Friday, July 30, 2010

Ever So Much Zucchini!

This is the time of year when CSA members are looking at yellow and green summer squash (aka zucchini) with a certain element of disdain. You can saute it, and grill it, and eat it raw, and bread and fry it-- but you can also get a little sick of it.
Zucchini and yellow squash don't store very well for any length of time. Don't wash them before refrigerating, and don't put anything heavy on top of them- then they can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.
If you have more zucchini than you can (or want to) eat right away, you've got a few options:

  1. Slice it and cook it in boiling water for just 2 to 4 minutes (2 minutes for 1/4-inch thick slices, longer if the slices are thicker) and then plunge into ice water to stop it from cooking any more. Drain and store in freezer bags in the freezer for up to 9 months. It will have a softer texture, but can be sauteed with tomatoes, onion and garlic and served as a side dish, or added to sauces.
  2. Grate it and add it to muffins, breads, or pancakes, all of which can be enjoyed right away or frozen.
  3. Make Zucchini Pickles or Relish (recipes to follow in tomorrow's blog) and preserve them in cans or simply store in the refrigerator and use within the next few weeks.
  4. Put them into casseroles (Zucchini Parmesan or Vegetable Lasagna, for example) or cook them into sauces and freeze the casseroles and sauces for a little taste of summer during the winter months.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fat Rooster Farm- AKA "Birdland"

Fat Rooster Farm's 'Birdland'

I met a calm peacock at Fat Rooster Farm in South Royalton, VT. I've never met a peacock that was so, well- downright friendly! He strolled up to me, looked at me, and then went on his way. My previous experience with peacocks has been watching them standing behind some kind of fence, running away when a crowd comes close. Not so at Fat Rooster. The wandering peacock was joined by a wandering rooster- a small black rooster that looks like it should be painted on some sort of crockery, or sitting atop a weather vane. I learned that this particular rooster was the owner's pet, and lived indoors in the winter. These two birds are a tribute to the stress-free environment provided to them at this farm.
View from the house
Fat Rooster Farm offers 'pasteurized poultry' along with lamb and vegetables. The birds hang out in a hollow on the property, called, aptly enough, Birdland. I visited Fat Rooster on slaughter day-- missing the slaughtering by minutes (ah, nuts!). Jennifer Megyesi, who runs the farm and owns it with her husband, Kyle Jones, was then able to spend some time with me. Jennifer and Kyle have turkeys, chickens and lambs, and provide produce primarily to retail markets and farm stands as well as a small group of CSA members. Their farm is beautiful in a bucolic way-- from the house on a hill you can see the vegetable fields to the left and 'Birdland' to the right. Lovely.
Back in Connecticut, my 8th share of the summer included eggs, corn, zucchini, cucumbers, small eggplants, carrots, green beans, grape tomatoes, green peppers and onions.
The cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes need to be eaten first before they'll spoil, but otherwise this group of vegetables required little preparation for storage.
Curry Roast Corn and Eggplant
Roasted Vegetable Pizza
Zucchini and Corn Salad
Simple Salad

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Farm-alicious Week!

I have had a truly farm-alicious week, starting with Open Farm Day at Stone Gardens Farm, and ending with visiting four farms in Vermont (in 2 days!).

On Sunday, Fred and Stacia took a group of their CSA members on a tour of the fields and then back to the homestead to see the cows, chickens and turkeys (and nibble on some plums and raspberries as we passed the plum trees and raspberry patch). I learned more about IPM (Integrated Pest Management), how frequently the crops are planted and harvested, how they choose what to include in the CSA shares each week, and that I really do not enjoy the aroma in chicken coops.

On Wednesday I found Farmer Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, Vermont, picking cucumbers with her two apprentices. She continued to pick while we talked, taking a 'teaching moment' with the apprentices to describe how to tell when a cucumber is ready to be picked. Her husband, Farmer David Zuckerman, arrived later to pitch in as they went on to harvest beans.  Rachel and David are passionate about organic gardening and honoring the land. This is evident in their straight, well-weeded rows of vegetables that managed to look luscious during a particularly long dry spell in Hinesburg. Later that day I went back to Full Moon with my friends and Full Moon CSA members, John and Jean Kiedaisch (and 2 year old grandson Jack, who gleefully sat on tractors while Jean and I were in the barn) to see the pick-up end of the process. In the cool of the barn, members chose from a selection written on a whiteboard. Among the offerings this week were fennel, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, beets, bunching onions and radishes.
David and Rachel are intelligent, thoughtful farmers with big dreams and high expectations. They have set their bar high, and seem to be reaching it. I thank them for their time and generosity-- they are truly awesome.

