NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES

Fall Share LAST NEWSLETTER – November 27th, 2013

Hello folks! We have come to the last box of the CSA season. We want to thank you all again for your support this year – we are so incredibly grateful to all of you for participating in the CSA program with us. We really enjoy growing food and, even more importantly, sharing it with other people, and we hope that the experience has been positive for you as well. Please feel free to contact us with comments or suggestions at midnightsunfarm@gmail.com – we take customer comments seriously, and it is always helpful to know if, for example, we gave you too many (or not enough) beets this year!

This winter, we will spend time recharging our batteries, choosing seeds for next year, planning where everything will get planted, fixing up vehicles and building new farm equipment, and catching up on our paperwork. All of these preparations will make next season our best one yet. We hope that you all have a wonderful, restful winter, and we’ll be back in the spring with greens, eggs, and radishes before you can say “hoop-house”!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Napa Cabbage,
  • Bok choi,
  • Cabbage,
  • Broccoli,
  • Turnips or celery (we had an issues with out cooler, so we we short a few bunches of turnips and had to substitute celery),
  • Carrots,
  • Storage onions, and
  • Potatoes.

Everything this week but the onions and potatoes can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Separate the turnips from their tops and store both separately. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. The potatoes can go in a cool, dark, dry place in your kitchen.  Try to use everything within the week, but the onions, cabbage, and carrots will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

We tried to provide a mix of vegetables this week – some that will certainly be useful as you prepare Thanksgiving-type dishes, and others that will pair well with leftovers or offer a lighter touch to post-holiday fare.

Potatoes can be boiled and mashed, or you could try a new twist on potatoes, Potatoes Anna. The benefit to this baked dish of sliced potatoes and butter is that it can be made ahead and re-heated, making room in the kitchen for other activities.

Carrots, celery and onions are all great base ingredients for soup and casseroles, can be used in stuffing, and are just generally great workhorses to have around the kitchen.

Turnips can be roasted with other root vegetables, in addition to mushrooms, winter squash (skinned or not skinned), brussels sprouts, and onions. When roasting vegetables, a good rule of thumb is to halve, cube, or wedge vegetables so that they are between 1/2 to 1 inch thick, toss the veggies with 2-3 tbsp. olive oil per 2 lbs. of vegetables, and roast in a single layer on a baking sheet at 425F. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, or onions can roast for 25 to 35 minutes, and squashes and potatoes can roast for 35 to 45 minutes, but you should check for doneness at around 25 minutes, since cooking time can vary.

Napa cabbage’s texture and meatiness make for a fine addition to turkey or chicken soup – I like to shred it or cut it into strips. You can mix chopped, leftover turkey with chopped onion, shredded carrot, and mayonnaise, and either mix with shredded cabbage for a nice salad, or wrap the turkey mixture in a napa leaf. You can also try this recipe for turkey tacos with napa slaw! Regular cabbage is great in soups and slaws, too, but my favorite way to eat it in the winter is sauteed with sliced apples and onions.

Bok choi is another fine addition to soups – try this recipe for turkey and bok choi noodle soup. If you’re feeling the need for some green after all the beige of turkey and potatoes, a stir fry is also a good way to go:

Chop bok choi into 1/2-inch strips, slice onions into 1/4-inch wedges, cut carrots into 1/4-inch thick slices, and cut broccoli tops into florettes and peel the stalk and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Aim to chop about 1/2 lb. of vegetables total. Finely chop a few cloves of garlic and 1/4 inch hunk of garlic, peeled. Heat a heavy pan to medium-high heat and add 1-2 tbsp. peanut oil. Add carrots, onions, and broccoli stalks and cook for a few minutes, stirring continually, and continue to add vegetables in the order of their cooking time (longer cooking times first). When the veggies are all cooked and crisp-tender, add the garlic and ginger and cook one minute more. Add soy sauce, peanut oil, red pepper, or any other sauce-type ingredients you like. Serve over noodles or rice.

Happy Cooking!

Fall Share – Week 3 – November 20th, 2013

Just a quick note this week to say hello and hope everyone weathered the Sunday storm ok. We got some of those big winds and a lot of rain, but nothing catastrophic, luckily. The warmer weather was nice, though, and it would be great if it stuck around for maybe one more week:) But it looks like arctic chill will be headed our way come Friday night. So, we’ll harvest what we can before the cold sets in and be glad that we’re almost to the end of the harvest season!

One quick request for you all. Since the last box will be delivered the day before Thanksgiving, we realize that some folks may be out of town or traveling. If you know that you won’t be able to pick up your box, please make sure to designate a friend or neighbor to pick it up, or let us know so we can plan accordingly. Thanks so much, and have a great week!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Spinach,
  • Lettuce mix,
  • Leeks,
  • Cabbage,
  • A little Broccoli,
  • Celeriac,
  • Brussels Sprouts, and
  • Red onions.

Everything this week but the onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. The potatoes can go in a cool, dark, dry place in your kitchen.  Try to use everything within the week, but the onions, cabbage, leeks, and celeriac will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

The lettuce mix hung on valiantly this season, and we were happy to get one harvest out of it before snow flies. We encourage everyone to wash it before serving, and watch out for any less-than-perfect leaves. The best way to do this is to plunge the salad mix into a sink or bowl of cold water, swish it around, and pick out any bad leaves. The mix can then be spun dry in a salad spinner. The best time to wash it is right before you eat it!

Nick has made a couple of great shepherd’s pies in the last week. This dish is a hearty casserole that consists of vegetables and meat on the bottom and mashed potatoes on top – the original hot dish! The best part about shepherd’s pie is that the recipe is abundantly flexible. You can choose to put almost any vegetable you want in the bottom of the pie, provided it is chopped into about 1/2 inch cubes (or left whole or halved, in the case of brussels sprouts). This includes shredded cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrots, and radishes. The meat in the bottom is usually ground meat of some kind – beef, pork, turkey – but you could substitute textured vegetable protein, vegetarian crumbles or tempeh if you wanted to make a meat-free version. Finally, you can amend the mashed potatoes with celeriac, or even a chopped apple, to add a unique flavor to the top part of the pie.

To cook, start by boiling about 2 lb potatoes (plus celeriac and/or apple, if you like) until tender. Mash them well with some butter, milk, salt and pepper, and set aside. Meanwhile, cook your ground meat in a large, heavy skillet. Remove the meat, drain off most of the fat, and return the skillet to the stove (if you are using meat substitute, skip this step and add some olive oil to the pan). Add 1 medium onion, chopped, to the skillet and cook for a few minutes. Add remaining vegetables (between 4 and 6 cups total) and cook until everything is crisp-tender. Incorporate the meat or meat-substitute into the vegetables, spoon this mixture into a 9×13 baking dish, and top with the mashed potato mixture. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, until the dish is warmed through and the potatoes are browned. Yum!

Brussels sprouts are quickly becoming a favorite in our household. Check out this unique and festive recipe for roasted brussels sprouts and grapes – sounds weird, but the flavors really work well together!

Happy Cooking!

Fall Share – Week 2 – November 13th, 2013

Hello all! Did everyone survive the little bit of Arctic Blast on Monday and Tuesday? I bet you’re all wondering how much snow we had to dig through to harvest this week. Well, we were industrious farmers this weekend and got a lot of harvesting done before the snow flew on Monday, thanks goodness. We were very happy to have all the field work done by the time it started snowing, and were able to pack the boxes in relative comfort and warmth in the now-empty greenhouse this morning.

This week we’re including a few items from farmers friends of ours – potatoes from our next-door neighbors Sandhill Family Farms, and dry beans from our beloved Breslin Farms in Ottowa, IL. These more storage-friendly foods help fill the box a little during these final weeks of the CSA, when things like cold snaps can unexpectedly limit the types of vegetables available for harvest.

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Swiss Chard,
  • Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley,
  • Bok Choi,
  • Yellow Onions,
  • Green Onions,
  • Arugula,
  • Hakurei Turnips,
  • Potatoes (organic – from Sandhill Family Farm), and
  • Black Turtle Beans (organic – from Breslin Farms).

Everything this week but the onions, beans and potatoes can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Remove the tops from the turnips and store the tops and bottoms separately. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. The potatoes can go in a cool, dark, dry place in your kitchen. The beans will keep in the pantry. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions, potatoes, and beans will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

I love the heck out of black beans, but I know that the soak-factor comes between many would-be dry-bean cooks and delicious beans. Don’t be scared! Although it takes a little longer, cooking with dry beans can lend a unique texture to bean dishes that canned beans just can’t replicate.

There are two super-easy ways to pre-soak beans before cooking. You can either

  • throw the beans in a bowl or pot with enough water to cover them at least one inch, and let them soak overnight,  or you can
  • put the beans in a pot with enough water to cover them at least one inch, bring the beans and water to a boil, turn off the heat, cover, and let the beans sit for one hour.

Whatever method you choose, discard the soaking water before continuing with your recipe.

I like to coarsely chop one large or several small yellow onions and sautee the onion for a few minutes in olive oil in a large, heavy pot. I then add one pound of pre-soaked beans, enough water to cover by one inch, one bay leaf, and a pinch of salt and pepper. I bring the whole thing to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 hours, or until the beans are tender and the cooking liquid is reduced and thickened. To finish, add a teaspoon each of sugar and cumin and and tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. This dish is delicious over hot rice.

We enjoy pairing greens and beans, and love these:

CHARD AND BEAN ENCHILADAS

Preheat oven to 375F.

Filling: Prepare and cook 1/2 lb. of black beans as desired. Using a knife, prepare one bunch of swiss chard as follows: cut the green leaves of the chard away from the ribs, chop the ribs finely, and cut the greens into 1/2-inch wide strips. Chop about 1/2 c. onion and 2-3 cloves garlic, and combine with the chopped swiss chard ribs in a heavy pan with a few tablespoons olive oil. Cook over medium heat until soft, then add greens and cook until wilted. Add beans, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes or hot sauce to taste.

Assembly: Bring one package of small corn tortillas to room temperature (this makes them easier to fold). Pour about one-half of a can of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish. Into each tortilla, place a spoonful of filling and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Roll the tortilla up, tucking in the sides, and place, seam side down, into the pan. Repeat until filling is used up or pan is full. Top with remaining enchilada sauce, a little more cheese, and pop in the oveN for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and everything is nice and hot. Enjoy!

Remember how delicious both Hakurei turnips and their greens are? The turnips are tender, sweet, and delicious both raw and cooked (sauteed, used in stews or roasted and paired with potatoes), and the greens are equally mild and delicious sauteed with a little onion or garlic, red pepper, and olive oil. You can also boil potatoes and turnips together and mash them with butter, salt, and pepper for a lighter, new twist on mashed potatoes.

Potatoes can also be prepared with a parsley sauce. Cut larger potatoes into quarters and smaller potatoes into halves, add to a large pot of salted water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sautee one chopped onion and two chopped garlic cloves in olive oil for about five minutes. Add one bunch chopped Italian parsley, 1/2 c. broth, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook a few minutes more. Toss the cooked potatoes with the parsley mixture and serve hot.

If you’ve never tried arugula or bok choi raw as a salad ingredient, perhaps now is the time! Arugula pairs well with nuts, pears, strong cheeses and vinaigrette, and can be mixed with less tangy greens to cut the peppery taste. Bok choi offers both leafy and crunchy textures: check out this page and this one for some recipe ideas. Just remember to wash your bok choi well – dirt tends to get stuck between the leaves at the base of the plant!

Happy Cooking!

Fall Share – Week 1 – November 6th, 2013

Howdy folks! Hope you all had a fun Halloween and are braving the whistling winds of November. The fields are mostly mowed, cover-cropped, and spread with compost, except for the few areas where our cold-weather crops are still growing. It feels good to have some of our fall chores taken care of – now to winterize the chicken’s houses and get them ready for the snowfall (actually, although this seems crazy, our chickens kind of like the snow, and will go out pecking in it on sunny, warmer winter days).

We had a lovely harvest day yesterday – warm and just a little overcast. And boy were we glad we got all the hard work done when we woke up to the sound of rain on the roof! Today is a much better day for packing boxes and contemplating all the delicious things that you can make with the selection of veggies in this week’s share.

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Spinach,
  • Collards,
  • Red or Green Cabbage,
  • Red Onions,
  • Daikon Radishes,
  • Beets,
  • Broccoli, and
  • Celery.

Everything this week but the onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Remove the tops from the beets and store the tops and bottoms separately. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions and cabbage will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

Cool weather calls for hot foods, and braised collards can sure hit the spot. In a heavy pan, sautee chopped onions in olive oil until a little soft. While you’re waiting, cut the tough center vein out of one bunch of collard leaves, and cut the greens into ribbons. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and a crushed clove of garlic to the onions. Stir, the add the greens and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes more. Add a splash of lemon juice or white wine and about 1/4 c. stock to the pan, reduce heat, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Finish by stirring in a drizzle of maple syrup, seasoning with sat and pepper, and serve!

Beets and cabbage go well in borcht, and we included a basic borcht recipe a few weeks ago – you can find it again in the newsletter archives. Some of the beets in these bunches are Chioggia beets – they are an heirloom variety that lack the traditional dark coloring of red beets, but instead have a cool peppermint-stick like color scheme! They are very pretty when quartered or sliced, and can be roasted or boiled and added to spinach salads dressed with vinaigrette.

Remember that beet greens cook up a lot like spinach, so if you are going to sautee that spinach, throw the beet greens in as well!

Daikon radishes are a unique radish variety that grow long and white. They resemble regular radishes in flavor, but are a little sweeter and milder in flavor. I like to cut them in half lengthwise, then cut them into thin half moons and add to stir fries or salads. Traditionally, they are used in pickles and kimchee-like fermented dishes.

Happy Cooking!

Summer Share – Week 22 – October 30th, 2013

Well, this week marks the last week of our main season CSA program. Thank you all so much for your support this year. We have enjoyed putting the weekly boxes together, and we hope you have all found the CSA experience enjoyable. It was your investment at the beginning of the year that allowed us to have such a successful growing season, and we are grateful to all of you for making that commitment.

Thank you, too, to our generous drop site hosts – Earthly Goods, Studio Lotus, and you folks in the city (you know who you are). Your participation helped us to bring the food more directly to the people!

If you’d like to offer any comments or suggestions for next year, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email at midnightsunfarm@gmail.com. We love to know what worked, what didn’t, and what we could be doing to improve the CSA experience.

Throughout the next few months, we will have eggs available for sale on the farm, in the long white barn with the green “Prairie Crossing Farm” sign on the top of it. If you will be joining us for the fall CSA extension, look for an email tomorrow with details. If not, thanks again for a great season, and have a wonderful, restful winter! All the best – Nick and Becky

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Spinach,
  • Celeriac,
  • Napa Cabbage,
  • Yellow Onions,
  • Carrots,
  • Radishes,
  • Kohlrabi,
  • Brussels Sprouts, and
  • Green and Red Kale.

Everything this week but the onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Separate the radishes and celeriac bulbs from their leaves/fronds, and store the tops and bottoms separately. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions and celeriac will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

Celeriac tops, onions (including skins), and carrots are all great additions to a vegetable soup stock. You can also use mushroom stems, celeraic root peelings, fennel fronds or stalks, celery stalks, and potato peels. To make a stock, chop about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of vegetables into cubes and sautee for 5-10 minutes in a little olive oil. When fragrant, add herbs such as sage, thyme, bay leaves, or parsley, salt and pepper, and 2-3 quarts water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour. Strain, discarding vegetables and retaining the liquid, and refrigerate or freeze, or use immediately.

Brussels sprouts are super and versatile – clean (by removing any icky-looking outer leaves), cut a shallow cross into the base of each sprout, and steam for a simple side dish. You can also halve the sprouts and roast them at 350F with a little olive oil, or shred very thinly and dress with any dressing you would use in a salad or slaw. Yum!

The method of cooking au gratin is a popular one for vegetables like potatoes, brussels sprouts, and celeriac. The general idea involves par-boiling or pre-cooking the vegetables, mixing with a creamy/cheesy sauce, topping with bread crumbs, and baking until cooked through. Check out these recipes for brussels sprouts au gratin and celeriac au gratin!

Napa Cabbage is a great addition to stir fries, and is also very tasty shredded and added to a salad. The wrinkly texture helps the leaves to hold on to sauces and dressings. The wide leaves can also be  used in place of tortillas or egg-roll wrappers to make crunchy vegetable, meat, or tofu wraps. Try adding shredded radish or carrot to the wrap, or pre-cooked rice noodles. Check here for more great ideas about what to do with napa cabbage!

Kale and carrots can be roasted together with onions, sauteed with ginger, combined into a raw salad, or souped up into a hearty, leguminous soup. Try one of these great recipes – the kale and carrots are both super-sweet after the frost we got last week!!! The post-frost radishes also have an amazing sweetness that makes me really love fall radishes.

Happy cooking!

Summer Share – Week 21 – October 23rd/27th, 2013

Seeing the words “Summer Share” at the top of the page really gave me a giggle this afternoon. The start of the season in June seems so far away right now – during this week of below-freezing nights, we are rushing to harvest the tenderest of our still-growing crops. Temperatures should get a little more seasonable (cold, but at least tolerable) by the end of the week, but in the meantime, we’d like to give a very big thanks to Jac, our dedicated field worker who continues to help harvest, wash and pack, even with cold hands. Worker shares Megan and Heather also braved the cold on Tuesday to help bring more vegetables to our Wednesday boxes.

Farming is wonderful, rewarding, educational, and also challenging – especially the all-weather aspect of the job. We appreciate the help of all the folks who have stuck with us through rain, heat, and now cold to plant, cultivate, and harvest the vegetables for each week’s CSA boxes and markets.We also really appreciate the support of our CSA customers. Enjoy your second-to-last CSA box (last one, for our Rogers Park folk!), and stay warm!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Swiss Chard (bagged or bunched),
  • Leeks,
  • Potatoes,
  • Yellow Onions,
  • Arugula,
  • Fennel,
  • Green Onions,
  • Brussels Sprouts, and
  • Celery.

