Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Week 4

From our farm to your table this week …  
Green onions
Swiss chard
Tips for using and/or preserving your produce…

Green Onions
Green onions add flavor to anything and everything.  From salads, to enchiladas, to soup beans and steamed green beans, their delicate flavor and crisp texture say “springtime” to your taste buds.  Back in the early days of our marriage before Ford knew how to grow buckets full of leafy greens and before I learned how to prepare them in ways that we really enjoyed, green onions were usually the very first green thing in our garden.  In keeping with my Appalachian heritage, when we gathered our first handful of green onions I cooked up a big batch of soup beans, baked some cornbread and we feasted on bowls of beans topped with sliced green onions.  I always place one small onion, intact, on the side of the bowl for looks and dipping into the soup beans the way my grandma use to.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Dirty Dozen” (not the movie)?  It’s a list of 12 fruits and vegetables compiled by an organization known as the Environmental Working Group.  Fruits and veggies make the list by having the highest levels of pesticide residue in annual testing by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Believe it or not, conventionally grown kale and other leafy greens make this list.   Good for you and your family for “going organic!”  Today for lunch I had a wonderful new salad made mostly of raw kale and avocado.  There are several versions online with slight variations.  I like the one in the box on the right.
Like kale, leafy lettuces are also on the “Dirty Dozen” list.  We hope you continue to enjoy our delicious lettuces in cold salads throughout the harvest season.  If you need a break from cold salads this week, perhaps you’d enjoy stirring raw or lightly steamed lettuce into a light spring soup.  Be careful not to overcook - your goal is a bright green color and tender, not soggy, texture.

Swiss chard
Swiss chard is in the beet family.  If you’re a lover of beets, snap off the colorful, raw stem and take a bite.  You’ll find a sweet, crisp, earthy taste that will surely remind you of a juicy beet!  Last year my mother-in-law, in typical Janet fashion, gave me a thoughtful gift perfectly suited to my needs and interests.  The gift was a book called Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables by Andrea Chesman.  I highly recommend this one to anyone who, like you dear CSA member, is committed to eating fresh, locally grown foods.  We all know that you have to get creative to enjoy things that are abundant for several weeks at a time.  In this book I found numerous interesting facts about all kinds of veggies, helpful kitchen tips for using/preserving them and our absolute favorite recipe for Swiss chard.  We hope you enjoy Swiss  Chard Gratin this week.
You’ll find tatsoi once more this week but it may be the last time you see those lovely leaves until fall.  You’re practically a pro at using this green by now, but just in case you need a little reminder, it has small, oval leaves that are dark green and glossy.  The stems are long, slender and white.  If you’ve tried something really interesting and tasty with tatsoi this spring, please share it with us so that we can share it with other CSA members! 

That’s right, fresh, ripe, red, juicy, delicious (can you tell I like tomatoes) TOMATOES!  We’ve been enjoying these all week in salads, on sandwiches and I have gobbled up several of these beauties while standing in front of the kitchen sink, salt shaker in-hand.  Tomatoes are one of my all-time favorite foods.  Raw, sautéed, broiled, baked, stuffed or cooked into a rich sauce, tomatoes are the best.  The tomatoes you’ll enjoy this week came from plants that Ford planted in the floor of our greenhouse in the winter.   I’ll be the first to admit to you that they do not have the robust flavor of those we will harvest from the fields in another 6 weeks.  They are, however, every bit as good as or better than the tomatoes you will find in the supermarket AND they are grown free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides right here in Laurel county by my very favorite farmer.  Later on, when you have more tomatoes than you can “shake a stick at” I’ll offer up some tomato recipes but for now, just enjoy them however the spirit moves you.

As always, please feel free to contact me for clarification, further information, or to share your own adventures in cooking local, USDA certified organic produce.

Raw Kale -Avocado Salad ~ 4-5 servings
-4 cups finely chopped or shredded kale, raw
(washed, stems removed)
-½ avocado
-1-2 Tbsp olive oil
-juice from 1 small lime (or lemon if you prefer but I like lime juice!)
-Salt, to taste
-cayenne pepper to taste (start with about 1/8 tsp)
  optional toppings: – grated carrots, finely diced tomato, salsa, nuts,
                                       feta or finely grated parmesan

Prepare kale and set aside.
In another bowl, use a fork to mash avocado into a paste. Stir in all remaining ingredients (except toppings) into avocado paste then thoroughly mix into the kale until evenly distributed.  The kale will become tender after a few minutes in the oil/lime juice dressing. 
If you’re not a big fan of cayenne pepper that’s okay, but it really adds some depth to this simple salad. 
Serve after about 10 minutes OR chill for about 1 hour. Top as you wish.
I topped mine with freshly diced tomatoes and it was WONDERFUL!
*Beware – if you’re not accustomed to eating large quantities of raw greens, don’t eat more than a cup or two the first time you make it.

