Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good Eats Newsletter - June 11, 2008

Pete's Musings
Thanks very much for being part of this Good Eats share. Your support has helped Pete's Greens to make big changes this winter that will allow us to produce more local food. I hope you enjoyed your share and that if there are things about it that we could have done better that you communicate that on our survey or by e-mailing Nancy or me. Many of you are sticking with us for the summer share (thanks for your signups, your $ this time of year on a vegetable farm are like a much needed rain). Others of you are avid gardeners and we hope to see you again in October.

Many thanks to all who have made this share a success. First the Pete's Greens Good Eats crew: Nancy has done a great job running Good Eats; Heather is forging excellent relationships with localvore providers and writing interesting localvore pieces for the newsletter; Meg is running a spotlessly tidy washhhouse, designing shares, and managing harvests; Steve keeps our equipment in good repair and does most of the farm's tractor work; Tim is your ace Good Eats delivery man; Jeffrey is our new kitchen manager who will be making prepared foods for the summer share and is currently working as a field manager; Deborah is packing shares and helping with harvest; and last, but certainly not least, the Reyes sisters (Elena, Sabina, and Succoro) and Berto our Mexican field hands who are fast, efficient, tireless and a pleasure to live and work with. Every person listed is often asked for extra effort or to take on something that they were not expecting and all respond with good humor and energy. Pete's Greens has received alot of press coverage in the past few months and often that coverage has focused on me. None of what we do here would be possible without the effort of everyone listed above.

Another big thanks to our localvore providers. Who would have guessed that such an interesting selection of top quality food is available right here where we live? I'm constantly impressed by the interesting ideas of our localvore providers and can't wait to see what the future holds. - Pete

Survey
If you haven't had a chance to take the survey we sent out last Friday, please do it now, before your memory of this share period fades. If you need the survey sent out to you again, just let me know. We really do appreciate all of your feedback, positive and negative. We want to make Good Eats an ever improving experience. Please note that the survey is anonymous. So, if there is something that you would like a response to, please email us at the farm.

Basil
As long as we're asking for feedback, how did you find the basil in your share last week? We are working on keeping it in the best possible condition for your delivery. If there were any issues with it, please shoot me an email with the details. Thanks!

Open House July 13th
As was mentioned in a previous newsletter, we'll be holding an open house at the farm next month. It will be from 11am to 3pm on Sunday, the 13th, with a CSA member meeting beginning at 2pm. The day will include farm tours, games for the kids, hay rides, a potluck lunch, time to meet Pete and the crew, and more to be nailed down. We hope that you'll join us for the day. I'll be sending out a formal Open House announcement in the next week, but please mark your calendars now!

This Week's Share Contains
Spring Dug Parsnips; Small Red Beets; Bright Lights Chard; Pac Choi -or- Sweet Salad Turnips; Head Lettuce; Bunch Cilantro; Frozen Tomatoes; Mesclun; Gingerbrook Farm Organic Apple Cider Vinegar; Champlain Orchards Cranberry Apple Cider Vinegar; and Maine Sea Salt.

Storage and Use Tips
Parsnips - Spring dug parsnips overwinter in the ground and are only dug up once their greens re-emerge from the ground. They are sweeter than their fall dug counterparts, as their carbohydrates turn to sugar during the cold winter. Store loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. Use within the next week or two.
Cilantro - Very popular in Asian, Indian and Mexican cuisines, cilantro is best stored upright with its stems submerged in a glass of water and covered with a plastic bag.
Swiss Chard - This week we have the colorful bright lights variety of swiss chard for you. It is milder than some of the other varieties out there, and certainly more beautiful. Plant stems can be yellow, gold, orange, pink, violet or striped, in addition to the standard red or white. As with all bunched greens that you receive from the farm, it is best to unbundle the greens and give them a good washing before proceeding with your recipe.
Frozen Tomatoes - You can use these in cooking recipes much as you would whole fresh or canned tomatoes. While still frozen, run the tomatoes under cold water. The skins will slip right off. If you wait a few minutes, you can chop them and use like canned chopped tomatoes.

Localvore 'Lore from Heather
Vinegar
The apple cider vinegar in the share this week comes from Bob and Joanne Machin of Gingerbrook Farm in Washington, VT. I had called them last fall to find out about their vinegar and they had already sold out. The next batch wouldn't be ready until April. So here we are, at the end of the share, and I'm so happy to have this vinegar to include. It's perfect for all those summer salads and salad dressings you'll be whipping up!

When we were setting up the delivery, I had a chance to talk with Bob about the vinegar. They started out producing it from their own apples on their farmstead about 25 or 30 years ago. Originally, they made apple cider and vinegar just for themselves and their friends. Then, people started asking for it, so they began making more. They now buy apples to supplement their own crop. Currently they have 4 wooden aging tanks with a total capacity of 1600 gallons. The vinegar ages for 2 years in these tanks. They rotate through, with a new tank being filled as an old one is drained off. Then it goes into smaller barrels for a few months of finishing off. They currently produce over 500 gallons a year, up to 1000 gallons in a good year. The raw vinegar is filter only through a cloth at bottling. It's a living fermented food and still contains live "mother." As it develops, this looks like brown strands floating in the vinegar.

