Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Where's the Corn??!?!

By Farmer Richard



Before and after cultivating pictures. 
We have planted four different plantings of sweet corn, with the first on April 28.  With each planting we plant two different varieties of corn, each with different maturity dates so we can get two weeks of corn from each planting for a total harvest window of eight weeks!  Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned.  Corn needs warm soil to germinate and if you think back to April, it was a cold, wet spring.  We picked a warm day, 65°F, when the forecast was for a second warm, dry day to follow.   We planted varieties with good cold soil vigor and only planted the seeds about ½ inch deep with hopes that the sun would warm the top of the soil enough to get the seeds going.  The first 24 hours are the most important to start the germination process.  One variety germinated ok, the second variety produced very few sprouts and wasn’t enough of a crop to keep.  Well, the first planting didn’t go so well, so the second time out, still cool, we replanted part of the ground we had planted the first time and, again, planted shallow.  This time it turned dry and the seed germinated unevenly over the course of two weeks after a small rain.  Ok, well that’s better than nothing, but then we had a wet period that prevented cultivation and weeds became a problem!  Thankfully, the third planting came up nicely and we had dry weather to cultivate it, so no weeds!  We followed this one with our fourth and final planting.  We decided to make it a larger one to try to make up for the poor early ones.  Even though the first two plantings weren’t that great, we chose to fence them anyway to keep the critters out.  So then what happened?  Well, July 19th happened and we had a severe weather event that sent water running across the middle of the field and took out the fence and much of the corn. 

After the rain, there wasn’t much left to do except clean up the fence.  We left the corn, fully exposed, for the raccoons as a sort of peace offering that they could have as much as they wanted from this field, but please stay out of the later plantings!  The last two plantings that are in a different field looked good initially, but after 8 plus inches of rain the plants started to yellow.  The excessive moisture rotted the main tap root leaving only shallow side roots, collaterals, supporting the plants!  The dry end of the field fared a little better and will produce some ears this week.  The remainder of the field is delayed and the quality of the corn is questionable as the ears haven’t filled out properly.  Nonetheless, we put up a 7-foot high fence with an electric tape running around the base of it.  The height of the fence will deter the deer and the low electric tape will keep the raccoons and other short, 4-legged creatures out of the field.  We also put up some owl and hawk decoys as well as bird scare eye balloons and reflective streamers to deter the birds.  Aside from playing some music and having a dance party, I’m not sure what else we can do!  Why have we gone to such extensive measures to protect our corn?  Well, it’s because we have a reputation amongst our local wildlife for having excellent sweet corn.  Unfortunately this is information that is passed on from generation to generation and thus, it is a never-ending, yet peaceful battle for us.

So our last field of corn is protected with all the bells and whistles to protect it from raccoons, deer, birds, and even bears!   But wait, there’s one more pest.   It’s the dreaded corn earworm!!  We monitor corn earworm presence by putting up a pheromone trap in the field to attract the corn earworm moths.   They migrate from the south and only arrive later in the season.  The female moths lay eggs on the new silk on the ears of corn and then 4-5 days later the eggs hatch and a worm emerges.  Conveniently, they are in perfect position to infiltrate the ear in their search for something to eat.  It is very difficult to combat this pest with any type of spray because you only have a small 2-day window of opportunity to kill the worm after it hatches and before it enters the ear of corn.  Once it’s in the ear, there’s nothing else that can be done.  So I use this pheromone trap to help me monitor the presence of the moths so we can try to time our spray applications with the best chance of killing the newly hatched worms.  I hadn’t found any moths up until last week when I found 12 corn earworm moths in the trap in one night!  That is the most I’ve ever caught in 40 years of using pheromone traps!  So where does that leave our last and best hope for sweet corn?  Only time will tell.

There was a time when huge flocks of bats emerging from caves in the south intercepted the moth migration and devastated their numbers.  Any moths that did make it to our region would be taken care of by our local bat populations.  Sadly, bat populations are being decimated by “white nose syndrome” brought on by a compromised immune system from eating insects that are contaminated with neonicotinoid insecticides used extensively in modern, conventional agriculture.  This leaves us facing a potentially severe earworm invasion!  We do have two organically approved insecticides that we can use, BT (bacillus thuringiensis) and Entrust.  Alejandro has been very diligent working late on Saturday night to time the application just right and try to coat the silks and infect the worms before they enter the ear.  Neither of these insecticides are systemic.  Conventional growers use systemic insecticides, such as neonicotinoids and GMO traits, that poison all parts of the corn plant thereby killing the earworm no matter where it is on the plant or in the ear.  But I don’t want that in my ear of corn!  I do not care to eat systemically poisoned corn!  Our experience is that it is impossible to kill every earworm with organic sprays.  We are doing our best, but if you find a worm on the tip of the corn in a future week, we hope you will cut off the tip and enjoy the remainder of the ear which I guarantee will be delicious.  It may be the best corn you have ever eaten and will be the best we can do for this year!

Well, battling corn critters is not the only thing we’ve been doing around the farm, so I’d like to share a few other farm and crop updates.  Overall it has been a cool summer!  Beautiful weather to work in with highs around 75°F and just a few days creeping into the 80’s, but nothing higher than that and cool nights dipping down to 50-60°F.  The eggplant has done well and the peppers look great and are ripening to orange and red.  The tomatoes, on the other hand, have been slow to ripen and the second planting may not ripen at all before we see the first fall frost!  Yes, we are close to the first fall frost which is still predicted for around September 15.  It’s been a few years since we’ve picked green tomatoes before a frost, but this just might be the year.  Don’t worry, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Fried green tomato sandwiches are delicious!

