Monday, May 28, 2012

CSA News, Week 4

Farm and Crop Report

This is turning into one of those springs where one just doesn’t know what to expect.  We already had May weather during March, now we are having July weather during May, what’s up?  Because of an unusually moderate winter, followed by warm spring-like temperatures in March and April, several items were ready to harvest 3 to 4 weeks earlier than their expected growing season.  Spinach and parsnips that we plant in the fall to have for you in May were ready in April and had a short season due to the heat.  Strawberries, also planted in the fall, this spring started flowering weeks early, were hit by two nights of freezing temperatures resulting in lost berries, were ready to pick in April, and were practically finished by Memorial Day (normally the peak time of berry season!?)

Last spring’s cooler temperatures and rainy days resulted in delayed harvest on lettuce and broccoli – completely opposite this year.  The bok choy, Napa cabbage, and broccoli are usually ready in June, but the heat and high air temperatures push them to grow faster, and around the clock (not just during the day), so again ready to harvest earlier than normal.  The heat and dryness is starting to be a real concern as our last day of measurable rainfall was on May 13.  We were happy to see our farming friends towards the East get rain last week, but disappointed that all of our crops missed out.

John and Cecil pulled the irrigation pump, filter, and pipes out this past weekend and set up the circular big gun to begin watering the unmulched crops.  As May is normally the #1 wettest month of the year for our region the water table is usually high, soil moisture is readily available, and spring planted crops like lettuce or cabbage don’t need supplemental irrigation. But not this year!  The soil is so dry that it must be watered in order for bean and sweet corn seeds to germinate, and before tilling to plant the sweet potatoes slips. No one can recall having to move so much water during the month of May.  
The farm crew has been putting in long hours and a lot has been done: the early tomatoes are staked, pruned, and strung up; mid season tomatoes have been transplanted; sweet corn, beans, beets, and radishes have been sown in several fields; greens and lettuces have been tractor cultivated and the weeds hand chopped between the plants in the rows; squash, cucumbers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and melons are growing and the grass strips between their rows have been mowed back; the overwintered crops have been cut back, plant residue tilled in, and the fields replanted for more spinach and carrots (though germination is a challenge in such high temperatures).  The black-berries have been weeded and are blooming in abundance.  The fall-bearing raspberries are growing out new canes, and will need weeding soon.

Long-term forecasts predict milder temperatures for June and July, and there are chances of precipitation the first of June. 

Update: Tuesday’s rain dissipated before reaching the farm, which is unfortunate, as a timely rainfall right now will make all the difference in the season - send it our way!

In Your Share


Broccoli – organic

Greens Bunch – organic
Research shows that eating greens every day is an important component of preventing disease that attacks human health.  While we aren’t going to load you up that much, a fresh greens bunch every couple of weeks for the  mini shares, and weekly for the larger shares is part of the plan.  This week you will hit a home run for health enjoying the highly nutritious collard and mustard greens.  A recent Harvard study shows a cup of cooked collard greens has more calcium than a glass of skim milk.  They are high in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health (does macular degeneration run in the family?) they’re very high in Vit. A and C, manganese, folate and dietary fiber; and a good source of potassium and vitamins B2 and B6.  If you don’t eat a lot of dairy, collards will help with your body’s calcium needs.  Find two new recipes this week for fresh greens.

Lettuce – organic

Sugar Snap Peas – organic   These are edible pod, break off the ends and eat the whole pod & peas (more ready in the next week or so, needing some rainfall to fill out the pods)
Spinach - organic

Beets - organic
Onions - organic

Rainbow Swiss Chard – organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Shaved Asparagus and Quinoa Salad Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this timely seasonal recipe.

¾ to 1 C cooked quinoa
6 to 7 stalks of asparagus
1 small lemon
olive oil (the good stuff), to taste
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
2 T pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds
1 to 2 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Cook the quinoa (I like to make extra for more salads and for breakfast, 1 C of dry quinoa yields over 3 C cooked quinoa). Combine rinsed quinoa with twice as much water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Shave the asparagus with a vegetable peeler. To do so, hold the tough end of the asparagus against a cutting board, and peel from the tough end toward the tip. Toast the nuts, either in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, or by baking at 350° for 5 to 10 minutes (stirring often). Zest the lemon (if desired) and slice it in half.

