Harmony Valley Farm

Harmony Valley Farm

August 22, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Poblano Peppers!

21 Aug 2019 21:33

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)
Sweet Peppers: Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Pobalanos and Corn (see below); Fresh Corn Salsa; Zucchini Panzanella Salad; Thai Quinoa Bowl
Variety of Large Tomatoes: Tomato Jam; My Best Tomato Sandwich
French Orange Melon: Prosciutto Melon Salad
Red or Rainbow Chard: Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion (see below)
Sweet Corn: The Cheeseburger Pie with Roasted Pobalanos and Corn (see below); Fresh Corn Salsa; Cheese Tortellini with Tomatoes and Corn
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.
Fresh Corn Salsa
Photo from the-girl-who-ate-everything.com
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.
Zucchini Panzenella Salad
photo from tasteofhome.com
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.
Because of their size and shape, poblano peppers are excellent for stuffing with meat, grain and cheese mixtures.  Chiles Rellenos is a classic dish based on roasted poblano peppers that are filled with cheese, coated in a batter, and fried.  We have a few recipes in our archives that have become some of my favorite summer recipes to make when poblano peppers are available.  These include Roasted Poblano, Onion & Jack Quesadilla; Caramelized Poblano Chile & Onion Dip; Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo Cream Sauce.
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
4 eggs
⅓ cup half & half or cream
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Yield: 4-6 servings
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.  
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

August 15, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Edamame!

14 Aug 2019 20:16

Cooking With This Week's Box

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Grilled Zucchini HummusVegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce; Pork & Tomatillo Stew

Broccoli: Thai Quinoa Bowl (see below); Healthier Broccoli Chicken Casserole

Green and/or Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Sushi Salad (see below); Greek Cucumber Salad

Edamame: Sushi Salad (see below); Thai Quinoa Bowl (see below)
Orange Carrots: Thai Quinoa Bowl (see below); Pork & Tomatillo Stew
Green Bell or Orange Ukraine Peppers: Thai Quinoa Bowl (see below); Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce
Sunorange, Red Grape or Chocolate Sprinkles Tomatoes: Easy Marinated Cherry (grape) Tomatoes; Greek Cucumber Salad
Green Curly Kale: Sushi Salad (see below); Thai Quinoa Bowl (see below); Country Ham, Egg & Kale Breakfast Pizza; Eggplant Lasagna
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!
Yellow Split Pea & Kale Potato Curry
Photo from blissfulbasil.com
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.
Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce
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!
Healthier Broccoli Chicken Casserold
Photo from gimmesomeoven.com
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.
As we close out this week’s Cooking With the Boxdiscussion, I want to share a link with you to WDRT.  This is our local public radio station.  Last week I was invited to the studio to talk with Philothea Bezin, the host of their Saturday food show, Who’s In the Kitchen.  We had a fun conversation about seasonal cooking with an emphasis on summer cooking!  If you’d like to listen to our banter, you can access the show on their website through the end of this week.
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.”

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 
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
  1. 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.
  2. 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

Quinoa Bowl:

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Prepare the tofu, if using.
  4. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.**
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. Refrigerate leftovers.

For the Dressing:
  1. 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.
To Assemble:
  1. 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

Checking in on your Herb Garden!

14 Aug 2019 20:16

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!

Herb Salt, photo from howsweeteats.com
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!

Herb Infused Honey
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!

Herb Butter

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!

August 8, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Eggplant!

7 Aug 2019 21:24

Cooking With This Week's Box

Sierra Blanca Onions: Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas & Tomatoes (see below); Amish Potato SaladCrock Pot Chicken Philly CheesesteakSloppy JoesZucchini & Onion Gratin

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Zucchini & Onion Gratin; Zucchini Banana Bread

Green and/or Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Yogurt & Cucumber Sauce (see below); Cucumber and Lime Juice
Italian Garlic: Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas & Tomatoes (see below); Yogurt & Cucumber Sauce (see below); Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro; Crock Pot Chicken Philly Cheesesteak; Spaghetti with Collard Greens & Lemon
Tomatoes: Tomato Confit
Eggplant: Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas & Tomatoes (see below)
Cilantro: Roasted Eggplant with Spiced Chickpeas & Tomatoes (see below); Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro; Broccoli Slaw with Miso Ginger Dressing
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. 
Zucchini Banana Bread
photo from wellpalted.com
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!

Amish Potato Salad, photo from mrfood.com
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!

Buffalo Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Bites
photo from runningtothekitchen.com
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.
Fried Eggplant Fritters
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
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. Add the eggplant and cook for a final 10 minutes, splashing in more hot water if the dish looks dry. 
  5. 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

  1. 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.

Arabic Flatbread

Yield: 6

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
  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

August 1, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Garlic!

31 Jul 2019 22:15

Cooking With This Week's Box

White Spanish Onions: Cheeseburger Onion Rings

Fresh Porcelain and/or Italian Garlic: Triple Garlic Linguine (see below); Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro (see below); Skillet Zucchini Pesto Pizza; Pasta with Smashed Zucchini CreamGarlic Broccoli Stir-Fry
Green or Purple Beans: Fresh Green Bean Salad
Red Norland or Golden Carola Potatoes: Crispy Potato Tacos
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)
Sunorange, Chocolate Sprinkles, or Red Grape Tomatoes: Fresh Green Bean Salad; Crispy Potato Tacos
Cilantro: Portuguese Bread and Garlic Soup with Cilantro (see below); Crispy Potato Tacos
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.
Skillet Zucchini Pesto Pizza
photo from runningtothekitchen.com
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!
Smashed White Bean KAle Quesadillas
Photo from runningtothekitchen.com
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.
Garlic Broccoli Stir-Fry
photo from omnivorescookbook.com
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!
Italian Garlic
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.
Porcelain Garlic
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

photo from saveur.com
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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

photo from saveur.com
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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Making it Rain: Irrigation at Harmony Valley Farm

31 Jul 2019 22:15

By Gwen Anderson
“Water is the driving force of all nature.”  --Leonardo Da Vinci
This year's irrigation crew: Vicente (left) and Manuel M. (right)
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.
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.

This years onion crop, with cover crops planted to reduce
weeding needs and sequester carbon.
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!
Drip line is buried when the plastic mulch is laid.
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.
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.
Vicente checking the sensor in the squash field.
No need to turn the water on here!
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.
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.”

July 25, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Cucumbers!

24 Jul 2019 21:08

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 SkilletAloo GobiCreamy Broccoli Cauliflower CasseroleDiner Style Western Omelet

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Zucchini Enchiladas; Summer Farmer Skillet

Green and/or Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Summer Vietnamese Noodle Salad (see below); Korean Stir-Fried Cucumbers (see below); Kale and Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing
Fresh Italian Garlic: Korean Stir-Fried Cucumbers (see below); Zucchini EnchiladasSummer Farmer SkilletAloo Gobi
Green Top Carrots: Summer Vietnamese Noodle Salad (see below); Summer Farmer SkilletCarrot TopsCarrot Top Hummus
Jalapeno Peppers:  Summer Vietnamese Noodle Salad (see below);  Indian Amaranth Stir-Fry
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!
Zucchini Enchiladas
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.
Looking for another main dish dinner recipe?  This Greek Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner with Green Beans & Feta looks like a winner!  It includes not only green beans, but potatoes as well!
Kale and Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing
photo from BonAppetit.com
If you receive the beautiful amaranth in your box, check out this recipe for Indian Amaranth Stir-Fry featuring amaranth, coconut and garlic.  If you receive the kale, consider making this Kale and Cucumber Salad with Roasted Ginger Dressing.
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.
Cucumber Sorbet
photo from TheLittleEpicurean.com
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.
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:
Cooked Cucumbers:
Korean Stir-Fried Cucumbers (see below)
Desserts & Refreshing Treats:

Summer Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

Yield:  4 to 6 servings
Photo from Food52.com
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
  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.  
  4. 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
  1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise slightly diagonally.  If the cucumbers are thin, you can simply cut into thin rounds.
  2. Toss the cucumber slices with one and a half teaspoons of salt to coat evenly.  Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Squeeze as much water out from the cucumber slices as possible.  Don’t worry about bruising them.  They will recover when stir-fried.
  4. 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.

July 18, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring New Potatoes!

17 Jul 2019 21:46

Cooking With This Week's Box

New Potatoes: New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter (see below);  Pesto Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans (see below)

Purple Cipollini Onions OR Green Scallions: Carrot Top Pesto PastaSlow-Cooker Korean BBQ Beef; Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and DillCilantro Lime SlawCauliflower, Chickpea and Chard Curry

Fresh Italian Garlic: New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter (see below); Pesto Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans (see below); Carrot Top Pesto; Carrot Top Pesto PastaZucchini “Meat”ballsFabulous Zucchini GrindersSlow-Cooker Korean BBQ BeefCilantro Lime Slaw
Green and/or Yellow Beans: Pesto Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans (see below); 7 Easy Stir-Fry Recipes
Carrot Top Pesto Pasta
photo from HealthyNibblesAndBits.com
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.
Zucchini "Meat"balls
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.
Stir Fried Cucumbers, photo from KoreanBapsang.com

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.  
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.
Warm Chard Salad with Bacon
Dressing & Roasted Chicken,
photo from FiveAndSpice.wordpress.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.
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.

Potato digger unearthing new potatoes
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. 
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

photo from BelleOfTheKitchen.com
2 pounds new potatoes, washed and quartered 
8 ounces fresh green beans, washed and trimmed 
¼  cup prepared pesto* 
2 tsp fresh minced garlic 
Salt and black pepper to taste 

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil and set aside. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

The Lazy Days of Summer…..What?!

17 Jul 2019 21:46

By Farmers Richard & Andrea
It’s been nearly six weeks since our early June farm update and a lot has happened!  The cold, wet start to our season quickly shifted to hot and humid.  The heat is great for some of our warm weather crops like peppers, melons, zucchini and cucumbers, but heat with high humidity can wreak havoc on other crops such as cilantro, baby bok choi, arugula, etc making them susceptible to leaf disease.  The weeds are also loving these hot days and sadly, they are growing quite nicely.  Our determined crew continues to do battle against weeds, hitting them from every angle possible in an attempt to save crops.  Despite these farming challenges, we have some really nice crops in the fields and a lot of exciting food coming your way very soon! 
Italian garlic, bunched and ready to bring in
Starting at the end of last week, our focus shifted to garlic harvest.  As we write this article on Tuesday, July 16, we only have about one third of the crop remaining to harvest….and it is a very nice crop.  This is probably the nicest crop of garlic we’ve seen in the past 10-12 years.  The past two years were pretty disappointing, so before we planted garlic last year we paused for a little field crew huddle and pep talk for ourselves.  Two poor crops, lets not add a third to that list.  So we made sure soil conditions were right, carefully planted the cloves at the right depth and then carefully covered the field with a nice layer of chopped straw mulch before the snow started to fall.  We were careful to give it enough of a mulch layer to insulate it, but not too much that would prevent the garlic from pushing through.  We also covered the field with row cover which also helped keep the straw mulch in place over the winter.  While many of you may still be cursing the harsh, cold, snowy winter we had last year, the conditions may have actually been somewhat favorable for this year’s garlic crop!  The garlic was tucked safely underground, covered by a thick layer of insulating snow which protected it from the polar vortex!  The result was a very high survival rate this spring.  By July 17 or 18 we plan to have the entire garlic crop tucked away safely in the greenhouse to dry and cure over the next few weeks.  Then the hard work of trimming, cleaning and selecting seed for next year’s crop will begin!
A pepper plant loaded with baby bell peppers
Based on the amount of zucchini in your boxes the past few weeks, you may have noticed that our zucchini is producing very nicely right now!  Zucchini is one of those crops that loves heat and production can skyrocket during a hot week.  Actually, we’re harvesting from both our first and second crops now.  Not quite the timing we had hoped for, but there isn’t any way to hold back the second planting so we’re just going for it!  Yesterday the crew picked 1,400# of zucchini!  We pick three times each week, so there’s the potential that we’ll pick over 4,000# of zucchini this week alone!  We’re only picking from our first cucumber crop right now, but it won’t be long before the second planting kicks in.  We’re just glad cucumbers and zucchini aren’t peaking at the same time!

Pretty soon we’ll have peppers and tomatoes to enjoy with all that zucchini.  The pepper field looks quite nice this year and the plants are full of blossoms as well as small, immature peppers.  It looks like we will be picking bell peppers and possibly jalapeño peppers as early as next week.  The tomatoes also have fruit set on.  While we haven’t seen any fruit turning color yet, this hot week ahead of us could accelerate the ripening.  We may be picking tomatoes for next week’s boxes as well! 
Sweet corn growing in the field.
If you were to walk through the melon and watermelon fields, you would find the cutest little melons set on the plants.  It’s exciting to think that in just a few weeks we’ll be slurping juicy slices of sweet melon!  What’s summer without sweet melons, watermelon and sweet corn?!  While our first two plantings of sweet corn are not quite what we had hoped for, we will have sweet corn coming soon.  We actually have five plantings of corn and the last three look really good right now!  Of course if we’re going to talk about corn we have to mention beans and edamame as well.  Our first two plantings of beans are usually the most challenging to grow, but both are looking pretty good with more plantings coming up behind them.  It looks like it’s going to be a pretty good year for green beans, and we hope our purple amethyst beans will produce well again this year!  The first crop of edamame has little fuzzy pods hanging from the vines.  Just a few more weeks and we’ll be popping the sweet, tender, bright green soybeans into our mouths! 
Don’t think we can breathe a sigh of relief and go on vacation after garlic harvest is done.  Well, we can breathe a sigh of relief but then we need to get ready to harvest onions!  It must be an allium favorable year because the onions are also looking pretty nice!  If we can keep the tops alive for a few more weeks we should have a pretty sizeable onion harvest which will leave us with just one problem….where are we going to store everything!  It’s a good problem and one we’re happy to have. 
Sprinklers running after irrigation crew laid pipe.
The irrigation crew has shifted their focus from just fertigation (providing nutrients via drip irrigation lines with minimal water) to now needing to deliver more water as well.  Over the past week fields have really dried out, going from a state of excess moisture to now needing to be watered.  On Monday the crew set up irrigation pipe for sprinklers to water some crops planted last week including carrots, cilantro and radishes.  They need water to soften the soil and make sure the seed has adequate moisture to germinate and break through the surface.   You just never know when the weather will shift to a drought, so we’re working hard to stay ahead of the game. 

Farmer Richard and Lt. Governor Barnes
sampling fresh strawberries.
We’ve also hosted some visitors to the farm over the past 6 weeks.  On June 16 we had a great turnout for our annual Strawberry Day party.  We had a nice, pleasant day filled with good food, strawberry ice cream, laughs, questions and just a lot of fun.  Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating this year’s strawberry crop.  At the end of June we also had the pleasure of hosting Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.  We had a pleasant visit with Lt. Governor Barnes including some great, honest conversation about a variety of topics including the importance of pollinator habitat, climate change and the impact erratic weather is having on Wisconsin farms and communities. 
We are also happy to have added a few more friendly faces to our crew.  Amy started the first week of June, coming to us from Colorado with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn…..everything!  Amy is our Packing Shed Support person who helps us stay organized in the packing shed by managing cooler and supply inventories as well as helping out wherever she’s needed from day to day.   She has also helped out in the greenhouses, is learning all there is to know about managing our seed inventory and in general is starting to put together the pieces of “the big picture” about what it takes to bring everything together to get vegetables to your tables!  We are also happy to welcome back Samuel and Silvestre. They weren’t able to join us earlier in the season, but made it back to the farm this past weekend and are hard at work! 

Cookies from Bloom Bake Shop
In the midst of all the hustle associated with summer and a busy growing season, we took time to relax a bit last Saturday, July 13 as we hosted our Annual Crew Appreciation Party.  We ended our work day at about 2:30 pm, got cleaned up and then met up at the Legion Park near our farm.  Nearly all our crew members were able to make it as well as some family members including daughters, sons, wives and husbands who live in the area.  We had a fun evening filled with goofy soccer and volleyball games, some card games, water balloons, music, a piñata and a delicious meal.  Angel and Ascencion roasted a goat in our underground brick oven so we had goat carnitas along with grilled HVF hotdogs.  We finished up the meal with our favorite Castle Rock ice cream and special cookies from Bloom Bake Shop.  Annemarie and her crew at Bloom made the cutest vegetable and farm animal cookies for us including cookies resembling broccoli, potatoes, carrots, sweet corn, peas, goats, pigs, cows, etc.  We had a really fun evening and this party always reminds us (Richard and Andrea) how blessed we are to be able to work with such a great group of people who are happy, hardworking, funny, sincere, creative, caring, talented individuals.

HVF crew playing volleyball at the Crew Appreciation Party.

July 11, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Salad Cabbage!

10 Jul 2019 20:29

Cooking With This Week's Box

Green Top Purple Cipollini Onions: Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill (see below); Cilantro Lime Slaw (see below); One-Pan Baked Brie & Beet Greens FrittataRoasted & Charred Broccoli with PeanutsGreen Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: 31 Best Zucchini Recipes of All TimesSpaghetti with Zucchini Grilled Cheese with Zucchini, Basil & Gruyere

Broccoli: 27 Broccoli Recipes You’ll Want to Make TonightBroccoli and Ricotta Toasts with Hot HoneyRoasted & Charred Broccoli with Peanuts

Fennel: Fennel Honey CakeSausage Fennel & Gruyere Miniature Egg Stratas

Green Top Beets: Roasted Carrots & Beets with Carrot Top Pesto; 15 Creative Ways to Use Beet Greens; One-Pan Baked Brie & Beet Greens Frittata; Red Lentil Soup with Beet Greens

Green and/or Yellow Beans: Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing; Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic

Green Top Carrots: Roasted Carrots & Beets with Carrot Top PestoCilantro Lime Slaw (see below)

Sweetheart or Tiara Salad Cabbage: Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill (see below); Cilantro Lime Slaw (see below)

Cucumbers: Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill (see below); Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso DressingMexican Cucumber Snack of Pepinos con Chile y Limon

Fresh Italian Garlic: Cilantro Lime Slaw (see below); Roasted Carrots & Beets with Carrot Top PestoOne-Pan Baked Brie & Beet Greens FrittataRed Lentil Soup with Beet GreensSpaghetti with ZucchiniGreen Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing; Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic
This week we’re packing CSA Box #10!  That means we’re already a third of the way through the season.  Next week we’re going to be doing a farm update for the “Weed Em’ and Reap” main newsletter article.  Folks, despite the challenges we have had with recurring rain showers, the vegetables are growing and we have a lot of exciting things coming up very soon (such as new potatoes and tomatoes)!  We’re also on the brink of garlic harvest and it won’t be long before we’ll start onion harvest.  Stay tuned for more crop and farm updates next week!
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I guess we’d better get back to this week’s box!  This week we’re featuring Sweetheart and Tiara salad cabbage.  Now that we’re finished with head lettuce and salad mix, we need to start making more salads with other vegetables.  I have two simple, delicious recipes for you this week.  If you favor vinegar based slaws and dressings, you’ll like this simple Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill (see below).  This slaw holds up for about a week in the fridge as it continues to marinate and just get better each day!  This is a tasty slaw to eat with burgers, grilled chicken, grilled cheese, simple deli-meat sandwiches, etc.  If you favor creamy slaws, you may prefer this Cilantro Lime Slaw (see below).  This is a super-simple and very flavorful slaw that can stand alone or it’s also great on or with fish tacos.  I found this recipe at gimmesomeoven.com.  The author, Ali, featured this slaw along with her recipe for Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos (see below).  I love fish tacos, but dislike frying fish.  When this recipe showed up in my inbox last week, I had to try it.  Did it change my life?  Well, with regard to fish tacos…Yes!  The breading for the fish is simple and delicious.  Once you get the fish breaded it bakes in just 10 minutes.  I also like it because the fish isn’t greasy and soggy so it actually reheats well, which is a bonus for having a plan for lunch the next day if you have leftovers.  Top off the tacos with the Cilantro Lime Slaw as well as other toppings of your choice and this makes for a delicious meal.
Roasted Carrots & Beets with
Carrot Top Pesto
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
This week we have some fresh, new flavors in the box, including green top carrots!  These early season carrots are tender, mild and sweet.  You don’t really need to do much to them for them to be delicious, in fact simple is probably better.  This recipe for Roasted Carrots & Beets with Carrot Top Pesto is a good option for using both the carrots and beets in this week’s box AND it incorporates the carrot tops as well!  Yes, carrot tops are edible and make a delicious pesto.  If you want to make this dish go further or serve as a main dish, combine the vegetables and pesto with hot pasta or rice.  This recipe doesn’t use the beet tops, but don’t throw them away!  They are delicious and full of nutrients!  Here’s a collection of 15 Creative Ways to Use Beet Greens.  There are some really delicious recipes in this list including One-Pan Baked Brie & Beet Greens Frittata and Red Lentil Soup with Beet Greens.
Our next crop of broccoli is ready for harvest this week and cauliflower may end up in some boxes as well.  While I often just eat steamed broccoli with butter, broccoli can be used in so many different ways.  If you’re at a loss as to what to do with broccoli this week, check out this article featuring 27 Broccoli Recipes You’ll Want to Make Tonight.  There are some delicious ideas in this collection including Broccoli and Ricotta Toasts with Hot Honey and Roasted & Charred Broccoli with Peanuts (note, this recipe uses the stems as well!).
Grilled Cheese with Zucchini, Basil & Gruyere
Photo from food52.com
I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I seem to be into finding collections of recipes this week.  Earlier this week I came across this article for Food 52’s 31 Best Zucchini Recipes of All Times.  I will be referring to this collection as the summer unfolds, but for this week I have my eye on this simple recipe for Spaghetti with Zucchini as well as Grilled Cheese with Zucchini, Basil & Gruyere.
Last week our featured vegetable was fennel.  Check out last week’s blog post which included 25 recipes utilizing fennel.  This week I want to try this Fennel Honey Cake and these Sausage Fennel & Gruyere Miniature Egg Stratas.  The stratas can serve as a breakfast, brunch or dinner option and they reheat well for breakfast or a snack the next day.  Cake—well you can eat that any time you want to!
Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing
Photo from BonAppetit.com
I love this simple preparation of Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic to highlight the fresh taste of the first beans of the year and fresh garlic.  You can adjust the recipe to the amount of beans you have available.  I also found this recipe for Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing.  This is another simple recipe that would make for a simple meal if served with steamed rice and broiled or grilled fish.
Lastly, if you have a few cucumbers left over, enjoy them as a refreshing snack, prepared Mexican style.  Check out this simple concept for Mexican Cucumber Snack of Pepinos con Chile y Limon, or rather, Cucumbers with Chile and Lime.  This is what summer is all about—fresh vegetables, simple meals, full flavors.  Slow down and take the time to taste the flavors in this week’s box.  Have a great week and I’ll see you back here next week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Salad Cabbage

