Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good Eats Newsletter - December 31, 2008

Thank you for bringing back your empty plastic bags!

This Week's Share Contains
Mixed Yellow Potatoes; Mixed Colorful Carrots; Yellow Storage Onions; Sweet Salad Turnips; Red Cabbage; Bunch Curly Parsley; Butterworks Farm Black Turtle Beans; Vermont Cranberry Company Cranberry Juice; Pete's Greens Kitchen Frozen Pureed Squash; and Sunflower Oil from State Line Farm.

Storage and Use Tips
Red Cabbage - Though very similar in taste to green cabbage, red can have slightly more pronounced peppery notes. In my opinion, it can also tolerate longer cooking cycles without becoming too acidic and "stinky." If alkaline ingredients like eggs are present in your pan when cooking red cabbage, it can turn blue on you. To stop this from happening, add a bit of acid to the pan in the form of lemon juice, vinegar or wine. Classic braising red cabbage preparations often call for adding a little red wine, cider vinegar or both to the pan during cooking. Apples also make a perfect match with red cabbage. Cabbage can be stored loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for weeks. If the outer leaves wilt or turn spotted, just remove them and use the good leaves below. Once cut, keep the remaining cabbage in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
Colorful Carrots - Our colorful carrots are a mix of varieties that we grow during the summer months, including cosmic purple, Yellowstone, sugarsnax, atomic red and lunar white (possible). If you are having trouble getting your kids to eat their carrots, perhaps you can use these names to generate some enthusiasm. These varieties are beautiful shredded in salads. I like to cut them crosswise on a slight angle, producing an eye-catching irregular oval. Carrots should be stored unwashed, loosely wrapped in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
Sunflower Oil - Sunflower oil is ideal for salad dressings and for frying up to medium temperatures and imparts a pleasant, slightly nutty taste. It is high in vitamin E and low in saturated fats. It is made up of 69% polyunsaturated fat and 20% mono-unsaturated. With a smoke point of 450F, it can safely be used for sauteing vegetables, but not for high-heat stir-fries. Once you go above an oil's smoke point, the oil can break down, burn and become unhealthy to ingest. For best storage results, transfer oil to a glass jar, dark if you have one, and keep in the refrigerator. The oil will get thick with the cold, so take it out a few minutes before use to warm up. If the oil should begin to get cloudy, don't worry, it's still good. Just set the jar in a bowl of warm water to restore its natural color and consistency before use.
Frozen Squash Puree - After pick-up, you can either continue to thaw the squash in your refrigerator or keep it in the freezer. If you will not be freezing the squash, thaw and use in the next 4-5 days.

New Year's Eve Pick-up
Even though it's the eve of a holiday, pick-up will be on its normal day and time this week. Please make an extra effort to get your share by the closing time for your pick-up location, respecting the plans that your site host may have planned for the evening. Also, given the next day is New Year's day it will be more difficult, if not impossible, to track down and retrieve forgotten shares. Besides, you'll want to have the lovely cranberry juice on hand to make a special cocktail to ring in the New Year!

Pete's Musings
Minor disaster down on the farm. Four nights ago it was as windy as I have experienced it in the four years I've lived in Craftsbury. I never sleep well on very windy nights as years of having greenhouses have taught me not to. Our largest greenhouse (the one that is built out of wood poles) has had the same plastic on it for 3 years. That is pretty much the lifespan of greenhouse plastic so I am prepared for it to fail anytime we have serious wind.

The morning after the wind, Meg was the first up and first to look out the window at the greenhouses. (I was trying to avoid reality). No problem with the greenhouse I had feared would have trouble, but one of the new moveable houses had lost half its plastic!

This did not make any sense, as there is no reason why new plastic should fail in 50-60 mph wind. All we can figure is that a piece of ice blew off the ground and sliced the greenhouse plastic. Probably, this happened at one of the windiest moments and then the wind grabbed the tear and tore a big rip down the peak. I have never had this happen to a greenhouse, but friends who live in places with more frequent ice events say it is common.

