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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