By Andrea Yoder

Sweetheart Cabbage

We plant most of our cabbage for harvest in the fall as cabbage thrives and tastes better when it is grown in more cool temperatures.  However, we reserve a little spot in our spring planting schedule to plant this unique class of cabbage called “salad cabbage.”  This year we have two varieties of salad cabbage, Tiara and Sweetheart.  Tiara is a round cabbage and sweetheart cabbage forms a pointy head.  Both are smaller varieties typically only weighing about 1¼ to 2 pounds on average.   These varieties are intended to be grown as an early-season cabbage and are known as “salad cabbage” because the leaves are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads.  Another reason we grow this variety for summer harvest is that it gives us another option for a “salad green” during early summer when lettuce is more difficult to grow.
There are a lot of different ways you can prepare salad cabbage.  I recommend slicing it thinly or shredding it for use in vegetable slaws or other raw salads.  You may use the leaves as a wrap in place of tortillas or bread.  If you choose to cook it, I’d recommend a quick cooking method such as stir-frying or grilling and be careful not to overcook it!   Two of my favorite recipes from past years include Simplest Cabbage Slaw and Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken.
Store salad cabbage loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  Lightly rinse the outer leaves before using.  If you don’t use the entire cabbage for one preparation, wrap the remaining portion of cabbage and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  While salad cabbage can vary in size, an average cabbage typically yields 5-7 cups when shredded.

Cilantro Lime Slaw

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream (or a 50/50 blend)
½ cup tightly-packed fresh cilantro
¼ cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
3 green onions (just the green parts)
2 cloves garlic 
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and cored (optional)
7 cups green salad cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
  1. Combine the Greek yogurt and/or sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, salt, black pepper, green onions, garlic and jalapeño (if using) in a blender or food processor*.  Pulse briefly a few times until the mixture is combined.
  2. Place the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle the sauce on top of the vegetables, then toss until the mixture is evenly combined.  Season to your liking with extra salt, pepper and/or lime juice if needed.
  3. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
*Skip the blender:  If you would like to skip the blender/food processor step, you’re also welcome to make this cole slaw dressing recipe entirely by hand.  Just finely chop the cilantro, jalapeño (if using), green onions and garlic, and whisk them all together with the other dressing ingredients until combined.
Recipe sourced & adapted from gimmesomeoven.com.  This recipe is delicious prepared on its own as a slaw to accompany grilled meat, summer cookouts with burgers and brats, etc.  It is also very delicious when served as part of the set up for Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos, also from gimmesomeoven.com. See the recipe to follow.

Life-Changing Crispy Baked Fish Tacos

Yield: 12 Tacos
Chipotle Crema:

½ cup plain Greek yogurt (or mayo)
1 tsp chipotle chile adobo sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
¼ tsp fine sea salt

Breaded Fish:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
1 egg, whisked
1 ½ pounds firm fish, such as cod, halibut or salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces

To Assemble The Tacos:
12 corn or flour tortillas, warmed
1 batch Cilantro Lime Slaw
Optional toppings: diced fresh avocado, fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños, crumbled queso fresco, sliced radishes, sliced red onions, etc.

  1. To Make The Chipotle Crema: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir to combine.  Set aside until ready to use.
  2. To Make The Fish: Heat oven to 375°F.  Spread the panko out in an even layer on a medium baking sheet.  Bake for 5-7 minutes, giving the pan a gentle shake halfway through, until the panko is toasted and golden brown.  (Keep a close eye on the panko so that it does not burn.)  Transfer the panko to a medium bowl, and dust off the baking sheet for future use.
  3. Add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper to the bowl with the panko, then whisk the mixture until combined.
  4. Now, set up an assembly line with the (1) fish, (2) whisked egg, (3) panko mixture and (4) parchment-covered baking sheet.  Using your right hand, dip a piece of fish in the egg so that it is coated on all sides.  Then, using your left hand, transfer the fish to the panko mixture and gently press it on so that the fish is coated on all sides.  Using your left hand, transfer the fish to the baking sheet.  Then repeat the process with the remaining fish.
  5. Bake the fish for 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and opaque and flakes easily with a fork.  
  6. To Assemble The Tacos: Fill a tortilla with a few spoonfuls of the slaw, followed by the fish, and any desired toppings.  Drizzle with the chipotle crema and serve immediately.
Notes:  If you have fish leftover from your Fish Taco night, it does reheat well in either a toaster oven or a preheated oven.

Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill

Yield: 6 servings

4 cups green salad cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded  
1 medium cucumber, quartered, seeded and sliced thinly (about 2 cups)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tsp sugar
¼ cup cold water
  1. Toss the cabbage, cucumber, onion and dill together in a large bowl.  Don’t be freaked out by how big the salad looks; it settles as it marinates.  
  2. Whisk the vinegar, salt, and sugar together in a small bowl until the salt and sugar dissolve.  Stir in the water.  Pour the liquid over the salad, and let it marinate in the refrigerator, tossing the cabbage occasionally.  After 1 hour, it should be a bit wilted and crunchy; at 2 hours, the flavor is even better.
Note:  This salad keeps, covered, in the fridge for a week. The best part is, the cabbage stays crispy!

Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

July 3, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Fennel!

2 Jul 2019 20:46

Cooking With This Week's Box

Green Scallions: Strawberry Tabbouleh; Strawberry, Fennel, and Orange Salad (see below); Broccoli SaladPeas & ScallionsChicken, Broccoli & Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry
Red Summercrisp Lettuce: Strawberry, Fennel, and Orange Salad (see below); Salt-Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts
Fennel: Fennel Ginger Smoothie (see below); Candied Fennel & Simple Syrup (See below); Strawberry, Fennel, and Orange Salad (see below); Caramelized Fennel & Beet PizzaShaved Fennel and Beet Greens Salad
Happy 4th of July Week!  I say this every month, but I can hardly believe we’ve marked another month off the calendar!  Lets jump right into this week’s box because we have a lot to talk about!  First of all, I hope you have had a chance to read this week’s vegetable feature article about fennel.  If not, I just want to mention I included 25 recipe ideas for using all parts of fennel!  We’re featuring three of those recipes here as well.  I never considered using fennel in a smoothie, but decided to try this Fennel Ginger Smoothie (see below). It’s packed with nutrient dense vegetables that are great for both energy as well as aiding in digestion.  It’s very refreshing and is great for breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up.  I’ve also never had fennel and strawberries paired together, so I was intrigued by the recipe for Strawberry, Fennel and Orange Salad (see below).  This is a delicious, simple salad that is so refreshing.  It will go nicely served with grilled chicken or fish, and I have to say I really like the combination of strawberries and fennel!  The third recipe I’ve included below is for Candied Fennel (see below).  I wanted to try this recipe because I was looking for more ways to use fennel stalks.  This recipe takes some time, but it is super easy to make and you really don’t have many action steps.  It just takes time to dry the fennel after it’s candied.  The nice thing about this recipe is that you also get a delicious fennel simple syrup as a byproduct of the candied fennel.  I was surprised when I tasted the syrup—it has a lovely, mild, floral flavor and would be a great sweetener to use in hot or iced green tea, lemonade, cocktails, etc.  Kelly even suggested using it to make strawberry lemonade!
Shaved Fennel and Beet Greens Salad
We’ve been looking forward to fresh beets and they are finally ready!  Beets and fennel are an early summer combo and pair very nicely together.  Of course I’m going to remind you to eat the beet greens too!  They are delicious and you can use them as you would use chard or other cooking greens.  It would be a shame to throw them away!  We have a few recipes in our archives that I like to pull out this time of year.  Consider this Shaved Fennel and Beet Greens Salad.  It’s a light, refreshing salad that will keep you hydrated on a hot summer day!  It’s dressed with a light lemon-honey vinaigrette and garnished with feta cheese and chopped nuts.  Another popular beet-fennel combo recipe from our past is Caramelized Fennel & Beet Pizza.  Even people who don’t care for fennel and beets typically like this recipe!
It’s a salad kind of week, both because we have a lot of great salad ingredients in the box and because it’s finally hot and it’s nice to have cool, refreshing meal options.  Did you notice that big, beautiful head of Red Summercrisp lettuce in this week’s box?!  There are several meals in that crispy head of beautiful lettuce.  In addition to the Strawberry, Fennel, and Orange Salad mentioned above, this recipe for Salt-Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts caught my eye.  The beets are the star of this salad that is served on a bed of lettuce.
Red Lentil Soup with Amaranth Greens
We certainly have a lot of color going on in this box, including the gorgeous red amaranth greens!  If you’ve never used amaranth before, don’t be intimidated by it.  It’s easy to use and at this size, it’s best used as a cooking green.  It’s a very nutritious green and has a mild flavor.  Last year we featured this recipe for Black Beans with Amaranth.  It’s such a simple recipe, but it’s so delicious.  Another recipe I like to make every year is Red Lentil Soup with Amaranth Greens.  I know it’s hot outside now, but this soup does make a nice, simple dinner along with a salad and maybe even a piece of crusty bread.
This is a big week for broccoli & zucchini.  There’s a substantial amount of both items in your box this week.  First off, if it’s more than you can use fresh, both of these vegetables can be frozen.  Broccoli needs to be blanched first (lightly cooked and then rapidly cooled), but zucchini can be shredded and frozen raw.  I put some of both in the freezer last year and I was very happy to have them when February rolled around!  Earlier this week this recipe for Broccoli Salad came into my email from Love & Lemons blog.  It is simply called “broccoli salad.”  It’s raw broccoli with onion, dried cranberries and smoky tamari almonds—very simple, but makes for a tasty combo and is a good option for a holiday barbecue or picnic!  I also have my eye on this Macaroni & Cheese (& Broccoli) Casserole, another great dish to take to a 4th of July cookout or a nice side dish for a weekend meal to accompany grilled ribs or chicken.
Baked Cheesy Zucchini Bites
Photo from MelsKitchenCafe.com
As for the zucchini, one of our members shared this recipe in our Facebook Group for Vegetarian Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai.  I have to give this one a try—it looks delicious!  I also have this recipe for Zucchini & Dark Chocolate Chunk Pancakes with Maple Yogurt in the cue for Sunday morning brunch.   Now that we have a main course and a breakfast covered, lets talk about appetizers.  These Baked Cheesy Zucchini Bites would make a nice appetizer to enjoy with a glass of wine or include them as a side dish with your main meal.  The author of this recipe also mentions they can be frozen and are adaptable to different kinds of cheese.  If you like them, shred some zucchini and freeze it—you can make these when zucchini is out of season…perhaps they’d make a tasty snack for Super Bowl 2020?!
I didn’t think we’d have sugar snap peas for this week, but they made it.  Unfortunately we aren’t going to have many peas this summer, so we have to make the most of them this week!  Stir-fry is always on my list of things to make in early summer and this week I’m going to try this Chicken, Broccoli & Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry.  My other go-to sugar snap pea recipe is so simple, but so delicious.  Peas & Scallions is simply sugar snap peas quickly sautéed with scallions.  It takes less than five minutes to make—nature’s fast food.
Goat Cheese & Strawberry Breakfast
Tarts, photo from saveur.com
Alright, we’re rolling into the home stretch.  The only item remaining is strawberries.  Rain, storms and high humidity are weather conditions we hope to avoid during strawberry season, but unfortunately that’s what we’ve received the past week.  It’s been really hard on the strawberry field, which makes us appreciate every berry we have even more!  So as our strawberry season winds down, I hope you’ll enjoy these final sweet berries and use them to make something delicious.  Check out Saveur’s Best Strawberry Recipes which is an extensive collection of strawberry recipes including Strawberry Lemonade Ice Pops and Goat Cheese & Strawberry Breakfast Tarts.  I also found this recipe for Strawberry Tabbouleh that I want to try before the season is done.  It looks like a really refreshing salad and includes basil and mint.
That wraps up this week’s box contents.  We’re hoping to see more cucumbers coming in next week along with green top carrots and tender sweetheart cabbage!  Peppers and green beans have set on blossoms, so it won’t be long before we’re munching on those vegetables as well.  Have a great week and I’ll see you back here next week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Fennel: The Three In One Vegetable

By Andrea Yoder
When it comes to fennel, there are typically two groups of people.  Those who love it and those who are still learning to like it.  If you are in the latter group or you’ve never tried fennel before, I encourage you to approach this week’s vegetable with an open mind.  I wasn’t exposed to fennel until my college years, and even then I was skeptical of it when someone told me it tasted like black licorice.  My mom used to chew black licorice gum that I thought was horrid!  While fennel does have an anise flavor similar to licorice, it’s not the same as black licorice candy.  I have grown to really appreciate fennel and am excited to share a whole slew of recipe ideas for how to use this vegetable!  I’ve tried to be very thorough with my research for this week’s article and pushed myself to “think outside the box” and go beyond traditional uses for fennel.  I’d encourage you to visit our blog this week as I’ve included links to 25 recipes utilizing fennel.  At the end of this article I’ve include  25 links to recipes utilizing fennel, so hopefully there is something on that list that will spark your interest! 
One of the unique characteristics about fennel is that all parts of the plant above ground are usable.  The white bulb is the most commonly used portion, but the stalks and feathery fronds that extend from the bulb are also edible.  The stalks can be more tough and fibrous, but they have a lot of flavor.  The feathery parts that resemble dill are actually called fronds.  They have a mild flavor and can be used more like an herb.
Pasta with Golden Fennel
Fennel may be eaten raw and cooked.  It pairs well with a variety of ingredients and flavors, so when you’re looking at recipes you’ll likely see similar ingredients show up time after time.  Fennel pairs well with lemons and oranges as well as herbs such as dill, parsley and basil.  It also plays well with beets, tomatoes, celery, onions, carrots, pomegranate, apple, stone fruit and berries.  It is often used in dishes along with Parmesan, cream and white wine which come together to make a delicious sauce.  Lastly, fennel pairs very well with seafood, especially in soups and chowders, and pork products including sausage, pancetta, prosciutto, fresh pork cuts and more.  While most think of fennel as a vegetable to use in savory dishes, it can also be used in sweet preparations paired with honey, citrus, berries, etc.
In addition to its culinary value, fennel has some health benefits.  It can soothe the stomach and GI tract, thus it’s often used to help with digestion.  It can also freshen breath and has other potential health benefits including being antibacterial and working as an antioxidant to remove free radicals in our bodies.  It is high in fiber and vitamin C in particular.
Fennel Martini, photo from foodnetwork.com
The stalks and bulb typically have the strongest flavor.  If you enjoy the flavor of fennel, you’ll likely enjoy it raw.  I have one very important point to make about eating fennel raw.  It must be sliced very thin, like paper thin!  Fennel bulb is very fibrous and dense.  If you slice it thinly it is more tender and enjoyable to eat, plus it mingles better with other flavors in the dish.  In its raw form, fennel bulb is often used in simple raw salads and can also be used in fresh salsas, pickled, or preserved in alcohol to make your own digestif.  When you cook fennel, the essential oils that give it its distinct flavor and aroma volatilize and the flavor and aroma of fennel mellow and become more mild and sweet.
The stalk can be eaten, but seldom is.  Rather it is often used for flavoring.  I like to save the stalks and add them to vegetable or meat broth or just stick the whole stalk directly into a pot of soup to flavor it while cooking and then pull it out before serving.  It can also be used as a stirring stick for cocktails or use it to flavor water, lemonade, etc.  One of our featured recipes this week is for Candied Fennel Stalk.  I gave it a try and really like it!  What a great way to enjoy the stalk!  You can munch on candied fennel after a meal and get the benefit of settling your stomach while meeting the need for something a little sweet.
Fennel Frond Pesto
Photo from WholeFoodBellies.com
Last but not least, lets talk about the mild, feathery fronds.  Chop them up and use them as a herb-like garnish on salads, stirred into soups, or as a final topping on a pizza.  You can also blend them into smoothies and drinks or use them to make a cocktail, such as a Fennel Martini.  I also found a recipe for making Fennel Frond Salt.  It is shelf stable and can be used to season your own homemade sausage patties, use it to salt fish, roasted potatoes, cucumbers, cream sauces, etc.  Of course, you can always make Fennel Frond Pesto, using only fennel fronds or you could blend in some fresh basil or parsley as well.  Fennel Frond Pesto would make a lovely sauce for salmon, toss it with pasta, use it as a sandwich spread or mix it with mayonnaise and make a dipping sauce for fish or chicken strips!
Ok, that’s a lot of information and it’s time to get cooking.  Be sure to wash the fennel bulb well before using.  Sometimes a little dirt can get in between the layers.  Cut the core out of the base of the bulb and you’re ready to go.  Store fennel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
These recipes come from past newsletters and have received positive member comments including ones like “I always struggle with fennel and decided this is the last time I’m going to try it, but this is it—I finally found a dish with fennel that I like!”
Lemony Fennel Cupcakes

Fennel-Ginger Smoothie

Yield:  1 quart (1 large or 2 small servings)
1 cup almond milk
1 cup spinach, chard or beet greens, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup  fresh lemon juice 
½  inch piece ginger root, peeled
1 fennel bulb, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup frozen pineapple 
½ cup ice
  1. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  You can adjust the almond milk or ice depending on your preference for thickness.
  2. Drink immediately.  
Recipe adapted from www.toopreciousforprocessed.com.
Note from Chef Andrea:  While I’ve only tried this smoothie with frozen pineapple, I think it would also be good with frozen blueberries or strawberries.

