Tag Archives: heirloom tomatoes

Summer and the Height of the CSA Season

Tomato and cucumber salad

Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, onion and Bragg’s cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

We’ve had a few rainy days.  The first since July 1 and I love every second of it.  Although irrigation keeps the crops lush, the grass around the fields, the trees and wildflowers have all had their heads bowed for weeks.  There have been many insects, birds and amphibians finding an oasis at our irrigation headers when we are watering.  It had become the miniature Serengeti watering hole; a good place to view all of the local creatures.

I have been waiting for a rainy day to get caught up with paperwork, canning, cleaning and updating our blog.  I need more rainy days.  I need many of them.  I am starting with the blog.  When I am out in the fields, weeding, harvesting and spending time with the plants, I often think of things that I would love to tell everyone about them.  (I really can’t say I ever think that much about cleaning or paperwork, at least not when they are out of sight.)  Then I come inside to make dinner and ‘POOF’, the thoughts are gone.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes

I do, however, manage to get excited about the armload of vegetables that I bring in for dinner each night.  Our meals are almost always later in the evening (much later than they should be) and the goal  is often to make something in a short time frame with a quick thought to what is needed the most that day; carbs, protein or something light?  Then I look at my husband and consider how much longer he can go without food; are we in an emergency situation?  (He is a hard worker, but sadly, not a chef.) If so, the solution usually involves eggs and/or tortillas or pulling some bacon out of the freezer for BLT’s and O’s (onions). If we have a little time to spare, a frittata, omelet or Quiche or a quick stir-fry, likely seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, chili and sesame oil.

I love to cook, but let’s be clear that I don’t make any claims to being a great cook.  I can’t say that I really ever measure ingredients, so if I think that a meal is worthy of writing down, doing so after the meal has been made is tricky.  I think adjusting recipes to suit one’s taste is the best way to cook unless you are unfamiliar with the spices that are called for.  I find that this principle rarely works when baking though.  A pinch of this and a handful of that usually ends poorly. Someone told me once that cooking is an art and baking is a science and that flipped the light switch on for me.  Now I have an excuse to avoid baking (too scientific) unless it involves free artistic license after the science project has been completed!

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Before I pat myself on the back again for cooking though, I have to emphasize that it is hard to fail if you are working with the best and the freshest organic produce.  I think that the only way to ruin a meal that starts with fresh, organic vegetables is to overcook or burn it badly, spill the salt into it or mistake the cayenne pepper for paprika.  (Too many jalapenos might ruin it for some, too.) Once you learn what fresh, clean food tastes like and you become accustomed to eating it on a regular basis, your body will send out the “danger” signal when you eat processed foods.  The trick there is not ignoring that warning when you hear it and you will be adding years on to your life.

We are halfway through our CSA season.  School will be starting soon, days will be shorter and for many, time to cook will be challenging.  I am hoping that our members have been getting in the habit of putting great meals together from their CSA boxes each week and will continue to do that as the days shrink into the next seasons.

Here are a few of the quick meals and other things that we have made this summer:

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A Few Summer Vegetable Recipes

2013-07-13 2013-08-02 001 015I am really stuck on the fact that it is August already!  I haven’t yet had a chance to remember all of the fun things I wanted to do this summer, much less do them!  As far as the farm goes, though, we are having another unusual summer.  I am enjoying it a bit more than last summer’s frantic heat and drought, but I think the tomatoes and peppers were a little more in their element with the heat.  The cool weather seems to have really slowed the ripening of all of our nightshades and although the lettuce would be happy if it had stuck around for a week longer, the brief hot spell that we had a few weeks ago sent a few lettuce plantings packing.  The insects have really not been too bad this year; both the plant eating kind and the stinging kind, but the weeds are certainly thriving.  There has been a lot of weeding to do this season.

2013-07-19 2013-08-02 001 002The chickens have been enjoying the cooler weather and green grass, too.  Just keeping the grass mowed in their areas so the fence doesn’t short out and the birds can get through the tall stuff is once again a weekly chore.  Last year, we really never had to mow the grass more than once! It has been a good year for our berries and the orchard, too.  Our pear trees and older apples are loaded and starting to get nice color on the fruit and we had a great crop of raspberries earlier in the summer.

During the growing months on this farm, meal planning is not the first thing on our minds and generally when we first realize that we are very hungry, it is as the sun is going down and we still have chores to finish.  That is about the time that I start doing a mental inventory of the fields and of things that we have recently harvested.  Usually, the actual meal planning occurs between when I take a bag and a knife into the field and when I carry a bag full of vegetables up to the house.  As I quickly shower before making dinner, I wonder how farmers managed in the old days to come in to a nice, healthy meal and I remember that many had wives and large families that made these things part of their daily chores and I am envious. I’m sure my husband probably is, too.