Carnival Squash still on the vine.
The sweet potatoes look very good and have set on many tubers that just need some heat to “size-up.”  The jicama also has some nice roots and could be a good crop if the moisture stays steady to avoid growth cracks!  We will likely be harvesting some of the winter squash before too long, so we’ve been working diligently to get all of the onions and shallots trimmed and put into the cooler for long term storage so we can use our greenhouses for the squash! 



Salad Mix planting
While many farmers are done planting, we still have several more weeks of plantings remaining.  Earlier this week we beat the rain to do our final planting of fall turnips and daikon radish as well as our weekly plantings which included our first planting of lettuce for fall salad mix!  In addition to harvest, planting, etc, we are working on removing trees and repairing a major drainage ditch that dumped silt and rock onto one of our fields during the weather event at the end of July.  It’s quite an undertaking, but I think we’re making progress and we’re hopeful it will keep the water contained should we have another big weather event in the future.  


We believe climate change is real, so we’re not wondering “If” it will happen again but rather we are preparing for when it happens again!  We may not see the extended warm fall we have seen for several years, but we will do our best to respond to the extremes, both hot and cold!  We hope you will be understanding as crops continue to come in.  Like it or not, we’re in this together and these are the realities of farming this year.  Despite the challenges, we are reminded every day of the bounty of food our resilient fields continue to produce.  We are truly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to share this summer bounty of vegetables with you this week.   

August 24, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Tomatillos


Cooking With This Week's Box


This week’s box is packed full, so lets dive in and start cooking.  As usual, we’ll start with this week’s featured vegetable, tomatillos.  If you’re feeling like making a traditional tomatillo salsa this week, go right ahead.  The purple tomatillos in particular make a gorgeous salsa, raw or cooked.  If you’re looking for something a little different, try the Roasted Tomatillos & Chickpea Curry recipe in this week’s newsletter (see below).  This is a very easy dish to make, leftovers are even better than the first day, and it’s an easily adaptable recipe.  You can keep it simple with just the chickpeas, or add some thinly sliced chicken breast to the mix.  Serve this dish with slices of fresh, salted cucumbers and diced tomatoes. 

This week I came across this recipe for One Pot Pasta for Late Summer  This recipe really does use one pot and celebrates the simplicity of summer cooking, which somehow always comes around to a dish containing pasta and fresh tomatoes!  This recipe includes several items in your box including the pint of small tomatoes, some of your zucchini, and an onion.  You’ll also need to snip a few herbs from your herb garden to round out this dish which will stand on its own, or serve it alongside a piece of sautéed fish or chicken. 

While we’re talking about noodles, I should mention that this week’s yukina savoy can stand in for bok choi in most recipes, including Melissa Clark’s recipe for Spicy Ginger Pork Noodles with Bok Choi which we featured in our June 2016 newsletter.  Use the entire bunch of yukina savoy in place of the bok choi in this recipe.  This is one of my favorite recipes for several reasons including 1) it’s very easy to make 2) leftovers are equally delicious 3) it’s always a  crowd pleaser—who can go wrong with noodles?!

I keep thinking we’re at the end of green bean season, and then Richard finds more green beans!  That’s ok though, they’ve been really good and, sadly, this really is the last week for them.  I’m going to try this recipe for Ginger & Garlic Green Beans.   This recipe is written for a 2 pound quantity of green beans.  Unless you have more  beans lingering from last week’s box or have some from your own garden to supplement this week’s half pound bag, you’ll need to either cut this recipe down or substitute some other vegetables in place of some of the beans.  I’m going to use this week’s broccoli (stems and florets) along with the green beans and smother them both in garlic and ginger.  This dish will go great alongside this recipe for Chicken Teriyaki featured at NYTimes Cooking. Serve the chicken over steamed rice, and make sure you make enough so you have plenty of leftover rice to make Fried Rice with Edamame later in the week.  There’s a simple recipe featured in our August 2015 newsletter.  This recipe calls for a half pound of edamame and some corn.  Since we don’t have corn this week, just double the amount of edamame in this recipe.  You have about one pound of edamame in your box, so this will work out perfectly.  You can use ground pork, as the recipe calls for, or you can leave the pork out and have a vegetarian version.     I love fresh edamame in fried rice and I love how fast it is to make fried rice!  You’ll have dinner on the table in no time!

This week’s Italian frying peppers are going to find their home on an Italian Sausage Sandwich with Spicy Grilled Peppers and Fennel-Onion Mustard.  As long as you have the grill fired up to make the parts and pieces of this sandwich, you might as well enjoy this meal out on the patio taking in some summer night air. This is a substantial sandwich, so you won’t need to serve anything more than some fresh tomato slices to go along with it.  Finish off this meal with the French Orange Melon or some chunks of watermelon for dessert!  Not sure how to cut up a watermelon?  Check out this video at gimmesomeoven.com.  The author, Ali, shows you how to cut a watermelon in several different ways! 

What shall we do with this week’s cucumbers?  Perhaps we should make Cucumber Mojitos!  Summer won’t last forever, so make a drink to enjoy as you grill out on the patio.   You can make it with or without rum, your choice.

Well, we’ve almost finished eating through this week’s box.  The final little bit of zucchini, onions, garlic and the green bell pepper will go into a saute pan and be used in a morning scramble that will become a Breakfast Burrito when wrapped up in a tortilla along with some fresh tomato salsa. I don’t have a recipe for this, so feel free to wing it and customize your scramble to match whatever little bits and pieces of vegetables and other ingredients you have lingering in your refrigerator. 

