Rainy Day

Dear Farm Partners,

At last, after an unprecedented summer of seemingly endless dry, ninety-degree days, we have a day of rain. I took a glorious hour-long walk in it around the Christmas tree farm this morning. Rainy walks are a little bit of heaven for me (what can I say? I grew up in western Oregon). I didn’t realize how much I missed the rain until I woke up and heard it; sometimes I think I need the sound of it just as much as the moisture. Now I feel I can really welcome fall, with summer finally behind us.

You have a new addition to your Harvest Baskets, which some of you might remember from last year: Celeriac, or celery root. It is the very gnarly-looking one. However, though it is homely, it is delicious, slightly crunchy and aromatic like celery. Like beets and chard, the celery plant can be bred specifically for the root (like to the beet) or the stalks and leaves (analogous to chard). In fact, the celeriac that you have is a twofer; the top IS celery. Celeriac is very versatile and can be eaten on its own (either raw or cooked) or used to flavor soups and stews (especially beef stew, which we can all now think about again given the change in weather). Unfortunately, our celery roots are a little small this year and may not be sufficient to feed a family in the quantities given. In this case, I would suggest incorporating the celeriac into a stew, mixed roasted root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips), or mashed potatoes (just boil cut up celeriac until mashable and purée with potatoes). Celeriac is also delicious as a raw snack.

Just in case you enjoy the celeriac so much that you go out and purchase more, here is a French celeriac salad recipe, a sort of celeriac coleslaw, called Celeri Remoulade. This recipe is delicious, as well as accompanied by some entertaining tidbits by David Lebovitz.

Enjoy the rainy day,

Ashli

Teriyaki Eggplant and Green Goddess Dressing

permanent raised beds

Dear Farm Partners,

This is a somewhat record-breaking Harvest Baskets week for us, with TEN items in your baskets! Albeit three of these items are herbs; however, such glorious herbs as Cilantro, Basil, and Dill deserve to be recognized on their own. Any of these herbs can be snipped into salads, or whisked into the salad dressing recipe written out below. Also in your baskets this week:

Eggplant (On Rotation), Scallions, Mesclun, Baby Beets with Tops OR Scarlet Turnips, Radishes, Carrots, and Lettuce. Note that Eggplant is on rotation, so if you did not get it this week, you will get it next week.

I think I may have gotten my wordiness out in last week’s rambling post, so here are some recipes.

Teriyaki Eggplant with Scallions

Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas

Marinade (makes approximately ¾ cup)

1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 or two minced garlic cloves

1 or two tablespoons grated ginger (either fresh or from a jar)

Whisk together all ingredients and set aside while preparing the eggplant.

Take 1 ½ to 2 pounds of eggplant and slice them into ¼ inch rounds. Layer them in a colander with salt and allow them to drain for an hour (this extracts the bitter juice and makes the eggplant easier to cook in the end). Cut the eggplant into bite-sized pieces, and then place them in bowl with ¼ to ½ cup of marinade. Set aside and heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Sauté the eggplant until fully cooked (about 5-7 minutes). Remove to a serving dish and stir in the rest of the marinade, chopped scallions, and one tablespoon of sesame seeds. Serve over rice, and perhaps with a little side salad of grated carrot and sliced radish. If you did not get eggplant this week, this is still a good marinade for stir-fried vegetables.

Here is my all-time favorite salad dressing recipe, which puts to good use both your salad greens and your herbs. Besides containing irresistible herbs like cilantro and basil, what’s not to love about a dressing that incorporates avocado and heavy cream? Thank you to Alice Waters for Green Goddess Dressing.

Remember that both beet and turnip tops are edible, as are radish leaves (this week you have radish leaves for Radish Leaf Soup!).

I hope you take time to admire the mesclun; it is perfection. The leaves are just the right size, not too spicy, and include some adorable baby kale leaves. Lovely!

Enjoy the rain…I think it’s trying to come down….

Ashli

Settling (and two soup recipes)

Dear Farm Partners,

It takes awhile to settle into a place, whether it’s a home, a farm, or simply an area, such as our Pleasant Hill. I’ve been thinking about this most recently in light of our first week in The Milk House. Even though we adore this place, it does not quite feel like our home. Boxes and stuff are stacked everywhere, clothes are still in suitcases, nothing really has a place it belongs yet. I’ve also been rather ill off and on for several weeks, which has not helped the moving-in process (or, I’m ashamed to say, being timely with these blog posts— thank you always for your patience). It is a dream home for us, however, and I know that it will take shape with time.

We’re still also settling into Excelsior Farm. Even as we approach the beginning of Jeremy’s third season as Farm Manager, we still have a lot of things to set up and figure out, especially if the farm is going to be a viable occupation for us. It is an exciting process, though, and there are new developments afoot that will make it possible for us to have a sustainable, productive farm. For instance, Jeremy has turned to an intensive market gardening method (developed in France over one hundred years ago) for our fall and winter fields which enables us to work more efficiently as well as grow more produce. Already it’s a noticeable difference from our summer field and its industrial-scale beds. Most recently we’ve been moving towards raising funds for a third greenhouse, which would allow us to increase our production of tomatoes, among other things, and provide more space for growing year-round. More information coming soon about this!

I’ve also had a lot of personal settling in to do this summer. As some of you know, I lived just outside of New York City for the last two years while I was working on my Master’s degree. Now, M. A. in hand, I’ve had to transition from the Big City and academic work to Oregon countryside and harvesting vegetables. Oh, and marriage! Change abounds. It sometimes seems impossible to take it all in. It is a wonderful, rich time, however, and it is shaping up to be a very good life indeed.

