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sweet corn = summer!

In the CSA share this week:

  • sweet corn
  • green peppers
  • cucumbers
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • hothouse tomato
  • eggplant
  • garlic
  • basil
  • green beans (for those who didn’t get it last week)

Happiness in a Husk

One of the main reasons we first became interested in growing our own food was the (hopefully positive) effect it would have on our children’s eating habits. I was a very picky eater as a kid and wouldn’t touch anything resembling a vegetable. I don’t blame my parents for not forcing me to eat broccoli and spinach — I’m sure I would have thrown a fit. And in my experience, forcing a kid to eat “healthy” foods — the “taking your medicine” approach — doesn’t achieve the greater goal, which is to create young eaters who actually crave foods that are nutritious.

Some kids are born picky, myself a prime example. Mandy and I were lucky to get naturally adventurous eaters, but I do think there are substantial benefits to exposing kids to where their food comes from, and even giving them a hand in its growth and harvest. I don’t think my kids would gobble down peas with such fury if they hadn’t picked them themselves. And I don’t know if they’d even try something as exotic as Brussels sprouts if they hadn’t planted the seeds in the greenhouse, helped transplant the seedlings, and watched over months as the miniature cabbage heads slowly emerged along its stem.

Sweet corn is an entirely different story. Show me a child that doesn’t love a hot-buttered ear of summertime corn. The advantage of growing your own corn is that you can stand in the field and eat the freshly picked ears raw. That’s how sweet and tender just-picked corn can be.

toddler Zev (circa 2012) about to dig into a raw ear of sweet corn

toddler Zev (circa 2012) about to dig into a raw ear of sweet corn

Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll be getting lots of wonderful corn in your CSA shares. This wasn’t always a given. The torrential June rains set back Beth’s first planting of corn, yellowing leaves with an overabundance of water-soluble nitrogen. And just when the first ears started to ripen last week, an opportunistic raccoon squeezed under her electrified fence to steal away some prime specimens. On my end, the cows nibbled down half of my crop in June, but most of it has made a full comeback. I expect to harvest ears from the un-chomped plants next week. This is some hard-won corn!

Cob Alternatives

It’s hard to beat the simple pleasure of quick-boiled corn on the cob with a dab of butter and salt. For these fresh-picked ears, I recommend no more than 5 minutes of active boiling, just enough to soften the kernels a bit, but not to sap all of the crisp flavor.

But if you’re looking for other ways to use the sweet corn, consider these recipes:

grilling whole eggplants produces soft, smoky flesh

grilling whole eggplants produces soft, smoky flesh

Whole Grilled Eggplant

We are big fans of Mediterranean food. My daughter brings a hummus and feta sandwich to school each day for lunch. (When she added pickled radishes to the mix in the spring, the smell was quite “interesting” to her tablemates.) My sister gifted us the Jerusalem cookbook a couple of years ago and we’ve been working our way through the incredible recipes. One of our favorites is a smoky eggplant dip (a version of baba ganouj) made from whole grilled eggplants.

Basically, you prick a few holes in two eggplants and set them on a hot gas or charcoal grill, rotating them so that each side gets completely blackened. This takes about 15 minutes total. After you let the charred eggplants cool, you slice them open to reveal creamy soft and smokey flesh that’s easily scooped out with a spoon. Then it’s into the food processor or blender to mix with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and herbs. Here’s a good recipe from the NY Times.

Last night's Mediterranean feast: turkey-zucchini patties stuffed into pita with delicious dips, including the smoky eggplant spread bottom-right

Last night’s Mediterranean feast: turkey-zucchini patties stuffed into pita with delicious dips, including the smoky eggplant spread bottom-right

Time to thin the peppers. We'll pick the biggest green ones and let the rest mature to red and orange!

Time to thin the peppers. We’ll pick the biggest green ones and let the rest mature to red and orange!

bright colors of summer squash

bright colors of summer squash

Your Dinner Pics

Keep sending me shots of your CSA creations. Feel free to text pics directly to 412-496-2805.

