiler in the oven or over direct flame if you have gas burners. Once the exterior of the peppers is blackened, place them in a bowl and cover it so they can steam for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the cover and scrape the blackened skin off the pepper. Cut in half and remove the seeds and stem. Dice the peppers and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a 10 inch non-stick or cast iron skillet that is oven proof over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and brown until nearly cooked through, adding vegetable oil if needed.
Add onion, garlic, cumin, oregano and 1 tsp salt. Stir to combine and sautè for 3-5 minutes. Add the corn kernels and roasted peppers. Stir to combine and reduce the heat to low.
Cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces and add to the pan. As the cream cheese softens, stir to incorporate it into the ground beef mixture. Taste a little bite to see if it is adequately seasoned. If not, add salt and black pepper to your liking.
Cut 2 Tbsp of butter into thin pieces and put them around the edge of the pan so the butter melts and runs down the side of the pan to the bottom. Whisk 4 eggs in a bowl along with ½ tsp salt and the half & half or cream. Once the butter has melted in the pan, add the egg mixture. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set and the top is bubbly and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let set for 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers, which reheat well in just 10-15 minutes in an oven or toaster oven at 350°F.
Recipe developed by Chef Andrea Yoder at Harmony Valley Farm. Approved and endorsed by Farmer Richard and Captain Jack, The Dog.
Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion
Yield: 4 servings
2 fresh poblano peppers
3 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 medium boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves (about 1 ¼ pounds total)
Salt, to taste
1 medium yellow onion, sliced 1/4 inch
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups stemmed and coarsely chopped Swiss chard
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup Mexican crema, crème fraiche or sour cream
Char the poblanos over an open flame on the stovetop or 4 inches underneath the broiler, flipping occasionally until blackened all over (about 5 minutes for the burner, 10 minutes for the broiler). Transfer to a bag or covered bowl and let steam until cool. Peel off the blackened skin, and then remove the stems and seeds. Cut the poblanos into ¼ inch thick slices.
Season the chicken breasts with salt on both sides. Pour the oil into a large cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add the chicken breasts. Cook until browned on the bottom, about four minutes, and then flip. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook until browned on the other side, five to six minutes. Set aside on a plate. (Note: The chicken might not be completely cooked inside, but you are going to cook it more).
With the skillet still over medium heat, add the sliced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, but not browning, about nine minutes. Add the garlic and sliced poblanos. Stir well, and continue to cook until very fragrant, about 8-10 more minutes.
Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the greens and broth. Stir occasionally, and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated and the greens are wilted, about five minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in the crema, and cook until it has reduced down to a rich sauce, about five minutes. Continue to stir occasionally.
Cut the chicken breasts into ½-inch cubes, and add them in. Stir well, and cook until all the chicken is completely done, one to two minutes. Season the mixture with salt to taste. Serve with warm corn tortillas, rice, or just eat it straight from the bowl!
Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless’ book, Fiesta at Rick’s.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Edamame: Sushi Salad (see below); Thai Quinoa Bowl (see below)
Sun Jewel, French Orange, OR Sweet Sarah Melon: Just Eat It!
Welcome back to another week of cooking! I looked at the calendar earlier this week and realized we only have about 6 weeks of summer remaining before we hit the official First Day of Autumn! We still have a lot of good summer cooking to do before I’m ready to turn the page on another summer, so lets get busy! This week our featured vegetable is edamame. Before I came to Harmony Valley Farm, I had never had fresh edamame and didn’t realize how tender, sweet and delicious it can be! This week I have sourced two recipes that use edamame. The first recipe comes from alexandracooks.com and is for a Sushi Salad (see below). Now this salad doesn’t have any raw fish in it, although you could add it if you’d like. Rather, the base of this salad is short grain brown rice or you could use sushi rice. Both are short grain types of rice that are a little more sticky in nature with tender, chewy kernels. The dressing for this salad is based on miso and toasted sesame oil. Vegetables including cucumbers and edamame are piled on top of the rice along with chunks of avocado and some greens, which this week could be chopped kale. The dressing is drizzled over everything and then the salad is garnished with sesame seeds and nori seaweed. It’s all the components of a good vegetarian sushi roll, but without having to roll it! The second recipe is for a Thai Quinoa Bowl (see below) that I found on a new site, blissfulbasil.com. This is a main dish recipe that is built on a base of quinoa with a whole mess of vegetables piled on top! You can vary the vegetables depending on the season and what you have available. This week you can use edamame, broccoli, carrots, kale and peppers from the box. It also calls for beets, jicama and red cabbage. If you don’t have those vegetables, just substitute more of the others or use whatever you have! The protein in this dish is a spicy chile-garlic tofu. Add that to the bowl and drizzle everything with a nutty ginger dressing, garnish with fresh cilantro and roasted sunflower seeds. There is a lot going on in this bowl, both in nutrients and in flavors!
There are so many different ways you can use green curly kale. If you don’t use it all in one or both of the dishes I just described, consider using it to make this Yellow Split Pea & Kale Potato Curry. This is another recipe from blissfulbasil.com. I’m really glad I stumbled across this blog and I think it’s one I’ll be referencing more in the future because it’s full of really tasty vegetarian recipes. This dish features kale and potatoes as well as tomatoes, ginger, curry powder and turmeric. It’s a hearty vegetarian meal served with rice. The other recipe I’ve included this week for kale is for a Country Ham, Egg & Kale Breakfast Pizza. I told you there are a lot of things you can make with kale! Why not have it for breakfast!
Last week we featured eggplant and over the past week I’ve come across more eggplant recipes that look really tasty! Two of them made the cut for this week’s recommendations. The first is for Burnt Eggplant with Zaatar Flatbread. You don’t really burn the eggplant for this recipe, rather you roast it until the skin gets nice and roasty, toasty dark and the whole thing kind of collapses as the flesh gets soft and silky. You scoop the flesh out and combine it with a few ingredients to make a very rustic kind of dip or mixture you can eat scooped up with freshly made flatbread seasoned with zaatar, a middle eastern seasoning. The second recipe is for Eggplant Lasagna. This recipe resembles a traditional lasagna, but instead of using pasta to create layers, you use thin slices of eggplant! There is no meat in this recipe, although you could add it if you’d like. It does call for spinach, but you could use kale instead.
We just started picking tomatillos from our second crop this week, while we’re still picking from the first as well! They are nice and big right now and look gorgeous! Tomatillos are a fun vegetable/fruit to cook with. Of course you could make a traditional salsa verde, but if you’re interested in kicking it up a bit, I highly recommend this recipe for Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce. This is a great summer recipe that features a lot of different vegetables and it’s memorably delicious! I tested and published this recipe last summer and all winter I wished I had made an extra pan of these to put into the freezer! The tomatillo cream sauce is a breeze to make and you need little more than some fresh pico de gallo or chopped tomatoes to complete this dish. Leftovers are also excellent. My other longtime favorite recipe using tomatillos is this Pork & Tomatillo Stew. I made this stew back when I was cooking for the crew. I like to make this when tomatillos are fresh, but you can also make it in the winter with frozen tomatillos. Just remove the husk, wash & dry the tomatillos, then put them in a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer. Pull them out in the middle of the winter and make this hearty, delicious stew!
Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce
We’ve had a nice long run on broccoli this summer, but it’s soon to come to a close and then we’ll have a few weeks of a gap before the fall broccoli starts coming in. Ali, from gimmesomeoven.com featured this recipe for Healthier Broccoli Chicken Casserole on her blog this past week. It’s totally homemade—no canned cream of mushroom soup, but rather a creamy mushroom cheese sauce mixed with pasta, fresh broccoli and cooked chicken. This is a recipe that could be assembled in advance (like on the weekend), then pull it out and bake it off the day you want to eat it. Serve it with a little tomato or cucumber salad on the side and you’re set.
Zucchini isn’t going to be around forever, but the plants keep producing so we keep picking! A member sent us this recipe for Grilled Zucchini Hummus. This is made in the style of hummus, but without chickpeas! The flavor comes from grilling the zucchini which is then blended with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and smoked paprika. The other zucchini recipe I’d like to recommend this week is for Summer Squash Tart. Summer squash and zucchini can be used interchangeably. The base of this tart is puff pastry, so don’t even have to make the crust, just buy it. Make a creamy base with ricotta, egg and parsley, layer on the zucchini and bake it. Top it off with feta and you have a beautiful tart to serve for lunch or dinner!
Summer isn’t summer until you’ve made some version of a Greek Cucumber Salad. Now that we have fresh tomatoes, it’s time to make this salad. This recipe includes black olives, which I like but you could omit if you don’t care for them. Serve this as a side dish alongside that Summer Squash Tart or with a grilled steak or roasted chicken.
If you don’t use the small tomatoes in the pint container as part of the Greek Cucumber Salad, consider using them to make Easy Marinated Cherry (grape) Tomatoes. You can scale this recipe to whatever quantity of tomatoes you have available. The tomatoes are mixed with fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil and some white wine vinegar. Put these in the fridge and use them throughout the week as a little side condiment/salad to eat alongside eggs for breakfast, grilled meat, on top of pasta dishes, etc. It’s just nice to have something fresh and tangy that’s already made to add to your meals.
I think we’ve used up pretty much everything in the box, except for the little melon hanging out in the corner. I don’t have a recipe suggestion for this item this week because I think you should just eat it! Cut it, scoop out the seeds and enjoy it! They are sweet and delicious and don’t require anything more than a knife and a spoon.
