Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November 15, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tat Soi


Cooking With This Week's Box

Red & Yellow Onions: Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below)

Italian Garlic: Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below); Chili Lime Sweet Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese

Butterscotch Butternut Squash: Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below); Grandma Yoder's Squash PieRoasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup


Tat Soi:  Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below)

It doesn’t seem possible that we’re down to our last three CSA boxes.  Weren’t we just harvesting ramps not too long ago?  Thanksgiving will be here next week and Christmas will follow close behind.  Whether you’re looking for recipes to make for the holidays or just looking to find some tasty, seasonal recipes to try for weekly meals, this is a great time of the year to collect recipes from blogs, cooking magazines, etc.  One of my favorite sites to peruse this time of year is Food52.com.  I’ve already made a list of new recipes to try from their Food52 Thanksgiving Menu Maker.  Check it out and you’ll find a lot of really good ideas for fall and winter vegetables.
 
Ok, time to get cooking with this week’s box and first on the list is our featured vegetable, the beautiful tat soi!  If you aren’t familiar with tat soi, please take a moment to read this week’s vegetable feature article.  Tat soi is a tasty and versatile green.  This week I used it to make the featured recipe below, Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below).  This turned out to be a pretty simple dish to make and very beautiful with contrasting colors of dark green, orange and purple from the red onions.  Unlike many pasta dishes that contain dairy, this dish is not only vegetarian but also vegan.  The chopped nuts with lemon zest that are used as a garnish is a perfect finishing touch to complete the dish.  This can stand alone as dinner itself or is tasty side dish with a seared pork chop, grilled salmon or roasted chicken.

The other green in this week’s box is collards.  Farmer Richard always tells us to “eat your greens every day,” so we’re doing our best to extend greens season as long as we can!  This week I want to use them to make this recipe for Collard Greens with Lime & Peanuts.  This is a simple, tasty recipe we featured in a previous newsletter.  I like it served over rice and will sometimes add a little fish or chicken as well.

It’ll be awhile before we see those pretty little fresh red radishes again, so we turn our attention to storage radishes to get us through the winter.  This week’s box contains beauty heart radishes which are more mild and sweet than other winter radishes.  If you aren’t familiar with this radish and aren’t sure what to do with them, you might want to refer to this article in a previous newsletter from several years ago which includes a list of things you can do with a beauty heart radish.  This radish has become a staple ingredient at Richard’s family’s Thanksgiving celebrations.  We eat them as snack food when we travel during the winter---radish slices with cheese.  It has to have more antioxidants than a wheat cracker!!  You could also use this radish to make this simple, attractive salad for Winter Radishes with Sour Cream Dressing & Poppy Seeds.  This is a tasty salad to enjoy throughout the winter when you’re looking for something fresh and crunchy.

Celeriac and Apple Romoulade
Photo from Romulo Yanes, MarthaStewart.com
If you don’t already have something in mind for this week’s celeriac, consider making one or two of my favorite dishes for celeriac.  Throughout the winter we often make Celeriac and Apple Remoulade.  Basically, it’s a creamy slaw made with shredded celeriac and apples.  I also like to put fresh, chopped cranberries in it.  It is simple enough to make for a regular, weeknight dinner, but classy enough that you could use it for a holiday dinner as well.  I also like to take leftover chicken or turkey and add it to this Wild Rice & Celeriac Gratin.  Consider putting this on the menu for the week after Thanksgiving.

What are you going to do with those rosy pink shallots?  We packed these in this week’s box so you’d have something a little extra special to use for your Thanksgiving creations.  There are a lot of fun things you can do with shallots.  You could give them center-stage and make Herb-Roasted Turkey with Shallot Pan GravyIf you’re making a traditional green bean casserole, consider trading those canned onions for Crispy Fried ShallotsShallot Marmalade is another option that could add some class to a leftover turkey sandwich or serve it as an appetizer with bread and cheese throughout the holiday season.  Lastly, this Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup offers a more reserved and simple option that is simply delicious.

