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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
1st Harvest Week, Winter 2007/2008
November 28th, 2007

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--Student poem
--What's new in the Winter CSA
--Pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
--Contact Information

No quote this week - see student poem, below!

Greetings from Farmer Tom

Well, the response for our second Winter CSA has been truly wonderful. Some folks probably wonder what the farm could have to offer during these more barren months of the year. Others may wonder, ‘why the funny, staggered schedule; why not a share every week like during the regular season?’ and ‘how come there are far fewer winter shares than regular season shares?’ All are good questions, of course, which I hope to answer here. Inherently, winter is a season of uncertainty, where the weather is calling the shots. In the true spirit of Community Supported Agriculture, your commitment means you are willing to accept this greater uncertainty, including what your share in the harvest will be. Pacific storms, flooding, freezing temperatures, equipment breakdowns, all sorts of things can contribute towards extremely difficult harvest and field conditions, which in turn can translate into more variability and uncertainty in terms of quantity and diversity of the crops in your shares. We have planned ahead though; most of our winter crops were purposefully planted on a staggered schedule, so as to mature at different times. Crops such as carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, and kohlrabi were planted in back in August and September, and are ready for harvest now or over the next couple of weeks. Later October plantings will take much longer – almost twice the normal time – to mature [shorter days, less daylight, colder temperatures all contribute to slower growing], so we don’t expect their harvest until the first few months of the New Year. But we have done our best to plan for an adequate harvest over the course of our winter CSA, barring the aforementioned uncertainties!
November leafThe first frost of the season descended on us last week, marking the beginning of the dormant season. With the advent of the Thanksgiving holiday, I always feel a shift in my life where the outward dynamic is turned inward. It's a time where I like to renew relationships with friends and strengthen the ones within my own family. The slower pace of shorter days and cooler temperatures allows for a little more rest, and gives space for reflection on my own inner landscape. Like a tree which loses it's leaves and stores its energy in the depth of it's roots, the winter season is an opportunity to quiet the chatter of my mind, so often stimulated by outside distractions, and shift my focus on my quieter and often invisible inner reality. This is not always easy to do in the hectic and consumer driven society we live in. With the holidays upon us we become increasingly overwhelmed with a flurry of activities, and a box of winter vegetables may feel more like a burden than the gift of nature that it is. Admittedly parsnips, winter squash or celery root are not like the "sexy" and instantly gratifying vegetables we enjoy in the summer. However they they have their own qualities. They oblige us to slow down... a warm soup or hearty vegetable stew takes time to prepare. Aaaahhhh... Our bodies are rewarded by a nourishing meal, and the preparation may offer moments of quiet reflection during this often overwhelmingly busy time of year. So we encourage everyone to enjoy the unique culinary treats winter has to offer, and from all of us here at the farm, we thank you for your commitment during this time of year.

– Tom

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Student poem

Sydney is a student at Santa Cruz Montessori/Wavecrest middle school, and she kindly shared a poem inspired by her weekly class activities here on the farm. Sydney’s poem is this week’s ‘quote’.

Farmland Fields
An open playground
Of learning and wonder
Spread as far as the eye can see.
The smells
Of the fresh air
And plants surrounding me
Are swept up to my nose
By the tender wind.
The tastes
Of the mouth-watering crops
So gently planted into the earth
Make my taste buds intrigued.
It brings inspiration
And thought
It feels like home.
Bursts of color
The soft earth tones
And the vivid colors in the flowers
Bring delight to the eye.
A new foundation
To live and learn
A sense of pleasure
And excitement. 
Sydney Sharek

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What's new in the Winter CSA

If you haven’t heard already, we have a couple of exciting new additions to this year’s Winter CSA:

First of all, we are adding some bread! A local (Santa Cruz) artisinal baker will be making loaves for us, with organic ingredients, and from as local as she can find them. Everyone should get 4 loaves over the course of our 8-week winter season. They will be staggered, so half the pick-up locations will get them one week, and the rest will get them the following week. *This week, our members ‘over the hill’ (Los Gatos, Willow Glen, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale) will get bread; next week, everyone else will get it, and this alternation will continue through the winter season.

