Monday, June 24, 2013

Week 8, What Kind of Schedule do You Keep?


There are only a few givens at Elmwood Stock Farm.  We do our best to have all your shares at the appointed time and place.  We do our best to be at every Lexington Farmers Market location as scheduled.  It drops off pretty quick after that.  We have an idea of when cows are gonna calve or need to be bred, so they will have that calf when it works best for them, and us.  We have an idea when strawberries and asparagus are going to be harvested, (google “KY Proud produce seasonal chart” so you will have an idea for yourself) but starting dates each year vary from mid-April to mid-May.  The turkey eggs we gather for hatching are clearly three weeks behind last year.  Maturity dates on seed varieties are a bit of a misnomer, as the vagaries of the weather seem to make them more of a suggestion.  The only other given is that each and every leaf or seed, or fruit will be harvested at the optimum time, one at a time, by human hands.

Just like you don’t know in advance what is going to be in your weekly share, we do not either, often until the morning of harvest, or often the day before.  Once we know that strawberry season begun and the weather pattern we are in, we can generally predict what will be ready in the coming days.  We speculate a little further out when making cultural control decisions.  For example, a few small weeds make the field look hairy, but are not hindering the lettuce growth, and cultivation might throw dirt onto the leaves, knowing those whole rows will be tilled and replanted after harvest any way.  But if you don’t catch the soil at the right time after a rain on a long season crop like kale, the weeds will run rampant, and that will take time we don’t have scheduled for a bunch of folks to go chop out with hoes.  When the winter weather breaks in the spring, we plant lettuce seeds of several varieties and also transplant plants from the greenhouse of several varieties with the plan they will ripen over a several week period before it gets too hot. However, it is not uncommon for these to overlap, requiring them to be harvested at the same time, which was not on the schedule.  Some crops can be selectively harvested like “all the ones over 3 inches” or “only the ones with no green showing”.  For other crops, we have to send in a crew and “get everything out there”.  Scheduling all this can get quite tricky when the truck has to leave the farm loaded with CSA shares by a certain time. 

There is also the human factor to contend with here.  We have an excellent and dependable crew scheduled to pull all this together in a logical and timely manner.  While some are harvesting the selective ripe items, others are washing.  For the “get ‘em all” crops, everyone goes out en-masse to bring the crop back to the shed most efficiently.  Certain crops should be picked with cool morning dew on, others would be ruined if done so.  And, then a huge storm blows in.  Working in the rain is one thing often done by our harvest crew.  Being out in a lightning storm is another.  Super-duper Doppler radar may be a good tool, but old-fashioned common sense takes over when the lightning is on the horizon.  Obviously that is not something that can be scheduled. 

The storms also add a dimension of urgency.  Often we find ourselves leaving the confines of safe shelter of the packing shed to dodge lightning bolts, face sideways blowing rain drops, marble sized hail, to cover an important piece of equipment, or get the crop onto the truck or wagon for transport to a barn.  Young livestock and poultry must be tended to, to be sure they are able to make safe haven.  The old joke is farmers are so dumb, they work until they get wet and then stop, whereas if they had stopped a few minutes before, they would be dry.  Actually, that is just how the schedule works when a hot storm blows in, often minutes really do matter. 

Tractor, vehicle, and equipment maintenance plays a role in our scheduling confidence.  Beyond the occasional flat tire, farm machinery must be properly greased, adjusted, and cleaned for safe and functional operation.  Being able to replace a faulty switch or weld the doo-fitchet back to the thing-a-ma-bob in a timely manner is critical to keeping all this on schedule.  Having people scheduled to operate machinery or implements when the time is right can get a little challenging at times. 

Be it a seed or a creature, our schedule is dictated by something that is somewhat out of our control.  So, we are not exactly sure what is going to be in your share next week, but it’s on our schedule to allow time to figure it out, and get it all to you on time!

In Your Share  

Broccoli – organic

Carrots - organic

Garlic Scapes – organic

Kohlrabi - organic

Lettuce – organic

Napa Cabbage – organic

Summer Squash Medley

Rainbow Swiss Chard – organic

Sugar Snap Peas – organic
if the pods are too mature, string the pod and still enjoy the peas as shell-outs!
Recipes to Enjoy
Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this Smitten Kitchen recipe, one of the best!

