Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Good Eats Newsletter - August 20, 2008

Thank you for helping us to tread more lightly on the planet by bringing back your empty plastic bags and egg cartons.

Farm Update

We've been so thrilled to have the sun back shining on the farm this past week. The beds are drying out, the leaves are reaching towards the sky and Steve even managed to get the farm road graded before the weekend. Our greens have been making a come back as a result of the pleasant weather. Expect a good-sized bag of mesclun in your share this week!

On another note, some of our crew were disappointed that they weren't pictured in the recent article regarding the CSA process. So, I grabbed my camera last week and took a few more shots. You can see Deborah and Hanna hard at work in the washhouse, and Tim in his bug, (he wouldn't climb into the refrigerated delivery truck for me), posted in the updated article on the blog. I've yet to capture Heather writing or packing, but I will!

Agency of Agriculture Mobile Freezing Unit

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture recently debuted a new mobile freezing unit that can be used for on-farm quick-freezing of farm produce. We've got our eye on it for purees, soups and other vegetables and prepared items. The unit was parked here at Pete's for the past week or so and we had the opportunity to check it out, though unfortunately, we didn't have anything needing freezing just then.

Designed by Brian Norder, project director of the Vermont Food Venture center, it's a pretty cool, compact unit. When plugged in to the farm's power supply, it can freeze up to 600 pounds of food an hour. Quick-freezing like this not only gives farmers the opportunity to save a portion of their crop for the winter, it also results in superior quality of the frozen items. Once frozen, the produce can be moved to long-term freezer storage. We are planning to store a lot more frozen food this winter at the farm and will be converting a tractor-trailer to a permanent freezer unit to do so.

The mobile unit can be moved from farm to farm, as the need arises. For efficiency's sake, it can also be parked at a centralized farm within a given region for other farmers to come and use.

The freezer unit was picked up by the Agency of Agriculture on Monday, destined for Blueberry Ridge, a berry farm in North Troy. A full story of the unit was recently published by the Associated Press and has popped up in publications across the nation.

Are You Planning a Vacation?
If you plan to be away over the next month or two and will miss your pick-up, we suggest asking a friend, relative, neighbor or coworker to take the share for you. We're sure that they would appreciate a week of fresh, local produce. Just be sure to brief them on the pick-up procedure.

If you are unable to find somebody, please let me know the weekend before pick-up so that I can divert your share. Though it's easy for some site hosts to find people eager to receive leftover shares, it can be inconvenient for others. Thanks!

This Week's Share Contains
Mesclun; Tomatoes; Mix of Zucchini and Patty Pan Squash; Ailsa Craig Onions; Bulb Garlic; Bunch Celery; Romanesca Cauliflower & Broccoli -or- Mixed Colored Peppers*; Bunch Curly Parsley;

Localvore Share:
Vermont Milk Company Smoked Cheddar; Maine Sea Salt; Dwight Miller Orchards Organic Apple Cider Vinegar;

*Those sites receiving cauliflower & broccoli this week will receive peppers next week and visa-versa.

Storage and Use Tips
Sweet Onions: The Ailsa Craig and Walla Walla onions you've been receiving in your shares are classified as "sweet" onions. Though they don't contain more sugars than red and yellow onions, their lower level of acid makes them taste more sugary. Their higher moisture and decreased acid content make them more perishable than storage onions. I store mine loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. I've also seen some recommendations to store sweet onions in a single layer on (paper) towels in the fridge, or individually wrapped in foil or paper towels. Either way, definitely keep them in the refrigerator where they should last for up to 2 weeks.
Romanesca Cauliflower: A very striking vegetable, the Romanesca variety of cauliflower has a beautiful light green color with pointed florets instead of the usual rounded. Originally from Northern Italy, its taste is somewhat milder than the traditional cauliflower as well. Cook as you would a regular specimen. Consider blanching the florets and adding to a crudite platter. Store unwashed in a loosely wrapped plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Please be assured that if you don't receive one of these this week, it will be in your share the next.
Patty Pan Squash: Looking more like mini-flying saucers than summer squash, patty pans are also known as button or custard squash. Patty pan is a good source of magnesium, niacin, and vitamins A and C. Try scooping out the flesh after steaming lightly, and mix it with garlic sauteed in butter with salt and pepper before stuffing back into the shell of the squash to cook some more. Or, slice it into scalloped rounds, coat with flour and/or breadcrumbs and fry. Store unwashed, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Or, you can try the storage method Meg recently read about, where you wrap the patty pans in newspaper and leave them on your counter for up to 9 months. If you give that a try, please let me know how it goes!

Localvore 'Lore from Heather
I picked up the vinegar from Dwight Miller Orchards on my way home from Connecticut. The orchard is in East Dummerston, down a dirt road off of Rte 5 north of Brattleboro. Their family has been farming the same land since before Vermont was a state! The orchard is certified organic and currently managed by Reed Miller. I had the good fortune to get there before a thunderstorm and was able to pick some of their organic peaches. The summer has been just as wet for them as we've had and the peaches suffered some cosmetic damage. They were still delicious and I made a beautiful batch of jam. At the Miller's farmstand they sell their own dilly beans, canned peaches, frozen chicken, fresh picked blueberries, apples and peaches. I think they must make the dilly beans with their own vinegar. I hope you'll try making something pickled, too.

