Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Culture of Cleanliness….Developing Our Food Safety Eyes

By:  Andrea Yoder
Why do we do food safety training every year?

Why is attention to food safety an important element on our farm?

Who is responsible for following food safety practices on our farm?

These are a few of the introductory questions I ask our crew members every year when we do our annual food safety training, both for new employees and for those who have worked here for many years.  We’ve had a food safety program for our farm for well over twenty years, even before our wholesale buyers started requesting it and before the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed making it a legal requirement for farms.  Every year we make improvements to our food safety program, so obviously we have to communicate any changes to protocols, expectations, etc with our crew members, but we also still go back and review the basics…every year.  This week we wanted to give you a little insight into just what it means to have a food safety program as well as some of the protocols we practice and implement on a daily basis.

Moises cleaning a wash tank in
preparation for sanitizing harvest totes
Lets go back to those three introductory questions.  We do food safety training every year because we want to ensure the food we are producing is wholesome and safe for you, our customers!  It’s also our legal responsibility and it’s a requirement in order to do business with many of our wholesale buyers.  “Why is attention to food safety an important element on our farm?”  First and foremost, we do not want anyone to ever fall ill from eating our food.  We also want our customers to be able to trust us and we want to maintain a good reputation in our community! And lastly, “Who is responsible for following food safety practices on our farm?”  EVERYONE!  This includes all crew members, regardless of work responsibilities, but also any contractors or visitors to our farm. 

This is the point in our training where we talk about a “Culture of Cleanliness.”  This is a term we learned from our food safety inspector many years ago and since then we’ve worked very hard to establish and improve upon the “Culture of Cleanliness” we’ve created on our farm.  What is a “Culture of Cleanliness” and why is it important?  Have you ever seen one of those children’s books or picture games where you have to look at the picture and identify what doesn’t fit or what is wrong?  That’s kind of the way we operate every day.  The reason we have food safety rules and best practices is to reduce and minimize the risk of our food becoming contaminated or someone getting sick.  We don’t live in a sterile world and things are going to happen.  The reason we have a food safety program, rules, procedures and talk about these things every year is because we want to be able to identify situations that may cause a problem with food safety so we can intervene proactively in an effort to prevent problems. 
Cleaning the salad cutter before it goes to the field to harvest
Salad Mix!
We learn to see our work environment and our farm with a new set of eyes—our food safety eyes.  There are a lot of details, a lot of space and a lot of moving parts to our farm.  It’s more than Richard, Rafael and I can keep our eyes on by ourselves!  We need everyone who’s working with us to develop their special set of food safety eyes so they can see potential problems or identify when something is not right with a scenario.  We also need them to develop their food safety eyes so they see the food safety practices as the “normal,” expected way things are done.  Then, when someone isn’t doing the right thing or something is askew, it stands out as that thing that is not right with the picture! 
Red bucket labeled for cleaning only

So what are some of those practices we employ?  Well, for starters, we clean…A Lot!  We don’t just wash vegetables, we also clean equipment, trucks, facilities, harvest containers and more.  Part of our annual training is reviewing the difference between cleaning and sanitizing, as they are two different steps and need to be done in the correct order to be effective!  We clean a surface using soap to remove dirt and debris, then follow that with a fresh water rinse.  Once the surface is clean, we come back and spray on a sanitizer solution to take care of any microscopic pathogen.  This concept is applied in many scenarios throughout the farm.  Whether we’re setting up an area in the packing shed to wash and pack vegetables or we are preparing to use a harvest belt to pick zucchini and cucumbers, we always clean and sanitize!  We have even devised a system and set of tools so we can take the appropriate brushes, sanitizing agent, buckets of soapy water and clean water to the field --everything the crew needs to properly clean and sanitize the belt in the field prior to every use. 

Color-coded brushes and bilingual signs in our
packing shed
We have a colorful farm, if for no other reason than our color-coded tools!  One way we prevent potential cross-contamination is by designating specific colors of tools for specific uses.  When cleaning packing shed equipment, we use red brushes.  If we need to clean a harvest container, we use a green brush.  “What if I need to scrub a wall or a floor?”  Please use the white brush hanging in the packing shed.  We also have yellow tools that we use for cleaning bathrooms.  Despite their bright, cheery color, they never leave the bathrooms for any other use.  And there’s one last brush color we see about one time a year.  We need orange brushes for washing the pumpkins and winter squash when we harvest them!

Cheery yellow cleaning supplies,
for bathroom use only!
We also have color-coded buckets, because buckets are a great tool for many different uses.  White buckets are for use in harvesting many different vegetables, except for baby greens.  When we need to hand cut baby greens we use special green buckets that are only used for these products.  Red buckets are used for cleaning projects, white buckets with red paint on them are used for non-food uses such as carrying tools to the field or carrying rocks out of the field!  Blue buckets are used to feed and water animals and orange buckets are located on the harvest wagons and in field vehicles for collecting trash.  Whew…that’s a lot to remember!  Don’t worry, we have lots of signs in both Spanish & English to help us remember what to do and we review this information every year so we don’t forget!