Jared actually made the caramelized onion tart. Kudos for adding bacon and chanterelles

Jared actually made the caramelized onion tart. Kudos for adding bacon and chanterelles

More caramelized onions, this time with potato and zucchini

More caramelized onions, this time with potato and zucchini

egg white omelette with zucchini, onions, goat cheese and turkey bacon

egg white omelette with zucchini, onions, goat cheese and turkey bacon

Dave's adventures in pickle land

Dave’s adventures in pickle land

In the share this week:

  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini and summer squash
  • Mixed greens
  • Sweet onions
  • Leeks
  • Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Basil

One Man’s Pickle Dream

It’s good to have farmer friends. Conover Organic Farm is just 20 minutes away in Burgettstown, and the proprietors, Jeff and Diana, are farming newbies like me who are growing beautiful organic berries and veggies on a few well-kept hillside acres. Jeff is also processing and bottling truly fantastic homemade jams, hot sauces, chili peppers and pickles. Last Winter I sat in the Conovers’ kitchen while they presented with me sample after sample of their deliciously spicy sauces that I was considering for Christmas gifts. But it was the pickles that changed everything.

Jeff’s dill pickles are a revelation. Crispy, sour, mildly garlicky and just perfect. I have tried and failed with my own pickles in the past. Loyally following the recipes in the canning books, I ended up with soggy, over-spiced pickles that I wouldn’t feed to the cats. I had to know Jeff’s secret.

First, he told me, you have to start with fresh-picked pickling cucumbers, not the slicing varieties I had always used. Second, only process them for 15  minutes, not the 40 or more recommended in most recipes. Third, use only water, vinegar, pickling salt, garlic and fresh dill, none of those packaged pickling spices.

With a fresh memory of that incredible pickle still lingering in my mind, I added pickling cucumbers to my annual seed order in January. And just last week, we harvested the first of these perfectly rounded, warty cukes. On Sunday night, I came home with a few dozen cucumbers, fresh garlic, fresh dill — all ready to be washed, sliced and stuffed into canning jars.

packed, stacked and ready to be steamed — but not too long!

packed, stacked and ready to be steamed — but not too long!

As the jars came out of the steam canner, I was actually giddy. Good pickles will do that to you. Just five minutes ago, I cracked open the seal on the first jar with a satisfying pop. Mandy and I each fished out a slice and toasted our good fortune. The verdict? Crunchy, well-balanced, and well worth the wait.

Pickles and Other Cuke Ideas

You should be getting a bunch of cucumbers this week — mostly the slicing variety, but also a few pickling cukes in the mix. I realize that most folks don’t have the same pickle obsession as me, so you may not have canning equipment on hand. But that doesn’t mean you should miss out on some wonderfully flavorful cucumber concoctions. Here are some quick and easy ideas for putting those cukes to work:

Quick-Marinated Asian Cukes

Mix the following ingredients together with 2-3 very thinly sliced cucumbers and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably 4 hours. Adjust white vinegar and sugar to taste. These also go great on top of Asian noodles with a peanut dipping sauce.

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup white vinegar

2 TB sesame oil

1-2 cloves minced garlic

2 TB sugar

1 tsp sesame seeds

1 tsp chile pepper flakes (optional)

1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)

Refrigerator Pickles

This is a great solution for a small batch of pickles and you don’t have to invest in a steam canner or wrestle with a hot water bath. All you need to do is make the brine, pour over the cucumbers and let them soak up the flavor in the fridge for a few days. Even better, they stay extra crispy. This recipe is a good one, although I suggest leaving out the peppercorns unless you like your pickles extra spicy.

Mexican-Style Cucumbers with Lime, Salt and Chili Powder

In Mexico, just about every imaginable snack is livened up with the Holy Trinity of flavor: lime juice, salt and chili powder. For a fresh and flavorful appetizer, peel and thinly slice 2 or 3 cucumbers into discs. Squeeze the juice of one lime over the cukes, then add a few cranks of salt and as much (or as little) chili powder as you like. Perfect for a summer night.

awesome farm helpers weighing and sorting last week's potatoes

awesome farm helpers weighing and sorting last week’s potatoes

Potatoes and Pesto

You’re getting some more potatoes, basil and garlic this week, which reminds me of one of our favorite flavor combinations — potatoes with pesto. We don’t have enough basil to give everyone 3 cups worth, but start with Lidia’s classic pesto recipe and cut it in half. Some of you will be getting green beans this week — major crop loss, don’t ask — in which case I strongly encourage you to make the fabulous potato and green bean Pasta alla Genovese featured in Lidia’s recipe. Otherwise, just mix the pesto with some freshly boiled potatoes for an excellent side dish.

