Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Week 15 - The Worst Halloween Treat Ever

The week 15 share is bursting with fall. Members will receive Spaghetti Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Kale, and Kohlrabi or Carrots.

The Kohlrabi has been in cold storage since earlier in the season. It looks a little strange at this point, and, like many vegetables in storage, has started to grow a tiny bit of fuzz on the peel. No matter the outsides, the insides are every bit as good as they were two months ago. We had sauteed kohlrabi with olive oil and garlic with breakfast this morning just to be sure.

The Spaghetti Squash is finally cured and ready to go! See below for a spaghetti
squash recipe that Scott proclaimed "the only meal he ever wants to eat again".
Apple sauce, apple crisp, sauteed apples, apple cake, apple butter,
apple pickles, baked apples, apple pie...
Brussels sprouts! Don't boil them, roast them. Mmm...they
still won't make a good Halloween treat.
I have heard it said that Brussels sprouts are the devil. That simply is not true. It's just that some people choose to cook them in devilish ways, with slightly evil results. If you are sure you hate Brussels sprouts please give them one more try by roasting them with plenty of garlic some apple if you have a sweet tooth. It's fast, easy, and delicious. Combine 3/4 lb Brussels sprouts with 2-4 cloves (depending on your taste) of garlic, slivered, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and one apple (optional) chopped into 1/2 inch pieces. Arrange the sprouts in a single layer on a baking dish or cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes (or until they are just beginning to brown) stirring every five minutes. Everyone will love them, unless they have the option of gorging on candy instead. I know this from experience.

Last Halloween I was running late for trick or treating at my Sister-in-Law's house and Seda hadn't eaten lunch yet. I was making a batch of garlic roasted Brussels sprouts for lunch and, since we were in a hurry, I just pulled them out of the oven and took them to the festivities. I tried to share, but not one single cousin would try them. Seda and I ended up eating the whole bowl full. They're good, but apparently they can't compete with pumpkin shaped peanut butter cups. Maybe if I had played up their devilish qualities.

Spaghetti Squash with Two Sauces

You may recall my promise to share Scott's favorite dinner with you when the spaghetti squash was ready. Here it is. It has a few more steps then the recipes I usually include in the share description, but the results are worth the effort.

  • One large spaghetti squash
Tomato Sauce
  • 1 lb ground beef or lamb
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 14 - 16 ounces tomato puree (home canned or store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
White Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Cut the spaghetti squash into quarters, place on a baking sheet cut side up, and bake at 375 degrees until tender (approximately 45 minutes). 

While the squash is baking, make the tomato sauce. In an oven safe saute pan (I use a 12 inch cast iron skillet) brown the ground beef with the onion, pepper, salt, garlic, and dried oregano. When the meet is cooked and the onions are soft add the tomato puree, thyme, and red wine vinegar. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.

While the tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the white sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium/low heat. Add the flour, stir to make a smooth paste. Continue stirring constantly (a rubber spatula or wooden spoon works well for this) until the flour is golden and smells nutty. Continuing to stir (a set of helper hands comes in handy at this point) pour the milk in very slowly. Stir as it is added to keep the sauce as smooth as possible, and be careful of hot splatters. When all the milk is added, add the salt and nutmeg. Continue stirring as you bring the sauce to a very light simmer, remove from the heat when the sauce has reached the consistency of heavy cream.

When the spaghetti squash is tender remove and discard the seeds, then remove the flesh from the peel (use forks if you don't want to wait for it to cool). Turn the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Arrange the spaghetti squash in a single layer on top of the tomato sauce. Pour the white sauce over the top of the squash.

Place the saute pan with the tomato sauce, spaghetti squash, and white sauce in a 400 degree oven. Bake for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes turn the broiler on and broil just until the white sauce turns golden.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Frost

We had our first frost the night of September 15th this year. Right on schedule.

We had much to do to prepare for it.