Also new: everyone will get 2 jars of our dry-farmed tomatoes (not at the same time; they will be spaced out somewhere during the 8 weeks) which were canned by Happy Girl Kitchens over the summer. We will tell you in the ‘what’s in the box’ list which weeks they will be included.

Not new, but rather staples which you can expect regularly are crops which we store, such as winter squash, apples, and onions. And of course there are always going to be surprises and mystery items to spice up the recipes as well. Bon appetit!

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Pictures around the farm

Some colorful, contemplative moments, scenes...
redtail hawk, berries, pumpkins

And another moment... colorful yes, but contemplative, perhaps less so! Here is the whole crew, including spouses and children, having a great time at our end-of-season farmworker celebration!

farmworker celebration

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What's in the box this week

Lettuce (bibb and/or red leaf)
Kale (Red Russian)
Bag of parsnips (from Lakeside)
Winter squash (butternut, Kabocha and/or sweet dumpling)
Brussel sprouts
Apples (from Bob Silva)
Celery root (from Lakeside)
Onions (from Pinnacle Farms)
Bread (*see What’s new in the Winter CSA, above)

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
(Click here to go to recipe database)

I have a large variety of recipes for you this week; some from members, others from my seemingly bottomless supply of clippings! - Debbie

Let's start with Member Lauren Thompson, who posted this brussel sprout recipe on the LEFCSAfriends yahoo group not long ago, saying even their two-year old, Kai, proclaimed: "more brussel sprouts" and "yummy!"

Best Brussels Sprouts

“The name says it all!” says Lauren. These sweet-and-sour sprouts are wonderful hot or at room temperature.
serves 4

1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in half
2 tbsp. olive oil (or 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter or margarine)
salt to taste
¾ C vegetable stock or water
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a sauté pan or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the Brussels sprouts and sprinkle with salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are turning golden, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Add ½ cup of the stock or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered (with a lid left slightly ajar), until the Brussels sprouts are almost completely tender and the stock or water has been cooked away, about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and add the last ¼ cup of stock or water, the sugar, and the apple cider vinegar. Cook at a lively simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Member Odile Wolf sent me this very simple French recipe, for use ‘the next time we have celeriac (celery root)’.

Celeri Remoulade

a celery root, very finely shredded
some lemon juice
some mayonnaise

As soon as you have shredded the celery root, add some lemon juice so that it stays white. Then, simply add in some mayonnaise. Odile says that if you use home made mayo, add it just before serving, otherwise the celery will "wilt"), otherwise, you can add it whenever.

Member Amoreena Lucero sent me the following recipe over a year ago. She says it is really wonderful, and recommends increasing the sage (as others had suggested on the recipe website she got it from):

Butternut Squash with Shallots and Sage
Gourmet, October 2005
Serves 4
[I have edited this only slightly – Debbie]

2 tbsp. olive oil
3 shallots, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (~3/4 C)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (~4 C)
1/2 C chicken broth or water
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage [everyone recommends more]
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook shallots and squash, stirring, until shallots are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add broth, brown sugar, sage, and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, pepper, and salt to taste.

Here are some excerpts I took from a website www.vegparadise.com...

on Kabocha Squash

kabocha squashCalled Japanese pumpkin, kabocha began its history in Japan where it was favored for its sweetness and pleasing texture. Kabocha's hard, deep green skin, boasts exceptional flavor to those who have had the pleasure of tasting its succulent, naturally sweet flesh. Kabocha, pronounced kah-bow-cha, is even sweeter than butternut squash, though we've encountered the occasional one that forgot to be sweet. The flavor and texture of the Japanese pumpkin is likened to that of a sweet potato crossed with a pumpkin. Similar in shape to a pumpkin, kabocha is a bit more squat, has a very short grey stem, and is more dense than a pumpkin because of its smaller cavity. The firm flesh inside is an intense yellow-orange color.

TO BAKE: Simply wash the squash and place, whole on a baking dish. Bake at 400 for 50 to 60 minutes. To shorten the baking time, cut the squash in half with a heavy knife or cleaver. Place the knife or cleaver on the squash, slightly off center to avoid the stem, then with a hammer or mallet, pound the knife where the blade joins the handle until the squash splits in half. Scoop out the seeds, brush cut areas with a little canola oil and place cut side down on a lightly oiled baking dish. The squash bakes in about 40 to 50 minutes at 400 (375 for pyrex.) The flesh can then be scooped out with a large spoon. The cooked kabocha is so deliciously sweet that it needs none of the usual fats and sweeteners traditionally added to bland squashes.