Have a great week!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Edamame
By Andrea Yoder
Edamame (eh-dah-MAH-may) is a fresh soybean that has grown in popularity in the United States over the past few years, but has been a part of Japanese and Chinese cuisine for much longer. True edamame intended for fresh eating is quite different than oil-seed soybeans and tofu beans most often grown to make tofu and other processed soy products. The edamame varieties we grow were developed specifically because they produce a sweet bean that doesn’t have a “beany” aftertaste and is the preferred variety in Japan and China for fresh eating. Seed varieties for tofu beans are typically much less expensive than varieties for fresh eating, thus in this country the edamame found in the frozen section, either in the pod or shelled, is likely a tofu bean with that “beany” aftertaste. We actually save our own seed, which still comes at a cost, but allows us to grow our preferred, clean tasting varieties.
Edamame resembles a small lima bean encased in a pod. The beans are sweet and tender and best eaten lightly cooked. Unlike sugar snap peas, edamame pods are not edible and should be discarded. Edamame is hard to shell when it’s raw. It is easiest to cook edamame in its pod first and then remove the beans from the pod. To cook edamame, rinse the pods thoroughly with cold water. Bring a pot of heavily salted water (salty like the sea) to a boil. Add the edamame and boil for about 3-4 minutes. You should see the pods change to a bright green color. Remove the edamame from the boiling water and immediately put them in ice water or run cold water over them to quickly cool them. After the beans are cooked you can easily squeeze the pod to pop the beans out, either into a bowl or directly into your mouth! Once you’ve removed them from the pods, they are ready to incorporate into a recipe or eat as a snack.
You can also roast edamame in their pods. There’s a basic recipe on our website, but basically you toss the edamame pods with oil and seasonings of your choice. Serve the beans whole with their pods still on. While you won’t eat the pod, you can use your teeth to pull the edamame out of the pod and in the process you’ll pick up the seasoning on the outside of the pod!
Fried Rice with Edamame and Corn
You can store fresh or cooked edamame for up to a week in the refrigerator, but it is best to eat them soon for the sweetest flavor and best texture. If you are want to preserve edamame for later use, simply follow the cooking procedure above, then freeze the beans either in their pods or remove them and freeze just the bean. It’s fun to pull something green out of the freezer in the winter to enjoy as a snack or incorporate into a winter stir-fry or pan of fried rice.
Edamame is often eaten as a simple snack, but you can also incorporate it into vegetable or grain salads, stir-fry, fried rice, steamed dumplings or pot stickers to name just a few suggestions. They pair well with any combination of traditional Asian ingredients such as sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger. They are also a nice, bright addition to brothy soups such as a miso soup. If you follow the suggested method for boiling edamame before shelling them, the bean will already be fully cooked, so if you are adding edamame to a hot dish or recipe, do so at the end of the cooking.
Sushi Salad with Brown Rice, Edamame, Nori and Miso Dressing
Author’s Note: “The beauty of this salad is that you can prep everything ahead of time with the exception of cutting the avocado. You may want to double the dressing. I’ve been doing this, and it has been so nice to have on hand, especially when you have leftover rice, edamame, lettuce, etc. on hand — makes for such a satisfying and fast lunch. On subsequent days, you may need to thin the dressing with more water.”
FOR THE SALAD:
3 cups cooked short grain brown rice, cooled
1–2 cups shelled edamame
4 small cucumbers, thinly sliced into rounds
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
A few handfuls baby spinach, kale, chard or other tender greens
Olive oil, to taste (optional)
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
4 toasted nori seaweed sheets, cut into thin slices
Sea salt, to taste
FOR THE DRESSING:
3 Tbsp miso paste
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp mirin
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame seeds
1–2 Tbsp water or more as needed
First, make the dressing. Whisk together the miso paste, sesame oil, mirin, sugar, and 1 to 2 Tbsp water until smooth. Add more water by the tablespoon until the dressing is the consistency of cream — it should be pourable. Stir in the sesame seeds. Taste. Add a sprinkling of sea salt if necessary.
Assemble the salad. You can assemble this salad in various ways. You can set out all of the components in bowls and let people assemble their own bowl. But you can also combine everything in one large bowl. Here’s how: In a large bowl, combine the rice, edamame, cucumber, avocado, and baby spinach. Toss together gently. To serve, transfer salad to bowls or plates, drizzle over the dressing, a little olive oil (if you wish), and a sprinkling of sea salt. Top with the nori strips and sesame seeds.
Recipe adapted from Hetty McKinnon’s Family on alexandracooks.com.
Thai Quinoa Bowl
Yield: 3-4 servings
1 cup uncooked red quinoa
1 ¾ cups filtered water
1 small head broccoli, washed and cut into small florets
1 recipe spicy chili-garlic tofu (optional—see below)
1 cup shelled edamame
1 small head romaine or green leaf lettuce, washed, trimmed, and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and then shaved into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and julienned
1 small beet, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small jicama root, peeled and cubed (optional)
½ cup shredded red cabbage
Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Handful roasted cashews or sunflower seeds
Spicy Chile-Garlic Tofu:
1 (14 ounce) block firm tofu, drained
3 Tbsp chile-garlic sauce
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
Nutty Ginger Dressing:
¼ cup creamy peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, or sunflower butter
2 ½ Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce or to taste
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger root
For the Quinoa Bowl:
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa, return to a boil, and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, uncovered, or until the quinoa has absorbed most of the water, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.
Steam the broccoli in a steamer or steamer basket for 4 to 8 minutes, or until firm-tender. Strain off any excess water. Set aside.
Prepare the tofu, if using.
Chop and prepare the remaining bowl ingredients. (Note, you may vary the vegetable components to your liking as available seasonally)
For the Spicy Chile-Garlic Tofu:
Wrap the tofu in several layers of paper towels, and place it on a dinner plate. Set a very heavy pot or pan (e.g., cast iron skillet) on top of the wrapped tofu and let stand for at least 20 minutes (preferably 30 minutes) to press the excess water from the tofu.
Meanwhile, in a medium spouted mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the chile-garlic sauce, maple syrup, tamari, and rice vinegar. Whisk together until combined and set within reach of the stove.
Carefully unwrap the tofu. Slice it widthwise into ¼-inch-thick pieces. Then, lay each piece flat and slice in half lengthwise and then widthwise, yielding four small rectangles from each.
Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or pan over medium-high heat until hot. The heat will sear the surface of the tofu and prevent it from sticking, which is why it's important that the pan is thoroughly heated.
Once the pan is hot, add the tofu in a single layer (you'll need to do this in two batches). Use the back of a spatula to lightly press down on the tofu (you should hear it sizzle and steam). Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the pan-facing sides are golden-brown. Flip, and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden-brown.**
Reduce the heat to low, return all the tofu to the pan, and add the sauce. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly and begins to cling to the tofu, stirring frequently
Transfer the tofu and sauce to a medium mixing bowl and allow it to rest and marinate until ready to serve. Serve on its own or alongside steamed vegetables and/or brown rice.
For the Dressing:
Add the peanut butter, tamari, sesame oil, lime juice, maple syrup, and ginger to a medium bowl. Whisk together for 30-45 seconds. Please keep in mind that the dressing should be on the salty side—since we're not seasoning the quinoa or veggies, we need a little kick of sodium here to make all the flavors pop. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Divide the quinoa between bowls. Top with the romaine, broccoli, tofu (if using), carrot, pepper, beet, jicama, cabbage, cilantro, and cashews. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Ashley Melillo at blissfulbasil.com
By Chef/Farmer Andrea
It’s been almost three months since we delivered herb packs, so I wanted to check in and see how your gardens are doing! Whether you planted your herbs in pots or in a garden space, I hope you have had success with your plants this year and are flooded with herbs! This week I want to offer some suggestions for how to use herbs in larger volume in your summer cooking, with hopes of making the most out of your herb gardening efforts. I will also offer some suggestions for ways you can preserve your herbs so you can continue to enjoy them and reap their benefits throughout the winter.
Most of the time we use herbs in smaller quantities as a flavoring. Perhaps we top off a bowl of soup or a salad with some chopped parsley or add a tablespoon or two of oregano to our tomato sauce. When your plants are really growing in the peak of their season, a tablespoon or sprig here and there just doesn’t cut it! While we do often use herbs as a flavor enhancer, we can also use them in volume and treat them more like a vegetable. Consider salads such as Tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a Lebanese salad that is based on parsley and mint with lesser amounts of bulgur, tomatoes, lemon, etc. Instead of using tablespoons of parsley, you use cups of parsley! So if your parsley is going crazy right now, make a bowl of this fresh salad! I also like to make simple vegetable salads throughout the summer and fall that are heavy on herbs, such as a Carrot Parsley Salad that is nothing more than shredded carrots, lots of chopped fresh parsley and a light lemon vinaigrette.
There are other ways to use larger quantities of herbs. Pesto is something most people are familiar with. If your basil plant has become a bush, it’s time to trim it back and make a big batch of basil pesto. You’d be surprised at how much basil you can use in a single batch! If you have the potential to make more pesto than you can consume right now, reach for your full potential and make extra. You can easily freeze it in small jars or ice cube trays so you have it available to use throughout the winter. Pull some out and add it to pasta sauce, soup, spread it on pizza crust and bread or make a quick pasta dish with it.
Chimichurri is an Argentinian herb sauce-type preparation that is based on parsley and oregano. It’s a delicious accompaniment to grilled meat, but I also like to toss roasted potatoes and root vegetables with it just before serving them.