Lets move on and tackle the orange vegetables in this week’s box starting with the carrots which are large, crispy, sweet and delicious!  If you’re into spiralizing, these might be a good carrot to sprialize into a salad.  This week I want to use these big carrots to make Carrot Fries.  These will go great with grilled cheese or a cheeseburger.  I also want to make these Apple and Carrot “Superhero” Muffins featuring oatmeal and almond meal.  The blog this recipe comes from also includes options for using whole wheat flour in place of the almond meal. Serve these for breakfast or brunch.

Sweet Potato Flan, photo from food52
Last year I made Deborah Madison’s Sweet Potato Flan and it’s on the list to make again within the next two weeks!  While it’s intended to be a decadent dessert, I also like eating it for breakfast!  Bake it in squatty half-pint canning jars so you can put a lid on it and send it in the kids’ lunch…like pudding.  Earlier this week I came across this recipe for Chili Lime Sweet Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese which would be great for Thanksgiving or just a regular weeknight!

I’ve already suggested a few uses for the last orange vegetable in the box, butternut squash.  If you aren’t feeling like Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup or Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi (see below), may I make my annual suggestion to try my Grandma Yoder’s Squash Pie.  I think about Grandma a lot this time of year and am thankful she shared this and many other family recipes with me that our family continues to enjoy.

We have reached the bottom of the box, so all that’s left is to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!  We’ve been very blessed this year to have the opportunity to be your farmers and I’ve enjoyed sharing recipes and cooking ideas with you each week.  I hope you’ve found nourishment for your bodies as well as your souls throughout the season.  Please meet me back here again in two weeks as we roll into the home stretch of the 2018 CSA Season with our final two deliveries.  Happy Thanksgiving—Chef Andrea 

Featured Vegetable: Tat Soi

Tat soi is one of my favorite fall vegetables.  This is a gorgeous vegetable, but it’s also delicious and packed with nutrients.  You’ll recognize the tat soi in your box this week as the large, dark green flower-like vegetable with long slender light green stems and rounded spoon-like leaves.  Tat soi is a relative of bok choi and has a mild mustard flavor that has been sweetened by a few frosty nights.  Both the leaves and the stems are tender and may be eaten raw or cooked. 

Tat soi is one of the last greens we plant during the season with the intention to harvest it from the field as late as possible—early to mid-November.  As the temperatures start to decrease, the plant lays itself flat to hug the ground for warmth.  The result is a very open, flat rosette that has a deep, dark green color that intensifies with cold weather.  Tat soi is very resilient to cold temperatures and can recover after being frozen.  We did put hoops and a field cover over them to offer them some protection from the really cold nights.  If you see some outer leaves on your tat soi that have a white to grayish hue, you’re looking at a little frost damage.  You might also see some stems that have kind of a wrinkled, loose appearance.  This happens sometimes when the stem freezes and then thaws.  These stems and leaves are still good to eat and those frosty, cold nights are what make this green taste so mild and sweet!  We hope you’ll be forgiving of a few frosted leaves as you appreciate the beauty and taste of this late season vegetable.

Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch
Try this salad with the Tat Soi in place of Bok Choi!
If you’re looking for recipes that use tat soi, you’re search will likely turn up pretty slim.  Expand your search to include recipes that feature bok choi, spinach or even chard and you can use the tat soi in place of these greens.  Tat soi leaves and stems are tender enough to be chopped and eaten raw as a salad.  You can make a beautiful winter salad with tat soi, shredded carrot, slices of beauty heart radish and a light sesame-soy vinaigrette or even just a simple lemon vinaigrette.  I like to make a simple salad like this and turn it into an entrée by adding seared flank steak or grilled salmon and some chopped toasted almonds or sesame seeds.  Tat soi is also tasty used in stir-fries or wilted into brothy soups such as miso soup or hot and sour soup.  In a previous newsletter we featured recipes for Tat Soi & Chicken Stir Fry and Pan-Seared Sesame & Garlic Marinated Tofu with Wilted Tat Soi.  While I have a tendency to gravitate towards Asian ingredients and flavors when cooking tat soi, it also goes well with other flavors such as fennel, chiles and lemon as in the recipe for Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash and Tat Soi (see below) featured in this week’s newsletter.  We have two recipes in our archives that have been very popular amongst our members and were written to feature bok choi.  You can use this week’s tat soi in place of bok choi in this recipe for Spicy Ginger Pork Noodles with Bok Choi or this recipe for Bok Choi Salad with Sesame Almond Crunch.

