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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