Everything this week but the onions and potatoes can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Separate the fennel bulbs from their leaves/fronds, and store the tops and bottoms separately. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen, and the potatoes can go in a cool, dark, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions, and potatoes will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

Oooh! Great tip from our thrifty and talented friend Ann. She cuts off the fennel tops, freezes them, then drags them out adds them to the pot whenever she is boiling/cooking white beans in the wintertime. Great way to add some yummy fennel flavor to white beans, which traditionally pair well with fennel:)

There are some great vegetable quiche combinations in the box this week – try leek and swiss chard, leek and fennel, green onion and fennel, onion and arugula….you get the picture. The basic recipes are all similar – make a crust, chop and (usually) pre-cook your vegetables, combine with your egg/milk filling, and bake. Quiche makes a great dinner when paired with a salad – you could toss together shredded chard, arugula, thinly sliced fennel, and/or celery with some vinaigrette for a lovely side.

The green onions in your box this week are quite hefty, but have the same delicious fresh onion-y flavor as smaller green onions. If you are getting the grill out for some final use before the snow starts to fly, green onions grill up very nicely – just trim the root ends, brush with olive oil, and grill until tender and a little charred. You can put them in a foil pack to steam them a bit, too. If you’d rather cook indoors, halve the green onions and arrange on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any other herbs desired, and dot with butter. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes until brown and delicious.

Potatoes can be halved or quartered, boiled, and tossed with arugula pesto for a nice side. This can be served hot or cold. To make arugula pesto, blend the following in a food processor until combined into a smooth mixture: 1 c. arugula, 1/4 c. walnuts, and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir in or pulse in 1/4 c. olive oil and 1/4 c. finely shredded Parmesan cheese. This pesto also goes great on pizza or egg dishes.

You also have the fixings to make potato-leek soup this week! Served hot or cold, it is a creamy, delicious fall soup that highlights the deliciousness of two rather subtle vegetables – leeks and potatoes.

Potato-Leek Soup

Thinly slice one medium-sized yellow onion and two leeks (making sure to clean the sliced leeks thoroughly by agitating the slices in a bowl of cold water). In a heavy-bottomed pot, sautee onions and leeks in 1 tbsp vegetable oil until soft and fragrant. Scrub and cube 1/2 -3/4 lb potatoes (peel if desired) and add to pot, along with 4 c. vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth, stir in 1/2 c. milk, half-and-half, or cream, and season with salt and pepper.

It might be too early to start thinking about dressing/stuffing recipes, but consider the following recipe. Note that you can make dressing/stuffing for a hearty dinner side dish any time you want (it doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving)! Also note that stuffing can be made ahead of time and frozen just before baking. Pack the stuffing into quart freezer bags and freeze for up to one month. When you are ready to cook the stuffing, thaw the stuffing slowly (either on the counter or in the fridge), add some broth (if the defrosted stuffing is too dry) or extra bread crumbs (if the defrosted stuffing is too wet), dot with butter, and bake as directed.

Multi-Vegetable Bread Stuffing/Dressing

Cut 1/2 of a loaf of day-old bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat oven to 350F; spread cubes on a cookie sheet and bake until just golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. In the meantime, clean and chop one leek, one fennel bulb, 4-6 stalks of celery, and 2 medium-sized onions (you can add two chopped pears, if you like). Sautee vegetables in a large, heavy pan with 1/4 c. butter and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft and begin to brown. Add 1 tbsp. each fresh or 1 tsp. each dried sage and thyme.

Toss together bread cubes and vegetable mixture, then drizzle one cup vegetable or chicken or turkey stock over mixture. Season with salt and pepper. This dressing can either be used to stuff a turkey, or can be baked in a buttered 9×13 pan for about 45 minutes, until dressing is heated through and the top is brown and crisp.

Brussels sprouts are super and versatile – clean (by removing any icky-looking outer leaves), cut a shallow cross into the base of each sprout, and steam for a simple side dish. You can also halve and roast at 350F with a little olive oil, or shred very thinly and dress with any dressing you would use in a salad or slaw. Yum!

Happy cooking!

Summer Share – Week 20 – October 16th/19th, 2013

Fall has arrived! We were basking in some pretty warm, sunny and luxurious weather until yesterday. We had an opportunity to drive around a little bit this weekend and see some of the corn and bean farmers as they harvest their crops. Folks were running their combines through the fields and occasionally, slowly, down some of the country roads. Some were towing full grain wagons of corn and beans, too. Waiting until the fall for one big harvest must be very exciting, but it must be nerve-wracking, too, to have all your yearly profits depend upon the one-time successful of one type of crop. I think I like harvesting many things throughout the season – if our spring lettuce doesn’t do so well, we know we will get another chance in the fall. If our peppers tank for some reason, maybe our broccoli is doing phenomenally well. CSA and market farms are great for diversification, and overall, diversification seems to be pretty good for business.

Today there was a positive chill in the air, and our hands were getting a little numb as we washed the last of the greens for market. I guess all summers have to end eventually, and so tonight we are looking at patchy frost and temperatures in the low 30’s. This will mean a definitive end to our pepper plants (still gamely bopping along, producing the odd pepper here and there), and it will mean a sweetening of our collards, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts. Other hardy veggies like bok choi, green onions, spinach, and lettuce will soldier on through the cold weather. The main trick will be convincing ourselves that we are hardy enough to go out there and harvest in the cold:)

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday and Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Spinach (bagged or bunched),
  • Beets,
  • Purple Cabbage,
  • Red Onions,
  • Bok Choi,
  • Sage,
  • Acorn/Thelma Sanders Squash, and
  • Broccoli.

Everything this week but the onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Sage might do well if it is rinsed off, then put in a container with some aeration. Separate the beet roots from their tops, and store the tops and bottoms separately. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions, cabbage, squash and beets will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

I know that some of you have been waiting for this week with anticipation, and others with dread – for this week heralds the return of the beets! We didn’t have great luck with beets this summer for some reason, but our fall beets are looking good. If you are excited by the beets already, then great! If you aren’t quite sure, give those beets another shot and try the suggestions below.

Remember that beets are a two-for-one deal – you get the roots AND the greens. The greens are quite like spinach or swiss chard, and can easily be combined with your spinach greens in any recipe you like. The beet roots should be scrubbed well before use. They can be roasted in a 375F oven (drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil, bake until tender, between 30 min and 1 hour) and will then be quite easy to peel and cube or slice for use in a salad or pasta dish. Beets can also be boiled in their skins – once fully cooked, their skins will slip off easily.

Another of my favorite uses for beets is borcht, or beet soup. Borcht generally consists of shredded beet, cabbage, carrot, onion, and sometimes potato, in broth. Really, one can tailor borcht to fit one’s tastes, using chicken or beef or vegetable broth, including other vegetables or keeping it very simple, topping with boiled potatoes, sour cream, or even caviar (if you are feeling fancy). This sample recipe from All Recipes gives you the main idea.

Red cabbage is also often sauteed in combination with apples (really? yes – they go very well together) and onions, or in a sweet and sour type sauce. To sautee, just shred cabbage and chop all other vegetables/fruits you will be using (carrots go well here, too) and sautee in olive oil until as tender as you like. To get a sweet and sour taste, mix in 2 tbsp. sugar and 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar. Salt and pepper generously, and season with mustard seed, if desired.

Bok Choi is a great addition to stir fries, and can be cooked or sauteed just like you would spinach or any other green, The white ribs tend to need a slightly longer cooking time and can go into the pan with chopped onions, ginger, chiles, and/or garlic – the greens are very tender and can be added in the last 3-5 minutes of cooking. For a light and interesting sauce, combine 1 tbsp. miso paste, 1 tbsp. cooking sherry, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1 tsp. cornstarch, then add mixture to pan during the last few minutes of cooking, stirring until thickened. Toss with toasted sesame seeds for some neat texture!

Finally, let’s talk about that acorn squash. The basic cooking gambit is to halve it (being careful as you cut it, since these things are HARD), scoop out the seeds, place the squash cut side down on an oiled baking pan, and bake at 400F until the squash is tender (about 45-50 min). Once the squash is done, you can do what you will with the cooked flesh – scoop it out and mash it with butter or add it to a soup. Or, you can simply serve the halves of squash with some sage butter: to make, melt 1/2 c. butter in a saucepan and add 5-6 fresh sage leaves that have been cut into thin strips. Cook until the sage leaves are crisp, then drizzle over the halves of your squash.

The seeds can be rinsed and tossed with a bit of oil and salt and roasted alongside the squash until browned (around 10 minutes). I’d recommend this – squash seeds are my favorite and very healthy, especially for the prostate.

Any leftover sage can be dried easily by hanging it upside down in a warm, well ventilated place. When it is completely dry, pop it in a glass jar and store with your other spices. I like dried sage tea in the winter, and it can also be used as a seasoning in poultry dishes. Yum!

Summer Share – Week 19 – October 9th/13th, 2013

Well, as sad as it was to have to cancel on Saturday, we sure did have some weather up here (and down in the city, too, I hear)! I think this summer was a bit short on good old fashioned storms, but we really got our fill of it this weekend. Even better has been the prolonged warm, sunny, beautiful fall – I feel like it is still September, even though Halloween is creeping up on us.

This week’s box is hefty! We didn’t realize until we started picking them up to get them loaded, but they are chocked full of great fall veggies, along with some seasonal treats (green tomatoes) and the last of the peppers (awww). Included in the box are a lot of two-part-er vegetables – that is, vegetables with a top and a bottom that are both edible! The best way to preserve these two-part vegetables is to remove the tops from the bottoms and store separately. This is because, when the leaves are still attached, the roots think that they are still growing and continue to suck nutrients from the leaves, making the greens go south more quickly and causing the roots to get a little soft.

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday and Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Kohlrabi,
  • Kale (Russian or Lacinato),
  • Hakurei Turnips,
  • Carrots,
  • Celery,
  • Bell or Italian peppers (sweet),
  • Yellow onions,
  • Green tomatoes, and
  • Small Potatoes.

Everything this week but the tomatoes, potatoes, and onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Separate the turnips, kohlrabi, and carrot roots from their tops, and store the tops and bottoms separately. The tomatoes can go on your counter. The onions and potatoes can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen (and dark, for the potatoes). Try to use everything within the week, but the onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

I love a good shortcut, and my lovely friend Megan does something genius with her vegetables – she will pre-dice a few cups of carrot, celery, onion, or anything else that is a pain to prep, and keeps the pre-diced veggies in her fridge for a week or two, where they can be easily added to soup, stew, casserole, or other recipes (or used to top salads). The trio of carrot, celery, onion is known as the Mirepoix, and is commonly used as the flavor basis for soups and savory recipes.

You are getting quite a lot of celery in the box this week – these plants did very well this year, to our delight. Check out this great compilation by the New York Times for some new takes on cooking with celery.

We rejoiced when we found some extra Hakurei turnips in the fields this week. As always, they are a sweet, delicious, and super mild root vegetable that is great raw, in stir fries, roasted, or sauteed. The Hakurei turnip greens, as you may remember from the spring, are delicious, tender, and mild, and are best sauteed with a little butter or olive oil and garlic or onion. Don’t miss out on the greens, they are chocked full of vitamins and minerals and taste almost nothing like traditional turnip greens.

Please give the kale an extra rinse or two, since we noticed that some of the leaves had become homes for a few aphid. Once it is washed up, why not try kale chips, sauteed kale with onion, or raw kale salad? Kale is a great green to sautee along with sausage, ham chunks, or other bits of meat or tofu. This type of green scramble can be seasoned spicily and served with cornbread, or spooned into tortillas and wrapped and eaten, or spooned over crusty toasts! For an extra kick, top with shredded cheese or a fried or poached egg.

Now, on to green tomatoes. Green tomatoes don’t show up often during the summer, because for those of us who love ripe tomatoes, it is very hard to pick a tomato that may someday become ripe. But for those of us who know the delicious secret of green tomatoes, it becomes hard to resist. Tradition dictates that green tomatoes be fried – these fried goodies can be eaten alone or used as a sandwich ingredient. But you can also quick-pickle them, or use them in unexpected places….like baked goods! Our friend (and CSA worker share) Catherine turned us on to this great recipe for green tomato spice cake! Sounds crazy, but is SUPER delicious:) Great for an easy Saturday afternoon baking project.

And kohlrabi! Kohlrabi can of course be peeled, sliced and eaten raw, but there are a multitude of other ways to eat it – check out this inspiring blog post for a guide to many ways to eat kohlrabi. I am also itching to try a kohlrabi curry recipe (like this one) after learning that it is a common food in Indian cuisine. Kohlrabi greens are a bit like collards, and can be de-ribbed, cut into long ribbons, and sauteed or added to soups.

Finally, check out those carrot greens – they can be used to make soup stock, or used sparingly in sautees and soups. We recommend that you try a little bit first to make sure that the carrot greens agree with you, since some folks have a mild reaction to eating the leaves.

Happy Cooking!

Summer Share – Week 18 – September October 2nd/5th, 2013

This week’s box is brought to you by the letter “C”! The first three items in your box are cole crops, that is, vegetables in the Brassica or Cruciferous family. You can recognize the root “cole” in both the words “collard” and “cauliflower” (the word cabbage originates from the old French word for “head”). Radishes are also in the Brassica family – it is a family populated with cultivated vegetables. You can also hear the similarity in sound between “cilantro” and “celeriac” – these two vegetables are related to one another (and to celery, carrots, and parsley).

I am always amazed when I look out at the field and realize that the vast majority of the food that we grow originates from about five major families of plants. The crops that we grow are the ancestors of wild plants that our ancestors gathered  and ate before agriculture became widespread. When people started to save seeds and plant them deliberately in order to grow food (the dawn of the farm!), they chose the wild plants with the most desirable characteristics – sweet taste, large leaves, heavy fruit yields, large, tender roots. The food we grow today reflects the taste preferences of generations of farmers before us who have selected and bred certain varieties of crops to have certain characteristics. What a variety of foods there are that originate from such a narrow section of all plant life on the planet! To me, it is always mind-boggling.

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Collards,
  • Cauliflower,
  • Cabbage,
  • Cilantro,
  • Celeriac,
  • Baby Eggplants (long and purple or green, or purple/white and regular eggplant shaped),
  • Tomatoes,
  • Red Cippolini onions, and
  • Radishes.

Everything this week but the tomatoes and onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Separate the radishes and celeriac roots from their tops, and store the tops and bottoms separately. The tomatoes can go on your counter. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

Celeriac (or celery root, as some folks know it) is that big, ugly root attached to what looks like celery stalks. Cut the root from the stalks. The root itself is the main attraction – peel it, then use it for a number of purposes. The taste is reminiscent of celery, and the texture is similar to carrots. Celeriac can be cubed and roasted with other root vegetables, boiled like a potato and mashed (this is delicious!!!), or added  to soups, or it can be shredded and added to salads. The stalks are pretty fibrous, so we don’t recommend eating them like celery, but they make a great soup stock when simmered with bones, onion skins, carrot tops or shavings, etc. If you don’t feel like making stock now, just throw them in a bag and put them in the freezer for when you do have the time and inclination.

This week’s radishes are Easter Egg radishes, and they dazzle with both color and size! Although the weather has been cooler, these radishes still have a bit of a bite that comes from the warmer weather. Enjoy them in salads or sandwiches.

You have some ingredients at hand to make a few types of coleslaw! One way to go is cilantro slaw – just shred your cabbage, chop about half a bunch of cilantro (you can throw in some shredded carrots and chopped onion or green onion if you have some laying around), and mix with the following dressing: 1/2 c. mayonnaise, 1/2 c. sour cream, 3 tbsp. lime juice, one seeded, chopped hot pepper of your choice, 2 minced garlic cloves, and salt and pepper to taste.

You can also put the celeriac and/or radishes to work in your slaw – same recipe as above, only omit the cilantro, hot pepper, and garlic, replace lime juice with lemon juice or cider vinegar, and mix in either shredded celeriac or shredded radish with the cabbage.

And collards! Collards can be de-ribbed (that is, remove the tough mid-rib of each leaf) and cut into ribbons. Sautee in olive oil with some garlic salt for about 5 minutes, then add 1/4 c. broth or other liquid and cover, cooking until the greens are as tender as you desire.

Cauliflower is one of my all time favorite vegetables, and I am so glad that we succeeded in growing it this year! Two great methods for cooking cauliflower are roasting and mashing. To roast, slice the cauliflower head into 1/2 inch thick pieces, drizzle with olive oil, season as desired, and pop in the oven at 375F and cook until tender. Cover with aluminum foil if the veggies are browning too fast. To mash, simply cut the cauliflower into florettes, boil in water or broth until very tender, drain, and mash with butter, shredded cheese, salt and pepper.

If you feel overwhelmed with cilantro, you can always freeze it. The best idea I have seen is to remove the leaves from the stems, wash them, and pack them tightly into the bottom of a zip-lock bag, so that they form a little log. You can roll the baggie down to pack the log more tightly. Then freeze, and whenever you need a bit of cilantro, chop a round off the end of your cilantro log!

These baby eggplant are the last of the season, and the tomatoes are probably the second-to-last that you will see. Thus the summer ends. But the eggplant are perfect for roasting, and you can try roasting the tomatoes, too! Core and quarter the tomatoes, and cube the eggplants, then combine on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and any fresh herbs that you desire. Roast in a 450F oven until eggplant is tender and browned (about 40 minutes). Toss with pasta and feta cheese for a simple sauce.