To prepare tat soi for use, turn it over with the bottom facing up and carefully trim each stem from the base.  Wash the stems and leaves vigorously in a sink of clean, cold water.  Remember, tat soi lives very close to the ground so there is often dirt on the stems at the base of the plant.  Once the leaves and stems are clean, spin them dry in a salad spinner or loosely wrap them in a large kitchen towel and shake them to remove excess water.  If you are cooking the greens, it is a good idea to trim the stems from the leaves and put them in the pan first to give them a 1-2 minute head start before you add the leafy portion.  To store your tat soi, place it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. 

Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash & Tat Soi

Yield:  3-4 servings

2 ½ to 3 cups butternut squash, medium diced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
¾ cup red wine
1 tsp fennel seeds
¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups thinly sliced tat soi leaves & stems
8 oz dried spaghetti
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Juice and zest of one lemon
½ cup toasted walnuts or almonds, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Put diced butternut squash in a mixing bowl and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  You want just enough to lightly coat all pieces.  Season with salt and pepper and spread the squash in a single layer on a baking pan.  Roast for 40-50 minutes or until the squash is tender and golden.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the finely chopped nuts along with ½ tsp salt and the zest of one lemon.  The lemon zest is best done on a microplane so it is very fine.  Alternatively, chop the zest finely with a knife.  Set the nut mixture aside to use as a garnish when serving this dish.
  3. Next, put on a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook spaghetti until al dente.  Before draining the spaghetti, remove one cup of the pasta water and set it aside.  Drain pasta and set aside. 
  4. While the squash is roasting and the spaghetti is cooking, heat 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil in a medium to large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and sauté lightly until they are softened and starting to caramelize.  If they start to brown, reduce the heat.  This will take about 15-20 minutes. 
  5. Once the onions are caramelized, add the red wine, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.  Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. 
  6. Add the roasted butternut squash and tat soi to the pan.  Place the cooked spaghetti on top and stir to combine all of the ingredients.  Add some of the pasta water and continue to cook over medium heat until the tat soi is wilted and tender.
  7. Season with salt and pepper and add 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice.  Add a little more pasta water if necessary and simmer for another 4-5 minutes.  Taste and further adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or more lemon juice.
  8. Serve the pasta warm and topped with the mixture of toasted walnuts/almonds and lemon zest. 
Recipe by Chef Andrea Yoder

WHAT’S IT WORTH?

The article that follows was written by Shizue, Content Coordinator at Kickapoo Coffee Roasters.  In last week’s coffee newsletter, Shizue shared a glimpse into how pricing works in the coffee industry, connecting issues associated with commodity pricing to the impacts a volatile market have on the coffee producers.   We invited her to share a slightly expanded version of this article with our broader membership as her article represents issues in our food system that apply to all of us, whether you are a coffee drinker or not.  Commodity pricing plays a role in agriculture, perhaps more than any of us may realize.  Anything from raisins to chocolate, coffee to potatoes, avocadoes to lettuce, milk, and the list goes on.  As a farmer with fixed costs and family members to feed, working off of a volatile commodity market is less than reassuring and in many cases proves to be less than sustainable.  When prices are based on perceived values and market demands instead of the true cost of production, it often leaves producers holding all the risk.

In this article, Shizue poses the basic question “How do we value our producers?”  We encourage everyone to be an informed consumer and eater.  The system will only change when we as consumers demand the change.  How we value our producers—both those growing and producing in our local markets as well as those more distant from us who grow products we consume are important.  The fact that many producers around the world are forced to sell to a market at a loss for their hard work is heartbreaking.  Are we willing to pay the price our producers need to stay in the game and live a sustainable life?  We’re not talking about their ability to build extravagant homes, take vacations and drive expensive cars.  We’re talking about making sure the return they get for the product they produce is enough for them to continue to farm in another year, feed their families and provide for their basic needs, and hopefully have a little bit left over so they can invest in their future.  The reality is, if we don’t support our community of growers, we will continue to lose more small farmers.  We hope you’ll take a moment to read this article and want to thank you for being part of a more sustainable food system!—Farmers Richard & Andrea

