This Week’s Share
- Braising Mix
- Brussels Sprouts
- Winter Squash
Beets – Your red beets this week are Kestrel. Kestrel was one of the first beet seed varieties offered organically by our seed suppliers, probably about five or six years ago now. We tried it out because it was organic and kept it because it tasted great.
Braising Mix – There was finally a really good freeze last week. This is a mix of the adolescent greens that made it through that freeze and are sweeter for it.
Brussels Sprouts – Brussels are one of the crops that really tastes noticeably better after a hard frost. Most of the commercial Brussels sprout production in this country is done in costal California, where temperatures are cool, but where it also rarely frosts. This is too bad because it means most people will never get to experience the frost sweetened sprouts you have in your share this week. Consequently most people turn up their noses at them, very sad.
Carrots – We grow a few varieties of carrots but they are all orange Nantes types. Nantes types are typically the sweetest with the best texture, delicate tops and relatively short roots. Interestingly carrots did not start out with orange roots. According to the World Carrot Museum, carrots were bred to be orange by Dutch seed breeders in the 16th century to honor The House of Orange, their royal house. There are still varieties that are available today in white, yellow, red, purple and black, but the orange carrots are by far the most popular.
Kale – Kale can taste almost like candy after a hard freeze. Many winter greens concentrate sugars in their cells during cold snaps. The sugar acts as antifreeze and protects the plant. I read a restaurant review last winter where the reviewer complained that there was too much sugar added to their dish of greens. I’m pretty sure that reviewer had no idea that’s the way freshly harvested greens taste this time of year in Portland.
Onion – This has been one of the nicest crops of onions I can remember on the farm; big, even onions and lots of them. They’ve been storing on racks in the barn and if you don’t get to them immediately they should keep in the cupboard for a few months with no trouble.
Turnips – We used to grow Purple Top turnips, which are the standard American/European type. They never did all that well for us and weren’t so popular either. Then we started growing Hakurei, the beautiful sweet, white turnips you saw in the spring. In the fall we also grow Scarlet Queen which is closer to Hakurei but is a little heartier than the delicate white roots. The Scarlet Queens came up thinly this year and have produced much larger roots than we’ve ever seen before. They’re beautiful and would be excellent in a root roast, or sliced thinly and sautéed in butter or olive oil.
Winter Squash – Butternut squash is up this week. Butternut takes a while to sweeten up in storage so we give it out a little later than some of the others. With a small seed cavity it’s a variety with lots of very smooth, rich flesh and a thin, delicate skin. Because of the texture, butternut is perfect for soups and sauces. Or you can just eat it with butter and maple syrup which was my favorite growing up.
Over the past few years I’ve started using cookbooks less and less for recipes, and more and more for ideas and inspiration. I keep collecting new ones, and we have two full shelves of them at home, but there are a handful that I come back to again and again for certain proportions I can never remember, or for their beautiful photos that inspire me when I’m having trouble figuring out what I want to eat. Here’s a list of some of my favorites:
Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen – This book has some good recipes, but it’s even better as a reference book for grain and bean cooking times. I used it for a few years before getting a pressure cooker and it was good, but now that I have a pressure cooker it’s indispensable. The pressure cooker is amazing for fast soups, making stock, beans (of course), and risotto!
Taste of the Mediterranean by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow – This is a picture book with beautiful photos and simple recipes. It’s most useful in the summer months, but inspiring any time of year and probably the most dog eared book I own.
Local Flavors by Deborah Madison – Deborah Madison has great recipes and this book is very seasonal with lots of recipes for “odd” vegetables, and fall and winter vegetables. Her “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” is also a great book.
World of the East Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey – If you want to explore some eastern flavors and techniques, this book has great recipes. Most of the preparations are very simple and the instructions are very clear. There are wonderful notes on the use and regional variations of the dishes as well.
Carluccio’s Complete Italian Food – I love Italian food and this book is complete but concise. It’s more of a condensed encyclopedia than a cookbook but there are a few recipes as well as lots of general notes on traditional preparations that go well beyond what most of us think of as Italian food.
One last source I’ve used quite a bit over the past several years is Gourmet Magazine. This was a big surprise to me at first. I was given a subscription as a gift and immediately thought it would be too snooty and meat intensive for my pescatarian diet. It turns out to have the best vegetable recipes of any food magazine I’ve ever read, and is very seasonal as well. There’s quite a bit of good writing between all the advertisements as well.
So, if your cookbook shelf is lacking, anyone of those would make a great addition and help with using the CSA share. I’ll share a few of my versions of the recipes and preparations that stick with me from those books below.
To decide on portions I usually think about how much I want to put on the plate and then multiply that by the number of plates. For five or six people I would clean about 25 sprouts. Clean the Brussels by cutting the sprouts off the stalk and peeling away any damaged leaves. If the sprouts are medium to large cut them in half or quarters.
Heat a tablespoon or so of the oil in a large pan (with a lid) on medium high. When the oil is very hot toss in the sprouts and stir them to coat the oil. Cook them for a minute or so, stirring occasionally. Quickly sprinkle a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar over the top of the sprouts and add about 1/4 cup of water and then put the lid on to close in the steam. Steam the sprouts for about five or six minutes until they are cooked through but still bright green. If the liquid is mostly gone you can just pour them out into a serving dish. If there is still quite a bit of liquid lift the sprouts out and cook down the liquid until it is mostly gone and then pour it over the sprouts.
Braising mix with Turnip
I would prepare these very similarly to the Brussels. I really like balsamic vinegar with brassicas. If you prefer salty flavors ume plum vinegar and tamari would be good as well.
