Good Eats Newsletter - September 17, 2008
Happy Girl Kitchen Company is based in Aromas, CA, just east of Watsonville and the Monterey Bay. This is the heart of California vegetable and strawberry production with flat, lush valleys surrounded by dry hills. There are mega-sized corporate farms mostly focused on strawberries, raspberries, head lettuce and baby greens, but on the margins of the valley where the land begins to rise into the hills there are beautiful small holdings growing a couple acres of diversified vegetables and fruits. These farmsteads seem to mostly be owned by Mexican Americans. Horses, goats and chickens are common.
My college buddy Todd and his wife Jordan founded Happy Girl several years ago. They purchase produce from organic farms in the area and turn it mostly into canned goods. Some of their top sellers are dry farmed Early Girl canned tomatoes, dill pickles, and strawberry jam. They have access to an incredible abundance of often very inexpensive produce. One day while we were there we met them at the Santa Cruz farmers market. At the end of the market they bought 5 bushels of perfect green beans from a farmer for $30. Last winter another farmer offered them 20,000 lbs. of frozen, hulled organic strawberries for 50 cents a lb. It is amazing to see the ease of production in a climate that is consistently sunny, dry, and not too hot. The downside is that a yearly lease on an acre of land in Watsonville is $2,500 (what we might purchase farmland for in Vermont) and a dumpy 1000 sq. ft. house in Aromas sells for $500,000. I'll take Vermont. -Pete
Good Eats Fall - Winter Share
If you would like to stay with the CSA into February, now's the time to sign-up as the share is filling quickly. The October through February months provide a very diverse mixture of seasonal produce from the farm. Our new greenhouses will allow us to provide greens later into the season than in previous years. Though we begin the share still harvesting from the fields and greenhouses, by mid-share the produce in the CSA bags will be made up mostly of colorful beets, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, turnips, rutabagas and other roots.
This year we will be growing several varieties of sprouts, so that even in the coldest months, there will be something green in each bag. Each week will also include an assortment of localvore products from our favorite nearby growers and producers, as well as prepared items from Pete's Greens kitchen. It's a very seasonal and satisfying way of eating. To find out more about the share or to sign-up, please visit our Good Eats page. We would love to have you back with us!
Salvation Farms - Edibles Walk
As many of you may know, we have been involved at some level with Salvation Farms since its inception. Salvation Farms organizes volunteer crews for salvaging surplus from farm fields in several regions throughout the state. They will gladly take good, but unmarketable storage crops in the off-season as well. In 2007, they gleaned a total of 53,563 pounds of fresh local produce, 148 loaves of bread, 72 cut flowers, 58 potted perennials, 520 packets of seeds, 200 vegetable starts, and 1 CSA share box!
Salvation Farms arranges for storage and distribution of these farm donations. They consider “Vermonters in need” to include those who are food insecure and/or nutritionally insecure. Now a part of the Vermont Foodbank, Salvation Farms distributes this found produce to local emergency food sites, educational and care giving institutions, retirement communities, non-profits, and the Vermont Foodbank.
On Saturday, September 27th from 10am to noon, Salvation Farms will be hosting a wild edibles walk with experts Nova Kim and Les Hook. You can join them on the Hazen trails for a guided tour searching for wild edible plants and mushrooms. Hazens Trails are located behind Hazen Union High School in Hardwick off of North Main Street.
The event will take place rain or shine. Please bring a notebook and pencil, clear packing tape, comfortable shoes and water. Bring snacks too, as it may run longer. Donations excepted for the VT Foodbank and teachers. For questions call Rebecca Beidler at 888-5055 or email email@example.com. Pre-registration is not required.
This Week's Share Contains
Mixed Colorful Beets Including Red, Chioggia, Gold and/or White; Bunch Mizuna; Bag Layered with Spinach and Arugula; Ailsa Craig Onions; Mixed Sweet Peppers; Cherry Tomatoes and/or Beefsteak Tomatoes*;
*Those sites that received cherry tomatoes last week will receive all beefsteaks this week. We don't have quite enough cherry tomatoes this week to give to all who didn't receive them last week. This week they will go to Richmond, Waterbury and Craftsbury. Please take your cherry tomatoes AND a bag of beefsteak tomatoes. Next week, we hope to have enough cherries to go to Middlesex, Grove and Stowe.
