|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)
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!