Summer Share – Week 17 – September 25th/September 29th, 2013

What’s In the Box This Week?

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Swiss Chard,
  • Parsley,
  • Tomatillos,
  • Red Onions,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Spinach,
  • Fennel,
  • Sweet peppers (either bell peppers or long Italian Frying peppers), and
  • Poblano peppers (dark green, pointy and sort of blunted).

Everything this week but the tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. The tomatoes and tomatillos can go on your counter. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

If you still have a leek left over from last week, you can grab your bunch of swiss chard and try making the leek-swiss chard tart I linked last week. If not, no worries! Swiss chard can carry a tart or quiche by itself, or with a little onion, just as well. Here’s just one example of a pretty standard tart treatment for swiss chard. The greens are also delicious sauteed in olive oil – remember to cut the ribs from the leaves first, chop with onion and sautee. Then add the greens, cut into ribbons, and a little lemon juice, broth, wine, or sesame sauce, and cook until wilted to your liking.

Fennel and tomatoes pair well together when roasted or caramelized on the stove-topOne of our Sunday regular customers shared a delicious sounding recipe with us last week involving fennel, beans and tomatoes. Here’s a great place to start for a hearty side dish of fennel and tomatoes with white beans. You can easily substitute chopped tomato for the cherry or grape tomatoes. Fennel and apples also pair well when sliced thinly, topped with walnuts and goat cheese, and drizzled with vinaigrette.

I made easy pepper and black bean enchiladas this past week, topped with tomatillo sauce. To make the topping, combine 6 or 7 tomatillos (husks removed), one small onion, one hot pepper, and salt and pepper to taste, and about a cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook until the tomatillos burst. Blend using an immersion blender. For the enchilladas, pre-heat the oven to 350. Seed two bell peppers and two spicy peppers (like poblanos), cut the peppers into strips, and sautee with about a cup of chopped onion. When the peppers soften, stir in two small cans of black beans (rinsed) and one chopped tomato and heated the mixture through until it bubbles. Warm about 10 small corn tortillas to make them pliable, then put two spoonfulls of the bean/pepper mixture into each tortilla and roll. Place each rolled tortilla flap-side down in a 9×13 baking dish. When the dish is full, top with tomatillo sauce and shredded cheese and bake for about 30 minutes or until cheese is golden and dish is heated through.

Did you know that you can make pesto with herbs other than basil? For example, you might blend chopped parsley, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese to make a parsley pesto that goes well with pasta.

Enjoy!

Summer Share – Week 16 – September 18th/21st, 2013

Today at market, Nick and I realized that it really has started to feel like fall around here. The crisp air, the rustling leaves on the trees, the availability of yummy apples at the farmers market, and the quality of the light are all reminding us of falls past. The thing that I really love about fall is that, although the air is cooler, we are still reaping some of the fruits of summer – tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos will all hang with us until the first frost takes the plants down. If we do our jobs well and care for the plants when its hot, we can expect to keep pulling summery fruits out of the field though mid-October. We get a weird intersection of summer and fall these days, as leeks and brussels sprouts make their way to the forefront even as we continue to enjoy tomato salads. I’ll try to provide some recipes in the coming newsletters that use both summer and fall vegetables together to their full advantage.

We’re looking towards putting the fields to bed for the winter now; we’ve got our plan for tilling and cover-cropping most of our fields, and we’ve got garlic seed to plant in a few weeks. Garlic gets planted in the fall and sprouts before the snow flies, then lies dormant all winter before starting to re-grow early in the spring. We’re also preparing our hoop-houses for planting! Most of the early greens we harvested this spring came out of the hoop-houses, and we are hoping that we can push our season a little farther into November by planting into the hoop houses this fall. We plan on plating beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, chard, kale, and green onions in the hoop-houses – these crops are all cold-tolerant and have a good chance of surviving well under protection. Season extension, as it is called, is tricky, but can yield great rewards once you figure out how to do it right. Some day, we may even get so good at season extension that we’re able to produce vegetables year-round!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Green cabbage,
  • Carrots,
  • Dill,
  • Yellow Onions,
  • Radishes,
  • Green Onions,
  • Tomatoes, and
  • Leeks.

Everything this week but the tomatoes and onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Remove the greens from the carrots and radishes, and either discard them or store the tops and bottoms separately – the roots will last longer. The tomatoes can go on your counter. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the onions will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

We are in love with these tender early cabbages – they are superior for fresh eating.  You can check back in the archives for slaw recipes, or simply sautee shredded cabbage in butter with salt and pepper, or roast cabbage wedges in a 375F oven after drizzling with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Leeks are delicious, subtle members of the onion family that can be used wherever onions are called for. They also shine in pastry-based recipes, like leek quiche or leek tart. Leeks must be cleaned very thoroughly before use – the best way to do this is to slice the white and light-green portions of the leeks into 1/4-inch slices, place the slices in a bowl of cold water, and swish the slices about to dislodge all the silt. If needed, you can repeat the rinse step with another bowl of clean water.

My mother was excited to see the carrots this week because she was planning on making lentil salad. She wanted me to mention that you can buy pre-cooked lentils at Trader Joe’s if you are in a time crunch!

Mom’s Lentil Salad

  • 3 1/2 c. dried lentils
  • 1/4 c. Sliced green onions
  • 1 c. Diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. Diced carrots
  • 2 tbsp. baslamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

Wash and pick over lentils and combine with water or broth in a saucepan to cover lentils by about an inch. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, simmering until lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Drain lentils and combine with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature.

Carrots also combine well with dill, and these big carrots are perfect for making carrot coins!

Carrot Coins

Scrub carrots and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Melt 1-2 tbsp. butter in a heavy pan with a lid and add salt and pepper to taste and 1/2 c. broth or water. Add carrots, stir, and cover, cooking over low/medium heat until carrots are tender. Add 1 tbsp. freshly chopped dill, and serve! You can swap out the broth and dill for 1/2 c. orange juice, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, and 1 tsp each ground ginger and ground cinnamon for a more sweet/savory taste.

I love fall radishes and eat them sliced thinly over buttered bread. Check out this link for a recipe for radish-top soup, too – or you can check the newsletter archives for the Green Gumbo recipe, where radish tops would also be a star ingredient.

Dill is a classic carrot/fish/potato seasoning, and works well with other foods with non-assertive flavors. Oh, and if you don’t go through all the dill before it starts to get a little wilty, you can hang it upside down in a warm, dark, airy place to dry. Once it is dry, store it in an airtight jar for use during the winter:)

Enjoy!

Summer Share – Week 16 – September 11th/15th, 2013

What a day! I’m glad Nick did all that tilling last week, because we had just enough time to seed and plant the last of the field crops this week before a nice good rain. Although this week’s market was a little cold and wet, that gentle, steady rain was the perfect way to introduce seedlings and seeds to their new home in our fields. Let’s cross our fingers that this last little push of spinach, radishes, lettuce, and fennel all thrive and enjoy the warmth of a late summer sun this week.

In other news, we just received word that we passed our organic certification again this year – hooray! We are certified by the Midwest Organic Services Organization (MOSA), which is located in Viroqua, WI. The certification process requires us to detail all of our inputs to the land, including seeds, and to record all of our planting, harvest, and sales activities. MOSA also checks to make sure we are using proper cover cropping and conservation practices, that our water supply is safe, and that we are using safe produce washing and storage procedures. Organic certification takes a lot of time, and is a little costly, but it also helps us to examine and check our growing practices to ensure that we’re doing all that we can to grow quality food while keeping our land and the surrounding environment safe. If you ever have any questions about the certification process, or what it means to be certified organic, please let us know!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Shallots (these look like little onions),
  • Cilantro,
  • Lettuce Head,
  • Sweet peppers (either bell-pepper shaped or long and tapered)
  • Green Onions,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Corn (from Didier Farms), and
  • One hot pepper (red and short – THESE ARE HOT!!!!).

Everything this week but the tomatoes and shallots can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomatoes can go on your counter. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week, but the shallots will keep longer.

What to do with it all?

ATTENTION: The little short red peppers this week are HOT! Great for salsa, or you can dry them and grind them for use as spicy pepper flakes.

Perhaps you opened your box this week and thought, “Oh goody, more tomatoes!”. Or maybe it was more like, “Oh brother, more tomatoes.” Since we are expecting the temperature to take a dip starting at the end of this week, we’re trying to pack the last of summer goodness into these September boxes. But what if you are all tomato-ed out? Never fear! Here are a few easy ideas:

1. The absolute easiest solution: freeze your excess tomatoes whole, so you can pull them out and use them later. Arrange them on a cookie sheet and freeze them, so that they don’t stick together, then pack them into freezer bags. Once they thaw, they are easy to peel, so, great for use in recipes that require whole peeled tomatoes.

2. Also very easy: Peel and core the tomatoes (see newsletter from a few weeks ago on how to peel a tomato) and then pack them in a bag and freeze them. You can also chop them, then freeze them.

3. Less easy, but also nice: Make a large batch of your favorite spaghetti sauce. Cool, ladle into quart freezer bags, and freeze. It is very nice to have an ace in the hole that you can defrost in the morning for dinner at night:)

4. Advanced tomato preservation: Many folks are interested in trying their hand at canning these days. I say, go for it! Tomatoes are a great starter canning food, since canned tomatoes are high in acid and prevent the growth of spoilage microorganisms like botulism and mold. If you do want to try canning, I’d recommend checking out the Ball Blue Book to read up on the basics, and to find some good recipes. Even recipes for canned diced tomatoes often require the addition of a little lemon juice or citric acid, so you’ll want to follow directions closely, even if it seems simple.

And what if you go through all your tomatoes and you feel like you need more? Maybe you want to have a canning party, or make some tomato sauce to freeze? We will have some “seconds” tomatoes available in the next few weeks, so if you are interested in picking up some canning tomatoes, please let us know!

Shallots are a lot like onions, but more mild in flavor, with a taste that French cooks prize. You can use them wherever you use regular onions, but they stand out in recipes like shallot butter and carmelized shallots. Check out what Mother Earth News has to say about shallots, and then sautee a few in butter and toss with a nice quality pasta, or serve over toast rounds, or ladle over cooked fish, or throw a few shallots in with your roasting chicken.

Corn salad is a great late-summer side, and can be very versatile in terms of what you want to add. First, cook your corn however you like to cook it, and cut it off the cob. From here, you can add chopped tomatoes, cooked black beans, chopped roasted peppers (bells and poblanos), cilantro, and red onion, and dress with a lemon vinaigrette. Or, you might wish to add chopped tomatoes, chopped peaches, crumbled feta cheese, and fresh parsley or basil, with a red wine/shallot vinaigrette.

Peppers, onions and celery all together scream chowder to me, and coincidentally, you also have some lovely corn in your box this week. As I mentioned, it might get chilly this Friday, so it might be nice to have a soup and bread night and stay in! Nick and I both come from families where chowder is a milk-based dish (rather than tomato-based), but our families differ in the thickness of the broth. My family’s broth is thin, while Nick’s mom makes a hearty, creamy chowder as her traditional Christmas Eve meal (it is delicious).

Corn Chowder

Sautee the following in a heavy soup pot or dutch oven, in 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil:

  • 1 bell pepper and one mildly hot pepper (if desired), cored, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 medium carrots, scrubbed and sliced into coins
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion or 3-4 shallots, diced

Cook until the onions and celery are soft. Note: You can also start by cooking a few slices of diced bacon in the pot, then adding the butter and vegetables and continuing as described above.

Whisk in 1/4 c. flour and cook for a few minutes more, stirring continuously. Add 6 c. water, vegetable or chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil and add 2 c. whole milk or cream and 1 large potato, diced. Return the mixture to a boil and cook until potatoes start to soften. Meanwhile, cut the kernels off of 4 ears of corn (raw); when the potatoes are soft, add the corn to the soup. Cook about 10 minutes more, until corn is soft, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Summer Share – Week 15 – September 8th/September 11th, 2013

We’ve had a great week on the farm! Nick has been spending a lot of time on the tractor, tilling in some finished successions of squash, cabbage and onions. He made some space to plant our final successions of lettuce and onions, and to do some seeding of late fall crops like radishes and arugula. Other fields are finished for the year, and will be seeded with cover crops soon. It is always amazing to watch the fields transition from tilled and barren in the spring, to overfull with so many kinds of crops in the high summer, to green and tidy-looking after the fields are seeded with winter wheat.  One of our favorite pastimes throughout the season is watching the way the farm changes – you all get to see these changes from a slightly different perspective, in terms of the changes of the vegetable seasons:)

Late summer is a great time to enjoy the last bump of tomatoes and peppers – we’re growing a host of varieties of pepper, especially, both sweet and hot. This week’s hot peppers are of the mildly spicy variety – poblanos, which are the famous base for chiles rellenos, and Annaheim peppers, which are the main ingredient in the green chile sauce that is ubiquitous in New Mexico. Even if you’re not a fan of spice, we’d recommend giving them both a try this week!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Gold Coin Cippolini Onions,
  • Fresh oregano,
  • Several Lettuce Heads,
  • Cucumber,
  • Celery,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Tomatillos,
  • Bell Peppers,
  • Poblano peppers, and
  • an assortment of hot peppers.

Everything this week but the tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomatoes and tomatillos can go on your counter. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

You have several types of peppers in your box this week. First off, you have your standard green, yellow, red or orange bell peppers, which taste crunchy and sweet, and can be added to salads, grilled on skewers, chopped and added to soups, or sliced and served with dip, hummus, or one their own. A few folks also received a banana pepper – a bright-yellow, long and skinny pepper that is mild in taste, like a bell pepper, and can be used wherever bell peppers are used.  Folks also received either a jalapeno pepper (small, thumb-shaped and spicy) or a couple of annaheim peppers (long and bright green, tapered, moderately spicy). Hot peppers can also be grilled or roasted to bring out added dimensions in their flavor, before they are used in salsas or soups.

Aren’t these Gold Coin cippolini onions pretty? Also, they got pretty huge this year. We love them, they are tasty grilled or roasted, or just used like regular onions.

When life gives me peppers and tomatoes and an onion, I make salsa! Just core and chop coarsely 2-3 tomatoes, core and de-seed one hot pepper or part of one hot pepper (depending on your spicy tolerance) and peel and chop coarsely one cippolini onion. Throw it all in the blender or food processor with salt and pepper to taste, 1 tbsp. sugar (trust me), 1-2 tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and 1 tsp. cumin. Blend or process to your desired chunkiness, and serve. You could also throw a few fresh oregano leaves in there, for extra flavor.

Speaking of the oregano, it is a wonderful seasoning for any dish involving tomatoes – perhaps you cut a cippolini onion into slivers and sauteed them in olive oil before adding 2 chopped, cored tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Why not throw in a few leaves of oregano before cooking for 5-10 minutes or until the tomatoes are heated through and beginning to break down? If you did make this sauce, you could serve it over fusilli, spiral pasta or another pasta with a fun texture.

If you don’t get to the oregano this week, you can hang it upside down to dry in a warm, dry and dark place. In a few weeks, it will be dry and you can crumble it into a jar and store it all winter.

Lemon cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables that we grow. While other cukes tend to get a bit big and can even (sometimes) get slightly bitter, lemon cukes stay sweet and tender. They are named, not for any kind of lemony taste, but for their appearance, which resembles a lemon. I love slicing them into a tossed salad, slicing them onto a sandwich (they add just the right amount of cruch) or cutting them in wedges and drizzling with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Everyone received 3 poblano peppers (dark green, wedge-shaped, striking), which are mildly spicy and have a delicious flavor all their own. They can be substituted for bell peppers in any dish where you feel you might like to have some heat, or they can be cooked and added to casseroles, macaroni and cheese, or rice dishes. One traditional way of cooking these peppers is to stuff them, either with cheese alone, or with a mixture of cooked grains (think rice, quinoa), cooked black beans, chopped tomato, and spices, topped with cheese. Here’s a link to a recipe that will get you started: http://www.acouplecooks.com/2010/09/stuffed-poblano-peppers/.

Finally – tomatillos! Those little green tomato-shaped things with green or brown husks. What are they, and what to do with them? Tomatillos are relatives of tomatoes and have a satisfying tangy taste. If you have ever eaten salsa verde, it was made with tomatillos.

To make a great green sauce that can be used as a salsa or enchillada sauce, or as a topping for tacos or rice, remove the tomatillo husks from one pint of tomatillos and place them in a saucepan with water, to cover. Add one small, coarsely chopped onion, and one cored, de-seeded hot pepper (or as much of that pepper as you want to add). Bring to a boil, then decrease heat and simmer until the tomatillos burst. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend until smooth. Add salt, cumin and pepper to taste. Voila!

Summer Share – Week 14 – September 1st/4th, 2013

We had a couple of doozy storms this weekend, on Friday and Sunday nights. Both storms came on pretty suddenly – I looked up, and all of a sudden the streetlights were on at 5 pm! Nick was caught in the field during the Friday storm – he took shelter in our tool trailer and passed the time watching the chickens seek shelter from the wind. We found a few large downed branches on Saturday morning, and our stand of popcorn was leaning a little to the south, but overall the rain did much more good than the wind did harm. Sunday night’s storm was more gentle, featuring some beautiful lightening and rolling thunder, and bringing another good dose of precipitation our way. We’ve been waiting all August for some exciting summer storms, and I guess we had to pack it all in on the final few days of the month.

In other news, we’ve decided to hold our annual CSA potluck/farm visit on the afternoon/evening of October 5th! Everyone is welcome to come up to the farm, enjoy a tour of our fields and facilities, and share some food and drink. Although we may have a bit of chill in the air, October is one of our favorite months on the farm – colorful leaves, brisk breezes, rustling grasses all make for a lovely atmosphere. We hope you will mark the date on your calendars and join us – more details will follow soon.

