Celery!

Dear Farm Partners,

We have some delightful additions to your summer produce baskets, namely Eggplant and Celery. The celery is particularly special because it is rarely grown on a small scale without pesticides, it generally being difficult to grow. You have a real treat in your hands, a treat of locally grown and pesticide-free celery! And it is as crunchy, fragrant, and flavorful a celery as you will find anywhere. Just enjoy its supreme crispness, which is especially nice if you keep it refrigerated. We’ve also left the leaves on, which are not commonly found on commercial celery. Surprise, surprise, they’re edible, and can be used to flavor soups and stews, tossed in salad, and even used as an herb, like parsley (they even look like parsley, as celery is in fact part of the same family, Apiaceae, which includes carrots, parsnips, and dill).

Eggplant is a hearty, sturdy vegetable that is adaptable to a variety of cuisines from Italian and Middle Eastern to Asian and Indian dishes. It makes wonderful curries and pasta dishes. When I was in school out in New York, our Italian chef, who cooked all of our meals, used to make a wonderful Eggplant Parmesan casserole with layers upon layers of deep-fried eggplant slices and gooey cheese! Eggplant parm can be made lighter, of course, without the deep-frying. Another classic preparation of eggplant is the southern French stew, Ratatouille (a handy recipe if you want to use your Zucchini as well!). For dipping some of your other veggies, try this lovely Lebanese dip:

Baba Ganouj (basically eggplant hummus): Roast whole eggplant in a 425-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes (the eggplant will look deflated, indicating that the flesh is all cooked on the inside. It is okay if the skin is charred). Turn once or twice during cooking time. Allow eggplant to cool, and then slip off skin and stem. While eggplant cools, sauté a chopped onion over medium heat until tender, and then add at least three cloves of minced garlic. Continue to cook until onion is golden brown. In a food processor, combine eggplant and onion mixture with a quarter cup of tahini (sesame paste), the juice of one lemon, and come cumin, salt, and pepper to taste. Process into a smooth paste (or leave it a little coarse, if you wish) and enjoy with sliced vegetables and pita or other bread.

Eggplant tip: It takes a lot of oil and/or liquid to thoroughly cook eggplant; it absorbs like a sponge! It cooks up a little more easily if you drain it first. Do this by slicing or cubing your eggplant and tossing it with a couple teaspoons of salt. Let it drain in a colander for about an hour. Draining eggplant gets rid of some of the bitter juice contained in the seeds as well.

Other items this week:

Arugula: this bagged arugula is lovely as salad greens, but beware: the hot weather makes for spicy arugula! If you are going to eat it as a salad, know that it will have a little heat to it.

Romaine Lettuce

Japanese Turnips

Zucchini

Cucumbers

Parsley

This week’s bread is White Sourdough swirled with Five Grain Bread (Barley, Spelt, Oatmeal, Flax, and Farro)

Bon Appétit,

Ashli

ps, Jeremy has been taking pictures…

 

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   a dill flower against the hills

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 Red Chesnok garlic, hung to cure in the barn

 

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 beefsteak tomatoes in the greenhouse

 

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Garlic

Dear Farm Partners,

After a wonderful wedding celebration and honeymoon, Jeremy and I have returned to the farm and to an abundance of vegetables that exploded in our absence! You will find a bit of this abundance in your harvest baskets this week, as there are plenty of Cucumbers and green and yellow Zucchini for everyone. Perhaps our favorite item is the beautiful Red Chesnok Garlic. This is an heirloom garlic originally from the Republic of Georgia (the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe/Central Asia), and is a gem among all the crops we grow. It has a rich purple-red striped skin, and is very pungent and juicy—a little goes a long way. After weeks of eating garlic scapes, you finally get to try the actual garlic!

Also in your basket this week:

Kale: These are small to mid-sized kale leaves which are still tender enough to be eaten as a salad, but can also be cooked. Tip for kale salad: This will sound very silly, but kale benefits from a few minutes of massaging if it’s going to be eaten raw. Add a little oil to shredded kale and work it through with your hands for a minute or two. This tenderizes the kale a bit, making it more palatable. There you go.

Red and Purple Potatoes

French Breakfast Radishes

Scarlet Turnips

Basil

Sage: a quick note about this. The specks clinging to the leaves are just weed seeds that are plentifully flying through the air right now. They can easily be picked or washed off, with no harm done (however, if you want your sage to keep, don’t wash it until you’re ready to use it. Sage turns black when left wet).