Candied Fennel Stalk & Fennel Simply Syrup

Yield: ¾ cup candy and 1 ½-2 cups syrup
Photo from WashingtonPost.com
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 ½ cups fennel stalks, cut on the diagonal into thin slices 
  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  2. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Add the fennel and reduce the heat to medium.  Simmer for 3 minutes, until the fennel is crisp-tender.  Remove from the heat and let the fennel  steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain the syrup into a container.
  3. Transfer the syrup-coated fennel slices to the lined baking sheet, spreading them in an even layer.  Bake for about 30 minutes, then separate any fennel slices that are sticking together.  Bake for 30 minutes more or until the fennel is dry, slightly crispy and just a bit sticky.
  4. Cool completely on the baking sheet before serving or storing.  The candy can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.  The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  5. You can munch on candied fennel after a meal and get the benefit of settling your stomach while meeting the need for something a little sweet.  You can also add it to fruit salads or use it as a topping for baked goods & ice cream.  The fennel simple syrup has a lovely mild floral-fennel flavor and can be used to sweeten beverages such as mocktails, cocktails, lemonade, tea, etc.
Recipe borrowed from www.washingtonpost.com

Strawberry, Fennel & Orange Salad

Yield:  4-5 servings
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
2 navel oranges
8 oz (1 pint or 1 ¼ cups) strawberries, hulled and quartered or halved
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 Tbsp finely chopped fennel fronds
1 green onion, thinly sliced
6 cups torn head lettuce 
Parmesan or sharp cheddar cheese, for serving
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Zest two oranges and add to the lemon juice mixture.  Cut the bottom and top off of each orange so the top and bottom are flat.  Use a knife to cut away the peel and pith by running the knife from the top of the orange to the bottom.  Once the peel is removed, hold the orange in your hand and use a paring knife to cut out the segments, letting them fall into a bowl, along with the juice.
  2. Add strawberries, sliced fennel and fronds, and green onion to the bowl of orange segments and toss together gently.  
  3. Put 1 to 1 ½ cups lettuce on each plate and spoon about ⅔ of the fennel and fruit mixture over the lettuce.  Garnish with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.  
Recipe adapted from marthastewart.com

Dealing With Weeds At Harmony Valley Farm

2 Jul 2019 20:45

By:  Richard de Wilde
“What we call a weed is in fact merely a plant growing where we do not want it.”
 —E.J. Salisbury, The Living Garden, 1935
Leeks after cultivation using "The Lilliston"
As organic farmers we do our best to understand and work with the natural world.  Nature is wise and knows the value of keeping soil in place and covered with plants which maximize each day of sunshine, capturing carbon and nitrogen from the air while exhaling oxygen that we need to live.  In nature, soil is never left bare to be wasted or eroded by wind and water.  Weeds have a purpose, and it really is a good one!  So why are we so set on killing and eradicating them from our fields?  Weeds can be very aggressive and can inhibit the potential of a crop by competing for sunlight and nutrients.  They impede our harvest efficiency and produce thousands of seeds which will haunt us for years.  Most weeds have accompanied agriculture from its beginning.  They moved around the world as early settlers brought their grain seed along with some tag along weed seeds and today they hitchhike with the global grain trade and then further spread by way of wind, animals, equipment, etc.
Potato field cultivated with "The Lilliston" 
Weed plants are very adaptive.  They can lie dormant in soils for 10-30 years, just waiting for their time of need to germinate.  Some weed seeds  only germinate at certain times of the year, such as in cool spring or fall temperatures.  Others are triggered in times of excess moisture, while others only germinate in summer heat or extreme drought.  Weed seeds are also triggered to geminate by exposure to light, usually caused by tillage.  Tillage is any disruption of the soil, which in our case could be cultivation or other work to prepare the soil for planting.  As the soil is stirred and disrupted, even just a flash of sunlight is enough to trigger some weeds to germinate!  In fact, I’ve read that in Europe some farmers even started cultivating at night to avoid triggering weed seeds!  Weed seeds may also be triggered by fertility needs in the soil.  Some weeds have the ability to correct soil nutrient deficiencies.  For example, if soil is deficient in phosphorus, a seed for a plant that has the ability to scavenge phosphorus may be triggered to germinate and grow.  As we try to minimize weeds in our crop, one thing we do is to provide balanced nutritional needs for the soil to prevent the need for weeds to correct the deficiency.
Cilantro:  Cultivated with "Basket Weeder" with shields & Kult Kress Duo.
There are really only two kinds of weeds, annual or bi-annual weeds and perennial weeds.  Annual or bi-annual weeds grow rapidly from seed, but only under the right conditions.  In order to thrive once they germinate, they need to grow and develop their green structures above ground to capture sunlight and utilize photosynthesis for energy.  When these types of weeds die at the end of the season, they are dead and won’t grow again.   Thus their main way to propagate themselves is to produce seeds that drop back into the soil and are available for a future season.  In contrast, perennial weeds survive from year to year and their main strength and the key to their survival is their underground root storage system which holds nutrients and energy.  When a new year rolls around, they don’t have to wait for the right conditions to germinate a seed and start photosynthesizing, rather they draw their energy from their roots.  The key to eradicating these types of weeds is depleting their root reserves.  Up until the plant is six inches tall, it is drawing its energy from its root reserves.  When it is about six inches tall, it starts utilizing photosynthesis to put energy back into the roots and replete the reserve.  One way we can battle this type of weed is to repeatedly mow it off when it is about six inches tall. This takes persistence, but after time the root reserves will be depleted and the plant will die.
Rafael using disc cultivator in the cilantro field.
By now you may be wondering if there is a silver bullet for weed control.  Valid question and one farmers have been asking for years.  In a recent article in Acres U.S.A. written by Anneliese Abbott, she commented about the onset of agricultural herbicide use.  “It seemed so easy:  forget about plowing…and just spray chemicals to kill the weeds.  No tillage, no erosion and no weeds:  what could be better?  Unfortunately, herbicides caused as many problems as they solved. They polluted water, harmed non-target organisms and sometimes posed a threat to human health.  Worst of all, they only worked well for a short period of time.  Weeds quickly evolved resistance to every major type of herbicide, forcing farmers to spray more and more chemicals with less and less success every year.”   Sadly, as organic farmers there is no easy way to deal with weeds.  Rather we try to understand how weeds work, the conditions they thrive in, and then we utilize multiple methods to kill them and prevent their growth.  Aside from the occasional use of 30% vinegar, chemicals are not our answer.  So lets talk about the methods and tools we can use.
New weed control technique:
Low growing cover crops between rows of melons.
One of our weed control tools is planting cover crops of grains, grasses and clovers.  If we can satisfy the need to cover the soil, there’s no need for dormant weed seeds to germinate.  It helps that most grasses and cereal grains, such as rye, also exude chemicals to inhibit other seeds from germinating.  Historically we have planted most of our cover crops in the fall, which can serve to prevent the growth of bi-annual weeds.  Bi-annual weeds germinate in fall, but do their growing in the spring.  If we can inhibit germination with a fall cover crop planting, we won’t have those weeds in our spring planted crop.  We are also perfecting a new and exciting technique we’ve developed for controlling weeds that grow in the space between the beds where crops are planted.  Immediately after preparing the beds, we plant two very fast germinating cover crop plants, creeping red fescue and white Dutch clover.  Both grow fast and inhibit weeds.  They are also short in stature, only 6 inches tall at most, so they do not compete with our crop for sunshine.
Using Flame Weeder to kill small weeds before crop emerges
We can also deplete the “weed seed bank” in the soil by triggering weeds to germinate, then killing them when they are small with very shallow cultivation or flaming.  We typically utilize this method before we plant the crop, but it requires us to prepare the beds one week ahead of planting.  Then, just before we plant, we “basket” the beds.  A “Basket Weeder” is an implement mounted on a small tractor.  It has horizontal wires that flip small weeds out as they roll across the surface of the bed.  We can also utilize a “Flame Weeder” to kill weeds that germinate and emerge after the crop has been planted, but before it comes up.  In order for this to work, the timing and conditions have to be just right.  The flame weeder is a tank of propane mounted on the back of the tractor with burners that carry just over the surface of the bed.  The flames burn the weeds off, thereby killing them.  If you flame too soon, you won’t maximize the number of weeds you kill.  If you wait too long, the crop may start to emerge and you risk burning off your crop.  We utilize flame weeding for crops such as cilantro and dill that we plant every week for over twenty weeks.  Typically we have to time the flaming about 4-8 days after the crop is planted, depending on temperature.  We also use this technique on carrots and parsnips and the difference between a crop that has been flamed and one that has not is dramatic!!  We have a significant reduction in weeds with timely flaming.  When we do get weeds in our field, it is critical that “bad” weeds to go to seed in the field or areas around our fields.  If they do, they’ll make a deposit into the “weed seed bank” that we’ll pay for in years to come!
Vicente using "The Lilliston" to "hill" sweet corn
We have a few more tools in our collection of things for weed control.  Sometimes we use a tool called “The Lilliston” which aggressively throws dirt in one direction and can be used to smother weeds by throwing dirt on them.  We use this to smother weeds within the rows of crops such as potatoes, leeks and sunchokes when the plants are big enough to get partially covered by dirt without damaging them.  Another tool we use is called a “Lely Tine Weeder.”  This tool has little tines that rake out very small weeds.  This is a more gentle tool and can be used on small transplants and fast growing crops that are direct seeded, as long as the crop is larger than the weeds.  The “Basket Weeder” is also extensively used with tunnel shields that we put on the implement to carry over the rows of crops to protect them from dirt flying into the row and smothering the crop when the crop is too small.  While this method preserves the crop and kills weeds in between the rows, it doesn’t do anything to remove weeds that are in the row.  Later, when the crop is bigger and can take a little more aggressive cultivation, we remove the shields.
Jaime and Felix G using "The Kult" in celeriac
In more recent years we’ve started using a steerable cultivator that we call “The Kult.”  It requires a team of two people to operate it.  One person drives the tractor and the other rides on the cultivator to steer the machine.  This tool is more effective at killing weeds within the rows of crops and it is indispensable at killing new weeds in larger, more established crops where we have to be careful not to disturb the crop’s root system or damage the plants.  It’s also adaptable and can be set up in a variety of ways to best meet our needs.  We have even more cultivating tools, but I think you can see we try to utilize mechanical options as they are our most efficient and cost-effective means of killing weeds.
Ascension using a hoe and his hands to remove weeds
in the strawberry field
We can also smother weeds by covering the soil with plastic or straw mulch.  Some of our crops are planted on plastic covered beds.  We use the plastic mulch for a variety of reasons, one being weed control.  As a last resort, when we’ve exhausted all other methods, we turn to old-fashioned hand weeding.  Yes, we do still do more than our fair share of hand weeding and this too is a skill.  We try to avoid weeding by hand because it is time consuming, but sometimes that’s the only option.
Will we ever kill all the weeds in our fields?  No, but the sum total of all our efforts will pay off this year and in years to come as we minimize the impact weeds have on our crops.

June 27, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Swiss Chard!

26 Jun 2019 21:16

Cooking With This Week's Box

Purple or Green Scallions: Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard (see below); Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown ButterSimple Sauteed Celtuce with HerbsSwiss Chard & Lentil Soup with Herbed Kohlrabi YogurtKohlrabi Curry
Garlic Scapes: Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard (see below); Grilled Garlic Cilantro Chicken SkewersSwiss Chard & Lentil Soup with Herbed Kohlrabi YogurtKohlrabi Curry
Red Boston Lettuce: Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown ButterApple, Blue Cheese & Boston Lettuce Salad
Celtuce: Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown ButterSimple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs
Kohlrabi: Kohlrabi CurrySwiss Chard & Lentil Soup with Herbed Kohlrabi Yogurt
Strawberries: Mini Grain-Free Angel Food Cakes with Lemon Cream and Juicy StrawberriesZabaglione with Strawberries; Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
Broccoli or Salad Cabbage: Kohlrabi Curry; Thai-Style Slaw (with or without chicken); Simplest Cabbage SlawBroccoli Pizza
Green or Italian Zucchini: My Special Zucchini Bread Recipe; Grilled Lemon Garlic Zucchini;  Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard (see below)

Cilantro: Grilled Garlic Cilantro Chicken Skewers; 91 Bold & Savory Cilantro Recipes; Thai-Style Slaw (with or without chicken)

Rainbow or Red Swiss Chard: Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon & Parmesan (see below); Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard (see below); Green Curry with Brown Rice Noodles & Swiss ChardSwiss Chard & Lentil Soup with Herbed Kohlrabi Yogurt

Holy cow....we’re in the last week of June!  Now that we finally gave our crops the memo that it’s officially summer, things are growing!  The zucchini plants are packed with blossoms and now that we’re having some warmer days we anticipate the plants will start pumping out the fruit!  Get your zucchini recipes ready…you’ll need them very soon!  Do you have plans for the 4th of July next week?  Whether you’re traveling or celebrating in your own back yard, don’t forget to incorporate your CSA box contents into the festivities.  If you’ll be out of town, pack your box and take it with you!  I’ve thrown a few recipe ideas into this week’s Cooking With the Box Plan that might work for your travels or 4th of July picnics and potlucks.
Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon & Parmesan
Lets start off with our featured vegetable of the week which is the colorful rainbow chard.  I have two simple recipes this week.  The first is for Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon & Parmesan (see below).  While chard is typically cooked, this salad features raw chard and it is delicious!  It’s made with simple ingredients and doesn’t take long to put together.  You want to add the dressing just before serving, so keep all the components separate until it’s time to eat.  You can use this as a side salad or make it the main feature.  It would also be good with grilled fish or roasted chicken added on top.  The other recipe is for Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard (see below).  The recipe calls for bacon, but you can omit it and use olive oil instead of the bacon and bacon fat.  I’ve eaten this dish both warm and cold and I think it’s good both ways!  I like it just as it is, but you can also add grated Parmesan on top if you like.
If you didn’t receive a box last week, you may be wondering what to do with celtuce and kohlrabi.  We published a feature article about these two unique vegetables last week on our blog.  Take a moment to read more about how to use these two vegetables and refer to last week’s “What’s In the Box” post for recipe suggestions.  I recommend using the kohlrabi to make the Kohlrabi Curry from last week or pair it with this week’s chard to make Swiss Chard & Lentil Soup with Herbed Kohlrabi Yogurt.  As for the celtuce, if you aren’t opposed to another soup suggestion, I’d recommend the Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter or  Simple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs.  If you take me up on the celtuce soup suggestion, consider serving it with an Apple,Blue Cheese & Boston Lettuce Salad.  Use the outer lettuce leaves for the soup and the inner leaves to make the salad.

Grilled Lemon Garlic Zucchini
Photo from DamnDelicious.net
If you haven’t brushed off the grill yet to do some outdoor cooking, now is the time!  Try this recipe for Grilled Garlic Cilantro Chicken Skewers and pair it with Grilled Lemon Garlic Zucchini.  If you just aren’t sure what to use the cilantro for, check out this collection of 91 Bold & Savory Cilantro Recipes.  Surely there’s something in this collection that appeals to you!  The other suggestion I have, if you receive the salad cabbage this week, is to use it along with the cabbage to make Thai-Style Slaw (with or without chicken).  This is a refreshing, yet filling salad that can be made in advance and still taste good!  It’s easy to transport, delicious to eat, simple to make, and leftovers can be wrapped in rice paper wrappers to make spring rolls!
Looking for something to make with the kids?  Pizza?  Absolutely!  You can put anything on a pizza (or nearly anything), so why not Broccoli Pizza!  You could even make these on the grill! 
If you are traveling, be sure to turn your zucchini into this delicious recipe for My Special Zucchini Bread Recipe.  Slice it and take it with you on your travels.  You could also take all those strawberries with you as well!  Summer isn’t summer without a few strawberry desserts.  Here’s a recipe for Mini Grain-Free Angel Food Cakes with Lemon Cream and Juicy Strawberries.  I also recommend making Zabaglione with Strawberries.  Zabaglione is an Italian custard that is flavored with Marsala wine. It is thin and pourable, so you can drizzle it over (or drench it in) fresh strawberries!

Mini Grain-Free Angel Food Cakes with Lemon
Cream and Juicy Strawberries
Photo from HeartbeetKitchen.com
My final suggestion for strawberries this week takes me back to my Mennonite church carry-in days.  Check out this recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Dessert.  I’m not usually big on things that call for “Jell-O”  but everyone loves this recipe.  The combination of sweet and salty is delicious.
Ok, I think that wraps up this week’s cooking chat.  I hope you’re finding some inspiration from these articles and are enjoying the experience of it all!  If you’ve found some good recipes of your own, please share some of your favorites with us!  Have a good 4th of July and I’ll see you next week!---Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Swiss Chard

Red Chard in the field.
Chard is a gorgeous leafy green with crinkly green leaves and bright, vivid rib-like stems in a variety of colors including red, yellow, orange, pink and white.  It is actually in the beet family and bears resemblance to beet greens, which may be used in place of chard in some applications.  While chard is most often considered a cooking green, the leaves are tender enough to also eat raw.  While less of a traditional use, you can use it in salads, such as in this week’s recipe for Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon, Parmesan and Breadcrumbs.  Chard has a taste similar to spinach, but it is more earthy & full-flavored.  Some describe it as having a “mineral flavor.”  Since minerals are what help give food it’s flavor, that means chard tastes really good!  It’s packed with nutrients including vitamins A, C & K, calcium, iron, magnesium and a variety of antioxidants and B vitamins.  Most of the time chard is referred to as “Swiss Chard.”  It really has nothing to do with Switerland, rather the origin of this term goes back to how this vegetable was identified in France many years ago.  Just know that Swiss chard and chard are the same thing.
Rainbow and Red Chard
In the Midwest, chard is available from early summer to late fall.  Unlike kale and collards, chard is not very frost tolerant.  Because of its long season of availability, you’ll see chard used in a variety of applications with both summer and fall/winter vegetables.  While there are many ways to use chard, some common ways include vegetable gratins, soups, or just simply sautéed in olive oil with garlic and a drizzle of vinegar. 
Chard pairs well with bacon, lentils, white beans, chickpeas, cream, cheese, black pepper, raisins, pine nuts, vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice.  It also goes well with fresh herbs (thyme, cilantro, basil), and other vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, winter squash).  You can eat both the leaves and the stems, although the stems require just a tad longer cooking time.  In addition to eating chard raw, you can also steam, sautè or stir-fry it.  When properly cooked, the leaves are tender and silky.  Take care to not overcook it! Store chard in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready for use.  

Swiss Chard Salad with Lemon, Parmesan & Breadcrumbs

Yield: 2-3 servings (as a main) or 4-5 servings (as a side)
1 bunch Swiss chard
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic or 1 garlic scape, finely minced
Crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Zest of one lemon
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Wash and dry the chard.  Separate the stems from the leaves.  Finely chop the stems and put into a large salad bowl.  Stack a few of the leaves on top of each other, then cut lengthwise into thirds.  Holding the stack together with one hand, cut horizontally across the leaves into ⅛ -inch strips.  Add the leaves to the salad bowl.
  2. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic/garlic scapes and red pepper flakes (if using).  Sautè briefly, just until the garlic becomes fragrant.  Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crisp and golden brown (about 5-10 minutes).  Be careful not to burn them!  Season with salt and a little black pepper, then remove from heat and cool.  
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice and Dijon mustard with a few pinches of salt.  Stir to combine, then slowly whisk in ½ cup of the olive oil.
  4. Add lemon zest & Parmesan cheese to the bowl of chard.  Drizzle with ½-⅔ of the dressing, then toss gently until all of the components are nicely coated with the dressing.  Taste and add more dressing if you like.  Be careful not to get too much dressing or the greens will be soggy.  Toss in the toasted breadcrumbs and serve immediately.  
  5. Note:  If you are not going to be eating or serving the entire salad at one meal, store the greens, dressing, Parmesan cheese & breadcrumbs in separate containers.  Assemble and toss only the amount of greens you will be needing at one time.
This recipe was adapted from alexandracooks.com.  

Orzo Pasta with Chickpeas & Chard

Yield:  4-6 servings
8 oz dried orzo pasta (about 2 cups uncooked) 
½ pound bacon, cut into ⅛-inch wide pieces (optional) 
3-4 scallions 2-3 garlic scapes or garlic cloves, finely chopped 
Red pepper flakes, to taste 
2 cups zucchini, small dice 
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas/garbanzo beans 
1 bunch chard, stems and leaves separated
3-4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 
1 Tbsp stoneground mustard 
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar 
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice 
¼- ½ cup fresh basil 
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
Parmesan cheese (for serving), optional
  1. Cook orzo pasta according to package instructions until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. Next, prepare the garlic and scallions.  Separate the bottom portion of the scallions from the green tops.  Thinly slice both the bottom portion as well as the green tops, but keep the tops separate from the lower portion.  Finely chop the garlic scapes and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet or sautè pan, over medium heat.  Add the bacon and fry until crisp and golden.  Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.  Drain off any excess bacon fat.  You want to leave about 4 Tbsp of bacon fat in the pan.  NOTE:  If you choose not to use the bacon, you can omit this step.  Replace the bacon fat with 4 Tbsp olive oil and proceed with the remainder of the recipe.
  4. Next, add the garlic scapes and scallions (lower portion only) to the pan.  Sautè briefly, then add a pinch of red pepper flakes, zucchini, and chickpeas to the pan.  Sautè for 5-10 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and just slightly al dente.  
  5. In a small bowl, mix together 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar with stoneground mustard.  Stir to combine, then pour in the skillet with the chard, zucchini, etc.  Chop the chard stems and add to the pan.  Make a stack with the chard leaves and slice them in half lengthwise, then horizontally into strips about ¼ inch wide.  Add chard leaves to the pan and season with salt and black pepper as well as ¼-⅓ cup pasta water.  Stir to combine and allow the chard to wilt down.  
  6. Once the chard is wilted, add the orzo along with red wine vinegar and 2 Tbsp lemon juice.  Simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Add more pasta water if needed.  You want the orzo to shimmer, but you don’t want it to have a lot of liquid in the pan.  Remove from heat and stir in the basil and sliced scallion tops.  Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt, balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice as needed.
  7. Serve warm topped with freshly grated Parmesan if desired.
Recipe developed by Chef Andrea Yoder

June 20, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Kohlrabi and Celtuce!

19 Jun 2019 21:18

Cooking With This Week's Box

Potato Onions or Scallions: Kohlrabi Curry (see below); Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried RiceFried Rice with Chicken and Celtuce; Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame; Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter (see below); Simple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs (see below); Spicy Pork SaladArugula & Strawberry Salad
Garlic Scapes: Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried RiceFried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce; Spicy Pork Salad
Baby Arugula: Arugula & Strawberry Salad
Salad Mix: Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter (see below)
Red Oak & Red Butterhead Lettuce: Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter (see below); 38 Ways to Use Lettuce!Spicy Pork SaladMixed Lettuces and Kohlrabi with Creamy Sumac DressingStrawberry Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Celtuce: Fried Rice with Chicken and Celtuce; Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame;  Simple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs (see below)
Kohlrabi: Kohlrabi Curry (see below); Oven Baked Kohlrabi Fries (see below); Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried RiceMixed Lettuces and Kohlrabi with Creamy Sumac Dressing
Strawberries: Arugula & Strawberry SaladStrawberry Salad with Honey Balsamic VinaigretteStrawberry Rhubarb Trifle;  Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Rhubarb: Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle; Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble22 Sweet & Savory Rhubarb RecipesStrawberry Rhubarb Trifle
Baby Broccoli: Kohlrabi Curry (see below); Broccoli Egg Muffins
This week we’re cooking up two unique vegetables, celtuce and kohlrabi!  If you’re not familiar with either of these vegetables, take a few minutes to read our feature article about them before you dive in.  This week we have two recipes using kohlrabi.  The first is a simple Kohlrabi Curry (see below) that uses both the kohlrabi bulb as well as the leaves.  This recipe comes together pretty quickly and is delicious served over rice with a little squeeze of lime and some fresh cilantro.  You could also use the kohlrabi bulb to make Oven Baked Kohlrabi Fries (see below).  It’s best to eat these right out of the oven and would be great served with a big juicy burger!  If you make the Oven Baked Kohlrabi Fries, you’ll still have the greens available for another use.  Consider using them in place of kale to make the Spicy Kale and Coconut Fried Ricerecipe we featured last week!
Fried Rice with Chicken and Celtuce
Moving on to celtuce.  Last year I used celtuce in two Asian inspired recipes, which you may want to consider.  Fried Rice with Chicken and Celtuce and Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame.  This year I decided to go a different direction with two simple recipes.  The first is for Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter (see below).  I’ve seen recipes for lettuce soup and always thought that kind of a weird use for lettuce, however the recipes always have rave reviews.  Since celtuce is related to lettuce, I thought this might work, and it did!  This is a simple, light soup that reheats well and you can make a light lunch or dinner with just a piece of toast and maybe a simple salad on the side.  The second recipe featuring celtuce is for Simple Sauteed Celtuce with Herbs (see below).  It is exactly as the name says…simple!  Serve this as a side dish alongside a piece of fish or chicken to make a complete meal.
Spicy Pork Salad, photo from BonAppetit.com
Tis the season for lettuce!  This week we’re finishing up the last of our red oak and red butterhead lettuce.  We still have more lettuce yet to come in the next few weeks, so it’s time to get creative!  I found this article entitled 38 Ways to Use Lettuce!  It includes a few interesting recipes utilizing head lettuce.  I picked out two that I’d like to try.  The first is a Spicy Pork Salad.  This would be appropriate for either of the head lettuce varieties this week.  The recipe calls for cucumber, but you could substitute celtuce!
The other recipe has a Middle Eastern Flair.  The recipe is entitled Mixed Lettuces and Kohlrabi with Creamy Sumac Dressing.  Sumac is a tangy spice often used in the Middle East.  I’ve been able to source it in Madison, WI at Penzeys and often can find it in the bulk spice section at many co-ops.  It’s a lovely spice to use and adds just a bit of zing to salads and other dishes.
Strawberry Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Photo from ACoupleCooks.com
It won’t be long before we say goodbye to lettuce salads for the summer, so lets make the most of this week and get our salad fill!  Here’s a tasty recipe for a Strawberry Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette that could be made with a base of salad mix or head lettuce.  If you’re feeling spicy, you could use this week’s baby arugula to make this Arugula & Strawberry Salad.   There are a lot of flavors going on in this fruity salad!
We’re almost at the end of our box, and we’re also at the end of rhubarb season.  Check out this article featuring 22 Sweet & Savory Rhubarb Recipes.  Surely you can find something delicious to make such as this Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle.   This recipe for Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble also looks tasty.
Last, but not least, we can’t forget about breakfast.  This week the baby broccoli is going to find its home in these Broccoli Egg Muffins.  I love egg dishes that can be made in advance and just reheated.  They’re also easier to take with you than say, scrambled eggs.  Plus, you can mix up the ingredients—use a different kind of cheese.  The other reason this recipe is a keeper is because it’s easy enough for the kids to do on their own and they don’t take much time to assemble!
There you have it friends, another delicious CSA box adventure.  A big thank you to those of you who were able to make it to our Strawberry Day Party last weekend.  We had a great time and hope you did as well!  If you weren’t able to join us for the party, mark your calendars for September 29 and we’ll see you for the Harvest Party!

Oven Baked Kohlrabi Fries

Yield:  3-4 servings
Kohlrabi bulbs 
2 tsp paprika 
1 ½ tsp salt 
¼ tsp garlic powder 
¼ tsp onion powder 
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper 
3 Tbsp flour 
1 egg, beaten 
1 ½ Tbsp milk

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Cut kohlrabi into sticks or spiralize it and put into a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Combine paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and flour in a small bowl.
  4. Add in egg and milk and mix well.
  5. Pour seasoning mixture over the kohlrabi and mix well. (It’s easiest to use your hands)
  6. Spread fries onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  It’s best to keep them in a single layer so they are not overlapping.  You may need to use a second baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, flipping once during baking.  They will still be soft on the inside, but crispy on the outside.  Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from the blog Like Mother Like Daughter.  

Creamy Celtuce & Lettuce Soup with Brown Butter

Yield:  4 servings
2 celtuce, stems and leaves
3 Tbsp butter
1 ½ tsp dried parsley
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups firmly packed fresh lettuce
½ cup heavy cream or half and half
1 cup thinly sliced green onion, to garnish
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
  1. First, prepare the celtuce.  Trim the leaves off the stem and wash well in a sink of cold water.  Shake excess water off the leaves and roughly chop them.  Set aside.  Next, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to peel away the outer layer on the stem to reveal the tender, translucent flesh inside.  Cut the stem in half lengthwise, then cut into ¼ inch pieces.   
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Once melted, continue to heat the butter until it starts to get foamy and the color just barely starts to turn more golden to slightly light brown.  At this stage it will smell like a shortbread cookie.  Add the sliced celtuce stem.  Sautè for 5 minutes to just soften the celtuce.  Add the dried parsley, ½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir to combine, then add the chopped celtuce leaves.  
  3. Continue to cook until the leaves start to wilt down, then add chicken or vegetable stock to the pan.  Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the leaves and celtuce are soft.  Remove the pan from the stove and set aside.  
  4. Next, you will use a blender to puree the soup.  First, put the lettuce into the blender and then carefully ladle the soup into the blender.  Put the lid on and carefully blend until the soup is at the desired consistency.  You can blend it until it is totally smooth or leave it a little more rustic.
  5. Once fully blended, pour the soup back into the pan and heat it over medium heat.  Stir the cream into the soup, then taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.  Just before serving, add a pinch of nutmeg if desired.
  6. Serve warm garnished with thinly sliced green onions and buttered toast.

Recipe by Chef Andrea

Simple Sautéed Celtuce with Herbs

Yield:  2 servings
1 celtuce
1 Tbsp butter
2 scallions
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
½ cup chopped fresh dill or parsley

  1. Prepare the celtuce by trimming the leaves off and thinly slicing.  Set aside.  Peel the celtuce stem and cut in half lengthwise.  Slice into ¼ inch thick pieces.
  2. In a medium sautè pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Once the butter is sizzling, add the celtuce pieces and sautè for 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned and tender.  
  3. Add the celtuce leaves and season with salt.  Cook for another 4-5 minutes or until both the the stems and leaves are softened.  Remove from heat and add vineagar and fresh herbs.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Recipe by Chef Andrea

Kohlrabi Curry

Serves 4

3 kohlrabi bulbs, with leaves 
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
½ cup thinly sliced scallions
1 cup broccoli stems/florets
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and thinly sliced, OR 1 tsp green curry paste
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 (14-15 ounce) can coconut milk
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
Juice of one small lime
Chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges, for serving (optional)
Cooked rice, for serving

  1. Cut the leaves away from the kohlrabi bulbs, discarding the connective stems.  Wash the leaves, dry them, and chop coarsely.  Set aside.  Using a paring knife, cut the kohlrabi bulbs into quarters and then peel the bulbs.  You must peel deeply enough to remove any fibrous parts;  the inside should be crisp and moist.  Once peeled, cut the kohlrabi into medium dice.  Reserve the kohlrabi and leaves in separate piles.
  2. Heat the oil in a large sautè pan (12 inches or wider) over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the ginger and sautè for 45-60 seconds, then add the scallions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes.  
  3. Next, add the cumin, salt, coriander, and turmeric.  Stir to combine, then add the diced kohlrabi and broccoli.  Stir to coat the vegetables with the spices.
  4. Add the coconut milk and broth to the pan, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, turn down the heat to low and add the chopped kohlrabi leaves.  Partially cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables and leaves are tender.  
  5. Remove the pan from heat and stir in lime juice.  Taste and add additional salt if needed. Serve with rice and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

Recipe adapted from Brassicas, Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables:  Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura Russell

Kohlrabi & Celtuce: They’re unique, but don’t let them intimidate you!

19 Jun 2019 21:17

By Chef Andrea

This week we have two interesting vegetables to share with you—Kohlrabi and Celtuce!  While these two vegetables are not related, they actually share some similarities so it’s fitting to feature them together.  Lets start with kohlrabi first.

Kohlrabi growing in the field
I had the opportunity to talk with quite a few prospective CSA members at different events last winter.  While many were totally new to the concept of CSA, there were also individuals who had been with other farms and were familiar with CSA, vegetables, etc.  As we talked, there seemed to be a comment that kept circulating through my conversations.  More than once I heard people express exhaustion with the amount of kohlrabi they had received in their CSA shares and the fact that they really didn’t know what to do with it.  They were both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by it at the same time!  So I set out on a mission this year to help our members learn more about kohlrabi and the many, many ways you might enjoy it!  It’s often referred to as “an alien vegetable” because of its “out of this world” appearance.  Yes, it’s a little different than any other vegetable we grow, but it really bears a lot of resemblance to other vegetables.  So lets set the intimidation factor aside.  Whether this is the first time you’ve tried kohlrabi or not, you have no reason to worry!  Stick with me and I’ll help you navigate this vegetable as you learn to appreciate it!

The name for kohlrabi is derived from “khol” meaning stem or cabbage and “rabi” meaning turnip.  While it is in the brassica family and somewhat resembles a turnip, it grows differently than all other vegetables in this group.  As with other vegetables in this family, kohlrabi is rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and B vitamins.

Kohlrabi coming in from Harvest
One of the characteristics I appreciate about kohlrabi is that most of the plant is edible.  The bulb is the part of the plant most commonly eaten, but the leaves are also edible and should not be overlooked.  The leaves have a thicker texture more similar to kale or collard greens.  They are best eaten cooked and can be substituted for collard greens or kale in many recipes.  I usually strip the leaves off the main stems because they are often tough.  The bulb does need to be peeled before eating as the outer skin is fairly tough.  I find it easiest to cut the bulb in half or quarters and then peel the skin away like you’re peeling an apple.  Once the skin is peeled away you’ll find a solid, crispy, juicy, tender flesh inside with a sweet, mild cabbage flavor.  To store kohlrabi, cut the stems and leaves off.  Store both leaves and the bulbs in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  The leaves will keep for about 1 week, and the bulbs will last up to several weeks if stored properly.

BLK Sandwiches
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
Kohlrabi is delicious eaten both raw and cooked.  The simplest way to eat it is to peel the bulb and munch on slices plain or with just a touch of salt, a little lime juice and some chili powder.  It can also be shredded and used in slaws with a variety of dressings or sliced and added to sandwiches or salads.  Don’t limit yourself to only eating this as a raw vegetable though.  It is also delicious when lightly sautéed, stir-fried, braised, roasted, grilled and baked. Over the years we’ve featured a variety of kohlrabi recipes in our newsletters, which are archived on our website.  If you ask Farmer Richard what his favorite way to eat kohlrabi is, I guarantee he’ll always say “Creamy Kohlrabi Slaw!”  If you search the recipe database on our website, you’ll find several different slaw recipes including Kohlrabi Slaw with Coconut & Cilantro and Kohlrabi with Creamy Cole Slaw Dressing.  One of my favorite raw kohlrabi recipes is Kohlrabi & Chickpea Salad, which comes from the Dishing Up the Dirt cookbook by Andrea Bemis.  You’ll also find her recipe for BLK sandwiches (Bacon, Lettuce & Kohlrabi) as well as other kohlrabi-centric recipes on her blog.  Kohlrabi is one of her favorite vegetables so you’ll find quite a collection at dishingupthedirt.com!

Kohlrabi is quite delicious when cooked.  You can use both the leaves and bulb in stir-fry or just simply sauté them in butter.  The bulb is also excellent roasted.  Just toss it with oil, salt and pepper and roast it in the oven until the pieces start to get golden brown on the outside.  Because it is higher in moisture it will never get as dry as potatoes do when you roast them.  Rather, roasted kohlrabi is tender and succulent.  I like to use diced kohlrabi and onions as a vegetable base under roast chicken.  As the chicken cooks, the vegetables absorb the juices from the chicken while roasting.

Kohlrabi Curry
Kohlrabi is used more extensively in European countries as well as in Chinese and Indian cuisine.  I found quite a few Indian recipes that included kohlrabi.  I’m not very familiar with Indian cuisine, so some of the ingredients in the recipes were foreign to me.  The Kohlrabi Curry recipe we’re featuring this week touches on some of those flavors used in Indian cooking, but it’s manageable for home cooks like myself!  If anyone in the CSA is familiar with using kohlrabi in Indian food, I’d love to learn more about this cuisine!

While kohlrabi is delicious just eaten simply with salt, I hope you can see that there are actually many ways you can enjoy kohlrabi and use the entire plant to get the most out of your investment!

Celtuce in the Field
Lets move onto Celtuce, another interesting and unusual vegetable that, like kohlrabi, is also a stem vegetable.  It is thought to have originated in southern China and is also known as “Lettuce Stem.”  While it is relatively well-known in China, you seldom see it in the United States, but it can be found in some Asian grocery stores.  Botanically, it is a member of the lettuce family.  The plant grows similarly to lettuce and the leaves resemble lettuce leaves.  While you can eat the leaves, the main feature of this plant is the long, thick stem.  The lower leaves are usually trimmed away as they can sometimes become bitter as the plant matures.  The upper leaves are usually left intact and are tender and generally less bitter if at all.  Once the leaves are trimmed away, the thick, white stem is revealed. It is not uncommon to see brown leaf scars or cracks on the bottom of the stem.  These are usually peeled away when the skin is removed anyway, so don’t worry about it if you see these.   Celtuce is referred to as who sun in Chinese, but the term “celtuce” is the American name given to this vegetable when it was introduced to this continent by the Burpee Seed Company.  It was named such because of its stalk like resemblance to celery coupled with its lettuce-like qualities.  I actually think the stem on celtuce bears more resemblance to broccoli and personally, I would’ve named this vegetable Broctuce!

Trimmed Celtuce
Celtuce may be eaten raw or cooked.  It has a unique flavor that is really unlike any other vegetable.  As much as I dislike using the term “nutty” to describe a vegetable, that really is the first word that comes to mind when I think about the flavor.  It also has a kind of smoky like characteristic to its flavor profile and if you smell the base of the stem, you’ll find it has a unique scent.  Celtuce does sometimes have some bitter components to it, depending on the stage of growth.  I’ve found that the lower, larger leaves generally have more bitterness compared to the smaller, less mature leaves on the top of the plant.  When you are preparing celtuce, the first step is to trim away the leaves from the stem.  Save these and use them raw in a salad (if you like bitter greens).  If you find them too bitter for your liking and/or don’t care for them raw, try cooking them.  You can either blanch them in boiling water or just simply saute them.  If you’re familiar with escarole, you can treat celtuce greens similarly.  Their flavor mellows and changes a bit with cooking making them more delectable.  A little splash of vinegar at the end of cooking also helps mellow the bitterness and bring all the flavor components together.

Peeling the outer portion of the Celtuce Stem
As for the stem portion, you need to peel away the outer skin on the stem.  Inside you’ll find a light green, translucent vegetable flesh that is crispy and juicy, similar to kohlrabi!  Be sure to trim away all of the outer white skin as that is the portion of the plant that seems to be most bitter.  I’ve also noticed that sometimes the stem has some white streaking on the lower portion of the stalk that can sometimes be more bitter.  Just trim the outermost portion of this away.

Celtuce has the strongest flavor when eaten raw.  Whether raw or cooked, it’s always juicy and cooks pretty quickly.  If you do not care for bitter vegetables, I’d encourage you to focus on more simple, cooked preparations.  If you do like bitter greens, etc, then try using celtuce in a salad or slaw for the strongest flavor effect.  It may be julienned or sliced thinly and eaten in a fresh, raw salad.  In China it’s often pickled.  As a cooked vegetable, you can sauté it, use it in a stir-fry or use it in soups.  Some cooks also like to steam it or gently braise it in a flavorful liquid. When considering how to use it, think about how you might use other vegetables with similar characteristics and texture such as cucumber, jicama and kohlrabi—although the tastes are different, in many recipes you could substitute these vegetables for another.

Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame
Celtuce does pair well with other spring vegetables such as the baby white turnips, sugar snap peas, greens, scallions and garlic scapes.  It pairs well with ingredients of Asian descent such as soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, etc.  It can also play well with milk, cream, Parmesan, lemon, lime and fresh herbs such as parsley and dill.  To complement the nutty flavors of celtuce, pair it with sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds and other nuts of your choosing.  Last year we featured recipes for Fried Rice with Chicken & Celtuce as well as a Pickled Celtuce Salad with Ginger & Sesame.  Store celtuce in the refrigerator, wrapped loosely in plastic or a damp towel.

You may be thinking “Andrea, where are the recipes?!”  This year we have two newsletters.  Since we wanted to expand our vegetable features about these two vegetables, this article is this week’s “Main Newsletter Article.”  The recipes are included in our second newsletter which we call the “What’s In the Box Newsletter.”  Make sure you check out both newsletters either online or pick up a hard copy at your pickup site.  Have fun and let us know what creative dishes you cook up!

June 13, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Kale!

