Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good Eats Newsletter - July 16, 2008

Open House
Thank you to everyone who braved the weather to attend our Open House this past Sunday. Though we were wondering if it would be just us in attendance, at 11:15 the cars began to trickle into the lot. We figure we had about 80 people in attendance, mostly community and CSA members. It was a real pleasure to get to know some of you and to be able to put faces with names. The rain forced the crew to move the setup inside at the last minute. The kitchen, with only a three-bay sink installed so far and a steam kettle in the corner, made a perfect location to setup food, tables, face painting and music. The rain let up about noon, allowing Pete to get a couple of farm tours in and Deborah to give folks a hay ride and run a few sack races.

The thing that did end up getting bumped with the delayed rain schedule was the CSA meeting. Pete sends his apologies to anyone who was hoping to attend the meeting. He really enjoys giving the farm tours and just got wrapped up in the final tour. Pete and I spoke after the event and decided that next year we will have the CSA meeting first on the schedule, to make sure that we fit it in. Our intention for the CSA meeting was to introduce the people and tasks involved in preparing and delivering your share each week, as well as to hear your feedback in an interactive discussion. Though the interactive discussion may have to wait until next year, I will include a write-up in an upcoming newsletter of what happens, on the farm and off, to get the shares out to you each week.

Meet the Alliums
It may have been awhile since I mentioned, but it is one of my favorite Websites about food. There are many articles and recipes posted on Culinate that are both interesting and applicable. While not preachy, it does have a welcome sensibility about heathful, seasonal and sustainable eating. I subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter, which is short and easily scanned for relevant content. Here's an article that appeared a few weeks back on alliums: Meet the Alliums. It's a very good overview of one of my favorite vegetable families and includes references to sweet onions and garlic scapes, both of which are in your share today.

Gubernatorial Debate
The Mad River Valley Localvore Project, VNRC and American Flatbread have teamed up to host a debate between the three major gubernatorial candidates focused on the future of our environment and our food. Possibly the only debate this election season to focus so much attention on Vermont agriculture, the event will take place at 5pm, Sunday, July 20th at American Flatbread in Waitsfield. Governor Jim Douglas (R), Anthony Pollina (P) and Speaker Gaye Symington (D) will all be present to answer questions posed by David Moats, Editorial Editor for the Rutland Herald. A Flatbread picnic will immediately follow the debate. More Information...

NOFA Classes
The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont. Is holding many diverse classes this summer aimed at giving localvores more tools to raise their own food. You can check out a list of what's on offer this summer at their Website. If you would like to find out more about a class or register to attend, please contact NOFA directly.

This Week's Share Contains
Summer Squash; Cucumbers; Selection of Pickling Cucs; Broccoli; Cauliflower -or- Potatoes*; Alisa Craig Sweet Onions; Garlic Scapes; Kohlrabi; Elmore Roots Vermont Blueberry Jam**; Tofu from Vermont Soy**; and Champlain Orchards Raspberries**.

*If you received cauliflower last week, expect to get potatoes this week, and visa-versa.

**Localvore share only.

Storage and Use Tips
Summer Squash: I often refer to Angelic Organics' Website for tips on how to best store my vegetables. Here's what they say about zucchini and summer squash: "Zucchini and summer squash respire through their skins, so they need to be refrigerated as soon as possible. Store them unwashed in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable bin, or refrigerate them in a sealed Tupperware container that you've lined with a kitchen towel. In the refrigerator they keep for about a week and a half."

Kohlrabi: For anyone unfamiliar with it, that knob of a vegetable with little odd "legs" sticking out is kohlrabi. Though it resembles a root, it's actually the stem of the kohlrabi plant, a member of the brassicas family. You can thinly slice or grate it raw and add it to salads. You can also saute it, add it to a gratin or casserole, grill slices of it or braise it. You should peel the tough outer layer first, no matter which way to plan to prepare it. Store it loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer.

Cucumbers: There are many varieties of cucumbers, roughly categorized between regular slicing cucs and pickling cucs. How can you tell the difference? Cucumbers meant for eating out of hand are generally larger than their pickling counterparts. They also have a thicker skin. It's their size and thicker skin that make them less desirable for preserving.

The European, or seedless, cucumbers are longer and thinner than the traditional version. Though not entirely seedless, they do contain fewer and smaller seeds. As cucumbers age, it's the seeds that can make them taste more bitter. You can use traditional cucs in recipes calling for the European variety; just use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds first.

Pickling cucumbers, also called Kirby cucumbers, come in many varieties. They don't grow as large as slicing cucumbers and are generally picked when they are 2" to 4" long.

Keep all cucumbers loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer. Do not store them with fruits like apples, melons or other fruits that emit ethylene gas, as the gas will make your cucs go soft more quickly.

Localvore 'Lore from Heather
I am excited and a bit nervous about the raspberries for the share this week. Bill from Champlain Orchards has been telling me about the raspberries for months, and Meg and I thought they'd be an amazing treat. There's one catch; raspberries just don't hold for shipping. These are lovely right now. I just checked them in. When you pick up tomorrow, though, they may look less than perfect. Please enjoy them straight away, as in on the way home! Or make the Chocolate Cream Tofu Pie below and eat them with that. Or Freeze them if you must. But do it right away. Don't try to keep them until Thursday!

