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:


1 comment:

  1. This is my first year with a Stone Gardens share, and I'm loving it! I'm excited to get my box tomorrow--I tend to share what my husband and I can't manage to eat in a week with my co-workers and family. I've also made zucchini bread and zucchini muffins, and frozen half of them, and blanched and frozen kale, swiss chard and escarole for use later in the year.

    Love your blog!!