Potato and Leeks

I know it’s hot — yes, finally! — but you can still cook up a batch of creamy potato-leek soup. Cool it off in the fridge and you have a French summertime favorite: Vichyssoise.

Caramelized Onions

Beth’s sweet onions are sweet indeed, and one of the best ways to capitalize on all of those natural sugars is to caramelize your onions. Caramelizing onions is just a fancy way of saying “cooking them low and slow.”

How to do it:

  • Put a few tablespoons of olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pan or pot and set the heat to medium-low.
  • Thinly slice 3 to 5 onions (great way to use extras from last week) and saute them, stirring every couple of minutes, for at least 20 minutes.
  • The onions will turn from translucent to tan to dark brown, and the consistency will be very soft and gooey. Adding some cranks of salt early in the cooking will help them sweat out excess liquid and caramelize faster.

What to do with caramelized onions? Saveur magazine has 27 recipe ideas, but we have a family favorite: caramelized onion tart.

This is the same crust as the onion tart, but filled with sliced grilled summer squash - another good idea!

This is the same crust as the onion tart, but filled with sliced grilled summer squash – another good idea!

Caramelized Onion Tart

For tart crust:

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup olive oil

1.5 to 2 cups bread flour

dash of salt

For filling:

caramelized onions (see instructions above)

1 egg, beaten

Instructions:

  • Clear off some clean counter space and  make a ring of flour, using about 1 cup to start. Mix in the dash of salt.
  • Whisk the oil and water together as much as possible and pour about 1/4 cup into the center of the flour ring. Using your fingertips or the tip of a rubber spatula, gently work the flour into the liquid, forming a sticky paste. Continue to add more liquid, incorporating more of the flour. Add more flour to the ring as necessary until you use all of the liquid and have an oily, malleable dough that isn’t sticky or wet.
  • Put the dough aside and preheat the oven to 400 F
  • Mix the caramelized onions with the beaten egg in a medium bowl
  • Roll the dough into a large irregular circle. Roll up the flattened dough around the rolling pin and drape it over a greased pizza pan. Don’t worry if it spills over the edges. That’s a good thing.
  • Spread the onion mixture thickly over dough and fold the edges toward the center.
  • Cook 20-25 minutes until the dough is nicely browned and crispy. Can be served hot or room temperature.

Your Dinner Pics

Thanks to everyone who has been sending me pics of their family meals and favorite recipes — keep them coming! I’m behind a few weeks, but here are some of the highlights:

roasted potatoes and leeks

roasted potatoes, onions and leeks

“Our July 4th meal included kale, kohlrabi, radishes, onions, dill, cabbage, and cucumbers from our share :)”

Asian pasta salad featuring kale, cabbage and scapes

Asian pasta salad featuring kale, cabbage and scapes

Grilled swordfish with kale/basil pesto

Grilled swordfish with kale/basil pesto

Stir-fried flank steak with leeks, snap peas and mushrooms

Stir-fried flank steak with leeks, snap peas and mushrooms

Bruschetta — recipe below!

Bruschetta — recipe below!

Emily’s Bruschetta Recipe

Thanks to CSA member Emily for sharing her simple and delicious recipe for using Beth’s early hothouse tomatoes, plus fresh garlic and basil.

  • Slice tomato thickly then cut into cubes, then place in a small mixing bowl
  • Add 1 1/2 cloves of garlic (or more), 3 or so basil leaves and 2 tablespoons or so balsamic vinegar and salt to taste.
  • Cover and set aside to marinate
  • Toast a thick slice of good bread, (Bread Works rustic Italian @Chicco Bacello or Giant Eagle Tuscan both work well).
  • Rub toast with a cut piece of garlic. Top with tomato mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and add pepper to taste.
Thin-skinned new potatoes are a July delicacy

Thin-skinned new potatoes are a July delicacy

In the share this week:

  • new red potatoes
  • zucchini and summer squash
  • hothouse tomato
  • head of green lettuce
  • mixed greens: kale and chard
  • spring onions
  • leeks
  • broccoli
  • garlic
  • cucumber
  • basil

Spud Love

I’m crazy about potatoes, and not just because my wife is from Idaho. New potatoes are my absolute favorite. These mid-sized spuds are the first to be dug in July. Their skin is paper-thin and their raw texture is crisp and juicy like a good apple. Boiled or roasted, the flesh becomes creamy and buttery smooth, perfect for mashing, smashing or simply mushing with the back of your fork.