In a bowl, combine cooked quinoa and shaved asparagus. Squeeze in most of the juice of half a lemon (add more to taste later) and a good drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground black pepper and toss to coat. Sprinkle with nuts. Use your vegetable peeler to shave Parmesan directly onto the salad. Don’t skimp on the cheese! Top with lemon zest. If necessary, add more lemon juice, olive oil, or salt and pepper to taste.

Lasagna with Collard Greens from Martha Rose Shulman’s The Very Best of Recipes for Health, appearing in the New York Times.  She reports that collard greens are so big and flat that they fill in for a layer of noodles in this easy, satisfying lasagna. Be careful not to use up your ingredients on the first layers, as you should have enough for three layers here.
½ pound collard greens, preferably large leaves, stemmed and washed, leaves left intact
salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil for the pan
2 C marinara sauce, preferably homemade from fresh or canned tomatoes
½ pound no-boil lasagna noodles
½ pound ricotta
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan 

1. Steam the collard greens for 5 minutes above an inch of boiling water, or blanch in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. 

2. Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Oil a 2- or 3-quart rectangular baking dish with olive oil. Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over the bottom and top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Top the noodles with a thin layer of ricotta. Lay collard green leaves over the ricotta in a single layer. Top the leaves with a layer of tomato sauce, followed by a thin layer of Parmesan.

3. Set aside enough tomato sauce and Parmesan to top the lasagna and repeat the layers until all of the ingredients are used up. Spread the tomato sauce you set aside over the top, and sprinkle on the Parmesan. Make sure the noodles are covered, and cover the baking dish tightly with foil. 

4. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover. Check to be sure that the noodles are soft and the mixture is bubbly. Return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes if desired, to brown the top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.  Tip:  You can assemble this up to two days ahead and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Tacos with Eggs, Onions and Greens another Martha Rose Shulman recipe

½ bunch fresh greens, stemmed and washed
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small or ½ medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chili, minced (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper
6 eggs
2 T chopped cilantro (optional)
6 corn tortillas
crumbled queso fresco (optional)
salsa (optional) 

1. Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer (I use a pasta pot with an insert for this). Place the greens in the top part of the steamer, and steam until the leaves are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the steamer, rinse with cold water, squeeze out extra water and chop medium-fine. 

2. Wrap the tortillas in a heavy kitchen towel and place in the steamer basket. Cover tightly, steam 1 minute, and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, without uncovering, while you finish preparing the filling. 

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it is tender, about 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic and optional chili. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, and stir in the greens. Turn the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes, until the greens are tender and the onion is lightly colored. 

4. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cilantro if using. Add to the pan with the greens and onions and cook, stirring, until set. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Spoon onto hot tortillas, sprinkle with cheese if using, and serve, passing the salsa on the side.  Yields 6 tacos.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week 3, CSA

A Day in the Life of Your Share
We know you are excited each week to see what bounty from Elmwood is in the share you will be eating. Did you stop to think about how it all got in there? How much of each item there is? Here is the story of how your share comes together. 

Each morning, well before sun-up, we are detailing the “pick list” of items we know are ripe and ready for you. With multiple plantings and multiple varieties, there are many decisions to be made simply to come up with items for the list. Often we are out at first light to confirm our plan from crop scouting the day before. The pick list is given to the harvest crew with specific instructions in regard to how many of what size and the best order to harvest, in order to facilitate the rest of the schedule.  Most of the harvest crew have been working together for many years, and know the importance of selecting the best quality to load in the tubs to bring in from the field.  Your produce is rinsed and any damaged leaves are removed.  It is sorted to then divide into the individual shares.  The pick list is updated to confirm an adequate amount of produce was harvested for that day’s delivery. Washing not only cleans field dirt from the produce, but also gets the heat out very efficiently and begins post-harvest cooling.  The freshly washed produce is placed into containers and wheeled into the walk-in cooler, to further chill the product, which greatly extends shelf life in your home. 
Others at the farm are busy “metering out” the produce into the pre-determined portion size for that day’s shares.  We do lots of counting at Elmwood Stock Farm. The goal is to have all of the produce cooled, metered and counted before we all sit together and enjoy a harvest meal of our homegrown food. After lunch, we set up all the various items along “the line”, which is a passive roller conveyor. The entire crew then lines up, each with the responsibility of filling the share with “their” items.  They then place the items in the box or bag as it is passed from one person to the next along the line. The shares go directly on the truck as they come off the line or onto a pallet and back in the cooler for later delivery. The truck heads out to be on time to accommodate your busy schedules. Others of us stay at the farm to break down the packing line, organize empty containers, and prepare for the next day. The afternoon is when the crew works in the fields, planting, pruning, weeding, staking, tying, etc.
So enjoy your share, knowing how much care and consideration goes into an efficient process of providing you the freshest possible share of organic produce at the appointed time.

