Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Farm Update

By Farmer Richard

Fall is here!  The trees are turning beautiful colors.  It seems quiet now that the humming birds, swallows, dragonflies and butterflies have all left for warmer climates in the south.  We look forward to their return in the spring!  We heard a few whippoorwills as they passed through on their way south, but now the resident Great Horned and Bard owls keep us company as they talk to us every morning and at night.

It is proving to be a very wet fall encompassing multiple flood events followed by weeks of wet days.  The damage caused by the floods at the end of August and first of September created quite a mess for us to clean up!  The powerful waters blew out field protecting berms, washing away as much as five inches of the best topsoil and depositing sand, rock and driftwood in its place.  It’s a mess to say the least!  So we have spent the last three weeks clearing not only piles of driftwood and rocks from fields, but also removing most of the trees that have grown up in the creek bed over many years.  This is a huge job involving six crew members daily for three full weeks.  Our little spring fed creek normally is only six inches deep and six feet wide, but when the run off from the surrounding woods and poorly managed ridgetop fields pours into our valley, the result has been devastating.  This year we saw significant damage to fields that have not been flooded since 1952.  The NRCS staff that cost-shared our streambank repairs in 2006 and again in 2008 admit they did not understand how to prevent future damage.  Together we figured it out and are working to improve the landscape before the next substantial weather event.  We removed all trees that impeded water movement.  We left single trees of apple, walnut and majestic shade trees and a few black locust to use for future wood and fence posts.  We made sure there are no two trees left side-by-side that could catch drifting logs and create a dam effect.  The concept is to let flood water easily spread rather than forcing a bank to wash out or overflow into our fields.  The result is actually attractive.  Our neighbors say it looks like a park!  It will now grow more soil protecting grass for our cows to eat instead of the willow thickets and junk trees that blocked water movement previously.

One of our other challenges is that we have to put the topsoil back where it washed out.  We have a plan, but it depends on dry weather!  We have a forecast for several dry, windy days this week, and maybe more.  But HVF doesn’t operate on maybe!  We are full out harvesting the roots that we need for fall and planting a rye cover crop on the fields as soon as we can to provide for winter protection.  We have our garlic seed cracked and ready to plant.  Please, please, just a few more days of dry weather to get it in!   A few more days to plant horseradish and sunchokes would be appreciated.  And at the same time our root harvest progresses even though a bit muddy, less than ideal, but if we can, go for it.  Most carrots are in, celeriac is smaller than we like, but in.  Cabbages are in and look great.  Brussels sprouts now sweetened by several frosts are limited but yet to harvest.

We’re hoping to finish harvesting beets tomorrow (Wednesday) and will then move on to more parsnip, burdock, turnip, beauty heart radish and a very nice crop of the very large kohlrabi for December boxes.  We still have hopes for some more spinach and a long shot gamble on other greens that would only make it if we had a nice, warm “Indian summer.”

We’re doing the best we can in less than ideal conditions.  Despite the challenges, we’re still bringing in some beautiful vegetables!  We still have five more CSA deliveries after this week and we’re confident these boxes will continue to be filled with beautiful vegetables.  We’ll continue to make the most of each day and do our best to finish the season strong.  Our guys are anxious to return to Mexico to see their families, but we need to get our fall work finished first.  Keep your fingers crossed that we get those dry days we need! 

October 18, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Green Savoy Cabbage

Cooking With This Week's Box

Garlic: Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata or Toasted Walnut Sauce (see below); Smoky Squash Chili with Quinoa, Pinto & Black BeansCharred Broccoli & Tofu Stuffed Avocados with Sweet Curry Lemon Sauce    

Broccoli Romanesco or Cauliflower: Curried Cauliflower Pizza

Baby ArugulaPear Vinagrette or a fruity Apple Vinaigrette

Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato Skillet Hash

Russet Potatoes:  Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream (see below)

Green Savoy Cabbage:  Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream (see below);  Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata or Toasted Walnut Sauce (see below) 