Of course you can use your fresh herbs to make flavorful vinaigrettes, add them to egg dishes such as frittatas, quiche and egg casseroles, use them in marinades or to season roasted meats, and don’t forget adding them to green smoothies! But even with an intentional effort to incorporate more herbs into your meals, it can be hard to keep up with your garden. So lets transition our thinking to preservation. The most obvious way to preserve herbs is by drying them. Some herbs retain their flavor better when dried than others. Parsley, thyme, sage, savory and oregano are good candidates for drying. When you’re ready, go ahead and harvest a large quantity. I dry them on the stem, but you could pull the leaves off the stem before you dry them. You can lay them out in a single layer either on dehydrator sheets if you’re using a low heat dehydrator or on cookie sheets if you are using a low heat oven. I also sometimes make little bundles of herbs and tie off the stem end with a rubber band to hold the bunch together. Then I hang the bunches on hooks in my kitchen to let them air dry. If you do this, make sure they are in a good location with adequate airflow and out of direct sunlight. Once your herbs are dry, strip the leaves off the stems, crush the leaves into smaller pieces if you wish, and put them in a jar or sealed bag to retain their flavor as you use them throughout the winter. Basil can be dried as well, although personally I don’t care for dried basil and prefer to preserve it in the form of pesto to retain more of that fresh basil flavor. I don’t have any experience drying chervil, so I can’t offer any expertise on the outcome. If you’ve had success with drying chervil, please let me know!
I do know chervil would be a good herb to preserve in the form of herbed butter! Herbed Butter is also called Compound Butter. You can make it with any mix of herbs you have in your garden. It’s great to have in the refrigerator to use when making scrambled eggs, melt it over steamed vegetables, use it in sauces for pasta, melt a pat on top of grilled steak or fish, or just simply spread it on warm bread! You can use it fresh, but it can also be frozen. It really is fun to find some frozen herb butter in the freezer in the middle of winter! I’ve included a recipe with this article to guide you in the proportions. You can also make Herb Salt. You can make individual herb salts or blend some of the herbs you have available to make your own custom blends. These also make great Christmas gifts!
Herb oils and herb vinegars are also ways to preserve herbs. Mountain Rose Herbs has some great information on their blog about how to make Herbal Vinegar. They also have a lot of great information about making Herb Infused Culinary Oils as well as Bath Salts and more!
While we often think of herbs mostly in the context of culinary use, the herbs in our herb packs also have medicinal properties. Two years ago Jean Schneider wrote a great article for us about Fall Herb Preservation & Ways to Use Culinary Herbs Medicinally. Jean is a longtime HVF supporter and is a herbalist at Nativa Medica. In her article she offered suggestions for how to make Sage Infused Honey as well as how to use Sage and Thyme as teas to keep us healthy through the winter. The Latin name for garden sage actually means “healing plant.” While it’s a tasty culinary herb, it can also help ward off colds and soothe sore throats as it has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Thyme is also beneficial for supporting respiratory health and enhancing immunity. These are just a few examples of how your culinary herb garden can also be your medicinal herb garden.
Some of the herbs in your herb pack are perennials, meaning they are more winter hardy and can survive the winter. Sage, thyme, oregano and savory are perennials. Basil, chervil and parsley are annuals and most likely will not survive the winter. To increase the chances of winter survival, we recommend putting some mulch around the base of your perennial herb plants. You can use straw or even just dried leaves. Don’t totally cover the plant, just tuck some mulch around the base to buffer the base from the cold and cover the bare ground.
I hope I’ve given you a few ideas for ways to maximize your herbs as we enjoy the last few weeks of summer and prepare for fall and winter. It’s hard to imagine that those spindly little plants we delivered back in May can produce enough product for us to enjoy both now and throughout the winter! Have fun using and preserving your herbs and as always, we invite you to send us pictures and emails about what you’re doing. Our Facebook Group is another great place to share your projects and pictures!
Yield: ¾ cup
Stir together in a small bowl, mixing well:
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup chopped herbs (such as parsley, chervil, etc)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
A pinch of cayenne
Taste and adjust the salt and lemon as needed.
Chopped shallots and pounded garlic are delicious additions.
For a more lemony flavor, add some finely grated lemon zest.
For a more pungent butter that is perfect with corn on the cob, flavor with dried chile peppers, soaked, drained, and pounded to a paste.
This recipe comes from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters. You can use this butter fresh, but I’d recommend using it within a week of making it. Herbed butter is also a good way to preserve the fresh flavor of herbs and can be frozen. Pack it in small jars or roll it into logs. While the butter is still soft, lay out a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Using a knife, spread the butter in the middle of the paper and form it into a log shape. Lay the paper over the butter and gently roll the butter to form a log. Twist the ends of the log and then either wrap it in plastic wrap or put it in a freezer bag. Pop it in the freezer and pull it out whenever you’re ready to use it!
Cooking With This Week's Box
Eggplant: Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas & Tomatoes (see below)
Welcome to this week’s Cooking With the Box article. This week we’re focusing on eggplant as our featured vegetable of the week and I have three recipes to share with you. However, this week’s recipes don’t all contain eggplant. Rather, these three recipes are intended to go together to make a full meal. Let me explain. This week’s recipes come from Yasmin Kahn’s beautiful book entitled Zaitoun, a collection of recipes she gathered from her experiences spending time in the homes and communities of Palestinian people. Her book is beautiful in so many ways, but especially in the way she is able to honor the identity of a group of people who have been displaced from their land. Despite their hardships, these people have been able to maintain their cultural identity making their food and culinary heritage an even more precious thing to experience. So even though we’re on the other side of the world, it’s pretty cool that, through food, we can experience a little taste of this culture in our own kitchens. I encourage you to try this week’s recipe for Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas & Tomatoes (see below) which is meant to be served at room temperature either as a vegetarian main dish or as part of a spread of other dishes (referred to as Mazzeh). Serve this dish with a simple, cooling Yogurt & Cucumber Sauce (see below) to counter the acidity of the tomatoes. I’ve also included a recipe for Arabic Bread (see below) because “…soft, chewy flatbreads are used as a utensil at the Palestinian table, where they are put to good use scooping up the vast array of tantalizing small dishes and dips.” While this bread recipe is very easy to make, it does require a bit of time to allow the dough to rise. If you’re short on time, you can serve this meal with pita bread instead.
Last week I made this recipe for Zucchini Banana Bread as a snack for our market crew. I made it into muffins instead of bread, which worked equally as well. They turned out very good and were a hit with the crew. They are very moist and flavorful and freeze well, so make a double batch and stash some in the freezer OR shred your extra zucchini and freeze that so you can make this bread during the winter! The other zucchini recipe I have in the cue for this week is this Zucchini & Onion Gratin. Vegetable gratins such as this are a classic French technique that is really quite simple to execute. This dish could serve as a vegetarian main dish or you can serve it as a vegetable side dish along with grilled or roasted meats. Add a few slices of fresh tomatoes or cucumbers and you just created a tasty, yet simple meal.
While we’re whittling down our pile of zucchini, we might as well conquer cucumbers as well! In addition to the recipe for Yogurt and Cucumber sauce, this week I want to make this recipe for Cucumber and Lime Juice
. It’s a refreshing way to stay hydrated while making good use of cucumbers!
It’s been a long time since I’ve made potato salad, but I think it’s time to make a bowl this week. Potato Salad was one of my Grandma Yoder’s specialties and while no one will ever be able to match the taste of hers, this recipe for Amish Potato Salad
comes pretty close! The Sierra Blanca onions in this week’s box are a great onion to use in this salad and the waxy gold potatoes are also a good choice since they’ll hold their shape nicely without becoming mushy. Serve this salad with Sloppy Joes
! This recipe for sloppy joes seasons the meat with fresh onions and bell peppers, which are in this week’s box! If you aren’t into sloppy joes this week, you could also use the bell peppers and onions to make Crock Pot Chicken Philly Cheesesteak
. The chicken and vegetable part of this sandwich is cooked in the crock pot and is then served on a nice crusty roll.
Last week we featured a recipe for Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro
. If you didn’t have a chance to try this simple soup last week, you have another opportunity to do so this week utilizing the onions, garlic, cilantro and green bell peppers in this week’s box.
Looking for something to do with that bunch of collards in this week’s box? Check out this collection of 12 Vegetarian Collard Wrap Recipes
which includes this recipe for Collard Wraps with Raw Curried Carrot Pate
. The broad, flat leaves of collards make excellent vegetable wrappers that you can use in place of tortillas and the like. I also like this simple recipe for Spaghetti with Collard Greens & Lemon
. If you need a quick dinner, this is a great recipe to turn to.
Tomatillos are great for making salsa verde, but there are other ways to use them! This recipe for Roasted Tomatillo & Chickpea Curry
is one of my favorite things to make with tomatillos. It’s an interesting dish that is kind of a fusion of Mexican and Indian cuisine. I also like this recipe for Fried Tomatillo Frittata
which is good served at any meal of the day!
When it comes to fritters, I generally think of potato or zucchini as the vegetable of choice. I came across this recipe for Carrot Fritters
and want to give this a try this week. While fritters like this are best eaten freshly made, you can also reheat them as leftovers. It’s best to reheat them in an oven or toaster oven to reclaim their crispy exterior and prevent them from being soggy. This would be a good side dish to serve with a sandwich, or add other vegetable dishes to round out a vegetarian meal. Another good dish to serve alongside is Pan Fried Potatoes & Green Beans
. This recipe is very simple, but that’s the key to cooking when it comes to fresh green beans and early season potatoes! If you don’t use your green beans for this recipe, consider trying my friend Amanda’s recipe for Spicy Green Beans with Sesame Walnuts
. There are several things I like about this recipe. The green beans are first blanched and then blistered in a dry, hot skillet to give them a smoky flavor. They are finished with some Asian inspired seasonings of tamari and rice vinegar as well as toasty walnuts and sesame seeds. There’s a lot of flavor happening in this dish!