In Your Share
Black Eyed Peas – organic
This variety, Mississippi Silver, is one of the tastiest of the field peas most frequently grown in the South.  Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to bring good luck, we suggest the health benefits of this legume (calcium, folate, Vitamin A) will bring you prosperity every time you eat it.  You can make fritters, hummus, Hoppin’ John, or pair with fresh greens for a delicious one-dish meal.

Broccoli – organic
Chinese Napa Cabbage– organic
Described as a cabbage that cabbage-haters love, this Asian specialty combines the thin, crisp texture of lettuce with the fresh peppery tang of juicy cabbage.  Our open head variety resembles a ruffled leaf lettuce.  Try this cabbage in soups, baked, or braised; also lightly cook by steaming, stir-fry, blanching.  Refrigerate for longer storage.
Lettuce – organic

Garlic - organic
Kale Greens – organic
Recipes to Enjoy

Asparagus and Cream Cheese Sandwich  Thanks to a CSA member for this delicious recommendation.

1 lb of fresh asparagus, chopped in 1-inch pieces
¾ to 1 lb of cream cheese, softened
1 T of tarragon or other herb
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice and/or zest to taste
1/2 C of finely grated Parmesan cheese
Softened butter
8 slices of good quality crusty bread such as sour dough

Boil or steam the chopped asparagus for 3 minutes and then submerge in cold water.
Mix the cooked asparagus with the softened cream cheese, herbs, salt and pepper, and lemon juice or zest. Spread one side of each slice of bread with softened butter, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, pressing into butter Spread 1/4 of the cream-cheese/asparagus filling on a slice of bread on the non-coated side, and top with another slice, leaving the Parmesan-coated sides on the outside. Grill assembled sandwiches over moderate heat in skillet or griddle, turning once so each side is browned.  Make 4 sandwiches.

Alternate directions:  Toss asparagus with olive oil and lightly roast in 400° oven. Follow directions above to assemble sandwiches. Place assembled sandwiches on a greased sheet and bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, turning over once so both sides are browned.

Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Fresh Greens, adapted from a Lorna Sass recipe

3 C organic chicken or vegetable stock (or use water)
1 C black-eyed peas
1 bunch fresh greens (kale or collard, or 1 bag frozen
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ tsp dried thyme, divided
1 pinch cayenne, (or crushed red pepper flakes)
salt to taste

Soak the peas overnight in cold water. Pick out any unusea-bles, drain water, and rinse.  In a large soup pot bring stock/ water and peas to a boil.  Meanwhile, wash the greens, discarding any thick stems.  Chop into 1-inch strips.  Once peas are boiling, add the collards, onions, celery, garlic, ½ tsp thyme, and cayenne.  Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer at least 1 hour.  Stir in salt to taste, another 1 T dried thyme, and cook another 20-40 minutes until peas are tender and tasty.  For extra spice, serve with hot sauce.

Chinese Cabbage Salad
from Asparagus to Zucchini, serves 6 to 8.
5 C chopped Chinese cabbage
¾ C sliced or shredded radish
1 ½ C chow mien noodles, crunchy ones
1 C crushed peanuts
¼ C sesame seeds
2 T rice vinegar
4 T sesame oil
3 T soy sauce
1 T honey
½ - 1 tsp dry mustard
Combine cabbage, radishes, noodles, peanuts and sesame seeds.  Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl.  Toss with cabbage, using just enough dressing to suit your taste.