Many tools we use have many different potential applications.  For example, knives are good for cutting vegetables, but they are also a good tool to use if you need to clean mud off of your shoes or a cultivator shank!  “STOP!  Please tell me you weren’t thinking about using the same knife for all of these uses?”  Don’t worry, we have separate knives!  Field crew members have wooden handled knives that are stored in leather sheaths.  These knives may be used for anything they want to use them for except for two things.  They may not be used to harvest vegetables and they may not be used as a weapon.  Aside from that they can use them to cut weeds, cut row cover, clean their shoes, etc.  When it comes time for harvest, they use their yellow handled harvest knife that is stored in a black plastic sheath that has a small hole in the bottom.  This knife and sheath are much easier to clean and sanitize in between uses than the knife that gets stored in the dirty leather holder.  Where do they clean and sanitize their knife?  We’ve got that covered too!  There are two knife cleaning stations set up every morning.  Leonardo comes early to set up fresh containers for the stations which consist of three trays to facilitate a three-step process.  The first tray contains soap and water to clean the knife, the second tray contains water only for a rinse step and the third tray contains water with sanitizer to sanitize the knife.  Done!
Freshly cleaned and sanitized barrel washer
set up.  We're ready to wash vegetables!

Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites are not the only things that may potentially contaminate food.  We’re also careful to make sure we’re removing excess grease from bearings on equipment and check all connections for implements, hydraulic hoses, etc. to make sure we catch and repair any leaks.  We’ve even implemented a system for outfitting our tractors that are used by harvest crews with “tractor diapers!”  To my knowledge this is not an industry standard, but it’s a practice Richard devised and it’s become standard protocol on our farm.  We secure a heavy duty tarp under the belly of a tractor and place absorbent pads in the tarp.  If there should be any kind of a fluid or oil leak, we can easily see it, catch it and repair it thereby removing the potential for product to be contaminated in production areas or around a field!  Of course, tractor diapers don’t replace the need for observation, so all crew members are trained to be very attentive at all times, whether they are operating a piece of machinery or just working in the area.  If they see anything that doesn’t look right, it’s their responsibility to speak up and say “Wait, we need to check this out!”  Ok, so what do we do if there is a problem?  First, STOP!  Notify those in the area that there may be a problem and contact a supervisor/owner.  Fully assess the situation and then devise a plan to prevent any further issues and clean up anything that needs to be cleaned, etc.  One important point here is that we are a team.  We all may see things differently and we all may play a slightly different role in resolving the situation and being part of the solution.  Remember, food safety is everyone’s responsibility!

Ascencion harvesting black radishes, note his
yellow handled harvest knife!
Of course there is one tool we all use every day and we consider this our most important tool.  Can you guess what it might be?  Here’s a hint—it’s likely the tool you use the most every day as well regardless of your job!  Hands!!  Our hands are the tool we use the most every single day, which is why one of the most fundamental food safety training topics is “When do you need to wash your hands” and “What is the proper procedure for effective handwashing.”  COVID-19 messaging has brought handwashing to the forefront as a public health issue this year, but we’ve been preaching and practicing proper handwashing for many, many years! 

Every year we continue to make improvements to our practices and every year we undergo at least one third party inspection.  Typically we have a voluntary third-party inspection, as we’ve elected to do for many years.  This inspection looks at our farm both Pre-Farm Gate (Field operations) and Post-Farm Gate (Packing shed operations) and evaluates us according to the Harmonized Standards.  Last year we also had our first food safety inspection by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture (DATCP), the agency enforcing FSMA requirements in Wisconsin.
Crew training session with Richard, Andrea and our Spanish
interpreter, Michelle. Andrea is modeling the proper
attire to wear when working in animal areas--the only
place on the farm where you'll find bright yellow boots!

Whew---this is a lot of information, and we’ve only just touched the surface of the practices we employ on our farm.  We haven’t even discussed clutter control, first-in/first-out procedures, wearing yellow boots when working in animal areas, or what to do if it rains so much and river water washes through crop land!  Food safety is a part of our lives every single day and we hope you can see how integral it is to our farm and how we operate.  Of course we like having a neat, clean and organized farm.  It makes our work spaces more pleasant to work in and allows us to work more efficiently.  We do a lot of record keeping related to food safety as well, but that’s ok because it also helps us be better managers of our time and resources.  Is it worth it to invest this much thought, time and energy into a food safety program?  Absolutely!  Regardless of the law or requirements imposed on us by our buyers, we go back to our top priority which is always to ensure you and your family have safe, wholesome food to eat.  Thank you for your support of our farm.