This brings us to the end of another week’s CSA box.  If you are wondering where the sweet corn is this week, please take a minute to read Farmer Richard’s newsletter article which will answer your question.  I’ll see you back here next week for more summer recipe ideas.  Next week’s box should have some colored sweet peppers in it as well as some poblano peppers, which is one of my favorite peppers.  Thankfully I have a whole week to figure out how I’ll incorporate them into next week’s meals.  Have a great week!—Chef Andrea


Vegetable Feature:  Tomatillos

Tomatillos are an interesting “vegetable,” which are technically a fruit.  Despite the fact that they are often referred to as a “green tomato,” they are a bit different.  Tomatillos grow on plants that are similar to a tomato plant, 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 trunk! The plants can grow to be over seven feet tall, so we put stakes in between and tie the plants to them progressively as they grow in order to keep the plant upright and the fruit off the ground.  Tomatillos grow from pretty little yellow blossoms which are a favorite food source for bumble bees and other pollinator creatures.  The fruit is hidden inside a husk that looks like a little paper lantern.  You know the tomatillo is ready to pick when it fills the husk completely.  While most tomatillos are green, this year we’re growing a heirloom purple variety that, when fully ripe, is dark purple on the outside and light purple inside!

Tomatillos may be eaten raw or cooked and have a mild, tangy flavor that is slightly fruity.   Purple tomatillos are more fruity and sweet than green tomatillos.  When raw, tomatillos are firm with a dense flesh.  Once cooked, tomatillos soften and break apart becoming more like sauce.  They have a lot of natural pectin which is a natural thickener.  The outer husk is not edible, so this needs to be removed before you use them.  The fruit inside might feel a little sticky, which is normal.  Just give them a quick rinse and you’re ready to go. 

One of the most familiar ways to use tomatillos is in making salsa!  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 first, you’ll get a more smooth salsa.   Roasting tomatillos along with the other salsa ingredients such as onions, garlic, peppers and even limes cut in half will further develop the flavors of these ingredients giving you yet another version of tomatillo salsa.  You can roast the vegetables over an open flame on a grill or gas burner on your stove or put them in the oven under the broiler so you get that nice charred exterior.  Tomatillo salsa is delicious when simply served as a snack or appetizer along with tortilla chips, but it can also be used to top off tacos, quesadillas, make enchiladas, or served alongside your morning eggs or stirred into a bowl of black beans and/or rice.

Cooked purple tomatillo salsa (left) and
fresh purple tomatillo salsa (right)
Salsa is not the only thing you can do with a tomatillo.  There are many other interesting ways to take advantage of their unique tang and natural pectin.  The tanginess of tomatillos pairs very well with pork and can make a delicious Pork and Tomatillo Stew  which is thickened by the tomatillo.  They can also be used to make sauces for chicken and bean dishes, blend them into guacamole, or incorporate them into soups such as the Chilled Buttermilk and Tomatillo Soup we featured in a past newsletter.  They can make a delicious fresh vegetable salsa or salad when combined with fresh tomatoes, corn, edamame, onions, garlic, sweet and/or hot peppers and fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley or basil.  Purple tomatillos are one of just a few purple vegetables that actually retain their purple color when cooked.  In fact the color of a cooked purple tomatillo is a stunning bright purple that is just gorgeous!

Tomatillos are best stored at room temperature until you are ready to use them, however it’s best to use them within a week.  They are also 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 or some other cooked preparation, the texture issue isn’t an issue.  If you are interested in purchasing a larger quantity of tomatillos to preserve, watch your email for a special produce plus offer within the next few weeks.  Have fun and enjoy this unique selection!


Oven-Fried Tomatillos

Yield:  4 servings


Olive oil cooking spray
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and cut into ½-inch thick slices
¼ tsp salt 
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Creole or Cajun seasoning (or other spice blend to your liking)
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup mayonnaise

  1. Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.  
  2. Sprinkle tomatillo slices with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  3. Combine the flour, garlic powder and seasoning blend of your choosing in a shallow dish.  Crack the eggs into a separate dish and lightly beat the eggs.  Put the breadcrumbs in a third dish.  Dredge the tomatillos in the flour mixture, dip in the egg and then coat both sides with breadcrumbs.  Place the breaded tomatillo slices on a backing sheet with a rack.  Generously coat the slices with cooking spray.  
  4. Bake the tomatillos for about 8 minutes or until the top side is crispy.  Turn the slices over and spray the second side with cooking spray.  Return the tomatillos to the oven and bake an additional 6 minutes or until the second side is also crispy.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the ketchup and mayonnaise in a small bowl.  Serve the tomatillos warm with the dipping sauce.  The outside of the slices will be crispy and the inside will be warm and soft.
Recipe adapted from EatingWell.com.


Roasted Tomatillo and Chickpea Curry

Yield:  4 servings

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed
1 poblano pepper or jalapeño pepper
1-2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup cilantro (handful of fresh leaves & stems)
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
1 tsp salt



Chickpea Curry
⅓ cup coconut milk, plus more to taste
1—16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste

  1. Roast the poblano or jalapeño pepper and tomatillos directly on an open flame either on your stovetop or on a grill.  If you don’t have a gas range, you can also roast the vegetables under the broiler until nicely charred and soft.  Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, scrape the skin off of the pepper and remove the seeds.  
  2. Put the tomatillos, poblano or jalapeno (you may want to start with just half of a jalapeno and add more later if you want more heat), and the remaining salsa ingredients in a food processor.  Process everything to a smooth sauce consistency.  Pour the salsa into a bowl and set aside.  You should have about one cup of roasted tomatillo salsa.
  3. Put ½ cup of chickpeas into the food processor and pulse it a few times to mash them.  Set aside.
  4. Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1-2 tsp olive oil, then add the curry powder and stir it into the oil.  Let it sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds.  It should be very aromatic.  Add ½ of the tomatillo salsa and cook for about two minutes.
  5. Next, add the mashed chickpeas, the remaining whole chickpeas, the remainder of the salsa, and ⅓ cup coconut milk.  Mix well and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer the curry until it thickens a bit (5-7 minutes).  If it gets too thick you can thin it with a little water.  Taste and adjust the sauce to your liking by adding more coconut milk, salt, pepper and/or a squeeze of lime juice.  
  6. Serve over rice or quinoa with lime wedges on the side.