More broccoli this week? YES! Broccoli is packed with nutrients and when you look at health reasons for why we should eat broccoli, the list is pretty long. It’s a vegetable you want to eat frequently and there are many ways to enjoy it. This week I came across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Bites
. These “bites” are shaped into little balls that are baked, not fried. They contain all the flavors of buffalo chicken wings, just in a different form! Of course raw broccoli salads are also a great way to enjoy broccoli throughout the week. While many broccoli salads have a creamy dressing base, this Broccoli Slaw with Miso Ginger Dressing
caught my eye as something different. This salad has a flavorful Asian style dressing featuring miso, orange zest, ginger, rice vinegar and sesame oil. It also draws a lot of fresh flavors from cilantro, mint and basil and at the end is topped off with coconut flakes.
The only item we haven’t touched on is tomatoes. Our tomatoes are coming on a little late this year, but nonetheless there are tomatoes in all boxes! If you receive the small varieties of tomatoes, I encourage you to just pop them in your mouth and eat them as a snack. Their flavor is really good right now! I also like to use these tomatoes to make Tomato Confit
. I learned how to make this when I was doing my culinary internship in Scottsdale, Arizona. We used to make tomato confit to use as a base for flatbread pizzas. It’s also good eaten on toast or toss the confit with hot, cooked pasta for a quick dinner. If you receive a variety of larger tomatoes, get started on making BLTs! Since we don’t have lettuce available this time of year, we often forgo the lettuce part of the BLT and substitute other vegetables such as leaves of basil or slices of avocado.
Have a good week and I’ll see you back again next week with a few more new items including edamame and hopefully some melons!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Eggplant: Flashy, yet humble
By Andrea Yoder
Eggplant is one of the most beautiful crops we grow. The plants grow several feet tall and, in their peak, are loaded with beautiful glossy fruit hanging heavy on the plant. In the world, there are many varieties of eggplant ranging in size from small round eggplant the size of a golf ball to large globe eggplant weighing over a pound. They come in a variety of colors ranging from various shades of purple to black, green, lavender, white and orange. We have narrowed our lineup to our four favorite varieties including Lilac Bride, Purple Dancer, Listada and the traditional Black eggplant. Refer to our previous blog post which includes pictures and profiles of each eggplant and highlights the characteristics of each in further detail. Each variety is best for different uses, so it’s helpful to visualize which variety you have before you decide how you want to use it.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and must be cooked. Many resources will tell you to salt eggplant before cooking it to remove bitterness. While some older varieties were bitter, the new varieties we grow have been selected because they are not bitter, thus you can skip the salting step for that reason. You may still choose to salt eggplant to soften the flesh so it doesn’t absorb too much oil. Most of our varieties of eggplant have skin that is tender enough to eat, thus you do not always need to peel them either.
While eggplant is thought to have originated in the area around India and Pakistan, it has now been spread around the world. Since eggplant is part of so many cultures, there are a lot of ways you can use eggplant in your cooking. It is often incorporated into curry and stir-fry dishes in Indian, Thai, and Chinese cuisine. Sicilians are famous for eggplant caponata while Middle Eastern dishes include baba ganoush. The French put their mark on eggplant with the traditional Provencal dish, ratatouille. Eggplant has a mild flavor and soft texture when cooked, which is what makes it unique. While it isn’t a predominant flavor, it has a texture such that it is able to absorb other flavors and pairs well with other vegetables including tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, potatoes and chickpeas. It also goes well with flavorful olive oil, tahini, herbs such as basil and parsley and spices including cumin, coriander, sumac, and cinnamon. It also goes well with dairy products including yogurt, cheese (feta, Parmesan and mozzarella), cream and fruits including lemons and pomegranate.
Eggplant does not store terribly well, so it is best to use it soon after getting it. It is best stored at a temperature of about 45-50°F, but your home refrigerator should be colder than this. Thus, we recommend storing your eggplant on the kitchen counter and use it within 2-4 days.
A Note From Chef Andrea
This week’s recipes come from Yasmin Khan’s beautiful book entitled, Zaitoun (which means “olive” in Arabic). This book is a collection of Palestinian recipes and stories about Yasmin’s experiences gathered while sharing meals with Palestinian people as she traveled through the area once known as Palestine. In this book she shares what she learned about the food and culture that shapes their lives. This week’s featured recipes build a full, simple meal. Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas and Tomatoes is best served at room temperature. Serve it with the creamy Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce on the side and Arabic flatbread. You do need to allow time for the dough to rise, etc, so if you don’t have time to make homemade flatbread, you can also serve this meal with purchased pita bread.
Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas and Tomatoes
Yield: 4 servings
photo from Zaitoun,
By Yasmin Khan
1 ⅓ pound eggplant (about 2 large ones)
2 Tbsp olive oil or any neutral oil, plus more for the eggplant
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
14 ounce can of plum tomatoes
14 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cumin
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve
Chopped cilantro, to serve
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut the eggplants in half, then into quarters and finally slice them into ¾ inch chunks. Place in a baking pan, drizzle with some cooking oil, sprinkle over a pinch of salt and then toss the eggplant to coat. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until soft.
Meanwhile, fry the onion in a large sauce pan in 2 Tbsp cooking oil until soft and golden (this will take about 15 minutes). Add the garlic and fry for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, chickpeas, sugar, spices and some salt and pepper. Fill the tomato can up with just boiling water and add that to the pot, too. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, until the chick peas are very soft.
Add the eggplant and cook for a final 10 minutes, splashing in more hot water if the dish looks dry.
Leave to cool to room temperature before drizzling over plenty of extra virgin olive oil and scattering with cilantro.
Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce
7 ounces cucumber (any type)
2 cups unflavored, plain yogurt
½ garlic clove, crushed
Small handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp dried mint
¼ tsp salt
Cut the cucumber in half and, using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard all its seeds. Chop the flesh into small cubes and mix them into the yogurt with garlic, fresh and dried mint and ¼ tsp salt.
photo from Zaitoun,
By Yasmin Khan
2 cups bread flour, plus more to dust
2 tsp active dry yeast
¼ tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
⅔ cup lukewarm water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the dough
If you are using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, place the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in its mixing bowl. Add half the water and the extra virgin olive oil. Knead for 5 minutes on a medium setting, or until the dough comes together in a ball. Every minute after this, gradually add a little of the remaining water, until all the flour has come away from the sides and you have a soft dough. (You may not need all the water.) If kneading by hand, follow the process above but, once you have mixed all the ingredients together in a bowl, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 7-10 minutes. The dough will be wet in the beginning, but keep going and it will become smooth, stretchy and pliable.
There are a few different ways to tell if your dough is ready. You can give the ball of dough a firm poke with your finger and, if the indentation that you make fills quickly, you know it’s done. If the dent stays, then continue kneading. In addition, you can do the “windowpane test,” which involves taking a small piece of dough from the ball and stretching it between your fingers and thumb into a very thin, almost translucent, square (so it looks a bit like a windowpane). If you can stretch the dough nice and thin without breaking it, then it’s ready. If not, keep kneading it for a few more minutes.
When the dough has been well kneaded, use your fingertips to smooth its surface with a drop of olive oil, trying to very lightly coat it. Place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Knock the air out of the dough by firmly whacking it on your work top a few times. Cut it into 6 equal-sized balls. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into an oval about ¼ inch thick. Cover with a clean, damp dish towel and leave to rise for a final 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to its highest setting. Lightly dust a pizza stone or 2 baking sheets with a little flour (this will stop the bread from sticking) and place in the oven to heat up.
Place the flatbreads on the hot stone or sheets; you will probably have to cook them in batches. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the breads have just puffed up and are starting to color. Remove from the oven and cover with a clean cloth until cool, while you cook the remaining breads. Serve as soon as possible, or at least within a few hours.
Cooking With This Week's Box
Green Bell Peppers:
Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro (see below); Crispy Potato Tacos
Jalapeno Pepper: Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro (see below)
We’re flipping another page on the calendar this week as we welcome in the month of August! Summer is whizzing by, but August is also an exciting month filled with sweet corn, tomatoes and peppers so who can complain! This week we’re going to start topping our garlic, sorting out our seed stock and getting it all tucked away safely in the cooler. So needless to say, garlic is at the forefront of our thoughts which is why I chose it as our featured vegetable! This week we have two garlic-centric recipes. The first is for Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro (see below). As with many traditional recipes that stand the test of time, this recipe has its roots in peasant food. This is a very fitting for this week’s box though as it utilizes not only garlic, but also jalapeno and bell peppers as well as cilantro. It comes together pretty quickly as well, so it’s a good option for a healthy, quick dinner. The second recipe is Triple Garlic Linguine (see below). It’s a simple garlic-forward pasta dish, but you could add other things to it such as some diced chicken and/or chard.
I’ve been having fun finding and trying new recipes using zucchini this summer. You know I love a good, simple pizza, so this recipe for Skillet Zucchini Pesto Pizza caught my eye. I also came across this recipe for Pasta with Smashed Zucchini Cream. Aside from some Parmesan cheese, this pasta dish actually doesn’t have any cream in it. The creaminess comes from smashing the zucchini and letting all the juices come together to create the sauce.
