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.