Have you ever dug a potato? It’s literally like digging for buried treasure. The size of the above-ground greens give you some hint of the size of the harvest below, but there are always surprises. Every time you push the pitchfork into the soil and raise up the roots, it feels like a magic trick. From a pile of loose dirt, you pull a meal’s worth of perfectly formed red-skinned spuds. In 20 minutes, they could be washed, cut, boiled, buttered, salted and sitting in your appreciative belly. That’s soil-to-stomach eating at it’s finest.

I took this quick video with my phone to give you a better idea what digging potatoes looks like (no overly curious dogs were injured in the filming of this video):

This time of year, we use potatoes in everything. When I dug the very first handful of red-skinned potatoes a week ago, we cooked them up in a steamy Thai beef curry. This Thai curry recipe from Thai Kitchen is a reliable one.

Cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks to speed up cooking. Add the spuds to the pot right after you pour in the coconut milk (a second can of coconut milk or a cup of stock may be necessary to have enough cooking liquid for the potatoes). The potatoes will be fork-tender about 10 minutes after the coconut milk comes to a boil, so time the addition of other vegetables or meats accordingly.

Before: prepping for Thai beef curry with potatoes

Before: prepping for Thai beef curry with potatoes

After: topped roasted peanuts and sriracha for extra flavor

After: topped with roasted peanuts and sriracha for extra flavor

Of course, mashed potatoes are a must. Last night, we boiled up a big pile of potatoes and mashed them with a splash of buttermilk and thin-sliced, pan-fried leeks.

Cut up the white and light green bottoms of two leeks. Heat 2 TB of olive oil over medium and add the leeks with a few cranks of salt. Stir frequently for about 5 mins, until leeks are soft and some are starting get brown and crispy. Add them to the cooked potatoes with some butter, a splash of buttermilk (or regular milk) and salt and pepper to taste. Mash roughly with a wooden spoon and serve to wild applause.

Thin-sliced leeks fried until soft and slightly crispy

Thin-sliced leeks fried until soft and slightly crispy

Hothouse Tomatoes: Christmas in July

Even though we think of tomatoes as the quintessential summer treat, the first vine-ripened beauties aren’t usually ready until early August. This is one of the many reasons we love having Beth around. My growing partner has been raising tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and greens in her modern greenhouse for years, and she has it down to a science.

Greenhouse tomato plants back in mid-May

Greenhouse tomato plants back in mid-May

Check out the picture above. Each tomato plant is started from seed and transplanted into these boxes filled with a hydroponic growing medium — basically loose rocks that hold moisture. The boxes are connected to plastic tubing that continuously pipes in water spiked with organic nutrients. Beth prunes each growing plant down to one “leader” or main stem. That stem is tied to a pulley that’s strung 7 feet up in the air. As the plant grows, the string is tightened to keep the heavy plant upright.

This week you’ll be enjoying fat slicing tomatoes that were first planted in the greenhouse back in late March. To savor vine-ripened tomatoes in early July requires a lot of hard work and hard-won knowledge, and I’m very thankful to have Beth on our team.

Tomato-Basil: a Match Made in Heaven (Technically, Italy)

You’re getting both basil and tomatoes this week. May we suggest a trip to Giant Eagle — or better yet, the Strip — for some fresh mozzarella? Layer a thick slice of fresh mozzarella with an equally thick slice of tomato, some basil leaves, and drizzle lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper. Oh boy…

Boo-hoo for Broccoli

As we expected, the cabbage worm attack severely set back our second round of broccoli. The heads looked like they might make a comeback, but on closer inspection, the combination of defoliation and excessive rain led to a lot of rotting. We were able to salvage a small head for each share, but it’s hardly the broccoli bounty I had planned and worked for all spring. Boo-hoo indeed.

savoy cabbage in all of its curly splendor

savoy cabbage in all of its curly splendor

In the share this week:

  • head of curly leaf savoy cabbage
  • head of fancy cone-shaped cabbage
  • bunch of sweet spring onions
  • bag of mixed greens: kale and chard
  • bunch of purple mustard greens
  • leeks!