1/2 pound broccoli
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper or pinches of red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons heavy cream
Grated parmesan 

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Remove broccoli florets from stems and chop into medium florets. Peel stems and slice into 1/2-inch segments. 

Steam (5-6 minutes) or par-boil (for 3 to 5 minutes) your broccoli florets and stems until just tender, then drain if needed and set them aside. 

Add pasta to water and cook until al dente, or about one minute less than fully cooked. Before draining pasta, reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain pasta. 

Wipe out pot and melt butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sautéing it until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add steamed broccoli, salt and red or black pepper and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour cream over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds.

Transfer broccoli to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it’s finely chopped and a little sauce. Add the broccoli sauce back to the pot with the drained spaghetti and a splash or two of the reserved pasta water. Cook over medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing the mixture so that it evenly coats. Add more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or pepper, sprinkle with Parmesan.

Pickled Garlic Scapes, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe found online.  It is adapted from the “Dilly Beans” recipe from the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving.  Makes approximately 1 pint

1 bunch garlic scapes (approximately what you can wrap two hands around, shoots aligned)
2 tablespoons canning & pickling salt
1 cup vinegar (white vinegar or cider vinegar is fine, as long as the acidity is 5 percent)
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, split
½ teaspoon dried dill

Insert empty jar in a saucepan and add water until the jar is covered by at least one inch. Remove jar, cover pan and bring up to a boil.

Clean and trim garlic scapes below flower head, cut to 4 ½-inch lengths. Use straightest parts of garlic scape as much as possible, though curved portions are also fine. Pack lengthwise into clean one-pint jar until full. Remove garlic scapes and sterilize jar.

Combine salt, vinegar and water in saucepot and bring to a boil. Keep hot.

Add dill, split garlic and trimmed garlic scapes to hot jar. Slowly pour hot liquid into jar, allowing small spaces to fill and air bubbles to rise, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Insert a non-metallic flat-edged spatula between the food and the side of the jar to remove air bubbles.

Adjust two-piece cap. Process pint jar for 10 minutes in boiling water.  Note: Pickled preserves are best opened after standing for a minimum of 2 weeks…but the longer the better!

Kohlrabi Fries, recipe from an online source:

1 medium kohlrabi, trimmed and peeled, be sure to remove peel of any color - the tender white inside is the good stuff.
olive oil
minced garlic or garlic powder (to taste)
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.  Cut trimmed kohlrabi into 1/4-inch matchsticks. Toss with the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and transfer to your lined baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for a total of about 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. The fries will be crisp and roasted when finished.  Drain on a bed of paper towels, transfer to a plate(s) or a platter, adjust seasoning and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Serves 2-4 picky eaters.

Indian Red Lentil and Kohlrabi Salad with Couscous, recipe from  Can be served cold or at room temperature.

 2+1/2 T champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tsp garam masala
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/3 C finely minced garlic scapes (about 3), divided
2/3 C red lentils
1 C thinly sliced greens (kohlrabi, beet, chard, kale, really any will be good)
1 medium kohlrabi bulb, peeled and cut into a 1/4-inch dice (about 1+1/2 cups)
1/3 C plain couscous
1/4 C raisins, rehydrated in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the vinegar and garam masala in a small bowl with a whisk. Stream in the olive oil and stir in a tablespoon of the minced garlic scapes. Set aside.

Cook the lentils and sliced greens in a pot of salted, boiling water until lentils are just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain again, pressing the remaining water out with the back of a spoon.

In the same pot, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil and remove from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the dressing along with the couscous. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. When all of the water has been absorbed, spoon couscous into a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool slightly.

To the bowl add the remaining garlic scapes, lentils and greens, and diced kohlrabi. Pour the reserved dressing over the top. Mix gently to combine. Season with sea salt and pepper and mix in the rehydrated raisins, if desired.  Serves 2 as a main course.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wk 7, CSA, Working Up Your Produce

The produce in your share was part or all of a living, breathing, and growing plant just a few short hours before you see it in your share. When you get it, it is still part or all of a living and breathing plant. This week we will focus on how to maintain the quality of the various fruits and vegetables as you work them into you weekly menu planning.