Avocado and Asparagus Hot Fried Egg Sandwiches, a Better Homes and Gardens recipe

1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and chopped
1 tsp lime juice
½ lb asparagus, trimmed
2 T butter
4 organic Elmwood eggs
8 slices favorite white, wheat or brioche bread, toasted
8 slices crisp-cooked bacon (optional)

In a small bowl, mash avocado with limejuice, set aside.
Place asparagus in a single layer in shallow baking pan.  Cover with about 2 C of boiling water.  Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes, until bright green and crisp-tender.  Drain.  Finely chop 3 of the asparagus spears and stir into mashed avocado; set aside remaining spears.
Meanwhile, in large skillet melt butter over medium heat.  Break eggs into skillet.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook eggs for 6 minutes, until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken.  If desired, turn eggs to fully cook yolks.
Spread avocado-asparagus mixture on 4 slices of bread.  Sprinkle with salt.  Layer bacon (if using), egg, asparagus spears, and remaining bread.  Makes 4 sandwiches.

Lettuce Soup
Our thanks to Chef Carolyn for this recipe, a tasty use for any extra lettuce.  Photographs and other tips are posted on her website, The Wholesome Chef

1 medium onion
2 garlic clove, chopped
3 T ghee (clarified butter)
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 medium gold potatoes, diced
4 medium-sized heads of coarsely chopped lettuce leaves including ribs (I used the red leaf variety)
3 C water

Sauté onion and garlic in 2 T ghee on medium-low heat in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in potato, lettuce and water and simmer, until potato is very tender.  Purée soup in batches. Serve warm with a drizzle of walnut oil!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Letter From a CSA Member

The first year I bought a CSA share I thought I knew what to expect, but I soon learned that the vegetable world was far more varied than I had experienced growing up on a central Kentucky farm.  I relished picking up my share each week, but I struggled with finding ways to use all the lettuce I received early in the season, with unfamiliar vegetables (kohlrabi? green garlic? - I didn't even have experience with arugula!) and with not knowing what items I would receive each week. Despite these challenges, I found the overall experience to be very rewarding.  There truly is nothing like freshly harvested produce and I am committed to supporting local farmers.

I prepared for the early weeks of my second CSA season by reviewing the newsletters of the previous year and planning menus around the items I had previously received. Surprise!  Weather variances meant that I wasn't necessarily receiving the same vegetables.  I don't recall the specifics, but the fickleness of central Kentucky weather combined with Elmwood's responsiveness to customer surveys resulted in more differences in weekly offerings than I had anticipated.  Nonetheless, I continued to relish the unrivaled taste of fresh produce and to enjoy the variety of meals that is the natural outgrowth of eating whatever happens to be ready for harvest at any point in time, not to mention the convenience of having a box of produce picked and delivered practically to my door...  There were still challenges, but I was hooked.  I signed up again and anxiously awaited another season.

By the third season I was hitting my stride and I knew that I could not count on anticipating what would be in my box each week.  I learned that even if I knew what someone had received earlier in the week, it didn't necessarily mean that I would get the same items in my share, so I stocked my kitchen with staples and anticipated each week's box like Christmas morning.  I simply could not wait to see what was in store for me each week.  I became more adventuresome in combining ingredients and earned a reputation at work for eating strange concoctions.  Shaved Asparagus Pizza?  Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos?  If I liked the basic ingredients, I wasn't afraid to try any combination.
Since my initial partnership with Elmwood, I have not only discovered vegetables that I hadn't known existed, I have also found ways to use some that I previously claimed to dislike. A lifelong hater of onions, I have discovered that they offer incomparable enhancement to certain dishes, provided that they are prepared correctly.  I have also learned to consider ingredients in non-traditional ways; cooked kale is good, but raw kale salads are awesome; lettuce can be used in soups and pastas - who knew?!?

