Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Eats Newsletter - August 31st, 2011

This Week's Vegetable Share Contains:

Potatoes; Fennel; Red Torpedo Onions; Artichokes; Mixed Beans; Broccoli; Kale; Jalapenos; Green Peppers; Tomatillos; Cilantro; plus ...

Tomatoes Melons

Localvore Offerings Include:

Red Hen Bread

Pa Pa Doodles Farm Eggs

Taylor Farm Maple Smoked Gouda

Pete's Musings
I always say that farming in Vermont could never be boring because of the variable weather but this is ridiculous. In the past 8 days we narrowly avoided a devastating hail storm (my dad got it and his garden is nothing but tattered stems and scarred produce) and then the remnants of Irene. We spent two days preparing our greenhouses for Irene's predicted 70 mph winds. That was nearly a complete bust as it didn't blow over 30 mph. But it did rain and the river did rise. We are fortunate in that 90 percent of our vegetables are grown on land high enough that it will never flood. Our one riverside field floods frequently but we still grow some stuff on it because the soil is so darn nice. It flooded as deeply as I have seen in the 8 years we've been here. We lost some crops but life goes on and we still have lots of great food. Our current baby greens production was in that field so you won't be getting any baby greens for a couple weeks but they'll be back.

Many vegetable farming friends did not make out so well. Most vegetable acreage in the State is concentrated in river valleys, often in floodplains. There are some farms in tough shape out there, many are still trying to assess the damage.

Onion and potato harvest commences this week. We're ready to start bringing in what looks like a bumper crop. Sometimes we curse the rocks and hills in our upland fields but they do drain well.

Our new building continues to progress nicely. Isaac and crew are nearing completion of a storage and drying shed and office construction will start next week. This week we made some delicious tomato puree and froze some gorgeous peppers and beans. It's going to be a great fall and winter share. ~ Pete

Our lower field a week before the flooding.

Storage and Use Tips

Artichokes -
Artichokes are a member of the aster family of flowers. The globe artichoke is delicious but it is also rated one of the top vegetables for health. It is low in calories but delivers significant fiber, protein magnesium and potassium content. But most importantly it contains many different antioxidants, all with different health supporting attributes. It's particularly good at aiding liver function and easing digestion. If you have never prepared and artichoke, there's a bit of a process but it's fun, and they are pretty easy once you get started. See the recipe section for tips. Store your artichokes in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.

Tomatillos -
These Mexican fruits are similar to a tomato that remains firm and green when ripe. Tomatillos grow inside lantern-shaped paper husks, which must be removed. Wash the tomatillos well to remove the sticky substance that keeps the husks in place. Because they are quite acidic, tomatillos are used cooked more often than raw, though they can be prepared raw too. Roast them to rid them of excess liquid and soften their texture. Roasted with some fresh chiles, they can be turned into a quick salsa in the blender. Tomatillos exude a lot of liquid and seeds as they roast. Scrape all the flavorful juices into the blender." For a decadent breakfast, try frying thick slices of tomatillos alongside a couple of eggs and serve with bacon. Store tomatillos in their husks in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Fennel - Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet with the flavor of anise. It is delicious and slightly sweet served raw but is just as often served cooked on its own or in other dishes. Though most often associated with Italian cooking, it has an uncanny ability to blend with other flavors adding a light and fresh note. It is delightful in many dishes, and in soups and stews and sauces. Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds (but this weeks fennel comes without fronds). The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. To prepare, cut off the hard bottom and slice vertically or into quarters. Or cut the bulb in half lengthwise, cut out the core, and cut into strips. Add it raw to salads or try some thinly sliced fennel on your sandwich. Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves. Or braise, roast or saute' it. It is done when tender enough to pierce easily with a skewer.

Torpedo Onions - Torpedo onions are another sweet onion though a little less sweet than the sweet onions you have recently received. They are also a terrific roasting onion. Torpedo onions originated in the Italian town of Tropea, where the Phoenicians introduced them more than 2,000 years ago. Keep them loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your refrigerator or Store in a cool dark place.

Melons - Another round this week, There are two types going out, both are reknowned for their very sweet flesh. The green fleshed melons are the variety Arava. The orange flesh melons are called Charentais. Please inspect your melon for ripeness before slicing into it! Your melon should yield to pressure from your thumbs, particularly on the ends. It should also smell a bit sweet at perfect ripeness.