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Gold Coin Cippolini Onions,
  • Fresh oregano,
  • Several Lettuce Heads,
  • Lemon Cucumbers,
  • Beans,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Tomatillos,
  • Bell Peppers,
  • Poblano peppers, and
  • an assortment of hot peppers.

Everything this week but the tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomatoes and tomatillos can go on your counter. The onions can go in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Try to use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

You have several types of peppers in your box this week. First off, you have your standard green, yellow, red or orange bell peppers, which taste crunchy and sweet, and can be added to salads, grilled on skewers, chopped and added to soups, or sliced and served with dip, hummus, or one their own. A few folks also received a banana pepper – a bright-yellow, long and skinny pepper that is mild in taste, like a bell pepper, and can be used wherever bell peppers are used.  Folks also received either a jalapeno pepper (small, thumb-shaped and spicy) or a couple of annaheim peppers (long and bright green, tapered, moderately spicy). Hot peppers can also be grilled or roasted to bring out added dimensions in their flavor, before they are used in salsas or soups.

Aren’t these Gold Coin cippolini onions pretty? Also, they got pretty huge this year. We love them, they are tasty grilled or roasted, or just used like regular onions.

When life gives me peppers and tomatoes and an onion, I make salsa! Just core and chop coarsely 2-3 tomatoes, core and de-seed one hot pepper or part of one hot pepper (depending on your spicy tolerance) and peel and chop coarsely one cippolini onion. Throw it all in the blender or food processor with salt and pepper to taste, 1 tbsp. sugar (trust me), 1-2 tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and 1 tsp. cumin. Blend or process to your desired chunkiness, and serve. You could also throw a few fresh oregano leaves in there, for extra flavor.

Speaking of the oregano, it is a wonderful seasoning for any dish involving tomatoes – perhaps you cut a cippolini onion into slivers and sauteed them in olive oil before adding 2 chopped, cored tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Why not throw in a few leaves of oregano before cooking for 5-10 minutes or until the tomatoes are heated through and beginning to break down? If you did make this sauce, you could serve it over fusilli, spiral pasta or another pasta with a fun texture.

If you don’t get to the oregano this week, you can hang it upside down to dry in a warm, dry and dark place. In a few weeks, it will be dry and you can crumble it into a jar and store it all winter.

Lemon cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables that we grow. While other cukes tend to get a bit big and can even (sometimes) get slightly bitter, lemon cukes stay sweet and tender. They are named, not for any kind of lemony taste, but for their appearance, which resembles a lemon. I love slicing them into a tossed salad, slicing them onto a sandwich (they add just the right amount of cruch) or cutting them in wedges and drizzling with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Everyone received 3 poblano peppers (dark green, wedge-shaped, striking), which are mildly spicy and have a delicious flavor all their own. They can be substituted for bell peppers in any dish where you feel you might like to have some heat, or they can be cooked and added to casseroles, macaroni and cheese, or rice dishes. One traditional way of cooking these peppers is to stuff them, either with cheese alone, or with a mixture of cooked grains (think rice, quinoa), cooked black beans, chopped tomato, and spices, topped with cheese. Here’s a link to a recipe that will get you started: http://www.acouplecooks.com/2010/09/stuffed-poblano-peppers/.

Finally – tomatillos! Those little green tomato-shaped things with green or brown husks. What are they, and what to do with them? Tomatillos are relatives of tomatoes and have a satisfying tangy taste. If you have ever eaten salsa verde, it was made with tomatillos.

To make a great green sauce that can be used as a salsa or enchillada sauce, or as a topping for tacos or rice, remove the tomatillo husks from one pint of tomatillos and place them in a saucepan with water, to cover. Add one small, coarsely chopped onion, and one cored, de-seeded hot pepper (or as much of that pepper as you want to add). Bring to a boil, then decrease heat and simmer until the tomatillos burst. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend until smooth. Add salt, cumin and pepper to taste. Voila!

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Big Red Onions,
  • Parsley (Italian Flat Leaf or Curly),
  • Baby Lettuce Head,
  • Cucumbers,
  • Beans,
  • Tomatoes, and
  • Carrots!

Everything this week but the tomatoes can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomatoes can go on your counter. Try to use everything within the week.

Summer Share – Week 13 – August 25th/28th, 2013

Finally, finally, the hot weather has arrived – and just in time for school to start back up:( The Chicago Tribune published a great article last week describing the reasons behind the cool weather this summer, and behind the recent heat wave. In a nutshell, the Chicagoland area is precariously located right along the edge of the trajectory of the all-powerful jet stream. When the jet stream pattern deviates from normal (as it did this year, thanks to some hot air action up in the Arctic), we are likely to end up on the cool, upper side of the stream. Now that we are losing light and heading towards the Fall Equinox (already?), the Arctic has been cooling a bit, allowing the jet stream to return to its normal configuration and pushing us below the mass of cool air into the hot zone. Fascinating stuff!

As we move towards the fall, we’re also moving towards setting a date for our annual CSA members picnic. We usually pick a Saturday afternoon/evening in September and invite everyone out to share some food, tour the fields, see the chickens, and learn more about the Prairie Crossing Farm Business Development Center that currently hosts our business.  It’s a great opportunity to come relax with us and enjoy some quality fall farm time, and also a great opportunity to see how your food is grown and learn how we work with the other farms at Prairie Crossing to bring quality local food to the Chicagoland area. We’ll set a date in the next week or so and let everyone know about it, but just wanted to give you all a heads-up in advance!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Big Red Onions,
  • Parsley (Italian Flat Leaf or Curly),
  • Baby Romaine Lettuce Head,
  • Cucumbers,
  • Beans,
  • Tomatoes, and
  • Carrots!

Everything this week but the tomatoes can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomatoes can go on your counter. Try to use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

One classic summer side dish is green/purple/wax bean salad – basically, a catch-all for any and all vegetables you’d like to mix with vinaigrette and steamed green beans. To get yourself started: Steam 1 lb. green/purple/wax beans for 4-5 minutes, then run under cold water to stop the cooling process. Cut 1/4 of a red onion into thin strips, core and chop coarsely one large tomato, and combine with the beans. Add 1/4 c. olive oil, 2 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar of your choice, and salt and pepper. Mix, marinate for at least two hours, and serve!

Tomatoes can serve as the base for a couple of quick, easy, and most importantly, no-cook summer soups. The easiest possible way to turn tomatoes into soup is as follows: Core and chop 4-5 large tomatoes, or 6-7 smaller ones. Cube 1/4 of a loaf of day old, crusty bread, and combine in a bowl with the tomatoes, 4 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste (add 1 clove garlic, minced, if desired). Let sit for at least 30 minutes, blend in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve right away, and garnish with fresh chopped basil, parsley, or croutons, if desired.

Gaspacho is the quintessential summer soup, and is about as easy to make as the recipe above. The bonus ingredient in gaspacho is cucumber, which helps to cool the dish down. This would be a great way to use up any peppers, both bell and hot, that have been haunting your fridge, waiting to be used!

Gaspacho

Combine in a blender or food processor:

  • 3-4 large tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped (see last week’s newsletter on how to peel a tomato)
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (red or green), seeded and chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 of a large red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, seeded and chopped (if desired)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1-2 ribs celery, chopped

Pulse until vegetables are at desired texture and size. Some folks like chunky gaspacho, others like their gaspacho smooth. If you find that you like a soupier, more liquid soup, you can add up to 3 c. of tomato juice to tweak the texture further.

Remove from food processor/blender and add: 1/4 c. olive oil, 2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tsp. ground cumin, and 2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (basil or parsley, cilantro are all good choices). Stir to combine and refrigerate until it is time to serve! The soup gets better with a few days in the fridge.

Finally, I know that you have been getting a lot of zucchini recently. In fact, August 8th marked the illustrious holiday known as “Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day”, in testament to the sheer volume of zucchini that farmers and home gardeners have to contend with come late summer. Lucky for you guys, my mom sussed out another great zucchini recipe, in case you are tired of grilling or sauteeing. Warning – it does require you to turn on your oven, but it looks worth it!!

Zucchini Chips

Preheat your oven to 450F, and prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and spritzing or coating parchment paper with olive oil. Slice two large zucchini into 1/4-inch slices. Prepare breading by combining 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 c. bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, paprika to taste (if desired), and any other seasonings you’d like (nutritional yeast, seasoned salt, garlic powder, etc.). Dip zucchini slices in beaten egg, then in breading, so that each slice is well coated with crumbs. Place on baking sheets in a single layer and bake until tops are golden brown, then turn and bake 6-8 more minutes.

Happy Cooking!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • New York Early Yellow Onions,
  • Celery,
  • Eggplant,
  • Broccoli,
  • Basil,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Beans,
  • One Green Bell Pepper.

Everything this week but the tomatoes and basil can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomato can go on your counter. Basil can go in a jar of water like a bouquet (change the water daily). Try to use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

The New York Early onions are a standard, versatile yellow onion that can be used in cooking wherever a yellow onion is called for.

Celery makes a great base for a refreshing and unique salad, and our celery is, as you probably have already found, super flavorful and delicious. Most celery salads call for the cook to first thinly slice a full bunch of celery stalks – you can save the leaves for adding to soups, sauces, or as a salad garnish. Thinly sliced green apple or pear, toasted walnuts or pecans, dried cherries or cranberries, cooked peas or corn, and/or1-2 tbsp. finely chopped red onion can all be added to the celery base. The salad can be dressed either with your favorite vinaigrette, or your favorite creamy slaw dressing (try 2 tbsp. mayonnaise, 2 tbsp. plain yogurt, and 2 tsp. lemon juice with salt and pepper).

If you’re feeling saucy, try these easy-as-pie tomato sauces – one cooked, and one that doesn’t even require cooking!

Easy No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Cube 4 ripe tomatoes, and tear/cut 1/2 pound of brie (rind removed), mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, or other soft-ish cheese into bite-sized pieces. Cut 1 c. of fresh basil leaves into strips, and combine with cheese and tomatoes, along with 3 garlic cloves (minced or crushed), 1 c. olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Marinate at room temperature for two hours, or longer in the fridge, toss with freshly-cooked pasta, and serve immediately. Top with Parmesan or other hard cheese if desired!

Easy Cooked Tomato Sauce

Coarsely chop half of a medium-sized onion, 2 stalks of celery,  and one green pepper. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan or pot and sautee onion and pepper over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, skin, core, and chop 4-5 tomatoes (to skin tomatoes: cut an “x” at the bottom of the tomato and drop into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Fish the tomato out, let it cool off, and use a paring knife to remove the skin – I promise it is easy!). Add the tomatoes to the onion mixture, along with 2 cloves of garlic (crushed), 2 tbsp. tomato paste, 1 tsp. sugar, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 tsp. dry oregano, and 2 tbsp. fresh basil, cut into strips. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato chunks lose their shape and sauce is at the thickness you desire. Serve over pasta.

If you are looking for something else to do with pasta, try the following squash-based dish:

Summer Squash Pasta

Cook and drain one pound of your favorite pasta (penne or other short, textured pastas work well here), reserving 1/4 c. of the cooking liquid. Finely chop one half of a medium onion and grate 1-2 medium summer squashes or zucchini with a cheese grater. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan or pot and sautee onion and squash over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper (and a little hot pepper if you’d like), add the pasta and reserved cooking liquid, and stir until combined. Top with as much shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese as you desire.

Happy cooking!

Summer Share – Week 12 – August 18th/21st, 2013

One sign that summer is in full swing is an abundance of squash and eggplant – and these days, we have all that we can handle! I planted a lot of eggplant this year, and experimented with a number of heirloom varieties. While we usually see only the standard purple eggplant at the grocery store, there are many kinds of grown worldwide, ranging in every color of the rainbow (practically), some striped and polka-dotted, some ribbed and fluted, some long and some round. My personal favorites this year are Rosa Bianca (light purple and white streaked, slightly ribbed) and Prosperosa (dark purple with gorgeous white accents). At the end of the year, I’ll pick out the winners (those varieties that produce lots of attractive fruit, taste good, and go over well at the market) and order more seed for next year!

The next week promises to bring more hot weather to help the tomatoes on, and we can’t wait (as I am sure you can’t, too). Look for more tomatoes and some great tomato recipes with next week’s newsletter. Until the, thanks again and happy cooking!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • New York Early Yellow Onions,
  • Celery,
  • Eggplant,
  • Broccoli,
  • Basil,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Beans,
  • One Green Bell Pepper.

Everything this week but the tomatoes and basil can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomato can go on your counter. Basil can go in a jar of water like a bouquet (change the water daily). Try to use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

The New York Early onions are a standard, versatile yellow onion that can be used in cooking wherever a yellow onion is called for.

The eggplant can be roasted or grilled, then cubed and added to green salads. You can also mix the eggplant cubes with cooked quinoa or cous-cous, olive oil and vinegar, chopped red onion, and chopped parlsley for a light side dish. While you’re at it, you can slice the zucchini thinly, sautee lightly in olive oil or butter, and add to your quinoa or cous-cous. You can also mince or puree your roasted eggplant with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red onion and use this as a dip for chips or pita.

Here’s another eggplant recipe for the cook with a little time on his or her hands: Eggplant Parmesan. I undertook a pan of this last night, and it was easier than I anticipated and very well received.

Eggplant Parmesan

Slice 2 medium-sized eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices. Salt both sides and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry. Dip eggplant into beaten egg, and then into seasoned bread crumbs, making sure the slices are well-coated. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook eggplant slices until golden, turning once.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place eggplant slices in an oven-safe baking dish. Top with 1/3 c. parmesan cheese, 1-2 c. spaghetti sauce, and 1 c. shredded mozzarella and bake 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.

If you’re feeling saucy, try these easy-as-pie tomato sauces – one cooked, and one that doesn’t even require cooking!

Easy No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Cube 4 ripe tomatoes, and tear/cut 1/2 pound of brie (rind removed), mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, or other soft-ish cheese into bite-sized pieces. Cut 1 c. of fresh basil leaves into strips, and combine with cheese and tomatoes, along with 3 garlic cloves (minced or crushed), 1 c. olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Marinate at room temperature for two hours, or longer in the fridge, toss with freshly-cooked pasta, and serve immediately. Top with Parmesan or other hard cheese if desired!

Easy Cooked Tomato Sauce

Coarsely chop half of a medium-sized onion and one green pepper. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan or pot and sautee onion and pepper over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, skin, core, and chop 4-5 tomatoes (to skin tomatoes: cut an “x” at the bottom of the tomato and drop into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Fish the tomato out, let it cool off, and use a paring knife to remove the skin – I promise it is easy!). Add the tomatoes to the onion mixture, along with 2 cloves of garlic (crushed), 2 tbsp. tomato paste, 1 tsp. sugar, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 tsp. dry oregano, and 2 tbsp. fresh basil, cut into strips. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato chunks lose their shape and sauce is at the thickness you desire. Serve over pasta.

If you are looking for something else to do with pasta, try the following squash-based dish:

Summer Squash Pasta

Cook and drain one pound of your favorite pasta (penne or other short, textured pastas work well here), reserving 1/4 c. of the cooking liquid. Finely chop one half of a medium onion and grate 1-2 medium summer squashes or zucchini with a cheese grater. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan or pot and sautee onion and squash over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper (and a little hot pepper if you’d like), add the pasta and reserved cooking liquid, and stir until combined. Top with as much shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese as you desire.

Happy cooking!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Red Wethersfield Onions,
  • Swiss Chard,
  • Eggplant,
  • Italian Parsley,
  • Jalapeno pepper (small and spicy),
  • Tomatoes,
  • Oak Leaf Lettuce,
  • One Green Bell Pepper, and
  • One Poblano peppers (long, dark green, somewhat spicy).

Everything this week but the tomatoes can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomato can go on your counter. Try to use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

The Red Wethersfield onions are an heirloom variety that was grown by Thomas Jefferson – I couldn’t resist buying the seed, and I’m not sorry that I did. They are beautiful and can be used in salads or sliced on sandwiches or burgers.

The eggplant can be roasted or grilled, then cubed and added to green salads. You can also mix the eggplant cubes with cooked quinoa or cous-cous, olive oil and vinegar, chopped red onion, and chopped parlsley for a light side dish. While you’re at it, you can slice the zucchini thinly, sautee lightly in olive oil or butter, and add to your quinoa or cous-cous. You can also mince or puree your roasted eggplant with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red onion and use this as a dip for chips or pita.

Here’s another eggplant recipe for the cook with a little time on his or her hands: Eggplant Parmesan. I undertook a pan of this last night, and it was easier than I anticipated and very well received.

Eggplant Parmesan

Slice 2 medium-sized eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices. Salt both sides and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry. Dip eggplant into beaten egg, and then into seasoned bread crumbs, making sure the slices are well-coated. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook eggplant slices until golden, turning once.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place eggplant slices in an oven-safe baking dish. Top with 1/3 c. parmesan cheese, 1-2 c. spaghetti sauce, and 1 c. shredded mozzarella and bake 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.

The swiss chard can be used in this fabulous Swiss Chard Tart, as shared by Laura, one of our CSA members from years ago:

Swiss Chard Tart

  • 1-2 lb. Swiss chard, washed and spun dry
  • 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly grease a shallow 9-inch round baking
    dish with olive oil.
  2. Bring 8 quarts water to a rolling boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
  3. Chop the Swiss chard, discarding the stems, and add to the boiling water. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the Swiss chard. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool.
  6. Meanwhile, break the eggs into a small bowl. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano and whisk until the ingredients are well-blended. Combine the egg mixture with the cooled chard.
  7. Dust the bottom of the baking dish with 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Carefully add the Swiss chard and egg mixture to the dish. Dust with the remaining Parmigiano and bread crumbs.
  8. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve hot or room temperature.