[Here’s the bit I found very interesting, as I didn’t realize you could eat the skin! Read on – Debbie] If you wrap the squash in aluminum foil, its skin, which is completely edible and highly nutritious, will remain soft enough to enjoy along with the delicious flesh.

TO STEAM: Use a very firm chef's knife to cut squash in half [see above, under ‘To Bake’], scoop out seeds, and lay cut side down on cutting board. Japanese and Southeast Asian cooks prefer to leave the skin on the squash. However, if you choose to remove the skin, here's what to do: Using both hands with the knife in a horizontal position, peel off the skin by holding the blade away from the body and using a pushing motion to cut. Cut squash into cubes and place in a steamer with sufficient water. Turn heat to high and steam for 7 to 10 minutes.

TO BRAISE: Cut into cubes as above and add to stews or soups the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Debbie here now... in my experience, the kabocha is indeed really difficult to peel, so I was quite pleased to read, above, that the skin is edible! Do be careful if you try to peel it with a knife; do as they recommend, and cut the squash in half first, so it can rest solidly on your cutting board while you more or less carve the skin off. Another thing I discovered about kabocha is that, because it is so dense, it is a ‘dryer’ squash, if you will, and so does not work so well when roasted. You want to introduce steam somehow. Let me explain. The first time I cooked kabocha, I used a butternut squash recipe – one where you peel and then cut the squash into pieces, coat with oil and garlic and roast ‘until soft’ in an oven (then toss with brown butter and crispy sage leaves...yum!). The squash was soft when I did this, but was also fairly dry; sucked the moisture out of your mouth kinda like a too-big spoonful of peanut butter. I think all you would need to do in that circumstance (i.e. how to modify a similar squash recipe) would be to enclose the squash (in a dish covered with foil, say) so that it ‘steams’ in its own moisture. Good thing to know.

Mariquita's parsnipsHere’s an interesting recipe I found for parsnips...

Fiery Parsnips
(from an un-dated newspaper clipping in my files)
serves 4 as a side dish

2-3 parsnips, about 7 oz.
½ tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. sake
½ tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
pinch of shichimi togarashi (a blend of dried chile peppers, herbs and spices sold in Japanese markets)
White seasame seeds, freshly dry-roasted for garnish (optional)

To free parsnips of dirt or other gritty material, scrub them with rough side of kitchen sponge [a clean one!] or scrape them with the back of a knife.  The peel, however, is nutritious and tasty and should not be stripped away. Slice parsnips into narrow julienne strips about 1 ¼ inches long. You should have about 1 ½ C of strips. Spread them out on a towel to dry.

In a nonstick skillet, heat sesame oil over high heat. Add parsnips and stir-fry 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add sake and stir-fry 1 minute more. Add sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes more, or until parsnips are lightly caramelized. Add soy sauce and continue to cook and stir 1 or 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly gone and parsnips are just tender and well glazed.

Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi and toss to distsribute well. Remove Pan from heat and let parsnips cool to room temperature.

Mound in small bowls as individual portions, or serve in a single bowl, family style, and garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.

To dry-roast sesame seeds, heat a small heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame seeds. Stir occasionally with a wooden spatula or gently swirl skillet in a circular motion. In about a minute, white sesame seeds will begin to color. As soon as you begin to smell the aromatic oils being released, remove skillet from heat. Stir for another 20 seconds, then remove seeds to a dish to cool.

Here are two other parsnip recipes, which I borrowed from fellow recipe maven and CSA farmer Julia Wiley, of Mariquita Farm. Oh, and the parsnip image above is also courtesy of Mariquita. (Thanks, Julia, for letting me borrow!):

Julia's Parsnip Oven Fries

Several Parsnips
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel and thinly slice parsnips, I think about the width of a slender fast food French fry. Mine are not nearly as uniform as restaurant fries, but it adds to the charm of this dish. Put parsnip strips in a mixing bowl and splash in some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix to coat, I'm somewhat generous, but I end up using lots less than I would if I actually fried them. Spread the parsnips out on a large jelly roll baking pan. Bake at 450, mixing with a long wooden spoon every 10 minutes or so until browning and crispy. Warning: these are addictive. Our children even like them...