12 Jun 2019 21:19

Cooking With This Week's Box

Pea Vine: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream SauceSpring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine Broth
Potato Onions: Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice (see below); Spring Noodle Bowl with PeaVine Broth
Garlic Scapes: Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice (see below); Garlic Scape & Mushroom Pizza with Turnips and Bacon; Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below); Spring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine BrothSpring Salad with Garlic Scape Herbed Croutons
Asparagus: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream SauceSpring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine BrothGrilled Asparagus in Dill Butter
Baby White Turnips: Garlic Scape & Mushroom Pizza with Turnips and BaconSpring Salad with Garlic Scape Herbed Croutons
Dill: Spring Salad with Garlic Scape Herbed CroutonsCreamy Dill Chicken SaladSalmon Cakes with Yogurt & Dill SauceGrilled Asparagus in Dill Butter
Baby Spinach or Arugula: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-PeaVine Cream Sauce
Salad Mix: Salad Mix tossed with Red Wine Vinaigrette
Red Oak & Red Butterhead Lettuce: Spring Salad with Garlic Scape Herbed Croutons
Lacinato Kale: Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice (see below); Lemon Kale Muffins (see below)
Strawberries: Just eat them!
This week we’re going to kick off our cooking discussion with an easy, quick recipe utilizing this week’s featured vegetable, Lacinato Kale.  This recipe for Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice (see below) is very easy to assemble.  You do need to plan in advance to have cold, cooked rice which could be made on the weekend or the night before. If you have the rice, the rest of this recipe comes together very quickly which is great for a weeknight dinner.  This can serve as a vegetarian main dish, or you could add fish, pork or chicken to the fried rice if you wish.  The other recipe featuring kale is for Lemon Kale Muffins (see below).  This comes from veggiedesserts.uk.co, an interesting site that has a lot of different ways to incorporate vegetables into both sweet and savory preparations.  All of the recipes I’ve tried from this site have always been good, so be brave and try some things you may not have considered before…like putting kale in a muffin!
Garlic Scape & Mushroom Pizza with Turnips & Bacon
Photo from DishingUpTheDirt.com
This past week Andrea Bemis posted a recipe on her blog, Dishing Up the Dirt,  for Garlic Scape & Mushroom Pizza with Turnips & Bacon.  This is a very timely recipe since we have both garlic scapes and baby white turnips in the box this week!  You’ll use the turnip greens to make a pesto to spread on the crust.  Then top it off with sautéed scapes, crispy bacon, mushrooms and salad turnips.  Delicious!  Serve this on its own, or with a simple side salad using this week’s Salad Mix tossed with Red Wine Vinaigrette.  This is one of my go-to vinaigrette recipes that is nice to keep in the refrigerator for when you want to put together a nice, simple salad.  Grate a little Parmesan on top and you’re set.
It’s a salad kind of a week!  We’re happy to have these pretty little red oak and red butterhead lettuces.  Here’s another recipe from Andrea Bemis for Spring Salad with Garlic Scape Herbed Croutons.  This recipe would be delicious made with a mix of the two types of head lettuce that are dressed with a light lemon-dijon vinaigrette that contains fresh dill.  The salad is topped off with hard-boiled eggs, salad turnips and radishes as well as garlic scape herbed croutons.  This one is filling enough to stand on its own for a nice lunch or dinner option or add a little grilled chicken.
Creamy Dill Chicken Salad
photo from LifesAmbrosia.com
Dill is the herb of choice this week and if you’re wondering what else to do with it, consider a few of these options.  This recipe for Creamy Dill Chicken Salad would be a nice lunch option.  You can turn it into a sandwich, but don’t forget to load it up with a handful of spinach, salad mix, arugula or several pieces of head lettuce.  Dill is also a natural accompaniment to fish, so these Salmon Cakes with Yogurt & Dill Sauce seem like a good option.  Serve these with a simple salad or perhaps Grilled Asparagus in Dill Butter.
This is our second and final week for pea vine.  If you didn’t have a chance to make the featured recipe from last week, Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce, I’d encourage you to give it a try.  I also like to make a simple broth with pea vine, so my other recommendation is this recipe for Spring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine Broth.
I think we’ve reached the bottom of this week’s box.  Wait, I forgot the strawberries!  What should you do with them?  JUST EAT THEM!  This year’s strawberry season is off to a bit of a late start, but there will be more to come!  I hope you’ll consider joining us for our annual Strawberry Day coming up this Sunday, June 16.  We’ll have delicious strawberry ice cream to celebrate the event and we’re anxious to show you some of our vegetable fields!  Have a good week!

Vegetable Feature: Kale

Green Curly and Lacinato Kale in the field
Kale has come a long way over the past 20-30 years.  What once was a vegetable eaten by hippies or used to decorate salad bars and buffets became a well-known hipster “super-food.”  I’m not sure how kale became so popular, but I’m glad more people learned how to use and enjoy it because it really is a delicious and nutrient packed vegetable and there are so many different ways to incorporate it into your diet!
There are different types of kale.  This week we’re harvesting Lacinato kale as well as green curly kale.  Lacinato kale is sometimes referred to as Toscano, dino kale or dinosaur kale.  This type of kale is dark green in color and has more of a flat, slightly savoyed leaf.  Green curly kale is just as its name says—it’s lighter green in color with ruffled leaves.  We also grow a unique variety called Portuguese kale.  This is a much different kale compared to lacinato and green curly kale.  We’ve grown this in the past and have a small planting for this fall which we plan to harvest with all of you at our fall Harvest party!  Kale is usually available from mid-June through October or early November.  The flavor can change over the course of the season. Right now it is pretty mild flavored.  In the heat of the summer it might have a little stronger flavor and then after it gets kissed by frost, the flavor becomes a little more sweet and mild again.
Kale is part of the family of vegetables called brassicas or crucifers.  Vegetables in this family share some similar nutrient characteristics including being high in vitamins, minerals and sulfur-rich phytonutrients that aid in cancer prevention.  They are also high in fiber and low in calories.  In particular, kale is an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A as well as lutein and beta carotene.
Portuguese Kale in field
Kale has a pretty mild flavor and can be eaten both raw and cooked.  The texture of a kale leaf is much different than some of the other greens we’ve had this spring such as bok choi and hon tsai tai.  Kale leaves are thicker and require a little more cooking time to make them tender.  If you choose to eat kale raw in salads and such, it helps to marinate the kale in a vinaigrette or dressing for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.  The acidity from vinegar, lemon juice, etc in a vinaigrette helps to soften the leaves.  The great thing about kale salads is that they are more durable in comparison to a lettuce salad.  You can put the dressing on the night before and the salad isn’t soggy the next day!  It actually is better the next day!  In its cooked form, kale is often used in soups.  It can also be steamed, baked, sautéed and even roasted, as in the case of kale chips.  It can also be made into pesto, added to pizzas, incorporated into lasagna, casseroles and gratins.  You can even add it to smoothies and use it to make baked goods!  Yes, you can put kale into muffins, cakes, etc!  Check out this week’s recipe for Lemon Kale Muffins!  Kale pairs well with many other vegetables including mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, other greens, root vegetables and potatoes.  It is also often used in recipes paired with beans and lentils as well as citrus, dairy and pork products.  It is often incorporated into pasta and rice dishes as well.  This week we’ve featured a recipe for Spicy Kale and Coconut Fried Rice that is pretty tasty and very easy to make!
Both lacinato and green curly kale have a thicker stem that the leaf is part of.  It is best to wash the kale in a sink of cold water first, then strip the leaves off the main stem.  Store kale in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a damp towel.  

Spicy Kale & Coconut Fried Rice

Yield:  3-4 servings
2 Tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp finely chopped green garlic or garlic scapes
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¾ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup chopped seasonal vegetable (mushrooms, carrots, peppers, etc)
1 bunch lacinato or green curly kale
¼ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
¾ cup large, unsweetened coconut flakes
3 cups cooked and chilled brown rice
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce or sriracha
1 lime, halved
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the pan is hot enough, add 1-2 tsp oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom.  Pour in the beaten eggs and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggs are scrambled and lightly set.   Transfer the eggs to an empty bowl.  Wipe out the pan if necessary with a paper towel.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and add the garlic, ginger, green onions and additional vegetable of your choosing.  Cook until vegetables are just starting to get tender, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds or longer.  Add the kale and salt.  Continue to cook until the kale is wilted and tender, stirring frequently, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Transfer the contents of the pan to the bowl with the eggs.
  3. Add the remaining 2-3 tsp oil to the pan.  Pour in the coconut flakes and cook, stirring frequently until the flakes are lightly golden, about 30 seconds.  Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot, about 3 minutes.
  4. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pan, breaking up the scrambled egg with your spatula or spoon.  Once warmed, remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Add the tarmari, chili garlic sauce and juice of ½ lime.  Stir to combine.  Taste, and if it’s not fantastic yet, add another teaspoon of tamari or a pinch of salt, as needed.
  6. Slice the remaining ½ lime into wedges, then divide the fried rice into individual bowls.  Garnish with wedges of lime, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.  
Recipe adapted from cookieandkate.com

Lemon Kale Muffins

Yield:  12 muffins

Photo from veggiedesserts.co.uk
2 cups packed raw kale leaves
½ cup unsalted butter, softened 
¾ cup sugar 
2 eggs 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 lemon, zest and juice 
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
½ teaspoon salt 

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line or grease a muffin pan. 
  2. Tear the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and boil or steam for a few minutes until tender. Refresh in cold water, drain and puree in a food processor or blender (it will still be a bit stringy). Set aside. 
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the kale, vanilla, zest and lemon juice. 
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and stir to gently combine. 
  5. Fill the muffin cups ¾ full and bake for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Recipe borrowed from www.veggiedesserts.co.uk.

June 6, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Pea Vine!

5 Jun 2019 21:39

Cooking With This Week's Box

Pea Vine: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below); Pea Vine & Spinach Green Drink (See Below);  Pea Vine Cream Cheese
Potato Onions: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below); Pea Vine Cream CheeseCreamy Turnip Grits & Greens with Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette
Green Garlic: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below); Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens with Brown-Butter Hot Sauce VinaigretteGreen Pancakes
Asparagus: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below); Pea Vine Cream CheeseBaked Asparagus Fries
Cilantro: Cilantro Lime DressingEasy One Skillet Creamy Cilantro Lime ChickenPea Vine & Spinach Green Drink (See Below) 
Baby Spinach: Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below); Pea Vine & Spinach Green Drink (See Below);  Green PancakesSpinach-Mushroom Scrambled Eggs
Salad Mix: Cilantro Lime Dressing
Lets kick off this week’s cooking discussion with a simple, yet tasty and very green pasta dish.  This week’s featured recipe is Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce (See Below).  Last week a CSA member sent me a link to a recipe for Avocado Pasta with Asparagus and Peas.  She had made her own version of this recipe using a lot of the vegetables in the box and based upon her recommendation (as well as her husband’s endorsement of this “really good recipe”), I decided to give it a try and adapt it to this week’s box contents.  There are a couple steps to this recipe, but it comes together really easily and uses a whole bunch of pea vine, potato onions, green garlic and asparagus.  It’s creamy without being too heavy.  You can serve it as the main dish or as a side along with grilled chicken, fish, etc.  If you're short on time, are looking for a quick way to eat your greens, or you just want something healthy and invigorating, try the recipe for Pea Vine & Spinach Green Drink (See Below).  It's super simple, travels well and gives you a little burst of feel good energy.  
Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens with Brown-Butter Hot
Sauce Vinaigrette
Last week we featured baby white turnips, so if you missed last week’s feature article and recipe, take a minute to check out the article as well as the recipe for Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens with Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette.  It’s a tasty recipe that is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner and leftovers reheat easily.  If you’re looking for another way to use turnips, consider making these tasty Pancetta Wrapped Baby Turnips.  You may want to cut the turnips in half this week as they are a little bit larger. This recipe uses just the turnips, but don’t throw away the greens!  Chop them up and saute them with a little bit of butter or add them to scrambled eggs, rice, etc.
Asparagus Fries
photo from damndelicious.net
Looking for a classy summer appetizer to have with friends for a summer get together?  Check out this recipe for Vanilla Butter with Radishes.  Serve the radishes whole with the tops still on, or cut them in half if they’re a little bigger.  This vanilla butter is easy to make and the only other thing you need is a little salt.  Serve it along with crackers or some good crusty bread.  You could also make a batch of Pea Vine Cream Cheese to serve with crackers and, if you haven’t already used your asparagus, roast some on a sheet pan and serve spears of Baked Asparagus Fries.  Add a glass of wine and you’re set!
While we’re waiting for some of our other fresh herbs to grow big enough for harvest, we’re happy to have cilantro available to fill the herb slot.  This recipe for Cilantro Lime Dressing is on the agenda for this week.  The basic vinaigrette will be good tossed with this week’s salad mix.  You can turn it into a full meal by adding some chickpeas, grilled steak or chicken to the salad.  The author also suggests adding yogurt to make it a creamy dressing that could be used as a sauce for grilled meat or roasted vegetables or as a sauce for tacos or the like.
Green Pancakes
Another option for employing this week’s cilantro is Easy One Skillet Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken.  This is an easy recipe that will allow you to have dinner on the table in 30 minutes!  Serve this with Green Pancakes and you have a complete meal.  The green pancakes might add a little time to your dinner prep, but they can be made in advance and reheated in the toaster or oven.  This is a savory pancake made with spinach (or any other green you have available) and lots of green garlic.  You can serve them with a dollop of sour cream, but in this meal they’ll be really good with the cream sauce on the chicken.
I think we’ve made it to the bottom of the box.  If you have any other greens hanging out in the refrigerator, use them to make Spinach-Mushroom Scrambled Eggs.  The recipe calls for spinach, but you can substitute any greens you have (radish tops, turnip tops, hon tsai tai from the week before, etc).
That pretty much finishes off box number 5!  What’s coming up for next week?  Well, we’re going to be picking strawberries very soon and the garlic scapes are starting to push up from the center of the garlic stalks.  We also have our eyes on a gorgeous field of head lettuce, including a deep, dark cherry red oak lettuce with soft rounded leaves. Have a great week!

Vegetable Feature: Pea Vine

Pea Vine is actually an immature pea plant that is harvested before the vine starts to develop blossoms.  It has a mild, sweet pea flavor and may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.  We look forward to pea vine every year because it has such a bright, gentle pea flavor and is a nutrient dense green that just seems to leave you feeling invigorated and refreshed!
While the tendrils and leaves are tender, the main stem can sometimes get tough depending on how mature the plant is at harvest.  This week’s pea vine is at an in between stage.  Most of the upper stem is still tender while the lower portion may be a little more coarse.  In past years we’ve had members comment that the pea vine is “stringy.”  Here’s how we tackle this issue. If you find this to be the case, pick the tender leaves, tendrils and thin stems off the main stem.  I must admit, I don’t like to spend a lot of time sorting through a bunch of pea vine and I prefer to use as much of the bunch as I can...plus there is a lot of flavor in the stem!  Thus, when the pea vine is more mature and some of the stems are more tough, I tend to use pea vine in ways that allow me to chop it finely in a blender or food processor.  The other way I like to use pea vine is in sauces, soups or broth.  I generally chop the pea vine into smaller pieces and add it to hot broth or a sauce base.  Let the pea vine simmer briefly to extract the flavor, but don’t overcook it or you’ll lose the bright pea flavor.  Once you’ve infused the flavor of the pea vine into the sauce or broth, you can strain it out to remove it.  If you’d like to extract just a little more flavor, blend the mixture before straining it.
Pea Vine Pesto Pasta Salad
Pea vine goes well with cream, butter, cheese, pancetta, prosciutto, bacon and ham, lemon, lime, mint, parsley, chives, spring onions, green garlic, radishes, asparagus, and mushrooms.  Some of my favorite past recipes using pea vine include Pea Vine Cream Cheese, Pea Vine Pesto Pasta Salad and Spring Noodle Bowl with Pea Vine Broth
As I mentioned in the introduction, pea vine, as with many greens, is packed with nutrients.  Farmer Richard always says “Eat your greens every day!”  Why is this so important?  Greens are rich sources of a variety of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants.  When we include them in our diets on a daily basis, we’re essentially giving our bodies the daily boost they need to remove toxins from our systems, support our immune system and fuel our metabolic pathways that produce energy.  Of course this is a very simplified explanation of what really happens in our amazing, intricate body systems, but the bottom line is pretty simple…eat your greens!  From time to time you might even want to “drink your greens!”  Some of you may be accustomed to adding greens such as kale and spinach to a fruity smoothie.  You can also make more savory green drinks that are not only a great nutrient boost, but they’re convenient to take with you to work as part of your lunch or an afternoon snack.  In addition to nutrients, they’re also a great way to meet your daily water intake and, if you don’t strain them, you’ll get some fiber as well!  So this week I included a very simple green drink recipe that includes not only the vibrant, delicate flavor of pea vine, but it also includes spinach and cilantro.  It’s simple, refreshing and if you’re simply running short on time and need something quick you can pull this off in short order. 
I hope you enjoy and appreciate the delicate flavor of pea vine this week and remember, within the next month we’ll be enjoying peas in the pod!

Pasta with Asparagus & Avocado-Pea Vine Cream Sauce

Yield:  4 servings
8 oz small pasta (e.g., orecchiette, macaroni, fusilli, etc)
1 bunch pea vine
1 stalk green garlic, chopped finely
1 medium ripe avocado
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 green onions (1 cup thinly sliced)
2 cups fresh baby spinach or arugula
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.  Cut the bottom one-inch off the pea vine stems.  Finely chop the pea vine, leaves and stem.  Place the pea vine and chopped green garlic in a food processor or blender.  Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh out of the skin.  Add it to the food processor along with yogurt, lemon juice, ½ tsp salt and ground black pepper.  Process on high for 20-30 seconds.  Stop and scrape down the bowl.  Continue to process until the mixture is well combined.  It will be very creamy, but not completely smooth.
  3. Once the pasta is cooked and the sauce is made, heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add the green onion and saute briefly until softened.  Add the asparagus and saute for several minutes, stirring periodically, until the asparagus is bright green and cooked al dente (tender but still a little crunchy).
  4. Add the baby spinach along with a few tablespoons of the pasta water.  Cover the pan and steam just until the spinach is wilted, 1-2 minutes.  Remove the lid and add the cooked pasta and the sauce to the pan.  Stir to combine.  Add additional pasta water if the sauce is too thick, or simmer for a few minutes if the sauce is too thin.  Once warmed through, taste and adjust the seasoning with additional lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan.

This recipe was adapted from one entitled “Avocado Pasta with Asparagus and Peas,” originally published on www.wellplated.com.  

Pea Vine & Spinach Green Drink

Yield:  1 quart
3 cups roughly chopped pea vine
2 cups fresh spinach
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups water
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 to 1 ½ cups ice cubes
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender.  If you can’t fit all the greens in the blender cup, just put about half in at first with the remaining ingredients.  Blend briefly to create more space and then add remaining greens.
  2. Blend on high speed until all ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture is smooth.
  3. If you want a very smooth, velvety juice, pour it through a fine mesh strainer before serving.  If you don’t mind a little thickness in your juice from the vegetable pulp, then skip the straining step.  There may also be a layer of foam on top from the high speed blender action.  Just take a spoon and skim it off the top.
  4. Adjust the seasoning to your liking with more salt and lemon juice.  Serve over ice for a cold drink or gently and briefly heat it to lukewarm on the stove top for a warm drink.  Store any extras in the refrigerator.  The juice will separate in storage, just shake it before serving.

Recipe by Chef Andrea

June 2019 Farm & Crop Update

5 Jun 2019 21:38

By Farmer/Chef Andrea

A sunny day in the valley & a view of our gorgeous garlic crop!
Here we are in the first week of June and it’s FINALLY starting to feel like early summer!  Strawberries will be ripening soon and the zucchini plants have the cutest little fruit on them.  We’ve had a good, yet cold and wet start to this year.  Every good chat with a farmer should include some talk about the weather, so here’s our report.  In April & May we had 8 inches of snow plus some hail, 11.25 inches of rain and only 12 dry days!  Through it all, our crew has been fantastic!  We had some days when it was too wet to do field work, so some crew took a little time off.  As soon as the weather cleared and the fields dried out just a bit, they were back out working hard with focus and determination to get things planted, cultivated, etc.  They’ve worked some longer days when necessary as well as some weekends to help keep us on track.  In Richard’s own words, “Considering the conditions we’ve had, I think we’ve done darn good!”

Despite a few weather delays, we’ve been able to get things planted in a timely manner.  Our greenhouses are pretty empty right now, which is exactly as it should be if we’re on schedule with transplanting.  Last week we were biting our nails as our beautiful tomato plants grew taller and taller in the greenhouse while it rained outside.  It’s easiest to transplant them when they are short or we risk breaking them.  Thankfully, we were able to get them in the field by the end of last week and we didn’t lose too many to breakage!  By the end of the day Saturday they were standing up tall and looking perky with a nice bed of straw mulch lining the wheel tracks.

There's a wolf in the field!  Oh wait, that's a pumpkin!
Last Friday, we pulled out our second water-wheel transplanter and had a second crew to transplant our first melons and watermelons.  As if we didn’t already have enough to transplant, we also knew our first shipment of sweet potato plants was on its way.  When they come in, they need to be transplanted as soon as possible.  UPS delivered them late Friday afternoon and within less than an hour the tomato planting crew was ready to move on to their next mission.  Tomas came in to get the first few boxes of sweet potato plants and they hustled to get some planted before the end of the day.  On Saturday morning, the other transplanting crew joined them and collectively they were able to plant them all with a little extra time to also plant jicama and pumpkins!  We’re expecting another shipment of plants to arrive this Thursday, so hopefully we’ll have the field totally planted by the end of the week! While they don’t look like much right now, we’re crossing our fingers for an awesome sweet potato crop!