Poblano Peppers are a little bit spicy, and roasting brings out their best flavor. Hold the peppers over a gas flame or charcoal flame and rotate until the skin of the pepper is uniformly blistered. Place the peppers in a paper bag to cool, and then remove the skin – it should be easy!

Happy cooking!

Summer Share – Week 11 – August 11th, 2013

Hope everyone is enjoying the start of the last summer month! Hopefully, you’ve all had a chance to check all your favorite summertime activities off of the list, or you’ve at least got them scheduled on your calendar. Up at the farm, the heat last week has made it feel a little more like summer, and the tomatoes are finally starting to redden (or orange, or purple) up. We’ve included the first of those tomatoes int he box this week, and there will be many more to come. We’ve already starting preparing for the fall, too, and have planted the last successions of broccoli and kohlrabi. The storage onions have finished growing, and we have already harvested about half of them and laid them out  in the greenhouse to cure. Get ready to sample many different kinds of onions this fall – we may have gone a little onion-crazy:)

I wanted to share a few great blogs and websites with you all this week. The first is Captain Dapper, a wonderful blog dedicated to good living, and maintained by one of your fellow CSA members. The Captain was nice enough to visit the farm last month, and wrote a lovely blog post about his visit, complete with beautiful pictures! Thanks, Captain Dapper!

The second blog, Guidance of A Good Woman, is also maintained by a fellow CSA member, wonderful neighbor, and expert chef:) I’ve been lucky enough to sample her cooking on several occasions, as she lives across the alley from my folks. This is kitchen inspiration at its finest!

Finally, as I was perusing the New York Times website last week, I came across an amazing feature: their Farmers Market Recipe Generator. Just tell the program what your main vegetable or fruit is, what herb you have, and what your preferred method of cooking is, and the generator does the rest. Welcome to the future of cooking, ladies and gentlemen!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Sweet Onions,
  • Carrots,
  • Flat-head Cabbage,
  • Cucumber,
  • Lemon Cucumber (a round, yellow ball-shaped cucumber),
  • One Tomato,
  • Purple Basil,
  • Purple Kale, and
  • Sweet Corn (from Didier Farm, who use Intergrated Pest Management).

Everything this week but the basil and tomato can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags. Cucumbers and squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge. Basil can go in a jar or cup of water like a bouquet and left on the kitchen counter, or can be washed, put between two slightly damp paper towels and into a plastic bag, and kept in the warmest part of your fridge (like in the door). The tomato can go on your counter. Try to use everything within the week – the cabbage will keep much longer, however, if needed.

What to do with it all?

The sweet onions can be used wherever you’d use a regular onion, but are also excellent for carmelizing over low heat and adding to sandwiches or salads.

The flat-head cabbage is one of our favorite varieties, and is unrivaled for sweetness and tenderness. It makes great slaw, but I prefer to cook with it. You can sautee it like any green, or slice the cabbage into thick pieces (about 1 inch thick) or quarters, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar, fold into a foil pack, and throw the foil pack on the grill for about 20 minutes. If you like, you can top it with blue cheese before serving!

Purple Kale can be used in raw salads just like green kale – check the newsletter archives for some great kale salad recipes. It’s also a great base for kale chips:)

Lemon Cucumbers taste just like regular cucumbers, but are quite visually striking. I love them in a cucumber salad, or sliced and floated in a glass of ice water for an extra cooling beverage.

Everyone has their favorite method for cooking sweet corn, but in case you haven’t settled on your favorite, this blog offers three ways to cook corn on the cob: http://www.thekitchn.com/corn-on-the-cob-three-ways-to-121823.

Happy cooking!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Zucchini or summer squash,
  • Red Wethersfield Onions,
  • Swiss Chard,
  • Eggplant,
  • Italian Parsley,
  • Lemon Cucumber (a round, yellow ball-shaped cucumber) and/or pickling cucumber,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Oak Leaf Lettuce,
  • One Green Bell Pepper, and
  • Two Annaheim peppers (long, green, fairly spicy).

Everything this week but the tomatoes can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags, or in your crisper drawer. Cucumbers and squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge.  The tomato can go on your counter. Try to use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

The Red Wethersfield onions are an heirloom variety that was grown by Thomas Jefferson – I couldn’t resist buying the seed, and I’m not sorry that I did. They are beautiful and can be used in salads or sliced on sandwiches or burgers.

The eggplant can be roasted or grilled, then cubed and added to green salads. You can also mix the eggplant cubes with cooked quinoa or cous-cous, olive oil and vinegar, chopped red onion, and chopped parlsley for a light side dish. While you’re at it, you can slice the zucchini thinly, sautee lightly in olive oil or butter, and add to your quinoa or cous-cous. You can also mince or puree your roasted eggplant with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red onion and use this as a dip for chips or pita.

The swiss chard can be used in this fabulous Swiss Chard Tart, as shared by Laura, one of our CSA members from years ago:

Swiss Chard Tart

  • 1-2 lb. Swiss chard, washed and spun dry
  • 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly grease a shallow 9-inch round baking
    dish with olive oil.
  2. Bring 8 quarts water to a rolling boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
  3. Chop the Swiss chard, discarding the stems, and add to the boiling water. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the Swiss chard. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool.
  6. Meanwhile, break the eggs into a small bowl. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano and whisk until the ingredients are well-blended. Combine the egg mixture with the cooled chard.
  7. Dust the bottom of the baking dish with 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Carefully add the Swiss chard and egg mixture to the dish. Dust with the remaining Parmigiano and bread crumbs.
  8. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve hot or room temperature.

Lemon Cucumbers taste just like regular cucumbers, but are quite visually striking. I love them in a cucumber salad, or sliced and floated in a glass of ice water for an extra cooling beverage.

Annaheim Peppers are a little bit spicy, and roasting brings out their best flavor. Hold the peppers over a gas flame or charcoal flame and rotate until the skin of the pepper is uniformly blistered. Place the peppers in a paper bag to cool, and then remove the skin – it should be easy!

Happy cooking!

Summer Share – Week 10 – August 7th, 2013

Hi all! We’re having a nice week up here. The mild temperatures and rain have been good for the crops, we got to go to the McHenry county fair and see all the fancy rabbits and chickens, and tomatoes are (we promise) right around the corner. We just have to wait for a little hot weather to make them ripen up a bit:) In the meantime, please enjoy the peppers and eggplant, which ARE ripening and producing a lot of fruit. As cousins to the tomato, may they tide you over until the good red stuff starts becoming more abundant! Have a great week and happy cooking!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Ancho Peppers (sort of hot, deep green),
  • Sweet Onions,
  • Carrots,
  • Flat-head Cabbage,
  • Green Bell Pepper,
  • Eggplant,
  • Cilantro,
  • Purple Basil, and
  • Sweet Corn (from Didier Farm, who use Intergrated Pest Management).

Everything this week but the basil can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags. Eggplant and squash should go in the warmest part of your fridge. Basil can go in a jar or cup of water like a bouquet and left on the kitchen counter, or can be washed, put between two slightly damp paper towels and into a plastic bag, and kept in the warmest part of your fridge (like in the door). Try to use everything within the week.

Summer Share – Week 9 – July 28th/July 31st, 2013

Hey Folks, week nine and here we are with more good stuff for your kitchens!  The weather is cool enough for some indoor cooking, but you could do some grilling too, so hooray for mild temperatures and gentle rains.  The fields are looking very promising, with lots and lots of little green tomatoes that will turn red soon, and lots of little peppers and eggplant starting to get big.  The greens are still very productive, and hey, all the equipment is in good repair too, so what’s not to love about this summer?  Speaking of equipment, greens, and other rural thrills, it is county fair season, so if you are looking for a little day trip on the weekend, check out a county fair near you for 4-H livestock, tractor pulls, domestic arts, and fried things on sticks!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • One green or purple pepper,
  • Green Onions,
  • Purple or Green Curly Kale,
  • Savoy Cabbage,
  • Cucumber,
  • Zucchini/summer squash,
  • Celery,
  • Basil, and
  • Kohlrabi.

Everything this week can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags. You can remove the tops of the kohlrabi in order to keep the bulbs longer. Try to use everything within the week.

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Green and Yellow Beans,
  • Green Onions,
  • Swiss Chard,
  • Broccoli,
  • Cucumber,
  • Zucchini/summer squash,
  • A Jalapeno pepper,
  • Basil,
  • Kohlrabi, and
  • Fennel.

Everything this week can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags. You can remove the tops of the fennel and kohlrabi and store these separately in order to keep the bulbs longer. The broccoli and beans will be best if eaten in the beginning of the week, and all else should be eaten within the week.

What to do with it all?

We got a hot tip from a market-goer that you can pre-chop and freeze celery and celery leaves for use later in the fall and winter. I like to freeze vegetables in small freezer bags so that I can defrost a little bit at a time.

Purple curly kale is a lot like green curly kale, but it contains pigments called anthocyanins, which may act with additional anti-oxidant power. Please see the newsletter archive for some great kale salad and kale chip recipes!

Savoy cabbage cooks up just like regular cabbage, but it has a fun texture that makes slaws more exciting. You can also throw kale on the grill: slice the cabbage into thick pieces (about 1 inch thick) or quarters, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar, fold into a foil pack, and throw the foil pack on the grill for about 20 minutes. If you like, you can top it with blue cheese before serving!

Please enjoy the first pepper of the season – you may have a green or purple pepper, but they all will taste like a standard green pepper! Pepper, celery, and green onions are all great additions to any salad!

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.

If you have some fennel left from last week, you can try this great slaw:

Kolrabi Fennel Slaw

  • 2 cups shredded (trimmed) kohlrabi
  • 2 -21/2 cups shredded savoy cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded fennel bulb
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds (roast in a single layer in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes)

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Veganaise (or mayonnaise)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey(or agave)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Combine kohlrabi, cabbage, fennel, dill onion and sea salt in a large bowl.  Mix together and massage the salt into the veggies to soften them a bit.

In another small bowl whisk together dressing ingredients until smooth.  Combine slaw, dressing and roasted seeds all together. You can serve it right away or let it sit for 30 minutes. The longer you let this sit, the more the flavors come out and play.

Summer Share – Week 8 – July 21st/24th, 2013

What a hot week we had! We were extremely excited on Friday night when the cold front rolled in, bringing with it some spectacular clouds and even a little bit of rain. High temperatures are par for the course in mid-July, however, and we are happy to have the heat. The range of vegetables in the box this week reflects our shift from spring to summer  fare: less leafy greens, more fruits (like squash, beans, and zucchini) and crops like cabbage and celery, which take a relatively long time to reach maturity.

Many of our first spring crops have been tilled in, making way for summer and fall successors like carrots , squash, and beets. As we make our way towards peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant, our storage onions and leeks will begin to mature. There is a lot to look forward to, and a lot of work yet left to do! With that in mind, we’ll sign off, but enjoy your box this week and best wishes to all!

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Are we ever enjoying the cooler weather this week! I’m sure that y’all are as well. It was such a pleasure harvesting cabbage and picking beans yesterday and not feeling as though they would cook in the field. Also, our crack weeding team (Heather, Christie, and Renee) cleaned up the chard and celeriac, which looks great! We’re very appreciative!

What’s In the Box This Week?

Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Swiss Chard,
  • Purple and Green Beans,
  • Green Cabbage,
  • Jalapeno pepper,
  • Fennel,
  • Long of Tropea Onions,
  • Cucumber,
  • Zucchini, and
  • Broccoli.

Everything this week can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags. The broccoli and beans will be best if eaten in the beginning of the week, and all else should be eaten within the week.

Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Head Lettuce,
  • Purple and Green Beans,
  • Green Cabbage,
  • Red Cabbage,
  • Celery,
  • Long of Tropea Onions,
  • Cucumber,
  • Zucchini, and
  • Broccoli.

Everything this week can be stored in the fridge in plastic containers or bags. The broccoli and beans will be best if eaten in the beginning of the week, and all else should be eaten within the week.

What to do with it all?

Let’s talk slaw this week. The word “coleslaw” actually derives from a word meaning “cabbage salad”, and, in it’s most popular form, slaw consists of shredded cabbage dressed with creamy dressing (usually containing mayonnaise). Slaw is a lovely, crunch, hearty salad choice for mid-summer, when lettuce becomes harder to grow but cabbage is available in abundance.  Usually paired with fish or barbecue dishes, it is an import from eastern Europe that has been wholly accepted into the American kitchen.

The easiest way to shred cabbage for slaw is to core and quarter it, and then cut the quarters into thin slices, which will fall apart into strips naturally. For a standard coleslaw dressing, mix 1/3 to 1/2 c. mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon each sugar and apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, pepper to taste, and celery seed (if desired).

From this simple base, however, we can re-imagine slaw in an almost infinite number of ways. We can augment or change the cabbage base of the slaw by adding peeled, shredded or julianned broccoli stalks, thinly sliced or julianned fennel, or green beans cut thinly on a bias to make strip-like shapes. We can also change the base entirely to swiss chard! To do so, cut the stems/ribs from the chard leaves and set aside. Stack a few chard leaves at a time, roll up the stack, and slice into thin ribbons. Cut the ribs/stems into 2-inch long chunks and then into thin strips. Both the leaves and stems will go in your slaw.

We can also play with the dressing a bit by adding mustard, curry, tabasco sauce, chopped jalapeno, chopped onion or garlic or scallions, fresh herbs like basil, thyme, or any other seasoning desired. My grandmother used to skip the vinegar and add a small can of crushed pineapple to her mayonnaise dressing. You can also dress your slaw with a non-creamy dressing, like your favorite vinaigrette.

Finally, remember that the cabbage (or chard, or broccoli stalk) is just the base of the salad. Feel free to add other chopped vegetables like onions, carrots, or celery. You can also add nuts, chopped apples, raisins, or dried cranberries for a more sweet salad. The only limitation is your imagination!

For some more great inspiration on using cabbage, I’ll refer you all again to this link:

http://www.thekitchn.com/10-recipes-that-remind-us-why-cabbage-is-awesome-183169.

The simplest way to cook cabbage is to slice thinly, sautee in olive oil, and add lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Zucchini can be sauteed, steamed, roasted or baked, or grilled, or even eaten raw. It is an uniquely versatile vegetable that pairs well with almost any flavoring! We even like to sautee zucchini in a little butter, drizzle with honey, and season with salt and pepper.

The Tropea Onions are a beautiful, mild fresh onion that can be used anywhere you would use a regular storage onion. The tops can be used if desired, or frozen for use in vegetable stock.

CSA members Gwen and John shared a great tip for those Saturday/Tuesday nights when you are facing the remains of last week’s CSA box and trying to make room in your fridge for a new batch of vegetables. Gwen and John made what Gwen calls “Compost Soup” – they took all of the leftover vegetables and made a soup out of them. Their family liked the result so much, they’re going to make it a CSA-eve tradition.

I like this idea so much! Here is a basic vegetable soup recipe that can be modified to include any number of vegetables. Vegetables like broccoli and turnips will tend to take over the flavor of the soup, while vegetables like chard and zucchini are less obtrusive.

Chop hard, strongly-flavored vegetables like onions and celery and sautee in oil for a few minutes. Cube or chop any other harder vegetables (broccoli stalks, kohlrabi, zucchini, turnips, even cucumbers), and add to the pot along with 2 quarts water or stock, a can of tomatoes (if desired), and any herbs or seasonings desired. At this point, you can add 1/4 c. rice, pearl barley, or wheat berries if you’d like. Cook until hard vegetables are soft and grain is tender. Cut greens (kale, chard, etc) into thin strips, add to soup, and cook until greens are as tender as desired. Adjust seasoning, and serve! Soup is even better the next day.

Nick and I both had a life-changing experience when we ate our first home-grown celery. Its intense flavor makes it almost unrecognizable as the same vegetable that you find, bleached and bland, at the store. The moment we ate that celery was one of the first that we truly understood how different home-grown vegetables can be from their mass-produced counterparts – it was quite an awakening. Use the stalks in egg, green, or chicken salads. Celery leaves are edible, as well, and go well in salads made with fruits and nuts (apple and walnut, for example).

Happy Cooking!

Summer Share – Week 7 – July 14th/17th, 2013

This week, we’re going to keep it brief and give you what I know you want to see – some shots of the farm in beautiful early summer glory! Why don’t we include pictures in the newsletter every week, you might wonder? Well, that’s a great question. We have every intention of doing so, but usually, the actual growing, harvesting and packing of the vegetables takes up the majority of our time. We know that it is especially important for our CSA members to be able to visualize the place where your food comes from – so, without further ado, here we go!

July 12th 2013 023
Anise Hyssop in the Herb Patch
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Nick hoeing the Tomatoes
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Peppers!

July 12th 2013 011

Eggplants have beautiful purple flowers.
July 12th 2013 008
Future Butternut Squash.
July 12th 2013 010
The tomatillo plants love all the heat!
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Freshly weeded eggplant field.
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Oregano in the herb garden.
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Freshly weeded kale!

What’s In the Box?

In this box, Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Summer Lettuce,
  • Pearl Onions,
  • Cucumber,
  • Green Beans,
  • Basil,
  • Broccoli,
  • Napa Cabbage,
  • Red Cabbage, and
  • Celery.

Separate the greens from the broccoli. Store broccoli crowns, greens, and all else but basil and onions in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag. The onions can hang out on the kitchen counter in a cool place. While I like to store basil by placing the cut ends in a cup of water on the counter (like a bouquet), others like to wrap it in a damp towel, then in plastic, and store it in the warmest part of the fridge. Use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

You have a lot of salad fixings at your disposal this week, which is good, since it is not a good week for turning on the stove! I am going to try to give everyone some ideas for non-cook or minimal cook preparations for the vegetables in this week’s box.

