Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 25
Our season is 25 weeks long. This is the last box!
In this box: 1 Savoy Cabbage, 1 bunch Russian Kale, Several small Garlic, 2# Carrots, 2# Sweet Potatoes, 3# Yellow Potatoes, 2 Leeks, 1 Winter Squash, 2# Gold Rush apples (From LaMancha Ranch & Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
With gratitude, we fill your boxes for the last time this season. It is true, that we look forward to a little more free time starting next week. But it is also true that we will miss our regular, weekly connection with you…. Thank you for letting us feed you this year! We are grateful.
We’re already looking ahead to next year. Next year’s brochures will be mailed in February (watch for them in your snail mailbox), and the weekly boxes will begin again in June. We’re not planning any major changes in our Harvest Box program between now and next season.
In the meantime, when you get a craving for fresh, local, organic produce, you can find us every Saturday (that’s right, every Saturday, even through the December holidays) at the McMinnville Grange Farmers Market (www.facebook.com/McMinnvilleGrangeFarmMarket), at the Corvallis Indoor Winter Market starting January 14 through April 8 (www.facebook.com/CorvallisIndoorWinterMarket), and at the Beaverton Saturday Winter Market, every Saturday, starting in February (BeavertonFarmersMarket.com).
I have room for only one recipe this week. If you need additional cabbage ideas, check this year’s newsletter, Week 22 for more of my favorite cabbage recipes.
Mu Shu Cabbage (Thank you, Molly, for sending the original recipe—I modified it only slightly to use the ingredients you have in the box)
1 Tbs., and then 3 Tbs. peanut oil or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
¼ of an onion, sliced thinly
¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 pound (about 1/4 of a large head) cabbage, sliced thinly
2 Tbs. water, and then 2 additional Tbs. water
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 Tbs. hoisin sauce, or 2 Tbs. rice vinegar, or 2 Tbs. Mirin (rice cooking wine)
1. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet or a wok over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Pour in eggs, and let cook like a pancake—leave eggs alone until the top starts to set, then flip over and cook 1 more minute. Transfer eggs to a plate, and slice into ribbons.
2. Add remaining 3 Tbs. oil to skillet, and heat until hot but not smoking. Cook ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and onion, stirring, until garlic is golden (about 1 minute).
3. Add cabbage and 2 Tbs. water. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 min. until cabbage wilts.
4. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 2 Tbs. water, soy sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce (or vinegar, or mirin). Add to cabbage in the skillet. Then add the eggs that were cooked earlier. Stir everything gently and constantly, for 2 min.
5. Serve on tortillas or softened rice wrappers. Make a complete meal by adding shredded, cooked chicken.
Gold Rush Apples:
The best word I can think of to describe the flavor of Gold Rush apples is “intense”. They are even a little tart for some people to enjoy for fresh eating. However, this intense flavor makes them AMAZING for applesauce or apple pie!
I just had to include 2 leeks in today’s box, because that’s what you will need for a Leek Pie. I give this recipe nearly every year, because it’s one of my all-time favorites, plus, it’s easy and pretty fool-proof. Find the recipe on our web site (last year’s newsletters, Week 25).
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 24 (November 15)
Our season is 25 weeks long. There is 1 more box!
In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 bunch Arugula, 2# Carrots, 2# Tomatoes, 3# Red Potatoes, ½# Shallot, 1 Delicata Squash, 4 Fuyu Persimmons, 2# Cameo apples (From Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Trade boxes and trading recipes
Last week, I spent an enjoyable few hours staffing one of our Harvest Box drop sites. Though it’s nice to have employees who can generally do the deliveries (otherwise Tuesday becomes a VERY long day for me), I like to drive the truck on occasion, as it helps me feel more connected with our membership. I get a kick out of watching the “trade box” in action. At one point last week, there wasn’t much in the trade box except for 8 bunches of beets. Not long afterwards, diversity had returned, as some people gladly took an extra bunch of beets, trading in chard, or fennel, or apples. Then someone saw the extra chard, and gleefully traded something in to get extra chard. I just had to ask what was so exciting about chard, and she replied chard gratin.
That’s another really fun part about doing the delivery—sharing recipes and cooking ideas. If you ever have a few extra minutes when you pick up your box, you could just hang around and be curious—ask other members about their favorite way to prepare something you’re not familiar with (or getting tired of). When I asked the chard fan about her recipe, she suggested looking up Alice Waters’ chard gratin recipe on the internet. Now I will probably have to get the cookbook (The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)….. Another member looks at a bunch of greens in the box, and thinks Pizza (Yum)…. Someone else told me that she boosts the nutrients in mac & cheese by adding a cup of cooked squash. I am inspired by so many great ideas. Thanks to all of you who share your recipes with me!
Speaking of greens on pizza, some of the most hip restaurants are serving arugula pizza. You can start with a store-bought plain pizza, or make homemade pizza from scratch if you prefer. When you pull the steaming pizza from the oven, immediately toss a handful of chopped arugula on the top. Since arugula is tender, and cooks quickly, you don’t need to cook it ahead of time. If you want even more flavor, toss your raw, chopped arugula with a vinaigrette salad dressing as the pizza cooks, then when you take the pizza from the oven, pile the arugula salad on top, and let the heat from the pizza wilt the greens.
Shallots are closely related to onions. They are known for their intense flavor. When raw, they have a “sharp” or “hot” nature, which mellows if you finely mince them into a vinaigrette salad dressing. When cooked, the sharpness fades, and you are left with a lot of flavor, and a notable sweetness. Substitute shallots for onions, or simply sauté minced shallot in butter over medium-low heat until caramelized, then toss with boiled red potatoes.
Fuyu Persimmons are ripe when they are still somewhat firm—you can eat them over a broad range of textures, from crunchy to jelly-soft. (Hachiya persimmons, on the other hand, must be as soft as jelly before they are edible). If you eat an unripe persimmon, it will be unpleasantly astringent.
Opinions vary, but I think Fuyu persimmons are at their best when they are as soft as an avocado or a ripe peach. The persimmons in your box today are ripe, if you prefer yours crunchy; but I suggest giving them a few days at room temperature to become a bit softer. The fruit should give very slightly to thumb pressure, but not much. I think the ideal texture is firm, but a little slippery like a ripe mango or peach (again, opinions vary on this).
Color isn’t the best judge of ripeness. Ripe fuyu persimmons can vary in color from deep dark orange, to a lighter yellow-orange, or greenish-yellow.
We suggest leaving your persimmons on the counter until each fruit reaches that slightly-soft feel. Then refrigerate each fruit until you’re ready to eat it. In the refrigerator, they will keep for a week or more.
To serve Fuyu persimmons: cut off the calyx, then cut each persimmon into wedges. The skin is edible, but many people prefer to remove it. Fuyu persimmons are nice just by themselves, or sliced thinly and spread on warm toast instead of jam, or in a bowl with vanilla ice cream (or yogurt), or sliced thinly to garnish a cheesecake.
Cameo Apples: Sweet & Juicy, these are great for fresh eating!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 23
Our season is 25 weeks long. There are 2 more weeks!
In this box: 1 bunch Chard, 1 Fennel, 1 bunch Beets, 1 “Cooking” onion, 2 Bell Peppers, 2# Sweet Potatoes, 2# Tomatoes, 1 Sunshine Squash, 2# Granny Smith apples (From Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith is an old fashioned apple variety, named for Maria Ann Smith, who discovered it in 1868 in Australia. Granny Smith apples are slow to turn brown after they are cut, so they are nice for a salad. As a fresh apple, they are crisp and relatively tart. When cooked, the alchemy of heat mellows the acids (which give these apples their tartness when raw), and allows other flavor components to stand forward. This quality makes Granny Smith apples great for applesauce or apple pie. In my opinion, some of the newer apple varieties that are more sweet than tart lack a certain complexity of flavor when cooked.
It’s a little odd to call the onion in today’s box a “cooking” onion, because you can cook with any onion. In the culinary world, however, onions are classified as either “sweet” or “cooking” varieties. Here, again, I will digress into the realm of cooking chemistry. Onions have a complexity of flavors. Maybe you’ve noticed that some onions make your eyes water when you chop them, and some don’t. The ones that don’t make your eyes water are called “sweet” onions. They have less of the compounds that are sharp, and “hot” on the tongue. Many people prefer “sweet” onions if they are used raw. Incidentally, “sweet” onions also don’t keep as long as “cooking” onions, so sometimes cooking onions are called “keeper” or “storage” onions. Fortunately for the culinary world, the sharp, “hot” flavors in raw cooking onions transform and mellow with heat. So, with a little heat, the sharp flavors are gone, and all the sweet and complex flavors that were overshadowed in the raw onion are more available for you to taste. It’s like the colorful leaves in the fall. It’s not that trees produce the gold and red colors in the autumn. Those colors are there all year, but in the fall, the predominant green of chlorophyll fades, so the other colors become apparent.
The last time fennel appeared in the box was in Week 4. You can read that newsletter on the web site for general information about fennel. But, since we also have beets in the box today, you can try this recipe for
Beet & Fennel Soup (modified from Bon Appetit, January 2011). Prep time, approx. 30 min. Total time 50 min.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 chopped fennel bulb
1 bunch beets, scrubbed clean, in ½ dice (roots only, save the greens for another use)
3 cups Chicken broth
1 cup unflavored kefir or yogurt
Fennel fronds for garnish
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and fennel. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add diced beets and stir to coat with oil. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until beets are tender, about 20 minutes.
Purée soup with immersion blender, or in batches in blender or processor. Return to saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup unflavored kefir or yogurt. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with additional kefir (or yogurt) and fennel fronds.
Beets last appeared in the box in Week 8, and you can read that newsletter on our web site. Or, look up a recipe for Borscht—there are countless versions of this classic hearty soup, but generally all have some amount of beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and something that contributes a slightly sour flavor—a little bit of vinegar, lemon juice, and sour cream or yogurt. The end result is a slightly sweet-sour soup because beets and carrots, and even potatoes have a sweet nature. Borscht is a great way to use up any odds & ends of vegetables that have been accumulating in your fridge. And, there are so many different recipes for Borscht that it’s clearly adaptable to what you have on hand.
Cooking instructions, and recipe inspirations for Sunshine squash are on our web site, Newsletters, Week 19.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 22 (November 1)
Our season is 25 weeks long. There are 3 more weeks!
In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 Cabbage (3 – 4#), 1 Leek, 1 or 2 small Garlic, 1 bunch Russian Kale, 3# Yellow potatoes, 2# Carrots, 1 Butternut Squash, 2# Liberty apples (LaMancha Ranch & Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Looking back on October
In case you hadn’t noticed, this past October was the wettest on record. In addition, there were a couple of notable wind events last month. Fortunately, our farm fared well in spite of the challenging weather. This would be a good time to recognize our amazing production staff. We couldn’t do this without the help of our dedicated and skilled farm crew who work through the rain and wind to make sure things run smoothly on the farm. With gratitude, we appreciate our employees!