Here we are, almost at the end of October!  The past week has been a chilly one which makes me really ready to fully transition to fall and winter cooking.  Lets kick off this week’s discussion with a super-simple recipe for Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream (see below).  Deborah Madison is well-known for simple, vegetable-centric recipes.  This soup is no exception.  From beginning to end it only took me 35 minutes to prep all the vegetables and simmer the soup.  No blenders, no complicated steps and very limited ingredients.  This is nothing fancy, but it’s nourishing and delicious.  I followed Deborah’s suggestion to garnish it with a dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped parsley.  You could grate Parmesan cheese on top or you could add a can of cannellini beans to the soup if you wanted to add a little more protein or body.  We enjoyed this warm soup with a piece of rustic bread and a light salad made with our salad mix tossed with vinegar and oil.
The other cabbage recipe we’re featuring this week is a combination of recipes from Andrea Bemis’s book, Dishing up the Dirt, and Sarah Britton’s book, Naturally Nourished.  Andrea has a delicious recipe for Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata (see below).  This is another very easy recipe that doesn’t take much time to prepare, you just have to be patient while the cabbage roasts.  If you don’t care for the Bacon Gremolata, try Sarah’s Toasted Walnut Sauce (see below).  Sarah has a similar recipe for charred cabbage in her book and garnishes the cabbage with this sauce which I think is a great vegan option for the roasted cabbage recipe.  This dish could stand on its own for any meal of the day if you served it with a piece of toast and a fried egg, or you could serve it in a smaller portion as a side dish.

Carrot Corn Muffins
Photo from Creative Culinary
It’s chili season!  This recipe just popped into my inbox, Smoky Squash Chili with Quinoa, Pinto & Black Beans.  This is a hearty vegan chili that uses the sweet, rich honeynut butternut squash for a bit of sweetness.  The smokiness comes from chipotle adobo sauce and fire-roasted canned tomatoes.  This will be delicious served with chunks of fresh avocado, which we conveniently have in this week’s fruit share!  I’m going to add a few slices of fresh lime as well (also in our fruit share) and serve it with these Carrot Corn Muffins.

While I was poking around on The First Mess blog after reading the post about the Squash Chili recipe, I came across this recipe for Charred Broccoli & Tofu Stuffed Avocados with Sweet Curry Lemon Sauce.  This sounds like a delicious, flavorful recipe to make with some of the last broccoli of the season paired with avocados from the fruit share.  If you don’t care for tofu, consider substituting tempeh or even chicken if you prefer.  This recipe also calls for fresh apricots, which are not available now.  I’m going to substitute chunks of fresh Jonagold apples instead.

Any time you can incorporate vegetables into your breakfast, you earn an automatic win for the day.  Check out this simple, yet flavorful recipe for Sweet Potato Skillet Hash.  This recipe is from Sarah Britton.  While most of her recipes are vegan, she does on occasion incorporate organic free-range eggs, which is the case with this recipe.  This is a hearty way to start the day or have it for weekend brunch and make a little extra that you can quickly heat up for breakfast on Monday morning.

Curried Cauliflower Pizza
Photo from Naturally Ella
You know I like a good, unique pizza!  This week lets try this Curried Cauliflower Pizza!  I can’t say that I’ve ever had pizza with cauliflower on it, but I made one earlier this year with salad turnips so why not try this one!  Of course you could also use the Broccoli Romanesco for this recipe as well.

Throughout the week round out your meals with a simple side salad using the Baby Arugula in this week’s box.  Make a simple homemade vinaigrette to have on hand so you have something quick and easy to use to dress your greens with.  Perhaps a sweet and tangy Pear Vinaigrette or a fruity Apple Vinaigrette.

