Greetings from Farmer Tom
(Clockwise from upper right: peach trees, then river birches turning
color; Braeburn apples; a Cindarella pumpkin just starting to turn; a
giant sunflower gone to seed; and in the background, buckwheat.)
The Fall Equinox is that time of year when night's darkness equals the length of the day, it marks the end of summer and the beginning of Fall. The Fall Equinox was last Saturday, September 22, and Mother Nature sprinkled 3/4 of an inch of rain on the farm to mark this seasonal transition. For me it's a lot more challenging to let go of Summer than it is of Spring. Summer is about celebrating the harvest, and one feels confident that life is abundant. Fall lets us know things are about to change and we need to prepare for Winter, preparing to retreat, to face darkness, stormier, and colder days. As we huddled under the tents at the Westside Farmer's Market on Saturday, watching the "Star" crops of summer- tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, eggplants, green beans and strawberries getting soaked, it was obvious that mother nature was preparing us to transition. It's time to let go, Summer is over!!
What I like about seasonal transitions is that just when one gets too comfortable, thinking of having things under control, one has to change direction and embark on a different and often uncharted path. For a Central Coast Farmer like me this change is gradual. For now we can ignore all the Halloween merchandise and enjoy our summer treats for a while longer as nature changes into her colorful autumn dress. The energy in plants is starting to move toward the roots, leaves are falling as the life force goes within. Saturday's rain was like sigh of relief after more than 6 months of drought and also a reminder that we have a choice to dance to the rhythms of nature together with all living organisms we share this planet with. We are not alone on this journey called Life. - Tom
Notes from the Field
The rain only affected our ripest strawberries and raspberries, so this week we'll have less of them and therefore more pears and apples. The Concord Grapes come from a neighboring farmer from whom we have gotten these sweet treats in past years. About a a quarter of the grapes were harvested from our own young vines which are producing for the first time this year.
The cauliflower is a mix of the spiral green romanesco and regular white varieties. For all of you interested in science, Romanesco Cauliflower is a near perfect example of a naturally ocurring fractal: a fragmanted geometric shape composed of smaller parts that are copies of the whole. Not everyone will be getting these interesting creations since our block is just now starting to mature. Some of you will be getting white cauliflower both from our own fields and from Lakeside Organic this way we'll have enough for every share. Next week everyone should be getting Romanesco Cauliflower.
In order to avoid having "smooshed" ripe pears at the bottom of your box, I have decided to pack only ones that are still firm and let you ripen them on the counter. This way, you'll have more control over how and what stage you like to use them. This week's apples are Mutsu's and come from Bob Silva's Organic Orchard right next door. Mutsu's are a good eating and cooking apple.
We have a nice field of young chard developing and hope to harvest the first bunches in two weeks, Kale is probably 3-4 weeks away, expect some fennel in next weeks share.
You won't believe it, but I just got a call that by mid October we'll get the first strawberry starts for next year's crop. Camarosas which we started planting the last two years start producing early in the spring and require very little chill. Seascape and Albion our other two varieties won't arrive until the end of November. Since planting is very time consuming it's nice to be able to spread them out a bit.
Winter Share and Eggs - clarification
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~There was a misstatement in last week's newsletter, as I had misunderstood what Tom had told me about having eggs for the Winter Share. We will indeed have eggs, but they will NOT be included IN the box; they will be available as an 'extra' which you can add to your share, the same as you do during the regular season. We should have enough for everyone that wants them though, as last year we only had 50, and this year we will have 200! (That's why I mixed it up... 200 winter shares, 200 egg shares... you can see how it happened!) :-) The cost of the egg shares will be the same as they are now: $3.25 per half-dozen. - Debbie
[click here to read last week's
info about the Winter Share]
What's in the box this week
Content differences between Family and Small
Shares are in red; items with a "+" in
Family Shares are more in quantity than in Small; anticipated quantities, if
any, are in parentheses. Occasionally the content will differ from
this list (i.e. we will make a substitution), but we do
our best to give you an accurate projection.
Cauliflower (white or romanesco)
Apples or pears
Cauliflower (white or romanesco)
Apples or pears
Extra Fruit Option:
Apples, pears, raspberries or strawberries, and Concord grapes!