Red Hen Pain au Levain; Champlain Orchards Ginger Gold Apples; Butternut Mountain Maple Sugar; Vermont Butter and Cheese Butter.
Storage and Use Tips
Spinach: It's been a long time since we've had spinach in the share and we are so happy to have it back in the bags. This is a larger leaf cooking spinach, versus the baby spinach you received for salads earlier in the season. Spinach is a staple ingredient from Persia to China to Europe to America. Like the French, I think that it has an affinity for a grating of nutmeg. Try adding a freshly grated pinch to your steamed, sauteed or creamed preparations as well as to spinach tarts, frittatas and casseroles. Wash the leaves in a sink or large bowl full of water, letting any sandy residue sink to the bottom. Lift out of the water and drain. Throwing it into a pan with a few remaining water droplets will allow it to steam nicely. Store unwashed, bagged in the crisper drawer for several days.
Mizuna: Also know as spider mustard, mizuna is a Japanese mustard green with tender leaves and a pleasant, peppery flavor. You could substitute it, chopped, in a salad calling for arugula. It adds a nice zest to a stir-fry or saute. Store mizuna, unwashed, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer.
Onions: Last week I received an email from one of our shareholders asking for suggestions on what to do with his onions. I thought that I would post my reply here. Don't forget to keep them in the fridge!
Suggestions: French onion soup, caramelized onion pizza, the tart recipe I put in the newsletter a few weeks ago. One of our members said that she caramelizes onions and then freezes them. You could also try pickling and canning them. If you Google, "onions pickled waterbath," you'll get a lot of results that you could pick from. I did this recently and stuck a small chopped up beet in with the onions while they boiled to give them a pink hue.
There's a couple of recipes here on our website.
Finally, my favorite online resource for recipes is Epicurious.com. You could search for just "onions," "onion soup," "stuffed onions," "onion tart," etc.
Localvore this Week
We are thrilled to finally have Red Hen baking for us this week. We've been planning to get them into the bread rotation since the beginning of the share, which is right about the time that La Meunerie Milanaise ran out of their Quebec flour. Randy George and his wife and partner Eliza Cain are very committed to using as much locally grown grains as possible while still maintaining the very high quality of their breads. The flours coming out of Quebec now are allowing them to do both.
Below is an excerpt from a paper that Randy wrote about the flour the bakery is currently using and why:
Given the difficulties that we have had in the past making bread with 100% Vermont flour that met our quality standards, we have explored other sources of currently available flour that is milled from wheat grown closer to Vermont. There is a mill just across the border in Quebec La Meunerie Milanaise, doing a nice job of working with their local farmers to produce good flour for bread-baking. They source 80% of their wheat from farmers in their area (the mill is located 120 miles from Montpelier). Since the beginning of this year, when we began using this flour from Quebec, we have been using this in many of our breads. We continue to use Vermont-grown wheat as much as possible, wherever we can.
We are (and have been since last winter) making some bread that is available year-round that consists almost entirely (about 80 to 85 percent) of ingredients that were grown close to Vermont.
Because of the efforts of the people at Milanaise, we are able to pull this off and still make a loaf of bread that we are entirely satisfied with. It is important to us to do what we can to source flour as locally as possible. Given the challenges involved in doing that, we're proud to be able to say that we are doing that every day of the year for anyone who eats our bread.
The Future of Vermont Wheat
Meanwhile, we are continuing to work with Vermont wheat-growers Ben Gleason and Tom Kenyon in a quest to see if they are able to grow wheat that is better suited to our needs as bread bakers. Some of Tom's recent harvest is at a lab for preliminary testing and Ben will be sending us some samples of a new variety he grew this year for us to try in a bake test. Such an undertaking is a multi-year process, but we are excited about the prospect of someday having a larger supply of Vermont wheat suitable for bread baking.
The following is a breakdown, by percentage, of the sources of the ingredients in our bread. “Other” usually indicates flour from Heartland Mills in Kansas, a small, exclusively organic mill in western Kansas that was started by a group of farmers and consults closely with bakers.
Pain au Levain
100% Whole Wheat
Crossett Hill Round/Batard
Mad River Grain
The baguettes, seeded baguettes, Waitsfield common, and ciabatta are made with 100% Kansas
The bread in your shares this week is the Pain au Levain, we Randy figures to be made with about 85% local wheat.