Enjoy your cooking adventures this week and get ready for more hearty cold-weather fare next week.  While we enjoy our final days of fresh greens, we’ll start to transition to more root crops to go along with our sweet potatoes and winter squash.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Green Savoy Cabbage

Green Savoy Cabbage vs Red Cabbage
This week we’re featuring one of our favorite fall & winter greens, green savoy cabbage.  While many growers choose to grow “kraut cabbage” which is the standard smooth, green cabbage, we choose to grow savoy cabbage.  The term savoy refers to the ruffled leaves which we think are beautiful!  We also like this type of cabbage because it has more texture when eaten raw or cooked.  In addition to green savoy cabbage, we have a red savoy cabbage variety as well.  Despite the fact that this is a great variety, both beautiful and has long storage potential, the seed producers have chosen to discontinue seed production.  This will be our last year to grow and deliver red savoy cabbages as we have planted out the remainder of the seed we had in storage and cannot get any more.  We’ll be delivering red savoy cabbage in late November or December.

Cabbage has long been known as a staple vegetable necessary for surviving a long winter in cold climates.  It stores well and has a wide variety of uses.  Additionally, cabbage is packed with nutrients including vitamins C and K, fiber B6 as well as antioxidants.  When it’s too cold to harvest other greens, we can rely on cabbage to get us through until spring!
Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken
Green savoy cabbage may be eaten raw or cooked.  In the raw form, use this cabbage to make a traditional creamy cole slaw along with carrots and/or other root vegetables such as celeriac.  You can also use this cabbage to create some main dish salads such as this recipe for Thai-Style Slaw with (or without) Chicken which was featured in one of last year’s newsletters.  You can also use this cabbage to make a quick pickled salad or shred it, salt it and turn it into a simple slaw to eat with tacos.

Green savoy cabbage may also be cooked.  You can add it to soup, such as in this week’s newsletter or use it to make Beet Borscht.  I also like to use this cabbage in stir-fries over the winter.  Combine it with beauty heart radishes, thinly sliced turnips, carrots and onions to make a delicious winter vegetable stir-fry served with rice.  I also like to use cabbage throughout the fall and winter to make Farmer Skillet.  The recipe on our website is for a Summer Farmer Skillet, but you can use this concept to make a winter version of this using root vegetables with thinly sliced cabbage as the green on top.

Store your cabbage in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.  If you don’t need to use the whole head at one time, just trim off the portion you need and put the remainder back in the refrigerator.  If your cabbage starts to get soft or a little dehydrated, don’t throw it out!  It’s still good and is perfectly usable for making soup or any other dish where you’ll be cooking the cabbage.

Green Cabbage Soup with Potatoes and Sour Cream

Yield: 7 to 8 cups

5-6 cups green savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
2 to 3 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cups sliced leek or diced yellow onion 
2 cups diced potato (russet potatoes are preferred) 
1 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly grounded black pepper, to taste
Sour cream or yogurt, for serving
Minced parsley or dill, for serving
  1. Melt the butter in a soup pot.  Add the leek or onion and potato, give them a stir, and cook for a minute or two, then add the cabbage and 1 tsp salt.  Pour over 5 cups water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, cover, for 20 minutes or until the potato is tender. 
  2. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper.
  3. Ladle the soup in to bowls, then add to each a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and a final grinding of pepper.

  • Add 5 juniper berries and 2 tsp finely chopped rosemary to the leek/onion and potato.  Serve the soup with an extra pinch of rosemary.
  • Reduce the water by ½ cup and at the end replace the sour cream with crème fraiche or cream.

Recipe adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, by Deborah Madison.

Roasted Cabbage with Bacon Gremolata Or Toasted Walnut Sauce

We’re offering two suggestions for serving this roasted cabbage.  If you enjoy meat, try the Bacon Gremolata with Parmesan cheese.  If you’re looking for something a little lighter and/or a vegetarian option, try the Toasted Walnut Sauce.—Chef Andrea

Yield: 4 servings

1 medium-sized head of cabbage, sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick rounds
2 Tbsp olive oil
Bacon Gremolata and Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese or Toasted Walnut Sauce (see below)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Brush both sides of the cabbage rounds with olive oil.  Place them on a baking sheet and roast until they are tender and browned on all sides, 35 to 45 minutes.  Toss halfway through cooking.
  2. To serve, sprinkle the roasted cabbage with the gremolata and Parmesan or drizzle with Toasted Walnut Sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe from Dishing up the Dirt, By Andrea Bemis.