Recipe adapted from www.chefdehome.com.

Chef Andrea’s serving suggestions and variations:  You can make this dish as spicy or as mild as you’d like.  Sliced, salted cucumbers are a nice accompaniment for the dish that helps cool off the curry.  While this dish is good made per the recipe, I think it would also be good served with fresh, diced tomatoes on top or with the addition of chicken.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Your CSA Box - You CAN Take It With You!

by Chef Andrea and Friends!

 Sous Chef Bob preparing a roadside meal
As we near the end of summer, some of you may be squeezing in some of the last vacation days before we move into fall, return to school, etc.  While it’s fun to go away, it’s the peak of CSA vegetable season and that means finding another home for your precious CSA vegetables!  The idea for this newsletter came out of conversation with one of our longtime CSA families in Madison, Carol Wilson and Bob Philbin.  Here’s what Carol had to say “Over the years we’ve learned that taking our veggies with us on our trips means several days of healthy and good eating even while on the road or in the campsite!  We have cooked with HVF veggies along the Colorado River and even carried some in our backpacks into the Havasu Canyon!”  So this week I thought we’d toss out some suggestions for ways you can incorporate your CSA vegetables into your travels throughout the season.  In addition to travel for pleasure, many of you may travel for work.  Whether your travels take you away for one day or several days, there are things you can do to incorporate your CSA vegetables into your trips.  Yes, it does take a little forethought and planning, but there are some simple suggestions we’d like to offer for you to consider and adapt to your own needs. 

You can reap some important benefits from taking your own vegetables with you.  Sometimes there is limited access to food, not to mention healthy options and/or organic options.  Traveling can be hard on a body, especially if you are traveling a long distance, are taking public transportation, or have long days of driving.  It’s important to do what you can to keep your immune system strong so you feel good and can enjoy your travels.  The fuel you put in your body is one of the most important factors, so not something to be overlooked.  You can also save money by taking your own food with you.  Roadside food, airport restaurants and snack bars, etc are not cheap and often generate a lot of unnecessary trash from the packaging.  You’ve already paid for your CSA vegetables, so take them with you and spend your money on other things you want to enjoy such as adventures once you arrive at your final destination! 

Cutting mat for preparing vegetables roadside
To get started, I want to share a few strategies Carol and Bob offered from their experiences.  “Our primary strategy is to cook up a one-pot concoction. (Chef Andrea named this Summer Farmer Skillet Dinner in a previous newsletter and this dish uses the same principles, but skips the oven part.)  Besides the veggies, you will need a good knife (or two, if you have a sous chef) and a couple of cutting mats.  A basic Coleman stove and a decent skillet will work for most things.  We bring a couple of cans of beans and some canned/bagged meat or fish to add to the skillet and we always include salt, pepper, and a seasoning mixture we make at home.  Our mixture generally includes garlic powder, Aleppo pepper, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and thyme, but make a mixture that pleases your palate. When we are leaving for a trip, we pick up our box very early at the Farmers’ Market and then make a trip around the market to add to our collection of fresh produce.  We make sure to have a variety of fruits and veggies to snack on in the car and for quick lunches.  We add in some McCluskey’s cheese curds and maybe a bakery item or two and we hit the road.  If there are any items in the HVF box that would be too difficult to cook we leave them in the swap box for a lucky someone.” 

Carol goes on to say, “Using the most perishable items first is important.  Greens don’t hold up as well in a cooler as in a refrigerator so we are sure to use them the first day or two whereas carrots, beans, cauliflower, and cabbage all last several days in the cooler.  I know that I feel better when I eat lots of organic produce and a road trip doesn’t HAVE to mean fast food.  With a little planning ahead, you CAN take your HVF vegetables with you!”


Sous Chef Bob cooking at Campsite with HVF arugula
Carol brings up several important points to make your travel adventures a success.  First, choose to take vegetables with you that are durable and will hold up under your travel conditions.  If you are able to take a cooler with you, you may have a wider variety of options.  Root vegetables, cabbage, onions, garlic and warm weather loving vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and zucchini all hold up pretty well and would even be fine for shorter periods of time out of a cooler.  You don’t want to subject them to temperatures that are too hot, but they would travel fine in the back of your car if you have a little A/C on or even in a suitcase if you’re flying!  I once took half a suitcase of carrots, sweet potatoes and black radishes home to Indiana for Christmas, upon request from my family. They would also be fine overnight at room temperature in a hotel or the like. 




If you know you aren’t going to be able to use something on your trip or eat it before you leave, the SWAP box is a great option.  Leave it at your CSA site so someone else can make use of it and save yourself the trouble of composting it when you get home.  Take a reasonable amount of food with you and not more than you think you’ll be able to eat or you may find you have to discard it along the way.  For example, when Richard and I travel for our winter get-away, we know we’re going to have a long day of air travel, but once we reach our destination we’ll have access to good, healthy food options.  We pack enough food to get us to our destination and eat our final bites before we get off the airplane.  Since we’re traveling in the winter we often take carrot sticks and slices of beauty heart radishes that we eat with nut butter or sliced cheese.  We eat the cheese early in the day and save the nut butter for later since it can withstand room temperature better.  There are some vegetables that are super-easy to take with you for snacks, etc.  Sugar snap peas, mini-sweet peppers, and boiled edamame are some great options.  Slices of kohlrabi, red radishes, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, etc are delicious on their own or you could add a little salt and/or a dip or dressing if you have that option.