July 30, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Sweet Corn!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Sierra Blanca Onions: Beer Battered Onion RingsChopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber SaladOne-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon

Missouri Garlic: Roasted Garlic ButterChinese “Dry-Fried” Green BeansCrispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Grilled Corn Kale Salad (see below); Crustless Quiche with Summer VegetablesSummertime Beer-Battered Fried Zucchini with Honey Mustard Ranch Dipping Sauce

Green and Silver Slicer Cucumbers (included in some boxes this week): Chopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber SaladThai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

Green Beans: Chinese “Dry-Fried” Green Beans

Green Curly Kale: Grilled Corn Kale Salad (see below); Vegetarian Kale Taco Salad

Red Prairie or Gold Carola Potatoes: Crispy Smashed Potatoeswith Herbed YogurtOne-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon

Sweet Corn: Sweet Corn Pancakes (see below); Grilled Corn Kale Salad (see below); Cornbread with Fresh Sweet Corn

Sunorange, Chocolate Sprinkles or Red Grape Tomatoes: Chopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber SaladTomato Basil Scrambled Eggs

Tomatillos: Grilled Tomatillo & Pineapple SalsaRoasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili

Cauliflower OR Broccoli: Chicken Broccoli QuesadillaGrilled Cauliflower Hummus SandwichRoasted Cauliflower and Carrot Pizza

Orange Carrots: Ranch Fun DipRoasted Cauliflower and Carrot Pizza

Black Eggplant (included in some boxes this week): Eggplant & Chickpea PattiesBaked Eggplant Parmesan Penne

This week’s box is full of summer!  Rays of sunshine all soaked up and transformed into deliciousness by these beautiful vegetables!  Lets dive in and get cooking…and eating!  We’re talking sweet corn in this week’s vegetable feature, and what is summer without sweet corn!  Sweet corn is one of those vegetables you just can’t rush.  Even though we want a crop to be ready by a certain harvest date, it just doesn’t work that way.  Every crop matures on its own time and there’s nothing we can do except wait for the point of perfection and pick it!  This means sometimes we have a lot and sometimes we have a little. Regardless of how much you have, there are so many ways to use sweet corn that go beyond just corn on the cob.  You know I love to start the day off with vegetables in my breakfast, so why not kick off your morning with Sweet Corn Pancakes (see below)!  Top them off with some fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup and I guarantee you’ll have a good day.  If you’re looking to stay in the category of savory, consider this week’s other featured recipe for Grilled Corn and Kale Salad (see below).  Summer is the time to get creative with making and enjoying non-lettuce based vegetable salads.  This Grilled Corn and Kale Salad is a substantial salad that can serve as a meal all its own.  Massaged kale with grilled zucchini, corn and slices of fresh onions piled high.  If there’s room in your bowl, feel free to add some avocado, grilled chicken or poached fish as well!

Vegetarian Kale Taco Salad
photo from
Before we move on to other topics, I have a few more summer salad options to mention.  If the Grilled Corn and Kale Salad isn’t on your list for this week, you might want to use the kale to make this Vegetarian Kale Taco Salad.  I also want to mention this Chopped Tomato, Onion & Cucumber Salad.  This is a simple salad, but if you use good ingredients you don’t need to do much to make it delicious!  Add parsley from your herb garden, dress it with a simple basic vinaigrette of honey, Dijon mustard and lemon juice or vinegar.  Eat it just as it is, or serve it spooned over grilled bread for bruschetta or with hummus and pita chips.  I also have my eye on this Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts.  The thing I like about salads with Thai influence is how they utilize fresh, simple and clean ingredient combinations.

Did you notice how beautiful the dark, shiny beans are this week?  If you aren’t afraid of a little spice, try these Chinese “Dry-Fried”Green Beans.  This utilizes a stir-fry method from the Szechuan region of China where the food is spicy and flavorful!  On the other end of the spectrum, did you notice the brilliant white Sierra Blanca onions!  So beautiful, mild, tasty, and perfect for Beer Battered Onion Rings!  I know, we just talked about healthy kale salads and now I’m suggesting deep fried food?  Yes, at least once a summer we need to put a pot of oil on the stove and make fresh onion rings.  While you’re at it, you might as well make some Summertime Beer-Battered Fried Zucchini with Honey Mustard Ranch Dipping Sauce as well!

One-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon
photo from
We are so grateful for this year’s potato crop!  This really is the time to indulge in potatoes, when they are fresh and so delicious.  I still think it’s wise to keep the preparations simple, such as Andrea Bemis’ recipe for Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Herbed Yogurt.  We featured her recipe in a previous newsletter.  This recipe actually employs a combo cooking method.  First you boil the potatoes, then smash them and roast them so they get crispy.  Then you serve them with a creamy yogurt based sauce laced with fresh parsley, dill, lemon and garlic.  Of course you could just boil them and slather them with some homemade Roasted Garlic Butter!  I also found this recipe for One-Pan Chicken with Potatoes & Tarragon.  You could substitute chervil from your herb garden in place of the tarragon, or really any other fresh herb of your choosing.  In this recipe, you roast the potatoes alongside the chicken which has a marinade made of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise—so odd I have to try it!