First we harvested and harvested everything we didn't want to freeze out. Including watermelons :) which are going out as bonus items in the shares. Winter squash will start going out in week 15, after they have had the chance to properly cure and sweeten up. Gourds will go out in October.

Then we covered the tender crops with Agribon, the same material we use to cover brassicas for flea beetle control. Note Seda's snow pants. It was really cold that evening.

We made sure they were tucked in good.

Then we crossed our fingers. The next morning came with many survivors. Everything we covered made it. The uncovered tender crops didn't completely die, but they didn't look so good come morning.

Week 14 - Green Tomato Relish Pictorial

Now that we have had a freeze (see freeze prep photo post here), it is officially fall. Scott says that we shouldn't dare give out any more summer squash or zucchini (does everyone have a loaf of zucchini bread in the freezer yet?) but you're getting them at least one more time.

This week's share includes carrots, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers/summer squash, 2 lbs green cherry tomatoes, onions, parsley, two apples, and one jalapeno.

In honor of fall, everyone is receiving the ingredients to make a small batch of green tomato relish, which explains the last five items in the share list. 

The ingredients in the shares makes slightly more than four half-pints
of relish.
I don't get a lot of time to can in the height of harvest, and most of our cucumbers and ripe tomatoes go to the members anyway, so I preserve the items that we have in abundance once the season slows. Thankfully, that allows me to make all the green tomato relish I want. It's sweet, sour, and pleasantly spicy. Perfect with cheese, lunch meat, or hot dogs. I want a lot of it.

I understand that not everyone is up for canning, so before I get to the relish how to I'm going to offer another option.

Fried Green (Cherry) Tomatoes

Fried stuff is good. Especially when it's garden fresh stuff coated with egg wash and a layer of corn meal crunch. Generally I fry sliced green tomatoes by first dredging in flour, then egg wash, then seasoned corn meal, then pan frying in canola or peanut oil. I wanted to include my recipe because fried green tomatoes need to be enjoyed in the Yoop, but the shares have green cherry tomatoes. This is my solution. 
  • 2 cups green cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • canola or peanut oil for frying
  1. Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Toss tomatoes with the flour, coating as evenly as possible.
  3. Lightly beat the egg and milk together, then toss the tomatoes with the egg mixture.
  4. Combine corn meal, salt, black pepper, and paprika.
  5. Add the corn meal mixture to the tomatoes and toss, again coating as evenly as possible. It will be a bit slippery and lumpy. That is okay.
  6. Cover the bottom of a 12 inch frying pan with about an 1/8 of an inch of oil and heat it over medium high heat.
  7. When the oil is hot enough to make a drop of water sizzle (test with just a drop - otherwise you risk a burn) pour the tomato mixture in the pan like a giant pancake.
  8. When the bottom is set and turning golden, flip the "pancake". It will break apart, just try to flip all the pieces.
  9. Cook until the second side is set and golden. Remove from heat.
I snapped this photo just after the flip so you would know what you were going for.
Sorry my stove is a bit of a mess, note the recipe notebook in the background.
And onto the relish.

Green Tomato Relish

If you taste the relish right after cooking you may think it doesn't live up to my praise, don't worry. It needs a month on the shelf before it is perfect. If you want to eat it before then you will just have to settle for really good.
  • 2 pounds green tomatoes (cherry or otherwise)
  • 2 small or one medium onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper (or none if you despise heat)
  • 10 stems parsley, tough lower stem removed
  • 2 tart, firm fleshed apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 20 whole black peppercorns

Place the tomatoes, onion, parsley, and jalapeno into the bowl of a food processor. It chops much better if you put the parsley and jalapeno on the bottom, but I wanted you to see how the parsley is trimmed. Use all tender portions of the stem along with the leaves.

Chop until it looks like this. It only takes a few seconds. You want some texture left in it. Once chopped, transfer the mixture to a sauce pot that will hold all of the ingredients with room for simmering.

Chop the apples into small pieces.

Add them to the pan along with the sugar, vinegar, and spices. There's no need for a spice bag because the allspice and pepper are left in for canning and the cinnamon is easy to fish out.