Other vegetable-centric ideas that could fit into your travel adventures include fresh vegetable salsa to eat with chips or other vegetables, simple sandwiches built with a protein (cheese, meat, hummus, nutbutter, etc) and lots of sliced vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc), and hearty salads that you can make in advance such as a carrot salad with a light vinaigrette or a kale salad that will hold up ok with limited refrigeration. You’ll have to adapt your selections to your mode of travel, accommodations, cooking facilities along the way, etc. 

If you are camping and have the ability to cook, you can implement some of Carol’s suggestions or here’s an idea from another member.  “We love campfire Fajitas when we camp and it has become my ‘Signature dish’ when we go with a group of friends, and they request them specifically each year. The fajita mix is just the store bought package kind that you mix with water so nothing fancy. I chop up my peppers and onions at home and store them in a bag in the cooler. We cook them in a grill basket over our campfire so they get nice and smoky flavored. I typically cook the chicken on our camp stove (just a bit more reliable for something a bit more sensitive!), and then we combine them all together and serve. If you're lucky enough to get a jalapeño, have extra onion, and some tomatoes, you could mix up some killer pico to go with it!” 
 
Another member who had to travel a lot for work last year offered these suggestions:  “I think it’s helpful to do some advance cleaning, trimming, taking off tougher skin, etc (eg kohlrabi, can be made into a bald "ball", for use later). Some veggies are way more durable than I gave them credit for and as long as they're not in a super warm place, are a low food safety risk. I found that some of these vegetables travel well in a suit case: zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, kohlrabi, carrot, kale, shallots, some onions, smaller snack peppers, spaghetti squash, for starters.  Also, I began cooking some of my meals in my hotel room microwave. Some places like Ann Arbor, Michigan were so interesting that I just ate out every night. For other smaller towns....options were too chain restaurant heavy for me.  I never knew how SUPERB an impromptu  microwave ‘baba ghanoush’ could be--eggplant cut lengthwise, covered with slightly moistened paper towel, until softened as desired, then mushed up with spoon or fork, sprinkled with olive oil and salt/spices, or even just salt alone. I might have brought a small amount of tahini with me once.”

Carol eating Sweet Sarah cantaloupe!
With a little creativity and planning there are many ways to incorporate your CSA vegetables into your travels.  As you travel you may also find some interesting road side dining areas you may not have otherwise taken the time to stop.  You know those “Scenic Points of Interest” often marked along the roadsides?  Choose one of these to stop for a lunch break and relax and enjoy the view.  With your lunch packed in your car, you may even choose to take a different route through the mountains or take the more scenic route instead of traveling the interstate.  Do a little thinking “inside the box” and see if you too can find some ways to travel with your vegetables.  Happy Trails!

August 17, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Edamame

Cooking with this Week's Box!

It’s hard to believe we’re already half way through August!  Summer is flying by, but look at this full box!  We’ve had some pretty cool weather over the past week, but we’re seeing the peppers start to change colors and the tomatoes are finally ripening…a little slowly, but that’s ok.  I’m sure we’ll be flooded with tomatoes before we know it! 

This week we’re excited to be picking our first crop of fresh edamame.  If you aren’t familiar with how to work with fresh edamame, take a moment to read this week’s vegetable feature which includes information about how to cook them, shell them, etc.  We’ve also included two recipes in this week’s newsletter and I’d consider either to be a good option for using your edamame this week.  If you’re looking for a hot preparation, go with the Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms & Edamame.  If you’re feeling something on the cool side, you might want to consider trying the Cold Peanut-Sesame Noodles with Cucumbers & Edamame (See Below).  

We do have quite a few cucumbers in this week’s box, so I think this is the week to try a recipe I’ve had on the back burner for awhile.  This is a Cucumber and Green Grape Gazpacho garnished with a fresh tomato salsa. This will use about half your cucumbers as well as most of your pint of small tomatoes and some or all of your jalapeno, depending upon your desire for heat.  This is a great recipe to make on a hot evening when you don’t feel like “cooking” and the leftovers will travel well for lunch the next day. 

Now that we have fresh tomatoes, it’s time to make Tabbouleh!  This is a dish that screams “SUMMER!” Fresh tomatoes, diced cucumbers and lots of fresh parsley from your herb garden all combined to make a light, refreshing salad that is quite nice on its own or you could pair it with a protein of your choosing or eat it with a pita bread spread with hummus for a light lunch.

The red curly kale in this week’s box is gorgeous!  If you’re looking for ideas for ways to use this, check out Bon Appetit’s “47 Kale Recipes That Go Beyond Salad” which includes this recipe for Spicy Kale and Ricotta Grandma Pie.  It’s basically a sheet pan pizza that looks really good!  If you’re looking for something a little more simple or want something you can take with you on the go, consider making Kale Chips with Almond Butter & Miso featured in one of our newsletters last summer.

Last week in our Facebook group a member shared this delicious recipe for Roasted Broccoli with Nacho Toppings!  I would have never considered turning broccoli into nachos, but what a great idea!  Another recipe idea that was shared in our Facebook group was for this Silky Zucchini Soup that received good reviews.  It is a super-simple recipe using just a handful of ingredients and it can be served either chilled or warm.  I think I’ll serve it with some crusty bread and a few slices of fresh tomato.

We’re likely in our last week of green beans, so go wild and try something new like Tempura Fried Green Beans with Mustard Dipping Sauce which is part of a collection of 15 Great Green Bean Recipes featured at Cooking.nytimes.com.