Cucumbers, beans, cabbage and potatoes were also being harvested here in Connecticut! We also got our first ears of corn, and continue to see kale, kohlrabi and zucchini in our boxes. So, here we go:

Connecticut Summer Nicoise
Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients -- this is really quite simple to make, and celebrates the best of southern New England!
For the Salad
1 pound green or yellow beans
1 pound potatoes, preferably new ('waxy')
1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 dozen fresh clams
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or dry white wine
1 large ripe tomato
1 head butter lettuce
4 hard cooked eggs (optional)
1 cup Greek olives
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons champagne vinegar or other white vinegar
2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola, or other light oil
1 Tablespoon fresh basil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a pot of water on to boil. Trim the stem ends of the beans and place in the boiling water. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and plunge into a pot of ice water to stop them from cooking.
Scrub the potatoes and place in a pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain and run under cold water. When cool, slice into 1/4-inch  thick slices.
Scrub the clams. Peel and dice the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a deep skillet and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the clams and broth or wine and cover the pan. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes until the clams open. Remove from the pan and, when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells, discarding any clams that did not open. Increase the heat to high and boil the cooking liquid vigorously until slightly thickened. Strain through cheesecloth. 
Make the dressing: Peel and mince the garlic and finely chop the basil. Whisk together the garlic, mustard and vinegar. Add the olive oil and whisk until well combined. Slowly add the remaining oil, whisking continuously until thickened. Stir in the basil.
Place 1/4 cup of the reduced clam broth in a bowl with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Add the clams, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Toss the beans with 2 Tablespoons of the dressing. Toss the sliced potatoes with 1 Tablespoon of the dressing. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and cut the tomato into wedges. If using hard cooked eggs, cut into wedges. Line a serving platter with lettuce leaves. Place the dressed beans in the center of the platter. Surround the beans with the potato slices and tomato and egg wedges. Spoon the clams over the beans and scatter the olives over all. 
Marinated Yellow Beans and Kohlrabi
This is a very versatile recipe. Substitute zucchini for the beans; radishes, salad turnips or Jerusalem artichokes for the kohlrabi, or any other firm, seasonal vegetable.
2 kohlrabi bulbs
1 pound green or yellow beans
1 small, fresh jalapeno
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil, or 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel the kohlrabi and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch discs. Turn over and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips. Trim the stems ends off the beans. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and carefully remove the veins and seeds (you might want to wear gloves for this). Mince finely. Cut the thick stems off the cilantro and chop the leaves and remaining tender stems. Peel the garlic and mince. Juice the lemons. 
Place the kohlrabi strips in the boiling water and cook 5 minutes. Add the beans and cook an additional 3 minutes. Drain and run cold water over them. Combine the jalapeno, cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place the vegetables in a shallow bowl and pour the dressing over them. Toss to coat all the vegetables in the marinade. Let this sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Toss again, taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve or refrigerate until serving. This can be served cold or at room temperature.
Summer Vegetable Ragu with Polenta
Don't be afraid to substitute vegetables depending on what's available. Eggplant, carrots, or swiss chard would all work in this dish.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
1/2 head cabbage or 1 bunch kale
1 medium (about 10-inch) or 2 small zucchini
3 cloves garlic
1 pound ground meat (beef, pork, turkey)
1 (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes or 10-12 medium tomatoes
2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano or marjoram
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Slice the onion into strips. Core the cabbage or de-stem the kale and chop finely. Cut the ends of the zucchini off and cut lengthwise into planks, then strips. Cut each strip into 1" pieces. Mince the garlic. If using fresh tomatoes, cut them in half crosswise, squeeze out the seeds and dice into 1/4-inch pieces. If using canned tomatoes, drain and chop.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan and add the onion and cabbage or kale. Cook over medium-low heat until soft. Add the zucchini and garlic and raise the heat to medium. Cook until the zucchini is tender. Remove the vegetables from the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the ground meat and brown, breaking down into small pieces as it cooks. Add the vegetables and tomatoes and lower the heat to very low. Cook for 30 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, make the polenta (recipe below). Add the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. Serve spooned over the polenta, with freshly grated cheese.
1 cup dry polenta or cornmeal
3 cups water 
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Bring the water and salt to a boil. Sprinkle the cornmeal into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Cook until the polenta begins to leave the sides of the pot. Add the cheese and stir.

Have a great week!
Visit Farmer Rachel and Farmer David at Full Moon Farm at:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stone Gardens Farm Rocks!

This is the 3rd year that I've had a share of Stone Gardens Farm in Shelton, and I LOVE it! 

Stone Gardens Farm is a family farm, owned and farmed by Fred and Stacia Monahan-- one of the first farms in this area to offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares. I asked Fred why 'Stone Gardens', and he told me that at the beginning of the season, it feels like he's harvesting stones. Every spring as he's preparing the soil for planting, he pulls stones and rocks out of the ground. Every winter the frost shoves more up. That's New England farming for you...