Bob was especially keen for you all to understand about the raw nature of the vinegar. The vinegar is clear when first bottled, but as it ages further in the bottle, the mother will make it cloudy. He considers the cloudier vinegar to be superior in flavor, as it has mellowed even further. If you prefer, you can filter the vinegar through a cheese cloth again to clarify it and remove the stands of mother. He also told me they don't do anything fancy to test the acidity or determine when it's ready. He just tastes it!

Sea Salt
Another one-of-a-kind item this week is the Maine sea salt. Located way Down East in Marshfield, they are the only sea salt company in Maine since over 200 years ago! Check out their website, where you can learn all about how they evaporate the salt water in solar hoop houses. The owner, Stephen Cook, is a member of the Cook family, that has operated a lobster restaurant and pound on Bailey Island since the 50's. I've eaten there many times; wow, is it good. He started packaging salt as a lobster cooking salt, so people could duplicate their sea water cooking method at home. You can also take a tour of the saltworks, which is what I plan to do when we go to Maine this summer.

Cider
As some of you may remember, the Cranberry Apple Cider is a Good Eats exclusive. Enjoy it on these hot days, knowing that it's only available to our share holders! I'm going to try mine in a wine spritzer with a bit of mint.

Recipes
Lamb Shanks Braised with Swiss Chard
Adapted from The Sultan's Kitchen; A Turkish Cookbook. I made this for my family on Sunday, the lamb was meltingly delicious and the chard soaked up all of tomato and lamb flavors. Serve this with some cooked pearled barley that has been seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed with fresh cilantro, parsley or chives. Serves 4.

4 lamb shanks, total weight about 4 pounds
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sunflower or olive oil
3 TB unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped, including some green parts
4 tsp tomato paste
3 medium frozen tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tsp dried crumbled thyme
1 quart water, chicken stock or lamb stock
3 parsnips, diced
1 pound swiss chard, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Dust the shanks with the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. In a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over high heat, and sear the lamb shanks for about 5 minutes, until they're lightly browned on all sides. Pour off any excess oil. Melt the butter in the same pan and cook the garlic and scallions for 1 minutes, stirring them with a wooden spoon, until they're softened but not brown. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and thyme.

Pour the water, or stock, over the lamb shanks and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and continue to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the lamb is tender. Skim the surface to remove any scum and excess fat from time to time. Thirty minutes before the end of cooking, add the parsnips. 15 minutes later, add the chopped chard.

After 15 minutes, remove the chard and parsnips with a slotted spoon and arrnge them in the center of a warmed platter. Place the lamb shanks over the vegetables. Bring the cooking liquid to a rapid boil, and reduce until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir cilantro or parsley into gravy and sprinkle over platter. Serve immediately with cooked barley on the side.

Roasted Spring Vegetable Salad with Cranberry Apple Cider Vinaigrette
If you have any of those Vermont Cranberry Company dried cranberries left that you received earlier in the share, they would make a wonderful garnish for this spring salad. The vinaigrette recipe is inspired by a Cider Vinaigrette in Cooking with Shelburne Farms. Serves 4.

1 lb red beets, scrubbed and cut in 1" dice
1 bunch pac choi, quartered length-wise
sunflower oil
salt and pepper to taste

6 cups mesclun or washed and torn head lettuce
cooked barley or wheat berries

1/2 cup cranberry apple cider
2 TB cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
2 TB minced chives
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup sunflower oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss beets with oil, salt and pepper and wrap in aluminum foil. Place foil package on cookie sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until beets are tender when poked with a paring knife. Remove beets from oven and cool slightly. Using a paring knife, remove the beet skins.

While beets are roasting, brush choi with oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast on a hot, oiled, indoor our outdoor grill until grill marks appear and choi begins to get tender.

In a blender or mini food processor, blend together the cider, cider vinegar, maple syrup, chives, salt and pepper. Gradually add the oil and blend to emulsify. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Arrange lettuce or mesclun on a platter. Arrange roasted beets and choi on top and sprinkle with cooked grains, and dried cranberries if you have them. Dress the salad, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Quick Pickled Beets
These pickled beets are ready in a snap after you have cooked the beets. Heather prefers to pressure cook hers, but roasted will also be delicious. This is one of the first things Heather learned to make as a little girl! Now she often cooks a lot of beets at once, and then pickles some. They'll keep in the fridge for a week.

2# beets, cooked, peeled, and cut into wedges
1/4 c minced scallions

1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp oil
3 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
fresh black pepper

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat gently. Toss with the warm beets and the scallions. Chill before serving. Even better the next day.

Pretty Pickled Eggs
Here's a fun pickled eggs and vegetables recipe from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook. Yields one quart jar, doubles easily.

1 beet, trimmed and cut in half
1 parsnip or carrot, peeled and sliced diagonally

1/3 cup vinegar
2 tbsp maple sugar
1 tsp fresh dill

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled

Cook beet halves in a small sauce pan or pressure cooker until tender. Remove and set aside to cool. In the same cooking water, simmer parsnip or carrot slices until tender. Combine vinegar, sugar, dill with cooking water and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and simmer for 2 minutes.

Layer the eggs and vegetables in a quart mason jar. Pour over the brine to cover. Add more boiling water, if needed to cover. Seal the jar tightly and place in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours before serving.

These will keep for a week in the fridge. The eggs will be bright pink on the outside and white and yellow on the inside! Serve eggs cut into wedges and arranged with the vegetables on a bed of Pete's Greens.

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