One of my favorite vegetables is Cabbage, especially in the fall. I enjoy it both raw as a salad and cooked. Since there’s also a leek in this week’s box, I will share my favorite recipe for braised cabbage:
Braised Cabbage and Leeks (modified from Martha Stewart Living, Nov 2004)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large leek, white and pale-green parts, halved, rinsed, and thinly sliced crosswise
1 ½ pounds green cabbage (slightly half of the head in your box), halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise
½ cup chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium store bought
1 tsp. lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat olive oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add leek. Cook until soft (2-3 minutes). Stir in cabbage, and add stock and lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally until cabbage is slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in ½ tsp salt, and season with pepper. Super-simple!
Now, I’m really going to go out on a limb and offer a recipe that I haven’t actually tried in my kitchen. Our family is dairy-free, so I won’t be braising my cabbage in heavy cream, but this recipe sounds amazing. It comes from a trusted source (A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg), very slightly modified to suit the cabbage in your box.
Cream-Braised Green Cabbage
1 ½ pounds cabbage (about half of the head in your box)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
¼ tsp. salt, plus more to taste
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Cut cabbage in half, cutting through the core. Then cut one half into 6-8 wedges, each with a bit of the core attached, so the wedges won’t fall apart in the pan. You want each wedge to be no thicker than 2-inches at the outer edge. (Save the other half of your cabbage for another recipe).
In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage wedges, arranging them in a single crowded layer with one of the cut sides down. Allow them to cook, undisturbed, until the downward facing side is nicely browned, 5 – 8 minutes. Then, using a pair of tongs or wide spatula and cooking fork, gently turn the wedges onto their other cut side. When the second side has browned, sprinkle the salt over the wedges, and add the cream. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and reduce the heat so that the liquid stays at a slow, gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and gently flip the wedges, using tongs or spatula again. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until the cabbage is very tender. Add the lemon juice, and shake the pan to distribute it evenly.
Simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes more to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the cabbage. Serve immediately, with additional salt at the table.
Red Russian Kale
Russian Kale is more tender than either curly green kale, or Italian kale (also known as lacinata or black kale). As with many vegetables in the “Brassica” family (including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, and Brussels sprouts), kale’s flavor is milder in cool weather. In my opinion, October through March is the best season for kale. Our favorite way to cook Red Russian kale is to lightly steam it, maybe with a little salt. If you want to get fancy, you can add a splash of vinegar or vinaigrette salad dressing at the table.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 21 (October 25)
Our season is 25 weeks long. There are 4 more weeks!
In this box: ½# Spinach, 1 bunch Collards, 3# Purple Viking potatoes, ¾# Broccoli OR Cauliflower, 1 Red Onion, 1 Delicata Squash, 1/3# Fresh Ginger, 2# Rome apples (From Gala Springs Orchard), 2# apples (from Gala Springs or LaMancha Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Many of you who have been members in past years have been looking forward to the arrival of fresh ginger. Well, it’s here!
Fresh ginger differs from grocery store ginger because it doesn’t have the fibers that will develop as the roots become more mature and start to dry. It’s just solid and juicy. Fresh ginger is used commercially to prepare candied ginger, and also the thinly sliced pickled ginger that is served with sushi.
How to prepare: Just rinse, and gently remove any dirt from between the bumps with a soft brush. You can rub off any papery-thin skins that are loose. Then slice thinly, mince, or grate.
How to store: If you’re not able to use your ginger this week, I suggest sticking it in the freezer (in a plastic bag), as that will preserve the qualities that make fresh ginger so unique. You can grate it first, or pull it from the freezer and grate or shave off as much as you want to need. Otherwise, if you just leave fresh ginger on the counter, it will develop strings and dry out over the next few weeks.
Suggestions for use:
* Ginger Tea: Slice thinly and steep in boiling water. Add honey to taste.
* Candied Ginger syrup: Stir ¼ cup sugar, 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, and 2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger in a saucepan over low heat until sugar melts. Then cool, and serve over ice cream, mixed with plain yogurt, or as a topping for cheesecake, french toast, waffles….
* Fresh gingersnaps or gingerbread: I have used fresh, minced ginger in place of dried, powdered ginger with good results. If you can find a recipe that calls for “candied” ginger, you can make your own by mixing minced fresh ginger with sugar.
* Soy-Ginger sauce: Place the following ingredients into a lidded jar: ½ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup rice vinegar or mirin (“rice cooking wine”), 1 tsp. sesame oil (use red pepper sesame oil for a hot pepper kick), 2 Tbs. finely minced fresh ginger, 1 Tbs. minced red onion (optional). Shake well. Serve as a dipping sauce for tempura, dumplings, spring rolls, or pot stickers.
* Soy-Ginger glazed vegetables: Prepare soy-ginger sauce (above). In another jar, combine 1 Tbs. cornstarch with ½ cup water. Lightly steam or sauté broccoli, cauliflower, or collards. Drain off any cooking water, and return pan with cooked vegetables to the hot burner. Pour half of the soy-ginger sauce (save the other half for another use) on drained vegetables and mix gently. Then pour cornstarch/water mixture onto vegetables, and mix very gently as the cornstarch thickens to glaze the vegetables.
Collards are in the same botanical family as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and many other nutritious vegetables. Quite the amazing family of edible plants, actually. Collards, however, have not gained the status of their very close cousin, kale. It’s a shame, really, because collards and kale are interchangeable in recipes. And collards have the added benefit that they are more manageable on a cutting board! To prepare for cooking, roll up a bunch of collards into a long cylinder. Then you can slice off any width that you choose, from very fine shreds to wider ribbons, depending on how you want the finished product to look. Then steam, or saute, or toss into soup or stew. We made a whole bunch of collards “disappear” into a batch of chili the other night, knowing that we increased the nutritional value without changing the flavor or texture of the dish enough for our 14-year old to even notice.
This week, there are 2 bags of apples in each box. One bag contains Rome apples—they are very dark red. The other bag might Winter Banana (large, green apples), or Honey Crisp (medium size, red, very crispy), Liberty (also medium sized, red, and crisp-juicy), or Gala (smallish, and yellow-red skins). We had a few boxes of a number of different varieties in the cooler, and it seemed a good idea to share them with you.
In my opinion, most of the apples this week are best for cooking. With the exception of the Honey Crisp, most of the other varieties (including the Rome) are best for sauce, or pies, or apple crisp….. maybe a ginger-apple tart?
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 20 (October 18)
Our season is 25 weeks long. There are 5 more weeks!
In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 bunch Basil, 1 bunch Celery, 1 bunch Carrot, 1.5# Tomatoes, ¾# Broccoli OR Cauliflower, 1 Sweet Onion, 2 Bell Peppers OR ¾# Nardelo Italian peppers, 2# Sweet Potatoes, 2# Liberty apples (from LaMancha Ranch & Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Store Sweet Potatoes on the counter, not in the fridge!
Sweet Potato Brownies
I have found my “Recipe of the Year”. Hands down, this is one you have to try! I first tasted these at a farm potluck, and couldn’t believe that they are actually (relatively) healthy. Of course, I haven’t eaten a real brownie in over 20 years, having eliminated wheat and sugar from my diet decades ago. But, in my mind, this recipe recreates a moist, fudgy brownie—without the guilt. OK, that’s enough preamble, how about the recipe:
* 2 cups mashed sweet potato (scrub & cube 2 pounds sweet potatoes, boil or steam for 10 minutes, drain, then mash with a potato masher, and measure 2 cups. Reserve the rest for other uses).
* 1 cup nut butter (I have used both almond butter and cashew butter with good results)
* ½ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
* ¼ cup honey (or maple syrup)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter an 8” square cake pan
2. If your sweet potatoes are just cooked, and still warm, place all ingredients in food processor, and process until smooth. OR, if sweet potatoes have cooled off, heat the nut butter and honey (or maple syrup) in a saucepan or double-boiler until soft, then add mashed sweet potatoes and cocoa powder and mix well.
3. Pour the mixture into your greased cake pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out nearly clean. These are VERY moist when done, so expect a little batter to stick to your toothpick.
4. Cool completely before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.
If you make these, please let me know what you think. I always appreciate feedback if you try recipes from the newsletter.
Baked sweet potatoes: place whole, scrubbed sweet potatoes on a roasting pan in a cold oven, and turn on the heat to 350 degrees. Once the oven has reached 350 degrees, cook potatoes for 45 – 60 minutes until soft through to the centers (poke with a sharp knife). Kitchen nerd fact: starting the process in a cold oven gives you a sweeter result, as it allows more starches to turn to sugars before the heat denatures the enzymes responsible for the starch-to-sugar conversion.
Sweet Potatoes or Yams?
Sweet potatoes are a native South American plant. 10,000 year old evidence of wild sweet potatoes has been found in Peru, and Christopher Columbus is credited with introducing sweet potatoes to Europe. In the grocery store, some of the darker orange varieties of sweet potatoes are called “yams,” but true yams are a very different starchy root, commonly grown in Africa. What we see in the grocery store are ALL technically sweet potatoes, but some are light orange and some are dark orange. Botanically, sweet potatoes are related to morning glory, and (should you come across any) the leaves are edible.
Broccoli or Cauliflower
We had enough cauliflower for our Albany/Salem boxes, and broccoli for our Corvallis boxes. We hope to switch things next week, and send broccoli to Albany/Salem, and cauliflower to Corvallis.
Do you have trouble cooking broccoli or cauliflower so that it’s cooked crisp-tender, but not overcooked and mushy? Here’s a trick that I learned from Tom (who learned it from his mother). I recently read about the science of this method in a “Cook’s Illustrated” magazine, but I won’t bore you with those details. One caveat, this method works great on an electric stove, where the heating element cools slowly. I’m not sure it will work as well on a gas stove.
“Foolproof” Steamed Broccoli or Cauliflower. Cut broccoli or cauliflower into serving-sized pieces and place in a lidded saucepan with ½-inch of water. Bring water to a full boil, and when you see steam escaping from under the lid, turn the heat OFF, leave the pan on the hot burner, with the lid on, for at least 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, poke a stem with a sharp knife to see if it’s tender. If not, put the lid back on and leave for a few more minutes.
Liberty Apples—from David & Anita at LaMancha Ranch & Orchard in Sweet Home
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the diversity of apples. Some varieties are best for fresh eating, some are best for cooking. I think Liberty is great all-around apple—super for fresh eating (juicy and sweet), and also great for sauce or pie.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 19 (October 11)
In this box: 1 bunch Spinach, 1 basket cherry tomatoes, 1 bunch Kale, 3# Red Gold potatoes, 4 Red Anaheim peppers, 1 Leek, 1 Garlic, 1 Sunshine Squash, 2# Winter Banana apples (from Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
The pumpkin-looking item in your box is called Sunshine Winter Squash. The skin is tender, so you don’t have to peel it—except please do cut off any “warts” on the skin, as they will stay hard even when cooked. For a quick side dish, cut in half to scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into “smiles”, and steam for 10 minutes or until tender. Then mash with coconut milk or butter. Sunshine squash also makes excellent “pumpkin” pie or “pumpkin” bread, but first you need to make squash purée.
To make squash purée: cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down on a baking dish. Add ¼-inch water to the baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees. The longer you cook it, the sweeter it will become.