"Strawberry Bounty" Option:
3-4 baskets of strawberries
Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Click here to go to my extensive
recipe database, spanning 10 years of CSA recipes and alphabetized
by key ingredient. Includes photos of most farm veggies; helpful for
ID-ing things in your box!
This week, a variety of recipes, many submitted by members. - Debbie
Simple Italian Eggplant and Tomatoes
modified from a recipe in the NY Times, forwarded me by member Lisa Bautista
serves 2 to 4
2 lbs. eggplant of any variety, the smallest you can find [LEF's eggplant are generally small, so this is not a problem]
1/3 C plus about 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, slivered
A few medium-sized tomatoes, cored and chopped, or a couple handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved
1 C roughly chopped basil leaves
1. Cut eggplant lengthwise into pieces about an inch or two long and no more than a half-inch wide. Make sure each piece has a bit of skin and a bit of flesh.
2. Put 1/3 C oil in a skillet over medium heat; a minute later add eggplant. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, and until very soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, put approx. 2 tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until it colors slightly. Add tomatoes and about 2/3 of the basil, raise heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is saucy, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. When both sauce and eggplant are done, combine them. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, or over pasta, garnished with remaining basil.
Photo credit: Chris Warde-Jones for the NYTimes
Pasta with Potatoes
another recipe from that same article, courtesy of Lisa Bautista
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 dried red chilies
1/4 C pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
About 3 C chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; do not drain)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb. any dried pasta, broken into bits if large
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan
1. Put oil in a large saucepan or casserole over medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add chilies and pancetta and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta renders most of its fat, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
2. Stir in tomatoes and cook over lively heat until they begin to break down, then add potatoes. Continue to cook, adding water if necessary to keep mixture loose. When potatoes are just about done, about 20 minutes, stir in pasta.
[I'm guessing here that the pasta is cooked in the liquid of the tomato/potato mixture, which is a bit unusual; be sure to have sufficient water! Or if in doubt, I might at least par-boil the pasta first, then add for the last minute or two of cooking to absorb the sauce.]
3. Cook, again adding water if necessary, until pasta is tender. Dish should still be a little watery when done, and is best served after sitting for a little while. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan and serve.
Member Beth Erskine sent me this recipe recently, saying "I just tried this recipe last night with grilled fish and it was so delicious."
Summer Squash Casserole
from "Open House Cookbook" by Sarah Lea Chase
serves 8 to 10 [could easily be halved; just remember to reduce baking time a bit if you reduce the quantities]
2 tbsp. olive oil
10 medium summer squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick (Beth says, "I just used 3 of our squash.")
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced (Beth used just one onion)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Fines herbes, or your favorite blend of salad herbs to taste
10 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 oz. Havarti, Monterey Jack, or Swiss cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
(Beth's optional addition: fresh bread crumbs)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Brush a 10-inch round casserole or soufflé dish with the oil. Arrange a layer of summer squash slices evenly in the bottom of the casserole. Top with a layer of onion and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs. Dot with slices of Cheddar cheese. Repeat the layers, alternating the Havarti and Cheddar. Finish with a layer of cheese. (Beth's Note: I added fresh bread crumbs as the final layer, they provided a nice crunchy topping). Cover the casserole with aluminum foil.
3. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the squash is tender and the cheese is bubbly and browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Pear and Mint snack
Member Jill McCoy says, "I came across a great use for our pears. Yes, they are out of this world to just eat, but I sort of forgot about them as they ripened... and all of a sudden I had too many ripe pears on hand! SO, if anyone has fresh spearmint and a dehydrator, this is unbelievably good."
- Peel, core and slice the pears into 1/2-inch slices [Jill says she peeled them, then cut them in half, scooped out the cores, then sliced them vertically, or lengthwise]
- Dehydrate (using non-stick screens if you have them) for a few hours, until they are slightly leathery to the touch but still soft. [If you don't have a dehydrator, a convection oven at a very low temp may work, but this is untried. I'd try it though; I don't have a dehydrator!]