Fred grows and harvests much, much more that stones (I've never actually seen any stones in my share, or for sale at the stand. . .). In addition to gorgeous vegetables, lovely plants, and lots of herbs, Fred and Stacia raise chickens, eggs, and offer shares of pork and beef. My half-share fills my 16"x 10"x 8" box to the brim, containing more than enough for the two of us for a week (and we eat lots of veggies!).

Every year, just about the time that Fred is pulling stones out of his fields, I am hitting 'chef block' (similar to 'writers block', but you're more likely to go hungry). Winter vegetables are uninspiring, offering little variety. While the produce aisle in the supermarket offers a wide selection year 'round-  everything from baby lettuces to plaintains; apples to kiwis-- all come with a very large carbon footprint. In trying to be ecologically responsible, I find myself stymied with what to cook. Me! So, even better than the freshness of the food, the variety of the vegetables, and knowing exactly how they've been handled and were they've been, is the way my culinary creativity is revitalized by my first share each June. There is something to be said for knowing exactly where your food comes from. I feel connected to the food and my cooking in a way that's missing in winter and early spring.

This summer I am visiting other farms that offer CSA shares throughout New England. I'm excited to meet other farmers and discover what they're planting! I'll share my travel experiences and recipes using the vegetables offered at other farms throughout the summer and into the early fall.

This week's share includes bok choy, more collard greens, potatoes, garlic and summer squash. My Irish roots are happy to have fresh potatoes!

There are two main types of potatoes (hundreds of varieties, though!): mealy and waxy. Mealy potatoes are also called 'maincrop' potatoes-- they are also sold as russet potatoes, or Idaho potatoes. They tend to be larger and oval. They are best for baking and frying, but can fall apart in liquid. Waxy potatoes are also known as 'new' potatoes  They have very thin skins, and tend to be smaller and round. Most of the nutrients of the potatoes are in the skin, so try cooking them and eating them with the skin on. 

All potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place. When buying them, try to buy them either loose or in paper bags, as storing them in plastic will retain moisture and accelerate spoiling. If they are sold in plastic bags, take them out of the bag as soon as you get home.

This is a traditional Irish recipe. You really can't imagine how yummy it is until you make it! You can substitute onions for the leeks.
1 pound cabbage or kale
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds mealy potatoes
2 medium leeks or onions
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon mace
kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic
8 tablespoons butter

cream and chopped parsley, for serving

If using cabbage, cut it into quarters and remove the core. If using kale, remove the stems and cut tear into large pieces. Place in a pot, cover with water and boil until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and chop into 1-inch pieces. Scrub the potatoes and slice into 1/2-inch slices (leave the skins on). Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Once the water comes to a boil, boil for 15 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, trim the leeks by cutting off the root end and the very dark leaf ends. Cut in half lengthwise and run under cold water, separating the layers, to remove any sand and dirt. Slice thinly and place in a pot with the milk. (if using onion, cut the onion in half, peel and slice). Simmer about 10 minutes, until tender.
When the potatoes are done, put them back in the pot and add the mace, salt and pepper and garlic and mash well. Add the leeks and milk and mix, taking care not to break the leeks down too much. Mash in the cabbage and then the butter. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish and place under the broiler to brown. Serve hot in bowls, topping each bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Quick Dilly Potatoes
This is the perfect accompaniment to grilled salmon or lamb.

3 large or 6 medium waxy potatoes (new potatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
2 scallions
1/2 cup light cream
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. Mince the scallions.

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain, and return to the pan.

Add the cream and simmer, stirring occasionally,  2 to 3 minutes until the cream thickens. Add the dill and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or chilled.

Miguel's Greens with Walnuts and Agave (or honey)
Miguel used kale for this recipe, but collards or cabbage could also be used. The combination of garlic, nuts, honey and vinegar perfectly balances the flavor of the greens.

1 bunch kale or collards
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 handful of walnuts, broken up slightly
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon agave or honey
1 clove garlic
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the kale or collards and remove the stem. Roll up and slice into thin strips and wash them. Leave them wet. Chop the garlic. 

Heat a heavy skillet and add the olive oil, greens, walnuts, vinegar and honey. Lower the heat and cook until wilted (about 15 minutes for kale, longer for collards). Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the greens are beginning to crisp. 
Tomorrow I visit the first farm- in Connecticut- and then next week am off to Vermont to visit two more. I hope to blog next Thursday or Friday.