For those new to CSA, I offer the following tips:
  • Begin the season by cleaning out your refrigerator; those early lettuces and other greens take up a lot of space
  • Refrigerate everything as soon as possible after picking up your share
  • Although everything is best when freshest, shelf life can be extended with proper storage; you will be surprised how long lettuce and other greens will last if wrapped in a paper or cloth towel to absorb excess moisture and stored loosely wrapped in a plastic bag such as a grocery bag
  • Stock your kitchen with a variety of spices, oils, and vinegars; have your favorites on hand, but splurge on some exotics to the extent that your budget allows; balsamic vinegar is heavenly (a little goes a long way) and a good olive oil is nearly priceless
  • Good staples to keep on hand include pasta, eggs (Elmwood eggs are fabulous!), tortillas, stocks, and a variety of cheeses; don't be afraid to swap one cheese for another, substitutions make a dish your own
  • Keep your weekly newsletters, you will refer back to them; if you are new to CSA, check out previous newsletters in online archives
  • The Internet can be your friend...and your enemy; I routinely search for recipes by ingredient or season, but recommend reading associated comments and setting a minimum "star rating" threshold (I rarely try anything with less then 4 stars)
  • Salads offer infinite ways to combine ingredients, think "vegetable, cheese, crunchy item, dressing" (greens, cheddar, croutons, ranch; beets, goat cheese, walnuts, vinaigrette; etc.)
  • It is a given that you will receive a lot of greens in the early days; learn how to make some basic salad dressings (oil, acid such as vinegar or citrus juice, flavorings such as garlic, emulsifier such as Dijon mustard - shake or whisk it all together with salt, pepper, seasonings of your choice) or keep your favorite bottled varieties on hand
  • Nearly anything can be combined with pasta to make a tasty dish; I use the basic formula of pasta + sautéed or roasted veggie + cheese + sauce (such as marinara, alfredo or meat) or oil (typically olive)
  • You can make breakfast, lunch or dinner with veggies and eggs: sauté veggies, cover with beaten eggs and cook until eggs are set for a frittata; stuff omelets with a variety of roasted or sautéed veggies; scramble eggs with cooked veggies and roll all together into a tortilla (expand the possibilities of any of these by adding your favorite cheese)
  • Make it pizza!  Top any pizza dough (or sub French bread, English muffins, pita bread, etc. for dough) with sauce, cheese, and veggies
  • When all else fails, pickle it; all my life I claimed to dislike okra until I tasted it pickled
  • If you find that you cannot use all your produce before the next week, nearly everything can be preserved: place peeled garlic cloves in small jars, cover with olive oil and refrigerate; blanch and freeze items such as greens, beans, corn; chop onions, peppers, etc. and freeze raw; dehydrate tomatoes, bag and store in freezers; share with neighbors and be sure to tell them it's Elmwood produce!

In Your Share

Greens Bunch - organic
Kale, Collard, Mustard and Turnip mix together for a sensational seasonal sauté!  You can steam or stir fry for full flavor and highest nutritional value, or try a braising method to soften the pungency of the spicy mustard and turnip.  For quick cooking methods, fold the leaf in half, and strip away the thick center stems, as they don’t cook as fast as the leaves.  Add to smoothies, pasta, quiche, or soup.
Kohlrabi – organic
The alien-looking, round, ball-like item is your kohlrabi.  It’s in the same family as broccoli, has a lot of fiber, and is high in Vits. A and C.  You do want to peel the outer tough skin, then enjoy raw or cook.  Kids like the raw, sweet kohlrabi sticks – but you can also add to fresh green salads.  Sauté in a little butter or olive oil, then eat as a side dish topped with black pepper.  Kohlrabi has an unexpected sweetness that you really have to try to appreciate!  It has a short season, only available in KY in the spring and fall, but refrigerated, it will store well for two weeks!
Onions – organic
Onions seem so easy to grow: purchase some sets from the local garden center, throw them in the ground in March, and never worry until ready to harvest . . . unless you want them organic!  We start with organic onion seed in the Fall in the greenhouse, transplant to the field, mulch well for winter, uncover in Spring, and weed until sized up for summer and fall harvests.  But, we need onions for cooking before the summer harvest, so find a few this week from our stored fall crop.  As they want to sprout when exposed to daylight, use them soon, store in the dark (refrigerated) if possible, and if they do sprout a little, use that part too!