We also have Vermont Butter and Cheese lightly salted cultured butter in the share. If you haven't had it before, you're in for a treat. The culturing process gives the butter a depth of flavor that you just don't find in regularly processed stick butter. Here is an excerpt from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Website explaining how the co-founder and head cheesemaker learned of the process of making cultured butter:
While working on a dairy farm in Brittany, France, Allison Hooper took careful note of where the milk went. After each milking, she and the other farmhands set the cream aside. Natural, lactic bacteria then took over, ripening into cultured cream – or crème fraîche. When the thick result was churned into butter, Allison – the future cofounder of Vermont Butter & Cheese Company – knew she had learned something valuable.
Inspired by this lesson, we culture the freshest Vermont cream and churn it to a European-style cultured butter. Higher in butterfat than standard U.S. butter, Vermont Cultured Butter offers the exquisite richness, flavor, and performance of the finest European butters. A salt content significantly lower than typical salted butter enhances its farm-fresh flavor, making it an excellent ingredient in recipes calling for salted or unsalted butter.
If you can restrain yourself from slathering the whole tube of butter on the pain au levain before supper, try using a little bit for baking.
Also in the share this week are ginger gold apples from Champlain Orchards and maple sugar from Butternut Mountain Farm. Maple sugar is delicious, but dear. Try using it in recipes that call for a minimum of sugar, like the Fresh Apple Griddle Cakes below. Maple sugar is slightly sweeter than refined sugar. So you can cut down the quantity in recipes by about 10-15% and still end up with a nicely sweetened pastry or cake.
Colorful Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Inspired by a recipe by Isabella's Eatery in the Dishing Up Vermont Cookbook. Serves 2.
1 (12oz) can white tuna in water, drained and well flaked
Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
1/4 cup minced sweet onion
6 TB plain yogurt
6 TB sour cream
1/2 cup chopped roasted beets, preferably gold, chioggia and/or white.
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 apple, cored, peeled and chopped
4 tsp cider vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 slices pain au levain, (If cutting large slices from center of loaf, cut 2 slices in half to make 4)
Combine the tuna and lemon juice in a large bowl. Stir in the onion, yogurt and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, combine the roasted beets, sweet pepper, apple and vinegar, and toss gently to combine. Add vegetable mixture to tuna and mix until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover 2 slices of bread with arugula leaves. Divide tuna mixture between both slices and cover with 2 remaining slices of bread.
A few years back I had a summer when I ate variations of this soup all of the time. Sometimes I would throw different herbs into the pot. I would also liberally substitute radish or beet greens for mustard, or chard for spinach, etc. Serves 8.
2 lbs. spinach
1 bunch mizuna (about 1/2 lb.)
1 cup loosely packed cilantro
5 cups water
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 large potato, peeled and chopped in large pieces
1 TB, + 1 tsp olive or sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
1 TB sherry or Madiera, optional
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 TB lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
Wash and roughly chop the greens. Place greens, cilantro, water, salt and potato in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. While greens are simmering, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a sprinkling of of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are golden brown and soft, up to 45 minutes or more. When nicely browned, add liqueur or a bit of water and stir to bring up any remaining bits in the bottom of the pan. Add cooked onions to the pot with greens. Back in the skillet, heat remaining 1 tsp of oil and garlic. Saute for a minute or two until soft. Add to the pot. Add broth and red pepper flakes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Working in batches puree soup in a blender, or use an immersion blender in the pot. Process just until smooth, but do not over blend or the potato can make the soup gummy.
Back in the pot, return soup to a simmer. Add pepper, a dash more salt and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with yogurt, feta or goat cheese.
Fresh Apple Griddle Cakes
A friend of mine emailed me a link to a New York Times article that included this recipe. I just happened to pull it up this morning and made it for the boys. We all loved it! I adapted it slightly. Serves 4, unless you eat like my boys, in which case it serves 2.
5 ounces (about 1 cup) whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 TB maple sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk, or as needed
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
butter or oil for greasing the griddle
Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium heat. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter and egg. Pour into flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add apple and stir until mixture is well blended. The batter should be thick but fluid enough to be poured; if necessary, add a bit more milk.
Grease griddle. Scoop batter 1/4 cup at a time onto griddle, placing scoops several inches apart so batter can spread. Let sit until batter is beginning to dry around edges and cakes are lightly browned underneath, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until browned, about 3 more minutes. Transfer to a warm platter, dot with butter, drizzle with maple syrup and serve.