Check out the sea salt website to learn all about this company. They are the only sea salt company in Maine! When we go to Maine I love to go eat at Cook's Lobster Restaurant in the Harpswells. Here's a little about how the Maine Sea Salt Company operates:

How We Extract Natural Sea Salt from Ocean Water
  • Our solar greenhouses, known as "salt houses" are filled with fresh sea water from the Gulf of Maine.
  • The sea water evaporates naturally, from the heat of the sun and the drying effects of the wind blowing through the greenhouses.
  • Over a period of time, fleur de sel floats on the pool surface, then grows and sinks to the floor to form the salt bed.
  • When all of the water has evaporated, the sea salt is ready to be packaged as natural Maine Sea Salt™, seasoned with our natural ingredients, or smoked over a wood fire.
The smoked cheddar from Vermont Milk Company is my favorite cheese that they make. We are glad to offer Vermont Milk Company products in the share and want to support them. They are farmer owned, with a strong commitment to local agriculture. Recently, they have been hit hard by rising fuel and milk prices and are working hard to get their costs back in line.

In order to make the smoked cheddar they first cut the pieces and then send them out to a smokehouse. This way each piece has a great smoked exterior. Enjoy and please support this great company when you buy cheese. Go to to learn more about the company.

Spanish Gazpacho
Nothing beats a bowl of gazpacho for a light, summer meal. Serve each bowl with a dollop of crème fraiche and a slice of crusty bread on the side. Adapted from Serves 4.

2 lb. ripe tomatoes, quartered
¼ cup chopped sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium sweet bell peppers, coarsely chopped
½ - 1 whole small jalapeno (to taste), deseeded and chopped
1 cube (about 2 inches square) crustless bread from a firm-textured, French-style loaf
2 TB apple cider vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp honey
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

Put half of the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the onion, garlic, peppers, bread, vinegar, salt, cumin and honey. Blend until no large pieces remain. With the motor running, add the remaining tomatoes and when well processed, gradually add the oil. Process until smooth. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley or cilantro. Cooks Note: gazpacho can be chilled overnight. Taste and adjust salt and vinegar, if necessary.

Grilled Vegetable Panini
If you don’t have a panini maker or George Foreman Grill, use a grill pan to toast your sandwiches weighed down with a clean cast iron pan. Makes 4 sandwiches.

3 TB of sunflower oil
1 garlic clove minced to a paste
salt and pepper to taste
3 medium summer squash, sliced thin lengthwise
1 onion, sliced into thick rings
2 sweet peppers, cut in thick slices
8 slices of sandwich bread
sliced smoked cheddar cheese to cover 4 pieces of bread
½ stick of butter, melted

Season oil by mixing in minced garlic and salt and pepper. Lay vegetables on a pan and brush both sides with seasoned oil. Place veggies on the grill over medium heat. Cook until brown grill marks form, then flip and cook the other side. Remove gilled vegetables to plate. To assemble the paninis, layer grilled vegetables over four slices of bread. Cover with cheese and the remaining bread slices. Heat panini grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Brush top slices of bread with melted butter and place, butter-side down on grill. If using panini grill, brush top side of bread with butter and lower top grill plate over sandwich. Grill until both sides are golden brown, grill marks have formed and cheese is melting.

If using a grill pan, weigh the sandwich down with a cast iron pan. When the bottom is golden and grill marks have formed, brush the top slice of bread with butter, flip and repeat the grilling process. Serve with a mesclun salad on the side.

Raw Summer Squash Salad
One of my favorite shows this year has been Jamie at Home. The show features Jamie Oliver, of Naked Chef fame, at his country home in England. He cooks much of his food straight from the garden. His appreciation for fresh, local ingredients and non-fussy preparation is the highlight of every show. Recently, I saw this recipe on an episode featuring the humble zucchini, or “courgette,” as the Brits call them. Serves 2.

4 small summer squash, a mix of zucchini, yellow squash and patty pan
3 TB sunflower oil
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 small hot pepper, seeded and minced fine
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup loosely packed, roughly chopped basil, mint, and/or parsley

Use a horizontal, or “Y-peeler” to make long ribbons from the zucchini and yellow squash. Keep slicing down the long sides of the squash, all around, down to, but not including the soft seed center. Discard the seed center. Use the peeler to make strips of the patty pan. In a large bowl toss the squash ribbons with the sunflower oil, lemon juice, hot pepper, salt, pepper and herbs. Toss with your fingers to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Jamie served this salad with fresh grilled fish.

Caramelized Onion Pizza
Jessica Cole, one of our Summer Share members, emailed me the recipe for this amazing sounding pizza the other week. She said that the anchovies are optional. Though, they would add a terrific depth of flavor if you include them.

1/2 recipe pizza dough (see Recipe from Heather in July 2nd Newsletter)
3-4 onions, sliced
small bunch sage, chopped
5-6 anchovies, chopped (optional)
6 oz chevre

Preheat oven to 500F. Cook down the onions, sage and anchovies in a medium pot set over medium heat until they are soft, brown and very sweet. This should take about 30-40 minutes. Roll out the pizza dough and pre-bake the crust in the oven for 3-7 minutes, just until it is cooked but not browned. Spread the mixture over the crust and top with chunks of the goat cheese. Put it back in the oven for a few minutes to heat the cheese. Serve with a green salad and tomatoes on the side.

Summer Vegetable Pickles
Adapted from Makes about 3 cups.

1 cup 1/2- to 3/4-inch cauliflower florets
1 cup 1/2- to 3/4-inch broccoli florets
1 cup 1-inch strips celery
1 red Thai chili or red jalapeño chili, cut into thin rounds
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup (lightly packed) fresh mint leaves (from 2 bunches)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Place cauliflower, broccoli, celery and chili in medium bowl. Bring vinegar, mint, sugar, and salt to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool syrup completely. Strain syrup over vegetables. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours. Cover and chill until ready to use. (Can be made up to 1 day ahead.)

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