So here we are left with our lovely carrots, purple majesty potatoes and French orange melons.  This week’s carrots are going to be cut up at the beginning of the week and put in a canning jar in the fridge so they are easy to see and ready to go as a quick vegetable snack for those times when you just need something to hold you over until dinner.  The gorgeous purple majesty potatoes are going to become simple roasted potatoes for Sunday brunch.  Just a little olive oil, salt and pepper is all the treatment they’ll get before going into the oven.  Just before serving I’ll toss them with some fresh, chopped herbs from the garden.  I’ll serve them with scrambled eggs, bacon and a few slices of tomato for a simple brunch that we’ll finish off with some delicious, sweet French orange melon.  Have a great week and enjoy this week of summer cooking and eating!---Chef Andrea



Vegetable Feature:  Edamame

Edamame (eh-dah-MAH-may) is a fresh soybean that has grown in popularity in the United States over the past few years, but has been a part of Japanese and Chinese cuisine for much longer.  In Asia, edamame is often sold on the stem with leaves removed, however in this country edamame is most often found in the frozen section either in the pod or shelled.  American fine- dining restaurants traditionally offer a bread course before the main event, whereas in Japan or China you would usually sit down to a plate of steamed and salted edamame. True edamame intended for fresh eating is quite different than oil-seed soybeans and tofu beans most often grown to make tofu and other processed soy products.  The edamame varieties we grow were developed specifically because they produce a sweet bean that doesn’t have a “beany” aftertaste and is the preferred variety in Japan and China for fresh eating.  Edamame seed is very expensive to purchase and for many years the varieties for fresh eating were very hard to find.  We were able to source some seed over 15 years ago, paid the high price, planted it and decided to save our own seed for the next year.  We’ve continued to reserve a portion of each year’s crop to harvest for seed to plant the next year.  Our varieties have become acclimated to our growing area and do very well for us.

Edamame resembles a small lima bean encased in a pod.  The beans are sweet and tender and best eaten lightly cooked. Unlike sugar snap peas, edamame pods are not edible and should be discarded.  Edamame is hard to shell when it’s raw.  It is easiest to cook edamame in its pod first and then remove the beans from the pod.   To cook edamame, first rinse the pods thoroughly with cold water. Bring a pot of heavily salted water (salty like the sea) to a boil.  Add the edamame pods and boil for about 3-4 minutes.  You should see the pods change to a bright green color.  Remove the edamame from the boiling water and immediately put them in ice water or run cold water over them to quickly cool them.   After the beans are cooked you can easily squeeze the pod to pop the beans out, either into a bowl or directly into your mouth!  This is a great skill to teach children so they can eat them as a snack and help you shell edamame!  Once you’ve removed them from the pods, they are ready to incorporate into a recipe or eat as a snack.

You can also roast edamame in their pods.  There’s a basic recipe on our website, but basically you toss the edamame pods with oil and seasonings of your choice.  Some of our favorites include Teriyaki and Wasabi-Roasted Edamame  Spread the seasoned edamame on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast in the oven until the bean is tender.  Serve the beans whole with their pods still on.  While you won’t eat the pod, you can use your teeth to pull the edamame out of the pod and in the process you’ll pick up the seasoning on the outside of the pod!

You can store fresh or cooked edamame for up to a week in the refrigerator, but it is best to eat them soon for the sweetest flavor and best texture.  If you are interested in preserving edamame for later use, simply follow the cooking procedure above for boiling, cool and freeze the beans either in their pods or remove them and freeze just the bean. It’s a nice treat to pull something green out of the freezer in the middle of the winter to enjoy as a snack or incorporate them into a winter stir-fry or pan of fried rice.

Children and adults alike often enjoy edamame as a simple snack, but you can also incorporate edamame into vegetable or grain salads, stir-fry, fried rice, steamed dumplings or pot stickers to name just a few suggestions.  They pair well with any combination of traditional Asian ingredients such as sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger.  They are also a nice, bright addition to brothy soups such as a miso soup.  If you follow the suggested method for boiling edamame before shelling them, the bean will already be fully cooked, so if you are adding edamame to a hot dish or recipe, do so at the end of the cooking. 



Cold Peanut-Sesame Noodles with Edamame & Cucumber

Yield:  6 servings

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced

⅓ cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp natural, unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter
3 Tbsp sugar or maple syrup
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp rice wine, sake or white wine
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp tahini
5 Tbsp roasted peanut oil or unrefined sunflower oil, divided
12 oz dried Chinese egg noodles or traditional spaghetti noodles
1 medium or 2 small cucumbers, halved & sliced thinly
½ to 1 whole jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
1 cup shelled edamame 
½ cup chopped cilantro
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)
Roasted, chopped peanuts or almonds, to garnish (optional)


  1. In a blender, combine the ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut or almond butter, sugar or maple syrup, vinegar, rice wine, garlic, tahini and 3 Tbsp of peanut or sunflower oil.  Blend until smooth, then transfer the sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to add to the noodles.
  2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente.  Drain and rinse under cold running water until chilled.  Shake out the excess water and blot dry;  transfer the noodles to a bowl and toss with the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil.  
  3. Add the cucumbers, jalapeño, edamame and cilantro to the bowl.  Drizzle with some of the peanut-sesame sauce and toss well to coat.  Add more sauce if needed.  Allow to rest for a few minutes, then taste.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.  Serve cold or at room temperature and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or toasted peanuts or almonds if desired.   

Recipe adapted from one originally featured in Food and Wine magazine, May 2012.




Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms & Edamame

By Andrea Yoder                                                             
Yield:  4 servings

2 Tbsp butter, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced, fresh ginger
4 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup Arborio rice
⅓ cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, warmed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste (optional)
Lemon zest, from one lemon
1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup shelled fresh edamame

  1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic and ginger.  Saute until softened.  Add the remaining Tbsp of butter to the pan along with the shiitake mushrooms, 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black and white pepper (if using).  Saute just until the mushrooms start to soften.  
  2. Add the rice to the pan and stir continuously for about 30 seconds, just long enough to slightly parch the rice kernels.  Add the white wine to the pan and allow the wine to reduce by half.
  3. You will add the warm broth in 3-4 additions.  Once the wine is reduced by half, add about 1 cup of broth to the pan.  Stir periodically until nearly all the liquid is absorbed, then add another 1 cup portion of broth to the pan.  Do this three times.  After the third addition, taste the rice to see if it is still starchy or if it is al dente.  You want it to still have a little bite to it, but it needs to be fully cooked.  If the rice needs a little more cooking time, add a little more broth and cook just a tad longer.  You want enough liquid remaining in the mixture to keep the rice creamy.
  4. Once the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the edamame, lemon zest and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice.  Taste the risotto and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice to your liking.  Serve immediately.