Changes to Your Delivery?
If you will be away some upcoming week, and need to make changes to your share delivery, let me know at least 1 week before the change. You can have your share donated to the Food Pantry, or I can stop your share delivery and you will retain a credit on your account toward the purchase of your next share.

Localvore Lore

This week, the team at Red Hen Baking Company are baking us a whole wheat loaf with whole wheat flour from Quebec and from Ben Gleason's farm in Bridport.

From Londonderry we have Taylor Farm Maple Smoked Farmstead Gouda! This cheese has been a blue ribbon winner a number of times at the American Cheese Society Awards and other competitions. And for good reason. The cheese is beautifully creamy, sweet, rich and a bit reminiscent of bacon from the maple hardwood chips it is smoked with.

The hens at Deb's house have delivered another round of eggs for us this week.


Tomatillo Salsa

1 pound tomatillos, husked and washed (or substitute1/2 lb tomatillos, 1/2 lb tomatoes)

½ of a large onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic

1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded if you want to control the heat

¼ cup cilantro, chopped fine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 TB lime juice

1/2 cup water

Coarsely purée tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, garlic, water, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt in a blender. Transfer to a large heavy skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, then stir in cilantro, lime juice, and possibly additional salt to taste.

Smoked Gouda and Carmelized Onion Quesadilla

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 1/2 cups grated smoked Gouda cheese

4 10-inch-diameter flour tortillas
2 ounces sliced prosciutto(or cooked bacon), chopped

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, brown sugar and vinegar; sauté until onion is golden brown, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle cheese over half of each tortilla, dividing equally. Sprinkle prosciutto and sautéed onion over cheese. Season with pepper. Fold other half of each tortilla over cheese mixture. Brush tortilla with some of melted butter.

Brush heavy large skillet with some of melted butter. Place over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook quesadillas just until brown spots appear, brushing skillet with butter between batches, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer quesadillas to heavy large baking sheet.
Bake until tortillas are golden and cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Transfer quesadillas to work surface. Cut each into 6 triangles. Arrange on platter and serve hot.

Kale and Potato Hash

I haven't made this one, but now that I have stumbled onto it I can't wait to try it.

8 cups torn kale leaves, (about 1/2 large bunch; see Tip)

2 tablespoons horseradish

1 medium shallot, minced (or a combo or garlic and onion)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked shredded potatoes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Boil potatoes until they can just be pierced with a fork but are not completely tender. Let cool slightly, then shred.

Place kale in a large microwave-safe bowl, cover and microwave until wilted, about 3 minutes. Or do same by steaming the old fashioned way. Drain, cool slightly, and finely chop.

Meanwhile, mix horseradish, shallot, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add the chopped kale and potatoes; stir to combine.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the kale mixture, spread into an even layer and cook, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes and returning the mixture to an even layer, until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes total.

Roasted Fennel with Parmesan
This one is from the Barefoot Contessa.
2 large fennel bulbs

1/4 cup good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan shavings

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the stems of the fennel and slice the bulb in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, slice the bulb vertically into 1/2-inch-thick slices, cutting right through the core. Spread the fennel slices on a baking sheet, coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss with your hands.

Roast the fennel slices for about 1 hour, turning them once after 30 minutes, until the edges are crisp and brown. Remove from the oven and cover with Parmesan shavings. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Artichokes 101

Tasty and healthy, artichokes are a bit of an adventure for the uninitiated. Here's some helpful tips.

To begin, cut off 3/4 inch of the tip of your artichoke and trim the stem to an inch or less. The leaves are a bit spiky so you can also cut off the tip of each one if you want. But the spikiness does soften when cooking so this is not necessary.

Steam the artichokes in a couple inches of water. You can put garlic and lemon and a bay leaf into the water to add flavor. Cook in simmering water for 25 to 45 mins (larger artichokes take longer) until outer leaves can be pulled off easily.

Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot. I like them best hot, served with a dip. Popular dips are just plain butter, butter and lemon, mayo, balsamic mayo (yum).

To eat, pull off outer petals, one at a time. Dip the fat end in melted butter or sauce and then scrape the soft, fleshy pulp off each petal with your teeth, discarding the fibrous petal. Continue until you have scraped all the petals clean. Now you are getting to the good part. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part covering the artichoke heart (this is the choke). The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat.

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