If you didn’t have a chance to see last week’s featured vegetable article about cucumbers, I’d encourage you to check it out. If you go to the bottom of the article you’ll find a list of 30 recipes/recipe ideas all featuring cucumbers! So if you are running out of ways to enjoy cucumbers, let me suggest a few things you may not have tried. Perhaps these refreshing Cucumber Mint Green Tea Popsicles
or this Mojito Cucumber Mint Sorbet
will hit the spot!
This week we’re picking both green and purple beans. Both varieties are more tender than our earlier varieties and thus, better for eating raw. Growing up, we only ate green beans cooked…rather overcooked, thus I despised green beans. It wasn’t until my adult years I realized you can eat them raw. Now that is my preferred way to eat them, which is why this Fresh Green Bean Salad
is on the list for this week! Raw green beans are crunchy and fresh tasting and can become a tasty simple salad with a light vinaigrette mixed with some other summer vegetables like the cucumbers and tomatoes in this recipe!
One of our awesome CSA members posted this recipe for Smashed White Bean Kale Quesadillas in our Facebook Group. It’s a simple recipe, but a good one for a quick, easy, yet filling dinner option. Really you can use any green in this recipe, one member suggested she was going to use last week’s amaranth greens which made me think of making these with this week’s chard!
I hope you’ve been enjoying the fresh potatoes, I know we have been! This week I want to try this recipe for Crispy Potato Tacos
. This recipe calls for Russet potatoes, but I think a waxier potato such as the Red Norland or Gold Carola potatoes we’re sending this week would be a better option. I would also suggest adding some sautéed green bell peppers to the tacos and top it off with quartered grape tomatoes and cilantro from this week’s box.
Looking for something different to do with carrots this week? How about turning them into this refreshing Tropical Carrot Smoothie
! Many carrot drink recipes call for carrot juice which means you lose the fiber—no good! This one blends the whole carrots with strawberries, mangos and other frozen fruit. Perfect! Or, if you prefer a creamier drink, try this Carrot Cake Smoothie
Looking for a simple side dish? Try this recipe for Garlic Broccoli Stir-Fry
. It would actually go well with these Cheeseburger Onion Rings
. I know I always tell you to slice the onions thinly, especially when serving them raw. This recipe, however, is an exception to that rule. You make thick slices of onion and then pull the rings apart. Press ground beef and a piece of cheese inside the onion ring, bread the whole thing and fry it. You end up with a crispy coated burger wrapped in a slice of onion with gooey melted cheese oozing out the middle! Ok, it might be a little messy but it sounds kind of fun and these white onions are the perfect onion for this application!
That concludes this week’s cooking chat. Have a great week and I’ll see you back next week, hopefully with recipes for using edamame and more tomatoes!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Garlic
By Andrea Yoder
“In all of its many forms and in kitchens around the globe, the lusty and pungent allium garlic is the flavor of comfort.” This is the opening line in an article entitled “The Glories of Garlic” published in Saveur magazine October 9, 2014. Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated crops and has made its way around the globe to permeate and enhance the cuisine of cultures all around the world. In Spain it’s used to make Ajo Blanco, a chilled garlic and almond soup. In Argentina it’s a key ingredient for making chimichurri, a fresh sauce or condiment consisting of parsley, oregano, garlic and red wine vinegar that is commonly served with grilled meat. In Chinese cuisine, garlic is an integral part of the base of many dishes along with ginger and scallions. In France, garlic is used to make aioli, or rather a fancy name for homemade garlic mayonnaise. These are just a few examples of how important garlic is to our diets, no matter where we come from in this world. So this week we are featuring this staple ingredient that we strive to include in every CSA box throughout the season, in one form or another!
Garlic is a big deal crop for us, partly because we like the challenge of growing it, but also because we value having it available and we use it in meals throughout the entire year. We start off the season with green garlic, then move on to garlic scapes, then fresh bulb garlic and finally, dried garlic that can be stored throughout the fall and winter. We value garlic for its flavor, but also for its health and medicinal value. It’s antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial…..basically, it’s good medicine. Richard swears by a good raw garlic sandwich to ward off something as simple as the common cold. Perhaps including garlic in your diet daily is a good dose of prevention and gives your immune system the daily boost it needs to keep you healthy!
While we have several different varieties of garlic, we have two main types that are our “workhorse” varieties. These two varieties are Italian and Porcelain. At the farmers’ market we are frequently asked “What’s the difference between the two?” I don’t think the flavor of these two garlic varieties are much different, but perhaps you’ll detect some subtle differences. The thing that sets these apart in my kitchen is the size of the cloves. Garlic forms a bulb or head of garlic that contains individual pieces of garlic called cloves. Italian garlic forms more cloves per head than porcelain, but the cloves are smaller. Porcelain garlic, on the other hand, has fewer cloves per head but the individual cloves are bigger. We use a lot of garlic in our household, so I tend to gravitate towards porcelain garlic simply because it means less peeling! You can tell the difference between the two not only by the size of the cloves, but also by the color of the skin. Porcelain garlic has pure white skin with just an occasional streak of purple while Italian garlic has more reddish purple coloring.
Properly dried garlic typically has a long shelf life if stored in the right environment. We store garlic in a cold, dry cooler at about 34-36°F. Home refrigerators are usually too humid to properly store garlic, so if you are looking to store garlic for awhile or over the winter in your home, we recommend you store it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight and a location with good ventilation. If you ever purchase garlic from us as a produce plus item, we’ll pack it in a mesh bag that can be hung up. The mesh contains the garlic but allows it to breathe and have better airflow.
In its raw form, the flavor of garlic can be very strong, spicy and even might burn a bit if you eat a big piece! Some people really like this bold, strong garlic flavor. Others may find raw garlic too pungent for their palate, so for those individuals I recommend enjoying garlic either sautéed, fried or roasted. Cooking releases some of the pungent sulfur compounds, mellows the intensity and even sweetens it up a bit. You can roast a whole head of garlic in the oven until the cloves are soft and golden, then pull the cloves off the head and squeeze the soft, roasted garlic out of the skins. You can also peel garlic in advance, toss it with oil and roast it in the oven or cover it with oil and slow roast it to make garlic confit. The benefit of the latter is that you end up with a flavorful garlic oil as well as roasted garlic cloves!
This year’s garlic has been drying in the greenhouse for almost three weeks now and it’s finally ready to start removing the tops and sorting. We have a big job ahead of us over the next two weeks as we sort out our seed and get everything moved from the greenhouse to the cooler for storage until late December. This week we encourage you to try some more garlic-forward recipes as we embrace this beautiful vegetable, celebrate its recent harvest and look forward to enjoying garlic throughout the remainder of the season!
Triple Garlic Linguine
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 head garlic, plus 10 cloves (7 thinly sliced, 3 minced)
1 cup olive oil
½ tsp crushed red chile flakes
12 oz linguine
4 ½ cups chicken stock
½ cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp roughly chopped parsley, for garnish
Kosher salt, to taste
Heat oven to 350°F. Slice garlic head in half crosswise and set cut side up on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp oil and 2 Tbsp cold water; wrap into a tight package. Bake until tender, 1–1 ½ hours.
Heat remaining oil and the sliced garlic in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium; cook until garlic is golden, 4–6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic chips to paper towels to drain; set ⅓ cup oil aside. Reserve remaining oil for another use, if you like.
Heat reserved ⅓ cup oil, the minced garlic, and chile flakes in a 14” high-sided skillet over medium. Cook until garlic is soft but not golden, 2–3 minutes. Add pasta and stock; bring to a boil. Cook, using tongs to stir pasta occasionally, until liquid is almost evaporated and pasta is al dente, about 12 minutes. Unwrap roasted garlic and squeeze cloves into pasta. Add parmesan, lemon juice, parsley, and salt; toss to combine. Garnish with reserved garlic chips.
Recipe borrowed from saveur.com.
Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro (Açorda à Aletejana)
Yield: 6-8 servings
4 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
7 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup olive oil
½ lb crusty bread (such as a baguette or French bread)
8 cups chicken stock
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Pulse cilantro, garlic, bell pepper, serrano/jalapeño, salt, and pepper in a food processor until roughly chopped. Add oil; purée to a smooth paste. Place ½ cup of paste in a bowl. Add bread and toss to coat; set aside.
Heat remaining paste in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until fragrant, 2–3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. While stirring constantly, slowly drizzle in eggs; cook until eggs are just set, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in bread mixture; serve hot.
Recipe borrowed from saveur.com.
By Gwen Anderson
“Water is the driving force of all nature.” --Leonardo Da Vinci
Ever since there have been farms, farmers have been finding ways to get the life-giving force of water to their crops. The blessing of a nice, gentle rain at just the right time is a great boon, but you can’t be guaranteed anything of that sort in farming, despite your skill and grace at rain dancing. As farmers, it is our job to care for our crops, to give them what they need at the time they are needing it, and that includes water. To learn more about how we water our crops, I spent some time talking to Farmer Richard and the leader of the irrigation crew, Vicente.
This year's irrigation crew: Vicente (left) and Manuel M. (right)
Here at Harmony Valley Farm, we have two main ways to deliver water from its source to our crop fields: subsurface and overhead. Subsurface, or drip, as we call it, is when a small hose is buried in the ground under the crop. This hose, called drip tape or drip line, has tiny holes in it that allows water to be fed directly to the roots of our crops. The other method, overhead irrigation, is something most people are familiar with: sprinklers. We have two methods of using sprinklers, either many small ones connected in a line or one very large one we call “the gun,” which slowly pulls itself across the field with water pressure.