Slice the turnip into 1/4 inch round and then cut the rounds into halves or quarters. Sauté the pieces in butter or oil (sesame oil would be good with the ume plum) until the turnip is just tender. Add the braising mix with a little vinegar or tamari. Stir the mix while cooking for just long enough to wilt the greens and soften the stems.
Simple Butternut Soup
This is especially easy for those of you with a pressure cooker, but it’ll work as well, just a little more slowly with a normal pot. Slice an onion into 1/8 inch rounds and cook over medium high heat with butter or olive oil until it is translucent and almost brown – really this is very flexible, you can use as little or as much fat as you like and cook the onion as dark as you like. If you’re using less fat stir more and perhaps even add a little water at the beginning to keep things from sticking. If you’re cooking the onion to the point of caramelizing you’ll need to either turn the heat down or stir a little more. You can add some herbs if you like while the onion is cooking. I like thyme and oregano.
Once the onion is cooked toss in a couple of cups of cubed butternut. More will make more soup, less will make less. The skin can be on or off. Stir the butternut in and then add enough water to cover the squash by about 1/4 – 1/2″. Add salt to taste (if you like salt) and then put the lid on and if it is a pressure cooker bring it up to pressure for five minutes. If you don’t have a pressure cooker just simmer the pot until the squash is very soft.
Puree the soup in a blender or food processor in batches. If you want to leave some chunks only process part of the soup. That’s it, very simple.
If you have already cooked, leftover winter squash the process is even simpler, just add that to the cooked onion with the water, heat it up and then puree without cooking further. The recipe works great with leeks or shallots as well, and vegetable stock in the place of water will make the soup more flavorful.
I hope that’s all helpful. Enjoy the veggies and if you can’t use them all right away just store them in plastic bags in the fridge. Winter vegetables, other than leafy greens, will keep for quite a few weeks that way. Onions and winter squash just need a dry spot out of the sun.
It is getting a little slick out in the fields and with the rain forecasted for this week it will probably get even slicker. This time of year we’re really careful about always parking the harvest truck in a spot where there’s a firm downhill start so that minimal traction is needed to start the thing rolling.
There’s a lot of clean up happening in the fields right now. There’s harvest too, but even that takes more cleaning with all the mud caked roots and frost damaged leaves. Many mornings the crew has to wait for the plants to thaw before starting harvest. When harvest is finished there’s still drip irrigation to pick up from the summer and trellising to take down. We’ve been done with both for a couple of months now but there’s been too much planting and harvesting up to this point to get it up out of the fields.
Back in the office planning is well underway, but this year I’m more in clean up mode myself, stepping aside while Tanya takes over the task of getting the seed order ready for next year. After seven great years at Sauvie Island Organics I’m finishing up and looking for the next step in my vegetable production career. I’ll still be in Portland, trying to start a much smaller, solo operation with a focus on unusual vegetables, beans, grains and seeds. I’m still working out the details, even the location, but it’s exciting for me, in both the invigorating and terrifying senses of the word. I’m also hoping to do some consulting for up and coming growers so if any of you harbor dreams of turning your backyards into vegetable paradises let me know.
Meanwhile I’m appreciating my last days at this incredible farm and I’m trying to leave things where Shari, Tanya, Scott, and Shannon can find them all.
As we feast on the bounty of 2007, it is not too early to start thinking about the 2008 season. Please fill out the 2008 Community Farm Agreement and mail in your $100 deposit to secure your slot. After doing all our budget number crunching we are not able to offer the discounted share for 2008 and still make our budget. This is affected mainly by the increase in fuel prices. The cost for the CSA in 2008 will be $845.
Dry Beans Available
Select from ten varieties of beautiful and tasty heirloom beans organically grown on Sauvie Island by former SIO apprentice Amber Baker. Each variety has been carefully grown and processed by hand and comes in a one-pound bag. $6.00/bag. Email SIO with your order including varieties you would like and how many pounds of each. We will have them available for pick-up the week of December 3, 2007. Please make checks payable to Amber Baker and bring the check to pick-up on December 3, 2007.
Amber’s Heirloom Beans:
Golden Appaloosa- This full kidney shaped bean comes to our farm from a seed exchange in California. Enjoy its rich golden color and hearty flavor.
Black Calypso- Sometimes called “yin-yang” for its distinct markings or “Orcas” for its signature “eyes.” A round coco-shaped bean, perfect in cold salads or baked.
Vermont Cranberry Mix – A usual standard, this season’s Vermont cranberries mixed with several of our trial varieties yielding a beautiful array of beans you’ve never seen before. A ready-made mix of soup beans.
Black Coco- A large oval round very shiny black bean. This variety is good for making a rich and hearty black bean soup.
Tongue of Fire- A large kidney-shaped bean with a fresh green bean flavor. Try this one as a bed for your next meat or vegetable entrée.
Monos Negros- A smaller bean than the Black Coco, this variety is more of a deep dark purple. Use this in your fresh corn and bean salad or blended into a black bean spread.
Lowe’s Champion- A round red bean brighter than the normal kidney. Try this variety in place of kidneys in all of your favorite recipes.
Red Calypso- Half-maroon and half-pearl white, Red Calypso is hard to find in the marketplace. Nice texture used as a baking bean.
Peregion- A native to Oregon this bean has a full nutty flavor that makes it one of our favorites. These multi-patterned beans hold their markings through cooking.
Jacob’s Cattle Bean- With a creamy texture this burgundy and white mottled bean is known for its ability to absorb flavor.