The celery in our box is unlike that you find at the store. We find it to be far more flavorful and delicious – even the leaves are yummy!

Napa, lettuce, red cabbage, and even broccoli greens and celery leaves work as salad greens – broccoli leaves should be cut into thin strops and marinated with a little vinegar or lemon juice to make them more toothsome. Celery leaves tend to pair well with salads made with fruits and nuts (apple and walnut, for example). You can mix and match the greens in the same salad, too! Cucumbers, raw broccoli, raw onions, raw beans, celery, and even basil are good additions to a salad and provide taste and texture contrast. These additions can also perk up an egg, tofu or chicken salad.

You can also use lettuce or napa cabbage leaves to make burrito-shaped wraps with other, crunchier vegetables, herbs, and things like cooked rice vermicelli noodles sliced eggs, marinated cooked meat, or marinated tofu inside.

I am not going to give up on telling everyone how delicious Napa Cabbage is. It is crisp, refreshing, crunchy, even a little sweet, and holds on to dressings well. Shredded, it is a perfect substitute for lettuce in a salad. Or, give this feature from the New York Times a gander.

You have basil this week, which means another chance to make pesto, which is great, since pesto goes well in pasta salad. Luckily, all pasta salad requires as far as cooking is concerned is boiling the pasta water and possibly blanching some veggies. A nice simple pasta salad could include chopped raw onions and celery and blanched green bean chunks and broccoli flowerettes. For an easy pesto dressing, combine in a food processor: 1 c. basil leaves, 1/8 c. nuts (pine nuts or walnuts work well), 1 clove garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Pule, then add 1/3 c. olive oil slowly, processing until smooth. Add 1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and  toss with pasta and other salad ingredients.

Finally, cold soups can make a hot summer evening tolerable. Check out this cucumber soup recipe, modified from the Chicago Tribune’s JeanMarie Brownson.

Cucumber Yogurt Soup

  • 3 medium cucumbers
  • 2 ribs celery plus 2 tbsp. celery leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled, halved
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 slices white bread, torn into pieces
  • ½ cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • Salt, Pepper to taste

Peel, seed, and chop cucumbers into large chunks. Put all ingredients except basil and celery leaves into a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and refrigerate until chilled. Before serving, blend 1 c. of soup with basil and celery leaves until smooth, mix with remaining soup, and serve.

Happy Cooking!

Summer Share – Week 6 – July 7th/10th, 2013

In this box, Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Golden or Red Beets,
  • Swiss Chard,
  • Napa Cabbage,
  • Broccoli,
  • Purple Basil,
  • Chives,
  • Cucumber, and
  • Summer Squash or Zucchini.

Separate the greens from the beets and broccoli. Store broccoli crowns/bottoms, greens, and all else but basil in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag. The squash prefers to be in the warmer part of your fridge. While I like to store basil by placing the cut ends in a cup of water on the counter (like a bouquet), others like to wrap it in a damp towel, then in plastic, and store it in the warmest part of the fridge. Use everything within the week.

In this box, Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Scarlet Ohno Revival Turnips,
  • Golden or Pink Swiss Chard,
  • Summer Squash or Zuchinni,
  • Broccoli,
  • Purple Basil,
  • Kohlrabi,
  • Bunching Leeks, and
  • Fennel.

Separate the greens from the turnips and broccoli. Store broccoli crowns/bottoms, greens, and all else but basil in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag. The squash prefers to be in the warmer part of your fridge. While I like to store basil by placing the cut ends in a cup of water on the counter (like a bouquet), others like to wrap it in a damp towel, then in plastic, and store it in the warmest part of the fridge. Use everything within the week.

What to do with it all?

The Swiss Chard in this week’s box could act as the base for a quick vegetable pasta dish. Cook 1/2 lb. pasta according to directions, reserving 1/2 c. cooking water. Slice 4-6 bunching leeks and wash in cold water, slice one small squash into rounds or half-moons, and cut the ribs from one bunch swiss chard, chopping the ribs separately and cutting the leaves into ribbons. Saute all vegetables except swiss chard leaves (including chopped leaf ribs) in olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, for at least 6 minutes, until they are as tender as you desire. I like to sear them a little bit to go for that charred flavor. Add swiss chard leaves and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until leaves are wilted.

When vegetables are cooked, season with salt and pepper and add reserved cooking liquid directly to the skillet. You may add some hot pepper flakes here, too, if desired. Stir until sauce begins to thicken, remove from heat, and add pasta, tossing to coat with sauce. Serve hot or cold, topped with grated cheese if desired.

Beet Greens cook just like swiss chard (the vegetables are closely related), so don’t throw them away! The are great sauteed with olive oil and a little green onion, and spritzed with lemon juice. Beet greens, like chard, go very well with pasta, and there are some stand-out pasta dishes that pair both the beets and the greens with nuts, goat cheese, and bacon or pancetta. Also check out the method for roasting beets in the recipe below – this is a great way to cook beets, and roasted beets can be quartered over tossed or pasta salads as well.

Pasta Featuring the Whole Beet

  1. Roast beets from one bunch of beets: cut beets from stems, leaving about 1/4 inch of stems. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish. Add 1/4 inch of water to the dish. Cover tightly. Place in the oven and roast for 30 min to one hour, or until they’re easily penetrated with the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the covered baking dish. Cut away the ends, slip off the skins, and quarter.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  3. Sautee two slices of bacon or pancetta in a heavy pan until just crispy (you can omit this step and heat 1 tbsp. olive oil if you like). Remove the bacon from the pan, and add 1 medium red onion, chopped. Sautee for a few minutes, add 1 clove garlic, crushed, and 1 tsp. red wine vinegar, and cook a few minutes more.
  4. Wash and chop beet stems and greens coarsely. Add beet green stems to the pan with 1/4 c. water or stock and cook for about 10 minutes. Add beet greens and cooked pancetta to the pan, and cook 10 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, add about 4 oz. of penne or rigatone to the pot of water and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 c. pasta water for the sauce.
  6. Add the pasta, pasta water, and 1/8 c. toasted pine nuts to the pan with the beet greens. Add 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese, if desired. Toss and serve with the quartered beets. Delicious!

I am not going to give up on telling everyone how delicious Napa Cabbage is. It is crisp, refreshing, crunchy, even a little sweet, and holds on to dressings well. Shredded, it is a perfect substitute for lettuce in a salad. Or, give this feature from the New York Times a gander.

One Broccoli head provides three different veggies – the florets are the most commonly eaten portions of the plant and can be steamed or sauteed. I like them with salt and butter. The leaves are perfectly edible, quite delicious, and can be cooked like collards or kale. Just combine them with your collards this week! The stalk can be peeled and eaten raw, like kohlrabi, or can also be included in the slaw recipe below.

Basil and chives are both peppy, summery herbs that can be added to salads, pastas, or egg dishes. My mother puts basil in her fruit salads sometimes, which tastes lovely.

Scarlet turnips are a new variation on an old variety. Both the greens and the turnips have a more traditionally turnip-y flavor than the hakurei turnips. The greens are beautifully tinged with red and are exceptionally high in vitamins K, A, C, and calcium. The greens have a slight, characteristic bitter flavor, which often deters people from trying them, but we’d highly recommend giving them a try this week!

Turnip Greens, Two Variations

  1. Wash turnip greens and tear into bite-sized pieces, discarding stems/midribs. Sprinkle greens with a little lemon juice and let stand 5-10 minutes.  Rinse.
  2. Meanwhile, in a heavy pot or Dutch Oven, sautee olive oil and 1/2 c. chopped onion and/or 2 slices bacon, diced. Once onion and/or bacon is cooked, you can do one of two things:
  • Add turnip greens, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring, until greens are wilted and tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Add turnip greens, scrubbed and quartered turnips, and 2-3 c. vegetable or ham stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, simmering for 45-50 minutes until turnips and greens are tender. Drain and season with salt and pepper before serving.

The scarlet turnips themselves are traditionally used in pickling. Quick-pickling is easy as pie, and the following recipe and technique can be used with any combination of vegetables (for example, you can throw in kohlrabi, fennel, or broccoli stems in addition to turnips if you are interested in a mixed pickle). The turnips can also be boiled and mashed like potatoes, or sliced thin and sauteed in butter, with a little salt and pepper. Yum!

Quick-Pickled Vegetables

  1. Scrub vegetables well and slice into 1/4-to-1/2 inch thick slices or matchsticks. Tightly pack vegetables into clean pint or half-pint mason jars, leaving about 1/2-inch of head space between the top of the vegetables and the top of the jar. If you’re feeling spicy, include one small dried pepper in each jar as well. You can also stuff some fresh herbs, such as dill or fennel fronds, directly into the jars.
  2. For every two pint jars full of vegetables, prepare the following amount of brine. If you have more than two pint jars, you can double or triple the recipe. Combine 1 c. water and 1 c. apple cider, rice-wine, or white vinegar (at least 5% strength) in a saucepan and heat. Add 2 tbsp. to 1/4 c. sugar (as desired), 1 tbsp. salt,  and 1-2 tbsp. of any desired spices. I like to use a store-bought mix of pickling spices, but you can also add celery or fennel seeds, peppercorns, or any other dried, whole-seed  spices. Bring to a boil and mix well.
  3. Pour brine into jars until the liquid just covers the turnips. Close the jars and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours to marinate. These quick pickles will keep for a few weeks in your fridge.

Basil and fennel fronds are both peppy, summery herbs that can be added to salads, pastas, or egg dishes. My mother puts basil in her fruit salads sometimes, which tastes lovely.

Fennel and kohlrabi can be paired in a slaw-type salad. Check out this video, featuring the cousin of one of your fellow CSA members, for a recipe and how-to! http://www.theperennialplate.com/episodes/2010/07/episode-19-summer-vegetables/

Happy Cooking!

Summer Share – Week 5 – June 30th/July 3rd, 2013

We’ve been doing a lot of weeding this week to keep up with the amazing growing conditions we’ve been experiencing, and the fields are starting to show it! We’ve freed up the squash and cucumbers with help from our intrepid worker shares, and the plants are really starting to show the benefit of a little space. Although the weather remains cool (we’re not complaining!) we are beginning to see the early signs of summer: tiny squash fruits, flowering potatoes and beans, flourishing tomato plants (pictures to come!).

WEDNESDAY UPDATE:

We’ve been doing a lot of weeding this week to keep up with the amazing growing conditions we’ve been experiencing, and the fields are starting to show it! We’ve freed up the squash and cucumbers with help from our intrepid worker shares, and the plants are really starting to show the benefit of a little space. Although the weather remains cool (we’re not complaining!) we are beginning to see the early signs of summer: tiny squash fruits, flowering potatoes and beans, flourishing tomato plants (pictures to come!).

What’s In the Box?

In this box, Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Bunching onions,
  • Red or White Russian Kale,
  • Lettuce Mix,
  • Napa Cabbage,
  • Broccoli,
  • Dill,
  • Baby Beets, and
  • Basil.

Separate the greens from the beets and broccoli. Store broccoli crowns, beets, greens, and all else except basil in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag, and  prepare within the week. Put the basil on your counter in a glass of water like a bouquet – this is my favorite way to store it. It is fairly perishable, so use within a few days.

In this box, Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Bunching onions,
  • Collards,
  • Lettuce Mix,
  • Napa Cabbage,
  • Broccoli,
  • Dill, and
  • Hakurei Turnips.

Separate the greens from the turnips and broccoli. Store broccoli crowns/bottoms, greens, and all else in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag, and  prepare within the week.

What to do with it all?

The bunching onions this week are giant! I use the white parts of them in place of regular onions in any dish. The green parts are great for adding onion flavor, as well.

Basil and Dill can certainly be used in any recipe that calls for mixes chopped herbs – they can be added to green salad, slaw, potato salad, or pasta salad for a lovely flavor kick. They can also be useful in marinades. If you don’t use all your dill, hang it upside down in a warm, ventilated place to dry, then store it dry for use later.

Beet Greens cook just like swiss chard (the vegetables are closely related), so don’t throw them away! The are great sauteed with olive oil and a little green onion, and spritzed with lemon juice. Beet greens, like chard, go very well with pasta, and there are some stand-out pasta dishes that pair both the beets and the greens with nuts, goat cheese, and bacon or pancetta. Also check out the method for roasting beets in the recipe below – this is a great way to cook beets, and roasted beets can be quartered over tossed or pasta salads as well.

Pasta Featuring the Whole Beet

  1. Roast beets from one bunch of beets: cut beets from stems, leaving about 1/4 inch of stems. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish. Add 1/4 inch of water to the dish. Cover tightly. Place in the oven and roast for 30 min to one hour, or until they’re easily penetrated with the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the covered baking dish. Cut away the ends, slip off the skins, and quarter.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  3. Sautee two slices of bacon or pancetta in a heavy pan until just crispy (you can omit this step and heat 1 tbsp. olive oil if you like). Remove the bacon from the pan, and add 1 medium red onion, chopped. Sautee for a few minutes, add 1 clove garlic, crushed, and 1 tsp. red wine vinegar, and cook a few minutes more.
  4. Wash and chop beet stems and greens coarsely. Add beet green stems to the pan with 1/4 c. water or stock and cook for about 10 minutes. Add beet greens and cooked pancetta to the pan, and cook 10 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, add about 4 oz. of penne or rigatone to the pot of water and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 c. pasta water for the sauce.
  6. Add the pasta, pasta water, and 1/8 c. toasted pine nuts to the pan with the beet greens. Add 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese, if desired. Toss and serve with the quartered beets. Delicious!

One Broccoli head provides three different veggies – the florets are the most commonly eaten portions of the plant and can be steamed or sauteed. I like them with salt and butter. The leaves are perfectly edible, quite delicious, and can be cooked like collards or kale. Just combine them with your collards this week! The stalk can be peeled and eaten raw, like kohlrabi, or steamed or sauteed. Yum! What a plant.

Are you having people over to barbecue, or going somewhere yourself? Try making kale chips; check out this great website, Garden Betty, for a recipe with variations!

Napa Cabbage is more tender and suitable for fresh eating than its standard counterpart. Folks will often slice the cabbage thinly and sautee gently in oil, or you can also substitute napa for regular cabbage in any coleslaw recipe – napa cabbage is a great slaw ingredient when shredded with kohlrabi, broccoli stalk, and green onions and tossed with your dressing of choice. Napa cabbage also goes well in soups and saucy stir-fries, where the texture of the leaves picks up the sauce or broth.You can use the individual leaves one at a time, or slice the whole thing in half and core before chopping.

Recall what we said about hakurei turnips a few weeks ago: Hakurei turnips are something of a gourmet treat. They are a mild, sweet turnip suitable for eating raw (in salads, thinly sliced on a sandwich with a spread of herbed cream cheese) or cooked (sauteed lightly, thrown into stir fries or noodle soups, etc.). They are extremely delicious and versatile. The greens are also mild and tasty, and quite nutritious. You can sautee the turnips, thinly sliced, in butter until tender, then add the greens and cook a few minutes more for a delicious side dish. Try them, you will not be disappointed. One word of caution: the turnips turn a little bitter if cut or sliced more than a few hours before eating them, so I recommend slicing them just before cooking or eating.

Many folks feel that collards are tricky to cook, or that they must be cooked for a long period of time. We love collards (they are one of Nick’s favorite foods), and we prepare them simply: Cut ribs out of collards and cut de-ribbed leaves into 1/2-inch strips. Heat your preferred oil in a heavy skillet, add the greens, cook, stirring, until they turn deep green, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste, and serve. You can change this up by cooking a little bit of bacon in your skillet before adding the greens, or by adding about 1/4 c. broth or water to the greens after seasoning them and continuing to cook, covered, until the greens are the desired tenderness.

Happy Cooking!

Summer Share – Week 4 – June 23rd/26th, 2013

It’s an old joke that farmers talk incessantly about the weather. I never thought it would happen to me, but in the past few years, I have noticed myself checking the radar more frequently, and exploring blogs like this one, published by Illinois’ State Climatologist. The plain truth is, the weather affects us, from affecting what work we can do in the field, to controlling how well our crops grow and produce. And I have to admit – I do enjoy reading about high pressure fronts and monthly precipitation averages. Understanding our climate makes it easier to understand how to grow our vegetables well.

This week the forecasts threw us a curve ball. We steeled ourselves to withstand temperatures in the 90’s at the end of the week, but instead of hot days, we were met Friday morning with a wall of black thunderheads in the western sky. Despite a 20% chance of rain, we finished planting some winter squash just in time to dodge the first raindrops of what would become a three-hour deluge. The rain provided a wonderful drink to the fields, and the cool weather persisted thought the weekend to make for a great harvest and market on Sunday.

UPDATE, Wednesday, June 26th: We are so grateful to our amazing harvest crew of Heather, Jac and Christie who braved the rainy, wet, and occasionally thunderous weather yesterday morning to bring in a huge harvest! And we are no less grateful to our awesome Tuesday afternoon crew for weeding all of the squash and many cukes too! When you eat your vegetables this week, say a mental thanks to the crew – they went above and beyond this week!

Check out the following websites/videos for additional inspiration this week:

What’s In the Box?

In this box, Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Bunching leeks,
  • Collards,
  • Lettuce Head,
  • Arugula,
  • Fennel,
  • Cilantro,
  • Green Garlic,
  • Bok Choi,
  • Kohlrabi, and
  • Hakurei Turnips.

Separate the greens from the turnips, fennel and kohlrabi, and trim the tops of the leeks and the tops of the green garlic, reserving the curly end of the garlic stalk (that is a garlic scape!). Store bulbs/bottoms, greens, and all else in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag, and  prepare within the week.

What to do with it all?