Vermont Soy makes their tofu from locally grown soybeans. Their mission is to promote sustainable local economies, organic farming and green business practices, and make the freshest soy products available using whole organic soybeans. The tofu also happens to be delicious! When I was there last week, Sophia showed me the cool bike blender they have. It's a bike mounted to be stationary, with a blender geared to run off of the back wheel. She said they were at a 4th of July celebration and made smoothies for samples! Sounded like a blast. The recipe below for Chocolate Cream Pie is from their Website. You could always leave out the crust and just have mousse.

Elmore Roots Nursery is set on an idyllic hillside in Elmore, VT. I drove out VT Route 12 past the lake and up through the wide open rolling hills on a hot sunny day last week. Elmore is just beautiful, and the nursery is amazing. They grow and sell every imaginable fruit and nut that you could grow here, as well as a great selection of ornamentals and perennials. Their motto is "If it grows in Elmore, it will grow where you are," though, I think this applies to cold winter areas, rather than the South! In any case, they shared with me some of their history and the philosophy behind what they do. This is the " local organic homegrown jam story":

In 1979 we arrived in Vermont on foot having hiked the long trail from the Massachusetts border almost to Elmore. We lived on apples and wild berries for a month while the hills changed color...Invited to live on an old hayfield, we began planting fruit trees to grow our own. Noticing that most of the plants arriving were of poor quality and not suited for our cold climate, we began searching through literature and asking old timers in Vermont for what works up here.

For 27 years we have tested and proven by example what fruits thrive in our Northern Vermont climate. We were one of the first 30 farms to be certified organic in the early 1980's.

We propagate our best plants so you can grow them in your yard, too. We also coach you how to grow them successfully with the least input.

Our hardy fruiting plants produce a lot of food. We are proud to be able to share this with you in the form of our Elmore Roots Jam. We pour our fruit into large kettles until warm and add certified organic evaporated cane juice sugar and stir it until it is jam. We have found that using sugar retains the most real fruit flavor and allows the least cooking of the fruit.

Gabriel Tempesta drew the new labels. Our whole crew worked on the design, and on the harvest. From planting the trees, picking the fruit, making the jam, and bringing it to you, we are proud to provide you with our local homegrown jam. Enjoy and come visit our farm.

Grilled Tofu Fajitas
Serves 4.

juice of 3 limes
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
red pepper flakes to taste
2 garlic scapes, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

2 cakes tofu
2 summer squash
1 onion

4 flour tortillas
sour cream

Combine marinade ingredients in small food processor bowl. Process until pureed. Cut the tofu into strips, place in a large bowl and gently coat with marinade. Marinate at least 15 minutes. Preheat the grill.

Cut the squash into diagonal half-moons and the onion into wedges. Place the tofu on the grill and toss the vegetables with the remaining marinade in the bowl and grill. You may need to do this in batches and a grill tray works great so the vegetables don't fall through. When the tofu and vegetables are brown and tender, remove to a platter and keep warm. Quickly grill the tortillas to warm them, then serve promptly with salsa and sour cream.

Braised Kohlrabi
Braising kohlrabi in white wine really brings out the sweetness of this vegetable. Makes a wonderful accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish. Serves 4.

1.5 lb. kohlrabi, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
2 garlic scapes, chopped into 1/4" pieces
2 TB butter
1.5 teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled)
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine
chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat. Add the kohlrabi, scapes, tarragon, salt and pepper, and toss to coat with butter. Pour in white wine. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cover. Continue to cook, adjusting heat to keep pan contents at a slow simmer, approximately 10-15 minutes, until slightly tender. Uncover and turn the heat up a bit. Cook until the kohlrabi is slightly colored. Remove from heat and transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Refrigerator Pickles
Looking through Andrea Chesman's book, "Pickles & Relishes, From apples to zucchini, 150 recipes for preserving the harvest," it was difficult to decide which recipe to include in today's newsletter. I chose to adapt this one, as it required no sterilizing or hot water baths. If you would like to preserve pickles for the winter, you should check out her entire book. This recipe yields 1 pint, but is easily doubled.

3 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 garlic scape, cut into 1" pieces
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 tsp pickling salt
1/4 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric

In a glass or crockery bowl, alternately layer the cucumbers, onions and scape. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the honey, vinegar, salt and spices. Bring to a boil, and stir to combine. Pour the syrup over the vegetables. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.

Chocolate Soy Cream Pie
Serves 6-8.

2 blocks Vermont Soy extra firm tofu
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup Vermont honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Vermont Soy Chocolate soymilk
1 Baked single pie crust
Whipped cream
Fresh mint sprigs

Process tofu, cocoa, honey, cinnamon and chocolate milk together in a food processor or blender. Scoop recipe into your favorite baked homemade crust and chill for 2 hours. Garnish with whipped cream and mint just before serving. Or fold in the whipped cream to make a luscious, but not vegan, mousse.

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