This year's potato field, freshly cultivated!
While we’re talking potatoes, I might add that our potato field looks awesome!  We were able to utilize the dry fertilizer applicator on the planter this spring which allowed us to apply fertilizer in the furrow as the seed was being planted.  It was worth the extra effort as the plants are growing nicely and look very healthy.  The cultivating crew has stayed on top of weed control, which also makes this a lovely field to see.  Look for some delicious early potatoes in your box coming up in July!

Speaking of lovely fields, I need to mention our onion field.  Not only are the onions looking really healthy, but we’re already on top of hand weeding so the field is clean.  When you see the field you might say, “Well it still looks like there are a lot of weeds in between the beds!”  Wrong! The green in between the beds is actually white Dutch clover and creeping red fescue, short stature cover crops intentionally seeded  between the beds.  This is a new technique Richard is implementing with crops planted on beds covered with plastic mulch.  There are several reasons for this.  First, it’s always challenging to control weeds in between the beds.  If it gets too wet, we can’t get in to cultivate.  If the onions get too tall, we can’t pass through with a tractor or we risk damaging onion tops.  So one reason is to compete against weeds.  Another reason is to establish a good root system to hold the soil in place.  If we get hard rains, the water drains off the fields by running down the wheel tracks between the beds.  Unless we have something to hold the dirt in place, the water will wash it away.  Lastly, any cover crop will add to the health of the soil.

Onion Field with Interseeded Cover Crop
What else do we have to report on?  Well, the first crop of green beans are up, fenced to keep the deer out and look like a really good stand.  It’s always challenging to germinate the first crop when the soil is cold and wet, but we managed to get a good stand the first time out!  Our first crop of sweet corn is also up, although it’s a bit of a thin stand.  Some of the seed simply didn’t germinate in the cold, wet soil.  Don’t worry, we have second plantings of corn, beans and edamame already planted and up!

This week's cilantro crop....as far as the eye can see!
While we’ve been busy getting crops planted, we’ve also been harvesting early season vegetables for your boxes as well as selling what we have available to our wholesale and retail partners.  We’re happy to have more to offer and are pleased our first few crops of radishes and cilantro are yielding well! These are some of our major “bread and butter” crops.  In addition to harvest, it’s also haymaking time!  Over the weekend we cut our first planting of hay, got it dried and baled before Tuesday morning’s rain.  In addition to hay, we have some other nice fields of cover crops that are ready for their next phase.  Some of the cover crops we planted last fall will be harvested for use as mulch in other vegetable fields.  In other fields, we’ll chop the cover crop plants back onto the field and then incorporate the plant matter back into the soil.  This is called “green manure.” 
Richard standing in a field with four different cover crop plants

I walked through one field with Richard and the rye grass was nearly as tall as him!  In addition to rye grass, there were also thin stalks of cereal rye as well as hairy vetch and mammoth clover.  Why so many plants in the mix?  Well, each plant has a purpose.  Vetch and clover are nitrogen fixing which means they extract nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to nitrogen that is bioavailable to plants.  Rye serves as a scavenger crop meaning it takes nitrogen from the soil and stores it.  Before the cover crop was planted last fall, we applied compost to the field.  At that time, only half of the nitrogen potential was bioavailable.  The rye, through its root system, scavenged and took up the remainder and stored it for us.  Now, when we chop the plant and put it back in the soil, it’s there for us to use!  Thankfully, even some of our late planted fields of cover crops did really well and have produced very rich crops.

Strawberry Blossoms and Tiny Strawberries on Healthy Plants
Well, this is by no means the entire report of what’s going on at HVF, rather a little glimpse of what’s happening here.  If you’d like to see it for yourself, join us for our upcoming Strawberry Day event!  Our annual event is on Sunday, June 16.  We’ll enjoy a potluck lunch before we do field tours which will end in the strawberry field.  You can pick (and eat) strawberries to your heart’s content.  Of course, we’ll celebrate the day with our traditional strawberry ice cream.  You can mosey around the farm, visit with the animals, and just enjoy a little time in nature.  We hope to see you soon!

May 30, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Baby White Turnips!

29 May 2019 19:51

Cooking With This Week's Box

Potato Onions: Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens (see below); Cilantro Lime Rice; Taste of Home’s Radish Dip; Potsticker Stir-Fry
Mini Romaine Lettuce:  Creamy Green Garlic & Feta Dressing
Baby White Turnips: Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens (see below)
Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens
This week’s featured vegetables is one of my favorite spring selections, baby white turnips.  While these are delicious simply sautéed in butter with the greens wilted on top, I wanted to try to come up with some other ways to use them.  So, with a little inspiration from Chef Vivian Howard, I came up with this recipe for Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens (see below).  Turnips are a popular vegetable in the south, and grits are also a popular southern dish.  So, I picked up Chef Vivian’s cookbook to see what she had to say about grits and turnips.  Chef Vivian is author of Deep Run Roots.  She also has several restaurants in North Carolina and was the star of PBS series, A Chef’s Life.  I consider her to be an expert on food from the Carolina Coastal plain.  This recipe is simple, but full of flavor.  If you’ve never cooked grits, it’s pretty darn simple and is similar to cooking oatmeal or risotto.  The component that kind of brings this whole dish together is the super simple and tasty Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette that you drizzle on top right before you eat it.  If you don’t care for hot sauce, I’d still encourage you to try this in a small quantity because the flavors are so good together with the grits and turnips.  If you like things hot, have at it!  This dish is hearty enough to be a main dish on its own, or serve it in a smaller portion as a side dish with pork chops, grilled or fried chicken, or for breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs.  It’s a good one, if I do say so myself!
Rhubarb Turnovers, photo from epicurious.com
Before I go any further, I just want to applaud all the members who are participating in our Facebook Group!!  If you haven’t joined the group yet, I’d encourage you to do so.  There has been some great dialogue this year as well as a lot of great recipes, pictures, suggestions, idea sharing, etc.  I’ve really been enjoying seeing what you’re making and have picked up some new recipe ideas as well. 
This recipe for Rhubarb Turnovers is a recipe that was shared in the group and was made by two different people who both verify they are delicious!  If you prefer to use your rhubarb in something that is not pie or pie-like, check out this post on Naturally Ella that includes links to non-pie recipes such as Curried Lentils and Rhubarb Chutney.  She recommends serving these lentils with fresh cilantro, which you happen to have in this week’s box!
Creamy Green Garlic & Feta Dressing
Speaking of cilantro, this recipe for Cilantro Lime Rice popped into my inbox earlier this week, and it looks simple and delicious!  The author, Jeanine, recommends serving it as a side dish with Asian or Mexican food OR turn it into a Burrito Bowl.  I don’t have a specific recipe for this concept, so you’ll have to be creative and just build your own.  My suggestions would be to use this rice as the base of the bowl and then add some black beans, thinly sliced radishes, some chopped romaine lettuce and top off the whole thing with a generous drizzle of this Creamy Green Garlic & Feta Dressing, a recipe we featured on our blog back in 2017.
What else can we do with radishes this week?  Have we exhausted all the options for how to enjoy radishes in the spring when they are abundant?  NO WAY!!  Consider turning this week’s radishes into Radish Dip.  You can try Martha Stewart’s version which includes sour cream and feta or you can try this Taste of Home version that is based on cream cheese.  Either one will make a delicious dip to serve with Romaine lettuce leaves or baby bok choi stems for dipping, or you can use it as a spread on toast, bagels, sandwiches, OR use it as a condiment to serve with hot scrambled eggs or possibly that burrito bowl concept we just talked about!
Potsticker Stir-Fry
Photo from NomNomPaleo.com
This is our second and likely final week for Hon Tsai Tai, an unique spring green with pretty little yellow flowers!  If you didn’t have a chance to make the Hon Tsai Tai and Shiitake Potstickers featured in our newsletter last week, consider adding these to this week’s menu.  The recipe is written as vegetarian, but you can add ground pork to the filling if you like.  If you don’t have time to make the potstickers or you’re looking for a gluten free or low carb alternative to the dumpling wrappers, try this recipe for Potsticker Stir-Fry.  Use the hon tsai tai in place of the napa cabbage.  This was a suggestion offered by a member in our Facebook Group—thanks!
This week we’re excited to include these pretty little baby bok choi. Bok choi can be used interchangeably with hon tsai tai, but it’s also delicious when simply steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw.   Here’s a quick recipe for 10-Minute Lemon Garlic Sauteed Bok Choi.  Serve this simple preparation alongside a grilled steak, piece of salmon or even a rotisserie chicken you pick up at the grocery store already cooked!  You’ll have dinner on the table super fast!

Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch
If you’re looking for a raw bok choi salad option, I can’t help but mention this recipe for Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch.  I’ve mentioned it before and I’m sure I’ll share it again—it’s so delicious!
Ok friends, we’re rolling into the home stretch with just a bunch of asparagus remaining.  What will we do with this lovely vegetable this week?  How about a Roasted Asparagus Grilled Cheese Sandwich!   The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I think this sandwich would be pretty tasty with a piece of prosciutto added to it.  Here’s another great recipe forSpring Tacos with Shrimp, Asparagus and Radish Leaf Pesto.  Did you really think I’d make it through the entire box and neglect to give you a recipe to utilize those radish tops?!
I think we made it to the bottom of the box.  I hope you are having fun cooking and eating through the box each week.  Cooking is supposed to be fun, so don’t forget to laugh a little and enjoy the ride.  Have a great week!

Vegetable Feature: Baby White Turnips

By Chef Andrea
Classy, pristine, delicate, mild, tender & sweet…these are just a few of the words we find ourselves using to describe baby white turnips, one of our favorite spring vegetables.  Baby white turnips are classified as a salad turnip and are also referred to as Tokyo or Hakurei turnips which are varietal names for turnips in this class.  Both the roots and the green tops are tender, mild and edible.  They may be eaten raw or lightly cooked.
This turnip variety thrives in the cool of spring and again later in the fall.  Compared to the common purple top turnip, or other storage turnips, salad turnips are much more mild and subtle in both flavor and texture.  The storage turnips we grow in the fall are meant for storage purposes and have a thicker skin compared to the thin skin of a salad turnip.  Baby white turnips also mature much faster than beets, carrots and fennel, etc which is why we value them as an important part of our spring menus until other root vegetables are ready for harvest.  To prolong the shelf life, separate the greens from the roots with a knife and store separately in plastic bags in your refrigerator.
To prepare the turnips for use, wash both the roots and greens well to remove any dirt.  Salad turnips have such a thin exterior layer, they do not need to be peeled.  They are delicious eaten raw in a salad, or just munch on them with dip or hummus.  You can also cook these turnips, but remember to keep the cooking time short and the preparation simple.  You can simply saute them in butter, stir-fry or roast them.  The greens may be added to raw salads, or lightly saute or wilt them in a little butter.  Two of our favorite baby white turnip recipes from past newsletters include White Turnip Salad with Miso Ginger Vinaigrette and Turnip Greens Pesto Pizza.  We hope you enjoy these tasty little gems!

Creamy Turnip Grits & Greens

Yield:  4 servings as a main dish or 6 servings as a side

1 bunch baby white turnips
1 Tbsp butter
¾ cup minced green garlic and/or green onions (lower portion)
¾ cup thinly sliced green garlic and/or green onion tops
1 cup grits
3-4 cups water
1 ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ cup cream
½ cup grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese
5-6 oz bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces and cooked until crispy (optional)
Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette:
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp hot sauce
¼ tsp salt

  1. First, cut turnips from the tops, wash thoroughly and cut into small dice.  Thoroughly wash the greens.  Shake off excess water and thinly slice them.  Set aside
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the diced turnips.  Cook, stirring periodically, until turnips are tender and lightly browned.  Once browned, remove turnips from the pan with a spoon, leaving the extra butter in the pan.  Set turnips aside.
  3. Add minced green garlic and/or onions to the pan.  If necessary, add a little more butter.  Satue over medium heat until fragrant and softened.  
  4. Add 3 cups of water to the pan and stir in the grits along with salt and pepper.  Bring the grits to a gentle simmer and try to hold this temperature steady through the cooking.  Stir the grits frequently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and keep the heat gentle.  (Alternatively, you can cook the grits in a double boiler pan so you don’t have to worry about them sticking).  Gently simmer for 20-40 minutes.  When you first start cooking them, they’ll look grainy and separated.  As they cook they’ll start to soften and become thicker and creamy.  The cooking time will vary depending on how coarse the grits are, so you’ll have to observe and taste them to determine when they are done.  You’ll know they are done when they are soft, tender and do not taste starchy.  If they get too thick, you may need to add more water to thin them out.  You want them to be the consistency of moderately thick oatmeal.
  5. When the grits are fully cooked, stir in ¼ cup of cream and the cheese.  Once fully incorporated, stir in the turnips as well as the greens.  Stir and continue to simmer for just a few more minutes to allow the greens to fully wilt down.  Once fully wilted, remove from heat and taste them one more time.  Add additional salt and black pepper as needed.  You can also adjust the consistency at this point if they are too thick. (just stir in a little warm water)
  6. Just before serving, make the brown-butter hot sauce vinaigrette.  It’s best to have all the ingredients measured out in advance because this is a quick cooking process!  
  7. In an 8-inch saute pan, melt the 4 Tbsp of butter.  Do not use a cast-iron or black bottomed skillet for this because you will not be able to see the butter browning.  Once the butter melts, it will foam and fizz and eventually start to brown a little on the bottom.  When you see this beginning to happen, make sure you swirl the pan around so that all the milk solids brown evenly.  Do not walk away!  Once the butter is nutty in color as well as aroma, carefully stir in the lemon juice, hot sauce, and salt.  Let it bubble up for about 15 seconds, then pull it off the heat and get ready to spoon it over the hot grits!
  8. Serve the grits in a bowl garnished with the thinly sliced green garlic and/or onion tops, crumbled bacon (if using), and a drizzle of the brown-butter hot sauce vinaigrette.  Enjoy!
This recipe was written by Chef Andrea with inspiration and guidance from Chef Vivian Howard’s cookbook, Deep Run Roots.  The recipe for Brown-Butter Hot Sauce Vinaigrette is 100% credited to Chef Vivian!

May 23, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Hon Tsai Tai!

22 May 2019 20:07

Cooking With This Week's Box

Chives: Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below); Roasted Radish and Herbed Ricotta Omelet; Sunchoke Chive Soup
Green Garlic: Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below);  Spring Salad with Green Garlic Dressing
Hon Tsai Tai:  Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below);  No Bacon Pasta Carbonara Loaded with Greens
Don’t be intimidated by the length of the featured recipe in this week’s newsletter.  The recipe is for Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce (see below).  This week’s recipe will take a little time to assemble, but potstickers are both fun to make AND eat!  If you recruit a friend or two or make it a family event you’ll have them made in no time.  So what’s the story on potstickers? 
Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers 
Potstickers are a type of Chinese dumpling.  The story, as told by Andrea Nyugen on her blog, is that potstickers date back to somewhere between 960-1280 AD.  A Chinese chef was steaming dumplings in a wok, got distracted and let the pan go dry.  The dumplings stuck to the bottom of the wok—uh oh, what to do?  Well, they must not have been burned and he must’ve been in a pinch because he served them to the guests who actually really liked them!  Thus, these little dumplings became known as potstickers because they stick to the bottom of the pan.  So a potsticker is different from other Asian dumplings in that they are first fried in a thin layer of oil to get a crispy bottom, then they are steamed to cook the rest of the dumpling, then fried again at the very end to ensure a crispy bottom and a soft top with the filling thoroughly cooked.  They are often made with ground pork or other ground meat, but I wrote this recipe with a vegetable only filling.  If you like, you can add ground meat to the vegetable mixture.  Potstickers are best served warm right out of the pan.  They can also be frozen, so if you aren’t going to eat all the potstickers this recipe makes, freeze some of the dumplings on a parchment lined cookie sheet before they are cooked.  Once they are frozen you can take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a bag in the freezer.  I haven’t tried this myself, but from what I’ve read you want to pull them right out of the freezer and put them directly into a hot pan to start cooking them.  If you thaw them first the wrapper will get soggy and might tear.
If you’ve never shaped potstickers before, here are a few videos that will be helpful and show you how to do this.  Try this one OR this one.  I hope you’ll consider making these and even more, I hope you have some fun doing it! 
Shaved Asparagus and Whipped Ricotta Pizza
Photo from HowSweetEats.com
Ok, moving on to the other things in the box.  I always love a good pizza and thought this recipe for Shaved Asparagus and Whipped Ricotta Pizza looked pretty delicious.  Serve this with a baby arugula or spinach salad dressed with this simple Balsamic Vinaigrette.  The acidity of the vinaigrette will be a nice balance to the rich cheese and prosciutto on the pizza. 
It’s a radish kind of week!  If you are a radish lover this is the week for you.  If you are still learning to appreciate radishes, perhaps you might like them better roasted?  Roasting helps to mellow the radishy-ness of radishes and even brings out a hint of sweetness. Try this recipe for Roasted Radishes with Brown Butter & Lemon.  This is a pretty simple preparation.  If you prefer something a bit more rich try this recipe for Pan Roasted Radishes in Bacon Cream Sauce.  This is the recipe Richard prefers.  You could serve this as a side dish or turn it into a main entrée by tossing the radishes with cooked pasta.  I also found this recipe for Roasted Radish and Herbed Ricotta Omelet.  This recipe calls for fresh herbs in the ricotta cheese, so I’d recommend using a generous addition of the chives in this week’s box.  Chives and radishes are a great combo.
Don’t forget the radish tops!  They make up more than half of the vegetable and so often they just get thrown away!  One thing you could use them in is this recipe for No Bacon Pasta Carbonara Loaded with Greens.   This is a great recipe to make use of any greens that might be hanging out without a purpose in your refrigerator.  Radish or turnip tops, spinach, saute mix, hon tsai tai, nettles….what do you have? 
Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa on top of seared salmon
If you’re looking for a light lunch option, that’s also pretty quick to make, consider using the salad mix to make a Spring Salad with Green Garlic Dressing.  This recipe calls for baby spinach, but salad mix will work too.  The greens are dressed with a simple green garlic dressing and the salad is topped off with cooked bulger, sunflower seeds and hard-boiled eggs.  You could also serve this salad alongside Sunchoke Chive Soup.  The two will make a great spring dinner on a cool evening.  You could also use the sunchokes to make Chili & Lime Sunchoke Salsa.  I like to eat this on top of seared salmon or as a topper for tacos.  I also like to just add a spoonful to a bowl or rice or a simple green salad. 
That brings us to the end of another week’s box.  We’re hoping our little romaine head lettuces are ready for next week.  I have a few lettuce wrap recipes I’m looking forward to trying.  We are also planning to send baby white turnips, another spring favorite.  And for one more little beacon of hope to leave you with….we’ll likely be picking strawberries in just 3-4 short weeks!  Enjoy this week’s box!

Vegetable Feature: Hon Tsai Tai

Hon tsai tai (pronounced hon-sigh-tie) holds an important place in our spring vegetable line-up.  It matures more quickly than other spring-planted greens and is very tasty when grown in cool spring weather.  It is in a group of plants referred to as “flowering brassicas.”  While it is related to such vegetables as mustard greens and bok choi, what sets it apart is that it has beautiful purple stems that produce a sweet, delicate, edible yellow flower.  While other vegetables in the brassica family also produce flowers, they do so towards the end of their life cycle and at that point there are often undesirable flavor changes in the edible portion of the plant.  Hon tsai tai is unique in that it produces the flower early in its life when all the parts of the plant still taste good.
Hon tsai tai has a mild mustard flavor that is very well-balanced this time of the year.  The entire plant is edible and may be eaten raw or cooked.  The thin purple stems are more tender when the plant is young.  While still flavorful, they may become more coarse as the plant matures, so should be cut very finely at this stage.  Hon tsai tai is delicious in stir-fries or lightly steamed, but also makes a stunning and flavorful addition to raw salads.  A common preparation in Chinese cuisine is to quickly stir-fry hon tsai tai with garlic, onions, and ginger, then add oyster sauce.  This would also be a tasty green to use in spring rolls, pot stickers or fried rice.  This vegetable is also a good addition to broth-based soups such as miso soup or could be a nice addition to a ramen bowl.  
If you do a search for recipes using hon tsai tai, you likely won’t find much.  Your best bet is to check out our recipe archive on our website for past recipes we’ve featured in previous newsletters.  You can also use hon tsai tai interchangeably in recipes calling for bok choi or mustard greens. Store hon tsai tai loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready for use.  

Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers with Sesame Honey Dipping Sauce

Yield:  30-40 potstickers
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
½ cup minced green garlic
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly and chopped
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bunch hon tsai tai, leaves and stems finely chopped
¼ cup minced fresh chives
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and black pepper, to taste
36-40 dumpling wrappers (see note below)
Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup finely minced chives
⅓ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp Korean chili paste or chili sauce
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp honey 
  1. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the ginger and green garlic.  Saute for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they are softened.  
  2. Add soy sauce and coriander.  Stir to combine.  Add hon tsai tai and season with a small amount of salt and black pepper.  Cover the pan and steam for about 1 minute or until the greens have wilted down.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Stir in the chives and sesame seeds.  Cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Remove from heat and taste a bit of the mixture.  Season to your liking with additional salt, pepper or soy sauce.  Set aside to cool while you make the dipping sauce.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the chives.  At the very end, stir in the chives.  Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
  5. Now it’s time to assemble the potstickers.  If you are using eggroll wrappers, make sure your potsticker wrappers are cut and ready to use.  Lay the wrappers out on a work surface, 3-4 at a time.  Leave the remaining wrappers covered with a towel or plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.  Put about 1 tablespoon of filling on each wrapper.  Brush water around the edge of each wrapper with your finger.  Fold the wrapper in half to create a half moon shape.  Using your fingers, pinch the edges to seal them.  The water will act like the glue to hold the two sides together.  You want to have enough filling in the wrapper so the dumpling is full, but not too much or it will pop open.  Once the edges are sealed, you can pleat the top by folding the edges over on themselves (there are videos online that demonstrate how to do this) and pinching the pleats to secure them.   Place the formed dumplings on a platter and continue to form the remainder of the dumplings.
  6. Once the dumplings are formed, heat a large skillet (or two if you want to cook them all at the same time) over medium-high heat.  Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, or enough to just lightly coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil shimmers, add the potstickers to the pan.  You want to leave a little space in between each, don’t overcrowd the pan.  Once they are in the pan, let them cook for about 3 minutes or until the bottoms are light golden brown. 
  7. Next, you need to steam the dumplings to finish cooking them.  To do this you will need to add ¼ cup water to the pan, but do so carefully and immediately cover the pan with a lid.  Continue to cook, covered for about 3 minutes to steam the dumplings.
  8. Remove the lid and reduce the heat just a bit.  Continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated.  This will help crisp up the bottoms of the potstickers.  Be careful not to get them too crispy though! Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

Recipe adapted by Chef Andrea from an original recipe featured at www.halfbakedharvest.com
Note about dumpling wrappers:  Dumpling wrappers are thin sheets of dough typically round and about 3 inches in diameter.  You can make them (there are lots of recipes on the internet) or buy them premade.  They are typically found in the refrigerated section near tofu, tempeh, kim chi and sometimes tortillas.  If you are not able to find round dumpling wrappers, you can use egg roll wrappers which are made from a similar dough.  Egg roll wrappers are rectangular, so you need to cut them into rounds using a biscuit or cookie cutter, a round glass, etc.  I used egg roll wrappers when I made these and was able to use a 2½ to 3 inch cutter to get two round pieces from each egg roll sheet.  

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food….Meet Farmer Richard de Wilde

22 May 2019 20:07

By Gwen Anderson

I’ve worked with Richard for over a year, and seen him nearly every day.  I’ve always found it fascinating to talk with him; his enthusiasm and passion are contagious, he is a wealth of knowledge, and has a patience in teaching that I admire.  When Andrea asked me to write this article, I was more than happy to do so.  It was a chance to hear more interesting stories about the man straight from the source.  Many of our long time members may know Richard already, but there may be many of you who don’t know him so well.  After all, I see him all the time and I still found out a lot during our “interview” that I can share with you! 

Richard's Senior Photo
Richard grew up making hay and milking cows on a farm on the plains of South Dakota.  His father had a herd of 100 Black Angus beef, and for a few years they had some pigs and sheep as well.  Before his feet could reach the pedals on the one ton Chevy truck they used to haul oats, Richard was helping his father farm.  He would also help his grandparents’ garden, and loved to spend time in the kitchen with his mother making banana bread.

When he went off to college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Richard thought “I want to work with my head, not my hands.”  He had an advisor who suggested he go into hard rock mining due to his love of nature.  The advisor told Richard he could have a “good, professional, high paying job and still be out in nature.”  After graduation, he got a job at Fort Snelling with the Corps of Mining Engineers, but not even a year had gone by before his thoughts began to wander. He would sit at his desk, his mind drawn to memories of beautiful fields of blue flax blossoms swaying in the wind.  It didn’t take long for the thought “I want to farm” to form in Richard’s mind, so he left the mining engineers, rented half an acre of land south of the Twin Cities and got back to doing what he loved.

Blue Gentian Farm, where Richard farmed with in the early years.
Once the farm was rented, Richard took the time to get to know his neighbors, one of which was a school for special needs children.  Richard has a soft spot for well-behaved children, so when he wasn’t farming, he would volunteer at the school. As he got to know the children better, he realized he had found a second calling.  Richard began studying and earned a master’s degree in Special Education with a focus on autism from Mankato State.  Upon graduation, he worked in special education in the St Paul public school system.  Later, he found meaningful work in being a foster parent for teenage boys who needed extra care and attention by running a specially licensed therapeutic foster home on the farm.

Being an organic farmer was never a question for Richard.  His Grandpa Nick was a dedicated organic farmer and had helped shape Richard’s opinions on the matter.  When agro chemicals came out after World War II, Grandpa Nick refused to use them, and suffered being called old fashioned and unwilling to change with the times because of it.  Richard always had a love for nature and all things wild, and Grandpa Nick’s success without using chemicals as well as Rachel Carlson’s book A Silent Spring cemented Richard’s desire to not use them himself.  “When I read about agro chemicals, I decided I didn’t want anything to do with them.”

Richard cultivating broccoli with his horses,
King and Prince.
Richard was one of the pioneers of organic farming.  He was a trail blazer for integrating cover crops, making compost, and attracting beneficial insects, birds and bats well before there were any large scale conversations happening about such things.  There was no such thing as organic certification when he started his farm, he just wanted to do what was right for the soil and nature.  So he experimented, learned what worked and what didn’t, and taught what he had learned to other farmers.  Richard sold his vegetables to the new co-ops in the Twin Cities where people went to buy healthy, organic vegetables.

In his early days, Richard had a chance to meet the Dakota County extension agent who told him “You can have an organic garden, but if you are talking about making a living farming, you can’t do it organically.”  The conversation spurred Richard to prove him wrong; he was going to do the right thing and he was going to make a living doing it.  (Fast-forward 20 years, that same County extension agent had changed his tune and met up with Richard again at a MOSES conference to say “You’ve been right all along: it turns out you can make a living farming organically!”)

By the mid-1980’s, suburbia was encroaching on Richard’s farm south of the Twin Cities to the point where it was time to move on.  When he left the fields he’d been farming for 12 years, he knew where he wanted to go: the Driftless Region.  Richard had been there several times before, and he loved the rolling hills and valleys, the waterways, and overall natural beauty the area had to offer.  The soil was rich and healthy, and the hills made a beautiful backdrop for the fields he worked.  After all, seeing a well-cared for field thriving in a natural surround is one of Richard’s favorite things about being a farmer.

Adrian (left) and Ari (right), The Melon Boys
Richard spent the first few years at Harmony Valley Farm building up soil health, structures, and business relationships.  He was still selling his produce in the Twin Cities and found a new market in Madison at the Dane County Farmers’ Market.  In 1989, Richard’s son, Ari, was born and soon became part of the daily farming operation.  Ari and his step-brother, Adrian, grew melons and sold them at the Farmers’ Market, becoming known as the “Melon Boys.”  As business grew, Richard began expanding the farm by leasing more nearby land and converting it to organic status.

When Richard and then partner Linda Halley added Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to their farming model in 1993, they did so out of a desire to have a direct connection with more people than they could reach at the Farmers’ Market.  CSA birthed on farm events like Strawberry Day, which allowed Richard to meet the families he was growing food for face to face.  Being able to watch the children from those first CSA families grow into smart, healthy adults makes farming worthwhile for him.  Many of those children are now graduating from college, starting their own families and joining CSA’s of their own!

Nowadays, Richard sees himself as a support for the great crew he has to help with the farm.  He gives information and direction when needed to a crew who want to do the best job they can.  Harmony Valley Farm is a mature farm, with all the systems and infrastructure in place, no longer looking to expand.  With growth a thing of the past, Richard is now focused on making the farm better.  “I believe if you aren’t making improvements, you are going downhill,” Richard said.  “We aren’t looking for more, but better; always better.”  He is also selecting and training the next generation of Harmony Valley Farm farmers

Richard helping the crew harvest winter squash
“There is a great deal of joy in seeing things work, when things go smoothly,” Richard said about his farm and crew.  He gets great satisfaction out of a job well done.  “How many people, for their life’s work, get to have a job where you are outside in nature, watching things grow, you grow a lot of healthy food for a huge amount of appreciative people, and everything works?  Yes—I’ve worked too hard for most of my life, but I feel fortunate to be where we are today.”

So who is Richard de Wilde?  He is a man of perseverance and innovation.  He is a visionary who is not afraid to take on challenges to bring his dreams to fruition.  In his own words, he is a hippie rebel with an “I’ll show you” attitude.  In my opinion, he’s a darn good boss and a great storyteller.  I encourage you not to take my word for it though; come to the farm and talk to him yourself.  You’ll be richer for the experience.

May 16, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Rhubarb and Sorrel!

15 May 2019 22:03

Cooking With This Week's Box

Spinach: Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below); Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach
Overwintered Parsnips: Parsnip Hash Browns
Chives: Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below); Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls
Rhubarb: Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal (see below)
Sorrel: Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothies; Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below)
For those of you who are joining us for your first week of deliveries…welcome to the weekly 2019 Cooking With the Box!  The box is already packed with some fun and delicious ingredients and we’re only in the second week of the season!  Meet me here each week and I’ll walk you through the contents of each box, offering recipe and serving suggestions for every item!  Along the way I hope you’ll find some recipes that fit your style or perhaps a bit of inspiration to make something else.  Either way, don’t forget to have fun, enjoy eating well and NEVER BE INTIMIDATED BY A VEGETABLE!
Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothie
I always like to start with our featured vegetables, which means we’re going to kick off this week’s cooking with Rhubarb and Sorrel. As much as possible, I try to incorporate vegetables into breakfast.  One of this week’s featured recipes is for Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal (see below), which is a delicious start to any day.  You can prep this recipe the night before and bake it off in the morning which will fill your house with sweet, spicy aromas that are sure to get everyone up and going for the day!  We like to eat this with a drizzle of maple cream and a few slices of salty bacon.  You can also incorporate sorrel into your morning with this Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothie.  This is a recipe I developed several years ago and I just can’t get enough of these when sorrel is available in the spring. 
If you don’t use your sorrel for a smoothie, you could use it to make the other featured recipe this week for Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup (see below).  This is based on the traditional Greek soup called Avgolemono which is a simple chicken soup flavored with lemon and thickened with eggs which enrich the soup and make it velvety smooth.  You can make this recipe in 15-20 minutes at most and it’s a great way to incorporate greens into your day.  You can just make the basic soup or you can add orzo or rice as well as shredded chicken if you like.  Serve this with a slice of rustic bread or a green salad and dinner is done.  In fact, you could make some Ramp Butter to slather on that bread or you could make these Buttermilk Ramp Biscuits.  If you have any biscuits remaining, heat them up in the morning to make some breakfast sandwiches including scrambled eggs with chopped chives. 
Radish Top Aioli, photo from food52.com
If you’re making the ramp butter, don’t be afraid to double the recipe and use the entire bunch of ramps.  It freezes really well and is nice to tuck away for a nice winter treat.  It is also really delicious spread on the pretty little French Breakfast radishes!  I typically eat the first radishes of the season with nothing more than salt and butter, ramp butter is just a bonus.  Don’t forget about the radish tops—they’re part of the vegetable and may be eaten as well!  I like to spread butter on the leaves and then wrap them around the radish for a quick little snack.  You could also try this recipe for Radish Top Aioli.  Spread the aioli on bread and add the sliced radishes for a quick open-faced sandwich or, as the French call it, a tartine.
Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls
Photo from GatherVictoria.com
I’m really excited to try this recipe for Nettle & Wild Onion Rice Balls.  The “wild onion” called for in this recipe may be ramp leaves or chives.  You do have to plan ahead to get all the components ready including blanching the nettles and preparing the rice.  For this recipe you’ll need to use a short grain rice or sushi rice which is stickier than long grain rice.  These can be served at room temperature with a little soy sauce.  I’m going to serve them with a fresh salad made from this week’s saute mix tossed with this Toasted Sesame Asian Salad Dressing.
What are we going to do with the pound of asparagus in this week’s box?  I typically don’t get past simply steaming or roasting asparagus, but I also really like asparagus with mushrooms.  Thus, this recipe for Chicken, Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Stir-Fry caught my eye.  This has more of a French feel to me than an Asian feel which I associate more with the term “stir-fry,” but who can go wrong with mushrooms, asparagus, cream and white wine or dry vermouth to make a light cream sauce!?  Serve this over cooked egg noodles with a bit of chopped chives as a garnish.
Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach
Photo from AlexandraCooks.com
Most weeks need to include some sort of quantity egg dish, at least in my world.  This week I’m going to try this simple recipe for Sausage, Egg and Cheese Casserole with Spinach.  You can use whatever greens you have remaining which could be spinach, saute mix, nettles or even your radish tops! Serve this breakfast casserole with Parsnip Hash Browns and you’ll have yourself one delicious meal.
We’ve reached the bottom of this week’s box.  Next week we have our eye on a unique spring green, Hon Tsai Tai.  Don’t worry, I’ll coach you on how to pronounce it next week!  It looks like our first crop of salad mix may be ready next week as well and we have some pretty little mini romaine lettuces that may make it within the next two weeks.  Have a great week of cooking and I’ll see you back here next week!

Featuring Sorrel & Rhubarb...the Unsuspected Vegetable Cousins from the Buckwheat Family

This week we have another double vegetable feature, which is very fitting since the two vegetables are in the same botanical family!  We’re talking about RHUBARB & SORREL.  Rhubarb?  I thought rhubarb was a fruit, not a vegetable.  Lets talk, starting with rhubarb first.
Yes, RHUBARB is a vegetable, although it is most often used like a fruit.  Rhubarb is a perennial crop and it takes several years to build up the energy reserves in the rhizome.  Thus, we don’t harvest rhubarb until, at the very earliest, the third year.  We remove the leaves in the field because they should not be consumed or eaten.
Rhubarb is thought to have originated in Asia, specifically the areas of western China, Tibet, Mongolia and Siberia.  Thus, it’s easy to understand it is well adapted to cold climates.  Before it became a food crop, it was actually used for medicinal purposes.  It was the early 1900’s before it really gained much momentum as a food crop, at least in Europe and the United States.  
Grandma Yoder's Rhubarb Custard Pie
Rhubarb has a distinct, unique flavor that is quite good.   It may be eaten raw or cooked, however it’s pretty tart and it is most often cooked first.  Over the years it became known in some areas as “The Pie Plant” because it is most often used in pies.  While the sweetness of baked goods helps to counter balance the tartness of rhubarb, this vegetable can also be used in savory preparations.  Instead of masking the characteristic tartness of rhubarb with sugar, why not use those innate qualities to your advantage?!  It can be used to create a flavorful braising liquid or sauce to serve with pork, duck, chicken thighs or other fatty meats.  The flavor of rhubarb can stand up to bolder spices such as curry powder, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and ginger, thus rhubarb chutney can make a nice accompaniment to Indian curry dishes or serve it with grilled or roasted meats.  Rhubarb compote or chutney is also delicious served simply as a snack with cream cheese and crackers!  Rhubarb can also be used as a stir-fry vegetable, added towards the end of cooking so it just starts to soften, but still holds its shape.
Whether sweet or savory, there are so many things you can do with rhubarb.  If you can’t decide what to make now and need some time to think it over, you can easily preserve rhubarb by freezing it.  Just wash the stalks, cut them into bite-sized pieces and put them in a freezer bag to pop in the freezer.  Perhaps you’ll come up with just the right use for it sometime during the winter!
Ok, moving on to SORREL.  Sorrel is a leafy green that is bright lime colored with pinkish stems.  Just like rhubarb, it is characterized by its tartness.  It has a bright citrusy flavor and may be eaten both raw and cooked.  In its raw form, it makes a nice addition to salads or some of our other spring favorites including Sorrel Hummus, Sorrel-Lime Cooler and Frosty Sorrel-Banana Smoothies! Thinly sliced sorrel is also a nice addition to spring tacos or use it as a garnish for lentils or beans in lieu of a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Sorrel is also commonly used in soups and sauces.  It is an interesting green that literally melts when you put it in hot liquid.  It gives soup a velvety texture and creates smooth sauces. You’ll also notice the color will quickly go from bright green to olive green when you cook it.  Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong, that’s just what it does.  Sorrel pairs well with cream, eggs, chicken, fish, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and other spring greens.  It is also a nice balance to more neutral foods such as dried beans and potatoes.
There you have it, two unique spring vegetables with a long list of possibilities of delicious outcomes!

Greek-Inspired Sorrel-Spinach Soup

Yield:  4 servings
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bu sorrel, roughly chopped (approx. 4 cups)
3 oz baby spinach (approx. 4 cups)
½ cup finely chopped chives (for garnish) AND 1 cup roughly chopped chives
1 tsp salt, plus to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 eggs
3 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup uncooked orzo or ¾ cup cooked rice (optional)
½- ¾ cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
  1. Place chicken or vegetable broth, sorrel, spinach and the 1 cup of roughly chopped chives in a blender along with 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper.  If your blender pitcher is too small to contain all the greens, just add part of the greens at first, run the blender for a few seconds and then add the remainder.  Blend until all the broth is smooth and all the greens are well blended.
  2. Pour the mixture into a large saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium to medium-low heat.  If there is a froth on the top of the soup, use a large spoon to skim some of it off.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re well blended and a pale yellow.  Whisk in the lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time.
  4. Once the greens broth is warm, add the orzo or rice.  Simmer just until the orzo is al dente or the rice is heated through.  Reduce the heat to low.  
  5. Next you will need to carefully temper the eggs.  To do this, ladle about ½ cup of the warm broth into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.  Continue to do this 4 or 5 more times.  The purpose of doing this is to slowly warm up the egg mixture without curdling the eggs.  Be patient and don’t skip this step.
  6. Once you’ve tempered the eggs, add the egg mixture into the warm broth and whisk well to combine.  Gently simmer the soup for another 1 to 2 minutes, whisking periodically.  The soup should thicken slightly and lightly coat the back of a spoon.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed.
  7. Serve hot and garnish with the finely chopped chives.
This soup is based on the classic Greek soup called Avgolmemono.  It is a simple chicken soup that is thickened with eggs and flavored with lemon juice.  It yields a silky, slightly thickened broth and often has orzo pasta or rice added to it.  This soup only takes 15-20 minutes to make from start to finish and while it’s very simple, it’s also rich enough to be filling. If you have leftovers, take care to reheat them gently over medium-low heat so you don’t curdle the egg.
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder

Rhubarb-Almond Baked Oatmeal

Yield:  6 servings

⅔ cup chopped almonds, toasted
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp sea salt
1 ¾ cup whole milk or nut milk
½ cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups rhubarb, small dice
Maple Cream (optional):
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-inch baking dish or individual ramekins.  You may also use a 9 ½ x 11-inch baking dish, the pieces will just be thinner.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder and salt.  Stir well to combine.
  3. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the milk, maple syrup, eggs, butter and vanilla.  Whisk until well blended.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix well.  Fold in the rhubarb.  
  5. Pour the batter into the baking dish or ramekins.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is nice and golden.
  6. While the oatmeal is baking, combine sour cream or yogurt with maple syrup and set aside.
  7. When the oatmeal is finished baking, remove from oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve warm topped with maple cream if you like.  You could also serve it with a drizzle of melted butter or a drizzle of heavy cream or milk if you prefer.
NOTES FROM CHEF ANDREA:  You can assemble this recipe a day ahead and hold it in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and let it warm up a bit while you preheat the oven.  If you have any leftovers, they reheat very well in a toaster oven or oven.  I have not tried reheating it in a microwave.

Recipe adapted by Chef Andrea from a recipe for Honey & Nut Baked Oatmeal originally published at dishingupthedirt.com.

May 9, 2019 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Stinging Nettles and Wild Ramps!