When cool, scoop out the cooked squash, and mash by hand or puree in a food processor. You can decide whether to include the skin in your puree or not. Sometimes when I’ve baked squash in the oven, the skin gets too dry. Then I just scoop out the insides for purée, and snack on the crispy skin. Squash puree can be used for breads, muffins, or pie. It can also be frozen for later when you feel like baking. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy pumpkin pie!
To make pumpkin pie: substitute 2 cups of squash purée for a can of pumpkin. Otherwise, follow your favorite pumpkin pie recipe. You may be able to cut down on the amount of sugar, as sunshine squash is sweeter than canned pumpkin.
Winter Banana Apples
This apple’s name has always been a bit mysterious to me…. Winter Banana apples ripen in the early fall (not in winter), and the flavor & aroma don’t make me think of bananas. So, I can’t explain where the name comes from. I do know this is an heirloom variety, so it was named a long time ago—perhaps before bananas became so ubiquitous.
Winter Banana apples are EXCELLENT for cooking up into applesauce. In fact, they are the first variety we’ve had in your box this year that I consider better for cooking than for eating fresh. They tend to bruise (so they’re not good in a lunchbox). The skins are fairly tender (I left the skins on when I cut them up for applesauce), but you can peel them or press through a food mill if you prefer a smooth applesauce.
Red Anaheim peppers (also known as Colorado chile California Red chile, New Mexico chile….)
Regardless of the name, these are a very mild pepper—I can barely detect any heat at all. That’s probably good news for some of you, and slightly sad for others.
Anaheim peppers are excellent in soups, stews, relish trays, made into Chiles rellenos, or cut up into a stir-fry. They are great for roasting! (see Newsletter from week 14 if you want coaching on roasting your peppers).
There are any number of different ways to turn roasted peppers into a sauce. Here are a couple of easy recipes:
Roasted Pepper Sauce: Place roasted (peeled) peppers in a blender or food processor. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, ¼ tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper. Process until smooth. Serve over steamed vegetables, on toast, or use it to sauce a pizza.
Romesco Sauce: Place 1 cup roasted, peeled peppers in a food processor. Add ¼ cup almonds, 2 Tbs. cider vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. smoked paprika. Process until smooth. This version (with nuts and oil) is called Romesco Sauce. You can google “romesco sauce” for a variety of menu ideas.
Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce: Dice 3-4 peeled, roasted peppers. Sauté them with 2 teaspoons chopped garlic in 1 Tbs. olive oil. When garlic is fragrant, purée in a food processor. Then make a white sauce: in a clean sauté pan, toast 2 Tbs. flour in 2 Tbs. butter; whisk in enough cream or milk to make a thick white sauce; stir in red pepper purée. Add salt to taste. This makes enough for 1 lb. pasta; pour over steamed or baked potatoes; spread on a vegetable sandwich; or thin with chicken or vegetable broth for soup.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 18 (October 4)
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 basket Sungold tomatoes, 1 ½# Tomatoes, 1 bunch Cilantro, 1 bunch Thai basil, 1 Sweet Onion, 3/4# Brussels sprouts, 1 basket Raspberries, 2# Abate Fetel pears (from Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Abate Fetel pears
A lovely name for a pear, isn’t it? The name comes from Abbé Fetel, a French Abbot who developed this variety in 1866.
Pears come in a great variety of textures—from crisp to very soft. Abate Fetel pears are fairly crisp when ripe. I like them best as a cooking pear. They hold their shape well when cooked, so would be excellent for a beautiful rustic pear tart or galette. They would also be nice peeled, halved, and poached in spiced, sweetened liquid (cinnamon stick, cardamom, or nutmeg with a little honey), then served for dessert with vanilla ice cream or yogurt. Or, if you want something more simple, cut one or two pears in chunks, and cook them with your hot breakfast cereal. We have been making (and eating) a surprising amount of pear sauce as well. Tom will cut 2 or 3 pears into chunks (we don’t bother peeling them). Put chunks in a saucepan with a little water, a dash of cinnamon and a few shavings of nutmeg. Then bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Then mash the pear chunks with a potato masher, and continue to simmer, uncovered, over low heat, until it is as thick as you desire. Watch for scorching as it thickens, and stir frequently!
Thai Basil-- This is the second time we’ve put Thai basil in the box this year. If you want to read my suggestions from last time, you can check on our website (CSA Newsletters), Week 9. In that newsletter, I had a number of “summertime” suggestions. Now that the weather has turned fall-like, my inspirations are turning more toward soups and stews. Thai basil is wonderful as a garnish for brothy soup-particularly Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup). In restaurants serving Pho, Thai basil is almost always a star in the plate of “Table Salad” – a variety of greens to tear into pieces and add to your hot soup at the table.
Thai basil can be used in any recipe calling for Italian basil. Thai basil will bring a slight anise (licorice) flavor that works with Italian tomato-based dishes, and is particularly nice with Southeast Asian-inspired coconut-milk based dishes.
And Thai basil is delicious as a tea just by itself—just fill a jar with sprigs, and add boiling water.
Cilantro—not much room here, except to say that this box has the perfect ingredients for a fresh salsa! Or add cilantro to your “table salad” to accompany a brothy soup this week!
The trick to cooking these cute mini-cabbages is to not overcook them. Brussels sprouts can be steamed (6 – 10 minutes), sautéed, or roasted. If you’re steaming your sprouts, check for tenderness by poking them with a sharp knife after 6 minutes, and every minute thereafter to catch them before they are too soft.
When roasted or in a sauté, the sprouts stay firmer even when fully cooked. It’s easier to achieve the perfect texture by these direct-heat methods.
Options for using your Vacation Credits
Vacation credit vouchers need to be used before the end of the Harvest Box season (November 23). The standard way to use them is to visit us at the Farmers Market, and choose what you want from our market display. This still works in Corvallis (as markets continue every Wednesday and Saturday through November 23). However, the Salem Weds Market is over for the season, so if you’re in Salem, it’s quite a bit less convenient to get to the Farmers Market. So, we’ve added some options for using your Vacation Credits.
For all members (regardless of where you pick up your box) you can trade your vacation vouchers for a box of storage produce. If you would like to do this, send me an email and we can arrange to leave a box at your drop-site along with your regular Harvest Box some week between now and the end of November.
Choose one of these options for each credit voucher:
* Potatoes—yellow, red, all-blue, or mixed
* Storage onions
* Sweet potatoes
* Winter Squash (delicata, sunshine, or butternut)
* Basil (available NOW. Best to order it soon)
* Peppers (“seconds” grade. Specify Italian peppers or bell peppers).
Except for the basil (which will only be available for a few more weeks), all of the other storage vegetables should be available until the end of the season.
Email me at "firstname.lastname@example.org" to place your order.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 17 (September 27)
In this box: ½ pound spinach, 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch radish, 1 bunch celery, 1 leek, 1 garlic, 1# zucchini, 1 delicata squash, 2# Honeycrisp apples (from Gala Springs Orchard) (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
At the risk of climbing up on my soapbox, let me say that you can (and should!) eat the entire leek—both the white part and the greens. Sure, if you need to make a very traditional vichyssoise—where the finished soup must be white, maybe you want to save the greens for another dish, but in most applications you can use the whole leek.
But first, you must clean it! Due to the anatomy of a leek, dirt tends to collect right where the white parts turn to green. Easiest to clean if you slice your leek in half lengthwise, then hold each half under running water and use your fingers to help rinse the dirt away from between the layers. Then slice each cleaned half-leek into whatever size you need. I prefer to slice leeks crosswise, rather than lengthwise, otherwise there can be some stringiness after cooking.
Once cleaned, leeks can be steamed, sautéed, baked, or braised on their own, or with other vegetables (like zucchini, celery, radish, and garlic). Leeks can be added to any long-cooked stew or soup, and you can make an absolutely wonderful soup stock with just leeks! If you’re making soup stock, simmer your cleaned leek in water until very soft (about 30 minutes), then strain the broth, and add the rest of your soup ingredients.
Radishes & Celery
Both Radishes and celery are good examples of the transformative nature of cooking. Radishes in particular are a completely different vegetable when raw vs. cooked. When raw, radishes are pungent and hot in the mouth. But when cooked, the hotness completely disappears, and the sweetness underneath is enhanced. Radishes stay somewhat crunchy when cooked, and I actually prefer them cooked.
Braised radishes: cut radish roots into slices or chunks. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet until the oil shimmers. Add the radish pieces and a little salt. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes, then add a splash of balsamic vinegar, white wine, or soy sauce to the pan, and continue to stir-fry until the liquid is evaporated. Radishes are also excellent in fried rice.
Roasted radishes: cut radishes into chunks (quarters for smaller radishes, or 6th’s for larger ones). Coat with a little olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Spread in a roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes. Or just toss some radish chunks in with other roots—such as beets, potatoes, or carrots—and follow your own favorite recipe for roasted roots.
Celery is frequently enjoyed raw for its juicy crunch. But when cooked, it is considered an “aromatic” flavor component of many dishes—and the flavor is quite different than when raw. Mirepoix is a fun French word for a finely diced combination of onions, carrots, and celery used as a base for many European-inspired soups, and as a seasoning for roasting meats. Here is a (slightly modified) German Barley Soup recipe from Saveur, Nov. 2011.
Graupensuppe (German Barley Soup)
4 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barley
8 cups vegetable stock
½ cup finely chopped carrot
½ cup finely chopped celery
1 tsp. dried marjoram
2 German sausages (like bratwurst)
freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley
Heat butter in a large soup pot over medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add barley, and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 5 more minutes. Add stock, chopped vegetables, marjoram, and sausages. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sausages are tender, about 35 minutes. Remove sausages from saucepan. Thinly slice sausages and return to soup pot. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. To serve, ladle soup into serving bowls, and garnish with parsley.
A relatively new apple variety, Honeycrisp has become incredibly popular since it was bred about 20 years ago in Minnesota—and it’s not just the catchy name. This variety is juicy, sweet, and has what some call a “phenomenally” crisp texture. They are best for fresh eating.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 16 (September 20)
In this box: 1 bunch Chard, 1 Red Onion, 1 head Garlic, 1 bunch Carrots, 1 head Broccoli, 2# Potatoes,
1 Delicata squash, 2# Concorde Pears (from Gala Springs Orchard), 1 box Raspberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
The farm sounds a quiet sigh of relief now that the rains have come. The crew seems refreshed by the damp coolness—they are joking with each other now. The ground, too, breathes a sigh of relief. These first light rains really don’t do much more than settle the dust, but that’s enough to remind us that the hot, dry season of summer is pretty much over. The lush greenness of winter is coming. Our tractors, busy last week preparing ground for fall planting, are quiet. The frenzied pace of the past few months seems somehow lightened.
I really don’t know why Concorde pears are not more common. They are one of my favorite pears, with a creamy texture, sweet flavor, and mild-tasting skin. The Concorde variety is the offspring of Conference (the favorite pear in France) crossed with Comice (one of the sweetest and juiciest pears). Concorde pears are great for fresh eating, and also for cooking. We have been making pear sauce this week—just like applesauce, but with pears: cut pears into quarters and remove the core. Slice quarters into smallish pieces and place in a saucepan with about ¼-inch of water in the bottom of the pan. We like to add a few gratings of nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes. Stir the pot occasionally to make sure things aren’t sticking on the bottom, and add a little bit more water if things threaten to scorch. When the pears are tender, mash them with a potato masher. We don’t think Concorde pear sauce needs any additional sweetening, but you can make that decision after it’s cool enough to taste. Concorde pears keep their shape when cooked, so they would be excellent for a pear tart or pear pie.