Depending on the crop, we have a few basic handling procedures to best preserve that just-picked quality. Leafy veggies are picked or cut early in the day to avoid the baking mid-day sun, except in the fall and winter when we have to let them thaw before handling. They are double dunked in water, which not only rinses off field dirt, it cools it rapidly and re-hydrates the leaves before the totes are wheeled into the walk-in cooler for further chilling. Peppers, squash, eggplant and such are picked later in the day, rinsed in a similar manner, yet they may take a full day or overnight to cool completely down, which is a key to preserving freshness. Tomatoes are picked every day or two; stay on the single layer trays until moved to your share – not cooled.  The items are then pre-metered out for uniformity, and another step in checking top quality, then placed in each share in a manner to protect them for the ride to your home.

How you handle your produce will dramatically affect how it holds until use. When you get to your car be careful not to place it in the sun. If this is unavoidable, cover it with some stray items you have been hauling around for months, or bring a towel or jacket to cover it. When you get home, look at the list of produce in the share, and secure each one in the right environment, before you take a moment to read the riveting story of the week. The leafy stuff will be on top. We recommend you place it in a loosely closed plastic bag and in the fridge. If the items appear a bit limpy, submerse them in cold tap water for a period of time, then shake off excess water and place in the bag.  Putting a paper towel in the bag helps to absorb any extra moisture during storage time.  Many people tell us that if they take the opportunity to fully rinse and spin these leafy veggies so they are ready to eat or go directly into a recipe, it is easier to use up all week.

During tomato season, you will find them resting atop the other produce to reduce bruising. We try to send a combination of fully ripe and some less fully ripe, so you can eat fully ripe tomatoes all week. Tomatoes should be left on the counter to tantalize you into tasting them in an upcoming salad or dish.  To speed up ripening, you can put in a closed bag (as you would peaches).  Under the greens you may also find berries, which go directly into the fridge after sampling.  Peas, green beans, and okra should go directly to the fridge and kept dry. They will get a little brown rust if stored wet. We cannot pick in wet weather or when the dew is on for the same reason. (Though if this happens and a little rust appears, know that it does not affect flavor, just cosmetic appearance).

Squash, peppers, eggplant and the like should go in the fridge and will hold longer into the week with little or no change in quality, since we got the field heat out rapidly back at the farm. Potatoes need to be in a dark space, as the light will cause greening, an example that these are living breathing organisms. The greening on the skin can be poisonous to humans, but you would have to eat a truckload to be affected.  Since it tastes bad anyway, cut a thin layer away if this happens and eat away. We keep our potatoes in a dark container in the fridge. Winter squash and bulb garlic can stay on the counter or hide in the pantry until you work your way to them as they keep such a long time. 

So if you are traveling or otherwise unable to eat it as fast as it is coming in, it only takes a few minutes to prepare items for use.  To freeze, drop the item in boiling water for a minute or two or three, set out to dry before bagging and freezing. There a many sources of information on blanching and preserving techniques – let us know if you need some resources. 

Thanks for doing your part to maintain the quality of the produce you receive from us each week. It has come a long way with tender loving care from seed to your kitchen. We ask that you do your part in the last little bit of the journey to make sure you enjoy everything this season.

In Your Share 

Broccoli – organic

Garlic Scapes - organic

Red and/or Green Lettuce – organic

Kale Greens – organic

Spinach – organic

Yellow Squash

Sugar Snap Peas - organic

Radishes - organic 

Recipes to Enjoy

Spinach & Goat Cheese Frittata Ham Cups  Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe, makes 12 cups (about 4-6 servings)

12-14 slices ham
8 C fresh spinach (or 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed)
4oz goat cheese
9 large eggs
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ C heavy cream or milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray or brush a muffin tin with oil, then line each cup with a slice of ham being sure to seal it up as much as possible (sometimes it helps to cut the ham slightly). Don't worry if there is overlap on the sides.  Even if the filling seeps through, the oil helps the frittata cup to pop right out.

Combine fresh spinach with a few tablespoons of water in a large covered pot over medium heat. Let steam a minute or two, or until the spinach is completely wilted (skip this step if using frozen spinach). While the spinach wilts, whisk together the 9 eggs in a large bowl. Drain spinach & squeeze off excess liquid, then add to the eggs.