Bacon Gremolata

4 strips good-quality thick-cut bacon
¾ cup roasted unsalted almonds
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until it is slightly crispy on both sides.  Transfer the bacon to paper-towel-lined plates to drain, and when it’s cool enough to handle, chop it into small pieces.
  2. Finely shop the almonds into small pieces.  Add the chopped nuts to a bowl, along with the bacon crumbles, minced parsley, lemon zest, and pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Recipe from Dishing up the Dirt, By Andrea Bemis.

Toasted Walnut Sauce

Yield: Approximately 1 cup

1 cup raw, unsalted walnuts
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp pure maple syrup or raw honey
2 generous pinches of fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Toast until they are golden and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes, watching them carefully so they do not burn.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  3. Add the toasted walnuts, garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup to a blender.  Blend on high, adding 1 cup of water to thin the dressing as needed—you are looking for the consistency of melted ice cream.  Season with salt.  Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Recipe from Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sweet Potato 2018

By Farmer Richard

Sweet Potato Harvest, 2017
Every year is different.  How was this year’s crop?  Well, considering we had a cold, wet spring followed by a wet late summer which continued into fall, what would you expect for a tropical, hot and dry loving plant?  Maybe a crop failure?  Surprise!  From the 16,000 slips, planted on 1.5 acres of sandy river bottom ground we brought in a surprising 33,300 pounds of very nice sweet potatoes!  Less than the average yield from North Carolina or California, the leading sweet potato producers in the US, but our unique production system of planting into raised beds covered with green plastic really surprised us!  Even though it was far too wet when we harvested them the excess water had drained off between the beds, so under the raised plastic beds, the soil was only moist and the sweet potatoes had happily produced a nice “banana bunch” like cluster.  We only used our buried irrigation lines to deliver a bit of fertilizer and a new organic product to deter the worms that had previously produced deep holes in the developing sweet potatoes.  Well, something worked!  You’ll notice there are almost no holes this year!  Thanks to Kyle’s feedback (Madison CSA member) about the holes on some of our sweet potatoes last year, we tried to address the problem and appear to have succeeded!  We listen, we try. 

Last year we did a more extensive trial of new varieties and asked for feedback on your favorites.  Based on last year’s trials and your feedback, we chose two varieties, “Burgundy” and “Covington,” both available from our certified organic friends at New Sprout Farms.  We also added a small amount of the Japanese white fleshed variety “Murasaki” on Andrea’s insistence.  They produced only ⅓ of the volume of the best two, but they are so “unbelievably sweet” even before they were cured.  Despite the meager yield, this is by far the best yield we’ve ever seen on this potato and they actually produced sizeable potatoes this year!  We hope to pack a few in your boxes this fall.

Sweet potatoes "curing."
After last year’s variety trials, which you can read about on our blog, we find that our refractometer reading for “Brix” does not always reflect the eating experience.  The fact that different varieties have different levels of the 3 sugars, sucrose, fructose, and maltose actually plays into the eating experience.  The Brix measurement we get only reflects overall sugars, but does not give us an indicator of the overall sensation of sweetness.  So while we do still measure brix levels, we’re really left with just cooking them and eating them to see how they taste!  We did “cure” them for a full 10 days at 85°F and 90% humidity.  We burned up a bunch of wood and some propane in the process, but we think it was worth the wait!

Look forward to an abundance of sweet potatoes in all remaining boxes and feel free to order extras for winter.  We’ll offer them as a produce plus item before Thanksgiving and again in December.  We plan to eat them until spring.  Of course, we always appreciate your feedback, so let us know what you think! 

