Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Week 11: The Perfect Summer Salad

Looks like there is a bit of heat yet this season!

We were dripping with sweat as we harvested potatoes last Friday, right up until sunset! And our predicted high for this Thursday is 89. I knew there was still hope for the field tomatoes.

This weather, and this week's share, combine to make the perfect opportunity for a lovely summer salad. Below you will find a recipe for my favorite summer salad, Middle Eastern Fattoush.

The share this week will include the following: Head Lettuce, Cucumbers, Tomatoes plus Eggplant/Peppers/Ground Cherries/OR Tomatillos, Beets, Carrots, Summer Squash, Potatoes, and Sorrel or Parsley.

The sorrel/parsley choice is back, for this week at least. The occasionally cool temperatures have allowed them to make a resurgence, though they may need a rest next week after struggling through this Thursday.

The fattoush recipe relies on the classic Middle Eastern ingredient of flat leaf parsley, so if you would like to make it be sure to select parsley at pick-up.


We usually use summer lettuce, which tends to be somewhat tougher and more flavorful than spring lettuce, in sandwiches, but it's also great in salads with a lot of flavor, like fattoush. Sumac is traditionally added to fattoush dressing, to heighten the sour flavor. Though it is easy to find sumac growing wild in this area (and now is a great time to collect it!) I don't think it is available in stores around here, so I left it out of this recipe.
  • Two loaves pita bread
  • Juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • One head of lettuce, chopped or torn into bite sized pieces
  • Approximately 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped roughly
Toast the pita bread and break it into bite sized pieces.

Combine the lemon juice, garlic and salt in a small bowl.

Wisk in the olive oil until it is combined with the lemon juice.

Toss together the pita bread, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and parsley. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 10: Late Summer Life on the Farm

The hoophouse and brassicas in the late afternoon sun.
Ah...the last few weeks of August on a vegetable farm. The much anticipated crops - cucumbers, squash, tomatoes - are rolling in and the fall crops are sizing up and ripening without much effort on the farmers' part.

Onions currently curing in the hoophouse. Our work is nearly done here.
Um, right? Because that is what I planned for when I signed up for this farming gig....


We do have a lot of wonderful vegetables to harvest right now, so the week 10 share will include many lovely late summer items: Summer Squash/Zucchini, Potatoes, Cucumbers, Carrots, Tomatoes plus Eggplant/Pepper/Tomatillo OR Ground Cherries, Head Lettuce, Basil, and Kohlrabi.

But we still have a few challenges to contend with.

The cucumbers and squash are definitely rolling in, but the cool nights are slowing down the field tomatoes a lot. We still have hoophouse tomatoes for the shares, and I remain optimistic that we will see a lot of ripe tomatoes from the field this year, but only time will tell. The eggplants are certainly happy! 

And the fall crops are looking great too. We have, among other things, onions curing (see photo above), rutabaga getting bigger and more delicious every day, and lots of lovely winter squash and gourds sizing up on the vines.

Our biggest challenge this year remains pests. The amazing caterpillar pressure we started the season with fueled rodent pressure the likes of which we have never seen. I think mice have gotten as many ripe tomatoes out of the field as we have. 

Then there are the insects. Teeny, tiny, aphids and flea beetles, again at population levels we have never seen before. As I mentioned last week they are going after the greens in the field and, we just discovered yesterday, in our fall starts too.

Redbor kale fall starts look good, only a couple aphids to be seen.
But the Beedy's Camden kale starts are under massive attack.
We're going with the tried and true methods of squishing and dish soap as our first lines of defense (you can see a few bubbles if you look closely in this photo, I'd just sprayed), probably with some diatomaceous earth as a follow up if need be. Kale lovers cross your fingers.

In the meantime of course, you have all the vegetables in your share to enjoy. You are getting kohlrabi again this week, and I know that many of you take them home without much of an idea of what to do with them, so, though last week's recipe was a kohlrabi dish, I am featuring kohlrabi again in this week's recipe.

Kohlrabi are really simple to prepare in many different ways. They taste like mild broccoli stem and are wonderful cooked (as in the stew below) or raw (as in last week's slaw recipe).