Crumble the goat cheese into the spinach and egg mixture, then add the salt, pepper, and cream. Stir until combined, then divide the mixture into the 12 ham-lined cups, filling all the way to the top.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the eggs are puffed and slightly golden on top. Remove from oven and use a fork and knife to carefully remove each egg cup from the muffin tin. Serve immediately, or let chill and serve as a cold dish or at room temperature.  Leftover egg cups will keep well for 3-5 days when wrapped individually and refrigerated.
Corn & Broccoli Calzones, Thanks to a CSA member fore sharing this recipe adapted from July-August 2007 issue of Eating Well.  Makes 6 calzones.  The recipe calls for a summery combination of corn and broccoli, but you can use whatever you have in your fridge. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.

1 ½ C chopped broccoli
1 ½ C fresh corn kernels, (about 3 ears; see Tip)
1 C shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2/3 C part-skim ricotta cheese
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ C chopped fresh basil
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
20 oz prepared whole-wheat pizza dough, thawed if frozen
2 tsp canola oil

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 475°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.

Combine broccoli, corn, mozzarella, ricotta, scallions, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Place a generous 3/4 cup filling on one half of each circle, leaving a 1-inch border of dough. Brush the border with water and fold the top half over the filling. Fold the edges over and crimp with a fork to seal. Make several small slits in the top to vent steam; brush each calzone with oil. Transfer the calzones to the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the calzones, switching the pans halfway through, until browned on top, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Pasta with Greens & Tomato Sauce, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this healthy recipe.  Makes 4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each | Active Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 50 minutes

1 pound collard or kale greens, (about 12 cups), stripped from thick stems, washed, dried and coarsely chopped (1/2-inch pieces)
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 quart tomato juice
6-8 dried tomatoes
8 ounces medium pasta shells
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
½ C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil in a large wide pan. Add greens and cook until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and press out excess moisture. Set aside.

Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil for cooking pasta.
Cook onion in olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, for 30 to 60 seconds. Add juice and dried tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the sauce is ready, cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring often, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, collards and reserved pasta-cooking water to the tomato sauce. Heat, stirring, until the pasta has absorbed some of the flavors, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into pasta bowls, sprinkle with cheese and serve.


CSA, Week 6, The Culture of Agriculture

Wendell Berry speaks of farming systems as the type of symbiotic relationships that our greater society should model our culture around.  Let’s take a look at the farming system at Elmwood Stock Farm and discover just how correct he is.  Native habitats, whether rain forest or prairie, are teaming with thousands of species of plant and animal life, flourishing in a symbiotic relationship.  Although this coexistence of shared resources is stable, it will never achieve a state of equilibrium.  As weather patterns and solar energy input constantly modify the availability of those resources, the intricate inter-relationships ebb and flow in a predictable manner.  At Elmwood Stock Farm, our job is to manage these relationships while asking the system to provide us a certain crop at a certain point in time.

We balance our ecosystem by rotating plant and animal nutrients around the farm that builds fertility faster than the food crops can harvest them.  This also maintains the all-important balance of micro-organisms discussed in earlier postings.   So, looking at the farm, each field has a productive capacity based on slope, soil type, and accessibility of water.  We have developed a management system to utilize each in its own way to be productive while benefiting from some other aspect of the operation, hence the symbiosis.

By describing the field history of a single crop field you should get a sense of how this works.  Randomly we can start with planting alfalfa in our crop field.  Alfalfa is a legume, which means a rhizobia bacterium attaches itself to the roots for life support.  It also fixes nitrogen from the air, releasing it to the host plant and the soil around it.  Alfalfa has a strong taproot that burrows several feet deep into the soil that physically breaks up the soil, opening pores for air, water, and the soil food web to expand.  This plant also harvests minerals and nutrients from deep in the soil with the help of mycorrhizal fungi.  We bale the hay for three or four years while this soil building is happening.  The following winter, we unroll the hay bales in that same field for the cattle to consume and deposit their manure in the field, adding nutrients back into the system.  When spring arrives, we plow under the roots and top growth, so the microbes can decompose them, which converts them into a plant-available form.  This is the area we would plant heavy feeding crops like tomato, potato, cucurbits, peppers, and sweet corn. 

