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I can remember back to a time that I just didn’t get the appeal of fennel. This course, stringy, strongly scented vegetable didn’t seem worth the trouble to cook. But now I can honestly say that it is among my very favorite vegetables. I fully realize that there are many of our CSA members who still don’t “get” fennel, and if you are among these, you simply must try Jeanne’s recipe for roast fennel and onions.

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kale-lacinato

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Kale is a type of cabbage that does not form a head from the central leaves.We grow three varieties of kale, green curly leaf or Scotch kale, Lacinato or Dinosaur kale, and Red Russian kale.  Kale is high in beta carotene, vitamin K and vitamin C and calcium.

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kohlrabiKohlrabi is an odd vegetable that I think is often bought more for appearance than for the desire to eat it. Looking like something from a science-fiction movie, they come in lovely deep purple or jade green, and the leaves come up from all over what seems to be the root.

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Lettuce Rows

Lettuce Rows

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Lettuces grow exceptionally well here at our home farm near the coast. They love the cool foggy summer weather. We grow Red Leaf, Green Leaf, Butter Lettuces, Little Gem, and Romaine varieties and offer a mix of baby salad greens in our early spring boxes.

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Think of how often a dish starts with a sauté of onions, carrots, and celery. In Italy this combination is called soffritto. In France it is cooked with butter and called mirepoix, but for general purposes I like it cooked with a light flavored olive oil or even grapeseed oil, which is neutrally flavored, so I call it by the Italian name. I like to make this in larger batches, removing some when it is still pale, or blond, then cooking the remaining amount until it is a darker shade of amber, giving it a caramelized flavor. I sometimes even let some go until it is quite dark, like tobacco, for a very deep flavor. I then freeze it in batches. I use large zip bags and flatten out the soffritto in the bags, making it easier to stack and easier to simply break off the amount I wish to use. Some people freeze it in ice trays as you might pesto. However you store it, having this in the freezer is like having a time machine. It can make having good tasting food on the table much quicker, or if you have several pans going at once it is quite helpful as well as it is easy to burn smaller amounts of onions.

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Vinaigrettes are usually thought of as oil and vinegar dressing. In actuality, vinaigrettes can be used as a sauce, especially for fish and poultry, on sandwiches, as a marinade, or even as a pasta sauce. Vinaigrettes are great poured over roasted vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips, and beets, while still warm so the flavors are absorbed. This makes an excellent salad, and is, in fact, how German potato salad is made.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch of beets
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of water
1-2 tablespoons vinegar such as white balsamic or sherry

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turkeysupclose2When the gang of wild turkeys arrived on the farm last year they didn’t cause much trouble. They hung around the pumpkin patch and scratched around in the grassy edges. However, they have now become a major farm pest for us.

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This is a dish that is fine served hot or room temperature. The sweet flavors of fennel, onion, and tomato play off the earthy quality of the chard, and while the topping is optional, the crunch really is a wonderful counterpoint.

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…and maybe other things too, if you wish. You could add chard and chard stems, or just stems if you have them left over from another dish. Olives, artichoke hearts, beans, mushrooms…Serve with avocado chunks, labne (I use it instead of sour cream), some fiery hot sauce and slabs of toast.

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cinderella-pumpkinsIt’s starting to feel like fall around here—warm and sunny. At times the sun is filtered through smoke from the Sobrantes fire, casting things in an orange glow. As with past Big Sur fires, because of the rough terrain, it will probably burn until the rains start later in fall, and our air quality will suffer as a result.

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I do get a lot of interesting looks when I mention cooking cucumbers, but they are really good. Much of their appeal rests on cooking just enough so they get hot all the way through, but are still succulent and crisp. This dish relies on temperature contrasts (hot cucumbers and cold tomatoes) and sweet/bitter contrasts (cucumber has a slight bitterness in the background, tomato has a slight acidity, and they both have sweetness) for interest. A very simple dish that is easy to play with; add garlic, basil, pine nuts, etc. for variation.