Bring to a boil and simmer until the apples are soft, 30 - 45 minutes. Ladle the hot relish into clean half pint jars (you should need four with about a half a cup left over) leaving a half inch head space. Top with two piece canning lids and tighten the rings "fingertip tight".

Boil for ten minutes in a boiling water bath (AKA an old stockpot with enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch). There is less risk of breaking a jar if you use new jars, do not close your lids too tightly, and bring the water to a boil with the jars in it, rather than adding jars to already boiling water.

The relish will keep for at least a year on the shelf. Remember it is best after it has sat for at least one month.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Freeze and Pickled Beets

We know it's coming. We're even pretty sure when it will hit. Nevertheless, the first frost is always a let down.

This week's share, which includes two pints of cherry tomatoes, summer squash/zucchini, cucumber, chard or kale, sorrel, potatoes, and a pickle-able quantity of beets and small onions, may be the last of the summertime produce. In fact, the Saturday shareholders may find that they are already seeing fall items this week.

We will use every trick up our sleeves to hold off the inevitable. So, who knows? Maybe there will be sungolds for next week's share too.

If not, everyone can join us as we begin our tour of the flavors of fall.

Scott harvested the first sweet potato today. As I type he is cooking it in a curry with eggplant, onion, tofu, and Thai basil. It looks like it should be a good harvest (at least the bed he checked looked very promising). Expect locally grown sweet potatoes in a share to come.

Seda, spearing curried sweet potatoes with her characteristic
dinner time intensity.

But, as always, I am focusing on things to come instead of the share at hand - and this week's share is worth focusing on.

First, the yukons are done, so we're giving out purple potatoes this week! Purple majesty potatoes to be exact. They are awesome boiled and mashed, with or without the skins, and doctored up with a bit of butter and/or flax seed oil (we prefer the combination), sea salt, and pepper. Apparently they contain massive quantities of antibiotics too, all the better!

They are also very good in potato salad. The other day I had an intense potato salad craving but not a lot of time. I chopped the potatoes into bite sized pieces, boiled them in salted water until they were fork tender and made a dressing using about 3/4 of a cup of mayonnaise, a generous squirt of flax seed oil, and one large clove of garlic, crushed. I combined the dressing with the potatoes - which were still warm, a chopped cucumber, and a finely chopped kale leaf. It was the world's simplest potato salad and seriously good. The flax seed oil gave the mayonnaise a nutty richness but I think it was the freshness of the potatoes that made it really great.

The thing that I am really excited about this week is the beets. I know the members already got a ton of beets this season and may not be feeling too excited about them but this week is different. We put together enough beets and onions for everyone to make a small (three pint) batch of pickled beets.

Many of you probably have experience pickling already, but we figured this small quantity would be a good start for those of you that haven't ever pickled. If you don't want to worry about canning, it is also a good quantity for a batch of refrigerator pickles.

If you just hate pickled beets, try making borscht instead. The options for borscht making are endless. If you want to go for borscht, start with the beets, add a good stock, and get creative. Here's the borscht wiki to get your juices flowing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht

Pickled Beets

This is our favorite recipe for pickled beets. It is very sweet and a little unusual with the slight citrus flavor of coriander. After we eat a jar, we love the leftover pickling liquid as a base for salad dressings.  This recipe is written for the quantity of beets and onions in the shares this week, and should make about three pints (6 cups) of pickles. Also, I know the pickling will require some extreme onion peeling. Try blanching the onions first, the peels should slip off after that.
  • 2 pints beets (the amount in the share)
  • 1 pint pearl onions (again, the amount in the share)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed per jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black mustard seed per jar
  1. Peel onions, carefully wash beets but do not peel them. Slice any particularly large beets or onions in half.
  2. Combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 1 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Meanwhile add 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed and 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed to each of three sterilized pint jars (sterilize jars by boiling for ten minutes). Pack the onions evenly between the jars, then pack the jars with the beets.
  4. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the beets, cap with two piece canning lids, take care not to over tighten the rings, and boil in a boiling water canner* for twenty minutes. This is an unusually long time to boil pint sized jars for canning, but the beets were not cooked before going into the canner so this is when they become tender.
  5. If you do not want to can the pickles, simply boil the beets and onions in the pickling liquid with 6 teaspoons coriander and 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed for about 20 minutes before putting the whole works in the refrigerator in a covered, non-reactive container.
  6. The beets will keep for a year canned, a month in the refrigerator.
* If you are not familiar with the term, a boiling water canner is a large pot full of enough boiling water to cover your jars by at least one inch.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Week 12 - A chill settles over the farm...