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Last summer, when we were experiencing a similar stretch of monsoon weather, I drove past a rural church whose sign outside read, “If you’re praying for rain, stop!” This might be a good time to reiterate the plea. Lord, please send some of your wonderful rain to California — we’ve got plenty!

The danger of too much rain is water-logged soil, which leads quickly to rot. Beth has spent most of this week cutting open plastic mulch to dry out stagnant water, which threatens her onions and leeks and garlic. He cauliflower, which we had hoped to give out this week, has officially succumbed to rot.

More bad news on the broccoli front. My second planting of broccoli, which yielded fat blue-green heads last year, has been mercilessly attacked by cabbage worms. As I wrote in my email last week, I applied my usual treatment of Bt, a natural bacteria that kills the worms, but the rain washes it off so quickly that it’s ineffective. Here’s what the broccoli plants looked like yesterday…

At least the cabbage worms got to enjoy the broccoli. Stupid cabbage worms.

At least the cabbage worms got to enjoy the broccoli. Stupid cabbage worms.

There’s an outside chance that the heads will still emerge, but I’m not betting on it. Boo-hoo.

Cabbage Party

In much better news, we’re handing out two beautiful heads of cabbage this week that rival each other in vegetative beauty. The curly-leafed savoy cabbage was new last year and has become one of the favorite things we grow. The leaves, when chopped finely in a slaw, are so delicate and sweet that you almost forget you’re eating a cabbage. Then there’s a brand-new cabbage variety called caraflex that takes on a stunning, conical shape. I haven’t tasted it yet, but it gets points for its looks alone.

check out the shape of these caraflex cabbages

check out the shape of these caraflex cabbages

Both of these cabbages — along with Beth’s first sweet onions, leeks and fine-chopped greens —would go great in this pasta and cabbage recipe we posted last year. We made it again last night to rave reviews (and an embarrassing amount of animal grunting noises).

“Polish” Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 leeks, dark green parts removed, the rest chopped thinly
  • 3 garlic scapes, sliced thinly (or 2 cloves of garlic, minced)
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage, core removed, sliced very thinly
  • 1 lb ground beef (optional)
  • generous pile of kale, stem removed and chopped into small pieces
  • thyme and oregano (fresh or dried), and salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 box of pasta
  • parmesan cheese for the table

Directions:

  1. Boil water and cook the pasta al dente according to package directions
  2. Put a large, heavy pan over medium heat, heat up the oil and then add the onions, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until nicely softened and caramelized
  3. Toss in the chopped garlic scapes or garlic and stir for additional minute
  4. In batches, stir in the cabbage. Crank in some salt to help the cabbage release its  moisture, then cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very soft.
  5. If you’re using the ground beef, add it now, breaking it up into small pieces as it browns and cooks fully
  6. Toss in the kale and stir until it’s nice and tender, another 3 minutes
  7. Add in the herbs, salt and pepper until the mixture is well seasoned and flavorful
  8. Fold the vegetable mixture into the just-cooked pasta and serve with shredded parmesan
the subtle oniony flavor of leeks is a favorite in French cuisine

the subtle oniony flavor of leeks is a favorite in French cuisine

How to Cut a Leek

Leeks are members of the allium family, like onions and garlic, and they put on more and more layers as they grow. Sometimes soil gets trapped between those layers. So the way to prepare a leek is to remove the dark green tops, trim the dangly beard of roots, and slice the leek top to bottom down the middle. Holding the leek halves under running water, fan out each layer and rinse out any remaining soil. Now you’re good to go.