After the boxes went out last week, I realized I should have included my favorite recipe for carrot soup. We had initially intended to put in a bunch of small carrots last week, but the crew had just harvested the older carrot field, and we had just enough of the larger, bulk carrots, so we made a last-minute substitution. Here’s a recipe for those times when the carrots seem to be piling up in your refrigerator:
My Favorite Carrot Soup…from Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen, 1977)
2 pounds carrots, scrubbed and chopped
4 cups water or stock
1 ½ tsp. salt
optional: 1 medium potato, chopped (for heartier soup)
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 small cloves crushed garlic
1/3 cup chopped almonds
* Bring carrots, stock, salt, and optional potato to a boil. Cover and simmer 12-15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
* Sauté onion, garlic, and chopped nuts in 3-4 Tbs. butter with a little salt, until onions are clear.
* Purée everything in a blender until smooth. Return the purée to a kettle or double-boiler and whisk in one of the following: 1 cup milk (or dairy-free milk), or 1 cup yogurt, or ½ pint heavy cream, or ¾ cup sour cream.
* Heat very slowly. Season with a dash of sherry, or 2 pinches nutmeg with ½ tsp. dried mint and a dash of cinnamon. Garnish with toasted nuts.
Candystick Delicata Squash
The first “winter” squash of the season! This strain of delicata was bred by Corvallis author and vegetable breeder Carol Deppe (author of Breed you own Vegetable Varieties, and also The Resilient Gardener—great books for winter reading!). Delicata squash are versatile in the kitchen. The skins are edible, so don’t bother peeling. I usually cut delicata in half first (no small feat, so make sure you have a large, sharp knife). Then scoop out the seeds to create stuffable “boats”, or cut the halves into “smiles”. Then you can bake, steam, or stir-fry the squash by itself, or use it in a stir-fry with other vegetables. Delicata holds its shape when cooked, which is a nice, unless you are trying to make mashed squash. There will be other squashes later in the season that are better for mashing.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 15 (September 13)
In this box: ½# Spinach, 1 bunch arugula, 6 ears Corn, 1 Sweet Onion, 2# Carrots, 1.5# Zucchini,
Bag Red Padron Peppers, 2# Gala Apples (from Gala Springs Orchard), 1 box Canadice Grapes (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Padron peppers—all grown up!
Remember the green Padron peppers that have been in the box a few times earlier this season? Well, this week’s red peppers are those little Padrons “all grown up.”
All peppers are considered “unripe” when they are green, and if you leave them on the plant long enough, they will ripen to a different color—red, orange, and yellow are common colors for “ripe” peppers. Ripe peppers taste different from green peppers from the same plant. I think the green ones taste, well, sort of “green”. If left on the plants to turn their mature color, they get sweeter, and their vitamins A & C increase dramatically. Here’s a cool fact: peppers continue to ripen after they have been picked. If you ever get a pepper that is partly green & partly ripe, you can leave it on the counter, and the green parts will slowly ripen to their mature color.
Do you remember how some of the green Padrons were mild, and some were hot? Well, now that they are ripe, they are all hot—still somewhat variable from pepper to pepper, but at least the seeds are hot in just about all of them. Unless you really like surprises, it’s useful to know that the hotness is concentrated in the seeds and the membranes (or ribs) where the seeds attach. If you trim away the seeds and ribs, the red flesh is not hot (or barely warm). You can choose how hot your experience is by how much of the ribs and seeds you include. IMPORTANT NOTE: I suggest wearing rubber gloves when cutting up hot peppers. Whatever you do, avoid getting hot pepper juice on your hands, or you may have a painful surprise next time you rub your eye or lick your fingers.
So, if you want a mild experience, trim the seeds and ribs from your Padrons and use them in a stir-fry, perhaps with some sweet onion, zucchini, and spinach. Or make a Padron, corn and onion salsa. If you like hot peppers, include some or all of the seeds and ribs, and make the same stir fry or salsa. These red Padrons are even large enough that you could stuff them with a cheesy filling for a beautiful, and slightly tongue-tingling appetizer….
I wrote a little about arugula in the Newsletter, Week 3, earlier this summer. If you missed that newsletter, it briefly said that arugula has a strong, spicy flavor, with a hint of nuttiness underneath. You can use it raw in a salad (the spicy flavor mellows with the addition of salad dressing), and arugula is famous as a pizza topping (add it as soon as the pizza comes out of the oven, so it just wilts a little from the heat of the cooked pizza).
Fettuccini with Arugula & Goat Cheese (from Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking, by John Penza)
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (or 1 chopped fresh Padron pepper)
¼ c. olive oil
1 large bunch arugula, rinsed, dried, and chopped into fairly small pieces
1 lb. fettuccini
4 oz. soft goat cheese (chèvre)
Grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese for the table
* Heat pepper flakes in olive oil over high heat. When sizzling, add arugula, stirring until wilted, about 1 min.
* Boil fettuccini in salted water until al dente. Save a bit of the pasta water in a cup. Drain pasta, return to pot, and toss in arugula. Over low heat, add goat cheese and mix thoroughly, adding pasta water a tablespoon at a time if it is too stiff. Serve hot. Serves 4.
Years ago, Tom was neighbors with Gala Springs Orchard at the Beaverton Farmers Market. I know it was years ago, because there was one memorable market when our son (now 19) had an epic squirt gun battle with one of Martin’s grandsons, when they were both about 8 years old. We recognized right away that Gala Springs apples and pears would make a nice addition to our Harvest Boxes, because we like to have fruit in the box each week, and Gala Springs has a lot of different varieties of apples and pears. Gala is one of the earliest apples to ripen. They are wonderful for fresh eating. (Later, there will be some varieties that I think are better used for sauce or pies). Gala’s are sweet, crispy, and juicy. Store them in the refrigerator.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 14 (September 6)
In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 bunch French Radish, 5 ears Corn, 1 head Garlic, 1 bunch Carrots, 3 Poblano Peppers, 1# Tomatillos, 2# Gala Apples (from Gala Springs Orchard), 1 box Grapes (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic
Tomatillos and Poblano peppers
Some of you may know far more about tomatillos and poblano peppers than I do, but I grew up in central Ohio in the 1970’s. I’m not sure if it’s a reflection of my Yankee heritage, or a reflection of the Midwest food culture of that era, but I hadn’t even seen an avocado until I was 17 years old—tomatillos were completely unimaginable, and the only peppers we ever saw were green bell peppers.
If you cut open a tomatillo, you might recognize that the inside looks something like a tomato. This is because tomatillos are related to tomatoes (and peppers, and potatoes for that matter, but the tomato example is easiest to recognize).
Tomatillos in the kitchen:
The first thing I should say is that tomatillos are ripe when they are green (don’t expect them to turn red, like tomatoes). The tomatillos in your box are ready to eat today. However, they hold well if stored on the counter, and will slowly turn from bright green toward yellow. Tomatillos are tart, and they become a little sweeter as they continue to ripen.
Tomatillos are the key ingredient in salsa verde, and they are also used for green enchilada sauce.
To prepare tomatillos, first remove the papery husk. The skins are somewhat sticky. When cooked, tomatillos help to thicken sauces.
Salsa Verde (raw): Coarsely chop tomatillos and place in a food processor bowl. Add approximately 1 clove minced garlic, ¼ cup chopped sweet onion, and a small slice of hot pepper (if you like it hot), and the juice from ½ a lime (1 Tbs.). If you have ¼ cup of cilantro or Italian parsley, add that as well. Pulse until well mixed.
Salsa Verde (cooked): Prepare raw salsa verde (as above), then simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes. The slight amount of cooking really transforms the flavors, and makes a thicker sauce.
Salsa Verde (roasted): Roast tomatillos in a dry cast iron skillet or over a grill until fairly soft. Roast poblano peppers (see below), and remove skins. Cut 1 onion into thick rounds, and roast or grill until soft and slightly blackened. Pulse tomatillos, peppers, and onion in a food processor with a little hot pepper (a slice of jalapeno, or a serrano or Thai chili—or none if you want a milder salsa). Add 4 cloves garlic, 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, and 2 Tbs fresh lime juice. Process until well combined.
Salsa Verde (Michoacan): If you don’t have all the ingredients listed in any of the above recipes, here’s the most basic recipe—straight from a woman who grew up in Michoacan: Toast whole tomatillos in a dry skillet until charred and softened. Chop finely, and add a little minced jalapeno, minced raw garlic, and a bit of salt. That’s all!
Most of the peppers on our farm are “sweet” peppers—those would be the bell peppers and Italian peppers that you’ve been receiving over the past few weeks. However, we also grow a few “chili” peppers, with varying degrees of hotness. Poblanos are about as mild a chili as you can find. They add a lot of flavor without a lot of hotness—Most sources I checked suggest that Poblano’s are generally cooked, rather than eaten raw. I like to fry them in a skillet (with olive oil, garlic, and a little salt), then add them to a pot of cooked beans, and simmer the lot (mashing it a bit with a potato masher) until everything thickens into refried beans. If you want a recipe that’s a bit more involved, Poblano’s are the classic pepper for making chiles rellenos—but you’ll need look up a recipe for that, as it’s not in my repertoire.
How to Roast peppers: Rinse peppers and place on a baking sheet with edges to catch the juices. Or turn on your barbecue, and place peppers right on the hot grill. Broil (or grill) peppers until the skin bubbles up and starts to char, turning to char all sides. Keep your eye on the peppers to catch them and turn as needed. If the peppers are really odd-shaped, don’t worry about evenly charring every surface, as long as the pepper is well-cooked overall. Turn off the oven and close the door for 5 minutes (or put grilled peppers in a paper bag) to “rest” for 5 minutes. The peppers will “wilt” during this resting time. After resting, allow peppers to cool just enough to handle. Then peel and remove the seeds. At this point, you can use the roasted peppers in any number of recipes, or freeze them for later.
Lost & Found
Thank you to everyone who came to the farm on Sunday for our farm tour & potluck.
We ended up with a few items that aren’t ours—a white bag clip, and a round “glad ware” plastic container. If these are yours, please let me know, as I would like to return them to you.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 13 (August 30)
In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 bunch Kale, 1 Red Onion, 5 ears Corn, 2# Purple Viking Potatoes, 2# Beets,
1 bag Sweet Italian Peppers, 1 Margarita Melon (from Groundwork Organic Farm)m, 1 box Rapsberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic.
We liked the Superbowl melons so much last week that we asked Gabe if we could get another weeks’ worth of melons from him for our box. What they had this week is the Margarita melon which has smooth, yellow rind, and firm sweet flesh. The flesh is pale yellow in color. Some sources compare the texture of the Margarita melon to a ripe pear—slightly crisp/somewhat soft, and very juicy. Though we usually just cut them in half and get a spoon, I bet this melon would make a great sorbet! Margarita and Superbowl are both melons Tom used to grow when Gabe came to work for us. We don’t grow melons anymore, so it is nostalgic to have them on the farm again. Gabe picks his melons ripe. Store yours in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat it.