WHAT’S IT WORTH?
By:  Shizue Roche Adachi, Kickapoo Coffee Roasters

A coffee farmer walks his fields in Peru.
On August 20th, the international price for green coffee (C-Price) plummeted to less than 97 cents per pound, the lowest it’s been in 12 years. And it’s not bouncing back. With an average cost of production hovering around $1.04 per pound, the market is now paying most farmers less than it costs to grow, cultivate, and process their coffee. Coffee farmers are already the least economically empowered players in the coffee supply chain, and now they are being asked to carry the financial burden of a system that’s failed them.

So, how did we get here? Like many industries, the true economy of coffee has been manipulated by speculation. Composed of a relatively small group of individuals, the financial sector holds an immense amount of economic power over the market. And they wield that power for their benefit, profiting off of a volatile commodity price while producers face uncertainty and instability.

At its foundation, the coffee industry is made up of an intricate web of relationships that tether coffee farmers and farmworkers to millers, roasters, exporters and retailers, and ultimately to coffee consumers worldwide. But the needs and interests of this interconnected community have been drowned out by those of speculators, traders, and investors. The C-Price, as with any commodity, dips and jumps in relationship to perceived value. It bears no responsibility to the true value of a coffee bean. And this is why our farmers can grow coffee in good faith, only to have to sell to the market at a loss. The market is not invested in the long-term sustainability and success of the coffee industry. It is interested in short term profits.

In an article published by the Specialty Coffee Association, the SCA’s Chief Sustainability Officer posited that we may lose half of our coffee farmers by 2030, forced out of livelihood that may have supported multiple generations before them. This loss is not only threatens the world’s coffee supply, it threatens the welfare of coffee producers around the world and the future of coffee farming as we know it.

While explaining the fluctuations in the C-Market demands a fuller explanation than can be captured here, what it really comes down to is a question of how we value producers. This is what happens when the market isn't held accountable to farmers. This is what happens when the industry confuses opportunities for quick profits with good business. This is what happens when we fail our producers and take their livelihoods for granted. And this is when Kickapoo Coffee's commitment to #RaisetheBar by setting a minimum price to farmers irrespective of the C-Price holds real weight.

In 2017, Kickapoo Coffee announced a guaranteed minimum price of $2.75 per pound to our farmers. This baseline commitment creates the economic security for farmers to see a future in coffee. And now, even though the C-Market price has fallen, we’re raising our minimum. This year, we’ll be writing contracts with a minimum price of $2.85 per pound.

While we can never rid ourselves of the commodity market, the specialty coffee industry can divorce itself from this degrading pricing model. Specialty coffee depends upon the producers who dedicate themselves to furthering their craft and exceeding market standards. And yet most industry players continue to base their prices on the commodity market.

This expectation to follow the commodity market is like expecting a local farmer selling heirloom varieties of popcorn to determine their price per pound according to the price of corn harvested for livestock feed. Or like asking an artisan chocolate maker to price their truffles based on the price of the Hershey’s bar at the gas station. Not only is this a ridiculous expectation, it’s a degrading one, with significant financial repercussions to those least empowered in the trade of coffee: the smallholder farmer.

The market won't change until we make it. Someone, somewhere, is always paying the true cost. So let’s put people above profits and give our farmers the dignity of a living wage.

To learn more about our minimum price guarantee to farmers and our campaign to #RaisetheBar, check out our website at kickapoocoffee.com.

Kickapoo Coffee co-owner, Caleb Nicholes, visits with a
member of the Adenisa Association in 2018.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Research Update: Organic Food Consumption and Cancer Risk


By Andrea Yoder

Last week a research paper entitled “Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption with CancerRisk:  Findings from the NutriNet-SantéProspective Cohort Study” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  This paper was written by a group of researchers in France.  The research presented in this article is part of a large-scale prospective web-based study that was launched in 2009 and is ongoing. The purpose of this large-scale study is to “study associations between nutrition and health, as well as the determinants of dietary behaviors and nutritional status.”  The volunteers in this study were recruited from the general French population and participate in the study by completing online self-administrated questionnaires.