I like quiche any time of the year, so this recipe for Crustless Quiche with Summer Vegetables caught my eye.  I also like recipes that are intended to be versatile, as this one is.  Use whatever summer vegetables are speaking to you.  Potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, or peppers are all great selections.  We’ll have many more tomatoes yet to come, but even if you only have a few you can still make Tomato Basil Scrambled Eggs for breakfast!

Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili
photo from
We weren’t sure we’d be able to harvest tomatillos again this week, but the plants pulled through for us and we have enough to send another pound your way this week!  This was our featured vegetable last week, so if you didn’t have a chance to read the feature article, check out our blog and you’ll find twelve delicious recipes using tomatillos!  This week I want to try this Grilled Tomatillo & Pineapple Salsa.  You could just eat it with chips, or serve it over grilled fish or chicken.  Of course, you could also make this tasty Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili and serve it with Cornbread with Fresh Sweet Corn!

Quesadillas are on our dinner rotation pretty frequently, mainly because they are quick and easy to make and you can put nearly anything in them.  So, lets give these Chicken Broccoli Quesadillas a try!  I also want to try this Grilled Cauliflower Hummus Sandwich.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten cauliflower on a sandwich, but why not?  While we’re trying new things, I’ll also mention this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Pizza.  That’s right, cauliflower and carrots on pizza!

Ranch Fun Dip
photo by Kristin Miglore for
So, over the weekend I watched the most recent Genius Recipe video on  It caught my eye because it was described as a recipe that will get you eating more vegetables.  Ok, I need to know how this recipe will do that and I have to admit, this is a pretty genius idea.  In fact, I wish I had come up with it myself!  So the original idea behind this concept was to create a healthy snack that could travel well without having to be refrigerated.  Vegetables and dip is a great snack, but most dip options need to be refrigerated.  That’s where the genius part of this recipe comes in—this dip is totally dry and shelf stable!  Remember Fun Dip candy where you dip the stick into candy powder?  That was the inspiration for this concept.  All the flavor is packed into a dry mix that you dip fresh vegetables in.  The vegetables need to have a little water on them which will make the dry seasoning mix stick to them!  The recipe on is for Ranch Fun Dip, but feel free to get creative and make up your own flavor combinations and pair them with any vegetables you want to starting with this week’s fresh carrots!

Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne
We’re nearly at the bottom of the box, but before we finish we need to talk about the glossy, elegant black eggplant.  I was taking a look at our recipe archives and wanted to mention a few delicious recipes from the past featuring eggplant.  The first is Eggplant & Chickpea Patties.  These are so tasty and make a great main dish item for a vegetarian dinner.  The second is for Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne, which was a hit in previous years even amongst the crowd of individuals who are a hard sell when it comes to eggplant!

Ok, that’s a wrap for this week.  Next week we’ll likely have some delicious sun jewel melons for you and hopefully a few peppers and more tomatoes…and corn!  Enjoy the last week of July and I’ll see you back here next week for more summer recipes!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Corn

By Chef Andrea

Summer isn’t summer without sweet corn and we work really hard to grow the sweetest, best tasting corn we can!  Sweet corn is not always the easiest crop to grow.  Variety selection is a big part of the picture and there’s also the issue of pest control because, unfortunately, we are not the only creatures who like to eat sweet corn in the summer!  If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to grow sweet corn, I’d encourage you to read the article we published on our blog last year entitled “The Journey of Sweet Corn:  From Seed to Table.”

Icing corn after harvest
Sweet corn is a crop you can’t rush, it’s ready when it’s ready and you just have to do your best to determine when it’s at its optimal maturity.  Sometimes you’ll have a lot and sometimes there will only be a small amount to pick.  Regardless of the quantity, I want to encourage you to think about ways you might enjoy and use corn that go beyond the classic Corn on the Cob.  Before we jump into preparation, I need to mention one very important thing about sweet corn that you need to remember.  Keep It Cold!!!  When you get your sweet corn home, please put it directly into the refrigerator and keep it there until you’re ready to cook it.  If refrigerator space is an issue, remove the husk and put the ears of corn in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Keeping sweet corn cold is important for maintaining the sugar content.  Time and warm temperatures will cause sugars to convert to starch which will negatively impact both flavor and texture.