With that, we do have a basket this week still, with some very nice contents: Tomatoes (Cherry OR assorted large tomatoes), Sweet and Hot Pepper Medley, Cucumbers, Scarlet Turnips, Mesclun, Beets, Lettuce, Zucchini OR Delicata Squash, Dill.

Those of you who received the Black Cherry Tomatoes are very fortunate; their flavor is so intense, and they are so perfectly ripe, that they taste almost more like small dark plums.

Sweet and Hot Pepper Medley = Fajitas! The sweet peppers are similar to bell peppers, and are also very good for stuffing.

Mesclun would be a perfect base for a salad of greens, chilled roasted beet slices, and goat cheese.

The Scarlet Turnip tops are edible, and they are so large and immaculate it would be a shame to waste them. So, here is a clever little recipe designed just for the purpose. I am very fond of this soup.

Radish (or Turnip) Leaf Soup

Adapted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

½ pound potatoes, peeled and chopped

¾ cup onion, peeled and chopped

3 cups water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup chopped radish leaves

salt and pepper

First prepare the base of the soup. Melt butter in a saucepan until it foams; add potatoes and onions, and thoroughly coat with butter. Season well with salt and pepper, then cover the saucepan and sweat the potatoes and onions over low heat for 10 minutes.

When the vegetables are nearly soft, add the water or stock and milk. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer to finish cooking the vegetables. Add the radish leaves and simmer uncovered for no longer than five minutes, enough time to cook the radish leaves while preserving the soup’s lovely green color. Once finished, purée the soup with a  blending device and season further if necessary. Wonderful with buttery toast or a tomato sandwich!

Here is another nice summery soup that requires no cooking whatsoever.

Cold Cucumber Soup

Adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell

Ingredients

2 medium cucumbers (or equivalent), peeled and sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup crème fraiche or good sour cream

2 cloves of garlic, mashed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely chopped dill

salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients except dill and seasoning in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add dill, season to taste, stir, and chill well before serving. C’est simple!

With good wishes,

Ashli

Happy September, with Squash and Greens

Dear Farm Partners,

Happy September! We’re very close to the official beginning of fall, and this week we’re giving September a proper start with Delicata Squash. Of all vegetables, winter squash is my very favorite. They’re satisfying and delicious to eat, especially in the fall and winter months. They also come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors, that it makes me happy simply to look at them. Mostly I associate them with autumn, which, if you haven’t guessed, is my favorite season (be warned, I’m likely to go on and on about until December). I have very fond childhood memories of feasting on roasted acorn squash halves, hot from the over with a dollop of butter and plenty of brown sugar in the center! Delicata Squash are, as you can see, very pretty medium-small squash with lovely butter-colored skin, green and/or orange stripes, and yellowish flesh.

 

IMG_6315

 

They are on the sweeter side, like butternut and acorn squash, but can be prepared with either sweet or savory seasonings.

Basic preparation: Cut you squash in half with a sharp knife, place cut-side down in a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet, cover with foil, and roast in the oven at 375 degrees until easily pierced with a fork (about 30 minutes for medium-small squash). Scoop out the seeds and pulp. If you wish, it can be as simple as that! Fill them with butter and brown sugar or maple syrup, nuts and apples, dried fruit, cheese, or even a cooked grain filling of your choice (rice, wheat berries etc.) The tender flesh can also be scooped out and puréed (a beautiful alternative to mashed potatoes) or made into a squash soup.

Although I’ve been spending my time talking about squash, it really is Greens Week this week. You have TWO heads of crisp Lettuce along with two chicories, Escarole and frilly Endive. This makes for many salad opportunities in the coming week. Endive is very nice when chopped small and mixed with lettuce, a combination that softens the bitterness of endive a little. It is also wonderful on its own with vinaigrette, or prepared in a traditional French way that I mentioned a few weeks ago (with crisp bits of bacon and a poached egg on top). Or, make a Harvest Basket salad of the three mixed greens with bits of grated Carrot, finely chopped Scallions, and tufts of Dill.

If this seems like too many salad leaves, don’t forget that endive and escarole can be cooked. Braising (cooking in a small amount of liquid) is a great method for cooking these two greens. To do this, heat a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Rinse whole escarole or endive leaves and add them to the pan (make sure that the leaves are still slightly wet, as this is the bit of cooking liquid). Season with a little salt and pepper, and allow the leaves to wilt somewhat. Once wilted, cover the skillet and cook the leaves–I would do eight minutes for escarole, and five for the more delicate endive.

Just to give you the full line up of your basket’s contents: Delicata Squash, Escarole, Endive, Lettuce (two heads), Scallions, Fingerling Potatoes, Carrots, Dill. The Dill and Scallions are from the new fall and winter beds—notice how fresh and fluffy the dill is!

In other news, Jeremy and I just moved  into a charming little house called The Milk House. It’s right up the street from our farm on the property of Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm, so it’s very convenient, but it’s also the coolest little house either of us has ever lived in. It was part of an old dairy; what is now our house was where all the cows were milked, and attached to the back is a huge old barn. There are no dairy cows anymore, but the barn is home to pigs, goats, chickens, and a flock of very important ducks. Not only are Jeremy and I happy to find a permanent home, but we are very pleased to have found such a lovely one. We’ll have pictures soon.