Following one of these food crops, we will lightly till the soil and plant a cover crop, which are fast growing cold weather tolerant crops like wheat and vetch (vetch is also a legume).  During winter, the actively growing roots maintain the food source for all the soil microbes and fungi, albeit slowed down in the cold environment.  These plants are easily tilled in, to release their nutrients in spring for fast-growing short season crops like lettuce, greens, and broccoli.  When such crops are harvested, other short season crops can follow.  These double-cropped food crops (double crop means two crops in same year) may be harvested until frost or after, which is too late for another cover crop to be planted.  Therefore, the following spring, peas and beans are a great option here, as they are leguminous, “making” their own nitrogen.  After the beans are harvested, sweet potato or winter squash can follow.  When they come off, it is time to seed alfalfa and begin anew. 

The focus seems to be on nutrient and nitrogen cycling.  This system does optimize nutrients and builds soil.  However, the equally significant aspects relate to managing insect populations and plant pathogens.  This rotational system seems to keep beneficial insect habitat abundant, while keeping plant pests from establishing themselves in wait for the next crop of choice.  Plant pathogens have little opportunity to gain reproductive momentum in the ever-changing environment that is super charged with beneficial bacteria and fungi.

The culture of agriculture is indeed based on sound biological principles, realistic production goals, and symbiotic relationships. Like Wendell said, it does sound like a pretty nice place to live.

In Your Share

Fresh Asparagus

Broccoli – organic

Kohlrabi - organic

Red Leaf and/or Green Lettuce – organic

Spinach - organic

Sugar Snap Peas - organic

Red Beets - organic

Collard Greens – organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Greens with Parmesan and Garlic
3 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 scallions, sliced
12 oz greens, thinly sliced, tough stalks removed (this recipe is great with turnip, collard, kale, and mustard)
¼ C water
2/3 C Parmesan water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Shavings of Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and stir-fry the garlic and scallion for 2 minutes.  Add the turnip greens and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, so that the greens are coated in oil.  Add the water.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the greens are tender.  Bring the liquid to a bowl again, allow the excess to evaporate, then stir in the Parmesan and seasonings.  Serve at once with extra shavings of cheese.

Peas with Lettuce and Onion, serves 4-6, the long-enjoyed recipe traditionally uses English shell-out peas, but we’ve found that sugar snap peas are just as tasty.  Break the end of the peapod and pull away any strings.  Break the pod into a couple of bite-size pieces before adding the whole thing to the pan.

1 T butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
small lettuce head, halved and sliced into thin strips (use equal part lettuce to the amount of peas you have)
2 C sugar snap peas
3 T water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until just softened.  Add the pea pieces and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until crisp-tender (al dente).  Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add lettuce.  Stir quickly until just wilted.  Toss lightly and serve at once.

Broccoli and Spinach Soup, adapted from a Martha Rose Shulman recipe
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
2 to 4 garlic cloves, to taste, minced
2 lb broccoli, chopped; stems, if using, peeled and diced
6 oz potato, peeled and diced, or ½ C medium grain rice
2 quarts water or vegetable stock
herb bouquet made with a bay leaf, a Parmesan rind, and a couple of sprigs each thyme and parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
1 ½ oz spinach leaves (about 1 C tightly packed) 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not allow these ingredients to brown. Add a generous pinch of salt to prevent this from happening (the salt draws out liquid from the vegetables). Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic smells fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the broccoli, potatoes or rice, water or stock, herb bouquet, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the herb bouquet. Stir in the spinach and let sit for a minute off the heat. Add freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. 

Using a hand blender, or in batches in a regular blender, purée the soup. If using a regular blender fill only half way and cover the top with a towel pulled down tight, rather than airtight with the lid, because hot soup will jump and push the top off if the blender is closed airtight. Return to the pot and heat through, stirring. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, topping each bowl with garnishes of your choice.  Serves 6.
Optional garnishes: chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, chives; drizzle of olive oil;  swirl of crème fraiche or plain yogurt; a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan.

Linguine with Roasted Chicken, Greens, Dried Fruit and Nuts adapted from a New York Times recipe, use whatever greens you have on hand in this pasta, and you can substitute different nuts or seeds for the texture.  This week’s Elmwood chicken share will work well in this recipe.  Serves about 6.