Parsnip-Pecan Cake
adapted from Marian Morash's ‘Victory Garden Cookbook’
Yield: one 10" tube pan

1 1/4 C cooking oil, such as safflower or 'light' olive
1 ¼ C sugar
2 C flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs
3 C grated raw parsnips
1 1/2 C chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Thoroughly combine oil and sugar. Sift together dry ingredients and add to oil and sugar, alternating with eggs. Beat well after each addition. Mix in parsnips and then pecans. Pour into buttered tube pan. Bake in a preheated 325 degrees F oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing.

Another undated recipe clipping, but this one I see is credited Deborah Madison’s ‘Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone’:

Roasted onions on a bed of herbs
Serves 6

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 large yellow onions, halved lengthwise from root to top and peeled
Salt and freshly milled pepper to taste
4 sage sprigs
Several thyme sprigs
1 C dry white wine or water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat butter and oil in a wide skillet, then add the onions, cut sides down. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, about 15 minutes [In my experience, if you have a good cast-iron skillet, that works best for this kind of thing!]. Check their progress occasionally. Those on the outside of the pan usually take longer to cook, so partway through switch them with those in the middle. When browned, turn onions over and cook on the curved side for a few minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.

Line the bottom of a 10-inch ceramic dish such as a round Spanish casserole with the herbs. Place the onions, browned side up, atop the herbs and pour in the wine or water. cover with aluminum foil and bake until tender when pierced with a knife, 1 hour or slightly longer. Serve warm.

Here is a more recent clipping for a 'side-dish' recipe (yes, the article was about Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only time you could make this!) from a book called ‘Vegetable Harvest’ by Patricia Wells:

Broccoli puree with a hint of mint
[modified slightly – Debbie]

1 lb. broccoli florets and stems, trimmed and rinsed
½ C fresh mint leaves and stems, rinsed
Fine sea salt

Steam broccoli until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a food processor or blender. Add mint and salt and puree to a smooth-textured puree.

And lastly, here is a really unusual sounding cilantro and garlic-centric chicken dish, from a clipping I’ve had for awhile; cookbook source referenced is ‘One Spice, Two Spice’ by Floyd Cardoz. I was intrigued by the flavor combination of cilantro and garlic with chiles, cinnamon and cloves...

Chicken Cafreal
[I have halved the recipe – Debbie]
Serves 3 to 4

1 2 ½- to 3-pound chicken, or equivalent weight of chicken pieces, rinsed, drained and patted dry
¼ C fresh lime juice
¼ lb. cilantro (including stems with roots), coarsely chopped
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp. thinly sliced peeled ginger
½ mild to moderately hot fresh green chile, cut crosswise into pieces
½ tbsp. cumin seeds
¾ tsp. black peppercorns
2 cloves
¼ cinnamon stick [approximately]
½ tbsp. kosher salt

Cut backbones from chickens with a large heavy knife (freeze for later use in making stock). Crack the keel bone, in the center of the breast, so the chicken lies flat. Lightly pierce the chicken all over with a kitchen fork.

Put lime juice, cilantro, garlic, ginger and chile in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Finely grind cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon in an electric coffee/spice grinder.

Put cilantro puree in a large bowl and stir in ground spices and salt. Put chicken into bowl and rub all over with marinade. Refrigerate any left-over marinade.

Put chicken in a large resealable plastic bag and refrigerate. Marinate in refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put a tiny amount of water (about 1/8 inch) in a 13-by-9-inch roasting pan and fit chicken into pan. Lightly pat any remaining marinade on top. Roast in middle of oven until done, about 1 hour. Cut chickens into serving piefces and serve pan juices on the side.

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Contact Information
email Debbie at the farm (for any farm or CSA share-related business): farmers@cruzio.com
email Debbie at home (with newsletter input or recipes): deb@writerguy.com
farm phone: 831.763.2448
website: http://www.liveearthfarm.net