Bunching leeks can be used like regular leeks, or chopped and sauteed as an addition to greens dishes, as you might use green onions. Use the white and light green portions of the leeks, and wash them well after slicing by floating the sliced leeks in a bowl of cool water. The leeks have a more subtle flavor that green onions. The bulb of green garlic is garlic that has not been cured and dried yet. The bulb can be used just like fresh garlic, and the long, curly scape at the top of the stalk can also be chopped and used like you would garlic.

Cilantro is a refreshing herb that can be added to bean dishes, salads, or salsas. You can also use cilantro to make an easy dip or relish:

Cilantro Relish

Finely chop one bunch cilantro, 2-3 green onions or bunching leeks, and one bulb green garlic. Mix in 1 tsp. cumin, 2 tsp. chopped jalapeno or red pepper flakes (if desired), 1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice, 1/4 c. olive oil, and salt to taste.

Lettuce and arugula go hand in hand in salads. Arugula also makes a delicious pesto:

Arugula-Spinach Pesto

This pesto freezes well and is great to bring out when you have an arugula-tooth but no fresh arugula. A little goes a long way!

  • One bunch arugula leaves,  washed, dried and packed
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts, walnuts, or any other nut that you fancy
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2-3/4 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend arugula and spinach in a food processor, (or just chop and mash it as best you can), adding garlic, nuts and Parmesan until well blended. With machine running, gradually add olive oil; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Hakurei turnips are something of a gourmet treat. They are a mild, sweet turnip suitable for eating raw (in salads, thinly sliced on a sandwich with a spread of herbed cream cheese) or cooked (sauteed lightly, thrown into stir fries or noodle soups, etc.). They are extremely delicious and versatile. The greens are also mild and tasty, and quite nutritious. You can sautee the turnips, thinly sliced, in butter until tender, then add the greens and cook a few minutes more for a delicious side dish. Try them, you will not be disappointed. One word of caution: the turnips turn a little bitter if cut or sliced more than a few hours before eating them, so I recommend slicing them just before cooking or eating.

Many folks feel that collards are tricky to cook, or that they must be cooked for a long period of time. We love collards (they are one of Nick’s favorite foods), and we prepare them simply: Cut ribs out of collards and cut de-ribbed leaves into 1/2-inch strips. Heat your preferred oil in a heavy skillet, add the greens, cook, stirring, until they turn deep green, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste, and serve. You can change this up by cooking a little bit of bacon in your skillet before adding the greens, or by adding about 1/4 c. broth or water to the greens after seasoning them and continuing to cook, covered, until the greens are the desired tenderness.

Check out the links to the dedicated fennel and bok choi pages to learn more about what to do with this lovely vegetable! Just click on the vegetable to get to the individual vegetable page. You can also go back to the newsletter archives to find recipes from past weeks.

Happy Cooking!

In this box, Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Bunching leeks,
  • Bunch Chard,
  • Lettuce Head,
  • Arugula,
  • Fennel,
  • Cilantro,
  • Green Garlic,
  • Bok Choi, and
  • Asparagus (Sandhill Family Farms – organic)

Asparagus can be kept in the fridge, stems down, in water like a bouquet. Everything else this week can get stored in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag, and everything should be prepared within the week.

What to do with it all?

Bunching leeks can be used like regular leeks, or chopped and sauteed as an addition to greens dishes, as you might use green onions. The leeks have a more subtle flavor that green onions. The bulb of green garlic is garlic that has not been cured and dried yet. The bulb can be used just like fresh garlic, and the long, curly scape at the top of the stalk can also be chopped and used like you would garlic.

Cilantro is a refreshing herb that can be added to bean dishes, salads, or salsas. You can also use cilantro to make an easy dip or relish:

Cilantro Relish

Finely chop one bunch cilantro, 2-3 green onions or bunching leeks, and one bulb green garlic. Mix in 1 tsp. cumin, 2 tsp. chopped jalapeno or red pepper flakes (if desired), 1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice, 1/4 c. olive oil, and salt to taste.

Lettuce and arugula go hand in hand in salads. Arugula also makes a delicious pesto:

Arugula-Spinach Pesto

This pesto freezes well and is great to bring out when you have an arugula-tooth but no fresh arugula. A little goes a long way!

  • One bunch arugula leaves,  washed, dried and packed
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts, walnuts, or any other nut that you fancy
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2-3/4 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend arugula and spinach in a food processor, (or just chop and mash it as best you can), adding garlic, nuts and Parmesan until well blended. With machine running, gradually add olive oil; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Check out the links to the dedicated fennel page to learn more about what to do with this lovely vegetable! Just click on the vegetable to get to the individual vegetable page. You can also go back to the newsletter archives to read about what to do with swiss chard.

Happy Cooking!

Midnight Sun Farm Summer Share – Week 3 – June 16th/19th, 2013

Saturday began in a cold drizzle of rain, and there were a lot of yawns being passed around as we drove out to the field with our biggest ever group of worker shares and crew. What’s a worker share, you might ask? Our worker shares are CSA members who exchange a weekly four-hour work shift at the farm for their CSA box. The worker share program is a great opportunity for folks who are interested in getting their hands dirty or who would like to trade work for food. It is also a great way for us to get the people power to accomplish some of the more labor-intensive tasks out here, and it is one way of helping us to be more connected with our CSA community.

This weekend found us harvesting an abundance of greens and weeding out our leek field. Despite the weather, everyone worked hard, the greens stayed fresh in the field, and the leeks began emerging from a sea of green weeds. By the end of the morning, the air had warmed up a bit, and we were all glowing with heat from working in the mist. Nick and I were amazed at all that our crew accomplished!

This week marks the first week that our box is filled entirely with produce from the farm. Notice we are still giving out a lot of greens, as the cool, wet beginning of the summer has been perfect for promoting lush, healthy greens growth.

What’s In the Box?

In this box, Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Purple or white bunching onions,
  • Bunch Rainbow Chard,
  • Lettuce Head,
  • Mustard Mix (a small bunch or multicolor greens with the roots still on),
  • Tokyo Bekana (another type of mustard green – like a small, lime green head of bok choi),
  • Purple Kohlrabi, and
  • Asparagus (from Sandhill Family Farm – organic).

In this box, Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Purple bunching onions,
  • Bunch Kale (curly red, curly green, or red or white Russian, all kale has large, substantial-looking leaves and is bunched with a blue band)
  • Lettuce Head,
  • Mustard Mix (a small bunch or multicolor greens with the roots still on),
  • Tokyo Bekana (another type of mustard green – like a small, lime green head of lettuce),
  • Purple Kohlrabi,
  • Hakurai Turnips (they look like white radishes), and
  • Multicolor Radishes.

Separate the radishes and turnips from their greens. The radish greens can get composted, unless you are very adventurous. The radishes, turnips, turnip greens, and everything else this week can get stored separately in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag, and should be prepared within a week. Asparagus can be kept, stems down, in water, like a bouquet.

What to do with it all?

Right about now, you might be thinking, “What kind of rabbit-food festival have I gotten myself into?”. Yes, there are a lot of greens in your box this week. You have before you a lot of greens, to be sure. But don’t be overwhelmed. We can make this work.

Let’s start simply. You have lettuce greens and tokyo bekana, which are perfect for shredding into the base for a nice green salad. I have been dressing my salads this week with oil and vinegar, salt, and nutritional yeast, which has been surprisingly tasty!

Chard can also be eaten raw, in salad form. Remove the hard mid-rib from the leaves and set aside (the mid ribs can be  chopped and quick-pickled if you are interested in pickling things). Cut the chard leaves into long, thin strips by rolling each leaf up and cutting the roll into thin slices. Toss with your dressing of choice and nuts, dried cranberries, grated kohlrabi, and chopped fresh herbs.

Wait, kohlrabi? Yes, this is the purple item in your box that looks like a little space-ship. The bottom can be peeled and grated into a salad, or sliced and eaten raw with salt and lemon juice.The leaves cook up much like collards or kale.

Mustard greens can be sauteed for a southern-style side. I cook some green onion with a little oil until fragrant, add the shopped greens, cook for a few minutes, add lemon juice, vinegar, wine, broth, or water, cover, and cook until the greens are just tender. If you like more well-cooked greens, you can cook longer. A classic mix-in with cooked greens is a drained, rinsed can of white beans and a few teaspoons garlic.

Your kale this week (or from last week, for you Wednesday folks) is young and tender, and is also a contender for shredding and adding to your green salad. Or, you may wish to make it the star of its own salad:

Kale Salad, 3 Ways

  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced, seeded tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper

1. Chop kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.

2. Place the kale in a mixing bowl along with the olive oil, lime juice, and salt, and toss well with your hands, working the dressing into the greens.

3. Mix in the cumin, cayenne, tomato, bell pepper, and avocado.

Variation #1: Substitute lemon juice for lime juice. Mix in 1/4 cup pine nuts and 1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked for about 10 minutes and drained. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Variation #2: Substitute lemon juice for lime juice. Mix in 1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives and 1/4 cup diced bell pepper. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Hakurei turnips are something of a gourmet treat. They are a mild, sweet turnip suitable for eating raw (in salads, thinly sliced on a sandwich with a spread of herbed cream cheese) or cooked (sauteed lightly, thrown into stir fries or noodle soups, etc.). They are extremely delicious and versatile. The greens are also mild and tasty, and quite nutritious. You can sautee the turnips, thinly sliced, in butter until tender, then add the greens and cook a few minutes more for a delicious side dish. try them, you will not be disappointed. One word of caution: the turnips turn a little bitter if cut or sliced more than a few hours before eating them, so I recommend slicing them just before cooking or eating.

Happy eating!

Midnight Sun Farm Summer Share – Week 2 – June 9th/12th, 2013

Hello and welcome to the second week of our Main Season share, we sincerely hope you are enjoying your share of the harvest so far.  Everyone has been working with the throttle wide open to get all the plants in the ground this week, and our fantastic worker shares have waged a successful campaign against the weeds once again.  With the greater portion of the planting done, we now have plenty of weeding, hoeing, cultivating, irrigating, and soil amending to keep up with, in anticipation of an excellent yield this season.

Notes from the Farm:

  • We had a simply wonderful time Saturday when the Sugar Beet Co-op came to the farm:  Crème Crafted Parties & Events catered an eye-popping picnic lunch, and we had a fun hayride tour of the fields.
  • We have a new irrigation gun!  This tool, a Micro Rain 32 model, can irrigate 7 acres with four hours of labor a week.  What are we going to do with all the free time!?

What’s In the Box?

In this box, Wednesday pickers-up will find:

  • Bok Choi,
  • Kale (we included several kinds of kale in your box, some are more common than others – all are bunched with a blue band),
  • Lettuce Head,
  • Lettuce mix,
  • Rhubarb (From Mick Klug – Integrated Pest Management),
  • Potatoes (from IGL – organic), and
  • Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries (from Breslin Farms).

In this box, Sunday pickers-up will find:

  • Green Onions
  • Loose Chard
  • Lettuce Head
  • Lettuce mix
  • Rhubarb (From Mick Klug – Integrated Pest Management)
  • Potatoes (from IGL – organic)
  • Bok Choi
  • Radishes.

Everything except the potatoes, wheat berries and  green onions can go in your refrigerator in a closed container or bag, and should be prepared within a week. The potatoes should go in a cool, dark place, and should be prepared within two weeks.  The green onions will do fine in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer with no bag or container for a week. The wheat berries will keep in your pantry or the fridge for quite some time.
Please note:  The green leafy part of rhubarb is not for eating, it is mildly toxic.  Cut it off and throw it away.  We leave it on for freshness until it is prepared.

What to do with it all

Rhubarb is a great early-Summer treat, shockingly sour on its own, but mellows nicely with some heat and sugar.  Here is a recipe for a simple dessert sauce to put on cake, ice cream, or whatever needs a little sweetening up:

  • 1/2 to 2/3 Cups Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup water
  • 1 strip Orange Peel (Optional)
  • 3 Cups diced rhubarb

Combine water, sugar, and orange peel in a Saucepan, bring to a boil.  Stir in rhubarb and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes until rhubarb is tender.  Remove orange peel before serving, Serve warm.

One of your fellow CSA members, Renee, shared a rhubarb upside down cake recipe with us, and one for swiss chard and beans (a classic combo):

http://mobile.eatingwell.com/recipes/strawberry_rhubarb_upside_down_cake.html

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Swiss-Chard-with-Garbanzo-Beans-and-Fresh-Tomatoes

Obviously, you also have a lot of salad fixings available to you this week. Lettuce, green onions, and radishes are all prime candidates. I also enjoy eating radishes and butter, either with crackers, good crusty bread, and all on their own. When we are all out of quality accompaniments, I slice them thin and eat then on saltines! While this does not sound very classy, it tasted delicious, especially as a snack with some nice light summer beer.

The wheat berries are a treat – see Molly’s website for information on how to cook them (essentially like rice, but they take about an hour to get soft). I like to cook them all at once and keep them in the fridge for use throughout the week. here’ too, are some other thoughts on how to cook with them:

http://vegweb.com/recipes/toasted-wheat-berry-and-oat-granola

http://foodiemommy.blogspot.com/2012/01/inspired-by-sofras-parfait-wheat-berry.html

Kale is one of our favorite greens. Sautee in olive oil with garlic and onion, or chop and mix with a lemony vinaigrette for a raw kale salad. Generally, we remove the kale stems before sauteeing, chop them, and cook them for a few minutes before adding the leaves. Our friend Rosanne throws it into pasta sauce, raw, then blends it all together to serve over noodles.

Kale Salad, 3 Ways

  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced, seeded tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper

1. Chop kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.

2. Place the kale in a mixing bowl along with the olive oil, lime juice, and salt, and toss well with your hands, working the dressing into the greens.

3. Mix in the cumin, cayenne, tomato, bell pepper, and avocado.

Variation #1: Substitute lemon juice for lime juice. Mix in 1/4 cup pine nuts and 1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked for about 10 minutes and drained. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Variation #2: Substitute lemon juice for lime juice. Mix in 1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives and 1/4 cup diced bell pepper. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Midnight Sun Farm Main Share – Week 1 – June 5th, 2013

Hello, CSA share members! First of all, we’d like to take this opportunity to welcome back our returning members, and to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for choosing to support local agriculture by joining our CSA. Your commitment to buying a share early in the season allowed us to make the purchases (like seeds, irrigation supplies, and piles of sand) that make the farm function throughout the season. We literally could not do it without our CSA members!

(Spring share members, you’ve seen the following information in a previous newsletter. Feel free to skip ahead if you want!)

For those of you who are new to our CSA, the newsletters function as a way for us to share with you what has been happening on the farm. We also use the newsletter to let you know what is in each week’s share, how to store it, and to give you some preparation and recipe suggestions. Because this is the first box of the season, we’d like to share a few general tips about collecting, storing, and cooking your produce:

Food Storage And Safety

1. Generally, the best way to store greens and leafy things is in the fridge, in some kind of plastic bag or container. Since we try to keep our packaging to a minimum, sometimes you will receive items that need to go in a bag before they go in your fridge. We’ll let you know if that is the case. All of the bags you will get from us are compostable, but can be reused at home.

2. Please wash all your produce! We rinse all our veggies before packing them, but you should always wash them again, preferably right before you cook with them or prepare them. If the vegetable will hold up to scrubbing, do that; otherwise it is sufficient to run the vegetable under water for a few seconds and then shake or spin dry.

3. It is best to eat your produce within the week, since vegetables are healthiest and most delicious when they are fresh! If you have trouble getting through all the vegetables, we will offer some tips about freezing or preserving food from your share, but we also advocate sharing with your friends and neighbors!

Our Boxes

How to unfold your produce box
Thanks to T D Willey Farms in Fresno, CA for the helpful diagram!

It is important that we get our boxes back each week, so that we can fill them up again and send them back out! Please bring your boxes back each week!  Please also feel welcome to bring a bag to your pick-up site, unpack your share from its box, and leave the box at the pickup site. The boxes can be tricky to unfold. Please see the diagram at the right to help you figure it out.

We include some recipes for the vegetables that you receive each week, but there are literally thousands of other recipes out there that we encourage you to search out! If you find a super recipe, let us know! We’re always looking for new ideas.

What’s In the Box?

In this box, you will find:

  • Green Onions,
  • Mixed beets with greens,
  • Head Lettuce,
  • Radishes,
  • asparagus (from Mick Klug in Michigan – Integrated Pest Management practices), and
  • potatoes (from IGL Farm in Antigo, WI – organic).

Separate the beets from their greens when you get home and they will both last longer. Beets and greens, green onions, and lettuce should be stored in a plastic bag or container in your fridge, and washed just before they are eaten or prepared. Asparagus can go in a cup of water, like a bouquet, then covered and put in the fridge.The potatoes can be kept in a cool dry place in your kitchen, and eaten within the next few weeks.

What to do with it all

Beet leaves are a lot like chard, and they are so delicious! Cook them as you would any other green. They also go along well with the actual beets, which can be roasted or boiled and added to salads or eaten alone as a lovely side.

We were lucky enough to be able to include both potatoes and asparagus this week. Nick’s favorite potato salad contains both of these ingredients. Obviously, the two veggies are great separately (grilled, for example, or steamed), but you can also do this:

Sesame Potato Asparagus Salad

Chop 1-2 lb. of potatoes into bite-sized pieces and boil until tender. Chop 1/2 lb. asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces and steam until tender. Combine, and drizzle with 2-3 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp sesame oil. Top with toasted sesame seeds. (The sesame seeds are optional, but they are my favorite part). Allow to sit for 1-2 hours to let the flavors meld, and serve at room temperature.

UPDATE! One of your fellow CSA members clued us in to an amazing looking recipe for Asparagus, potato and goat cheese pizza! Check it out here!