The purpose of this portion of the study was to “prospectively examine the association between consumption frequency of organic foods….and cancer risk” in the participants.  This is the first research study of this type to be done prospectively.  The authors acknowledge that cancer rates worldwide continue to rise and are one of the leading causes of mortality in France.  Environmental exposure to toxic chemicals is considered by some to be a risk factor for cancer, however the focus of exposure in this context is most often related to occupational exposure.  However, there is a growing body of evidence linking cancer development to pesticide exposure and there is now some published research documenting pesticide residue levels in food as well as urinary markers of pesticides in humans.  What is not well documented is how the dose and/or effect of chemical cocktails impact cancer development in humans.  Thus, the purpose of this study was to observe the correlation between eating organic food and the development of cancers. 

If you are interested in reading this paper yourself and understanding more about the study design, population size and demographics, statistical evaluation, etc, the article is available in full text online.  For the purposes of this report, I’m going to jump to their conclusions.
 
Researchers found that participants with higher organic food scores (ie those who ate more organic food in their diet) were associated with overall heathier lifestyles with diets rich in nutrients.  They also found that those with high organic food scores had an overall lower risk of cancer.  With regards to specific types of cancer, they found that those with high organic food scores had a lower incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and all lymphomas.  No associations were observed with other cancer sites.  The researchers commented that “Epidemiological research investigating the link between organic food consumption and cancer risk is scarce, and, to the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first to evaluate frequency of organic food consumption associated with cancer risk using detailed information on exposure.”  They also comment that “While there is a growing body of evidence supporting a role of occupational exposure to pesticides for various health outcomes and specifically for cancer development, there have been few large-scale studies conducted in the general population, for whom diet is the main source of pesticide exposure.  It now seems important to evaluate chronic effects of low-dose pesticide residue exposure from the diet and potential cocktail effects at the general population level.  In particular, further research is required to identify which specific factors are responsible for potential protective effects of organic food consumption on cancer risk.”

Farmer Richard with some of our gorgeous, nutritious
radishes earlier this spring.
So what is the take-home message here?  It’s been eleven years since I worked as a clinical dietitian at a major medical university hospital on the east coast.  However, during my time as a clinician it was often a challenge to get the medical community I worked with to even acknowledge the major role even basic good nutrition plays in health both for disease prevention as well as healing and rehabilitation.  I recall little if any discussion of food quality, let alone discussion about the pros and cons of food produced in an organic system.  In that world, the sentiment always seemed to be that a calorie is a calorie and a carrot is a carrot.  No distinction was made between an organic carrot versus a conventional carrot.  So, for those who still question whether or not food produced without dangerous toxic chemicals has a positive impact on human health, I think it’s great that we are finally starting to discuss this topic and do the prospective research needed to fully evaluate this question from a scientific perspective.  I am also encouraged that this paper has been published in a major medical journal in this country.  I count this as progress and am hopeful that this research and these discussions will continue to move forward in a way that ultimately impacts our population in positive ways through greater knowledge and hopefully changes in dietary recommendations given by health professionals.


It’s obvious that Richard and I have a biased opinion about this topic as we have clearly chosen to produce food using organic methods.  We also seek out organic food for our own diets and believe that it is the best way to feed and nourish our bodies both by limiting exposure to potentially cancer-causing chemicals as well as providing our bodies with nutrients that help prevent cancer.  So, as always, we encourage everyone to make their own informed decisions about their food.  For this reason I hope we continue to see more research reports from well-designed studies to help us understand these issues surrounding the way our food is produced and the ultimate outcome for our health. 

November 1, 2018 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Chicories


Cooking With This Week's Box

Orange Carrots: Carrot, Beet & Apple Salad

Red & Yellow Onions: Caramelized Onion Jam

Italian Garlic: Garlic Soup


Chioggia Beets: Carrot, Beet & Apple Salad 




Escarole:  Escarole & Bean Soup (see below);  Pasta with Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Orange (see below)


This week’s box is packed full of fall goodness and while we’re moving into November, we are thankful to still have some delicious greens to enjoy!  This week we’re featuring Escarole or Radicchio.  I like bitter greens and this is by far my favorite time of year to enjoy them.  We can use the escarole to make this very simple Escarole & Bean Soup (see below) or use escarole or radicchio in this recipe for Pasta with Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Orange (see below).

