Monday, August 1, 2011

CSA, Week 13

Yes, these are Yummy Beet Cupcakes!

What Does it Take?

Wow! Haven’t the veggies been out of this world this year! One of the main reasons we hear about why you all like the CSA program is you have tried to grow it yourself. Between the bugs, weeds, and watering, it is hard to grow this stuff. So, let’s look at the equipment we use to make it happen.

Seeds come in all sizes from tiny turnips to big beans. For starting seeds in the greenhouse, we can use our vacuum seeder. It sucks the seeds into a small hole, in a pattern the same as the tray holding the soil mix. We push a button, releasing the vacuum, allowing the seeds to drop into one of 220 or 253 1” by 1” squares in the tray. Unfortunately, long skinny seeds like lettuce or chard (which looks like asteroids) won’t work with the vacuum and must be carefully placed individually into those little squares by hand.

John also has several planters that can plant rows of seeds directly into the soil. In order for this to work, the plant cover and soil must be strategically prepared to accept the seeds and provide nutrients and water for it to grow. A different machine allows the crew to ride behind the tractor dropping the transplants from the greenhouse into a cup, which then opens at the precise time to place the roots into the soil at the proper spacing. This can be done through strips of mulch, previously laid out, to control weeds and conserve moisture, or directly into bare soil.

That is the easy part – other than working around the rains, maintaining the equipment in sound condition, providing water, and keeping the crop charts accurate.

Those little seeds or transplants are placed in soil containing tens of millions of weed seeds, left from years gone by. The ones that are awakened by movement in tillage and warming temperatures are also competing for space to grow. To manage this competition, John has implements for tillage along the rows to carefully unearth the weeds between the rows. Those implements are designed to “work” very closely to the tiny vegetable rows without damaging them. This equipment is set specifically to match the row width and bed shaping capabilities of each planter or transplanter. There is often a fair bit of old fashioned hoeing between the individual vegetable plants.

All of this must be choreographed around the weather, size of the produce plants, irrigation schedules, and available daylight hours to get it done. Those of you that grow a garden will know how good it feels when you get it all right.

In Your Share

Items in shares may vary depending on your share size and harvest day. Every share may not have each items listed below.

Beets – organic

Fresh Berries – organic

Celery – organic

We get mixed reviews on the celery each season, so our goal this year is to provide a super great description so your usage will meet expectations. This is nothing like celery purchased in the supermarket! Think of it as an herb. You want to use the leaves, you want to use the stalks also (but first they must be finely chopped). It is very flavorful, not bland and watery, and a little goes a long way.

Commodity celery is hilled up with sandy soil to blanch the stalks & crown white, most in the US is grown in California where the soil is conducive to this. Here, the sunshine gives color to the stalks and causes it to be much more fibrous. Chop finely or use a processor if eating fresh in egg, tuna or chicken salad. Wrap to store in the refrigerator. Like many members, you just might find that fresh celery is a favorite!

Swiss Chard – organic

Sweet Corn – organic

Oregano & Thyme – organic

Green Onions – organic

Green Bell Pepper – organic

Summer Squash

Tomatoes – organic
Your shares have included red slicing tomatoes (both heirloom and hybrid) along with black, pink, striped, and gold heirloom tomatoes. They are known to be uglier, tastier, more sweet due to less acid, ripen quickly, have thinner skins, are prone to cracking and can make the most delicious dishes! To speed up ripening, close tomatoes up in a bag where the natural ethylene will be trapped (you have heard this for peaches). To slow ripening, refrigerate, but know that flavor may be affected by refrigeration.

Recipes to Enjoy

Very Versatile Creole Squash
Our thanks to Chef Lisa for sharing one of her special recipes offered just for this week’s CSA harvest. Lisa has been the Sous Chef at Holly Hill Inn in Midway since Ouita and Chris Michel opened the restaurant. Lisa also has been an Elmwood CSA member since we started the program, and we always enjoy her tasty original recipes!

1 medium onion or large green onions, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
4 C peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes
¾ T fresh thyme, chopped
¾ T fresh oregano, chopped
1 ½ tsp Worstershire sauce
hot sauce, as much as desired
salt/black pepper
1 bay leaf, if desired
3-4 C summer squash, chopped

Options: Can include cabbage, eggplant, cooked chicken or sausage, blanched kohlrabi; any combination of favorite vegetables or meats.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté onion until it turns translucent. Add celery and pepper and cook until soft. Add garlic, tomatoes, herbs, and sauces. Add squash or any other optional items.

Cook 15 minutes. Serve.

Black Bean and Chard Enchiladas
Our thanks to a CSA member who adapted this recipe from one found in Weight Watchers magazine. She says it is pretty spicy as written, but can be made milder by using another cheese, reducing or eliminating the cumin, and choosing a milder salsa.

3 C chard (about ½ pound or 1 bunch)
¼ C chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C black beans
½ C pepper jack cheese, grated
1 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
8 corn tortillas
¾ jar salsa verde, or your favorite salsa

Wash chard, trim stems, and cut into ribbons. Place in skillet over medium heat and wilt with water clinging to leaves. When wilted, remove to plate and set aside.

Spray pan with cooking spray or coat with a little oil. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook until softened. If desired, dice chard stems and add to pan with onions; this adds a little extra crunch and nutrition, and eliminates waste. Stir in beans, cumin, half of cheese and salt to taste. Remove to plate with chard. Pour salsa in pan and bring to simmer. Dip a tortilla in salsa, turning to coat. Place on another plate or work surface, fill with about 1/8 of chard and bean mixture being careful not to overfill, roll up, and set aside. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Return enchiladas to pan, spoon additional salsa over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover and simmer until cheese melts. Let stand about 5 minutes. Yummy!

Beet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Many Beet Cake recipes can be found online, some use cooked beets, some raw like this one. This recipe originally in New York Times Magazine, adapted from Kathryn “Katzie” Guy-Hamilton at the Breslin.


12 ounces butter

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoon salt

4 eggs at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups shredded red or purple beets (in season try yellow for a corn-like flavor)

½ cup orange juice

½ cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, spices and sugar on high speed for six minutes until fluffy and pale.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down after each egg. Add the vanilla extract.

3. In a separate bowl, stir the orange juice into the shredded beets that have been squeezed of most of their juice. (Save the juice for sorbet, a cocktail, what have you.) Mix until combined, then stir in the nuts. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

4. Scoop into paper-lined cupcake tins, or spray muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray and scoop batter directly into tins.

5. Bake for 20 minutes until brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool before frosting and adorn with toasted hazelnuts. (Toast your nuts slowly at a low temperature for even toasting from inside out.) Makes 12 cupcakes.

Cream-Cheese Frosting:

12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

8 ounces butter, softened

8 ounces confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest of a quarter orange

1. To keep it smooth and dense, paddle your cream cheese in the bowl of standing mixer on medium speed until smooth.

2. Put the cream cheese in a separate bowl. Add the butter to the mixer and mix on medium speed until smooth. Now add the cream cheese back into the butter, being sure to avoid “whipping” the mixture. Add the confectioner’s sugar, salt, vanilla and orange. Paddle until smooth.