Corn cut from the husk after cooking
As for using corn, you may choose to cook it in the husk or without the husk and you also have the option of cooking it on the cob or cutting it off the cob before cooking.  Often people will choose to cook corn on the cob and in its husk if they’re cooking it on a grill or open fire.  If you do this, you should soak the ears of corn in their husks for a bit before putting them on the grill, otherwise the husks will dry out and burn more quickly.  If you choose to remove the husks first, you have several options for cooking the corn if left on the cob.  You can roast it in the oven or place it directly on the grill.  You can also boil ears of corn in salted water.  Once cooked, you can either eat it directly off the cob or cut the kernels off the cob using a paring knife. Whether cooked or raw, cutting kernels off the cob can sometimes get a little messy.  I like to prop my ear of corn up on end in a shallow bowl when I cut the kernels off the cob.  This way the kernels will fall into the bowl instead of all over the cutting board.

photo by Marcus Nilson for
Once corn is cooked you have many options for how to use it.  You can incorporate it into pasta dishes, risotto, vegetable salads, soup, chowder, quesadillas, tacos and salsa!  You can also use fresh corn kernels in cornbread, muffins, waffles, pancakes or even to make desserts such as ice cream or a blueberry sweet corn crumble!  A little fresh corn can really brighten up any dish with its sweetness, color and tender texture.  If you need a little help finding recipes or ideas, check out this article from Epicurious that includes 79 recipes using corn!

We always focus on the kernels of corn, but if you really want to maximize each ear of corn we really should look at how to use the entire ear!  For starters, don’t discard the cobs!  Corn cobs have a lot of flavor and can be used to make a flavorful Corn Cob Broth or stock.  Corn cob broth can be used when making risotto, poaching fish or chicken, or as the base for sauces and soups.   There are many ways you can do this, but here are a couple versions to get you started.  

Corn Stock by Martha Stewart
Corn Stock by Saveur Magazine

I also learned that corn silk has health benefits and can be made into tea using either fresh or dried silks!  If you’re interested in learning more about these health benefits or how to make corn silk tea, here are a few articles to consult: and

Lastly, I want to mention that sweet corn is very easy to freeze so you can savor it during the winter.  I recommend cooking it on the cob and then removing the kernels after cooking.  Simply put it in a freezer bag and pop it into the freezer.  It’s that easy!  Use the corn cobs to make corn stock and you can freeze that as well!

Grilled Corn & Kale Salad

Yield:  2-3 servings

4 cups green curly or lacinato kale, torn into bite-sized pieces (½ bunch)
1 Tbsp olive oil (for massaging the kale)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (for grilled vegetables)
1 medium zucchini
½ of a medium white or red onion, thinly sliced
2 ears fresh corn, husked
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 avocado, diced (optional)
½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

3 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup lime juice
2 cloves garlic 
¼ to ½ of a jalapeño, seeds removed
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cumin
Salt and black pepper, to taste

  1. First, preheat your grill or prepare a grill pan if you’re using the stovetop.
  2. While the grill is preheating, prepare the kale.  Strip the leaves off the main stem and tear them into bite-sized pieces.  Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Using your hands, massage the kale to ensure all pieces are thoroughly and lightly coated with oil.  Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing.  Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse until everything is combined.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Pour about half the dressing over the kale and toss to combine.
  4. Prepare the zucchini and corn for grilling.  Slice zucchini into ¼ inch slices.  Brush each side with a little vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.  Brush the ears of corn with vegetable oil as well, and season with salt and pepper.  Lay both vegetables on the grill and grill for 5-7 minutes on each side, or as needed to get nice grill marks and cook the vegetables until tender.  Remove from grill and set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Once the vegetables are cooled enough to handle, cut the zucchini into small diced pieces.  Using a paring knife, cut the corn kernels off the cob of corn.  Add both zucchini and corn kernels to the kale along with the onion and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Add more dressing as needed to nicely coat all the vegetables.  You may choose not to use all the dressing.
  6. Allow the salad to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.  This salad is durable enough to be made in advance and served the next day, in fact the flavors and texture are actually a bit improved!  Top each portion with toasted pumpkin seeds and avocado if desired.
This recipe was adapted slightly from an original recipe published on  This is a great “make in advance” salad to take with you on a picnic or pack for a portable lunch!

Sweet Corn Pancakes

Yield:  About 9-10 4-inch pancakes

2 Tbsp butter, plus additional for the pan or griddle
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 1-2 ears of corn)
⅛ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal (finely ground)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet or on a griddle pan over medium heat.  Add the corn and saute for 4-5 minutes, until it begins to brown ever-so-slightly.  Season with salt and transfer to another bowl to cool slightly.  Wipe out the skillet so you can use it to make the pancakes.
  2. Lightly beat the egg in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in buttermilk, vanilla and sugar.  In a smaller bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir dry ingredients into the egg and buttermilk mixture, mixing just until combined but still a little lumpy in appearance.  Fold in the sweet corn.
  3. Reheat your skillet or griddle pan over medium heat.  Brush the pan with butter and ladle ¼ cup batter at a time, keeping pancakes spaced so they don’t run together.  When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over and cook them until golden brown on the other side.  If they seem to be cooking too quickly (dark on the outside, but still raw in the center), turn the heat down slightly for the next batch.  Brush the pan with butter in between each patch and continue until all the batter is gone.  If you aren’t serving and eating them right out of the pan, place the cooked pancakes on a baking rack on a sheet tray and hold them in the oven turned on to low (150-180°F) until you’re ready to serve them.
  4. Serve warm with butter, fresh fruit and warm maple syrup.

Recipe sourced from, with slight adaptations made by Chef Andrea.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

July 23, 2020 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatillos!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Green and/or Italian Zucchini: Zucchini-Corn FrittersPizza Bianca

Tomatillos: Mexican Eggs In Purgatory (see below); Pork & Tomatillo Stew (see below)

Small Tomatoes OR Black Eggplant OR Broccoli OR Cauliflower:   One Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry

Spicy Pork & Tomatillo Stew on the cover of
Food & Wine Magazine, October 2007
This week we’re just starting to harvest some of the mid-summer vegetables including corn, tomatoes, eggplant and tomatillos!  Tomatillos are our featured item for the week and I have quite a few recipes to share with you!  One of the nice things about tomatillos is that they have a relatively long harvest window, especially because we do two plantings.  So this week’s portion is one to get you started, but we hope to include tomatillos in more boxes throughout the summer and early fall so keep these recipes handy and refer back to them in future weeks.  First of all, if you haven’t read this week’s vegetable feature article, please do so (see below).  In that article I mention 14 more recipes and include links to all of them.  In addition to these suggestions, we’re also featuring two tasty recipes.  The first is for Mexican Eggs In Purgatory (see below).  This is a twist on a traditional Southern Italian dish, Eggs in Purgatory, that has a tomato base and uses red pepper flakes to add heat.  This version uses tomatillos as the base for the sauce and the heat comes from either jalapeno or poblano peppers.  This dish is delicious for breakfast, lunch or dinner!  The other recipe is one that is very familiar to me and I’ve been making for over ten years.  If you’ve read this article in past seasons you may remember me mentioning this Pork & Tomatillo Stew (see below), although I don’t think we’ve ever featured it in the newsletter!  This is a simple, yet tasty stew and the tomatillos add richness and thicken the broth.  I first made this for our crew when I was the summer farm chef back in 2007 and saw this recipe featured on the cover of Food & Wine magazine in October 2007.  I still have that issue of the magazine and am still making this stew!  In fact, every year I intentionally freeze some tomatillos so I can make this recipe during the winter months.

Zucchini-Corn Fritter, photo from
We just started harvesting our second crop of zucchini, so there are a couple pounds in this week’s box, and just in time to overlap with the first sweet corn of the season!  There will be more corn coming in the near future, but for this week these few ears will provide just enough corn to make these Zucchini-Corn Fritters!  The other recipe I’d like to mention utilizing zucchini this week is this simple recipe for Pizza Bianca.  This is more of a white pizza built off of slices of fresh fennel and thinly sliced zucchini.  This is the final week of fennel, so if you want to try something a bit more unusual, you could also use the fennel to make this Fennel Upside Down Cake!

Corn, Chard and Ricotta Galette, photo from
Lets go back to sweet corn for a moment.  I know everyone’s anxious for corn on the cob, dripping with butter.  Unless there are only two people in your household, this may not be the week for corn on the cob.  We’ll get there, but this first planting is just starting to mature so the harvest is a little light right now.  The fun thing about fresh sweet corn though is that a little bit added into a recipe can make everything so much tastier!  If you don’t go for the zucchini-corn fritters mentioned above, consider trying this Corn, Chard and Ricotta Galette.  If you receive the amaranth instead of chard this week, you could substitute the amaranth for chard in the galette recipe or you could make Amaranth and Corn Stewed in Coconut Milk.  This is a recipe from a past newsletter that also includes green beans.  Corn, amaranth and green beans are a tasty vegetable combo!

Green Bean Crisps
photo from
We’re happy to have another hearty harvest of beans for this week!  We’re just finishing harvesting our second planting and the third one already has little beans set on.  I’m not sure if they’ll be ready to pick next week, but we have our fingers crossed!  If you’re looking for something healthy to snack on this week, try these Green Bean Crisps!  The other recipe I want to mention with green beans in mind is this One Pot Vegetable Thai Red Curry.  This has become part of my frequently referenced summer recipes because it’s very versatile and you can use any summer vegetables you have available.  I often use potatoes, green beans and eggplant, but you could also include zucchini, sweet peppers and carrots.  As long as the volume of vegetables matches what the recipe calls for, you can use pretty much anything you have.

If you missed last week’s vegetable feature article about New Potatoes, go check it out and read more about why we think new potatoes are unique and different from any other potatoes we’ll deliver this year!  You’ll also find three tasty recipes that highlight new potatoes, or you might want to try my favorite way to eat new potatoes, New Potatoes with Garlic & Butter.