Summer's end Kohlrabi Stew

This recipe uses several of the items in your share, but it makes a lot of food. This is easily two large meals worth of stew for us, and we are big eaters. Be sure to serve it with crusty bread or biscuits for sopping up the liquid.
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno (or none or more to taste), chopped. If you have any chipotle around you could use one or two of those instead.
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound stew beef, cubed (I actually used venison)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large kohlrabi, peeled and chopped into one inch cubes
  • 1 pound tomatoes (about what is in the share), roughly chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 or 3 medium summer squash or zucchini, chopped into one inch cubes
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and onion. Stir until they are coated in oil.

Add the beef. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Continue to stir frequently until the meat is brown on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the kohlrabi. Add water to nearly cover the meat and vegetables. The squash and tomatoes will add a lot of liquid when you add them later, so be stingy with the water now.

Increase the heat to bring the water to a boil, then decrease the heat to simmer. Simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and squash and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.

Colorful stew is the best kind of stew.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 9: Nights in the 40's

It is lettuce weather again.

Pablo lettuce, one of this week's lettuces. In my imagination it's
named after Picasso because it is a work of art. But I suppose
several people are named Pablo.
This has been my year for experimenting with lettuce, I ordered something like 18 different varieties of head lettuce this year, so we have had it in the shares in some form or another nearly every week. But lettuce that grows through days that hit 90 degrees will never be quite as delicious as lettuce that has matured during a cool stretch (even if that lettuce is a carefully selected heat tolerant variety).

So, while a few cool nights will somewhat slow the harvest on the summer squash, cucumbers, and field tomatoes (and may halt the field peppers altogether), they will bring us some delectable lettuce this week as well. They will also help the late season cole crops along. I know I'm not the only one looking forward to Brussels sprouts.

Pirat, this week's other lovely lettuce. I've no theories as to the meaning
of its name.
The rest of the share is bulging with standard mid-season garden goodness. In addition to the head lettuce members can expect: Beets, Carrots, Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Tomatoes plus Eggplant/Peppers/Tomatillos OR Ground Cherries, Thai Basil, Scallions, and Kohlrabi or Broccoli.

We are continuing our quest to make sure that everyone gets to try the Thai basil, this week is the group one half share members' turn. I'm curious to know what everyone that takes tomatillos is doing with them. A few years back we had a glut of them in the fall and I came up with this recipe for tomatillo chili. It calls for two pounds, which is much more than is going in the shares right now, but it could be adjusted to make a smaller recipe or used as a springboard for a different chili recipe.

There is a break on Kale and Chard this week thanks to the flea beetles and aphids respectively. 

Impressive, no? Flea beetles like cool nights too.
We will wage what non-toxic battles we can and hopefully see them again in the not too distant future. In the meantime, if you are jonesing for some cooking greens keep in mind that kohlrabi leaves can be used just like kale.

Kohlrabi also makes wonderful coleslaw. As in the following recipe.

Kohlrabi Slaw

This is a pretty standard coleslaw recipe made, I think, exceptional through the use of kohlrabi rather than cabbage. I included a little celery seed, because I don't believe that coleslaw can exist without it, but it is entirely optional. It can also be doubled if you love celery seed as much as I do. The Thai basil is also optional, but adds a subtle twist to the flavor. Another fresh herb such as parsley or cilantro would work well in its place.
  • One large kohlrabi, peeled and grated (it helps to quarter the kohlrabi before attempting this), plus four or five kohlrabi leaves, chopped into ribbons.
  • Four carrots, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 bunch of scallions, green and white portions, thinly sliced
  • A small hand full of Thai basil leaves (about 12), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar (white wine or apple cider both work well)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. I used about a 1/4 teaspoon of each as the mayonnaise was already pretty salty.
Toss together the grated kohlrabi, chopped kohlrabi leaves, sliced carrots, sliced scallions, and chopped Thai basil in a large bowl.

