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...


  1. Food photography is all about lighting. You can buy a couple portable flood lamps at Walmart for about $25. Experiment with the placement, or take some cues from a professional:

    1. I usually try to use natural light, which works okay for me. In this case I think it was more of a plating/plethora of brownish glaze issue, though the lighting is pretty bad too ;)

    2. Natural lighting is the best lighting, but the most difficult to get to cooperate sometimes!

      The issue with the sauce is that it's a hard light and you're getting lots of tiny reflections coming from one direction. Try putting up a screen in front of your window to help diffuse the light.

      To put my "money where my mouth is", I booted up the camera tonight for dinner: