Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cover Crops...Our Allies in Nutrient Management

by Richard de Wilde
Every year we are intrigued by cover crops and find ourselves wondering why more farmers don’t utilize them.  Late summer and fall is an important time of year when we start to wrap things up for the growing season, making our final passes through the fields and putting them to bed for the winter.  We remove the mulch and irrigation lines, take down tomato stakes and chop any remaining plant material (such as broccoli stalks) in the field.  Starting in mid-late summer, as soon as a crop is finished, we start this process with the goal of getting a cover crop planted as soon as possible.  We’ve been planting cover crops since August, so many fields are already covered with a lush blanket of green growth.  Cover crops are a very important part of our production system and are important for maintaining the health of our soil as well as investing in future crops we’ll take off the land.
Richard kneeling in a cover crop planting
Cover crops are an excellent example of how it pays to work in alignment with nature.  While we plant most of our cover crops in the fall, they could be planted at other times of the year in certain scenarios.  We choose cereal grains, grasses and legumes as our plants.  It’s important to understand why we plant them and what purpose they serve.  First, cover crops will out-compete any fall weeds that might germinate in a field….and we hate weeds!  There are actually some weeds that germinate and start their growth cycle in the fall. Once they are established, we have to deal with them in the spring when they start to bloom.   The more weeds we can prevent from getting established in the fall, the better it will be in the spring.   Cover crops also help hold soil in place.  Winter winds and moisture can carry precious topsoil away if there isn’t something to hold onto it.  We try to get cover crops established as soon as possible so we can maximize their growth potential and form a strong root structure to hold the soil in place and prevent erosion.

Field planted with a cover crop mix of annual rye grass,
oats, crimson clover, Japanese millet and Austrian winter peas
Another important reason for planting cover crops is to build soil health and nutrition while building a system for holding nutrients.  Cover crop plants can both synthesize and extract nutrients from their environment and then act like a sponge to take these nutrients up and hold onto them.  Through photosynthesis they are able to take carbon from the air and use it to build nutrients in the plant and soil system.  Some scientists studying climate change have theorized that if all farmers used cover crop systems, we could mitigate the problem of excess carbon and the effects of climate change.  Many nutrients in the soil are water-soluble and can be lost when they wash away with melting snow and moisture over the winter and in the spring.  If you have a plant in the soil, it will take up the nutrients and utilize or hold onto them.

This year we’ve chosen to diversify our cover crop plant mixes.  We have two different mixes.  The first mix is a combination of four different plants that have the ability to overwinter.  This means they will start to grow again in the spring time.  We plant this mix in fields that we do not plan to plant early crops in.  This mix includes hairy vetch and mammoth red clover which are both legumes.  The other two components are annual rye grass and cereal rye.  Each component of the mix has a specific purpose.  The legumes are important because they have the ability to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil.  Annual rye grass is a fast-growing, aggressive plant that can out-compete weeds.  While it’s part of the overwinter mix for this purpose, it’s actually one component that will not come back in the spring.  Cereal rye is important because it takes up the nutrients, including the nitrogen synthesized by the legumes, and acts like the sponge to hold onto them.  They release them into the soil as needed, or at the end of their life cycle when we cut the cover crop and work it back into the soil.

Austrian winter peas, rye and clover in our cover crop mix.
Our second mix contains five components that will winter-kill.  While this means that the plants will die when we get temperatures of 10°F or less, these amazing plants can and will continue to grow (slowly) up until this point.  This is yet another reason that cover crops are so amazing!  We use this mix on fields that we know we’ll need to get into early in the spring to plant some of our early crops such as parsnips, salad greens, early cabbage, kohlrabi, peas, etc.  This mix also contains the annual rye grass for its fast-growing abilities.  The nitrogen-fixing legumes in this mix include winter peas and crimson clover.  The sponges in this mix include two cereal grains, oats & Japanese millet.  While creating these mixes has added a level of complexity to the process, it also has added a higher level of diversity to our cover crop system which in turn will create a wider diversity of microbes in the soil.

Our standard operating procedure when we finish harvesting a crop is to immediately follow with the chopper to break down any remaining plant material, then do a light disking.  Next, we spread compost and then the cover crop seeds are planted.  This happens fast and the whole process can be completed in 24-36 hours!  This is very time-sensitive and every day matters because you really want to maximize the growth of the cover crop while the fall days are still warm.  Of course we need moisture in the soil to germinate the seeds, so sometimes we dance with the weather and try to time the seeding right before or after a rain.

Using cover crops is a very efficient way to hold and add nutrients to the soil.  Once the crop is planted, everything happens in place.  There is no additional need to haul or spread additional fertilizer…the plant does all the work for us!  Management, teamwork and timeliness are key components to making this all come together.

Vegetable Feature: Lemongrass

by Andrea Yoder

stalk & leaves
Lemongrass is considered an herb, and is very fragrant and aromatic.  There are three parts to lemongrass and all the parts of the lemongrass can be used; the leaves, the middle stalk and the bulb.  The bulb contains the most refreshing lemon essence and only needs to be used in small amounts. The stalk has good flavor but is not as intense as the bulb’s and the leaves have a good lemon flavor followed by more of a “greens” taste.  When using the leaves, it takes about three times more product to achieve the flavor intensity of a bulb.  You can make a bundle with the leaves and use it to flavor pasta or rice while it is cooking.  Remove and discard the bundle when finished cooking.  You can also steep the leaves in hot water to make tea.  The middle section can be cut into sections a few inches in length.  You’ll find this section to be tough but flavorful.  Add them to sautéed dishes, to marinades and to flavor soups; discard before eating.  You can also use the stalk as a skewer for cooking kabobs or chicken satay or as a stirring stick for refreshing beverages.  The bulb is the most tender portion and can be sliced into thin pieces and added to soups, salads and other entrees where it can be eaten instead of discarded.  The secret to cooking with the bulb or the stem is to pound it with the back of a knife to release the oils before using.

Lemongrass Plant

Lemongrass combines well with ginger, garlic, basil, chilies, coconut milk, cilantro, cinnamon and clove.  It is frequently used in Thai, Vietnamese, African, Indian and even Mexican cuisine.  Soups, curries, marinades and teas are more common uses, but don’t limit the use of lemongrass to just these. You can use lemongrass anywhere a refreshing, crisp lemon taste is desired.  It is often a key to making some of your own homemade curries combined with fresh chiles, ginger, etc.  Lemongrass can be stored wrapped in plastic and put in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  You can also freeze it whole or cut into smaller pieces and it can be dried for later use by hanging to air-dry or by using a food dehydrator.
Laurel with our lemongrass plantings
started in the greenhouse

While lemongrass provides great flavor, this grass also happens to be good for you!  Lemongrass is rich in a substance called citral, traditionally distilled from the leaves and stalks. Citral has shown to be helpful in aiding in the decrease of such ailments as muscle cramps and headaches, and well as aiding in digestion.  Studies have also shown that the components of the grass when boiled (in a tea for example) create multiple anti-oxidants that are believed to help prevent cancer.

Lemongrass Mojitos

Serves 2
2 lemongrass stalks
6 large fresh mint leaves
3 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp white rum
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Ice cubes
1 cup chilled club soda

  1. Cut the bottom 7 inches from each stalk of lemongrass.  Save the tops for garnish and thinly slice the stalks.  Combine sliced lemongrass, mint and sugar in a shaker; mash well with muddler or wooden spoon.  
  2. Add rum and lime juice to the lemongrass mixture; mash until all sugar dissolves.  Strain into 2 highball glasses.  Fill with ice; top with club soda.  Garnish with lemongrass tops.

Recipe originally published in Bon Appetit, November 18, 2009

Thai Larb

1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces 
½ cup coarsely chopped shallots 
2 Tbsp thinly sliced lemongrass 
2 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced 
1 small red Thai chile, thinly sliced 
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 
2 tsp fish sauce 
1 tsp kosher salt 
3 Tbsp peanut oil or canola oil, divided 
8 small iceberg lettuce leaves
Cilantro, tender leaves and stems for garnish

  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a food processor. Drizzle 1 Tbsp oil over and pulse until chicken is very finely chopped. 
  2. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp oil in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium–high heat. Add chicken mixture and sauté, breaking up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, until chicken is starting to turn golden brown and is cooked through, about 6 minutes. 
  3. Place 2 lettuce leaves on each plate. Top leaves with chicken mixture, dividing evenly. Garnish with cilantro and spoon reserved dressing over.

⅓ cup fresh lime juice 
2 Tbsp fish sauce 
2 Tbsp (packed) light brown sugar 
½ tsp Sriracha sauce 

  1. Stir all ingredients in a small bowl to blend; set dressing aside. 

Recipe originally published in Bon Appetit, July 24, 2012

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Celeriac, Leeks & Amara Greens...Shifting Gears with the Season

By Andrea Yoder
While this week has actually blessed us with beautiful warm days, last weekend was downright chilly with temperatures into the 50’s.  I finally tipped the balance of denial that summer is fading and fall is moving in.  Summer by no means marks the end of our growing season and this week we have several new items in the box.  We had a hard time deciding which one would be the featured vegetable, so we narrowed it down to three in this week’s newsletter.

The first vegetable is green top celery root.  This vegetable is also referred to as “celeriac.”  It’s in the same family as celery however celery root is cultivated for the root instead of the stalk and leaves.  The root is the portion you eat and it has a mild celery flavor.  The green tops resemble celery stalks, but they are too tough and fibrous to eat.  They do have a lot of flavor in them and can add depth to stock and broth.  The root portion is the part you’ll actually be eating.  The exterior is bumpy and has a tangle of roots on the bottom.  You need to peel away this outer layer to get to the white, dense flesh inside.  My technique is to cut the celery root into quarters using a sharp chef’s knife.  It’s easy to hold a quarter in your hand and peel it using a paring knife.

Celery root may be eaten raw or cooked.  A classic French preparation for a simple raw celery root salad is celeriac remoulade. It consists of shredded celeriac dressed with a mixture of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.  There are many variations of this recipe, but our favorite includes shredded apple, chopped cranberries and a bit of honey.  Celery root is most frequently used in soups, stews, braised meat dishes, gratins and root mashes.  It seldom takes center stage, but often plays more of a supporting role by laying the foundation for flavor and balancing out other ingredients.  It pairs well with a variety of other root vegetables, cream and cheese.


Our next featured vegetable is leeks.  They are similar to celeriac in that they are more subtle, mild in flavor and often help round out a dish instead of being the dominant flavor.  Leeks are in the onion family, but they do not have as high of sugar content and thus don’t caramelize like an onion.  Leeks are best when cooked gently over medium to low heat only to soften them.  When cooked in this manner they become smooth, buttery and silky.  They pair well with other roots, potatoes, cream, cheese, mushrooms, etc.

In the field, dirt is thrown up on the lower part of the leek. This is part of the growing practice to keep the shank of the leek white.  You may find some dirt between the inner layers.  It’s important to cut the leek in half and either wash it before you cut it any further, or cut it first and then wash it in a colander where the excess water may drain off.  The white portion of the leek is most tender.  The top portion that has more of a bluish-green color is generally thicker.  Many people discard this portion, but don’t fall into this habit- it can be used to flavor stocks, etc.
Finally, we have a new vegetable this week.  The bunching green in your box this week is called Amara.  It actually originated in Ethiopia where it is a very common green also known as Ethiopian Kale, Ethiopian Blue Mustard, Highland Kale and in Ethiopia the name is Gomenzer.  So is it a mustard or a kale?  Technically it’s classified as a mustard, but it does share some qualities of kale including a more sturdy leaf and a thicker stem than traditional mustard greens.  As far as flavor is concerned, it is a bit more similar to mustard.  When eaten raw it has the spicy peppery bite of mustard, which mellows out with cooking.  Typically the thick stems are discarded and the thin stems and leaves are eaten.

Antonio harvesting Amara Greens
I read about this vegetable a year or so ago in a culinary magazine, but this is the first time we’ve had access to the seed.  Menkir Tamrat is credited with introducing this vegetable crop to the United States just recently.  His story was told in the Fall/Winter 2011 issue of Edible Magazine for the Bay Area of California. Tamrat came to the US from Ethiopia in 1971 to go to school.  He had every intention to return to his country, however a revolution occurred in that country in 1974 and came under the rule of a Soviet-backed military ruler who used mass killings, forced deportation, and hunger in an effort to control the people.  Tamrat was not able to return to his country and stayed in the U.S.  Ethiopia was once referred to as the “breadbasket of Africa” and was able to maintain its biodiversity and stay true to the cuisine of its culture.  Tamrat found it very hard to find his traditional foods in the US and, after growing tired of trying to make substitutions, decided to start growing some of his traditional foods here.  Eventually he connected with Fred Hempel, a plant biologist and owner of a farm and nursery in California.  Tamrat got seeds from Ethiopia and, together with Hempel, they started growing them out and producing more seed.  While Ethiopian Kale was not the only crop they worked with, it was one of the crops Tamrat introduced to this continent.  I am intrigued by new crops and foods from different countries, as food is the common denominator that brings us all together as people.  Tamrat shared the recipe for preparing Ethiopian Kale in the article published in the Edible Magazine mentioned above.  It’s as close as I can get to the “real” thing.  If there are any members reading this that have more first-hand information about this country or this vegetable in particular, I’d love to learn more!

Gomen or Ethiopan Kale

This recipe was featured in Edible East Bay, Fall/Winter 2011

Serves 3-4
1 bunch Ethiopian Kale/Amara mustard greens
¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
¼ cup chopped shallots or onion
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 Tbsp finely grated ginger
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 mitmita (Ethiopian hot pepper) Or half of a jalapeño, split lengthwise, optional
1 Tbsp lemon juice, optional

  1. Rinse the greens in cold water.  Pull out and discard some of the bigger stems and veins.  At this point you can either blanch the greens quickly in boiling water and chop them or just chop them without blanching.
  2. Meanwhile, heat several tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a skillet and sweat the shallots or onions (don’t let them caramelize).  Then add the chopped garlic and grated ginger and saute gently for 1 to 2 minutes. 
  3. Add remaining oil and the chopped greens and cover the pot.  Stir occasionally to ensure that the shallots and garlic do not caramelize.If the mixture begins to look dry as the greens are cooking down, add a small amount of water.  Continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally on low heat for about 30 minutes, depending on your taste and the tenderness of the greens.
  4. Add salt and pepper, to taste.  If adding the hot pepper, do it a couple of minutes before turning off the heat.  Add the lemon juice and slightly mix the greens before serving.

Note: Carnivores might like to try the rendition of this dish known as Gomen Besiga.  Start by braising about 2 pounds of beef or lamb rib meat with the bones until well cooked and then just follow the recipe above, adding everything else to the meat in the pan.

Celery Root Puree with Anjou Pear

“When summer fades and the markets fill with fall fruits and roots, make this savory-sweet puree of pears and celery root, a perfect accompaniment to roast pork tenderloin or to pork of any kind.”

Serves 8 as a side dish
1 large celery root, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher or fine sea salt, to taste
4 Anjou pears, about 2 pounds
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup dry vermouth
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup heavy whipping cream, warmed
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

  1. Fill a 6-quart saucepan two-thirds full of water.  Add the celery root and 1 tsp salt, cover partially, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat so the water simmers and cook until the celery root is tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain the celery root in a colander and return it to the pan.  Place the pan over low heat for 1 minute to evaporate any excess moisture.  
  2. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel, halve and core the pears and cut them into 1-inch chunks.  In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the pears and ½ tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the pears are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the vermouth and nutmeg and continue cooking until the pears are very soft and the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes more.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. In a food processor, combine half each of the celery root, pears and cream and process until completely smooth.  Transfer the puree to a warmed serving bowl.  Repeat with the remaining celery root, pears and cream and add to the bowl.  Season with salt and white pepper.
  4. Serve immediately or keep warm in the top of a double boiler.
Recipe borrowed from Diane Morgan’s book, Roots.  Her book of more than 225 recipes covers a wide variety of root vegetables, many of which we grow.  Her recipes are interesting and the cookbook is informative and easy to use. 

Leeks & Cheese Mash

“The quantities are deliberately vague because of the nature of leftovers.  A recipe for which we must use our instinct”

A large leek
Leftover mashed potatoes
Cheese—anything you have around that needs using

  1. Wash and chop the leek, then let it cook in a generous amount of butter, covered with a lid and a piece of wax paper if you wish, until soft.  Season with salt and then scoop into a shallow ovenproof dish.
  2. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the leeks.  Level them a little without packing them down too tightly.  Dot small knobs of butter over the surface, cover with grated or crumbled cheese, then bake in a hot oven until the cheese has melted and the potatoes are heated through.

This recipe is taken from Nigel Slater’s book, Tender:  A Cook and His Vegetable Patch.  Slater is a British food writer who writes honestly about growing & cooking his own vegetables, mixing personal experience with descriptive prose.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Late Summer Farm Update

by Captain Jack de Wilde, The Dog
Angel showing off an abundant broccoli harvest!
Hello Everyone!  I’ve been rather quiet recently as we’ve had some other very important topics to discuss in the newsletters this summer.  However, our Harvest Party is coming up in just a few weeks on Sunday, September 27 and you know I can’t keep quiet about a farm party!  Second to winter, fall is one of my favorite times of the year, so I’m happy that the changing of the seasons is upon us. While we’ve had a fairly cool summer with temperatures barely hitting 90°F, we’ve had some hot & steamy days recently.  We’ve had to run the air conditioning in the office so the ladies can stay comfortable and get their work done.  On these hot days I usually only work a half day and stay in the office during the heat of the day.  If you have seen the amount of fur I have, you understand why.

So I thought this would be a good week to fill you in on where we are with things on the farm as summer is winding down and fall is beginning.  With the cool summer we’ve had, many of our fall crops have been growing nicely and are actually coming in ahead of schedule.  We have four fall broccoli plantings that normally mature in late September and all of October.  Well, they’ve already started making heads and the first part of this week the crew cut over 1,200# of broccoli!

Picking Tomatoes
Our long tomato season is soon to come to an end.  Last week we picked over 12,000# of tomatoes! We’re trying to make the most of it before they’re all ripe and gone.  Dad still hasn’t gotten tired of BLT sandwiches and he’s eaten them every week for about 4-5 weeks now!  Benji’s crew said it’s time to stop harvesting melons.  We still have one more watermelon harvest, but after that we can officially say good-bye to watermelons & melons.  Cucumbers and zucchini are also coming to a close.  The peppers are still ripening and we hope to continue picking them until we see the first frost.  I hope you’ve been enjoying the mini-sweet peppers.  These are a special little pepper and we are happy to share them with you this year.

As soon as we finish harvesting a field towards the end of the summer, Dad gets antsy to chop the remaining plants, spread compost on the field, and then plant a soil-improving cover crop mix.  This is very important so we can ensure there are nutrients going back into the soil for next year’s crop. When you come to the farm for the party, I can show you some cool fields with different cover crops on them.

Butternut Squash Harvest
While summer crops are winding down, more fall crops are coming.  Last week we finished digging all the potatoes and also started harvesting the winter squash. We’re getting them in as fast as we can because they are ripe and ready to go.  One problem we have right now is that we still have a lot of onions in the greenhouse where we also need to store the squash!  We’re trying very hard to finish trimming the onions and put them in the cooler so we have more room for all the beautiful winter squash. Just a few more weeks and it will be time to dig sweet potatoes!
The fist burdock root harvest
Around here, fall means serious root crop harvesting.  When it’s time to harvest root crops for winter storage, you’d better stay out of the way.  Nothing holds my Dad or Rafael back!  Last weekend we started harvesting burdock root, which is not something we usually include in CSA boxes, but it’s a very important crop for our farm.  Later this week we’re going to start digging sunchokes and next week’s box will definitely reflect the transition from summer to fall.  Celery root, leeks, potatoes….time to make soup!

We have many more tasty vegetables to harvest for you though before we get into the heavy root crops.  Jicama, lemongrass, celery, Portuguese kale and I almost forgot the fall cabbages!  Dad loves creamed cabbage and creamy cole slaw.  I don’t care for these dishes, but we usually have these things with cheeseburgers…which I do like!

Well, I know I forgot some things, but you get the jist that there’s a lot happening around here!  Dad and I have been checking the pumpkins, which should be ready just in time for the party.  Have I mentioned we’re having a party?  Just a reminder that I’m a dog and will need help at the party to get my pumpkin out of the field and onto the wagon.  Usually there are plenty of children who are willing to help, but I thought I’d be proactive and ask in advance so you can put this event on your calendar and make plans to attend.  It’s going to be a fun day and we hope you’ll join us!

Vegetable Feature: Mini-Sweet Peppers

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz
A few weeks ago at our farmer’s market stand, Chef Patrick DePula of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies was perusing our pepper selection. He paused in front of the mini sweets and, picking one up, asked, “What are these?” “Try one,” we said. He did. We waited for his reaction, which came in the form of a question: “Can I have another one?”