Unfortunately, the claytonia house took this hit and we will not have greens this week. If we can get the house covered quickly, (driving to Montreal tomorrow to get new poly), I think we can still save the greens. Regardless, we are going to start growing sprouts this week. So, if all goes well there will be something green next week.

'Hope you all have a great New Year. The new year of planning is starting on the farm and we are excited to be better than ever next year. -Pete

Central Vermont Culinary Destinations
Anyone who reads the New York Times Dining section, even on an infrequent basis, knows the name Mark Bittman. He writes the Minimalist column and is known for sharing recipes and techniques that deliver quality results with minimal time investment. The man knows food and lives in a place where you can find just about everything. Last week, however, he wrote about a "culinary destination" in the Travel section that is far from the big city. I may quibble with referring to the 20-mile radius around Waterbury as the "Backwoods," but I would have to agree with his choice of dining spots in our area.

In his article, he highlights Hen of the Wood, Kitchen Table Bistro, Green Cup Cafe, Red Hen Baking Company and the Alchemist, five admirable picks for the area. He commends them on their use of and commitment to local food. We are honored that four out of the five source at least some of their produce from Pete's Greens.

Check out the full article at the New York Times, then celebrate the cuisine of the season by visiting at least one of these treasured dining spots.

Localvore Lore
It seems that we had to wait the whole year for the 2008 sunflower oil crop, but here it is right under the wire. This share we have freshly-pressed sunflower oil for you from State Line Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont. John and Betsey Williamson and their children have been producing maple syrup, honey, sorghum syrup and hay for many years, at least since 2004 when they finished up with their dairy herd. Recently, they have added oil products to their mix, with a focus on biofuels.

In fact, John has been very involved in biofuel studies and trials in conjunction with the folks at the UVM extension. Their separate on-farm company, State Line Biofuels, provides an on-site facility for processing the seed crops into oils.

Since 2005, the Williamsons have invested significantly in infrastructure that will allow them to press not only their own oil seed crops, but also those of their neighbors. Partially funded by grants, they have built a new building to do the processing, as well as the necessary equipment for harvesting, cleaning and pressing the oils. This past year, they made further investments to build a seed drying and storage facility to ensure that the seed crop stays dry and fungus free while it waits to be processed into oil.

John has been trying out a variety of different crops for oil, including sunflower, canola, mustard, safflower and camalina. The wet weather was hard on a number of the crops this summer, though they did end up with a large sunflower harvest. John is currently very interested in experimenting with his crop rotations to optimize his oil production.

When selecting the press, John made sure that the equipment was certified for pressing oils for human consumption as well as biofuels. After the oil is pressed, the resulting "meal" can be sold as animal feed. The sunflower oil today has been grown using no herbicides or pesticides. As he is following organic practices, John is considering applying for organic certification. Though it wouldn't make much difference on the biofuel side of things, it would mean higher prices for his animal feed meal and possibly his oil for human consumption.

Read this great article for more information on the work they are doing to promote the growing of biofuels in the state.

Another crop that was hard hit by this summer's moisture was beans. Ben Gleason's crop was extremely small compared to last year and another farmer that we talked to had an unusually low yield for their beans this year. We feel lucky to have secured the black turtle beans from Butterworks Farm for you this week.

The squash puree is a blend of winter squash, both from our farm and High Mowing Seeds. There is a bit of acorn squash in the mix whose skin did not come off as cleanly as expected when we put it through the food mill. If you see some little green flecks in your squash, that's the skin. Don't worry, though, the acorn squash skin is edible even if it looks a bit odd.

Last but not least, we have ruby red cranberry juice from Vermont Cranberry Company in the share this week. We saved it for New Year's because it makes such a festive spritzer or cocktail. According to Cranberry Bob, this is the only single strength cranberry juice sold that is not from concentrate. It is very strong and tart. So, you may find that you may want to water it down a bit just to have a glass of cranberry juice. Bob uses it in place of vinegar when making salad dressing. Try making a dressing of 1 part juice to 1 part sunflower oil. The juice should last 3-4 weeks in your fridge.