Swiss Chard Gratin serves 6; from Serving Up the Harvest
-2 pounds (12-16 stems with leaves) chard, stems sliced & leaves
 cut into 1-inch ribbons
                *hint – it’s easier to get the “ribbons” if you stack the leaves ,                
                roll them up jelly-roll style, then slice down the roll perpendicular
                 to the long side

-4 Tbsp butter
-1 onion, halved & sliced
-¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
-2 cups milk
-1 cup grated Gruyere or parmesan cheese
-salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
-1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (optional; it’s great without)
Boil large pot of salted water.  Add chard stems and cook 2 minutes.  Add leaves and cook 1 additional minute.  Drain well.
Preheat oven to 350oF & grease 1.5 quart casserole or 9x13 inch baking dish with butter.
Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add onion and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.  Whisk in flour to form a paste.  Now whisk in milk and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat and fold in chard.
Transfer chard mixture to prepared dish & sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Bake 25-35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned.  Serve hot.

Week 2

Broccoli Salad with Bacon
            2 Bunches Broccoli
            1 lb bacon
            1 cup raisins
            1 cup sliced almonds
            ½ diced red onion

            ¾ c mayonnaise
            ¼ c sugar
            2 Tbsp red wine or cider vinegar

Chop broccoli into bite-size pieces.
Fry bacon, dry on paper towels and crumble.
Combine broccoli, bacon, raisins, almonds and onion in large bowl.
Stir together remaining three ingredients to make the dressing and pour over broccoli mixture.
Stir thoroughly, chill and serve.


From our farm to your table this week …

Bok Choy
Sweet Potatoes

Tips for using and/or preserving your produce…

Bok Choy
If you haven’t tried the Bok Choy Apple Salad we introduced a few weeks ago, you may want to try it out this week! Alternatively, if you still haven’t found a way to use all of your greens from last week, you might want to consider preserving the Bok Choy in your share this week to stir into soups and stews later.  Here are some preservation tips for greens that I shared with one of our CSA members last week.  We hope you find it helpful.

Text Box:                                           PRESERVING MOST GREENS

- Wash, & chop into bite size pieces. (Remove stems only from  kale and tougher greens like mustard and turnip greens - the stems on chard, bok choy and tatsoi are tasty and relatively  tender.)

- Blanch: Immerse in water that is already boiling vigorously and leave immersed for 2-5 minutes.   ( I prefer a quick boil because I often toss the preserved greens into pots of beans and soups that cook  for a long time.)

- Remove from boiling water, cool by immersing in a bowl of cold water.

- Now remove from the cold water bath into a colander & use a big spoon to squeeze out extra water.

- Spread your greens over a dish towel to soak up excess water.  
    This is important - the more water you remove now, the less freezer burn you will     
      have later. (You can leave the greens on the towel for 15-30 minutes.)

- Transfer dry greens to freezer bags, squeeze tightly and roll up the bag toward the zipper end to push out excess air.  This also really helps prevent freezer burn and you won't believe how little space it will take up in your freezer.  A HUGE batch of greens will roll up into a pretty small tube.  This is an excellent way to boost the flavor and nutrition of a pot of beans, soup or stew.  

Text Box: Broccoli Cornbread
-adapted from

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp white sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1.5 cups chopped, steamed broccoli florets (frozen broccoli also works)
12 ounces cottage cheese
5 tbsp butter 
½ cup finely chopped onions

-Combine first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl and create a small well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.
-Melt butter in a frying pan, add onions and sauté until translucent.
-Now add eggs broccoli, cottage cheese, butter and onions to the dry ingredients and stir to thoroughly combine.
-Pour into greased 9x13 inch casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  You won’t believe how good this tastes!
We hope you enjoyed the broccoli last week. If you have a bit leftover, I encourage you to try Broccoli cornbread – recipe at right.  I was skeptical of the 12 oz of cottage cheese but both Ford and I really like this one.  If you’re not in the mood for broccoli now but think you might enjoy it later on, you can use the same technique described above for greens to preserve your broccoli.  Last year I preserved several quart –size freezer bags full of broccoli.  It kept beautifully in the freezer until I used it in casseroles and quiches in the fall and winter. 
Note – Use only fresh produce for preserving.  This produces a higher quality finished product and reduces the risk for foodborne illness. 