Drip line in our squash field.
Richard dug it up a little bit so we could see it in action.
Both types of irrigation have their advantages and disadvantages. Vicente prefers the drip tape because it is a onetime set up and stays with the crop for the whole season. When it comes time to water the crops, you just hook up the pump, check for leaks, and let it run. The main disadvantage to this type of irrigation is that it is not reusable. Every year, we need to purchase new drip line to replace what we used the year before. Every spring, we bury the drip lines in the fields where we will plant the crops we use it for, and we have to pull it up at the end of harvest. If you watched the garlic field tour video we posted to Facebook a few weeks back you saw some of our harvest crew removing the drip tape from the soil as the lifter brought the garlic out of the ground. Due to the onetime use nature of drip tape, the price to use it to irrigate crops that are planted and harvested once, like radishes and cilantro, would be high. Instead, we save the drip tape for long season crops, like onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes.
There is also the problem of leaks in the drip line. If the line isn’t buried deep enough, or if a tractor gets off course even a fraction of an inch, the drip line can get ripped by our cultivating equipment. While the pump is running, Vicente checks the fields to make sure water is running through the whole drip line. If there is a spot in the field that isn’t getting water, it takes a little bit of detective work to find where the water stops, sometimes just by digging up portions of the line. Vicente says it is easier to find the leaks in beds that have plastic mulch on them. This is because the drip line isn't buried as deep as on a regular bed since we don’t have to use the cultivation equipment on beds with plastic mulch. When the leaks are found, he cuts the ripped section of the tape out and replaces it with a hard plastic coupler to reconnect the two pieces of the spliced tape before burying the drip line again. In recent years, we’ve been trying different techniques to alleviate the problem of ripping the drip tape with the cultivators. Burying the drip tape deeper is one of those measures. Another trial technique this year has been planting cover crops in the wheel tracks of some of our fields with drip tape in them. Not only does it mean we don’t have to run the cultivators through those fields as often, but it has the added benefit of more green, living plants sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere. That is a win all around!
This years onion crop, with cover crops planted to reduce
weeding needs and sequester carbon.
The drip tape does allow us to do something we can’t do with sprinklers and the rain gun. We can fertigate! Fertigation is when we use the irrigation lines to “spoon feed beneficial nutrients right to the roots of the plant,” as Farmer Richard says. Unlike other methods of applying fertilizer, with fertigation we aren’t applying it to everything that has access to the top soil, like weeds. We can also use this method of applying fertilizer when the crops do not need to be watered. We hook the fertilizer up to the pump, run it through the field with minimal water to facilitate the delivery, and turn the water off when the fertilizer has been administered. No need to run the pump for 7 or more hours like Vicente would if the field was needing water.
Drip line is buried when the plastic mulch is laid.
What do we use to fertilize our fields? I could write a whole article on fertilizer alone, so I’m just going to stick to a few highlights. Any of the fertilizer we use with fertigation needs to be water soluble, or able to be dissolved in water. There are two ways to do this: either have the fertilizer already be liquid, or use a water soluble solution. The main fertilizers we use for fertigation are either liquid fish and seaweed, or a fish powder. When the crops are starting to put on fruit, we give them extra potassium, the mineral plants use to produce fruit. We also provide our crops with a vast assortment of beneficial microbials and other micro nutrients that do everything from promote total plant health to deter pests.
Sprinklers running to sprout radish and cilantro seeds.
Overhead irrigation, or our sprinklers and “rain gun”, is mainly used to germinate seeds and when the crops are small. This is the type of irrigation we use on our weekly planted crops, like radishes, and crops with small seeds, like carrots. To use the sprinklers, Vicente and the irrigation crew lay out aluminum pipe in the field that needs to be watered. These pipes are connected to a pump that has been placed in a water source near the field, either the Bad Axe River, a creek, or the well at our Hammel property. Once the field has been watered for the appropriate amount of time, the pipes and pump are picked up and either stored or moved to another field to start the process over again.
The rain gun works in much the same way, except the pipes are not laid through the whole field. Instead, the rain gun follows a thick, sturdy hose that needs to be laid out in the field we want watered. Vicente uses a tractor to slowly pull the hose through the field, with one of his irrigation crew members ready to radio him when the hose is to the end so it doesn’t break. Once the hose is laid and the gun is ready to use, the pump is turned on and the gun sprays water over the field, slowly following the hose back to the pump. As the gun “walks” through the field, it coils the hose back up on a reel so it is nice and tidy for the next time Vicente and his team need to use it. This particular method of irrigation is only used when the fields are very dry. Luckily, we haven’t had to use the rain gun this year.
"Rain gun" being used in our kohlrabi field in 2017.
The advantages of overhead irrigation are reusability and portability. The aluminum pipes are long lasting, thus we can use them season after season. Since the pipes are also portable, we don’t need to worry about damage from our cultivation equipment. However, that portability comes with its own challenges as well. I mentioned earlier that Vicente runs the water pumps for at least 7 hours, and may need to run it for as much as 12 hours if the crop is very dry. That can make for a long day if the pipes aren’t out first thing in the morning. As leader of the irrigation team, it is Vicente’s responsibility to turn off the pumps at the appropriate time and to check on them during the watering process. It is a responsibility he takes seriously. “Sometimes, when I’m finished for the day, and I’m tired and want to go to bed, I can’t go to bed because I have a pump out there that I need to turn off. I have to wait until the gun gets to the reel and shut off the pump so things don’t get over watered.”
Over watering isn’t the only reason to stay up and check your pumps, either. If the pump needs a tractor to run it, you need to make sure it doesn’t develop a mechanical problem, or you risk damaging the tractor. Also, if a hose comes loose and you don’t have an automatic shut off switch installed, you could be pumping water directly into the ground near the pump instead of through your field. “I’ve never done it,” Farmer Richard told me, “but I’ve heard stories of if you didn’t get up in the middle of the night and catch it, the next morning you’d have a hole deep enough to fit two school buses in.”
Beautiful peppers from 2012, the fruit of the irrigation
crew's dedication and effort.
During a drought year, like the one we had in 2012, that lack of sleep can really add up. “You start doing that for about 6 days in a row and it gets old,” Farmer Richard told me. Vicente and his crew were working around the clock for two months to keep our crops watered and healthy. “That was terrible,” Vicente admitted, but he was dedicated to ensuring the crops were getting taken care of. Farmer Andrea recalled one night that year the irrigation team was having trouble getting a water pump started, and Vicente was exhausted. She had told him to go home, but Vicente said “I can’t go home, I need to get the water going.” After some reassurance, Vicente took her advice. “It was a very hard year,” Farmer Andrea stated. “He was up early shutting off pumps and switching things over, because he had to in order to stay on top of the water needs.”
However, the crops were beautiful. Farmer Richard admitted to liking drought. “These excess rains just promote disease like nobody’s business.” Even Vicente said “we should have another year like that.” In the end, the beautiful crops are what make all the work worth the effort. It doesn’t have to be a drought year for the effects of ones efforts to be seen, either. “When the crop is good, and I know it is producing nice,” Vicente told me, “that is what makes me feel good.”
An irrigation pump (right) connected to a water filter (left)
running water to the drip line in our squash field.
While both types of irrigation have different uses, they do share some of the same challenges. With either type of irrigation, we use water pumps to get the water to where it needs to be. Vicente is in charge of all of the equipment, and needs to ensure it is safely put away when not in use. We do our best to keep an eye on the weather, but sometimes rain catches us off guard. If it rains a lot and we have left a pump at a site near the river, we just might loose the pump to the water.
Administratively, we need permits from the Department of Natural Resources to pump the water to our fields. The DNR assesses whether our water usage is going to have a negative impact on other people who also use the waterways in question. There are strict guidelines the DNR uses to ensure this, and if we are awarded the permit, we are only allowed to pump the amount of water allocated on our permit. Due to this, we have to report our water usage at the end of the year. We lease land and use several different water ways, so we have several different permits. The water usage reports are filed separately for each permit. Vicente keeps records of where he pumps water, what kind of irrigation he uses, and how long he runs it. He then calculates the water usage and turns it in to me at the end of the year. It is my responsibility to enter the information into our records and file the reports with the DNR.
We’ve gone over the different methods we use to irrigate our crops and some of the challenges inherent to doing so, but how do we know when to do it? Vicente uses a device called a tensiometer to measure the amount of water that is saturating the soil. The sensor is buried in the ground at root depth, which for most of our crops is 6 inches, and then marked with a flag so Vicente can find it later when he needs to take a measurement. He uses a portable sensor reader that he hooks up to the sensor that will display the kPa (kilopascals) reading. Our tensiometer is set up to read 0 to 200 kPa. 0 kPa means the soil is as full of water as it can be. Depending on the type of plant, the kPa reading they like to be at is different, so Vicente has a chart with the tensiometer to help him out. Onions “drink a lot of water,” as Vicente says, so he waters them when the sensor reads 25. If the sensor reads more than 25, it means he needs to get to work immediately and give the onions a drink. Celeriac is another crop with a desired kPa level of 25. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are a tropical crop and require a lot less water, 200 kPa according to Vicente’s chart. Most of our crops land in the 45 kPa range.
Vicente checking the sensor in the squash field.
No need to turn the water on here!