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Silky slightly bitter escarole contrasts with slightly sweet and toothsome beets. It is also a pretty dish.

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A very simple sauce. That means you need good tomatoes, and it is very important to cook the garlic slowly so it will caramelize, not burn. Mexican, or Korintje, cinnamon will give a lovely floral flavor, and the recipe is written with this in mind. If you use another type, start with less as they will provide more of a red-hots candy flavor which can easily overwhelm the dish. Use this sauce anywhere from delicate pastas to fish, chicken, or goat, or on vegetables such as escarole or greens, or with a mélange of summer vegetables a lá ratatouille.

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elkhorn sloughAs I start planning out the cover cropping scheme for our farms this fall, I am thinking back to the workshop I attended last summer at Moss Landing Marine Labs concerning water quality issues in Elkhorn Slough.

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Here is a salad with nice textural contrasts that is light but very satisfying. The beans can be done a day or two ahead of time. Making extra beans allows you to use them for other things such as a smashed paste as a dip for chips or crackers, part of a vegetable braise, or an accompaniment to sausages.

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This can be used as a sauce or a glaze, depending on far you choose to reduce it. Leaving it wet and slightly chunky yields a nice quick sauce for most major proteins, pastas, and summer squash. Pureed and strained is excellent for things like broiled salmon, pork chops, or a sauté of corn and peppers. Cook down the pureé for a glaze for things like this dish. Depending on how intense or thick you like it, thin with a little water or pasta cooking water. Cooked down enough you can use it as a syrup for something dessert-y.

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A nice autumnal dish that is satisfying without being too heavy. Use it as a side dish for pork chops or sausages, or top with fried eggs and have it as supper or breakfast. Make it into a more substantial meal with some additions-see Chef’s Notes for ideas.

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strawberry field Feb 2It’s the time of year when strawberry growers throughout the valley start preparing their fields for next year’s strawberry crop and we are no exception. Conventional growers start to plant in early October—those who grow organically usually keep their plants in the cooler to give them more vigor and therefore don’t normally start planting until the later part of November. That may seem like a long way off, but a lot goes into getting the field ready.

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Here is a wonderful side dish that can easily convert to a main course with the addition of a few carrots and some sausage.

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Be sure to use a thin bacon, or the gratin might fall apart when you cut it. Use a Ben-Riner or mandolin

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sarahtruckthumbnailFor the past five years Sarah Brewer has been our CSA administrator (a job she meant to take over only “temporarily” when her mother Chrissi moved out of the area). Sarah has done this job so well that I don’t ever have to worry about the running of this end of the farming venture. I know that our CSA members will get a prompt, accurate, and helpful response to any question or need they have, and that the detailed paperwork she gives to Steve and the drivers for CSA packing mornings will always be absolutely accurate and complete. She understands the quirks of our Farmigo on-line software well and knows all the ways to work with and around them. She has helped keep us organized and made sure that the delivery routes run as smoothly as possible. She communicated with the hosts about any issues that come up, and was always willing to jump in to help if things got crazy on the farm. And she has put her heart into researching and writing the Veggie Notes for the newsletters, interjecting her own wonderful sense of humor and writing style. Now she is phasing herself out of the administrative duties to pursue a career in cultural resources management. Go Sarah! We’ll miss Sarah greatly, but this is clearly a good move for her at this time in her life and we wish her the best in her new career.

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Here is another vinaigrette where tomato is the flavor. Use flavorful tomatoes, or your dressing will just be a reddish vegetal tasting vinaigrette.

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Use this slightly sweet concoction as a sauce when cooked a little loose, or reduce it further and use it to glaze something, like Romanesco or cauliflower, fish, or pasta. For this dish to be successful, the tomatoes must be ripe and flavorful. If they are not, find another recipe to use.