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
photo from eats well with others
We all like an easy recipe or two to have on the back burner for a busy evening when you don’t have a lot of time to make dinner.  This recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos is pretty easy.  You could even roast the sweet potatoes in advance so you would just have to warm up the components and assemble the tacos.  Serve this with the Carrot, Beet & Apple Salad we featured in this week’s fruit newsletter and you have a quick, simple and very healthy option for dinner!

A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for a Butternut Apple Cranberry Sandwich.  This is a vegetarian sandwich based on slices of roasted butternut squash layered with fresh apples, dried cranberries a handful of arugula or other greens and a bit of quick pickled red cabbage.  Not only is this filling, but it’s packed with nutrients!
 
Tis the season for butternut squash, and I’ve had my eye on this Butternut Squash & Bacon Breakfast Casserole.   I love a good egg dish and would likely never have thought to put butternut squash in a dish like this!  The recipe calls for spinach, but the author suggests substituting kale instead.  Conveniently, we can use this week’s lacinato kale tops to complete this recipe!  Serve this along with Brussels Sprouts with Maple & Cayenne for a tasty brunch on the weekend.

With this week’s parsnips, I’m going to make two things.  First, this recipe for Chardonnay Braised Chicken Thighs with Parsnips which we featured in our newsletter previously.  This recipe will use about a pound of the parsnips, but you have 1 ½ pounds in this week’s box.  So, lets take the remainder, shred them and use them to make these Parsnip Muffins!  Even people who do not like parsnips usually enjoy this recipe!

photo from Wellness Mama
What are you going to do with all these onions?  Make Caramelized Onion Jam!  Make a big batch of this jam for the holidays.  Serve it on bread or crackers with goat cheese or another soft spreadable cheese of your choice.  You might also want some of this after Thanksgiving to use as a smear on bread for that after-Christmas TV Marathon.

Last, but not least, we have one head of garlic remaining in the box!  Keep yourself healthy this winter.  Use garlic in your diet every day and you’ll reap the health consequences for sure!  Check out this recipe for Garlic Soup!  We’re determined to stay healthy this winter!

Have a great week and we’ll be back in two weeks!

Thank you—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable: Chicories--Escarole & Radicchio

Escarole
As we push into the final months of the year, our Midwestern seasonal diet shifts more to hearty roots and storage vegetables and fresh greens become more sparse.  But don’t think we’re done with greens yet!  This week we’re happy to be able to include some late season, cold-hardy chicories including either escarole or radicchio.  Both of these greens are bitter, cold-hardy greens that are best suited for growing in the fall and are sturdy enough to be able to take some frosty, cold nights.  In fact, we don’t even think about harvesting them until they’ve had some chilly nights!  The flavor of these greens changes dramatically after they’ve had cold treatment.  They are bitter greens, but don’t let that deter you.  When you harvest them after a frost, you’ll find their flavor profile to be bitter, but it’s a much more mild, well-balanced and slightly sweet flavor.  We have had temperatures down into the lower twenties.  These greens do just fine uncovered when freezing temperatures are in the low 30’s and high 20’s, but they can sustain some damage when we get a hard freeze.  So, we do cover these plants to protect them from freezing too hard on those really cold nights.  We don’t want the cover to rub on the leaves, so we have to put wire hoops over the beds to keep the cover off the plants.  The deer in our valley like to eat their greens every day and when their food sources are limited, they do enjoy a nice nibble on some escarole.  While we like to support our local wildlife, we do not like to share these greens with them!  So, the crew put a tall deer fence around the perimeter of the field to protect them.

Escarole resembles a head of green leaf lettuce.  The center leaves are sometimes light green or slightly yellow and the outer leaves are more broad and a bit more thick when compared to leaf lettuce.  There are several different kinds of radicchio, but this year we grew the round type that is supposed to make a little round head, similar to a Boston lettuce.  The leaves are dark red and even the outer leaves of the plant may be eaten.  Radicchio has a pretty long growing season and some years it’s hard to get them to full size.  They are very light and small right now, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to have enough more warm, sunny days to make much of a difference in their size so we decided to harvest them while we can.