Easy Grilled Onions, photo from
We’re almost ready to start bringing in more onions.  The tops are starting to die down and we’re making space in the greenhouse so we can dry them.  We’re finished with scallions and moving on to our next fresh onion selections, the beautiful Desert Sunrise Purple Cipollini Onions and Sierra Blanca White Onions.  Both are more mild and sweet onion varieties and are good ones for grilling and roasting.  Check out this recipe for Easy Grilled Onions.

Did you know you can cook cucumbers?  If you want to give this a try, consider making Roasted Cucumbers with Onions and Fresh Herbs.  If you want to stick with eating cucumbers raw, then consider making this Spicy Cucumber Salsa.  This is a nice, fresh alternative to a traditional tomato salsa and is excellent on fish tacos, grilled fish or chicken, or just eat it with tortilla chips.  It’s also very pretty made with the purple cippollini onions!

Spicy Cucumber Salsa, photo from
That concludes this week’s box contents.  We’re hoping to dig the first of our green top carrots next week and we’re crossing our fingers that the next variety of sweet corn will be ready to pick!  We should also see more tomatoes ripening and hopefully we’ll see more eggplant sizing up.  Richard brought in the cutest little Lilac Bride Eggplant that was only about four inches long!  It obviously needs a little more time.  We’re also keeping our eye on the peppers and hoping we’ll be able to start harvesting green bell peppers within the next week or two.  Our second planting of cucumbers will be kicking in here pretty soon and lets not forget about melons!  The early Sun Jewel melons will likely be the first and unless they surprise us, we will likely start harvesting them in about 10-14 days.  Have fun cooking this week’s vegetables and I’ll see you back here next week!---Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature: Tomatillos

By Chef Andrea

The view looking down the row of our "Tomatillo Jungle!"
Tomatillos…what are they?!  Tomatillos are one of those confusing vegetables that are actually a fruit although most often used in more vegetable fashion.  Tomatillos are classified as a nightshade, which means they are a relative to tomatoes.  However, they are not just a green tomato.  They are a completely different fruit.  They are actually in the same family with ground cherries, both of which are characterized by their papery lantern-like husks that surround the fruit.  Tomatillos grow on plants that are similar to tomato plants, but they are usually larger and have more of a wild, jungle-like appearance.  Their main stem is thick and sometimes resembles a small tree!  The plants can grow to over seven feet tall, so we put stakes in between the plants and tie them up progressively with string to keep the plants upright and the fruit off the ground.  You know a tomatillo is ready to pick when it fills its husk completely and may even start to split the bottom of the husk.  While most tomatillos are green, we also grow two varieties that turn purple when fully ripe!  These typically take longer to mature, so we won’t be harvesting these for awhile.  Hopefully we’ll be able to send these your way later in summer or early fall.

Green tomatillos (in the bowl) and
Purple tomatillos (on the board)
So what do you do with them?  Lets talk storage first.  In the home setting, I recommend you just store your tomatillos at room temperature, either in a paper bag or just on the counter.  They’ll store like this for a week or more!   Before you use them, you do need to peel away the papery husk and you’ll find the fruit inside may be a little sticky.  Once you remove the husk and stem, the remainder of the tomatillo is completely edible, no need for further peeling and don’t even try to remove the seeds.

Tomatillos have a tangy, fruity  flavor and you’ll find purple tomatillos to be more sweet than green ones typically.  Tomatillos may be eaten either raw or cooked.  One of the most familiar ways to use tomatillos is in making salsa, salsa verde that is! Tomatillo salsa may be prepared with all raw vegetables which will give you a fresh, chunky salsa.  The alternative is to cook the tomatillos on the stovetop with a little water before blending the softened, cooked tomatillos with the other salsa ingredients.  If you cook the tomatillos, you’ll get a more smooth, thick salsa due to the natural pectin in tomatillos.  Salsa verde is a good place to start if you’ve never worked with tomatillos before.  You can eat it with chips, use it to jazz up scrambled eggs, put it on tacos, or use it as a base ingredient in other preparations.  The natural pectin in tomatillos does lend itself favorably to being used as a thickener for enchilada sauce, soups, stews, chili etc.
Purple Tomatillo Salsa! 
Cooked (bowl on left) and Fresh (bowl on right)
Tomatillos are very easy to preserve for use in the off-season.  One option is to make salsa now and either can or freeze it.  If you don’t have time to make salsa or just want to have tomatillos available in the off-season for other uses, you can freeze tomatillos whole and raw.  Simply remove the outer husk, wash and dry the fruit.  Put them in a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer.  They don’t retain their firm texture after freezing, so don’t be surprised if they are soft when you thaw them.  If you are using them to make a cooked salsa, soup, etc, the texture issue isn’t an issue.