We feel exactly the same way about these oh-so-scrumptious little peppers. Despite their size, they are one of the most flavorful sweet peppers we’ve ever tasted! One of the most common questions we get from newcomers is: “How hot are they?” While the variety we grow did originate in Mexico, where small peppers typically equate to high heat, you won’t find a trace of hotness here. Just crispy, crunchy sweetness.

Mini Sweet Peppers have an interesting history at Harmony Valley Farm.  About 12 years ago, a long-time CSA member tipped Richard off to this little snack pepper.  He told Richard how he’d picked up a package of tiny peppers from his local co-op. They had been grown organically in Mexico, and he’d never before seen anything like them. Richard was sufficiently intrigued, so he stopped at the co-op and picked up a package of those little peppers. He ate every last mini sweet, while carefully saving the seeds from each one.  And so began HVF’s adventure with mini sweet peppers.
Over the past 10-12 years, Richard and the crew have continued to save seeds from peppers growing on plants that exhibit ideal characteristics. From a modest beginning of saving and planting under 20 seeds from that original package of mini sweets, we have now worked our way up to saving an average of 8,000 seeds per year!

When we first started growing them, mini sweet pepper seed stock was not widely available—you couldn’t find them in any seed catalogs and you’d be hard pressed to locate any producers growing them for market—not just in Wisconsin but across the country! It was only a matter of time before mini sweet seeds became commercially available. Seed catalogs began advertising a variety called “Yummy.” Thinking about all of the time and energy that HVF puts into selecting and saving seeds from year to year, Richard decided to try out this new variety. As the peppers matured, we taste-tested them side-by-side with our mini-sweet variety.  It was very clear from the first few bites that the “Yummy” peppers were a far cry from our variety. And so, when you bite into your next HVF mini sweet pepper, you’re biting into a fruit that embodies over a decade’s worth of painstaking seed selection—not to mention a fruit that reflects HVF’s unwillingness to exchange high quality for ease and convenience.

When it comes to eating these little peppers, the easiest thing to do is just pop them in your mouth—they’re perfectly snack-sized and contain only a small amount of seeds. If you want to take it up a notch, slice them lengthwise and stuff them with soft cheese. Either toss them onto the grill or into the oven for that nice “melty” effect. You can also freeze these little guys whole & raw—no blanching required.  Just put them in a freezer bag and stash them away until the winter. Your only concern should be making sure you freeze enough…

End of Summer Vegetable Ragout with Fettuccine

by Chef Andrea Yoder
Yield: 4-5 Servings
2 tsp olive oil
8 oz ground beef or pork (optional)
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups diced fresh tomatoes (skin, seeds and all)
1 cup diced carrots
⅓ cup white wine
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
1 ½-2 cups diced zucchini
8 oz mini-sweet peppers (approximately 10-12 peppers),diced
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8-12 oz fettuccine noodles, cooked according to package instructions
½ cup fresh herbs, coarsely chopped (parsley, oregano, basil, or other as available)
Parmesan cheese, for garnishing

  1. Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and ground beef or pork (if you choose to include meat).  Cook the meat until lightly browned, then add the onions and garlic.  If you are not including meat, simply heat the oil and add the onions and garlic to the pan.  Saute the mixture until the onions are fragrant and starting to soften.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes and carrots.  Cover and simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until the mixture becomes juicy.  Remove the lid from the pan and add the white wine and 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Next, add the zucchini & mini sweet peppers.  Season the mixture with salt and black pepper.  Simmer for an additional 6-8 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened to the consistency you prefer (it should be thick, yet juicy enough to coat the fettuccine).
  4. Remove the pan from the heat.  Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding salt, pepper and an additional 2-4 tsp balsamic vinegar.  Gently stir in the fresh herbs.  
  5. Serve the fettuccine topped with the ragout and garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cookbooks, Blogs and Other Fabulous Cooking Resources

By Sarah Janes Ugoretz

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s an understatement that we—our members and everyone at Harmony Valley Farm—love to eat. We take time to consider our food purchases and care about what we’re putting into our bodies. Cooking is often part of that process, and when you’re faced with a variety of fruits and vegetables that you may not have grown up eating, it can be overwhelming and even intimidating. Considering this, we wanted to tap into the creativity and the dearly held culinary resources of you, our members. So, without further ado, here are some of your favorite sources and sites to visit when you’re holding a bunch of yukina savoy in your hand and thinking, “What the heck am I supposed to do with this?”