Visit Stone Gardens Farms on the web at:


Friday, July 2, 2010

Kohlrabi-not so scary after all

Kohlrabi is a seriously weird looking plant. When I was in high school I was addicted to reruns of “Lost in Space” (don’t judge me- I did my homework while watching those reruns). Originally filmed in the mid-‘60’s, ‘way before computer graphics, I think that a magnified shot of a purple (yes, kohlrabi also can be purple) kohlrabi plant would have made great vegetation on an alien planet. Scary.
It may look weird, but kohlrabi actually doesn’t taste at all strange- it tastes like a very mild turnip, without the bitter edge that turnips usually have. It’s slightly starchy, so behaves like potatoes, beets and carrots, and pairs well with all of them. Raw, it tastes a bit like jicama. Kohlrabi can be roasted, simmered, baked into a gratin, boiled or simmered. Look for ones that have a bulb the size of an orange or smaller. Cut the greens off the bulb (they can be eaten, too—treat it like spinach) and store the bulbs and the greens separately in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Kohlrabi does not freeze well.
This week’s share included cabbage, lettuce, radishes, beets and beet greens, garlic, kale, baby bok choy, cucumbers and cauliflower.  Here are some ways to cook them:

Kohlrabi Braised with Ginger
I had never had kohlrabi before some landed in my box at the farm. Since then I’ve sautéed them, pickled them, pureed them and put them in tons of dishes. This is one of the first dishes I made with them. This is yummy with pork roast or roast chicken.

2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon (about a 1-inch piece) fresh ginger
1 clove fresh garlic (large)
1/2 jalapeno
1/2  tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 to 6 small kohlrabi with greens (about 1 pound)
1 cup water, or as needed
1/2 bunch scallions or garlic scapes

Peel the ginger and grate it with a zester or mince it. Peel the garlic and mince it. Carefully scoop out the seeds and veins from the jalapeno (you might want to wear gloves to protect your skin) and chop it. Peel the kohlrabi (I use a vegetable peeler) and cut into 3/4-inch strips. Finely chop the leaves. Trim the scallions or garlic scapes and slice thinly on the diagonal.

Heat the oil in a large wok or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno pepper, and stir about 30 seconds. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and salt, and then mix in the kohlrabi and leaves. Cook about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the water, cover the pan, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the kohlrabi is tender and most of the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle the scallions on top, and serve.

Potato, Kohlrabi and Beet Rösti
A rösti is a Swiss potato cake made from layers of sliced or grated potatoes, then fried until crisp. I actually learned how to make a potato rösti from my brother Tim, who lives in Ireland- the place to get the best potato recipes! This would be great for ‘Brunch for Dinner’ with an Omelet with Cheddar Cheese and a salad using the baby lettuces from the garden.
1 bunch beets (about 4 to 5)
1 bulb kohlrabi
1 medium potato
1 small onion or 2 scallions onions
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
butter or oil as needed
sour cream for serving
chopped fresh chives

Trim and scrub the beets and place in a pot of boiling water and cook, simmering, for 30 minutes. Plunge into ice water and peel. Grate, using a box grater (you might want to use gloves to avoid pink hands).
Trim the kohlrabi and peel (a vegetable peeler works best for this) and grate.
Scrub the potato and grate. Place on a clean linen towel and roll up. Squeeze as much of the water out of the potato as possible.
Peel and mince the onion.
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a pan and when hot, but not smoking, add enough butter or oil to fully coat the bottom of the pan. Drop small handfuls (about 1/4 cup) of the vegetable mixture into the hot fat. Press down to flatten. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until golden and crisp on the bottom. Flip over and cook another 5 minutes.
Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped chives on top.

Red White and Blue Focaccia
I developed this recipe as a contribution to a 4th of July party a few years ago. I love the combination of beets and blue cheese.  Serve with grilled sausages and/or BBQ chicken and salads—or cut into small pieces and serve as an appetizer.
 2 Tablespoons fast rising dry yeast
2 cups tepid water (I call this ‘baby bath water'—just above room temperature)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup salad oil
1 teaspoon table salt
5  and 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

6 beets, cooked and sliced into matchstick sized slices
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1 tablespoon kosher salt for topping

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the sugar, olive oil, salad oil, and regular salt. Mix in 3 cups of flour and whip until the dough begins to leave the sides of the mixing bowl – a good 10 minutes.

Mix in the remaining flour by hand or with a dough hook and knead the dough until it is smooth. Allow the dough to rise twice, right in the bowl, and punch down after each rising. Oil 2 baking sheets, each 13 inches by 18 inches and divide the dough between the 2 pans. Using your fingers press the dough out to the edges of each pan (this is a very sticky dough- don't get discouraged!). Allow to rise for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle on the mozzarella over the surface. Sprinkle the beets and blue cheese in alternating strips over the mozzarella. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Grilled Baby Bok Choy
Not all veggies do well cooked directly on the grill (you can cook almost anything in a foil packet on the grill). Bok Choy is great this way!
 Small (‘baby’) bok choy
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
BBQ sauce (optional)

Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise. Toss with a generous amount (about 1 Tablespoon per bok choy) of olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place cut-side-down on a medium-hot grill. Cook 5 minutes, turn, and cook another 5 minutes. If you want, brush with your favorite BBQ sauce before serving.

Have a great 4th!!