Both escarole and radicchio may be eaten raw or cooked.  If you don’t mind a little bit of the bitter taste, you will enjoy eating these greens as a salad.  Cooking mellows out the bitterness and accentuates the sweet qualities in these greens.  Both of these greens are used more in Italian cuisine.  There’s a classic preparation for escarole that some Italian cooks call Scarola Affogata, which means “smothered escarole.”  In this dish, garlic is sautéed in olive oil until golden, then chopped escarole, salt and red pepper flakes and seasoning are added to the pan.  The greens are cooked until they are soft and tender.  This is then served as side dish, or you can use the greens for another purpose, such as on top of a pizza!

Escarole and radicchio pair well with other fall vegetables and fruits such as apples, pears, persimmons, lemons, oranges, garlic, onions, beets, potatoes and butternut squash.  They are also often included in dishes with white beans and lentils.  Additionally, they pair well with hazelnuts and walnuts as well as butter, prosciutto, bacon, cheese (including blue cheese, Parmesan, and gruyere).  Escarole is often used in soup, such as in this week’s featured recipe.  Radicchio is often used in pasta dishes, on top of pizza, or raw in salads.

Store escarole and radicchio in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use.  You will need to wash the leaves as you would wash head lettuce.  We hope you enjoy these unique, late season greens and the vitality you get from eating them!

Escarole and Bean Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Author’s note:  “This is probably the fastest soup you'll ever throw together.  I sometimes add sausage to make it a little heartier.”

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 head escarole, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-ounce chunk of Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Crusty Bread, for serving
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the escarole and saute until wilted, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, beans and chunk of Parmesan cheese.  Simmer until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Ladle the soup into 6 bowls.  Drizzle 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil over each portion.  Serve with crusty bread.

Recipe borrowed from Giada de Laurentiis’ book, Giada’s Family Dinners.

Pasta with Gorgonzola, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Orange


Yield:  4 servings



1 cup chopped walnuts

Salt, to taste

8 to 12 oz pasta, such as penne or gemelli

¼ cup olive oil
10-12 oz radicchio and/or escarole, cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 oz crumbled gorgonzola or other mild blue cheese
½ cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
Zest of 1 orange, plus the juice (optional)
Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving, optional
  1. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the walnuts and toast them over medium-low heat for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently so they do not burn.  Remove and set aside.  Wipe out skillet.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt and return to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package directions.
  3. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the radicchio and/or escarole and season with salt and pepper. Cook the radicchio until it begins to wilt and brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the gorgonzola and cook for 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of the pasta water directly from the pot and simmer for 3 minutes more. The water should emulsify the cheese and create a velvety texture.
  5. Scoop the cooked pasta directly into the skillet (alternatively, drain, reserving plenty of the pasta cooking liquid) and toss to combine the pasta with the sauce. Add the walnuts and parsley and toss again until glossy, adding ¼ cup of pasta water or more (up to 1 cup), as needed to loosen up the sauce. Add the zest and toss to combine. Taste. Adjust as needed with more salt and pepper.

This recipe was borrowed from Alexandracooks.com, with recipe featured on Food52.com.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Dusk…Fall…Frost… Winter



By Chef Andrea

Kohlrabi harvest from Saturday, complete with snow.
Last weekend we had our first hard frost with temperatures dropping down into the twenties.  We also saw snow flying and on Saturday we were pelted with snow, rain and sleet as we unloaded the harvest wagons when the crews came in for lunch!  Needless to say, now that the chill is on it’s time to truly acknowledge we’re shifting seasons.  While some may scowl at the thought of winter weather, the changing of seasons is one of the beauties of living…and eating in the midwest.  As CSA members, you are probably some of the most seasonally informed eaters as we follow the cues nature gives us as we harvest and plant across the wide range of seasons we experience from spring to summer and then fall and into winter.  Nature gives us what we need, when we need it and now we’re entering into the season of the year where the daylight hours are dwindling, the temperatures are dropping, and it’s time for us to slow down and keep warm.  In The Birchwood Café Cookbook, they call the transition from summer to fall the season of “Dusk” and mark the transition to winter with the onset of the first frost.  I like the description they use: “…out in our fields, ghosts of the harvest—stalks and vines, a few errant squash—are coated with silver and glisten in the morning sun.  The sudden cold snaps our appetites into action.  Hungers surge, and we start roasting roots and cooking whole grains and working with farmstead meats.”  This description is what we woke up to Sunday morning and those “ghosts of the harvest” were evident.  Stalks and stems once vibrant and alive now with frosted, wilted leaves frozen and motionless.  Our field work is dwindling, but we’re well-stocked with plenty of delicious vegetables to sustain us through the winter.