Here are some leek and onion recipes to get you rolling:

Dinner Pics of the Week

Thanks to CSA member Emily for sending us these pics of some recent family meals featuring farm veggies. Send us your own glamour shots and we’ll put them on next week’s post!

cabbage noodlesscape hummussugar snap sausage

not all of the broccoli is this pretty, but it's all tasty

not all of the broccoli is this pretty, but it’s all tasty

In the CSA share this week:

  • broccoli
  • green cabbage
  • purple and green kohlrabi
  • sugar snap peas (another huge bag!)
  • red and green lettuce
  • mustard greens
  • kale
  • baby greens mix: kale and chard
  • garlic scapes (maybe)
  • radishes and turnips (another maybe)
Chickens are welcome in the garden. Cows, not so much.

Chickens are welcome in the garden. Cows, not so much.

A Dose of Reality (and Humility)

I’m a marketing copywriter by day, which means that I focus much of my creative energy trying to make things sound appealing. I admit that a fair amount of that marketing impulse bleeds over into my blog posts for the farm. While my intention with this blog isn’t necessarily to draw in more customers — frankly, expansion is not an option — I’m certainly trying to make my CSA customers excited about opening up their shares and digging into the goodies. (See, perfect example. I could have just said “vegetables,” but “goodies” implies fun and deliciousness!)

I worry, though, that in my effort to communicate the many blessings of the farm experience, I’m guilty of presenting an overly polished image of what it’s like to run a small CSA. While we certainly have had a lot of good luck so far this season, and have plenty to be thankful for, we have not been immune to setbacks and all-out failures. My spinach, for example, which we painstakingly transplanted back in early spring, got completely fried by a week of prematurely hot and dry days. The beets, which should have been big and fat, were also stunted by that early heat wave. Ditto for the carrots.

Over the weekend we had another kick in the shins. The dairy cows, with whom we share the farm property, have a strong wandering streak, and one or more of them moseyed into our corn patch and chomped the tops off half of our young plants. Again, these were hundreds of transplants that required 8 adults to plant a few weeks ago. The good news is that the corn plants, which are really a variety of tall grass, will likely grow back, just much later than desired. And the better news is that Beth planted a round of corn two weeks before me and it is gratefully cow-free.

Why am I telling you all of this? I’m not sure. I just thought I would repress my marketing instincts for a moment and give a more honest rendering of what a messy business it is to grow food. As a part-time farmer, I have tremendous respect for people who devote all of their energy to growing healthy, humanely raised food. Not only is it financially risky, but it can be physically and emotionally exhausting. That’s why we’re staying small and keeping our day jobs!

Wednesday helpers planting green beans

Wednesday helpers planting green beans. And that’s Jared adding a shovel of compost to each broccoli plant.

Mustard Greens

This is the first year that I’ve grown mustard greens and I’m excited to make them a regular addition to the garden. We’re harvesting two varieties this week, a curly-leafed green and a red mustard. As the name implies, mustard greens have a slightly spicy edge, but nothing you can’t handle. They are another classic southern ingredient, like turnip greens, and go great with savory flavors like bacon, chicken and onions. Martha Stewart may be a convicted felon, but man did she come up with 9 great mustard greens recipes. Here’s one that our family enjoyed recently:

Dumplings with Mushrooms, Bacon and Mustard Greens

You can find dumpling wrappers — aka wonton wrappers — in most grocery stores. Giant Eagle hides them next to the produce in the tofu section. The kids have a good time wrapping up the dumplings, and the cooking process is very forgiving, so even the ugliest specimens turn out tasty. To balance out the savory heft of the dumplings, serve with a side of raw sugar snap peas!

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces good bacon, we like Giant Eagle’s Smokehouse Bacon
  • 15 baby bella mushrooms or 3 large portabella mushrooms, diced into small pieces
  • large bunch of mustard greens (or turnip greens, or kale), washed, stems removed, and finely chopped
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, minced or shredded
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced (or 1 garlic scape, finely chopped)
  • 1 egg
  • package of wonton wrappers
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock/bouillon
  • soy sauce and sriracha to serve