Some preparations:

Turn your cucumbers into Marinated Cucumber Salad: Thinly slice two medium cucumbers (or the equivalent) and layer them in a colander with salt. Allow to drain for an hour, then rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Place cucumbers in a bowl and set aside. In a saucepan, heat one quarter-cup of apple cider, one tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and one half-cup of granulated sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove the apple cider mixture from heat and allow to cool, then pour mixture over cucumbers. Marinate for two hours. Drain the cucumbers and sprinkle with pepper and a little salt, and chill until ready to serve. (Adapted from Vegetarian: The Best Ever Recipe Collection by Linda Fraser).

Make salads of your radishes and cucumbers together: Quarter and thinly slice one cucumber and place in a bowl with thinly sliced radishes (about one bunch). The original recipe calls for a handful of mint leaves at this point, which you can use if you have it, or substitute a little chopped fresh basil. Whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon white wine vinegar (or other lightish vinegar), one half-teaspoon honey, and some salt and pepper. Add to vegetables and toss. A variation of this salad can be made by adding feta cheese and dressing the lot with some olive oil and lemon juice. (Both recipes adapted from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen)

Sage is wonderful with fried potatoes. Fry your potatoes in oil, and at the very, very end of cooking time, toss in a tablespoon or so of chopped sage. It will crisp up in the oil and taste just marvelous.

Make use of a lot of your vegetables by making the conveniently-named Midsummer Garden Potato Salad: Boil or bake about five medium potatoes (or equivalent) and dice when cool (peel if you want). Place in a bowl and add a diced medium zucchini, diced scarlet turnips, one half-cup chopped basil leaves, minced fresh parsley, and two thinly sliced scallions. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together one quarter-cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons mustard, 2 or 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Thoroughly mix into potato salad and adjust seasonings as needed. This can be eaten by itself or served on top of greens. The original recipe calls for carrots and tomatoes as well as a can of red beans, just to give more ideas. (Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas)

This week’s bread selection is Fermented Barley Olive Bread, which has a pleasant, sourdough-like flavor from the fermented barley.

Thanks for letting us take a break last week, and the lovely wedding wishes!

Ashli and Jeremy Mueller

Greens Week and An Announcement

Dear Farm Partners,

This week has turned out to be Greens Week, because the hot weather is making our greens grow like crazy! Included in your THREE bags of greens is the familiar lettuce Salad Mix, a bag of peppery Arugula, and what we are calling Braising Mix (this is really just last week’s Mesclun Mix, which got considerably taller over the past week). Any of these can be eaten as salad (and why not? It’s almost too hot to eat anything else), although you might want to cut up some of the larger leaves into bite-size pieces. Other ideas:

A no-cook preparation of arugula is arugula pesto. In a food processor or blender, pulse 2 ounces arugula leaves, 3 tablespoons pine nuts (substitute walnuts or filberts), 1 garlic clove, and 3/4 to 1 cup of olive oil. Pour into a bowl and stir in 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (can be omitted). Use it as a pasta sauce, or spread it on bread or soft cheese, like goat cheese, or thin with more oil and use as a salad dressing. Store in jars in the fridge for up to a week. (Adapted from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen)

The Kitchn has some beautiful recipes for arugula, including a delectable grilled cheese sandwich and some gorgeous salads. If you’re grilling some burgers anytime soon, try topping them with arugula instead of lettuce.

Your Braising Mix can be used in a multitude of ways. Braising is a cooking method that requires the food item, in this case greens, to be first browned on the stove in some kind of cooking fat (butter, oil, etc.), then to be cooked slowly with a small amount of liquid (water, stock, etc.) in a covered dish in the oven. A classic example is greens braised with bacon, or with white beans. Because our mix includes mustard greens and Asian greens, this is a good stir-fry mix. The greens can be wilted and eaten as a salad, or incorporated into pasta dishes (lasagna?). These kinds of greens are really wonderful as a side to some sausages. This is only the start; recipes abound with a simple internet search.