You may recall from last week that the small round bulbs of Kohlrabi, a member of the cabbage family, have a spicy, cabbage flavor.  We’ve been eating “Quick Kohlrabi Pickles” this week made from the recipe with shared with you last week.  We use them as a side dish and on sandwiches.  If pickles aren’t your thing, you may also enjoy adding raw, shredded kohlrabi to salads and slaws.   
Enjoy our healthy lettuces in your favorite cold salad and rest easy knowing those delicious leaves are free of chemicals!  Finley loves looking at the lettuce growing in the raised beds beside our house and even “picking” handfuls of leaves.  He’s still not quite interested in eating it, despite enthusiastic demonstrations by his mom and dad!  Note – this week you will be receiving the first harvest of Romaine lettuce – yum!
Mizuna, sometimes called Japanese mustard, is a tender green with long feathery leaves, white stems and a distinct but relatively mild flavor.  This is the green with long, spikey leaves that might remind you of the leaves on a Red Oak tree.     It is sometimes used in Asian soups and stir-fries but it is also an excellent accompaniment to lettuce and other tender
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes probably don’t need an introduction.  These delicious veggies were harvested in the fall of 2011 and preserved in cold storage throughout the winter.  Both white and sweet potatoes were a winter-time staple for farming families in this region for years.  My grandparents kept potatoes through the winter by digging holes in the floors of their barns.  If you are accustomed to sweet potatoes only in casseroles, pies or baked individually, you might enjoy trying one of our favorites – sweet potato oven fries.  Cut the potatoes length-wise into strips that are a bit larger than French fries, give them a light coating of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper or paprika.  Bake at about 375 F for 30-45 minutes, turning at least once in the middle.  These make an excellent accompaniment to burgers or, if you make them very thin, you can use them as a crispy topping for a salad of greens with toasted walnuts and feta cheese.
We sang the praises of this versatile green in your first CSA guide.  This week I’ll just remind you that tatsoi as relatively small, oval leaves that are dark green and glossy.  The stems are long, slender and white.  This green is mild but has a hint of spice similar to the flavor of bok choy.  We love to use it along with our lettuce in cold salads but it is also great steamed or boiled and incorporated into other dishes.

As always, please feel free to contact me for clarification, further information, or to share your own adventures in cooking local, USDA certified organic produce.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Week 1

From our farm to your table this week …
Bok Choy
Mustard Greens
Tips for using and/or preserving your produce…

You probably don’t need any help finding ways to enjoy strawberries.  They may not even last until you get home.  Finley cries for them when he’s near the strawberry patch, calling them “sha-bees.” 

Bok Choy
Bok Choy (also known as Chinese Cabbage, Bok Choi, Pak Choy, & Pak Choi) is a staple in the spring and fall in our region.  You’ve probably seen it in the grocery store or enjoyed on your plate at an Asian restaurant.  Its mild, crunchy stems and flavorful, nutrient-rich, dark green leaves are delicious together or prepared or enjoyed alone.  The greens can be used however you like greens and the stems can be used like celery for snacking.  You’ll probably see this lovely veggie in a few more baskets, so don’t be shy, try something new!

Bok Choy is a delicious alternative to traditional cabbage in cold salads or steamed until the leaves become bright green.  Steamed Bok Choy (with a dash of salt, pepper & a splash of lemon juice or vinegar) pairs well with meat, tofu or eggs. 

If the above options don’t sound appealing to you, you may prefer to chop it finely then steam or boil until tender and use or freeze for lasagna, quiche or soup.  The green leaves combine nicely with mustard greens to mellow out the spiciness of the mustard.

Here’s how we’ve been enjoying Bok Choy this week…

Bok Choy Apple Slaw

                   1 large head bok choy, washed and finely chopped
                   2 large or 4 small apples (sweet & crunchy are best)
                   ½  cup sliced almonds
                   ½ cup raisins
                   ¼  cup olive oil
                   ¼  cup cider vinegar
                   1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
        Rinse bok choy and separate stems.  (Clean thoroughly – dirt likes to hide out down at the bottom of those
        long white stems!  Thank goodness they’re grown organically! ) Layer the leaves in stems in one tall stack
        then chop off the stems and dice them into ¼ thick bits.  Roll the leaves up tightly into a log shape and slice
        into fine ribbons down the “log” of rolled leaves.  If you prefer tiny bits over ribbons, chop through the ribbons
        4-5 times in the opposite direction.

        Combine chopped bok choy with remaining dry ingredients.

        Combine wet ingredients and stir or shake vigorously.  Pour over salad, stir and enjoy!

        This will last 3-5 days in the fridge.  Give stored salad a stir before serving.
Tatsoi is my all-time favorite spring/fall green.  It is mild, tender, and down-right delicious, reminiscent of spinach but surpassing spinach in versatility and taste.  My favorite way to enjoy tatsoi is in cold salad alone or mixed with lettuce and other tender greens.  It’s also wonderful in soups.   This veggie has,spoon-shaped leaves and minimal, slender stems.  The smaller leaves are more mild and some of the very large leaves are a bit spicey. It grows in a pretty rosette. Use it as you would spinach – hot or cold – you won’t be disappointed.

Mustard Greens
                        You kept my grandma’s kitchen spicy,
                        Mixed with others, you boiled down nicely.
                        With vinegar, salt, and bacon grease,
                        If you were smothered in mashed potatoes, I kept my peace.
Mustard greens are a southern classic.  Their spicy punch is best when combined with other, more mild greens such as the green leaves of bok choy, tatsoi, kale, or turnip greens.  These are best with plenty of oil and/or bacon alongside soup beans, mashed potatoes or grits, cornbread, and green onions.

The tender heads of lettuce you receive this week form a delicious base for light salads of all varieties.  I highly recommend that you try combining this lettuce with tatsoi, sliced strawberries, toasted walnuts, thinly sliced onion, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  This has been our salad of choice for several weeks now.