Directions

  1. heat a heavy pan over medium. when hot, add the bacon and cook to desired crispiness, then let it drain on paper towels
  2. pour out all but 1 TB of the bacon drippings into a mug (save for later) and add the diced mushrooms, cooking until wilted and soft, about 3 to 5 mins. remove cooked mushrooms to a medium mixing bowl
  3. add 1 TB of the bacon drippings back into the pan and scrape in the ginger and garlic, stirring for 30 seconds so it doesn’t burn
  4. add the chopped greens and a few cranks of salt. stir constantly until the greens are fully wilted and soft, about 3 minutes. slide the greens mix into the same mixing bowl as the mushrooms
  5. let the mix cool for a couple of minutes, then add the egg, stirring to incorporate
  6. chop the cooked bacon into small pieces and add to the mixture in the bowl
  7. assemble the dumplings according to wonton package instructions, using about 1 TB of mixture for each dumpling
  8. to speed up the cooking process, heat two pans over medium-high with about 2 TB of oil to fully coat the bottom surface
  9. when the oil is hot, carefully add the dumplings in a single layer, careful not to crowd them too much. let them cook undisturbed for 2 mins
  10. add a splash of chicken stock to each pan (roughly 1/4 cup) and immediately place a lid over each pan. let the dumplings steam/braise in the liquid for another 2 mins or until their skins become translucent
  11. remove the dumplings with kitchen tongs — the bottoms should be crispy and brown — and serve with a bowl of soy sauce for dipping and sriracha hot sauce for an extra kick.
children, this is where babies come from, cabbage babies, that is.

children, this is where babies come from, cabbage babies, that is.

Slaw Season

The cabbages are coming on fast, which means the next few CSA shares will be loaded with cabbages of all sorts of shapes and sizes: curly leafed savoy, conical beauties and the standard green variety you’re getting this week. When the weather is hot and muggy, a cool and refreshing cabbage slaw is mighty satisfying. Add thinly chopped kohlrabi to the mix, even the shredded stems of the broccoli. Finely chopped garlic scapes are also a welcome addition.

Here are some slaw recipe ideas to get you started:

sugar snap peas — a healthy delicious snack

sugar snap peas — a healthy and deliciously sweet snack

In this week’s share:

  • red lettuce
  • green lettuce
  • kale
  • bag of mixed greens – baby kale and chard
  • garlic scapes
  • hakurei turnips
  • sugar snap peas
  • beets and beet greens
  • greenhouse cucumber

Sugar Babies

Everybody loves sugar snap peas. It’s one of those vegetables that even the pickiest kid will munch (dipped in ranch dressing, of course). Beth has grown a whopper of a patch of sugar snaps this year and we’re thrilled to hand out 2lbs of these sweet little suckers in this week’s CSA share.

The best way to eat sugar snap peas is straight out of the bag. Grab the small stem and snap downward, removing the thin string that runs across the pea’s spine. Then crunch away — shell and all!

If you insist on using the peas in an actual recipe, sugar snaps are a delightful addition to any salad or slaw, either sliced thinly or tossed in whole. We also love sugar snaps in a stir-fry. They only need to be sauteed for a couple of minutes so they retain their sweet green crunch. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started:

Garlic Aioli

Try this as a gourmet Ranch dressing replacement for dipping those delightful snap peas:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (if you are sketched out about raw eggs, look for pasteurized eggs at the store)
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1.5 cups olive oil

Directions:

  1. Blend the garlic and salt in a blender until it forms a thick paste
  2. Add the raw eggs, lemon juice and mustard and blend until combined
  3. With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil until it looks like mayonnaise. Homemade aioli will keep in the refrigerator for a week.
Smooth, tender hakurei turnips

Smooth, tender hakurei turnips

Turnip Love

If everyone loves sugar snap peas, then you could say the opposite about the lowly turnip. The traditional purple turnip is big and bulbous and best when it’s slow roasted or boiled, neither of which is particularly appealing in the muggy heat of summer.

That’s why I love the Hakurei turnip, a Japanese variety also known as a salad turnip. These creamy white turnips are much closer to a radish than a standard purple turnip. First, there’s the size — ping-pong ball or smaller. Then there’s the flavor, which is super subtle and almost sweet, with none of the spicy sting of a radish.

The white bulbs of the Hakurei turnip are best enjoyed sliced thinly in a salad or arranged on a raw veggies hors d’oeuvres plate alongside those snap peas. There are recipes for roasted them or braising them in butter, but I think raw is the way to go.