- Serve each slice with a fresh spearmint leaf (or roll the pear slice around the leaf and fasten with a toothpick).
"It tastes just like mint candy ('mint leaves,' I think they're called). I served this with dessert at a dinner party, but I think kids would love this in their lunch boxes." - Jill
Cauliflower and Potatoes "Indianesque"
by member Stacie Newman, made with 'Live Earth Farm bounty.' Stacie says, "I will admit that I don't usually measure out my ingredients for dishes like this, so I'm approximating the amounts."
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ to ¾ tsp. turmeric (optional, see note*)
1 tbsp. commercial "curry" powder
1 red onion or 2 leeks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Yukon gold potatoes medium size, scrubbed and cubed
1 head cauliflower, washed and cut up into florets
2 medium tomatoes or 3 Roma, diced
In olive oil, heat cumin seeds until they sizzle and begin to brown. Add other dry spices and turn heat down to medium high. Add onion and cook for five minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and stir frequently so it doesn't scorch. Add potatoes, stir mixture, and fry for 3-4 minutes. When potatoes begin to brown on the bottom, add cauliflower and 1 C water. Cook on medium, covered, 6 minutes or so without stirring. Test cauliflower with a fork, and if it is nearly done (some prefer al dente but my family prefers a slightly softer bite), add diced tomatoes and stir well. Leave lid off now to cook down most of the water, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sea salt to taste. Serve with basmati rice and plain yogurt. If you're really feeling adventurous, add any of the following: toasted cashews or slivered almonds, shredded coconut (not the sweetened kind!), chutney, cilantro, or jalapeno slices.
*Note: Turmeric is a main ingredient in curry powders already, but I add more because it gives the potatoes, and the dish as a whole, a deeper color and flavor.
Cauliflower Chili if you don't have a crock pot
Member and frequent recipe contributor Farrell Podgorsek responded to my question earlier this summer, about how to make the Crock Pot Cheesy White Cauliflower Chili recipe if you didn't happen to have a crock pot. Here's what she says, "You could make the cauliflower chili in the oven - very low heat in a good dutch oven with a tight lid for 3-4 hours - cover pot with foil before fitting lid for an even tighter fit. I use a parchment round under the foil if making something that might react with the foil. [I think this is good advice; the foil can discolor and otherwise do weird and unpleasant things to the flavor of some foods if they come into contact with one another.] Use a bit more liquid than the crockpot recipe recommends. You would want to check the dish after a couple of hours. I haven't tried this with this recipe but it should work fine." [Farrell's a seasoned cook, so I would trust her instincts - Debbie]
I'm coming to the conclusion that variations on the 'BLT' (that's a bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich, if you've never heard the abbreviation before) are many. I just found a recipe online for a fancy sandwich using pancetta, mizuna, and homemade green-garlic aioli (and of course tomatoes), but if I weren't having such lofty aspirations, here's how I'd make the sandwich:
Bacon (or pancetta or ham slices even), fried up crisp
Mizuna leaves, torn from stems (or you could use arugula)
sliced farm tomatoes
good mayonnaise, doctored with a little bit of lemon juice and a wee bit of crushed garlic
Your favorite sandwich bread
Toast the bread; spread with mayo (both sides if you like!) and layer in rest of ingredients. If you can, serve this while the toast and bacon are still a little warm.
Freezing fresh peppers
I don't know about you, but I used to get Trader Joe's 'melange a trois' bags of frozen peppers (sliced green, red and yellow combined). We've been getting so many peppers lately, it occurred to me that this would be a great time to freeze your own, so that you could make yummy fajitas and stir-fries (and whatever else you love to do with peppers) in the winter, using those fabulous farm peppers, instead of the not-organic, not-local Trader Joe's ones.
Freezing is as simple as slicing them up, spreading them on a rimmed baking sheet (put down a sheet of waxed paper or parchment or something, so they don't stick), then sticking them in your freezer until they're hard. Then decant them into a ziploc bag, squeeze/suck out all the air you can and seal, then pop this bag back into your freezer. Voila! They should keep for a couple months this way. They'll start to get frosty over time, but I still use 'em even when this happens.