Lettuce - organic

handful of Strawberries - organic 
Raspberries from the last harvest - organic
maybe next week instead, as the berry harvest is less each day due to such an warm, early spring

Spinach - organic 

Purple Top White Globe Turnips - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Field Greens with Spiced Pecans, Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette, from Ezra Poundcake

½ C pecan halves
3 T unsalted butter
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon-type mustard
1 T honey
½ C balsamic vinegar
¼ C red wine vinegar
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp salt
½ C to 2 ¼ C extra-virgin olive oil (Experiment to decide how much works for you.)
1 (6-ounce) goat cheese round, at room temperature
3 C assorted greens, washed and dried
1 small bunch arugula, washed and dried
1 pint cherry tomatoes, preferably organic, quartered

For the Spiced Pecans: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the pecans in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, cayenne and salt. Pour the butter mixture over the pecans, and toss to coat. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. Set aside to cool at least 15 minutes.

For the Vinaigrette: In a blender or food processor, blend the garlic, mustard, honey, both vinegars, lemon juice and salt for about 20 seconds. Pour ½ C olive oil through the feed tube in a slow stream, and blend until the mixture emulsifies (this won’t take much longer than it takes to pour in the oil). Taste and add more oil as desired.

For the Goat Cheese Rounds: Coarsely grind ½ C of the spiced pecans in a food processor, and pour the ground pecans into a medium bowl. Then divide the goat cheese into four equal parts, and gently form each quarter into a disk. Roll the goat cheese rounds in the ground pecans to cover completely.

To Assemble the Salad: Toss the baby greens, arugula, the remaining 1C of spiced pecans and some of the balsamic vinaigrette to taste in a large salad bowl. (Leftover dressing will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days.) Serve salads on individual plates, and top each salad with some of the cherry tomatoes and a disk of pecan-coated goat cheese.

Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe that she describes as “particularly good!” Can also use broccoli rather than asparagus.

1 lb asparagus
1T olive oil
2 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh-ground black pepper
½ C plus 2 T balsamic vinegar
½ tsp brown sugar
1 lb penne or pasta of your choice
¼ lb butter, cut into pieces
1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Heat the oven to 400°. Snap off the tough ends of asparagus and discard. Cut into 1-inch pieces, put on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 T remain, being careful not to scorch. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining ¼ tsp pepper. Remove from the heat.

Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining 1 ¾ tsp teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Season!

Welcome to the 2012 season of Elmwood Stock Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program. Our goal is to provide you clean, tasty, beautiful, special, high quality fresh foods. We hope you enjoy eating fresh from the farm and have fun with the experience of sometimes trying new things!

Seasonal eating is an adventure. As each basket comes, you will be exposed to the new colors and flavors of foods you have never cooked with before, as well as familiar favorites. We have a few tips to help anyone through the adjustment period.

· Take a few minutes to assess your basket – look at the listing at top right to scan the contents - you might choose to utilize the swap basket at your pickup location. When you get home, decide what needs to be eaten fairly soon and what can wait until later in the week. A few minutes now will save you time later and often some items are more perishable than others – we will let you know what keeps well.

· Remember to wash your vegetables. We do not offer the produce ready to eat. Some items are rinsed and cooled before you get them, but this aids in removing dirt and reducing the field temperature – things we do to ensure better post-harvest quality.

· Try to refrigerate as soon as possible. This is the number one way to keep everything fresh. We do have tips to refresh greens or lettuce; let us know if you need help.

· Find recipes that fit your lifestyle from our newsletters, cookbooks or the internet. We have resources if you need them.

Our 22-week season is focused on the months of the year that vegetables flourish when grown in Central Kentucky. You start off with asparagus and spring greens; move to hot weather tomatoes, corn, and beans; then wind down in the fall with root crops and winter squashes. This is the normal production cycle.

This spring, the early heat accelerated the production of some spring items, so we may see a shorter season on a few items such as bok choy, asparagus, and strawberries. It also means lettuce, kale, and broccoli will be earlier than normal. Hope you enjoy this first week!

If you have never had fresh asparagus, you are in for a treat. You will want to remove any of the tough ends that grows right at ground level.  It is not necessary to cut the end on a long piece – just bend lightly until it breaks naturally.  Short stalks may not have to be trimmed if the ends are tender or you may want to lightly peel away the outer skin at the bottom of the stalk.  Enjoy raw,  boiled,  steamed, sautéed, baked, or roasted.  To store, put the cut ends in water in a drinking glass or bowl.  Or wrap in a wet paper towel and place inside a container in your refrigerator. 