1 whole chicken (you can also use bone-in chicken thighs)
1 bunch leafy greens, such as chard, collards or kale
1 lb linguine (or other such as spaghetti or fettuccine)
1 small onion sliced
½ C currants or raisins or dried cranberries
2/3 C toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
3 T chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
Roast a chicken according to your favorite method.

When the chicken comes out of the oven, remove the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 20 minutes.  When the chicken has rested, pull the meat off the bones and break it into bite-sized pieces. Chop some of the crispy chicken skin if desired; set the meat and skin aside.

Cook the linguine, drain it and set it aside, reserving about a cup of the pasta cooking water.

Set the roasting pan (with the drippings and fat that accumulated when you roasted the chicken) back on the stove, over two burners if necessary. In the roasting pan over medium-high heat, add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the chopped greens and dried fruit, and sauté until the greens are wilted but still bright green. Add the pieces of roasted chicken and skin (if using) as well as the chopped rosemary. Add the pasta, tossing it around to coat it with the chicken juices and fat (add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if it looks like it needs to be moistened). Finally, toss in the toasted nuts and fresh parsley for garnish. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week 5, We Can't Afford to Not Eat Local and Organic

Last week in our newsletter, we discussed how an organic farming system translates into healthy food, and by extension, a healthy you. But at the market, we do hear people say they cannot afford to eat organic food all the time. Let’s think this through a bit.

Fast food chains have their meal deals, and for conversation sake we will estimate an adult style burger and fries “deal” to be $6. With this you get an enormous cup of high fructose corn syrup that those microbes in your gut go bonkers over, converting it to fat for you.  You receive a burger with a country of origin label that says “product of U.S., Canada, and Mexico”. We do not know the source of the meat or how it was processed, delivered and prepared for you. Processed cheese uses 51% real cheese that is then emulsified, along with additives and extenders that are used to make the cheese easier to handle and have a longer “sit around time.” The lettuce, tomato, and onion have most likely traveled from the West Coast or Mexico on a truck, (and we all know how we feel after 1500 miles in a crowded vehicle.)  The bun is one of those that when left on the counter in the bag, it looks just fine after many weeks.  The ingredient panel is in a 4-point font so all of it fits on the package. If that’s not enough, the GMO potatoes, deep fried to a golden brown, do not stick together because of all the salt. But hey, it’s cheap and fast, and though there are lots of wrappers to throw away, it kills time while riding in the car. So, four people are looking at $25 or so.

What is the cost of an organic equivalent meal? First the burger:  a grass- finished, certified organic, USDA Choice, dry-aged Angus patty from Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott Co. KY.  Jerome and his crew of two others at Central Kentucky Custom Meats butcher the meat.  They maintain individual attention to their work while a USDA inspector is actively present.  There are absolutely no additives to the product. There are numerous raw milk cheese vendors at the farmers markets now. These are 100% real cheese from that farmer’s cows. Salt and enzymes are the lone ingredients because that is what it takes to convert milk to cheese. The produce is certified organic from Elmwood Stock Farm and it’s not a bad drive for the lettuce, tomato, and onion to travel down Newtown Pike past lots of beautiful horse farms. The potatoes may be blue or red, or pink, or gold, or white from historic preservation of unique varieties, not genetic engineering. A couple of slices of good yeasty local bread only add 3-4 more ingredients to the meal. Using farmers-market-pricing, this organic equivalent meal comes in well under $25, it just takes a little of your time.  You may want to pick up some local brew or bottle of wine, invite some friends over, prepare and share the food, drink, and conversation for hours of enjoyment. 

One other aspect to point about these two meals is the respective value to the local community. The fast food meal supports local workers and infrastructure services, albeit the time spent per meal is so low, very little of the cost stays here. Most goes out to suppliers, distributors, corporate overhead and profit. The money for the local meal ALL stays in the central KY area. Because a business like ours must pay retail prices for our cost of goods sold, these dollars have a six or seven-fold rollover value to the local economy. None of this even begins to address the externalities from a fast food meal, like GMO grain production, transportation fuel use and pollution, dead zone in the gulf, worker conditions, and the like.

