Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wishing Stone Farm:8 Greenhouses, 3 Properties, and Bio-fuel

Biofuel tanks in Cucumber Greenhouse
Eggs. Honey. Salsa, pesto, scones, wholegrain bread, soups, dips, pickles. A backyard designed for children's programs. A chicken coop that looks like a caboose. And a really adorable dog named Baxter. Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton, Rhode Island is incredibly diverse. Skip Paul has spent most of his adult life sharing his passion for sustainable farming, bringing his certified organic and IPM produce, eggs and honey to urban environments. Local CSA members pick up their share at the farm in the spacious 'pick-up' room, but most members use a credit system at four separate farmers markets throughout Rhode Island. He and his wife, Liz Peckham, also have a certified kitchen where they create and sell products under the label "Babette's Feast" (their Cilantro Lover's Salsa is really yummy!), and have designed an outdoor space for children's programs. They've been farming this land for over 30 years, recently installing greenhouse heaters that run on used car oil to reduce heating costs and recycle waste. Conscientious, innovative, welcoming and fun describe this successful family farm.
Here in Connecticut it is finally feeling like autumn! My share this week included leeks, lettuce, tomatoes, cubanelle and bell peppers, potatoes, corn, fennel and cucumbers. Today I'm making soup with the peppers, fennel, potatoes, and leeks. The house is filled with the aroma of roasting pepper and fennel, and I can't wait for dinner! 

Roasted Fennel, Leek and Pepper Soup
Roasting mellows the flavors of these vegetables, makng them less aggressive. Carrots and an apple  add a little sweetness.
4 cubanelle or other mildly hot peppers (about  4 ounces)
1 medium fennel bulb (about 8 ounces)
several small carrots (about 4 ounces)
1 medium leek
2 medium potatoes (about 12 ounces)
1 apple
canola or other mild vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth or mild-flavored vegetable broth (you don’t want the veggies in the broth to compete with the flavors of these veggies)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped chives (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wash all the vegetables and the apple. Trim the fronds off the fennel and cut it in half (reserve the fronds for garnish). Trim the carrots and the leek. Cut them into 2-inch pieces. Cut the apple in half. 
3. Place the vegetables in a baking dish and toss with a tablespoon of the oil. Add the apple to the pan. Cover the pan with foil, and place the pan with the veggies in the oven. Place the potatoes on the oven rack. Roast about an hour until tender.
4. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. Scoop the cooked apple off the peel. Chop the fennel, leek and carrots coarsely. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and veins. Chop coarsely. Put all in a soup pot. Add 2 cups chicken broth and a bay leaf. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or in a food processor or blender. Return to heat and taste, adding salt and pepper as needed. 
5. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds and chives. Serve with Stilton Crackers.
Stilton Cheese Crackers
If you don't like Stilton, you can substitute cheddar or swiss. These are great with cocktails, too.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter
6 ounces Stilton Cheese
2 tablespoons white vinegar
coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup cold water

1. Shred the cheese.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, sugar and salt. Break the butter into small pieces the size of baby peas (you can use your fingers, a pastry blender or 2 knives for this). Stir in the cheese, vinegar and cold water, mixing only until the mixture forms a soft dough. Shape the dough into a ball; wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or until dough is firm enough to handle (this can be done several days ahead of time).

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece as thin as you can get it—about a 10-inch square. Cut into squares or triangles, or use a cookie cutter (I have one shaped like a maple leaf that I like to use). 

4. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Bake about 10 minutes or until browned and crisp.

I'm really looking forward to autumn- I love this kind of weather, autumn vegetables, autumn colors, autumn clothes, autumn leaves... and cooking autumn soups and stews. 
Have a terrific week!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Springdell Farms- putting a smile on the customer's face

Jamie and Jodi of Springdell Farms, Littleton, MA
Jamie Cruz was bitten by the farming bug early in life. The grand-daughter of James and Marea Theodoros, she represents the third generation of farming Springdell Farms. At age 8 she decided she wanted to plant her own flowers and sell them. Her mom, and current partner in the farm, let her pick out seeds from the catalogue. She chose purple and lime green zinneas. When they were ready, she picked them -- too short! But made little nosegays with them and sold her first bunch to a gentleman who still comes every week and buys a bunch of flowers at the farm stand. Now, at a very young age, she runs the farm with professionalism, enthusiasm and a great big smile. Springdell Farms in Littleton, Massachusetts offers a charming farm stand, a 175 member CSA program, meat subscriptions, and a home to a menagerie of what they call 'pets and misfits'- including hissing geese, llamas, rescued burros, pigs, turkeys and goats-attends local farmer's markets,  and provides produce to local restaurants as well. Whew! Their CSA boxes are chock full of fruits and vegetables- the week I visited, the share included berries, peaches, lettuce, kohlrabi, peppers, onions and cucumbers. Jamie has great plans for Springdell farms, hoping to triple the number of CSA shares next year. 
Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, I'm loving corn and eggplant in my share.