Print sources
Let me start by saying that our members have first-class taste when it comes to cookbooks! From locally to internationally known, here are a few of your favorite go-to vegetarian (or mostly vegetarian!) cookbooks.

From Asparagus to Zucchini: This classic reference by FairShare CSA Coalition is a must-have in any local eater’s kitchen. From storage and nutrition information to preparation ideas, this book will be a long-time companion to the home cook. Be sure to check out their more recent book—Farm Fresh and Fast—as well.

Anything by Deborah Madison!: Deborah Madison has made it into our newsletters on numerous occasions. As a trained chef with decades of experience, she is dedicated to high quality, seasonal ingredients. Check out the following: Vegetable Literacy, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, The Greens Cookbook, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, Local Flavors, and The Savory Way. I’ll add that I often use Vegetable Literacy as a reference or for more hands-on recipes, whereas I find that The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a wonderful place to go for ideas and inspiration—especially since it is full of variations!

Good Food Book: A few of you mentioned Jane E. Brody’s classic from 1985. You’ll find Brody’s book full of highly accessible and very “tweak-able” plant-based recipes. Oh, and she could care less if you’re trying to watch your carb intake. Also look for Brody’s Good Food Gourmet.

Farmers Market-based books: There is a growing number of cookbooks that cater to the bounty of farmers markets. For a selection by Wisconsin’s own, check out Savoring the Harvest by Irene Cash and Fresh Market Wisconsin by Terese Allen.

Plenty and Plenty More: Yotam Ottolenghi is nothing short of a wizard in the kitchen. These two books are purely vegetarian, but his others—though they include meat-based recipes—are also worth adding to your collection. You’ll find that some of his spices may not be in your cabinet, but a quick trip to your local spice shop can quickly fix that!

Since we can’t go into detail for every cookbook suggestion, here are the others that you shared:

Barefoot Contessa Series by Ina Garten
The Blue Plate Dinner Cookbook by Tim Lloyd and James Novak
Celebration of Wellness by James Levin and Natalie Cedarquist
Cook’s Illustrated Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Cook’s Illustrated
The Epicurious Cookbook by Tanya Steel and the Editors of
The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Domenburg
The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit
Fresh from the Farmstead by Gooseberry Patch
The Happy Herbivore Cookbook by Lindsay S. Nixon
Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference by Jill Norman
The High-Protein Vegetarian Cookbook by Katie Parker and Kristen Smith
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook by Erin Coopey
Live Raw: Raw Food Recipes for Good Health and Timeless Beauty by Mimi Kirk
The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger Henderson
The Moosewood Restaurant Series by The Moosewood Collective
Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon Morell and Kayla T. Daniel
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon (try the black bean and sweet potato enchiladas!)
The Pure Kitchen by Hailie Klecker
Roots by Diane Morgan and Antonis Achilleos
Sage Cottage Herb Garden Book by Dorry Norris
Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making by James Peterson
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
The Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew
Tender by Nigel Slater (try the Bacon and Broccoli Soup!)
The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas (try the Tomato Bisque!)
The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Maltese

Magazines go hand-in-hand with anticipation. Every month, a fresh assortment of techniques, culinary tools, and recipes awaits you, and you can pick and choose which to try your hand at. Below are a few of your favorites.

Eating Well and Cooking Light: These magazines cater to the whole foodies among you, with ease and simplicity in mind. Those who eat with the seasons will likely find Eating Well and Cooking Light to be stellar resources. Their respective websites feature menu and meal planning apps as well as clean eating guides.

Saveur: With a nod to high quality, seasonal ingredients, Saveur may ask you to step out of your comfort zone. However, I have found that the recipes are, for the most part, accessible. You’ll also be regularly exposed to the culinary traditions of far away and not so far away places, from Spain and Germany to Baja, California and New Orleans.  

Online Sources
While we know that our cherished, food-splattered cookbooks are irreplaceable, there is also a place in the kitchen for fancy schmancy food blogs, apps, and other technology-based resources. Check out a few of your go-to sources below.

Food52: While Food52 is largely a recipe collective for home cooks, staff regularly try out recipes and provide their comments. You can save recipes for a rainy day and organize them any which way you’d like—a feature which has come in handy for me on more than a few occasions! Regular contests add an extra flair of excitement. From Your Best Middle Eastern Recipe to Your Best Recipe with Zucchini, there are endless amounts of creative recipes to peruse.