There are so many different kinds of sweet Italian peppers, and SO many different things you can do with them! All sweet Italian peppers are somewhat long and skinny (unlike bell peppers that are “bell” shaped). Some sweet Italian peppers look a lot like hot peppers, but they are not spicy at all. Although you can eat Italian peppers raw (they are great for dipping hummus) Sweet Italian peppers are excellent roasted, and they really shine as a frying pepper. I suggest slicing your Italian peppers in half lengthwise, pulling out the seeds, then slicing in strips. Slice your red onion in thin rings. Sauté both the pepper and onion in a little olive oil until everything is very soft, and slightly browned, adding a little salt. Once everything is well-cooked, and even a little caramelized, pile your fried peppers & onions on crusty Italian bread for a sandwich, or mix the peppers & onions with a package of cooked pasta.
Red Russian Kale
Taste is a very personal thing. When I try to describe my experience eating something, I recognize that opinions vary—particularly where kale is concerned. I find kale sweet, and somewhat similar in flavor to broccoli (especially steamed kale stems). Some people’s taste buds detect a bitterness in kale. If you find kale bitter, consider adding a touch of salt, or a little vinegar to balance the flavor. A little vinaigrette salad dressing is often enough to bring out the best in a bowl of kale.
Red Russian Kale is a little more tender than curly kale or Italian kale. I suggest chopping today’s bunch coarsely, then steaming it for about 5 minutes.
This is our 3rd week with corn in the box. And there’s more to come in the next few weeks. As the season progresses, please use caution when opening your corn. There may be occasional corn earworms enjoying the ears. The Willamette Valley is home to a moth that likes to lay its eggs in the silk at the top of young ears of corn. After hatching, the larva slowly eats its way down from the tip. We try not to pack ears that are hosting these larvae, but a few may have escaped our notice. Fortunately, the larvae start at the top, and take a long time to eat very far. If you find a corn earworm has come home with your corn, just cut off the tip, and the rest of the ear should be untouched. Incidentally, that’s why most grocery store corn is either laden with pesticides (which we would never use), or already has the tip cut off.
Members (and families) are invited to the Farm this Sunday
Our annual Farm Party (for Harvest Box Members) is this Sunday—Sept 4. We hope you can come to the farm from 3 pm and 6 pm. Tom will lead a farm tour at 3, followed by a potluck around 4:30. Come for part or all of the afternoon.
What to bring for the farm tour: sunglasses, sunhat, and walking shoes
What to bring for the potluck: a potluck dish to share, lawn chairs or blanket, and your own plates, cups, and utensils.
Directions to the farm: Our address is 1835 NE Steele Avenue, Corvallis. Steele Avenue is off HWY 20, 4 miles north of Corvallis and 7 miles South of Albany. Follow Steele Avenue until it dead-ends on our farm. We’ll be in the driveway to help direct traffic/parking.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 12 (August 23)
In this box: 1 bunch Basil, 1 head Garlic, 2# Roma OR Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 6 ears Corn, 2# Red Gold Potatoes, 1.5# Summer Squash, 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, 1 Red Bell Pepper, 1 Superbowl Watermelon (from Groundwork Organic Farm), 1 Box Grapes (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
These watermelons are picked ripe. Store them in your refrigerator until you're ready to eat it.
There’s a lot of history in today’s box….
When Tom was a young farmer, in the 1980’s, melons and zucchini were the backbone of his farm. Over the decades since then, our farm has become more diverse—we started growing berries, grapes, onions, garlic, corn, potatoes, peppers, salad mix, spinach, and a whole lot else. However, we stopped growing melons a number of years ago because they take a lot of space to grow and our soil isn’t ideal melon-growing soil (it’s too heavy).
The other branch of the story begins 18 years ago, when Gabe Cox came to our farm, eager to learn how to farm. (We know it was 18 years ago, because our son, who just turned 19 yesterday was a baby when Gabe worked here—we have photos to prove it!). Gabe worked closely with Tom for several years, then moved on to start his own farm. He found some lovely sandy soil between Junction City and Eugene, and now farms about 80 acres of land along the Willamette River. His farm is called Groundwork Organic Farm. Gabe’s sandy soil is ideal for growing melons, so we are happy to offer one of his Superbowl Melons in the box this week.
The easiest thing to do with a bunch of basil
Here’s a truly 10-minute meal, and the easiest way I have found to use a whole bunch of basil. It doesn’t even get the food processor dirty, and showcases the flavor of fresh basil. Long-time Harvest Box members John & Pamela created this recipe for a quick meal that their kids love.
1 pound of sweet girl or roma tomatoes, or 1 box cherry or grape tomatoes
1 bunch basil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound pasta (Any shape will work. My favorite is corkscrew, but works fine with spaghetti, angel hair, penne, or any other shape).
1. Heat a large pot of salted water for pasta. Cook pasta al dente while you prepare the rest.
2. Rinse & cut tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. If using cherry or grape tomatoes, cut them in half. Place in large bowl.
3. Coarsely chop 1 bunch of basil (leaves and tender stem portions). Add to bowl, along with about 2 Tbs. of olive oil.
4. Heat another 2 Tbs. olive oil in a sauce pan. Add minced garlic. Warm the garlic for just a minute—don’t let it brown.
5. Whe pasta is cooked, drain it, and toss with everything else in the bowl. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add more olive oil (if things appear too dry) until things seem well-sauced.
Other recipe ideas for the box today:
Quick-Fried Zucchini with Toasted Garlic and Lime
1 lb. zucchini cut in ½ inch pieces
1 scant tsp. salt
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. lime juice
Generous ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
½ tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbs. chopped parsley.
Instructions: In a colander, toss the cut zucchini with salt; let stand over a plate or in the sink for half an hour. Rinse and dry zucchini.
About 15 minutes before serving, heat the butter and oil over low heat in a skillet large enough to hold the zucchini in a single layer. Add the garlic, stir until light brown, about 3 minutes. (Do not burn garlic.) Scoop the garlic into a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl, then scrape the strained butter mixture back into the pan; set garlic aside.
Raise the heat to medium-high. Add zucchini to the pan and fry, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, until browned and tender but still a little crunchy. Remove from the heat. Add lime juice and toasted garlic and toss thoroughly.
Sprinkle with pepper, oregano, and parsley, then mix. Taste for salt, and season if necessary. Serve in a warm dish. From Kitchen Gardening magazine, “Mexican Ways with Zucchini”, #14, p. 28.
Or, visit our web site, Last Year’s Newsletters, week 6 for Zucchini, Basil, Tomatoes, and Olives—also a quick vegetable & pasta dish, but not quite as quick and with a few more ingredients than the Summer Spaghetti.
Note: All the different summer squashes are interchangeable in recipes. There are subtle differences in flavor and texture between the varieties, but they are similar enough that any recipe works for any variety.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 11 (August 16)
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Italian Parsley, 2# Roma OR Sweet Girl, Tomatoes, 6 ears Corn, 2# Butterball Potatoes, 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, 1 Red Bell Pepper, 1 basket Raspberries, 1 Box Plums OR Grapes. Weights are approximate. Everything is Organic!
Corn: I probably don’t need to say much about sweet corn, except that I hope you’re as excited as I am to see it in the box today. Sweet corn is one of the things that I only eat when it’s fresh and in season, and the season for sweet corn is painfully short in my opinion. The flavor is best when it’s just been picked, so eat yours soon.
I suggest cooking your corn in one of the following ways:
1. Husk the ears and steam in 1” of water for 6 minutes
2. Husk the ears, and drop into a large pot ofboiling water for 3 minutes
3. Leave the husks on, and cook on the barbecue (high heat) for 20 minutes, turning over after 10 minutes. Best if you remove a few of the outer husk leaves so the heat can penetrate more easily.
Butterball Potatoes are great for mashed potatoes, or roasting. Also delicious just boiled then tossed with butter. These potatoes are pretty crumbly when cut and boiled. They almost mash themselves!
Plums or Grapes: We thought all the recent heat would ripen our Italian and French Petite plums for this week, but when we went out to pick, we came up short. Most of our Salem Court St boxes will have plums this week, and the rest of you will have Canadice grapes. We hope to have plums for the rest of you next week. Italian and French Petite plums are both very sweet. When ripe, they are firm, but not rock-hard. If yours seem hard, leave them on the counter to ripen for a few days. These plums are both good varieties for cooking, as in a plum tart, plum coffeecake (also called kuchen, if you’re searching online), or just cut up and cooked in your morning oatmeal.
I always seem to choose one of the hottest weeks of the summer to roast tomatoes—but here I am with the oven on this week, because roasted tomatoes are so worth it! I just put a fan at the entrance to my kitchen to keep the air moving as I work, and feel grateful that it’s not hot like this all summer.
Roasted tomato recipe: Cut sweet girl or roma tomatoes in half and place, cut side up, in a large, deep roasting pan. You can crowd them, because they will shrink as they cook, but keep it to one layer. Pour 2 Tbs. olive oil into the pan, on top of and between the tomatoes, and shake to distribute. Roast tomatoes in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, then remove pan from the oven. Add a spoonful of pesto or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to the top of each tomato half, and return pan to oven for another 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have slumped, and most of the juice has evaporated.
Members Day on the Farm September 4
Our annual Farm Party is just a few weeks away. If you’ve been to our Farm Party before, our plan is similar to previous years. If you’ve not been here before, please know that it’s a casual day. We start the day by gathering in the shade around 3pm. Shortly after 3, Tom will start a farm tour for about an hour. If you (or your kids) get tired of the tour at any time, you can wander back into the shady front yard for snacks and beverage (homemade strawberry soda!). Around 4:30, we open the tables for a potluck meal. Feel free to come for any part of the afternoon.
What to bring for the farm tour: sunglasses, sunhat, and walking shoes
What to bring for the potluck: a potluck dish to share, lawn chairs or blanket, and it’s helpful if you bring your own plates, cups, and/or utensils.
Directions to the farm: Our address is 1835 NE Steele Avenue, Corvallis. Steele Avenue is off HWY 20, 4 miles north of Corvallis and 7 miles South of Albany. If you are using GPS to get here, make sure you see the Steele Ave road sign before turning off Hwy 20. Some software programs direct you to a nearby unmarked farm lane that dead-ends in a neighbors farm field.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 10 (August 9)
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Basil, 1 bunch Cilantro, 1 Sweet Onion, 1 Garlic, 2 Eggplants, 1 bag Padron peppers, ¾# Romano Beans, 1.5# Heirloom Tomatoes, 2# Summer Squash, (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Though it is still summer, we’ve past the mid-point between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. I think of this time of year as “late summer”. The kids are still on summer vacation, but the days are getting noticeably shorter, and some mornings are definitely cool. This is the time of year when I’m in the kitchen a lot, with a pot of tomato sauce cooking down on the stove. If you are interested in canning tomatoes or freezing pesto, you can special order basil ($9/pound) or canning tomatoes ($30/20-pound box). Just send me an email, and we can arrange the details.