One little side note in closing, our sweet Captain Jack, “The Dog,” has developed a very strong liking for dried sweet potato slices when we tried to find healthy chew treats for him.  So with Jack as tester, I have developed the precise method of slicing, baking, and drying for a shelf stable, healthy organic treat for special dog friends.  Of course, made from the “not so pretty” sweet potatoes, but just a tasty.  If you have a four-legged friend that might be interested in trying these, watch for this offering from me & Captain Jack later in the season.

October 11, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Potatoes

Cooking With This Week's Box

Yellow & Red Onions: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below); Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below); Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo SalsaSheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli; Mizuna Quinoa Salad with Lemon Scallion Vinaigrette

Garlic: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below)

Broccoli or Broccoli Romanesco: Sheet Pan Chicken &Broccoli  

White or Yellow Cauliflower: Cauliflower Tots

Sugar Dumpling Squash: Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
Honeynut Butternut Squash: Chai Spiced Bread

Baby Spinach: Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)  

Salad Mix: Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)
Burgundy Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below); Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below)

The moment we’ve all been waiting for…SWEET POTATOES!  After we lost our entire crop two years ago, we all hold our breath until we know for sure the sweet potatoes are harvested and stored away safely in our greenhouse.  If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read Farmer Richard’s article this week.  We have a great crop this year and we’re excited to start sharing them with you this week.  Our featured recipes this week give you two options to start your sweet potato cooking season.  The first is a delicious, and simple, recipe for Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup (see below).  In this recipe you roast the sweet potatoes before adding them to the soup which adds a little extra layer of sweetness and flavor.  The other recipe is for Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad (see below).  I think this is a great recipe for this week with our fall spinach or salad mix.  You could even add a little crumbled bacon if you like. 

Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
photo from Smitten Kitchen
I continue to collect winter squash recipes and appreciate this recipe for Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa that was shared by a member in our Facebook Group.  Of course we don’t grow acorn squash, but you can use the sweet and delicious sugar dumpling squash in this week’s box in place of it.  This is a perfect recipe this week to wrap up our season with peppers and tomatillos.  You can use both in this recipe along with a jalapeno or the Korean chili peppers. 

The other winter squash selection in this week’s box is the beloved little honeynut butternut squash.  This is another one of our sweet specialty squash varieties that is really quite good just baked and enjoyed with a little salt and a pat of butter.  Of course, you could bake it and use the flesh to make this delicious Chai Spiced Bread, a recipe that a member shared with us several years ago.  I’m warning you…it’s delicious!
I’ve really been enjoying the carrots this summer and fall and I think the thing I appreciate the most about them is how easy it is to prepare a delicious, simple dish because the carrots themselves are so good!  This week I am into roasting and want to try this recipe for Honey-Maple Roasted Carrots.  Enjoy these as a simple side dish to make a meal as simple as a seared pork chop, the carrots and a salad made with this week’s salad mix.

Sheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli
photo from Overtime Cook
I’ve seen recipes for Cauliflower “tater” tots before, but they always seem complicated. This recipe for Cauliflower Tots actually seems pretty manageable, so I’m going to give them a try this week!  Serve these with a burger or grilled cheese sandwich for an All-American meal!  As for this week’s broccoli or broccoli Romanesco, these will be used to make a simple dinner of Sheet Pan Chicken & Broccoli.  Serve this with steamed rice for an easy dinner.

This is the time of year when some of our Asian greens that are a little spicy taste the best.  This week’s boxes include mizuna, either green or red.  Check out Early Morning Farm’s list of 7 Ways to Use Mizuna including this recipe for Mizuna Quinoa Salad with Lemon Scallion Vinaigrette.  Of course we don’t have scallions now, but red onions would work as well. 

What should we do with the last of the sweet peppers?  Check out The Food Network’s “10 Ways to Use Sweet Mini Peppers”
and you’ll find tasty recipes including one for Sweet Pepper Poppers!