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You can also do this dish with cauliflower, or even with thick carrots roll cut into 1-inch chunks. As far as seasoning goes, you could run anywhere from herbs such as thyme, and marjoram or use lovage (tastes sort of like a cross between flat parsley and the leaves of the center of a celery head), to spices with a Mid-East or Indian bent. Think garlic and cinnamon, or cumin and coriander, or curry. This iteration runs towards the European with marjoram and lovage.

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A simple technique that shows off the succulence of the stalks of mei-quin and crisps the leaves nicely. The flavor is mild, so the salad of tomato with the light dressing points up the flavor of the mei-quin.

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broccoli fieldWithout a doubt it has been one of the coolest summers I can remember in some time. Nearly every morning has been damp and drizzly, and if the sun comes out at all it is only for a few hours in the afternoon. For some crops these conditions can be problematic—downy mildew has set in to some of our lettuce, cucumbers and basil crops. Other heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers and squash just slow way down. There are, however, crops that love it cool and damp and of these, the broccoli and cauliflower in your boxes this week are fine examples. If conditions are too warm when broccoli is maturing, it tends to “button up” prematurely and form heads that are small and uneven. In cool weather like we have now they form larger, denser, dome-shaped heads with creamy, light green stalks. Cauliflower plants tend to remain closed with their inner leaves wrapped tightly around the developing heads keeping them white and dense rather than discolored and “ricey” when it is hot. Both crops develop more slowly under cool conditions which gives us a larger window to harvest them in.

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If you wish to save time, you can skip sautéing the cauliflower, although it does add a great extra layer of flavor.

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The escarole melts into the onions and adds a nice mildly bitter foil to the sweetness of the onions and the yellow fleshed potatoes. You could use cream in lieu of the stock for richer gratin. To make an all-in-one dish, add ham or bacon.

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This is meant to be a topping for bruschetta, but works perfectly as a side dish or topping on flatbread.

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scrub jay in orchardFor today’s essay, here are some recent pictures from the farm. At lefGoat - redbeardt, a scrub jay in the orchard on a misty morning.

At right, our goats enjoying some beets leftover from Sunday’s Mountain View Farmers Market. This goat’s new name is Redbeard!

 

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Although people think the idea is strange, people always like the savory waffles once they try them. Anytime I cook grains, I always make a little extra and freeze it for recipes like this one. This recipe utilizes another recipe that was a stand-in for another recipe. It is always fun to watch the progression of some dishes. This recipe works for brunch, or as an interesting dinner salad, or you could have it alongside some protein for a light dinner. It is important to the success of this dish that the waffles be hot and crisp.

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Bright and flavorful, this salad is easy to dress up and turn into a light main course with the addition of a can of tuna, croutons, olives, etc.

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Chantenay carrots are actually meant to be grown large. The flavor improves with size, and they seem to have a nicer flavor as well. This recipe can be made with other carrots, but I love the flavor and shape of big Chantenays. Serve this as a side to beef or with roasted Portobello mushrooms as a bed.

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blackbirds in treeOne of the advantages of being a CSA farm is the flexibility that we have in putting together the boxes each week. When a farm is geared towards wholesale markets, it needs to meet the expectations of providing a consistent product throughout the growing season. For instance if you want to be the carrot supplier for a wholesale outlet, you want to be able to harvest a consistent quantity and size of carrots every week throughout the season. This sort of marketing favors large farms, and in fact, there are two huge producers that grow the majority of carrots consumed in the US (Grimway and Bolthouse Farms). As a diverse small farm, we can take some risks in trying new varieties, and we have the flexibility to constantly change what we are growing on any given part of the farm to try to stay ahead of pest and disease problems.

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SIGN UP FOR CSA PROGRAM

When you join our CSA, you sign up with the farm to receive a share of the harvest during our 36 week season from mid-March to mid-November. In return, you get a weekly box of organic vegetables and fruit (and optional flowers) delivered straight from our farm to a pick-up site in your neighborhood.

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View our CSA Members Page

This is where you can go to find out what's coming in your box each week, find recipes, identify your vegetables with pictures, and view or print the current and past newsletters. Check here for the information you need to use your box to the fullest.

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