This dish is delicious served on its own, but would also pair nicely with fish or seafood.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

August 10, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Cucumbers

Cooking with this Week's Box!

Welcome back for another week of cooking and eating out of the CSA Box.  This week I’m in the mood for simple food.  Simple in the sense of basic cooking methods, classic preparations, simple seasonings, and basically just stepping back and letting the vegetables stand on their own.  None of this week’s suggestions are complicated or intricate.  Some recipes may require time to marinate meat or bake something, so you’ll have to plan ahead a bit, but nothing is hard or time consuming. 

Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, cucumbers!  This week I vote for the Vietnamese Cucumber Salad featured below.  This recipe consists of a bowl full of sliced cucumbers and onions tossed with fresh herbs, chopped peanuts, garlic and minced jalapeno dressed with a simple 5-ingredient dressing.  It would be excellent served with Vietnamese Pork Chops.  The pork chops are marinated for about 20 minutes before cooking, so marinate the chops first before you make the cucumber salad. 

The next recipe I’d like to suggest is Sauteed Sirloin Tips with Bell Peppers & Onions served with Potato Gratin. For this meal, you will need to plan ahead and marinate the sirloin tips overnight.  I would suggest putting this entire meal together the night before or better yet, if you are a weekend prepper, prep this meal on Saturday or Sunday.  Marinate the steak and make the potato gratin…even bake it off, cool it to room temp and refrigerate it.  When you get home from work the next evening, all you have to do is reheat the gratin and cook the sirloin tips along with the green bell and Italian frying peppers. 

Roasted chicken is such a simple dish.  Don’t let a whole bird intimidate you.  All you have to do is season it and put it in the oven to bake.  If you need a recipe to guide you, look in any basic cookbook or choose your favorite one on-line.  I like to put a layer of vegetables in the bottom of my roasting pan when I roast a chicken.  The vegetables cook in the juices running off of the chicken, making them so delicious.  Plus, an added benefit is that the vegetables prevent any splattering of juice and fat in your oven!  So this week I’m going to roast carrots and zucchini under the chicken.  The zucchini won’t need as long to cook, so I’ll add the zucchini to the pan about half way through the cooking time for the chicken.  By the time the chicken is cooked, the vegetables should be tender and golden.  Remove the chicken from the pan to rest for about 10 minutes.  Add a big handful of chopped fresh herbs from your garden to the vegetables and your dinner of Roasted Chicken with Roasted Carrots and Zucchini is ready!  One of the great things about a whole roasted chicken is how many meals you can get out of it!  Use the chicken carcass to make a delicious broth to use as the base for a simple Chicken and Noodle Soup.  Before you go to work in the morning, put the carcass in your crockpot along with some onions, garlic and some dried sage and parsley.  Let it simmer on the lowest setting all day.  When you get home in the evening you’ll be met by the aroma of homemade chicken broth!  Strain the vegetables and bones out of the broth and then reheat the broth in a pan on the stove.  Add some chopped onion, garlic and any leftover roasted vegetables and chicken you have remaining from the night before.  Bring the broth to a simmer and then add some noodles of your choosing.  Simmer the broth just until the noodles are cooked, then add a big handful of chopped fresh herbs to the pan and dinner is ready! 

One of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower is to simply roast it.  My next meal suggestion could be prepared any night of the week, but it might be a nice fit for “Friday night Fish Fry.”   Turn your cauliflower into Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower and serve it with  Panko Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb DipThe fish sticks are actually baked, which I think is easier and leaves you with less mess to clean up.  Plus, you have the oven heated up to roast the cauliflower, so you might as well bake the fish in there too!  My strategy for preparing this meal is to make the sauce and put it in the fridge while the oven is preheating.  Then prep the cauliflower and get it in the oven to start roasting.   While it’s roasting, prepare the fish sticks.  The cauliflower will take 30-45 minutes to roast and then you put the cheese on and bake it another 10 minutes.  The fish will only take 12-15 minutes to bake, so put the fish in the oven when it’s time to add the cheese to the cauliflower and that should bring everything into the home stretch at about the same time! 

The tomatoes and green beans this week are going to form the base for this simple Penne with Tomatoes, Basil, Green Beans & Feta. Eat it as is or add some Italian sausage or some leftover roasted chicken to the dish if you’d like.

And lastly, I am on a kick with including broccoli in my Sunday brunch egg dishes!  This week I’m going to make this Broccoli and Mushroom Egg Bake  and serve it with Honey Skillet Cornbread. The catch is the cornbread will include the fresh corn in this week’s box.  Just cut it off the cob with a paring knife and include it in the cornbread.  There’s one catch to this plan, the cooking times for these two dishes are different.  One is at 350°F and the other is at 400°F….compromise at 375°F and I think you’ll be just fine.  If there are two of you in the kitchen, each of you tackle one of the dishes and you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and the morning paper for half an hour while your breakfast/brunch bakes.  Bread takes 20 minutes and the eggs take 30-35 minutes.  Best to let the bread rest a bit, so even if they go in the oven at the same time, it will all work together in harmony.  Serve this meal with fresh slices of SWEET SARAH CANTALOUPE!!!