We did it!  Another week of delicious, nutritious and tasty meals.  Do you ever just stop to consider how many different vegetables you’ve consumed over the course of the season?  This is our 24th week of deliveries.  If anyone goes back and counts how many different things we’ve had to cook with, please let me know what number you come up with!  We still have more delicious vegetable tricks up our sleeves as we finish out the season.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Potatoes

This week we’re excited to be packing sweet potatoes in your boxes!  Sweet potatoes, which are actually a tropical vegetable, are an important part of our fall and winter diets.  If stored properly you can eat sweet potatoes all winter! The ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes is 55-65°F.  They can get chill injury if stored at temperatures below 55°F, so if you don’t have the perfect location to store them at their ideal temperature, it’s better to store them on your countertop in your kitchen instead of putting them in the refrigerator.

Straight out of the field, our sweet potatoes tasted pretty good, but not good enough to eat.  That’s right, we have a rule around here that you don’t really eat sweet potatoes for at least two weeks after they are harvested.  When they are first harvested the potatoes are starchy, not very sweet or tasty, and the skins are very tender requiring careful handling.  Sweet potatoes aren’t truly sweet potatoes until we “cure them.”  Curing is a process by which we hold the sweet potatoes at high heat and high humidity for 7-10 days, basically it’s kind of like a sauna for sweet potatoes!  During this time the starches in the potatoes are converted to sugars and the skins become more stable for long term storage. 

Sweet potatoes are less starchy and more sweet and moist than a regular potato and have a wide variety of uses.  You can simply bake them whole until fork tender and eat the flesh right out of the skin.  They are also delicious cut into bite-sized pieces and roasted or cut them into wedges or thin slices and make roasted fries or chips.  If you’re going to do this, it’s best to put the wedges or slices of sweet potatoes on a rack in a pan.  If you do this, the air and heat from the oven can better circulate on all sides of the sweet potato making it more crispy and less soggy.  Sweet potatoes also make delicious, hearty soups and stews, may be added to chili, shredded and fried like hash browns, or just simply cook and mash or puree them. 

Sweet potatoes can also be incorporated into baking.  Sweet potato pie is a decadent way to eat a vegetable.  If you’re going to make pie, consider this Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping featured at  It’s delicious served with Bourbon Whipped Cream.  You can also use sweet potatoes to make biscuits, rolls, quick breads, cookies, bars, cheesecake and more! 

Sweet potatoes pair well with a wide variety of ingredients, which makes them so versatile in their use.  They pair very well with apples and pears as well as other root vegetables, bitter fall greens, dried beans and greens such as kales.  They also go very well with coconut, ginger, chiles, butter, cream, citrus and nuts of any kind.

If you haven’t read Farmer Richard’s main article for this week, please take a minute to do so as it will help you understand more about what it takes to actually grow this tropical vegetable in a northern climate! 

Roasted Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

Yield: 6 side salads

Roasted Vegetables:
2 cups ½ inch cubed sweet potato
2 cups ½ inch cubed red onion
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh sage
1 tsp kosher salt
A couple cracks of black pepper

Crushed Croutons:
1 Tbsp salted butter
½ cup panko

1 ½ Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp pure maple syrup
Pinch of kosher salt
A couple cracks of black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil

5 oz spinach (or substitute salad mix)
½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
¼ cup dried cranberries or tart cherries
¼ cup goat cheese or crumbled feta
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  1. Prepare the roasted vegetables.  Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the prepared potatoes and onion on the baking sheet.  Add all the remaining roasted vegetable ingredients to the pan; toss to coat.   Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly charred, stirring halfway through.
  2. Make the crushed croutons.  In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the panko and toast until golden, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing.  In a serving bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until emulsified (until the oil and vinegar become one).  This can be made 3 weeks in advance and stored at room temperature.
  4. Assemble the salad.  Add all the greens ingredients into the salad bowl along with the roasted vegetables (including the crispy herbs) and crushed croutons.  Toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

Recipe borrowed from Melissa Coleman’s book, The Minimalist Kitchen.