This is the week many of you have been waiting for….. eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, onion, and basil all in the same box. Sounds like ratatouille to me!
A quick search on the Internet reveals that there are dozens of different recipes for Ratatouille, and also various different names for similar dishes, depending on what region of the Mediterranean you are in. Some recipes call for sliced vegetables, some for rough-chopped… some precook everything first, then bake it all in a casserole ….. some recipes call for distinct layers, some just jumble everything together. I guess the bottom line is that there’s no single “right” way to make ratatouille!
Perhaps you have a favorite family recipe, but if not, here’s Tom’s simplified version. Start with a deep casserole dish with a lid. Pour a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the pot (maybe 1 Tbs). Add layers of sliced vegetables to the pot. Start with sliced eggplant, then sliced onions, then add a layer of summer squash, [add a layer of sliced bell peppers if you have some], sprinkle with a handful of chopped basil, then add sliced tomatoes. Saute some cloves of garlic in olive oil, and drizzle the garlic oil over the top of everything, then cover with a lid. (You can add a layer of mozzerella cheese on top if you like that sort of thing). Cover with a lid, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 45 minutes to evaporate a little of the moisture. (Cooking time could be less if you have a shallow casserole. I made mine in a deep dutch oven. Serve with thick slices of crusty bread to soak up the juices.
This week’s tomatoes are either Marmande or Coeur de Boeuf. Marmande have a flattened globe shape with fluted shoulders around the stem. Coeur de Boeuf are more elongated, like a heart, hence the name, which translates as beef heart or ox heart. These are two of the most popular heirloom tomatoes in Europe. Both varieties are excellent for cooking into a sauce, in fact Coeur de Boeuf is my favorite paste tomato. Marmande are a little juicier, and make excellent pasta sauce. Either one would be delicious on a pizza or a tomato pie—check out the recipe for Caprese Galette at www.first.coop (August 2016 Thymes).
I thought our Romano beans were long gone, but I was surprised to find the plants still robust (about 12 feet tall!), and producing beans. As always, my favorite cooking method for Romano beans is to steam them (this time of the season, they take about 5 minutes to cook), then add a little butter to serve.
Cilantro and padron peppers—check this year’s newlsetters, week 5 for information & recipes!
Please return all tubs (please, and thank you!)
Hundreds of boxes have gone missing since the start of the season. Tom had to run to Home Depot this morning to purchase several cases (at $7.99/tub!) so we could pack today. Please return your tub each week.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 9 (August 1)
In this box: ½# Salad Mix, 1 bunch Carrots, 1 bunch Radish, 1 bunch Thai Basil, 1 Sweet Red Onion, 1 bunch Chard, 2# French White Zucchini, 2 Red Bell Peppers, ½# Canadice Grapes (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Farm Party coming soon!
Our Annual Members Day on the Farm will be Sunday, September 4th
From 3-6 in the afternoon
Farm tour at 3pm
Followed by a potluck meal.
We hope you can come.
We need all empty tubs back (please, and thank you!)
Our packing crew reports that we’re missing hundreds of boxes, and we have barely enough left to pack this week’s harvest. We really need to keep all boxes in circulation, so please return all empty tubs each week.
I expect the least familiar item in today’s box will be the Thai basil. With the expectation that we would put Thai basil in the box today, I have been using it in the kitchen this week, and here’s what I have found.
Thai basil is less fussy than Italian basil. It is quite a bit less prone to bruising and wilting. As with Italian basil, Thai basil keeps better loosely covered with a plastic bag on the counter (not in the refrigerator), and keeps even better if you treat it like cut flowers--trim the ends of the stems and put them in a jar of clean water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag. If you’re using this method, I suggest covering your basil with the perforated plastic bag that your salad mix is in this week, which will allow for a bit of air exchange.
I think Thai basil has a more assertive flaver than Italian basil. It is slightly spicy, and smells like anise (licorice). One great quality about Thai basil (compared with Italian basil) is that it is sturdier when cooked. This makes Thai basil an excellent addition to a vegetable sti-fry. There are thousands of Thai-inspired recipes on the Internet that require exotic ingredients that I just don’t have on hand. Fortunately, there are no rules limiting the use of Thai basil to Southeast Asian dishes. With this week’s box, I recommend a sauté of summer squash (which has a very unassertive flavor) and red onion (for sweetness), with chopped Thai basil added at the last minute. Here’s how I cooked it last night: Pre-heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Coat the pan with a generous amount of olive oil (2-3 Tbs). When the oil is shimmering, add 1 chopped red onion. Stir, then cover the pan. Stay close to the stove, as you will need to stir the onions occasionally as they soften. While the onions soften, cut 1 or 2 pounds of summer squash into small cubes, and start heating a large pot of salted water for pasta. When the onions are soft, add the summer squash, 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Stir and cover, checking every 2-3 minutes as the summer squash softens. [Toss a package of pasta in the pot once the water is boiling]. When the summer squash is tender, remove the cover, and increase the heat to just above medium and cook off the liquid. Just as the pan becomes dry, and the onions & squash start to brown, stir in a large handful of chopped Thai basil. Immediately remove from the heat and cover the pan to wilt the basil. Drain the pasta, mix everything together, and dinner’s ready.
A summer vegetable sauté may use up ¼ to ½ of your bunch of Thai basil—so what to do with the rest of it?
Thai basil tea: Loosely fill a quart jar or a teapot with sprigs of Thai basil (the flowering tops are very pretty this way), add boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Drink either hot or cold.
Thai basil in salads: add Thai basil leaves and/or flowers to a green salad.
Thai basil marinated Beets: Still have your beets from last week? After roasting beets, slice or dice them, then add vinaigrette dressing (made with a fruity vinegar). When cool, fold in a generous quantity of chopped Thai basil leaves & flowers. Taste to adjust seasonings, and add salt & pepper as needed to balance the flavors.
Thai basil pesto: Go ahead and substitute Thai basil for Italian basil. The flavor will be slightly different, but just as delicious.
Canadice grapes are small, but packed with intense flavor. Most commercial table grapes are sprayed with Gibberellic acid, a plant hormone which makes them bigger by causing them to retain water. Ours have just as much flavor, but in half the package!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 8 (July 26)
In this box: 1 basket Cherry Tomatoes, 2 large Beets, 1 Sweet Onion, 1 bunch Carrots, 2# Butterball Potatoes, 1 bunch Kale, 1 Eggplant, 2# Patty Pan squash, 1 large box Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Tom & I always smile to each other when we think about putting beets in the Harvest Box. Although I have grown to really enjoy beets (recipe below), they used to be one of my least favorite vegetables. In fact, when Tom & I first met (about 20 years ago), I was a member of a CSA with a different farm. During the course of the season with that farm, I received beets maybe 4 different times. In the fall, after that CSA season was finished, Tom & I were cooking dinner together at my house. He opened the crisper bin in my refrigerator, and found it full of beets! I hadn’t used a one. We still talk about that as the year of “the Beet CSA”.
A few years later, when our farm started offering Harvest Box memberships, we instituted the “trade box” concept for situations just like that—if you know you’re not going to use something that’s in your box, better to trade it in than to discover it months later, or feel guilty about putting it in your compost. And, our newsletter style and recipes were also inspired from my experience. I always try to select recipes that use a minimum of ingredients, and give you ideas for vegetables that might be unfamiliar.
Here’s my current favorite way to enjoy beets:
Roasted Beet Salad
I prefer my beets cooked in the oven (“roasted”), but you can just as easily steam them on the stove-top or in the microwave if it’s a hot day and you don’t want your oven on. I think the flavor takes on a slightly sweeter note when roasted in the oven, and cooking them in a covered pot with a little water keeps them from drying out (and makes them really easy to peel once they are cooked).
Now, let’s talk about roasting beets. I have looked a dozens of recipes, and they invariably suggest wrapping the beets in aluminum foil, then roasting in the oven until tender. However, I have also read that exposure to aluminum has been assiciated with Alzheimer’s Disease. For this reason, I avoid using aluminum foil if at all possible. I have determined there is nothing magic about aluminum foil. The key is to create a moist environment where the beets can cook in their own juices, rather than drying out. A healthier option is to use an oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid (like a Dutch oven). Scrub the beets if they seem dirty, but don’t peel them. If beets are small, put whole beets in your oven-proof pot. If they’re extra-large (like in the box today), you can cut them in quarters first. Add water to a depth of about ½ inch. Place pot in oven at 350 – 400 degrees (the specific temperature doesn’t really matter, they just take longer at lower temperature), and cook for at least 1 hour (smaller beets) or 1.5 hours (large whole beets), until tender when pierced with a knife. Once cooked, cool them so you can handle them, and slip the skins off. Slice into bite-sized cubes or discs. Now your roasted beets are ready for your favorite dressing. Any vinaigrette dressing would work, if you have a partial bottle in your fridge, but here are two specific recipes if you want inspiration:
Lemon vinaigrette: 2 Tbs. lemon juice, 6 Tbs. olive oil, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper. Whisk all ingredients together, or place everything in a jar with a tight lid and shake. Pour over beets, and taste to adjust seasonings. Add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper as desired. Nice with feta cheese.
Fruity vinaigrette: Whisk together 2 Tbs. raspberry vinegar, OR 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar, OR 1 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar, or 1-2 Tbs. any other sweet or fruity vinegar with ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper. Pour over beets, and marinate for 1 hour. Then taste to adjust seasonings. When I made this salad (with Rapsberry white wine vinegar), I added Thai basil, and the combination was absolutely amazing! If you want to wait until next week to make roasted beet salad, we’re planning to include Thai basil in next week’s box.
Patty Pan squash
Cook Patty Pan squash as you would zucchini. They are somewhat firmer & less watery than zucchini, and are great grilled or sautéed. These squash are sometimes popular with kids (and adults, too) when you call them "flying saucer squash".
Kale recipe ideas can be found on our web site, under Last Year’s Newsletters, Week 10. I especially recommend the Green Dip with this week’s Russian Kale.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016 Week 7 (July 19)
In this box: ½# Spinach, 1.5# Sweet Girl Tomatoes, 1 basket cherry tomatoes, 1 bunch Cilantro,
1 head Garlic, 2# Red Gold Potatoes, 1 bag Padron peppers, 2# French White zucchini, 1 large box Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
I wrote about Padron peppers a few weeks ago (Newsletter Week 5), but I’ll repeat myself this week, since some of you missed that week, and we’ve been trying a few different cooking methods in our kitchen.
Padron peppers are picked when they are very young, so you eat the whole pepper (except the stem). The seeds are tender and edible at this young stage—and I enjoy their crunchy texture. What’s somewhat unique (and fun) about Padron’s is that most of them are mild, but occasionally, there’s a hot one in the bunch! We have fun trying to guess which ones will be hot, but it’s really quite random.
Commonly, Padron’s are sautéed in olive oil and salt until their skin is blistered, then (once cooled) you hold the stem and eat the entire pepper in one or two bites. We have discovered that they are also quite nice in a mixed sauté with onions and other vegetables. You can sauté them whole, or cut them into bite-sized pieces first. Remove the stem either before cooking, or at the table (if you don’t mind getting your fingers a little oily).