The week 12 share includes potatoes, tomatoes, summer squash and/or zucchini, cucumbers, fennel, onions, garlic, kale, parsley, Brussels sprouts tops.

The first week of September means many things.

Zucchini grow huge in the blink of an eye.
The first frost could come tonight, or a month from now. (Please wait for the melons
to ripen.)
The gourds are this close to awesome.
And it's time to top the Brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts are basically side shoots growing along the long stalk of a tiny head of cabbage. It's one of those tiny heads that you see in the picture above. If we chop the "cabbage" off the stalk toward the end of the growing season it encourages larger sprouts to form. We only have so much use for tiny, lose leaf, cabbage heads, so we decided to add them to your shares this week. They have a nice spicy cabbage flavor, though they are a bit tougher than cabbage. Use them as you would kale.

Actually this week you are receiving kale as well, making this the perfect week to make Caldo Verde, a Portuguese soup with kale, potatoes, and sausage. Try either of the recipes described here, using a combination of the Brussels sprout tops and kale for the greens. Each share contains a pound and a half of potatoes, which should be just right for the soup recipe.

It has turned into winter food weather, at least tonight. It could warm up again before the week is through. I wanted to experiment with the fennel before we added it to the shares, and came up with a dish that turned out perfect for the chilly evening.

Pork with Cherry Tomato Glaze, Fennel, and Potatoes

First, a note on the fennel in your shares. They are small and tender - really just babies yet. We planted some old seed late on a whim so they had no hope of growing to full size. Prepare them by separating the stalks as you would celery and roughly chopping the entire thing, up to and including the fronds. The cherry tomato glaze is my homage to the time honored tradition of pork chops cooked in ketchup and Coke. Though I think my mom always cooked hers in plain ketchup.

  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (about a third of the share), halved
  • 1 onion, diced very small 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pork chop per person
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (or more as needed)
  • 1 pound potatoes (more if serving several people)
  • The fennel from your share (equal to one medium fennel bulb)
  • 1/2 cup water + more as needed
  • salt and pepper
  1. Combine the cherry tomatoes, diced onion, sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside to allow the tomatoes to release their juice.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium/high heat in a frying pan large enough to hold all of the pork chops.
  3. Place the pork chops in the pan, sprinkle each side with a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown on both sides.
  4. When the pork chops are browned, turn the heat to medium/low and spoon the cherry tomato mixture evenly over the pork. Be sure to get all of the liquid from the bowl into the pan.
  5. Cook, stirring and turning the contents of the pan frequently, until the tomatoes are very soft and the pork is cooked to your liking, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork chops.
  6. As the pork is cooking, prepare the fennel as described above, reserving some of the fronds for garnish, and slice the potatoes about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  7. Position the pork on a serving dish, spoon the tomatoes over the top of the pork, be sure to get all of the sauce out of the pan. Place the pork someplace to keep warm.
  8. Turn the heat back up to medium/high and add 1/2 cup water to the frying pan. Stir with a spatula to loosen any browned bits of pork or sauce from the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the potatoes and fennel to the pan.
  10. Cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender. Add water as needed to prevent the potatoes from becoming dry and sticking to the pan.
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Surround the pork on the serving dish with the potatoes and fennel and serve together, garnished with some fresh minced fennel fronds.