Three Sisters Chipotle Chili
In this recipe, pureed winter squash takes the place of tomatoes as the base of the chili. The addition of black beans and corn gives us all three of the American Indian mythical sisters. I like this chili made with pork, but you could substitute tempeh or leave the meat out all together. Serves 10.

2 TB sunflower oil or lard
3lbs pork chops cut into ¾” cubes, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 lg. onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup lager, such as Otter Creek Vermont Lager
1 cup chicken or vegetable both
3 cups pureed winter squash
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 chopped chipotle chilies in adobo, plus 2 tsp sauce (or more to taste)
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups cooked black beans
2 cups cooked Jacob’s Cattle or other white beans
¼ cup maple syrup, or to taste
apple cider (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil or lard in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Brown pork on all sides in batches. Reserve browned pork on the side. Add onion and garlic to empty pan, sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and turning brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add lager and broth, stirring to deglaze the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer rapidly for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid. Add squash, cumin oregano and chilies. Bring to a simmer. Add browned pork and both types of beans. Add syrup, to taste. If chili is too thick for your liking, add extra broth or apple cider as needed. Add frozen corn. Bring back to a simmer. Cover and bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Season with salt, pepper and cumin to taste. Serve warm, garnished with a dollop of crème fraiche and chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

Bubble and Squeak
This dish is said to be named after the sound that the vegetable mixture makes as it fries. Adapted from Serves 4.

1 lb yellow potatoes, peeled (optionally) and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 lb red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cover potatoes with cold salted water by 1 inch and bring to a boil, then boil, uncovered, until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 18 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Heat butter in a 10-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté cabbage with salt and pepper, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, mashing and stirring them into cabbage while leaving some lumps and pressing to form a cake. Cook, without stirring, until underside is crusty and golden, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sweet Salad Turnip Salad with Yogurt
Adapted from The Silver Spoon Cookbook. Serves 4.

4 small to medium sweet salad turnips, thinly sliced
1 apple
scant 1/2 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
minced fresh parsley for garnish

Place sliced turnips in a salad bowl. Peel and core apple and cut into wedges. Using a very sharp knife, cut the wedges into water-thin slices and add to the turnips. Combine the yogurt and a pinch of pepper in a bowl, add to the salad, toss, garnish with parsley and serve.

The cranberry juice adds a local touch to this festive cocktail. Serves 6.

1 1/4 ounces Vermont Spirits or Sunshine Vodka* (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 3/4 tablespoon)
1/4 ounce Cointreau (about 3/4 tablespoon)
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1 cup ice cubes

In a cocktail shaker combine all ingredients. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.

*Although I was going to recommend Vermont Spirits Gold vodka, made from distilled Vermont maple syrup, their website suggests that other vodkas are preferable for cocktails mixed with fruit juice.

Swede Hollow Café Pumpkin Cookies
One of our shareholders, Joyce Hendley, who also happens to be a contributing editor at Eating Well magazine, sent me this recipe last week. She has been making and enjoying them. I agree with Joyce, it's a great and different way to use winter squash. (Adapted from Fresh from the Garden, a cookbook by the Children’s Garden Project, Minneapolis). Makes about 3 dozen.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar (try using all or part maple sugar)
1 large egg
1 cup pureed cooked pumpkin or other winter squash
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
½ cup maple or brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350? F. Grease 3 baking sheets or line with parchment or silpat. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add egg; beat until blended. Beat in squash and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add into butter mixture, beating just until blended. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time if possible, 11 to 13 minutes or until firm and lightly browned at edges, 12-15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough; cool completely on a rack.

To make frosting, place butter in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high until melted, 30 seconds-1 minute. Stir in sugar and salt; microwave on high 1 to 1½ minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Beat in milk on medium-low speed until blended. Continue beating and add confectioners’ sugar gradually, until smooth, creamy and spreadable. Frost cooled cookies.

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