Sweet Potato Red Lentil Coconut Curry Soup

Yield:  4 servings

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small pieces (about 5 cups)

2 ½ Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 (15-oz) can coconut milk
1 ½ Tbsp red curry paste
1 (15-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red or yellow lentils
Salt, to taste
Lime juice, to taste
Cilantro, chopped, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Toss sweet potatoes with 1 ½ Tbsp of olive oil and roast for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and tender. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Sauté the ginger, onion, and garlic in oil until softened.  Add the coconut milk, red curry paste, tomatoes and red lentils.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Add roasted sweet potatoes and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Use an immersion blender or regular blender to blend until smooth or to desired consistency.  Thin with additional water if needed.  Season with salt and the juice of one lime.  Stir to combine.  Adjust seasoning to your liking with more salt and/or lime juice as needed.
  4. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro.

Recipe adapted from Elizabeth Stein’s book, Eating Purely.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Local Thirty..30 days, 200 miles

By Andrea Yoder

For those of you who have been members with our farm for awhile and read the newsletter pretty regularly, you may already know that I first came to the farm back in 2007 as the summer farm chef.  I knew very little, much less than I realized at the time.  I came because my two favorite things to cook were fish and vegetables, the latter being the focus of my attention when I accepted the position.  I didn’t know much about what it meant to be certified organic or why I would come to value eating certified organic food, but I was eager to learn and accepted the challenge.  I don’t recall Richard every telling me that all the food I purchased and prepared for the crew had to be 100% certified organic, but it seemed a bit contradictory for it to be any other way.  So I raised the bar and strived to achieve it with each menu I planned and each purchase I made. 

Chef Andrea getting ready to process beets.
But that wasn’t the only thing I had to figure out.  There was this thing called ‘seasonal eating’ that also factored into my cooking.  It snowed the first week I was here, so there wasn’t much coming out of the fields.  No worries, there was a pallet of “extras” waiting for me in the cooler.  Carrots, sunchokes, black radishes, beets….notice I didn’t mention potatoes.  That’s right, I cooked for several months without a single potato.  As I kicked off the season, I quickly learned that I really enjoyed the challenge of seasonal cooking and worked really hard to incorporate as many of the vegetables we were growing into the meals I was preparing for the crew.  Sourcing certified organic ingredients wasn’t too hard, but it did mean that there were some ingredients that just weren’t available for me to use.  Somewhere along the way I also began to value sourcing ingredients locally.  Maybe it was the fun of trading with other vendors at the farmers’ market.  Maybe it was the experience of going over to our friends’ farm, Jim & Phyllis, to help them catch the chickens they had raised for us and then helping Elizabeth butcher them.  I valued each and every chicken that I prepared that summer and not a morsel went to waste.  Along the way Richard challenged me to take the concept of a CSA Cheese Share and turn it into a reality.  I called a lot of cheese producers, asked them a lot of questions and was finally able to narrow down the list of farmers that met our qualifications.  Of course I wanted to make sure we knew what we were distributing, so I visited each producer so I could see for myself that they were the real thing….and they were.  Over the course of time my diet and outlook on food has changed.  I can’t say that I know the origin of every single ingredient in my kitchen, but I can usually identify the majority of what we eat and I continue to challenge myself to keep searching. 