I also imagine that mealtime often involved a slowly cooked roast or stew with meat and here, during vegetable season, meat is not often thought of (or defrosted) in our meal “planning”, especially if I am looking for a quick meal.  With an  arm load of vegetables and herbs, sometimes just the sampling, the fragrances and the textures create the meal.

Here are a few of the recipe creations from the past week that we really enjoyed using some of the vegetables that we have sent out over the past 2 weeks that really only take 30 minutes at best to prepare!

Cauliflower-vegetable Curry

Cauliflower-vegetable Curry

These vegetables all work well with curry seasonings and the combination of them is perfect!  The tender baby carrots gave a perfect sweetness with the turmeric and the new (I used ‘Norland’) potatoes were cooked to “melt in your mouth” perfection!

I confess that the seasoning measurments are only estimates because I am not a the measuring type of cook (I am a terrible baker!) but they are probably fairly close.  If you had a little cilantro to top the dish with, it would probably be a nice touch.  Dismayed at the condition of my “fresh” gingerroot, I used powdered and I didn’t feel like going out to the barn to get fresh garlic and it was still very good- I’d probably use fresh next time, though.

Fresh Cauliflower – Vegetable Curry

  • 1 Tbsp. Coconut oil
  • 1 med. sweet white onion, chopped
  • 2 medium-large sized red potatoes, diced ¼” dice
  • 1 ½ cups baby rainbow carrots, sliced ¼” – ½” slices
  • 1 med. head cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 med. heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (or fresh)
  • ½ tsp ground garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • Salt

Heat oil over med. heat and add onion and potatoes.  Stir.  Add ginger, garlic and salt.  Stir until potatoes are coated.  Add a few Tbs. water if it is sticking to the pan.  Cover and let the potatoes steam for a few minutes.  Add carrots and cover (add a bit more water if necessary). Add cauliflower, cumin and turmeric.  Add ½ tsp. salt.  Stir, cover and let steam for a few minutes.  Add tomatoes.  Stir and let steam until tomatoes have softened but not become mushy.

Serve over rice.

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(The fennel bulb gave this dish a refreshing sweetness and was perfect with the coconut milk sauce.)

Whole fennel bulb

Whole fennel bulb

Fennel-Vegetable Medley with Lemon Basil Coconut Cream Sauce

(Served over linguini pasta)

  • 1 Fennel bulb, cored and diced
  • 1 med or ½ large white onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • Quartared fennel bulb, core removed.  (This bulb was young and didn't need much cut out.)

    Quartered fennel bulb, core removed. (This bulb was young and didn’t need much cut out.)

    1 small (1 cup) summer squash or zucchini, cubed

  • 1 handful lemon basil, rinsed and chopped
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Butter or oil for cooking

Coconut cream sauce

  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • Coconut milk (lite)
  • Milk to thin if necessary

Linguini pasta

8 oz., cooked per package directions

Sauté onion in butter for a few minutes on low heat and add fennel.  Continue to sauté over med-low heat until they begin to soften.  Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute to soften garlic.  Add broccoli and a little water if necessary to steam-cook until broccoli is tender and season with salt and white pepper.  Cover and let simmer over low heat while making the sauce.  When broccoli is almost done, add squash, stir-fry for a minute or so until squash is heated and starting to cook.  (Don’t over-cook the squash!)  Add sauce and simmer over low heat until flavors are blended.  Adjust salt and pepper.  Serve over the linguini.

Summer Party

What a perfect day for a party!  We had a great turn-out, great food and great music by Los Zombies!  There were no mosquitos and the weather was so fine.  These are the days that I love.  It was so nice to see our members and friends.  Thank you to everyone who made it and if you couldn’t, we hope to see you at our next event!

Extra-sweet bi-color cupcakes brought to the party by Joan.

Eat more cupcakes, Casey!  Zoom-zoom!

Tomato-palooza

Palooza is something that I overheard a few times today, although I’m not sure it was regarding tomatoes.  It could have been beans or cukes, but there was a lot of all these things.  I love the way the veggies look as they are waiting to get into the boxes, and I love the way the room smells.  The happy and hard-working workers that are preparing them are hard not to love as well!

These tomatoes are some of our heirloom varieties.   These are (clockwise from the bottom) ‘Black Krim’ (3), ‘Brandywine’ (3), Wisconsin 55′ (3), ‘Gregorii’s Altai’ (2), ‘Ruby Gold’ (1) and in the center, ‘Garden Peach’. These are all slightly under-ripe except for the Garden peaches.

Tip-topless green onions