Red Gold Potatoes are a lovely variety that you don’t often see in the grocery stores. Red Gold potatoes are fine-textured and moist. They are closely related to Yukon Gold potatoes, and, like Yukon Gold’s they are considered an “all around” potato—which means they are good cooked a variety of different ways. They make excellent potato salad (recipe below), and are very good roasted, mashed, or just boiled and served with butter or your favorite ranch-type salad dressing. If scalloped potatoes are in your culinary repertoire, Red Gold potatoes are perfect for that recipe. I am currently working on a scalloped potato recipe for the newsletter, but last night’s trial came out way to soupy. ….. I should have a recipe ready next time Red Gold potatoes are in the box.
Simple Potato Salad: This recipe is excellent either warm or chilled.
1. Finely chop ½ a mild onion, place in a large bowl.
2. Cover with good olive oil and mild-flavored vinegar (use about twice as much olive oil as vinegar—and you can use any mild-flavored vinegar for this recipe. I like unsweetened rice vinegar, but white wine vinegar, or even apple cider vinegar would be nice. Don’t use Balsamic vinegar—its flavor is too strong).
3. Cut 2 lbs. potatoes into bite-sized chunks.
4. Cover potatoes with water, add 1 tsp. salt. Boil for 10-12 minutes or until soft.
5. Drain potatoes and (while still warm) add to bowl with onions, olive oil & vinegar. Stir gently. Cool 10 minutes (or longer). Serve warm or chilled.
6. (optional) When chilled, add chopped basil, cilantro, or parsley and stir gently.
There are dozens of different varieties of summer squash, with zucchini perhaps the most common. This week’s box has French White zucchini, also known as Lebanese squash. The French White zucchini can be cooked any way you would cook regular zucchini. We think the flavor is a little sweeter, and texture is less watery than standard green zucchini. Interestingly, the reason you don’t see French White zucchini in the grocery stores is that it bruises easily, and therefore is not a good option for grocery store trade where durability is a prime consideration.
Sweet Girl Tomatoes—These are the sweetest of our tomato varieties. A lovely salad or salsa tomato!
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016 Week 6 (July 12)
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Chard, 1 red onion, 1# Heirloom Tomatoes, 1 basket cherry tomatoes, 1 Eggplant, 1 bunch Basil, ½ pint Blackberries** **your blackberries are packed in a 1-pint box so they don’t get crushed, 1 large box Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Following the harvest season
One reason some people enjoy membership with a farm is to follow the harvest season by watching what appears in the weekly box. If you’re “eating with the seasons” some things are only available for a short time each year. Early season crops like fava beans and tayberries are over for the season. Corn and bell peppers are yet to come. However, on our farm, we try to extend the season for some popular things—strawberries and tomatoes in particular.
We grow “everbearing” varieties of strawberries, which means that our berries ripen from spring all through the summer. And this year, our strawberries have been productive, so you have received them for many weeks in a row! In the old days, most strawberries were “June-bearers”—ripening fruits only for a few weeks in the early summer. If you need a fresh idea for strawberries this week, try this recipe that I saw years ago in a column by Jan Roberts-Dominguez in the Corvallis Gazette-Times: mix ½ cup brown sugar into 1 pint sour cream. Dip whole strawberries, and enjoy. It’s amazing!
We also nurture our tomato plants to ripen earlier than they normally would in Corvallis. By growing our tomatoes in hoop houses, we create a warmer micro-climate—so our tomatoes ripen weeks ahead of schedule. This week’s box has a couple of heirloom tomatoes with one of the most delicious-sounding names: Brandywine. I like to enjoy my heirloom tomatoes simply sliced and either sprinkled with a light touch of salt or the slightest sprinkle of Balsamic vinegar. Either the salt or vinegar seem to bring out the flavor. Of course, they would be wonderful in a salad as well. This week’s cherry tomatoes are a mix that we call our “jellybean mix”—another great name, eh?
I have a wonderful cookbook “The Onion Book” by Corvallis author Jan Roberts-Dominguez (who came up with the delicious strawberry dip mentioned above). In it, she speaks of how well red onions and blue cheese go together. To give you inspiration, or to whet your appetite, here is a recipe from The Onion Book:
Red Onion and Blue Cheese Spread
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
¼ cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 French bread baguette, sliced into ¼” thick rounds, lightly toasted
1 bunch of sweet table grapes (optional, but delicious)
In a small saucepan over medium heat, gently warm the olive oil with the onion, toasted walnuts, olives, and garlic. Do not bring the oil to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool for a moment. Place the blue cheese in an attractive serving boil, then pour the warm oil mixture over the cheese and stir gently. Add pepper to taste, then let the mixture cool to room temperature.
To serve, arrange the toasted baguette rounds and the grapes on a platter and serve alongside the spread.
Note: To toast the nuts, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in a 350-degree oven until lightly golden, about 4 minutes.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016 Week 5 (July 5)
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1 bunch Cilantro, 1 sweet onion, 1.5# Tomatoes, 1 basket cherry tomatoes, 1 basket Padron peppers,1 basket Plums, 1 quart Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Dinner inspirations from this week’s box:
The large sweet onion in your box this week would be just perfect for making caramelized onions. “Caramelizing” is a concept rather than a specific recipe—it means slow cooking over moderate heat until the onion becomes very soft and slightly browned, and the moisture in the onion is reduced and concentrated. This method of cooking onions really brings out their sweetness, and reduces the volume quite a bit as the moisture is evaporated. Here’s how I do it: peel and slice onion into rings. Heat 1-2 Tbs oil in a heavy saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Stir every 3-5 minutes until everything is very soft and the onions become slightly browned. As the onions cook, they will release their moisture, and then the moisture evaporates as you continue to cook them. If things seem to be getting too dry (sticking to the pan, and threatening to burn), add a little liquid—about 1 Tbs at a time of balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, white wine, or oil. Then cover again and continue to cook. After about 15 – 20 minutes, if there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, remove the lid, and continue to cook to evaporate the liquid. When the liquid has evaporated and the onions have become very soft, they are done. This timing is very flexible, as they just get sweeter the longer they cook. You can also caramelize onions in the oven if your oven is already on to cook something else. When caramelizing in the oven, I don’t cover the pan. You can caramelize onions at any temperature from 350-400 degrees. It takes about an hour. The hotter the oven, the more you need to watch to make sure they don’t burn. I caramelized a huge onion on the stovetop last night while I made mashed potatoes from the Yukon gold potatoes that were in last week’s box. One of my favorite food combinations is caramelized onions and mashed potatoes—that pairing can be a complete meal in my opinion!
Cilantro two ways: Salsa or Pesto
There are an infinite number of recipes for salsa. Our personal favorite recipe is to use just tomatoes, sweet onion, and cilantro; chopping them finely with a sharp knife, or pulsing in a food processor. You can add a touch of salt or lime juice to enhance the flavors. Adjust the ratio of ingredients to suit your taste, and enjoy salsa as a topping on chips, tacos, fish, crackers and cheese, eggs, or pasta salad.
If you have more cilantro than you need for salsa, try Cilantro Pesto: Blend 1 bunch cilantro (coarsely chopped, include the stems), 1/8 to ¼ of a fresh jalapeno pepper, 1 clove garlic, and ½ tsp salt in a food processor or blender until finely chopped. Then add ½ cup pistachio nuts, continue processing until everything is well blended. Then, while the blender or processor is running, slowly add ½ cup olive oil, and continue blending until everything is creamy. You may need to add a bit more oil if things seem dry. Then add ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, and blend briefly. Adjust salt and jalapeno to taste at the end. Mix with 1 pound freshly cooked pasta. The final result is an intriguing combination of flavors that is very satisfying, rich, and suitable for serving to company.
Padrons are a chile used for traditional tapas (“little dishes”) in Barcelona, Spain. Picked when the peppers are still very young, the seeds have not yet developed. They are fried in a small amout of olive oil until blistered and soft, sprinkled with coarse salt, and served. Using the little stem for a handle, everything is eaten except for the stem. This dish is a gastronimic roulette, because while most peppers are mild, about 10% of them will be spicy/hot. We cooked two pints of Padrons on Sunday when Tom’s mother was having dinner at our house. The first one she took had a kick, and that was enough for her, as she is not too fond of spicy flavors. Fortunately she is a good sport, and those that are hot are not as hot as a jalapeno. The rest of us finished them up, and find them somewhat addictive. These could be chopped with onion, tomato, and cilantro to make salsa too, but we like them best fried in the traditional way.top of page
Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 4 (June 28)
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 2 Cucumbers, 1# Salad tomatoes, 1 Fennel, 1# Romano beans, 1 bunch Kale, 1 head Garlic, 2# Yukon gold potatoes, 1 basket Plums, 1 quart Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Ripe plums are so juicy that they don’t travel well, even just the few miles from our farm to your home, so we pick them a few days before peak ripeness. I suggest leaving your plums on the counter for a few days until they are slighty soft to the touch.
Salad Tomatoes, Fennel, and Kale
We grow a lot of tomatoes, so you will probably see tomatoes in your box just about every week between now and the end of October. This week’s tomato offering is what we call our “salad tomatoes”—which is more a size description than a culinary suggestion. Though they really are nice cut up into a green salad, or layered with basil and mozzarella for a caprese salad, these little tomatoes are quite versatile. If you’re in the mood for your first tomato sauce of the season, go ahead and cook them up! Or toss them into a soup, or just eat them straight out of hand….
Fennel has a distinctive aroma and flavor of anise or licorice. When cooked, the aroma and flavor become more subtle.
To prepare fennel: Cut off the duller green outer stalks—they are stringy, but make a great soup stock! What remains is a large white bulb, and some bright green inner stalks and leaf fronds. These inner leaf stalks and frilly leaves can be sliced very thinly, minced, or pulsed in the food processor, and added to soup, or used like celery in potato salad or tuna salad. Our favorite way to add nutrition and a hint of sweetness to spaghetti sauce is to add finely minced inner stalks & fronds of a fennel bulb.
To use the bulb: cut a thin slice off the bottom (the stem end), then cut the bulb vertically into wedges or horizontally into slices. Rinse the cut pieces to remove any dirt that has settled between the layers. Then enjoy the bulb raw sliced in a salad (as you would celery), or cooked. Most recipes for using fennel raw in a salad recommend slicing the bulb very thinly for best texture. If you’re using it cooked, the bulb can be left in larger pieces.
Fennel bulb is lovely in a sauté, braised, or baked. When cooked, fennel has a mild flavor, and creamy texture. Here’s my favorite Easy Fennel Bake: Rinse & slice 1 large fennel bulb in ¼-inch slices. Layer fennel in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish or deep pie dish with 2-3 cloves peeled, sliced raw garlic, and a good handful of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Drizzle 2 Tbs. olive oil over the top. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 – 25 minutes. It’s done when the fennel is very tender. Another idea: if you’re roasting potatoes this week, cut up your fennel bulb, and add it to the roasting pan alongside the potatoes.