100 Days of Real Food: If you’re interested in cutting out processed foods, then put this website at the top of your list. In addition to recipes, this blog provides a wide variety of helpful information, from recommended reading and cookbooks to kid-tested recipes and free week-long family meal plans on a budget.

The New York Times Cooking App: According to one of our members, this resource won her heart for its “ease and variety.” With an impressive selection of filters ranging from ingredient and preparation method to meal type, your search will quickly be met with a plethora of recipe ideas.

There are a variety of other online resources to keep in mind, including TheKitchn, Martha Stewart, Pinterest, Food in Jars, and My Whole Food Life. Also, be sure to check out your favorite website, magazine, or cookbook author on Facebook—they’re likely to post recipe ideas regularly. Plus, this is another way to tap into a community of like-minded cooks and eaters.

Many thanks to you, our members, for taking the time to share your favorite culinary gems with us. I know I’ve added more than a few new sources to my own list of favorites. May your time in the kitchen be an ongoing adventure in creativity and healthy eating! 

Vegetable Feature: Poblano Peppers

by Beth Brown-Lucas
Poblano Peppers
Poblano peppers are classified as a hot pepper with a medium level of heat. While you won’t need gloves or eye protection to cut up this pepper, the oils will be on your hands so be sure to wash your hands after handling. You can identify the poblanos in your box as the dark green, large peppers with blocky shoulders that taper to a point.

The skins/walls of these peppers are sturdy, making them perfect for stuffing as they’ll hold up in the oven quite nicely. They are typically roasted and peeled when cooking with them, or dried. When dried, they are called ancho chilis. Poblanos are also commonly used in chile rellenos, a dish that originated in Puebla, Mexico. It consists of a stuffed, roasted fresh poblano pepper that is usually battered with an egg coating and fried until crispy.

Roasting poblanos will bring out their fruitier flavors. To roast the peppers, place them on a tray under the broiler, directly on the grill or directly on an open flame. Roast over the flame, turning as needed to make sure all sides of the pepper get lightly charred or blistered. Remove from the flame and place in a brown paper bag or a covered bowl and let them steam as they cool. Once they are cool enough to handle, scrape off the skin. You can use roasted poblano peppers in a wide range of dishes. Stuff them with cheese and make your own chile rellenos or try using roasted chopped poblano peppers as a topping for tacos and burritos.

Poblano peppers can preserved either raw or after roasting. To preserve them in their raw form, remove the stem and seeds, then slice or chop and freeze. Both forms of preservered poblanos can be a great addition to salsas and winter soups & stews. Check out this week’s featured recipe for an easy way to enjoy poblanos now, or save the peppers and recipe for later!

Caramelized Poblano Chile & Onion Dip

Original recipe featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine, August 2012.
Yield: 2 Cups
¼ cup vegetable oil
Poblano Chile & Onion Dip is great served with
Mini-Sweet Peppers or chips!
3 cups diced onion
3 poblano chiles, seeds and ribs removed, diced
1 Tbsp fresh coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
Coarse salt
¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
Cayenne pepper, for sprinkling

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-low heat.  Add onion, chiles, coriander, and 1 tsp salt.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until onion and chiles are tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool completely.
  2. Stir together lime juice, cream cheese, and sour cream in a large bowl, using a rubber spatula, until smooth.  Stir in onion mixture.  Season with salt if necessary.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.  Sprinkle with cayenne.  Serve with cut-up vegetables or chips.

HVF Serving Suggestions:
Some of our crew taste testing the poblano dip-they loved it!
  • Dice the poblanos now and freeze the raw peppers.  Pull them out in the winter and make this dip to serve at a New Year’s Eve or Super Bowl Party!
  • Stuff the dip into mini-sweet peppers and pack them in your lunch.
  • Mix the dip with fresh corn kernels and black beans. Stuff it inside a sweet pepper and bake until warmed through.
  • Use this dip to create a tasty Quesadilla.  Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.  Spread the caramelized poblano chile & onion dip on a tortilla.  For a vegetarian option, layer pieces of sautéed zucchini and/or eggplant on top of the dip and fold the tortilla in half.  For an omnivore alternative, add slices of cooked bacon to the quesadilla.  Cook in the warm saute pan until the bottom is golden, then flip it over and toast the other side.