8 May 2019 22:40

Cooking With This Week's Box

Wild Ramps: Ramp Pesto (See Below); Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & BrieNettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream

Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & Brie
(photo from thegourmetgourmand.com)
It’s time to get into the rhythm of “cooking out of the box!”  After a long winter, it feels good to have fresh greens and new vegetables coming in from the field.  Lets dive in with this week’s box contents.  With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I think we should treat our Moms (or yourself if you are the Mom) to a special Mother’s Day Brunch.  This Quiche with Ramps, Mushrooms & Brie served with Alice Water’s Warm Spinach Salad will make a lovely meal.  For a little added bonus, make a batch of these Parsnip, Lemon & Poppy Seed Muffins with Lemon Drizzle.
Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream
We have two bunches of ramps this week, so even after making the quiche, there should still be enough to make a batch of Ramp Pesto(see below).  This is great to have in the refrigerator to make a quick pasta dinner.  Just boil some fettuccine and toss it with a few spoonfuls of ramp pesto.  Done!  Of course we could also use that second bunch to make this absolutely delicious Nettle & Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Cream!  This is one of my favorite spring recipes that was actually prompted by several members.  If you don’t use your nettles to make this pizza, you could always try this week’s featured vegetable for Nettle Chips (See Below).  This is a great way to eat your greens and these make a great afternoon or weekend snack when you just need something crispy and salty, but very simple.  If you’re really short on time this week, the easiest thing of all to make with nettles is Easy & Tasty Nettle Tea.  In the midst of a busy week this might be a good way to support your body and keep you well.
Green Garlic Soup
(photo from loveandoliveoil.com)
The nights are still a little chilly which makes me want to eat soup, such as this Green Garlic Soup.  This recipe makes 8-10 servings and calls for more green garlic than is in this week’s box.  I’d recommend cutting the recipe in half and using the entire bunch of green garlic supplemented with some chives.  If you aren’t into soup this week, use the green garlic to make this Green Garlic Toast.  This toast will go great with scrambled eggs (perhaps with some ramp pesto mixed in) for a light dinner or a hearty breakfast. 
If you have some chives remaining, use them to make Almond-Chive Salmon for dinner served with Creamed Spinach & Parsnips.  If you have any salmon left, mix it with mayonnaise to make a little salmon salad to take for lunch the next day.
This recipe for Carrot Tart with Ricotta & Herbs is a little bit more complicated, but it’s a lovely dish and would make a nice brunch item or eat it as a light dinner.  Of course, those sweet carrots might also be great used to make these Carrot Cake Pancakes.  This is a sure way to get children of all ages to eat their vegetables! 
We have a great week of meals ahead of us with all these options.  As we look ahead to next week, we are crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to deliver ramps again as well as more chives, nettles and green garlic.  We should also have some asparagus and red radishes to add to the box!  So, if you find more recipes you want to try, save them until next week!  Have a great week of cooking and I’ll see you back here next week!

This Week's Featured Vegetables:  Stinging Nettles & Wild Ramps--The Wild Things!

Spring has a beautiful way of nourishing us and giving us just what we need, even when we don’t know we need it!  The first of our double-vegetable feature this week is Stinging Nettles.  We wild harvest them on our farm, but also plant them in the field.  They need to be handled carefully, especially before they are washed and cooked.  They have little fibers on the stems that contain several different compounds including formic acid, which will give you a “stinging” sensation if you touch them with your bare skin.  “Why are you giving me a vegetable that will sting me?!  Are you trying to kill me?!”  No, quite the contrary!

Nettles are very nutrient dense and we consider them to be a “Wisconsin Super Food.”  They help our bodies wake up after a long, cold wet winter and help us purify our blood and cleanse our bodies.  They have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties.  They are high in protein as well as carotenoids, chlorophyll, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium and vitamins B, C, D and K.  Wow—that’s a lot of nutritional goodness in one plant!  Nettles give us that jump start we need in the spring and, they also taste great!  Cooking destroys the stingers so you can then safely handle them with bare hands.  We recommend cooking them before eating.  They have a rich flavor similar to spinach, but even better!  So no, we are not trying to harm you.  Rather, our intention is to give you something delicious and nourishing.
Use the bag as a "glove" when handling nettles.
Here are some recommendations for handling them.  First, many of these stingers are removed with vigorous washing, which we’ve already done for you.  Even though we’ve washed them, I would still recommend you handle them carefully and avoid touching with bare hands prior to cooking.  Some people are more sensitive to their sting than others, which is why we’ve also put them in a plastic bag to make it easier to get them home without touching them.  You can use the bag as your “glove” to hold the bottom of the bunch while you carefully remove the twist tie.  We do recommend you wash them in a sink of water after you’ve removed the twist tie.  While you are washing them, bring a big pot of water to a boil.  Transfer the nettles from the sink to the boiling water using a pair of tongs.  Boil them for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool them.  Now you can handle them with your bare hands.
Some of the lower portion of the stems may be tough, so only use the leaves and tender upper stem portions.   You can pluck or cut these off the main stem after they are cooked.  Alternatively, you can hold each stem (with your gloved/bagged hand) and use a pair of scissors to snip the tender leaves off the main stem before you cook them.  Checkout this blog post we did on May 10, 2018 which demonstrates these processes and includes pictures.
Nettle leaves are perishable, so it is best to cook them shortly after you receive them.  It is better to store them in their cooked form for a few days until ready for use.  The cooking water makes a beautiful tea, so don’t discard it.  You can drink the tea either hot or cold and mixed with honey and lemon.  The water can also be used to cook pasta, rice, etc.  Nettles are often used to make soup, but you can also use them in pesto, or risotto and pasta dishes.  Nettles may be substituted for spinach in any recipe calling for cooked spinach.  They pair well with eggs, dairy, mushrooms, asparagus and other spring greens.

The second part of our feature is Wild Ramps!  Ramps are are one of the first green things to pop up in the spring.  They have a very short season lasting, at most, 4-5 weeks.  They have a unique flavor that is kind of oniony-garlicky, but honestly the best way to describe it is simply rampy.  They resemble a green onion, except they have tender, delicate lily-like leaves.  Ramps grow in the woods and, while they can be replanted to establish new patches, it takes a very long time for them to multiply and spread.  Many, us included, are concerned about the sustainability of ramps.  Because they take so long to multiply and replenish, it’s important to be mindful when harvesting them.  Ramps grow in clumps and we’re careful to only take about half the clump while leaving the other half undisturbed.  If you’d like to learn more about our harvest practices, please read our blog post from April 20, 2017.
Ramps may be eaten raw or cooked.  When raw they can be quite pungent, but the flavor mellows with cooking.  You can eat both leaves and the lower bulb.  Just trim away the roots.  Some popular ways to use ramps include risotto and pasta dishes.  Ramps also pair well with eggs in scrambles, frittatas and quiche.  Ramp pesto is another great way to use this vegetable and it’s our featured ramp recipe this week.  Ramps pair well with cream, cheese, bacon and other spring vegetables including mushrooms, asparagus, nettles and spinach.
The leaves on ramps are the most perishable part and should be used within a few days.  To store ramps, wrap the bunch in a damp paper or linen towel and keep them in the refrigerator.
If you’re looking for more recipe and use ideas for these two spring treats, check out the recipe archive on our website.  We hope you enjoy these spring treasures!

Nettle Chips

Yield:  2 cups
1 bunch nettles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
Salt, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Wash the nettles in a sink of cold water.  Using gloves or a bag over your hand, take the nettle stems out of the water and place them on a towel.  Gently pat them dry. 
  3. Using a scissors, trim the tender leaves and upper stem off the main stem.  Put all of the trimmed leaves into a mixing bowl.
  4. Drizzle the leaves with oil and soy sauce or coconut aminos.  Using a tongs, toss the leaves to thoroughly coat them with the oil and soy sauce mixture.
  5. Spread the leaves on a non-stick baking sheet (or use parchment paper).  If you use low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos, you’ll want to season the nettles lightly with a sprinkling of salt.  If you use full sodium soy sauce, you may not need additional salt.  
  6. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until crisp.  You will need to turn them once about halfway through baking.  Try to separate the leaves as best you can so they bake more evenly.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool.  Taste one and add additional salt if needed.  They are best eaten immediately. 

Note:  If you have leftovers, crush the chips and use them as a topping to sprinkle on top of salads, eggs or buttered toast.

Recipe by Chef Andrea

Ramp Pesto

Yield:  1-1 ½ cups
1 bunch ramps, cleaned
½ cup toasted almonds or pine nuts
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese)
3-5 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Cut the leaves off the ramps.  Roughly chop the leaves and set them aside.
  2. Put the ramp bulbs and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and coarsely chop them.
  3. Add  the cheese, ¼ tsp salt, black pepper, 3 tsp lemon juice and the ramp leaves.  Continue to process the contents while slowly pouring in the olive oil.  
  4. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper and lemon juice to brighten it up.
  5. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  It’s best to pour a little extra olive oil over the top of the jar to preserve the color of the pesto.
Note:  If you do not have a food processor, you can also make pesto in a blender.  Of course people used to make pesto before the invention of electronic appliances, so you could also just use a knife and finely chop all the ingredients.

Ramp Pesto Serving Suggestions: 
  • Toss a few spoonfuls with hot pasta
  • Stir into scrambled eggs
  • Use ramp pesto as the base for a delicious homemade pizza topped with mushrooms, bacon, prosciutto, mozzarella, etc.
  • Spread on toast or a bagel with fresh ricotta or cream cheese
  • Stir a spoonful into mayonnaise and use it as a sandwich spread or dipping sauce
  • Baste grilled or roasted chicken with pesto
  • Serve with seared salmon
Recipe by Chef Andrea

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food….Meet Farmer & Chef Andrea!

8 May 2019 22:40

One of the things we appreciate most about growing for our CSA program is the opportunity to connect with our members.  Forming a connection goes both ways, so we thought we’d start off the year by telling you a little more about ourselves.  I’ll share about myself this week and you can watch for Farmer Richard’s story coming in the next newsletter!

Chef Andrea preparing for a food demo.
I came to Harmony Valley Farm back in 2007.  I had signed on to be the seasonal farm chef from April through November and my primary job was to prepare lunch for the farm crew and dinner for farm residents Monday-Friday.  I was also asked to write articles and recipes for the newsletter and serve as a resource for CSA members.  I was a recent graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York (CIA).  When I decided to go to the CIA, I was labeled as a “Career Changer Student.”  I was in my mid 20’s and had been working as a registered dietitian at the University of Virginia Health System.  I was a clinical dietitian and worked with nutrition support (tube feedings and IV nutrition) and saw patients in an outpatient GI (gastrointestinal) clinic.  While I had a great career going and enjoyed my work, I always felt like there was something missing and really couldn’t see myself continuing on that trajectory the rest of my career.  So I started looking around and stumbled across the CIA website.  I had never even considered going to cooking school, but after I went for a visit I knew that was the next step on my journey.

Chef Andrea roasting garlic in the farm kitchen 
I never imagined culinary school would lead me to being a farm chef, but on the other hand, I really couldn’t see myself as a restaurant chef either.  Honestly, I didn’t know what being a farm chef was when I got here.  I also didn’t really know what it meant to be “certified organic.”  I was mostly just intrigued by all the unusual things Richard was growing here!  My vegetable repertoire was pretty limited when I started, but I quickly figured out how to tackle new vegetables.  Eat it raw, eat it cooked, overcook it so I know what it means to be cooked just perfectly, do a little research and then start experimenting.  I learned to get creative with the vegetables we had available and how to prepare lunch for 35 crew members in a cost-effective way.  At the end of my contract, I was asked to stay and help manage some other parts of the farm.

Our "kids" are pretty cute!
Fast forward to today and I can hardly believe this is the start of my thirteenth growing season!  I have a lot of different responsibilities on the farm.  I manage greenhouse transplant production as well as the packing shed.  I schedule trucks, manage our food safety practices, do employee training, manage wholesale sales, go to the farmers’ market, troubleshoot refrigeration and electrical problems, schedule drain cleaning, take care of goat babies born in the middle of the winter, and basically anything else that may need to be done.  Another important, and really fun part of my life here, is to be a culinary resource for you, our CSA members.  My mission each week is to help guide you through the boxes.  When I write in the newsletter or on the blog, I try to imagine that I’m talking to you as if I were talking to you face to face at the farmers’ market!

So what else?  Simply put, I love food! I love experiencing flavors, smells, textures and watching food change and develop as I cook.  I love the life and energy we get from food and I LOVE the beauty of vegetable fields! I like to eat soup, leftovers and salad for breakfast.  I think eggs are an amazing gift from nature and eat them nearly every day.  I think everyone should be able to eat good food, and I cringe at how many boxes of cereal I ate to sustain me during my college days.  I’m jealous of CSA kids—I wish I were one.  At least I had the opportunity to be a farm kid and have fond memories of gardening with my mom, picking and preserving vegetables for winter storage and accidentally pulling all the parsley out of my mom’s garden in an effort to “help her with the weeding” (oops—sorry mom).  I love cookbooks, especially ones with beautiful photos, nice binding and interesting stories and commentaries.  I most often don’t follow the recipes, but use them for inspiration and to generate ideas.  I like to eat out in restaurants.  However I’m often disappointed because, honestly, the food we prepare at home is always so much better!

Farmer Andrea checking on her "babies" in the greenhouse.
I’m intrigued by soil and plant health and am amazed at how nature works.  I more fully understand now why eating organic food is so important for the health of our environment, but also our bodies.  If we choose food that is alive and healthy itself, it can help us live our best lives and feel good.  Food can be our medicine, but it can also bring us pleasure, joy and connection with people and places.  Food can open our eyes, minds, and hearts and can be the common denominator in a world of differences.  It allows us to travel and experience a little piece of another part of the world without even leaving home.

I believe that anyone can cook and no one should ever be intimidated by a vegetable.  Life is research and if a recipe doesn’t quite turn out as you thought it might, that’s ok. It might actually be better than what it was supposed to be! In the newsletters each week I try to offer you simple, doable, yet interesting and tasty recipes.  Sometimes I might include a recipe that is a little more complex or uses an ingredient that might be new to you with hopes of challenging you to do something you may have never done before.

Visiting with farmer friend, Mas Masumoto
I like to know where my food comes from.  I like to know the people who make and produce it.  I want to know what impact it had on the environment and I want my food choices to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.  I like to use olive oil grown and pressed at Frog Hollow Farm by Farmer Al, which is the most “local” olive oil I’ve been able to find.  I can’t get enough of Jamie and Diane’s shiitake mushrooms from the farmers’ market.  If I’m going to eat a nut grown outside our region, it’s going to be biodynamic almonds grown by my friend Gina at Marian Farms.  Her raisins are also quite spectacular.  I prefer cheese from the herd at McCluskey Brothers at Shillelagh Glen Farms.  I am slightly addicted to Faith Annaker’s (Fizzeology) fermented hot sauce, especially the sauce she made with OUR peppers!  I like to sit down to a meal and be able to give thanks for the hands that make it possible for me to enjoy such delicious, nourishing meals and for the many friendships I’ve developed with these people over the years.

I will be the first to admit I do not know all there is to know about cooking and vegetables.  I value learning from other people and appreciate it when members share their favorite recipes with me.  I want to know how you make the best use of your CSA box each week.    I want to know what evokes the “Happy Food Dance” in your household!

Lastly, I believe CSA is a good thing—for farmers, for the land, for our kids, our families and our future.  I hope you enjoy being part of our farm this season and I look forward to getting to know you better.

Community, Connection and Really Good Food!

18 Apr 2019 20:59

“Vote with your food dollars.”
“Keep your money in the local economy.”
“Know your farmer, know your food.”
Are you familiar with any of these phrases?  What about “Sign-Up Now?”  Or “Join now so you don’t miss out!”  Hey, those are my lines and we’ve been using them a lot as we are trying to encourage people to sign up for CSA shares before the season starts in three short weeks!  “Miss out on what?  It’s just vegetables, what’s the big deal about CSA anyway?"  Does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter? 
Andrea B. sampling grapes  (photo from localthirty.com)
Earlier this year, my friend (ok, we’ve only met once, but she’s awesome) Andrea Bemis released a film called Local Thirty.  This was one of the main films featured at Fairshare CSA Coalition’s Food and Farms Film Fest this past March.  While many documentaries about our food system over the past 10-12 years have been very informative and brought important truths to light, some have been pretty heavy and intense!  This film was different.  It was about food, forming connections, and finding a sense of “home.”  It focused on exploring your local food system and the positive impact that can have on our lives and our meals.  It was a welcome relief to watch a film about our food system that made me laugh, chuckle, yet still pushed me to think about my own food choices.
Andrea B. is a real live farmer who grows vegetables at the base of Mt Hood in Oregon along with her husband, Taylor.  In addition to farming, Andrea B also writes a blog called Dishing Up the Dirt, which is also the title of her cookbook!  If you’ve followed my CookingWith the Box articles on our blog over the past few CSA seasons, you’ll likely recognize her blog as I have shared many of her recipes along the way.  It all started back in September 2018 when Andrea B, her husband Taylor, and their farm crew (Adam and Rachel) decided to challenge themselves to source all of their ingredients from within a 200 mile radius.  They had 10 cheat foods each (eg coffee, lemons, black pepper, etc), but aside from those foods they only ate the things they could source within 200 miles.  Why would anyone do something like this?  They didn’t really have an end goal or mission they were hoping to achieve.  They used this time as a framework for learning and discovering their local food system.  What treasures (both food and people) were they missing?  It was about finding more of a sense of “home.” 
Andrea B with a freshly caught tuna!
(photo from localthirty.com0
As they prepared for and lived out the month of September, they had to do their research to find some of the ingredients they didn’t produce themselves.  Research for Andrea B went beyond the internet, she actually left the farm to visit people she’d never met before so she could learn more about what they were doing.  She had the opportunity to stomp grapes at a vineyard, take a wild fishing trip off the coast to catch tuna, visit a dairy farm and drink milk right from the cow, forage for wild mushrooms and walk the pastures on a neighbor’s cattle ranch.  And what became of all of this?
The final producer meal (photo from localthirty.com)
Here is Andrea B’s conclusion in her own words:  Eating locally for me is about discovering and celebrating what we have, not mourning what we don't. It's about strangers becoming friends, and learning more about our landscape and the place we call home. When we start looking around and talking to each other, it becomes evident that we just have so much……When I first set out on a month long challenge to only eat ingredients produced within 200 miles of my home I had no idea how transforming that experiment would be. Eating the foods I found and prepared rooted me deeper into my home. They were the flesh of plants I touched and animals I knew. This made me feel more alive, wild and human. I found out that eating locally is about discovering and celebrating a bounty that is all our own and letting it shape a little bit of who we are. It's about joy.”
So does it really matter if you know your farmer?  Does it matter if you eat food from local sources?  Does the story behind the food you eat mean anything?  Does being part of a CSA or shopping at the farmers’ market impact your life in any way that‘s different than shopping at the grocery store?  Well for some people, perhaps these things don’t really matter.  But for me…yes, it matters and yes, it’s important.  Andrea B. is right, it’s about joy and forming connections. 
Food is political, food is social justice and injustice, food is linked to our environment and our economy.  But food is also relational.  It’s a bridge to bring our lives together.  You just don’t know what treasures you might discover and what stories you will unveil when you take the time to look.  Connection.  Whether we know it or not, we all need connection.  Every time you learn a little more about your food sources, you’re allowing a little piece of someone else’s world to become part of yours. This does bring joy, appreciation, respect and understanding.  It causes you to think outside of yourself and your own experiences while at the same time, bringing some stinkin’ delicious food to your tables!  Yes, I’m convinced that food tastes better when you know the story about where it came from.

The fertile soil and beautiful fields of Harmony Valley Farm
So back to the original question, does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter?  I believe the answer is “Yes.”  At the very least, if you like to eat good food I guarantee you’ll find some of your best ingredients when you look locally.  The other part of this “Yes” is the community piece.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, but this isn’t a one-way concept.  We need the community to support our farm, but the community also needs to be supported by those producing food!  In the end, we all have a part in this thing we call our local food system, or in Andrea B’s words, the place we call home. 
In closing, I’ll leave you with one last message.  Our deliveries start in just three short weeks, so Join Now So You Don’t Miss Out!  If you’re looking to add a new dimension as well as some joy and really great food to your meals, we hope you’ll not only join us for the 2019 CSA season but encourage you to see what other treasures you can find within your local food system this year.
---Farmer/Chef Andrea
NOTE:  Go to  www.localthirty.com for more information about Andrea Bemis’s documentary and how to watch the whole thing.  It’s only 46 minutes long, so make some snacks and kick back to watch it this weekend!

S3442 Wire Hollow Road, Viroqua, WI, 54665, United States
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