Bok Choy – organic
This variety is not the same as the one we have grown in the past, and does have a different appearance: light green leaves with a velvety texture.  It has a milder flavor and pairs well with the flavors of ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Combine with sautéed meat and rice or noodles and you have a complete meal!
Wrap bok choy in a damp towel or put it in a sealed  bag in the hydrator drawer of the refrigerator.  Leaves will lose integrity and wilt if allowed to dry out, but can still be cooked.  To freeze, chop, add to boiling water for 1 minute, cool, drain, and freeze in an airtight container for later use.

Green Garlic– organic
Resembling a green onion, the delicate green garlic can be enjoyed only in the spring before the plant’s energy is put into making a bulb under the ground.  Use all of the white and as much of the green you find tender - as you would a green onion – several inches up the stalk.  You can enjoy any way you would a scallion or green onion or in any recipe that calls for garlic: sauté in olive oil, chop in salad or pasta, make pesto, or add to soups.

Lettuce – organic

Strawberries – organic

Sweet Potatoes – organic

Onions - organic

Radishes – organic

Sweet Potato Hummus, a Sarah Britton recipe
2 C chickpeas, cooked
zest of 1 organic lemon, juice of ½ lemon
3 small sweet potatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2-3 pinches sea salt
3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic (use your green garlic)

: Don't get too hung up on the quantities of ingredients with this recipe - it's hard to make a mistake! Use more or less sweet potato than called for, more or less chickpeas if that suits you (or even leave them out!), omit the cayenne or throw in more if you like it spicy. Just work with what you have and what tastes good to you.

Place sweet potatoes (with the skin on) in a baking dish in a 400 F oven and bake until very soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size.
  Let the sweet potatoes cool down so that you can easily remove their skins - they should just peel off. Place them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend on high to mix. 

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of cracked black pepper, and whatever herb you have on hand. This is wonderful with raw veggies, healthy crackers, or pita bread.   This dip doubles as an amazing sandwich spread, particularly on crusty sourdough with avocado, sprouts, and fresh herbs. Finally, you can use as a thickener for soups and stews.

Stir-Fried Shanghai Bok Choy recipe from The Asian Grandmother Cookbook, an online web blog; serves 2-4 depending on if a side dish or main

1 T oil
3 garlic cloves, minced (use your green garlic!)
few sprinkles of salt to taste (or soy sauce/ fish sauce)
drizzle of sesame oil (optional)

Cut about ¼ -inch off the bottom of each plant. Rinse thoroughly to get rid of the dirt in between the stems.  Cut them crosswise into 1-inch pieces, keeping the stems and leaves separate.

Preheat a 14-inch wok or 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the oil and wait until it starts to shimmer. Add the garlic and stir for 15 to 30 seconds until fragrant.

Raise the heat to medium-high, throw in the stems and toss to coat with oil and garlic for about 1 minute. Add the leaves and keep tossing until the leaves are just wilted.

Add the salt and stir until some liquid has been released and the vegetables are tender and bright green, another 1 to 2 minutes. If you’d like a little more “sauce,” add a tablespoon, or two, of water.  Drizzle with sesame oil, if desired, and serve immediately.

Asparagus Tart, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe adapted from the website Ezra Poundcake.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
2 C (about 6 oz) melting cheese such as Gruyere, Swiss, mozzarella, Fontina, Emmentaler
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400° degrees F. Sprinkle counter with flour and place the puff pastry on top. Sprinkle extra flour on the pastry, and roll the pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Carefully place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell. Arrange them in a single layer over cheese, alternating ends and tips by placing a layer with tips facing one direction, then another layer reversed. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, about 20 minutes.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza, adapted from the popular site, Thanks to a CSA member for trying out and sharing this yummy recipe, we have shared it before, but it is so easy, we had to offer it again!

1 pizza crust of your choice
½ lb asparagus
¼ C grated Parmesan
½ lb shredded mozzarella
2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to highest temperature.  Preheating a pizza stone or pan will help to ensure a crispy crust. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a vegetable peeler, create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks. Discard tough ends.

Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Sprinkle pizza dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top. Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred.

Optional:  Add red pepper flakes to asparagus mixture, sprinkle with your green garlic after baking or squeeze a lemon over top.  For a quick fix, omit cheeses and top a frozen cheese pizza with asparagus mixture.