Due to the nature of the sensors, we keep them where they are “planted” for the season. We do our best to have a sensor in every field, especially in fields where we have drip lines. While the tensiometer is an invaluable tool used for irrigation, we sometimes have to just water the plants when they look thirsty. Vicente keeps a close eye on the crops that don’t have sensors in them, and when they start showing signs that they are in need of a drink, he and his crew set up the irrigation systems. Richard says that generally, our crops need about an inch of water per week. “Are they going to die if 8 days go by and they haven’t had an inch [of water]? No, but they might stop growing.”
2018 Sweet Potato Crop, which Vicente stated he was very
proud of due to the excellent production we had.
Luckily, here in Wisconsin, there isn’t a great need for irrigation like in some of the other arid states. Mostly, we use irrigation to promote consistent growth in our crops and to germinate seeds. “We don’t want to baby our crops too much,” Richard stated. “If you continuously water one or more times a week they tend to have shallow roots, so when it does get dry they are not prepared for it.” In the end, you see the literal fruits of the irrigation team’s labor in your CSA boxes every week. Vicente and everyone here on the farm work hard to make sure you get the best tasting, nutritionally dense produce we can offer. It is a job everyone is proud of. I think Richard summed it up best when he told me “there is some nervousness around irrigation, but when it works, it is wonderful. Our crops just grow like crazy.”
Cooking With This Week's Box
Green Scallions or White Spanish Onions: Korean Stir-Fried Cucumbers (see below); Summer Vietnamese Noodle Salad (see below); Zucchini Enchiladas; Summer Farmer Skillet; Aloo Gobi; Creamy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole; Diner Style Western Omelet
Since our second crop of cucumbers is starting to produce now, I thought this would be a good week to feature cucumbers! Wondering what to do with the pile of cucumbers in this week’s box? Our two feature recipes this week include Summer Vietnamese Noodle Salad (see below) and Korean Stir-Fried Cucumbers (see below). If you aren’t in the mood for either of these recipes, perhaps you’ll find something to your liking on the list of 30 different recipes/recipe collections (see below) I’ve included with this week’s vegetable feature! I’ve included recipes for everything from soups and salads to beverages and desserts!
photo from WellPlated.com
Once you’ve conquered the pile of cucumbers, it’s time to move on to the pile of zucchini! I came across this recipe for Zucchini Enchiladas. This recipe uses long, thin slices of zucchini in place of corn tortillas. You use them to wrap up a filling, line them up in a pan and cover them with a flavorful enchilada sauce. What a great idea!
Tis the season for Summer Farmer Skillet! This is a recipe I featured back in 2017 and it’s a simple way to make a filling main course using a lot of different vegetables including potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onions, garlic, beans and either amaranth or kale. You can vary the ingredients based on what you have available. Leftovers also reheat very well for a nice next-day lunch or dinner option. You can also eat it for breakfast with a fried egg on top!
Looking for something to do with the carrot tops instead of throwing them away? How about Carrot Top Hummus? Make this on the weekend and keep it handy for a quick snack or light dinner. Eat it with slices of cucumber and carrot sticks, pita or chips.
Creamy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole
photo from SpoonfulOfFlavor.com
I haven’t made Aloo Gobi for awhile, but it’s always a delicious dish to make with new potatoes and summer cauliflower. Aloo Gobi is an Indian curry one-pot meal that is pretty simple to make…and eat! If you don’t use the cauliflower for aloo gobi, consider making Creamy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole. This is a simple recipe that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser! While we’re talking casseroles, I think this would be a great week to make Cheesy Ham Green Bean Casserole. This recipe calls for 2 pounds of beans and yields 8 servings. There is only one pound of beans in the box this week, so you’ll have to cut the recipe in half.
Kale and Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing
photo from BonAppetit.com
Last, but not least, if you still have a little onion and bell pepper hanging out at the end of the box, turn them into a Diner Style Western Omelet. This is one of my favorite ways to use green bell peppers and it reminds me of those Sunday after-church lunches with my family when I was a kid. We’d often go to The Waffle House or Bob Evans and I’d either get a stack of blueberry pancakes or a western omelet. Aside from my brother pulling the chair out from me when I went to sit down, those were fun times with good memories!
That’s it for this week. I’ll see you back again in one short week with more summer vegetables and more delicious recipes!—Chef Andrea
Vegetable Feature: Cucumbers
By Andrea Yoder
“Why Cucumbers? (Doesn’t everyone know about cucumbers?)” This is the opening line to the chapter about cucumbers in Elizabeth Schneider’s book, Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini. Cucumbers and zucchini are kind of staple summer crops, you just have to have them. The thing about both of these crops that can sometimes be frightening is their ability to produce like crazy in the heat of the summer which leaves us with a pile of cucumbers and the question “What in the world am I going to do with all these cucumbers?!” Don’t worry, I have some suggestions for you this week!
While we’re only accustomed to seeing several different types of cucumbers in this country, there are many different shapes and colors of cucumbers world-wide. They are thought to have originated in India or the surrounding area. They then spread into other Asian countries as well as Europe and then made their way to the Americas where they were introduced to this part of the world by explorers. Cucumbers, which thrive in warm climates and the heat of summer, are known to be very cooling and help us stay hydrated with their high water content. This cooling characteristic also makes them a sensible condiment or accompaniment to counter spicy foods such as chiles and curries. We grow the most familiar “green slicer” cucumbers as well as our favorite variety of cucumbers called silver slicers. Silver slicers produce a smaller cucumber that has a white to pale yellow skin color with crispy, fruity flesh. We have grown to prefer this variety because the flavor is more complex, the flesh maintains its crispness, and it doesn’t have any/many of the compounds in cucumbers that can cause burping or gastrointestinal consequences.
In addition to their high moisture content, cucumbers have other important nutritive qualities. They are also high in vitamin K as well as a host of phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These nutrients are thought to be beneficial for heart and brain health as well as cancer prevention and perhaps are helpful in managing diabetes. There’s a reason why cucumbers are often associated with skin treatments as well. Cucumbers can help decrease swelling, puffiness, skin irritation and soothe a sunburn due to their cooling and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cucumbers pair well with a whole host of ingredients, but some of the most common pairings include herbs such as mint, basil, parsley and dill as well as other vegetables such as onions, tomatoes and garlic. Cucumbers also pair well with other fruits such as melons, watermelon, limes, lemons, grapefruit and berries. Of course they also play well with feta cheese, cream, buttermilk, sour cream and yogurt.
There are so many things you can make with cucumbers. Of course, they are good to eat with just a little sprinkling of salt, but beyond this simple pleasure they are most often used in salads and pickled. They can also be used in sandwiches, cold and hot soups, desserts such as sorbet and popsicles, refreshing drinks both with and without alcohol, and condiments such as Tzatziki and Raita. But don’t think cucumbers are only for eating raw. They can also be cooked! That’s right, cucumbers can be stir-fried, sautéed, roasted and baked.
photo from TheLittleEpicurean.com
I hope you’ll check out the extensive list of 30 recipes/recipe collections that follow. I hope you enjoy some of your old “go-to” ways of eating cucumbers this summer as well as experimenting with some different ways to use cucumbers! Lastly, cucumbers are sensitive to cold temperatures and ideally should be stored at 45-50°F. Thus, we recommend only short-term storage in your refrigerator or just keep them on the counter at room temperature until you use them within a few days. Have fun and don’t forget to stay cool as a cucumber this summer!
Not Sure What To Do With Cucumbers....Here Are a Few Ideas!
Mexican Cucumber Snack
photo from ThriftAndSpice.com
Pickles, Salads & Snacks:
Summer Vietnamese Noodle Salad (see below)
Tuna Steaks with Cucumber Relish
photo from BBCGoodFood.com
Appetizers and/or Mains:
Korean Stir-Fried Cucumbers (see below)
Desserts & Refreshing Treats:
Summer Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
8 ounces thin rice noodles (roughly the width of linguine)
1 ½ cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2-3 medium carrots, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1 large or 2-3 medium cucumbers, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh herbs, preferably a combination of basil, cilantro, and mint
16 ounces cooked tofu, chicken, or shrimp, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts or toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup fish sauce
⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup light brown sugar, plus more to taste
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ to 1 fresh jalapeño, minced
To prepare the dressing, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic, and the jalapeño. Whisk well. Set aside. (Note: The dressing will store in the refrigerator for 3 days to a week.)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes (or according to package instructions), until tender but not mushy. Immediately drain the noodles into a colander, and rinse them well with cold water to cool them. Shake the colander to drain away excess water.
When the noodles are well-drained, put them in a large bowl along with the vegetables, herbs and tofu or meat. Spoon dressing over the entire mixture and toss well to combine.
Serve with chopped peanuts or almonds on top.
Recipe adapted from Food52.com.
Stir-Fried Cucumbers (Oi Bokkeum) "Quick and easy Korean cucumber side dish"
Yield: 4 servings
Photo from KoreanBapsang.com
1 pound cucumbers
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp vegetable oil
½ tsp minced garlic
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp sesame seeds
Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise slightly diagonally. If the cucumbers are thin, you can simply cut into thin rounds.
Toss the cucumber slices with one and a half teaspoons of salt to coat evenly. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Squeeze as much water out from the cucumber slices as possible. Don’t worry about bruising them. They will recover when stir-fried.
Heat a pan over high heat. Add ½ tablespoon of cooking oil. Quickly stir in the garlic. Add the cucumbers. Stir-fry for a minute until the cucumbers are slightly cooked. Turn off the heat. Toss well with the scallion, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
Recipe borrowed from www.koreanbapsang.com.