Escarole Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Pears,
and Almonds
“Bittersweet.  That’s fall in a nutshell.  Leaves are dropping, along with the temperatures, and the lush plants bursting with life such a short time ago look all used up.  Yet after summer’s frenetic growth, I can’t help but welcome fall’s slower pace.  I’m ready to be indoors, spending a little longer by the warm stove…Vegetables that love the cold—like Brussels sprouts and braising greens—are coming into their prime, sweetened by the cold nights and occasional fall frosts that encourage sugar development.  Roots are sweeter now as well.  I do still serve some fall vegetables raw, especially those first Brussels spouts and kale leaves.  But I’m more likely now than in early months to turn up the stove and transform the vegetables with heat.”  This is an excerpt from Joshua McFadden’s book Six Seasons in which he introduces the changing of seasons and cooking in the fall.  He’s right, the slower pace of winter can be a welcomed relief.  We replace quick vegetable sautes and grilled vegetables with roasted vegetables, baked sweet potatoes and squash and slowly simmered soups and stews.  While there are still some quick preparations for roots and the like, many of these vegetables need some time to become soft, tender and for their flavors to develop.  That being said, I do encourage you to continue to enjoy some things raw.  Even though we don’t have spinach, lettuce and salad greens anymore, we can still enjoy fresh, crunchy vegetable salads.  Now is the time to get creative with cabbage slaws, shredded carrot salads, Kohlrabi and celeriac slaws and even beet salads.  We also have some hearty fall greens that are frost-tolerant, such as escarole and tat soi.  There are so many interesting ways to prepare these vegetables in their raw form.  Combine them with different flavorful oils such as hazelnut or walnut oil.  Mix them with winter fruit like apples, pears, and citrus.  Add some additional crunch with toasted squash seeds, roasted nuts, croutons or crispy shallots. 

One Pot Kabocha Squash and Chickpea Curry
With the holidays upon us, it’s also a time of the year to come together to celebrate and enjoy the company of friends and family.  Spend some time cooking and eating together.  It’s good for the soul and remember, part of this whole CSA concept is community!  I’m reminded of the beauty of community every year when we receive an invitation to the annual Verona Root Party.  This is a party hosted at the beginning of December every year for…well I’m not sure how many years but I’d guess it could be as many as 20 or more!  This is a group of CSA members who have “grown up” together, sharing in the beauty of friendships and community as they’ve helped each other raise their children, watched them grow up and move out to go to college and find their place in this world.  Every year they take the time to celebrate not only their community, but the food and relationship they have to our farm.  Their meals are delicious, creative and beautiful. 

Brussels Sprouts in the field covered in snow.
So as we move into yet another season, I hope you’ll pause to consider how fortunate we are to be able to eat through the different seasons, experiencing the best that nature has to offer us.  Our own experienced Farmer Richard has learned a lot of farming “tricks” over the years that allow us to extend the perimeters of our farming season by working with nature and being willing to try different vegetables that may not be so common.  We started off the season with ramps, sorrel and nettles and we’ll end it with Brussels sprouts, cabbage, storage kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, winter squash and a plethora of hearty roots.  These vegetables will sustain us as we move through winter and welcome the arrival of another spring….and then we’ll start the cycle all over again.  Thank you for choosing to eat seasonally.  As we finish out the final two months of CSA deliveries, we’ll be stocking your refrigerators and pantries to prepare you for the winter.  We hope you enjoy this season of fall and winter culinary creativity as you prepare delicious, hearty, nourishing meals.