In a separate small bowl stir together the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, sugar or honey, celery seed, salt, and pepper. If you are using sugar, be sure to stir until the granules have dissolved into the dressing.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss until they are evenly combined. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes before serving. This holds well in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours (which was as long as our leftovers lasted before we ate them all up!)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week Eight: Summertime

I know it has been summer for a while already, I mean, every share has come with a pound of tomatoes for two weeks, but the summer squash and zucchini are coming on strong here so the season is now official at our place.

Sunburst pattypan, the most photogenic of our
summer squash.
As happened with the snow peas, they took us by surprise. They were trickling in. The harvest for last Wednesday's pick-up had a few nice zukes. The harvest for Saturday was a flood.

We'll be taking a lot to the Keweenaw Co-op this week, so as not to bury the members in summer squash, but members will definitely get some too and the squash should keep coming until frost. Start posting you favorite summer squash and zucchini recipes on the facebook page now!

This week's share will also include: Head Lettuce, Chard, Thai Basil, Beets, Fennel, Sorrel, Cucumber(s?), Tomatoes etc. from the hoophouse, and another selection of herbs or edible flowers.

Several people have asked about the Thai basil at pick-up. And because it is new to so many of you, we decided that everyone should have a chance to try it. That's just the way we CSA farmers roll. I LOVE to use Thai Basil in rice noodle dishes, especially with eggplant. Try sauteing some tomato, summer squash, and eggplant, if you have it, lightly in peanut oil and your favorite soy sauce (add a bit of five spice powder, ginger, garlic, fish sauce or other favorite Asian flavors as well). When the vegetables are just finished cooking, pull the pan off the heat and stir in a generous handful of coarsely chopped Thai Basil. Serve this over rice noodles that have soaked in hot water for ten minutes (or prepared according to the package) and dressed with peanut oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar or honey, and garlic. If you aren't a rice noodle fan, serve it over rice with the same sauce on the side for diners to season with.

Thai Basil, with its dusky purple hue.
Sorrel was heavily featured in the early weeks of the CSA. As summer progresses it gets a bit tough and unruly. Now that the nights are growing cooler (and we know they will continue to do so quickly) we want to clear out the sorrel plantings so that they will put on tender growth again in the fall. The tender spring and fall growth is good for cooking or salads. The summer growth is perfect for soup. So, we are including a generous quantity of sorrel in every share this week and passing along this traditional Polish sorrel soup recipe, which was shared with us by Eva, a member of ours who spent her childhood in Poland and says this recipe is particularly delicious.

U.P. Fennel is never quite as large and luxurious as
California grown, but it makes up for that with FLAVOR.
Finally, we have fennel from the field this week. When members had a choice of baby fennel from the hoophouse way back in the first share of the season I know many folks were unsure how to prepare it. If you need an idea, I suggest the following recipe. I've made it with local pork from the Kolpack's Family Farm and grocery store pork from who knows where. It is, of course, better with the Kolpack's meat, but it's delicious either way.

Glazed Pork Chops with Braised Fennel 

Use a jam that is fruity and acidic. Apricot, peach, and raspberry all work very well. Blueberry would not.  I've made this with homemade cherry tomato jam with particularly good results.

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
  • 4 pork loin chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup jam
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, bulb and stalks chopped into bite sized pieces, fronds reserved

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pan that is large enough to hold all four pork chops in a single layer.

Lay the pork chops in the pan, sprinkle both sides of each chop with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Briefly brown both sides of each chop, about 30 seconds per side.

Stir together the jam and balsamic vinegar. Turn the heat down to low. Spoon the jam and vinegar mixture evenly over the chops. Allow the pork to cook for approximately five minutes on each side, spooning glaze over the chops whenever they are turned, and frequently as they cook.

When the chops have reached your desired degree of doneness, remove them from the pan and keep them warm on a serving dish.

Turn the heat back up to medium and add the chopped fennel bulb and stalks to the glaze and pan drippings that remain in the cooking pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes or until the fennel is just tender. Overcooking the fennel will cause it to lose much of its unique flavor.

Meanwhile, finely chop about half a cup of the reserved fennel fronds.

Arrange the cooked fennel bulb and stalks over the pork chops and sprinkle the minced fennel fronds over the entire dish.

I have got to hook up with a food photographer...