Vegetable Enchilads with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce
Ok, so lets talk recipes!  My top two favorite things to make with tomatillos are Spicy Pork and Tomatillo Stew (see below) and Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce.  I’ve been making the Spicy Pork and Tomatillo Stew (see below) since 2007 and I know I must’ve mentioned it in past blog articles but it looks like I’ve never shared the recipe in a newsletter!  I first made this stew for our farm crew back in 2007.  In fact, it was on the cover of Food & Wine magazine in October 2007 and I still have that issue of the magazine hanging out in the magazine rack near the kitchen in the office!   The cover is faded and tattered, but it was a good issue and I still reference it periodically.  My notes for this recipe are in the margin indicating I multiplied the recipe times five to feed the crew!  This is a good stew to make in early fall when the weather starts to change and the chill sets in.  I also like to freeze tomatillos and pull them out in the middle of winter to make a pot of this stew.  My second favorite recipe for Vegetable Enchiladas with Tomatillo-Cream Sauce was featured back in 2018.  This is a great recipe to make all summer and you can vary the vegetable ingredients depending on what you have available.  Ok, I lied.  I have a third favorite recipe. 
Roasted Tomatillo and Chickpea Curry
Back in 2017 I uncovered this recipe for Roasted Tomatillo and Chickpea Curry.  This is a bit of a non-traditional way to use tomatillos, which is exactly why I tried the recipe and it was delicious!

So, if you’re not sure where to start, I’d encourage you to consider a simple batch of salsa verde or reference the recipes in this week’s newsletter as well as the other two I mentioned that are on our website in our recipe archives.  Beyond these suggestions, I’ve compiled a list of 12 more recipes that are in my queue to make, hopefully this year!  If you try them first, be sure to post the results and your commentary on the recipe in our Facebook group…especially the Tomatillo Strawberry Pie!  Have fun and enjoy this unique vegetable/fruit selection!

Mexican Eggs in Purgatory
Yield:  4 portions (2 eggs each)

1 pound tomatillos, husked
1 poblano or jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded (if you wish)
1 ½ cups chopped cilantro leaves and stems, plus ¼-½ cup for serving
1 medium onion or 3 scallions, coarsely chopped, plus ½ cup for serving
¾ cup chicken broth
3 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or as needed)
1 garlic clove, minced
8 large eggs
2 Tbsp grated Cojita or crumbled feta cheese, plus more for serving
2-3 ounces shredded Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Lime wedges, for serving
Corn Tortillas, for serving

1. Preheat the broiler and position a rack about 8 inches from the heat source.  

2. In a blender, add the husked tomatillos, poblano or jalapeño pepper, chopped cilantro, onion, ½ tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper and chicken broth.  Puree until smooth.

3. In a large, shallow ovenproof skillet, cook the bacon over high heat until brown and slightly crispy.  If the bacon is lean, you may want to add the olive oil.  Once the bacon is cooked, add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant.  Carefully add the tomatillo puree and cook over moderate heat until the sauce is thickened and dull green, about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using the back of a spoon, make 8 depressions in the tomatillo sauce.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully crack the eggs into the depressions.  Sprinkle the eggs and tomatillo sauce with the 2 tablespoons of Cotija cheese and the shredded Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese.  Broil the dish until the egg whites are set but the egg yolks are still runny, about 3-4 minutes.  

5. Remove from the oven and garnish with more Cotija cheese, chopped onion and cilantro.  Serve right away with warm corn tortillas and lime wedges. 

Chef Notes:  

The tomatillo sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days.  Bring the sauce to room temperature before adding the eggs. 

If you are serving less than four people, you can use a smaller ovenproof skillet and only half the sauce to cook four eggs instead of eight.  Reserve the second half of the sauce for a second meal. 

Variation:  If you want to add more vegetables to this dish, consider adding small diced potatoes and fresh corn kernels cut from 1-2 ears of corn.  Cook the potatoes and corn in the saute pan in a bit of oil before you cook the bacon.  Remove the potatoes and corn, cook the bacon and then add the vegetables back to the pan along with the tomatillo sauce.

This recipe was adapted slightly from Grace Parisi’s recipe featured at

photo from Food & Wine magazine, October 2007

Spicy Pork and Tomatillo Stew

Yield:  4 servings

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 ½ pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large celery ribs, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 Anaheim or poblano chile, seeded and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp mild chile powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Pinch of dried oregano
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup  ½ –inch diced carrots
Two 6-ounce potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into 1-inch dice
Hot Sauce, for serving
Chopped Cilantro, for garnish
Corn Tortilla Chips, for serving

1. In a medium casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil.  Season the pork with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until browned on 2 sides, about 2 minutes per side.  

2. Add the celery and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.  Add the diced chile, garlic, chile powder, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Add the carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and tomatillos, cover and simmer over low heat until the pork is cooked through and tender, about 30-40 minutes.

3. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Ladle the stew into bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with a few tortilla chips.  

Recipe adapted slightly from Food & Wine magazine, October 2007