Curry Roast Corn and Eggplant
This is a great basic dish that can be served as a side dish with pork or chicken, or it can be tossed with pasta and walnuts and raisins and served as a pasta salad (add some tuna and it’s a main dish salad)
5 ears corn
1 medium eggplant or 5-6 Japanese eggplants
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  1. Husk the corn and remove the silk. Cut the kernels off the cob. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes by cutting it into 1-inch planks lengthwise, then cutting the planks into strips and then into cubes. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the onion in half and peel. Chop it roughly.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy, ovenproof skillet and add the eggplant. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggplant begins to wilt. Add the corn, garlic, onion and curry powder and cook until the curry becomes fragrant, about another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the water, stir, cover and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the dish has taken on a deep golden color. 

Curry Roast Corn and Eggplant Salad
1/2 recipe of Curry Roast Corn
12 ounces whole wheat shaped pasta, such as penne
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoons walnuts
1 six-ounce can solid white tuna
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Drain again. Toss with remaining ingredients. Serve cold or at room temperature.
how gorgeous are these!?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Kirk Farm: "Old Time Organic Farmer"

If I was writing a novel and one of the characters was a stereotypical New England farmer- a little gruff, hard working, generous, honest, and stubborn, with a dry sense of humor- it would describe George Kirk of Kirk Farm in Groton, Massachusetts. He calls himself an 'old time organic farmer' raising chickens, goats and rabbits as well as growing vegetables and flowers for his CSA members, wholesale customers and several farmers markets. In recent years some health issues, flooding and blight have tried to knock him down. But he's up, still farming, with his wife and some part time workers helping him. We encountered him preparing seedlings for his next planting as a member doing a workshare greeted members and knitted in the CSA pick-up room.
Kirk Farm's CSA share is one of the most generous I've encountered so far. The week I was there, members received zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce, corn, squash, onions, beans, garlic, basil, tomatoes, kale, beets, peppers and melon. Phew! They are also encouraged to go into the fields and pick their own bunches of flowers, and visit the rabbits and goats (George loves his goats, and tells stories about their antics).
In addition to the huge amount of vegetables the members receive, and the PYO flowers, they can also purchase Kirk Farm eggs and artisanal cheeses from West River Creamery. Lots to eat and flowers for your table-- what a great way to start the week!
Melon and Cucumber Salad
1/2 melon (musk, honeydew, watermelon, cantaloupe- pretty much any kind of melon)
2 cucumbers
1 small very fresh onion, or 2 scallions
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or very light olive oil
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt to taste
  1. Cut the melon off the rind, remove the seeds and cut into medium dice (bite-sized pieces)
  2. Cut the ends off the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and slice into thin half-moons.
  3. Peel the onion and cut in half, and then into thin strips (if using scallions, slice thinly on the diagonal). 
  4. Toss everything together with the chopped basil.
  5. Mix together the lime juice and oil and toss with the salad ingredients. Sprinkle on the crumbled goat cheese. Taste and season with salt, if desired (it might not need salt if the goat cheese is salty). Serve with crusty bread.

What to Do With...Green Beans (or yellow wax beans)
  1. Eat them raw: wash them and trim off the stem end and eat them on their own, in a crudité platter with dips, or in a salad.
  2. Steam them: place in steam-basket, bring a few inches of water to boil, cover and steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Eat hot, dressed with butter or olive oil, or refresh in ice water and eat cold in salads.
  3. Microwave them: wash them and trim off the stem ends. For every pound of green beans add 1/2 cup of water. Microwave on high for 4 minutes per pound.
  4. Freeze them: after steaming or micro-waving them, dry well and place in freezer-strength zipper bags and store in the freezer. When ready to use, plunge the beans into rapidly boiling water for one minute only.
  5. Stir-fry them: in sesame oil with garlic and ginger and dress with soy sauce, rice vinegar and minced scallions.
  6. Sauté them: in olive oil with garlic or in butter. 

To store green beans or yellow beans: store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.