I think greens fall into a couple of different categories—delicate (like spinach), and sturdy (like Kale). Delicate greens almost melt when they are cooked, whereas sturdy greens keep their integrity, and add texture to the finished dish. Kale can be served by itself—chop coarsely and steam for 10 minutes, then serve with your favorite vinaigrette or creamy salad dressing. Kale also goes very nicely in a bean soup (especially with white or cannellini beans).
I’m out of room in this newsletter, but if you need recipe ideas for kale, check on our web site, under Last Year’s Newsletters, Week 10 (www.denisonfarms.com).
Plastic berry containers
In an effort to get our produce to your kitchen in the best possible condition, we pack berries, cherry tomatoes (and this week, plums) in plastic clam containers. Unfortunately, these containers are not recyclable in Corvallis or Albany at this time. In Salem, they are no longer accepted in your “blue bin”, but they can be taken to the Salem-Keizer Recycling & Transfer Station, or to Garten Services (503-581-4472).
If your clams are clean, you can return them to us, and we will re-use them. We don’t have a sanitizer here on the farm, so please make sure they’re clean.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 3
In this box: 1 Lettuce, 1/2 # Spinach, 1 bunch Arugula, 1 bunch Basil, 1 bskt Cherry Tomatoes, 1.5# Romano Beans, 2# Purple Viking Potatoes, 1 Red Onion, 1 basket Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Romano Beans, more recipes
Last week, I suggested lightly steaming your Romano beans, and serving with a touch of butter. Truly, my family never tires of this simple treatment. However, if you feel inclined to try something different, here are some more recipe ideas.
Green Beans with Red Onion and Mustard Seed Vinaigrette
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. yellow mustard seeds
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
1 ½ lb. green beans, ends trimmed, and snapped into 2” sections
1. Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Cook 2 Tbs. mustard seeds, stirring, until they pop and are 1 shade darker, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, scraping the oil into the bowl as well. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.
2. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in the same skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook 1 red onion stirring, until golden brown (8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar, then add to the toasted mustard seeds.
3. Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. Cook 1½ lb. green beans in a pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and plunge into ice water, then drain well.
4. Toss beans with mustard seeds, vinegar & onion (from step 2). Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 12-24 hours in refrigerator. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 8. (Modified from Gourmet, August 2001)
Pan-Fried Green Beans with Pad Thai sauce
I just discovered how wonderful green beans are in a Thai-inspired peanut sauce! You can add this peanut sauce to a pot of steamed green beans, but if you have time to pan-fry the green beans first, you get a deeper & more complex flavor from the caramelization that happens in the frypan.
Pan-fried Green Beans…. For my pan-fried green beans, I use a large cast-iron skillet, though a Wok would probably work even better, if you have one. I don’t know if this will work as well in a skillet with non-stick coating. Heat a small amount of oil in your frypan (about 1 Tbs. should be enough). When hot, add green beans (trimmed and snapped into pieces). Ideally, the beans should be only 1-layer deep. If you are cooking a large amount in a small pan, better to cook them in 2 batches than to pile them deep. Stir only occasionally for 5 – 8 minutes, and don’t cover the pan. As the beans cook, their color will turn brighter, and when they’re done, the skins will be “blistered” and browned. That means some of the sugars in the bean have caramelized—and that’s the magic of the rich, complex flavor.
Once your beans are blistered, you can just add salt, and serve. Or dress with your favorite Pad Thai sauce (or store-bought Pad Thai sauce, or Yumm sauce). Here’s my basic recipe:
Pad Thai sauce: ¼ cup vegetable oil (any light-flavored oil will work), 1 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger, 2 Tbs. rice vinegar, ¼ cup smooth peanut butter, ¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce (like Sriracha or Sambal oelek), 1 Tbs. soy sauce, 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, (optional: 1 clove pressed garlic). Stir everything together, and pour over cooked beans.
Purple Viking Potatoes are very moist and creamy when cooked. They are good for mashed potatoes (especially if you add a tiny bit of sour cream or cream cheese), and excellent for potato salad.
Arugula—This spicy green packs a potent peppery punch when used raw in salads. Underneath the peppery hit, there’s a subtle nutty taste. I love arugula in a salad, but you can also gently sauté it for a milder flavor. Cooking arugula (any way you would cook spinach) mellows the peppery flavor. You can substitute arugula for spinach in any recipe, or use some of both as a filling for an omelet or crepe.
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 2
In this box: 1 bunch Parsley, 1 Sweet Onion, 1 head Garlic, 2 Cucumbers, 1.5# Romano Beans, 2# Fava Beans, 1 bunch Chioggia or Gold Beets, 1 basket Raspberries, 1 basket Strawberries (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Romano Beans, Fava Beans, and Parsley
I figure most of you will not need coaching on what to do with your raspberries and strawberries. (Please remember to get them in the refrigerator as soon as possible!) So I will spend most of this newsletter sharing my favorite recipes for the less familiar vegetables in the box.
The large flat green beans in your box today are Romano Green Beans. They can be cooked the same way you would cook any green bean, but they tend to be more tender than “regular” green beans, so you don’t want to overcook them. Preparation: snip the ends off, then snap each bean into bite-sized pieces. Steam them for just 3 minutes, then drain off the steaming water, and add a touch of butter to serve. Romano beans get sweeter and better tasting as they get larger, so we try to pick them as big as possible. However, they can get tough if we let them get too big. If you snap your beans (instead of cutting them), any tough beans will be identified because they won’t snap. If any of your beans don’t snap easily, toss them in the compost.
Fava Beans take a little more preparation than green beans. You generally just eat the large bean inside the pod (though the pods are edible! See below for a recipe). I like to break the pod and push out the beans into a large bowl—save the pods to cook another time. Blanch the beans in boiling water for 3 minutes, then plunge them into ice water to quickly chill the beans and keep them from overcooking. After the beans are cool enough to handle, most fava bean recipe suggest removing the “skin” from each bean (they should pop out easily after the blanching step). However, it is not essential to peel the inner bean. I suggest eating a few beans, skin & all, after blanching, then decide if you want to remove the peel. After blanching (and optional peeling), add fava beans to a vegetable sauté with onions, garlic, a little tomato paste, and Italian Parsley; or add to fried rice; or (my favorite) just pop them out of their skins and into your mouth for a nutritious snack.
Fava Beans with Yogurt and Lemon (inspired by Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
1. Heat 2 Tbs olive oil over moderate heat in a frypan until the oil shimmers.
2. Add approx. 2 cups blanched, peeled fava beans and 1 clove garlic, sliced. Sauté for 3 minutes.
3. Then add ½ sweet onion, thinly sliced, and ¼ cup chopped Italian Parsley. Sauté for 3 more minutes.
4. Prepare dressing: whisk together 1 Tbs olive oil, zest and juice from ½ lemon, and a pinch of salt.
5. Toss sautéed favas with lemon dressing and cool for 5 minutes.
6. Gently fold in ¼ cup yogurt. Eat immediately, or serve chilled.
Fava Pods are nice in a vegetable sauté! Start by softening garlic, onion, and parsley in olive oil. Then slice your fava pods in slivers (remove the side strings), and add to the sauté pan. Add ½ can of tomato paste (or some fresh tomato). Cover and simmer until the tomato becomes a thickened sauce. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Note: we grow a variety of fava that has a nice-tasting pod. If you get fava beans at the grocery store, they may not be as nice.
In many parts of the world, Parsley is considered a vegetable, and is widely eaten both fresh in salads, and cooked in a stir-fry, soup, or stew. Parsley is in the same botanical family as celery and carrots, and sometimes I will use parsley in place of celery when I’m starting a mirepoix—that magical sauté of garlic, carrots, and celery (or parsley) that is the basis of any number of Italian sauces, soups, stews, and casseroles.
I am particularly fond of parsley in a salad of cooked garbanzo beans, sweet onion, and cucumber, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice or whatever vinegar I have handy (in fact, that’s what I’m eating for lunch today!).
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Denison Farms Harvest Box 2016: Week 1 (June 7 & 8)
Welcome, and thank you for choosing to be part of our farm!
In this box: 1 Red Leaf Lettuce (from Groundwork Organic Farm), 3 Cucumbers, 1 bunch Carrots , 2# New Potatoes (red), 1 bunch Basil, 1 bunch Radish, 1# Zucchini, 1 basket Raspberries, 1 basket Blackberry or Tayberry (weights are approx.) Everything is Organic!
Today’s box starts a new Harvest Box season. Things are looking great on the farm, and we are looking forward to a delicious season. As always, we’re grateful for your support, and your choice to eat local and organic produce. Thank you for joining with us this year.
It sure has been HOT this past week! And your box shows some benefit and some challenges from the heat….. Cucumbers love hot weather, so we have a bountiful supply of cucumbers—there should be 3 in each box, enough for a cucumber salad. Zucchini also grows really fast when the weather is hot, so we have plenty of zucchini for you this week.
On the challenging side, berries (which are perishable even under the best conditions) become even more perishable in the heat. PLEASE refrigerate your berries as soon as possible (and/or eat them tonight). Berries keep best if you don’t rinse them until just before eating. So, stick them right in the fridge, unwashed, and plan to eat them soon.
All boxes should have a basket of red raspberries. The second basket of berries is either blackberry or tayberry (we didn’t have enough of either one for all the boxes). Tayberries are a cross between blackberry and raspberry. They are redder than blackberries, more of a purple color. Though raspberries are one of my favorite berries to eat right out of the container, I think both tayberries and blackberries are best in a lightly sweetened crisp or a fruit crumble. Of course, a mixed berry crisp is away nice…..
Basil is a bit fussy about storage conditions. It really doesn’t like being cold, and will turn black if stored in the refrigerator. If you just leave it out on the counter, it’s likely to wilt. Best to use it quickly, but if not, treat it like cut flowers (trim the stem, and place stems in a jar of clean water). Then, to keep it from wilting, drape a plastic bag loosely over the top…. Don’t completely close off the bag, or the basil may get moldy. Did I mention that basil is fussy?
Perhaps best to turn your basil into a pesto sauce, which will keep in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it. If you need a basic pesto recipe—you can find my basic recipe on our web site/last year’s newsletters/week 4. Once you have a batch of pesto, you can
* toss it with boiled, steamed, or roasted new potatoes
* mix it into a pan of sautéed zucchini just before serving
* thin it with vinegar to make a vinaigrette salad dressing
* add a large “dollop” to a pot of soup
* spread a layer onto a sandwich instead of mayonnaise or mustard
* or just toss into a pot of hot pasta for a “10-minute meal”
While we’re talking about produce storage, I’d like to share a few details about new potatoes. Though potatoes are generally famous for keeping a long time, new potatoes need to be eaten soon or stored in the refrigerator. I differentiate between NEW potatoes and STORAGE potatoes by whether or not the skins have hardened. This week’s box has new potatoes—so put them in the refrigerator. And, if you’re going to boil your new potatoes, I suggest adding a little more salt than usual to the cooking water. The starches in new potatoes are more soluble than in more mature potatoes, and all the flavor will end up in your cooking water if you don’t add enough salt.
Annual Farm Members Day
For those of you who like to plan ahead, it looks like our annual Farm Party will be on Sunday, September 4th. We’ll send more details as the date draws closer, but you can put it on the calendar now.
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