Well, that brings us to the bottom of yet another CSA box.  We’ve all been anticipating tomato season, and I suspect next week’s box will include a sizeable bag of tomatoes.  So, get those tomato  recipes ready!—Chef Andrea  


Vegetable Feature:  Cucumbers

 

“Why Cucumbers? (Doesn’t everyone know about cucumbers?)”  This is the opening line to the chapter about cucumbers in Elizabeth Schneider’s book, Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini.  Cucumbers are a fairly mild-flavored vegetable with a high water content, but they are more than just crispy.  In this country we may be most familiar with the American green slicer variety, but this is just one of many different types of cucumbers grown around the world.  They do have characteristics that vary from variety to variety including appearance as well as flavor.  For example, there are long Asian cucumbers that are long and sometimes kind of curled.  There are also Armenian cucumbers that are described as  “serpentine fruit” because of their long, narrow, curled shape.  A few years ago we grew an Indian cucumber called Poona Kheera.  It was a small, stout cucumber that was bright golden in color when young and then the skin became russeted when fully matured.  We grow several different varieties of green slicer cucumbers, and in recent years we’ve taken a liking to a variety called Silver Slicer.  This variety was bred by Cornell University and is distinctly identified by its pale yellow skin and crisp, white flesh.  We like it because it yields well, holds up well after picking without getting soft, has tender skin that doesn’t get bitter and it has an excellent fruity flavor.  It is a little smaller than a traditional green slicer, which is also an advantage because it has a smaller seed cavity.

Transplanting cucumbers
Cucumbers may be grown in a variety of growing systems.  Some are grown in hoop houses or hydroponic systems with trellises to tame the vines and keep the fruit and plants upright.  We choose to grow our cucumbers in the old fashioned way…in the dirt outside in the fields.  We do have a unique strategy though.  We start all of our cucumbers in the greenhouse as a transplant.  They grow very quickly once the seed germinates, so we only have about three weeks from when the seeds are planted to get the field ready!  We plant our cucumbers on raised beds covered with a reflective silver plastic that has drip irrigation lines running underneath it.  We do this for several reasons.  First, the reflective plastic helps deter pests such as cucumber beetles which can wreak havoc on the plants by chewing the leaves and scarring the fruit.  The plastic mulch also provides some heat gain which helps encourage growth in this heat-loving crop.  We plant an early crop that we put in the field as soon as possible in the spring and then do a second planting to get us through the latter part of summer.  We typically cover the first planting with a row cover draped over wire hoops.  This protects the plants from any chilly nights and also helps trap more heat to help the plants get established and take off.  Once the plants are producing fruit, you can almost predict the volume of a harvest by the temperature.  Ok, not quite, but they are very responsive to changes in temperature and if you have a really warm week you can really see some phenomenal growth and be surprised with harvests that literally double and sometimes triple seemingly overnight!

Cucumbers are a simple food that may be eaten raw or cooked.  I have to admit I don’t have a lot of experience eating cucumbers cooked, other than a canned pickle.  While cucumbers are most often eaten raw in salads, sliced onto sandwiches, eaten with dip or simply salted, they can also be cooked.  I’ve seen recipes, such as the one featured in this week’s newsletter, for stir-fried cucumbers, but they can also be used in soup, braised, lightly sautéed or wilted.

If you find yourself with more cucumbers than you can eat in a given week, you can always turn back to the good old pickling method.  Refrigerator pickles are a quick and easy way to preserve cucumbers that won’t require canning or any special equipment.  While I, admittedly, most often consume cucumbers in the form of a simple creamy cucumber salad or simply sliced and salted, don’t limit yourself!  Branch out and try a cucumber stir-fry or make a cucumber soup—chilled or hot.  You can even make some delicious, refreshing cucumber drinks!   


Spicy Stir-Fried Cucumbers with Shredded Chicken


Yield:  4 servings

12 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast, pounded ⅛ inch thick and very thinly sliced crosswise
5 garlic cloves, smashed, divided
1 Tbsp finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger, divided
1 tsp baking soda
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp canola oil, divided
12 dried red chiles, such as chiles de arbol—10 left whole, 2 stemmed and crumbled
1 pound cucumbers, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 serrano chile (substitute jalapeño), thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Lemon wedges and steamed rice, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with half of the garlic and ginger and the baking soda;  season with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, stir the vinegar with the sugar and ¼ cup of water.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil until shimmering.  Add the chicken and stir-fry over moderately high heat until the chicken is almost cooked through, 2 minutes; transfer the chicken to a plate.  Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of the oil to the skillet along with the whole and crumbled dried chiles, cucumbers, vinegar mixture and the remaining garlic and ginger;  season with salt and pepper.  Stir-fry over moderate heat until the cucumbers are softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 minutes.  
  3. Add the chicken and serrano/jalapeño and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through, 1 minute.  Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with lemon wedges and rice.

This recipe was featured in Food & Wine, October 2013.


Vietnamese Cucumber Salad


2 pounds cucumbers
1 large jalapeño, seeds and veins removed if desired, thinly sliced
3 scallions, finely sliced (substitute 1 medium onion, thinly sliced)
1 garlic clove, finely grated or pounded with a pinch of salt
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
16 large mint leaves, coarsely chopped
½ cup toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup neutral-tasting oil (eg. sunflower oil)
4 to 5 Tbsp lime juice
4 tsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
  1. Using either a Japanese mandolin or a sharp knife, thinly slice the cucumbers into coins, discarding the ends.  
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, jalapeño, onions, garlic, cilantro, mint, and peanuts.  
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, 4 Tbsp lime juice, the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and a small pinch of salt.  
  4. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more lime juice as needed.  Serve immediately.

This recipe is from Samin Nosrat’s book, Salt Fat Acid Heat.  It was featured in an article on the alexandracooks.com blog.