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:

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