Given that the food cost is not too farm apart, while the social climate of consumption is vastly improved, the greatest value is now to your digestive system and overall health. Your internal microbial partners, described last week in the Micro-Biome Project, will feast and thrive on the simplistic locally derived meal. Preservatives, by definition, are in the food to prevent microbes from consuming them. But that is exactly what is supposed to happen when we eat food: the microbes break down the foods into digestible components we can use.  Over time, microbe colonization that doesn’t have to deal with invaders like preservatives and additives will stimulate a strong immune system.  Ultimately, if people think they can’t afford to eat local and organic food, they must not have looked at the cost of high blood pressure, diabetes, or other serious illnesses, have they?  They really can’t afford to not eat it.

In Your Share

Fresh Asparagus

Broccoli – organic

Lacinato Black Kale Greens - organic

Red Butterhead and/or Green Leaf Lettuce – organic

Green Curly or Red Stemmed Spinach – organic

Strawberries - organic

Heirloom Corn Meal –organic

Dried Tomatoes - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Baked Kale Chips, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this easy, enjoyable recipe; she shared a few notes on how to vary the flavors.

2-3 cups of kale, washed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
juice of lemon to taste
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Remove ribs from kale and tear into chip-sized pieces. Set aside.  In a bowl, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice. Add kale and toss together. Spread kale leaves on baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until crisp, about 15-20 minutes, turning about half-way through.

For variation, I use lime juice and red pepper or just about any flavor combination. I find the bigger kale leaves work better, saving the smaller, more delicate leaves for salads and steaming.

Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast,  Thanks to a CSA member for sharing another Deb Perelman recipe – she got to meet Deb during a trip to New York City last year during the promotion of the website and cookbook.

1 large egg
1 slice of your favorite hearty bread
2 baby spinach
1 pat butter
1 T minced shallot or white onion
1 T heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard
1 T crumbled cheese, such as goat cheese or feta

Bring small pot of water to boil. Lower egg into it and boil for five to six minutes. Rinse egg briefly under cool water and set aside.

Wash your spinach but no need to dry it. Put a small puddle of water in the bottom of a skillet and heat it over medium-high. Once the water is simmering, add the spinach and cook it until it is just wilted, and not a moment longer. Transfer it to a colander and press as much of the excess water out with the back of a fork as possible. No need to wring it out here; we’re hoping to those lovely wilted leaves intact. Keep that fork; you’ll use it again in a moment.

Put your bread in to toast.

Dry your skillet if it is still wet. Heat a pat of butter in it over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook them for a few minutes, until translucent and a little sweet. Return spinach to skillet and add cream. Simmer them together for one minute, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put your toast on your plate and spread it thinly with Dijon mustard. Heap the spinach-and-shallot mixture on top, then add the crumbled cheese. Peel your egg; doing so under running water can make this easier. Once peeled, place it on your spinach toast, smash it open with the back of that fork you used a minute ago, and sprinkle it with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Eat immediately.
Creamy Polenta With Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mixed Greens, recipe found online and shared by a CSA member

8 sun-dried tomatoes (packed without oil)
12 C boiling water
1 C cornmeal
1 dash pepper
32 oz chicken broth or vegetable broth, divided
1 C water
olive oil
2 C onions (thin sliced)
1 C red bell pepper (strips)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
5 C greens (torn mixed: kale, Swiss chard, spinach, etc.)
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese (fresh)

Combine tomatoes and boiling water.  Let stand 30 minutes, drain and chop.  

Combine cornmeal and pinch of black pepper in saucepan. Gradually add 3 cups broth and 1 cup water, stirring continually with a whisk.   Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove polenta from heat and keep warm.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté onion and red pepper for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Add tomatoes and garlic, cooking for 1 more minute.  Add 1 cup broth and the greens.  Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking 15 minutes or until greens are completely tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spoon polenta into 4 plates and top with greens.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  

Massaged Kale Salad, recipe adapted from Aarti Sequeira, we have a similar kale salad on our Pinterest page, along with other ideas for using fresh greens and asparagus – check it out!

1 bunch kale
1 lemon, juiced
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 tsp honey
Freshly ground pepper
1 mango, diced
2 T toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds 

Remove tough stems from kale and cut into thin strips.  Add to large serving bowl along with half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.
In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in remaining oil while whisking until a dressing forms and you like how it tastes. Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.