Cooking With This Week's Box
We started off this week with an exciting afternoon harvest of the first potatoes of the season! As Alvaro said at the end of the day, “Everything was just perfect for the harvest and the potatoes look beautiful!” Alvaro is right and new potatoes are definitely something special as far as we’re concerned. So my recommendation for using the potatoes this week is to just keep it simple. I am sharing my recipe for New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter(see below), which is a simple farmer’s way of eating freshly dug potatoes. Sometimes this is the main focus of our meal along with steamed green beans, slices of salted cucumbers, and roasted beets. Despite Richard’s desire to have meat at every meal, sometimes there just isn’t room on the table for meat when there are so many fresh vegetables to cook! I also like eating these simple New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter for breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs and we sometimes have them for dinner with a grilled pork chop or steak. Really, you can eat them at any time of the day. The other recipe we’re featuring today is for Pesto Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans (see below). Nothing beats freshly dug potatoes and fresh green beans, so why not pair them together in this simple twist on roasted vegetables. This recipe calls for pesto, which you can easily make in your own kitchen using either Italian basil or Carrot Top Pesto using the carrot tops on the bunched carrots this week! You likely have enough carrot tops to actually make a double recipe of carrot top pesto, which you might as well do as long as you’re making a mess! Use the extra pesto to make Carrot Top Pesto Pasta. This is a light pasta dish featuring angel hair pasta tossed with the pesto as well as roasted carrots, sautéed onions and zucchini.
Carrot Top Pesto Pasta
photo from HealthyNibblesAndBits.com
photo from SkinnyTaste.com
Zucchini is one of those vegetables that is always abundant in summer, but it’s also such a versatile vegetable that you can use it in so many different preparations. This recipe for Fabulous Zucchini Grinders was recommended by one of our members in our Facebook Group. This is a tasty hot vegetarian sandwich featuring sautéed zucchini. Another member recommended this recipe for Zucchini “Meat”balls! This is another vegetarian recipe that actually doesn’t have any meat in it but rather uses zucchini as the main ingredient! What great ideas—thank you for sharing!
Actually, there have been a lot of great ideas and posts in our Facebook group over the past week. One member did an awesome post sharing a whole list of stir-fry sauce recipes. One of the links she referenced was to this post that features 7 Easy Stir-Fry Recipes. The author of this recipe provides 7 different stir-fry sauce recipes along with a basic recipe to guide you in making a stir-fry using 4-6 cups of vegetables and 1 pound of meat (if you choose to do so). You choose your sauce recipe, seasonal vegetables and meat of your choosing and turn it into stir-fry using her simple methods. This week’s box has several different vegetable selections that can be used to make a great stir-fry including onions, cabbage, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, cumbers, carrots, and green beans—ok, well nearly the entire box could be used to make stir-fry! The other cool thing about this recipe is the author recommends making these stir-fry sauces in advance and putting them in the freezer. When you need a quick dinner option, the sauce is made and you just have to chop whatever seasonal vegetables you have available and assemble the stir-fry. If you set aside some time to make the sauces in advance, you might as well cook a big pot of rice as well. Cooked rice freezes really well and then it will just need to be reheated on your quick stir-fry night.
This is our last week for salad cabbage. If you missed out on last week’s vegetable feature about salad cabbage, check it out. I also shared two simple cabbage slaw recipes including Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill and Cilantro Lime Slaw. The cilantro lime slaw is part of a recipe for Crispy Baked Fish Tacos that are awesome! Both slaw recipes are simple AND delicious—you can’t go wrong with either.
Did you know you can cook cucumbers? Yes, you can bake, roast, saute and stir-fry them! I’ve never tried Baked Cucumber Chips, but now that I found this recipe I’m going to have to try it! The author gives several different variations you can try for seasoning the chips. I also want to try this Korean recipe for Stir-Fried Cucumbers. This recipe calls for one pound of cucumbers that are stir-fried with garlic, onion and simply seasoned with sesame. This would be a great accompaniment to Slow-Cooker Korean BBQ Beef.
Stir Fried Cucumbers, photo from KoreanBapsang.com
Wow, we’ve talked about a lot of food already and we still have a few more items to discuss! If you don’t use your cauliflower in stir-fry this week, try this recipe for Cauliflower, Chickpea and Chard Curry. I love curry dishes like this because you assemble and simmer everything in one pot, they use a lot of vegetables, and leftovers always taste good. It seems my meals this week are all paired with rice or a similar grain in most cases (eg stir-fry, slow cooker Korean beef, etc). So, start off your week with one big batch and save yourself the trouble of cooking rice, quinoa or other grains multiple days. If you don’t use your chard to make this curry recipe, consider using it in this Warm Chard Salad with Bacon Dressing & Roasted Chicken. This is a main dish salad topped with pecans, dried cherries and roasted chicken.
Warm Chard Salad with Bacon
Dressing & Roasted Chicken,
photo from FiveAndSpice.wordpress.com
Ok friends, that brings us to the absolute bottom of another CSA box. Have a great week and enjoy this summer bounty!
Vegetable Feature: New Potatoes
By Andrea Yoder
Potatoes are a vegetable everyone’s familiar with, but not all are created equally and this week’s potatoes are, in our opinion, very special. There is a short period of time early in the summer when we have the opportunity to eat “New Potatoes”. New potatoes are not a variety, but rather a term used to describe potatoes that are harvested off of a plant that still has green leaves on it. Our usual practice is to mow down the potato vines about a week in advance of harvest. In the week between mowing down the vines and actually harvesting the potatoes, changes take place in the plant that help to set the skins and make them easier to handle without damaging the skin. It also gives them a more durable skin to protect the flesh and make them better for storage. These potatoes were dug Monday afternoon of this week off of green vines. Freshly dug new potatoes have a flavor and texture unlike other potatoes throughout the season. It is a fresh, pure potato flavor and the skin is tender and delicate. Once cooked, the flesh is moist, creamy and smooth. Simply delicious!
The new potatoes in your box this week are a variety called Red Norland. They are an early red-skinned potato with creamy white flesh. They need to be handled with care so as not to disturb the skin and expose the flesh. We’ve given them the “white glove treatment” through the harvest and washing processes, but we encourage you to handle them with care as well. Wash them before use and just give them a gentle scrub if needed.
Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrigerator. We store our potatoes in a warmer cooler at about 48-50°F which is most ideal. If potatoes are stored in colder temperatures (such as your home refrigerator), the starches will convert to sugars which is not what we want in a potato. So in a home setting, it’s best to store them in a cool, dry location outside of the refrigerator where they will not be exposed to light. Light causes the potatoes to turn green and bitter. If the potatoes have set their skins, in general they will store for a few weeks at room temperature in a brown paper bag (never in a plastic bag). However, this week’s new potatoes will not store as well and are best eaten within one week.
Potato digger unearthing new potatoes
Some potatoes are classified as “waxy” while others are classified as “starchy,” or possibly a mix of the two classifications which we label “all-purpose.” These classifications are assigned based on the type of starch that comprises the flesh of the potato. Waxy potatoes are generally more moist and hold together better. They are best used for roasting, boiling or steaming, and are a good choice for soups and potato salad. I do not recommend mashing them because they usually become sticky and pasty. Starchy potatoes tend to be more dry and fluffy. This is a variety of potato appropriate for mashing as well as for making roasted potatoes, pan frying, etc. Starchy potatoes are also useful in soups, but they’ll likely fall apart which is actually good for thickening. As we progress throughout the season, make sure you read the “What’s In the Box” portion of the newsletter each week as we’ll give you information about the specific potato varieties as we deliver them.
I encourage you to slow down and really savor the flavor of these new potatoes as this is the only time during the season you’ll be able to have this taste experience of freshly dug potatoes. You really don’t need to do much to them and, in fact, I’d encourage you to do as little as possible! They are excellent simply boiled or steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper. This week, simple and minimal is best. Enjoy!
Pesto Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans
Yield: 8 servings
2 pounds new potatoes, washed and quartered
photo from BelleOfTheKitchen.com
8 ounces fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
¼ cup prepared pesto*
2 tsp fresh minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, green beans, pesto, and salt and pepper. Mix carefully making sure all of the vegetables are well coated. Spread the potatoes and green beans out onto the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring the mixture once halfway through cooking. Once the vegetables are tender, remove from the oven and enjoy!
*Chef Andrea note: You can make a traditional basil pesto using fresh basil from the choice box and/or from your own herb garden. You could also make carrot top pesto to make good use of the carrot tops in this week’s box!
Recipe borrowed from belleofthekitchen.com.
New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter
Yield: 2-4 servings
1 pound fresh new potatoes
1 Tbsp salt, plus more to taste
3-4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut potatoes into approximate 1 ½ inch chunks. If the potatoes are small you can leave them whole. Place potatoes in a saucepot and add cold water, enough to cover the potatoes by 1-2 inches. Season the water with 1 Tbsp of salt and then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Once the potatoes come to a boil, reduce the heat a bit to maintain a rapid simmer. Simmer for 10-12 minutes. Test a potato by piercing it with a knife to see if it is tender and cooked through.
Once the potatoes are tender, drain off the water and put the potatoes in a bowl. Cover to keep them warm and then set aside.
Next, return the pan to the stovetop over medium heat. Add butter. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic and continue to simmer over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the garlic is softened and fragrant, but not browning.
Remove the butter from the heat. Put the potatoes on a serving platter or directly on your plate. Gently smash each potato with the back of a fork just to break into the skin. Spoon the garlic butter over the potatoes and season generously with freshly ground pepper and more salt to taste.
Recipe by Chef Andrea