Turnip Greens

The turnip love-fest doesn’t end with the bulbs — the greens are also amazing! And you don’t have to do the traditional southern preparation which boils all flavor and nutrients out of the greens and requires the purchase of a ham hock. We’ve been making our favorite beans and greens recipe for years now and it couldn’t be faster, easier, or tastier (if we do say so ourselves):

a swan-like garlic scape emerging from the young garlic plant

a swan-like garlic scape emerging from the young garlic plant

In the share this week:

  • Red lettuce
  • Green lettuce
  • Mixed baby greens: crinkly kale, chard and more
  • Beets and beet greens
  • Kale
  • Green onions
  • Radishes and baby turnips
  • Sweet peas
  • Garlic scapes

IMG_20150603_114024

last week’s haul of sweet peas — 100 lbs!

Another Busy June!

Early June is by far our busiest time in the garden all season. First, we have tons of transplanting to do — hundreds of pepper, tomato, corn, cucumber and zucchini plants — all in the span of a week. Then there’s all of the harvesting to keep up with, including last Wednesday’s pea-picking marathon. And finally, there are the weeds. The warm spring weather and occasional rainstorm make those weeds simply explode and it’s a full-time job to stay ahead of them. Which is tricky for a couple of part-time farmers…

But we’re not complaining. We know that every hour we spend digging holes in the garden will result in another bushel of sweet corn or basket of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. Thank you so much to those folks who came out last Saturday night to lend a hand with the corn transplanting. We put more than 750 skinny seedlings in the ground and have the aching backs to prove it. Incredibly, those plants will be towering over our heads in just two short months and we’ll be husking our way to happiness.

There will be more opportunities to help transplant over the upcoming weekend. While we certainly benefit from your help, I also firmly believe that working on the farm benefits you as CSA member families. Food simply tastes better when you’ve had a hand in growing it. It doesn’t hurt that historic Manchester Farms, where our garden is located, is a gorgeous and serene location to spend an evening outdoors. Join us next time and see for yourselves what it’s all about.

What the heck is a garlic scape?

Get ready for a June delicacy. Every year around this time, garlic plants produce a long, curly stem that will eventually flower and go to seed. Garlic growers snip off this snake-like stem — called a scape — to redirect the plant’s growing energy to the bulb, which will spend the next month fattening up. As an added bonus, garlic scapes are delicious!

A raw garlic scape is tender and green with a mild garlicky kick, even milder than the green garlic we got a couple of weeks ago. Sliced into thin discs, it’s an excellent addition to a salad or to scrambled eggs. But the classic preparation is garlic scape pesto. Here are some variations on the pesto recipe for you to sample:

sweet red beets in a sea of spinach

sweet red beets in a sea of spinach

Can’t beat a beet

Actually, you can. Sounds pretty tasty, too. Truth is, you can’t go wrong with a slow-roasted beet. The sweet flavor and shocking red color of these things is unmatched in the natural world. If you’ve never roasted a beet before, here’s how easy it is:

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Trim the beets of their greens and their “beard,” the dangly roots below (save the greens!)
  • Lay the beets on a baking pan and drizzle generously with olive oil and coarse salt
  • Cover the beets and baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil
  • Roast for 40-50 minutes until a fork pokes easily into the softened beets
  • Unwrap the foil and let the beets cool for 15 minutes
  • (Using gloves if you don’t like pink palms) Rub off the skin, which should fall off easily, revealing the shiny crimson-red beet

The simplest preparation is to slice up the roasted beets, drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and enjoy with goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Or you could try some of these tempting recipes:

Bonus: Beet Greens!

Beet greens are sweet and delicate, just like a ruby red chard. Sauteed quickly in olive oil, they go great with eggs and are the perfect pairing with balsamic vinegar. Try our famous recipe for EZ Beets and Greens with Balsamic and Goat Cheese.

Pea Recipe of the Week

We made a few different dishes featuring sweet peas last week, but the runaway favorite was Bacon and Pea Pasta in a light and creamy sauce. We bulked it up by chopping up a bunch of kale and cooking it down with the peas in the bacon drippings. I love the trick of adding chicken bouillon to the pasta cooking water. It made for a clean plate night all around.

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