Midnight Sun Farm Main Share – Week 1 – June 2nd, 2013

Hello, CSA share members! First of all, we’d like to take this opportunity to welcome back our returning members, and to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for choosing to support local agriculture by joining our CSA. Your commitment to buying a share early in the season allowed us to make the purchases (like seeds, irrigation supplies, and piles of sand) that make the farm function throughout the season. We literally could not do it without our CSA members! P1010001

For those of you who are new to our CSA, the newsletters function as a way for us to share with you what has been happening on the farm. We also use the newsletter to let you know what is in each week’s share, how to store it, and to give you some preparation and recipe suggestions. Because this is the first box of the season, we’d like to share a few general tips about collecting, storing, and cooking your produce:

Food Storage And Safety

1. Generally, the best way to store greens and leafy things is in the fridge, in some kind of plastic bag or container. Since we try to keep our packaging to a minimum, sometimes you will receive items that need to go in a bag before they go in your fridge. We’ll let you know if that is the case. All of the bags you will get from us are compostable, but can be reused at home.

2. Please wash all your produce! We rinse all our veggies before packing them, but you should always wash them again, preferably right before you cook with them or prepare them. If the vegetable will hold up to scrubbing, do that; otherwise it is sufficient to run the vegetable under water for a few seconds and then shake or spin dry.

3. It is best to eat your produce within the week, since vegetables are healthiest and most delicious when they are fresh! If you have trouble getting through all the vegetables, we will offer some tips about freezing or preserving food from your share, but we also advocate sharing with your friends and neighbors!

Our Boxes

How to unfold your produce box
Thanks to T D Willey Farms in Fresno, CA for the helpful diagram!

It is important that we get our boxes back each week, so that we can fill them up again and send them back out! Please bring your boxes back each week!  Please also feel welcome to bring a bag to your pick-up site, unpack your share from its box, and leave the box at the pickup site. The boxes can be tricky to unfold. Please see the diagram at the right to help you figure it out.

We include some recipes for the vegetables that you receive each week, but there are literally thousands of other recipes out there that we encourage you to search out! If you find a super recipe, let us know! We’re always looking for new ideas.

What’s In the Box?

In this box, you will find:

  • Bok choi,
  • Mixed beets with greens,
  • Onion Blossoms,
  • Head Lettuce,
  • asparagus (from Mick Klug in Michigan – Integrated Pest Management practices),
  • potatoes (from IGL Farm in Antigo, WI – organic), and
  • a spicy globe basil plant.

Separate the beets from their greens when you get home and they will both last longer. Bok choi, beets and greens, and lettuce should be stored in a plastic bag or container in your fridge, and washed just before they are eaten or prepared. Onion blossoms and asparagus can go in a cup of water, like a bouquet, then covered and put in the fridge.The potatoes can be kept in a cool dry place in your kitchen. The basil prefers as much sun as you can give it, and will remain bushy and petite. Sprigs can be harvested from the top of the plant to encourage more side growth.

What to do with it all

Onion blossoms have a subtle onion-y and flowery taste and smell, which is pretty amazing over pasta and in salads. If you get a chance, cut them up and just use them to garnish a dish where you are looking for some subtle flavor. The green stems and leaves of the mature onion plant can also be used for onion flavoring, much like giant chives.

Beet leaves are a lot like chard, and they are so delicious! Cook them as you would any other green. They also go along well with the actual beets, which can be roasted or boiled and added to salads or eaten alone as a lovely side.

We were lucky enough to be able to include both potatoes and asparagus this week. Nick’s favorite potato salad contains both of these ingredients. Obviously, the two veggies are great separately (grilled, for example, or steamed), but you can also do this:

Sesame Potato Asparagus Salad

Chop 1-2 lb. of potatoes into bite-sized pieces and boil until tender. Chop 1/2 lb. asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces and steam until tender. Combine, and drizzle with 2-3 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp sesame oil. Top with toasted sesame seeds. (The sesame seeds are optional, but they are my favorite part). Allow to sit for 1-2 hours to let the flavors meld, and serve at room temperature.

I absolutely love bok choi, and will eat it steamed, sauteed, or raw in salad. If you have not tried bok choi in salad, I’d highly recommend it – it pairs well with lettuce and soft fruits like strawberries or pears, and prefers a sweet, fruity dressing as well. You can also combine the bok choi and chard (and really anything else but the kitchen sink) in a peanut sauce skillet using the following easy recipe:

Everything With Peanut Sauce

Sautee the chard bok choi, and whatever else you want to include, adding the harder vegetables first (bok choi stalks, onions, etc.) and throwing in tender greens at the very end. Mix with 1-2 tbsp peanut butter, a little soy sauce, and a dash or two (or three, if you want) of hot sauce, until the peanut butter is evenly distributed. Serve over rice or noodles.

Midnight Sun Farm Spring Share – Week 3 – May 29th, 2013

It seems that we are still in the grips of spring out here on the farm –  dodging cloudbursts, occasionally getting our warm work clothes back out. And yet, we’re thinking about warm season crops already! We planted a first round of summer squash and cucumbers last week, and the peppers and tomatoes won’t be close behind. It always amazes me how quickly everything goes in the spring. There is a tendency to think about life on the farm as being relaxed and unrushed, but there are certain times of year when I still feel like we blink, and a month has gone by. Busy farmers in the spring make a good summer, however, so we better get back at it!

Notes from the Farm:

  • Our worker shares have started this week – we are very excited to meet these folks, who will be volunteering every week in exchange for a CSA box. It’s great to be able to share the farm and get a few extra hands pulling weeds! We’ll be sharing more about this program later.
  • Another set of CSA members clued us in to a late June Farm Tour and Tea at Breslin Farms near Ottowa – these are the folks who grow the beans and grain! Check out their website for more information.

What’s In the Box?

In this box, you will find:

  • Bok choi,
  • Bag of Chard,
  • Onion Blossoms,
  • Head Lettuce,
  • asparagus (from Mick Klug in Michigan – Integrated Pest Management practices),
  • potatoes (from IGL Farm in Antigo, WI – organic), and
  • a spicy globe basil plant.

Bok choi, chard, and lettuce should be stored in a plastic bag or container in your fridge, and washed just before they are eaten or prepared. Onion blossoms and asparagus can go in a cup of water, like a bouquet, then covered and put in the fridge.The potatoes can be kept in a cool dry place in your kitchen. The basil prefers as much sun as you can give it, and will remain bushy and petite. Sprigs can be harvested from the top of the plant to encourage more side growth.

What to do with it all

Onion blossoms have a subtle onion-y and flowery taste and smell, which is pretty amazing over pasta and in salads. If you get a chance, cut them up and just use them to garnish a dish where you are looking for some subtle flavor. The green stems and leaves of the mature onion plant can also be used for onion flavoring, much like giant chives.

We were lucky enough to be able to include both potatoes and asparagus this week. Nick’s favorite potato salad contains both of these ingredients. Obviously, the two veggies are great separately (grilled, for example, or steamed), but you can also do this:

Sesame Potato Asparagus Salad

Chop 1-2 lb. of potatoes into bite-sized pieces and boil until tender. Chop 1/2 lb. asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces and steam until tender. Combine, and drizzle with 2-3 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp sesame oil. Top with toasted sesame seeds. (The sesame seeds are optional, but they are my favorite part). Allow to sit for 1-2 hours to let the flavors meld, and serve at room temperature.

I absolutely love bok choi, and will eat it steamed, sauteed, or raw in salad. If you have not tried bok choi in salad, I’d highly recommend it – it pairs well with lettuce and soft fruits like strawberries or pears, and prefers a sweet, fruity dressing as well. You can also combine the bok choi and chard (and really anything else but the kitchen sink) in a peanut sauce skillet using the following easy recipe:

Everything With Peanut Sauce

Sautee the chard bok choi, and whatever else you want to include, adding the harder vegetables first (bok choi stalks, onions, etc.) and throwing in tender greens at the very end. Mix with 1-2 tbsp peanut butter, a little soy sauce, and a dash or two (or three, if you want) of hot sauce, until the peanut butter is evenly distributed. Serve over rice or noodles.

Midnight Sun Farm Spring Share – Week 2 – May 22nd, 2013

Good morning, and welcome to the second week of the CSA. We’ve been working busily with our crew this past week to catch up on planting and cultivation as we look towards the rush of early June. We enjoyed seeing a few CSA members at the Prairie Crossing Plant Sale last Saturday, where plants and baby goats alike were to be found. We hope to host another open house, or at least open visiting hours, some time in the early summer, so keep your eyes peeled!

Notes from the Farm:

  • From Leigh – an idea for what to do with your leftover mushrooms! “So drying mushrooms was really easy!  Wash/clean, slice thinly, then spread them out evenly on a cookie sheet.  (I put them on foil, so I could easily funnel them into a bag when done.). Put them in the oven at 150 degrees for an hour, turn them, blotting excess moisture, if necessary, then drying for another hour.  I ended up drying them for one more hour, until they “felt” dry.”
  • Another set of CSA members clued us in to a late June Farm Tour and Tea at Breslin Farms near Ottowa – these are the folks who grow the beans and grain! Check out their website for more information.
  • I caught an interview with a Chicago Botanic Garden employee yesterday on the radio. She was fielding gardening questions, and, time and again, when asked “What edible can I grow in my windy/sunny/hot/lower-light porch or window box?”, she answered “Herbs!”. She made a great point – the wild progenitors of our cultivated herbs grow on windswept, sunny mountainsides in Mediterranean climates, so it makes sense that they would tolerate those harsh conditions!

What’s In the Box?

In this box, you will find:

  • Mini greens mix (mini bok choi, micro chard/beet greens, and watercress),
  • Bunch or Bag of Chard,
  • Winter spinach,
  • Head Lettuce,
  • Black Turtle Beans (from Breslin Farms),
  • and rosemary and thyme herb starts (you knew they were coming!).

Spinach, chard, greens, and lettuce should be stored in a plastic bag or container in your fridge, and washed just before they are eaten or prepared. The beans can be kept in a cool dry place and stored for at least one year.

The rosemary plant has long, spiky, deep green leaves, and the thyme plant has short, vibrant green and purple leaves. Your herb  plants will thrive on a patio, in the yard, or on a sunny windowsill in your house. Keep them moist, but not too wet, and clip from the top of the plant to encourage new growth.

What to do with it all

We are pleased to include some more goodies from Molly Breslin at Breslin Farms in your box this week – black beans. Again, check out Molly’s website for bean recipes. Remember that you must first soak your beans in water (preferably overnight), drain the water, and then cook them for at least a few hours until tender. I know this seems like a lot of trouble for beans, but when prepared the old-fashioned way, black beans really stand out. As with the grain, you can cook a whole batch keep them in the fridge to add to salads or soups. Try Molly’s

BASIC BLACK BEAN RECIPE

2 cups black beans, soaked overnight in water, rinsed well
1 med. red onion, diced
2 clove garlic, minced
2 medium hot peppers, dried or fresh, (stems, seeds and membranes removed)

Add all ingredients to a medium pot. Cover beans with 2-3 inches of water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, add lid and cook until just tender (30 to 40 minutes). When tender but still very soupy, add one 6 oz. can tomato paste (organic preferred).

We enjoy pairing greens and beans, and love these:

CHARD AND BEAN ENCHILADAS

Preheat oven to 375F.

Filling: Prepare and cook 1/2 lb. of black beans as desired. Using a knife, prepare one bunch of swiss chard as follows: cut the green leaves of the chard away from the ribs, chop the ribs finely, and cut the greens into 1/2-inch wide strips. Chop about 1/2 c. onion and 2-3 cloves garlic, and combine with the chopped swiss chard ribs in a heavy pan with a few tablespoons olive oil. Cook over medium heat until soft, then add greens and cook until wilted. Add beans, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes or hot sauce to taste.

Assembly: Bring one package of small corn tortillas to room temperature (this makes them easier to fold). Pour about one-half of a can of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish. Into each tortilla, place a spoonful of filling and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Roll the tortilla up, tucking in the sides, and place, seam side down, into the pan. Repeat until filling is used up or pan is full. Top with remaining enchilada sauce, a little more cheese, and pop in the oveN for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and everything is nice and hot. Enjoy!

Baby greens and lettuce can also be combined to make a tasty salad. The peppery watercress should provide a nice contrast to the naturally salty chard and crunchy bok choi. You can use a little thyme from your new plant to mix up some:

THYME-VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

To 1/2 c. of olive oil, add 2-3 tbsp. lemon juice and 1-2 tbsp. red wine or white vinegar, for a total of 4 tbsp. acidic components. Whisk in 1-2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, 1-2 tsp. honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Voila!

Please feel free to contact us via email at midnightsunfarm@gmail.com with any questions or thoughts. And Enjoy!

Midnight Sun Farm Spring Share – Week 1 – May 15th, 2013

Hello, spring share members! First of all, we’d like to take this opportunity to welcome back our returning members, and to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for choosing to support local agriculture by joining our CSA. Your committment to buying a share early in the season allowed us to make the purchases (like seeds, irrigation supplies, and piles of sand) that make the farm function throughout the season. We literally could not do it without our CSA members! P1010001

For those of you who are new to our CSA, the newsletters function as a way for us to share with you what has been happening on the farm. We also use the newsletter to let you know what is in each week’s share, how to store it, and to give you some preparation and recipe suggestions. Because this is the first box of the season, we’d like to share a few general tips about collecting, storing, and cooking your produce:

Food Storage And Safety

1. Generally, the best way to store greens and leafy things is in the fridge, in some kind of plastic bag or container. Since we try to keep our packaging to a minimum, sometimes you will receive items that need to go in a bag before they go in your fridge. We’ll let you know if that is the case. All of the bags you will get from us are compostable, but can be reused at home.

2. Please wash all your produce! We rinse all our veggies before packing them, but you should always wash them again, preferably right before you cook with them or prepare them. If the vegetable will hold up to scrubbing, do that; otherwise it is sufficient to run the vegetable under water for a few seconds and then shake or spin dry.

3. It is best to eat your produce within the week, since vegetables are healthiest and most delicious when they are fresh! If you have trouble getting through all the vegetables, we will offer some tips about freezing or preserving food from your share, but we also advocate sharing with your friends and neighbors!

Our Boxes

How to unfold your produce box

Thanks to T D Willey Farms in Fresno, CA for the helpful diagram!

It is important that we get our boxes back each week, so that we can fill them up again and send them back out! Please bring your boxes back each week!  Please also feel welcome to bring a bag to your pick-up site, unpack your share from its box, and leave the box at the pickup site. The boxes can be tricky to unfold. Please see the diagram at the right to help you figure it out.

We include some recipes for the vegetables that you receive each week, but there are literally thousands of other recipes out there that we encourage you to search out! If you find a super recipe, let us know! We’re always looking for new ideas.

What’s In the Box?

This spring has started very differently than the spring before, to be sure. Last year it already felt like summer in the fields, and we had been planting and seeding for at least a month. This year, the cold and wet start to the season meant that we were delayed tilling the fields, and so much of our produce got a late start. Not that we’re complaining – the early rain boosted soil moisture tremendously!

We’re supplementing the first few weeks of the spring share with a few buy-ins from local organic farms. We’ll also be providing you with a range of herb starts this spring – parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and even basil. Thanks for being patient as we wait a little longer to reap the benefits of a rainy, late spring. We hope you enjoy everything the early spring box brings.

In this box, the first box of the season, you will find:

  • pea shoots,
  • chives,
  • winter spinach,
  • white button mushrooms (from River Valley Ranch),
  • Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries (from Breslin Farms),
  • and parsley and sage herb starts

Spinach, pea shoots, and chives should be stored in a plastic bag or container in your fridge, and washed just before they are eaten or prepared. Mushrooms can be stored in a plastic container or bag with a little breathing room, and wiped clean with a damp rag before use. They are best eaten within the week. The wheat berries can be kept in a cool dry place and stored for at least six one year.

The sage plant is dusty-green color and the parsley is dark green and curly. Your herb  plants will thrive on a patio, in the yard, or on a sunny spot in your house. Keep them moist, but not too wet, and clip from the top of the sage, and the outside leaves of the parsley, to encourage new growth.

What to do with it all

Pea shoots are a delicious addition to salads and pastas – snip them into small pieces with the chives and toss them with pasta, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

We are pleased to include some delicious winter wheat berries from Molly Breslin at Breslin Farms in your box this week. Check out Molly’s website for sprouting or baking directions using the wheat berries. You can cook a whole batch of berries and keep them in the fridge all week to add to salads or soups or reheat with cinnamon for breakfast. If you are looking for an interesting new whole grain side dish, try the following:

Wheat Berry Salad

Combine 1 c. wheat berries with 4 c. salted water and boil for 1 hour, or until wheat is tender. Drain and combine with any or all of the following:  1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese or grated parmesan cheese; 2-3 tbsp. chopped herbs or pea shoots; 2 cloves chopped garlic; 1/4 c. olive oil; 1/8 c. vinegar or lemon juice; salt, pepper to taste; chopped fresh herbs.

Spinach and mushrooms are a classic combination. To prepare the two for many uses, do the following:

Basic Spinach and Mushrooms

Heat olive oil in a cast-iron or other heavy pan over medium heat. Slice mushrooms thinly and add to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms begin to release water. Add washed, chopped spinach and 2 tbsp vinegar, wine, lemon juice, broth, or water. Stir, cover, and cook until spinach is wilted. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, or anything else that is desired. I like a pinch of nutmeg! You can use this mixture on pizza, in a quiche, as a side dish, or mixed with wheat berries for a side salad.

You can also make:

Spinach Pesto

  • 3 c. spinach leaves, washed, dried and packed
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts, walnuts, or any other nut that you fancy
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2-3/4 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Chop spinach in a food processor with garlic, nuts and Parmesan until well blended. With machine running, gradually add olive oil; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Please feel free to contact us via email at midnightsunfarm@gmail.com with any questions or thoughts. And Enjoy!

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