Other items this week:

We have another rotation, a Cabbage/Zucchini rotation. We’re excited to have these new items this week, and we’ve divided them up among you while we’re waiting for more to come on (the zucchini will soon be here with a vengeance, so your turn will come if you didn’t get any this week!). Zucchini is lovely sauteed in butter, grilled, or even mashed. To make mashed zucchini, boil whole zucchini in water until soft. Drain, chop, and mash in a bowl with a fork, then stir in the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil (or a dollop of butter), 3 crushed garlic cloves, and salt to taste. This is a nice recipe if you’re not too keen on zucchini, because it makes zucchini, well, less like zucchini. (Adapted from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking)

As for the Cabbage, now is the time for coleslaw. Try traditional mayonnaise dressing on thinly shredded cabbage, or swap the mayo for a vinaigrette. Make a Harvest Basket coleslaw by mixing in shredded Carrots, Radishes, and/or Beets (all of which are in your basket!). Speaking of beets…

Help. I’ve received beets for the sixth time this season (like, every week) and cannot eat another beet dish. What do I do? I can only say that, luckily, beets store well and will sit happily in the back of your crisper for up to a month. Beets happen to be our bumper crop this year, hence all those beets! If you’re into juicing, beets make a wonderful juice, which can be consumed as an intense detoxifying beverage, or alternatively used as a natural food coloring (who knew?).

This week’s herb is Basil.

For the bread people: Your loaf this week is Whole Wheat with Organic Red Barley.

I said there was an announcement: There will be no Harvest Basket delivery next Wednesday, July 16. Why? Your farmer, Jeremy, and I are getting married on Sunday! We’re taking the week off for our honeymoon, so there will be a break, and we will resume deliveries on July 23. We will add the missed week to the end of the season, which will now go to the first week of December.

Until July 23,

Ashli

Mesclun Salad + Lots of Colors!

Dear Farm Partners,

You have just about a full rainbow of vegetable colors in your Harvest Basket this week! Look at this: Scarlet Turnips, Orange Carrots, Gold Beets, Green Things (Mesclun Salad Mix, Parsley, Thyme, and Kale), and Purple Viking Potatoes. Among these items are several new items, the most exciting (for us) being the premiere of our Mesclun Salad Mix. Yesterday was our first-ever harvest of these mixed baby greens (we did not do them last season), and the balance of leaf textures and flavors makes for a special change from lettuce salad. Mesclun is a French term (Provençal dialect) which simply means “mixture,” and traditional mesclun includes leaf lettuces as well as endive, arugula, and chervil, resulting in a mix of sweeter lettuce with bitter, spicy, and herby flavors. Mesclun as a concept has been adapted to include all kinds of baby leaf greens. Ours combines our regular lettuce mix with spicy mustard greens (my favorite), sorrel (lemony-tasting and looks like spinach), and Asian greens like tatsoi and mizuna.

Mesclun salad really is wonderful and satisfying with just a little light dressing, since the salad itself is so flavorful (you can find a suggested lemon vinaigrette here). If you’ve never made homemade vinaigrette, now is the moment! Herb salad dressing is particularly good, especially with fresh thyme, which you have in your basket. For three-quarters of a cup of dressing, mix one teaspoon of Dijon mustard with two tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Slowly add half of a cup of olive oil while whisking the mixture with a fork until the dressing is well blended. Stir in one teaspoon of finely chopped thyme, parsley, and/or other herbs (Adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrel).

While I’m on the subject of salad dressing, now is probably the time to introduce you to The Dressing. It is a simple vinaigrette, not unlike the preceding one, but I find it addictive. The base is a garlic and salt paste pounded in a mortar and pestle, a taste which I just cannot get enough of. Here’s what you do: If you have a mortar and pestle, pound one clove of garlic (or two, or three, if you’re me) with a pinch or two of salt until it forms a smooth paste. Drizzle the paste with about a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and blend until all is mixed. Stir in about two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and another teaspoon or two of vinegar. As with the previous recipe, slowly blend in about a half cup of olive oil until emulsified, and adjust vinegar to taste (Adapted from In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters). Homemade dressing can be great fun, so try out different oils, types of vinegar, and seasonings!

This has been kind of a long post on salad, so I’ll leave it at that with just a few small mentions.

Purple Viking Potatoes are fresh-dug and should be treated like fresh produce. They’ll be fine if you leave them out on the counter, but they benefit from refrigeration. Fourth of July potato salad, anyone?

Parsley is a wonderful all-purpose herb, and is very clean and cool-tasting during these hot days. Chop it up and use it in all kinds of salads, from green salad to cold beet salad (maybe with your beautiful gold beets?) and grain salads like tabouli.

Thyme is my most beloved of all herbs. It is just right for most meats; whole stems can be stuffed in a chicken, or wrapped around pot roast, and leaves can be sprinkled on fish. I had a revelation once when a recipe directed me to stir thyme leaves into meatloaf. I never looked back. It is also amazing on potatoes.

For the bread people, this week’s offering is Rye and Whole Wheat Swirl with Farm-Fresh Dill, Caraway Seeds, and Flax Seeds.

Have a delightful Independence Day weekend!

Ashli