Andrea Bemis, from her website
Andrea Bemis is a vegetable farmer, along with her husband Taylor, at their small farm in Oregon.  She also has a food blog and a cookbook, both titled Dishing Up the Dirt.  I follow her blog regularly and have adapted, referenced and shared quite a few of her vegetable-centric, simple recipes over the past several years.  Earlier this year she announced a challenge that she called “The Local Thirty.”  For the month of September Andrea and Taylor challenged themselves to source all their food within 200 miles for 30 days.  She did allow herself 10 “cheat items,” partly because there are some very enjoyable foods that were part of her diet that can’t be sourced locally (like coffee and chocolate) and because the challenge wasn’t about deprivation as much as it was becoming more informed about the foods she was consuming.  She identified “three pillars” that are the most important considerations when choosing food.  These include wellness (Is it good for the body?), sustainability (Is it good for the planet?) and community (Is it good for other people?)  The closer you are to the source of your food, the more opportunity you have to know more about the people who are producing and/or distributing the food as well as the intricacies related to how it’s being produced.  At the end of her announcement about her personal challenge, she stated “For the 30 days of September I’m going to source all of my ingredients from a 200 mile radius of where I live.  I’m hoping that in doing so I will find a more grounded sense of place and a community of folks that I never knew existed.”

Well, the month of September is officially over and so is Andrea’s challenge.  I applaud her for keeping up with this project in the midst of the growing season, but she did it and managed to document her experiences intermittently on her blog as well as more frequently on Instagram.  In one post she commented "As we navigate through finding local resources for some of our favorite ingredients I'm learning that this month isn't going to be perfect. But that's okay. We are meeting so many amazing folks who are making our community a better place. And the community is reaching farther than our tiny corner of the world as I get to be a part of so many of your local journeys as well." She recently posted on her blog about her experience of getting to go tuna fishing.  In this post she commented “When I began really exploring where my food comes from, I started to realize that this is not so much about the ingredients for me anymore.  It’s about these people (most often strangers) and how little pieces of their world make up mine.”  Her comment struck me.  She’s totally right.

Our Dane County Farmers' Market crew!
There are many reasons to eat locally, we’ve all heard the lingo.  “Keep your food dollars local.”  “Know your farmer, know your food.”  If you’re curious about your food and your community, or if you really just want to have a source for the best tasting food, local is the way to go.  In this region we are so blessed with a rich supply of really great food!  If we take a little time to look around, it’s easy to find some awesome people making some really great food that is special.  Special because it’s made with care, passion and sincerity.  Special because you get to connect with the people behind it.  At our recent Harvest Party I had a conversation with a member about the beauty of an egg laid by a happy chicken on pasture.  Grocery store eggs, even most organic ones, are not the same.  She asked me “how do I get these eggs.”  My simple answer, “You need a supplier.  You have to talk to farmers, find someone who’s doing it right and get on their list.” 

When we sit down to eat, we really enjoy eating chicken from our friend Gretchen, roasted vegetables from our farm tossed with sunflower oil produced by our friends at Driftless Organics.  We enjoy Castle Rock cream from the Kostka family in our morning cup of coffee, roasted locally by our friends at Kickapoo Coffee.  I’m not trying to be high and mighty here, just agreeing with Andrea B. that it’s really cool to be able to identify where my food comes from and to think about and appreciate the people who work hard to bring it to my table.  It’s much more satisfying than opening a package from afar and not knowing much if anything about what I’m putting into my body.  If we do choose to eat food grown outside our local area, there's opportunities to source these things carefully as well.  For instance, Frog Hollow Farm in California, one of our fruit share producer partners, also makes olive oil with the olives they produce on their farm.  Marian Farms, also in California, is my source for raisins and almonds.  While these foods can't be sourced locally, I appreciate the opportunity to at least purchase them directly from the producers, especially because I have had the chance to talk to them personally and want to support what they're doing!  Food is personal, at least I think it should be.

While Andrea didn’t intend to do this in the beginning, she actually connected with some filmmaker friends who traveled with her and documented some of her experiences associated with her challenge.  She’s turning it into a documentary that will hopefully be done before the end of the year!  I look forward to hearing more about her experiences, reflections, etc.  In the meantime, I encourage each of you to take a look in your backyard and see what you can find.  You might be surprised by what you find. If you already have some sources for awesome local foods, share them with your friends and neighbors so they too can support these local producers and together we can do our best to build a strong community and a strong food system!  Of course, along the way you'll glean nourishment for your soul and some really great meals!