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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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Spring Farm Tour 2014It was great to meet several of you at our Spring Farm Tour last Saturday. It’s nice to put faces to our CSA members, and you always seem to have the most interesting, engaged children! We seem to have entered our summer weather pattern with fog in the mornings burning off to some sun later in the day. This type of weather is actually what makes our home farm and the Redman ranch so perfect for growing so many crops – including lettuces, greens, and strawberries–that do not do well with summer heat.

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This salad also features an oregano infused olive oil and calls for optional quickled red spring onions. The dressing has some fennel seed powder to echo the shaved fennel. You want to use a Ben Riner or other fixed blade slicer for this.

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The carrot top “pesto” isn’t really that pesto-ish to my mind as there is no garlic in it, or basil, but there you have it. Roasting the carrots on sprigs of oregano will give them a lighter aroma and flavor than chopping the herbs and putting it all over the carrots, and this way the more delicate topping will come through without interference. Serving these carrots on sautéed spinach will point up the sweetness of the carrots, but is entirely optional as the carrots are fine on their own.

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These can be made in minutes and will keep around a week in the refrigerator. These are not a true pickle and will not store for long times nor should they be left unrefrigerated long periods.

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This oil is originally for a Provençal inspired shaved fennel salad, but has many other uses. Once made it will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two before the flavor starts to drop off.

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This dressing is for a shaved fennel salad, but the fennel would make this a nice dressing to top grilled fish or pork chops. You could make the fennel salad without the lettuce and use this dressing with it for topping the aforementioned.

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A favorite ice cream flavor of mine growing up was mandarin chocolate. When I started cooking I figured out what the “mandarin” part was and have played with those flavors in other things since then. Here is another dish inspired by those excursions. This recipe lists carrot, but they can be omitted if you choose. They are a good companion to fennel as they have sweetness to match the aroma of fennel and they have an earthiness that helps ground the fennel, onion, and orange juice.

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Not truly a pesto, but as it is close, and it is in the same spirit of “cucina povera” that true pesto was invented in, why not call it a pesto? No basil or pine nuts, but oregano and almonds stand in. Garlic could easily overwhelm this, but if you decide to give it a go, try using only half a small clove of peeled and de-germed garlic. Use this on roast carrots, sautéed mushrooms, or with cappelinni pasta.

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Fava Beans growingIt looks like things will be dry enough here at our home farm by the end of the week for us to get back in with the tractors and continue to work up more ground to plant into. Before the last series of storms we had mowed and incorporated the cover crop on most of the fields and in the intervening weeks the residue has broken down to the point that we should be able to start planting into it in a week or so. My aim every year is to plant our large blocks of hard squash no later than May 1st, and it looks like we are on track to meet that goal.

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This is a riff on a sandwich I had in San Francisco at the De Young museum. If you make this during tomato season, by all means add a couple thin slices of tomato to the sandwich.

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The “dressing” is fairly chunky, and could be considered a condiment as well. This salad makes a nice side to grilled fish or chicken, or you can omit the lettuce and use the dressed radishes as a topping for something.

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This dish is about the contrast between the bright lemon, and the mild spice of the radish and mizuna, both as a foil to the chewy and nutty flavor of the farro.

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pear blossoms3You are invited to our Spring Farm Tour on Saturday, April 12th, at 10 AM, at our home farm. Come out and see where your food is being grown! We’ll take you around to the blueberry patch, as well as pear and apple orchards and the various row crops growing in the field. Special features on this property include our riparian corridor, native insectary hedgerows, the habitat restoration area, and the four-year UCSC research project on crop rotation that we are participating in.

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If your turnips come with the greens on, remove the stems and wash the leaves, tear into bite-sized pieces, then add to the pan to wilt just before adding the dressing, or cook the greens separately and put on the plate first, the add the turnips and mushrooms, then dress.

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This dish pairs roast carrots, which develop a sweet flavor combined with a rooty depth, with a bright compound butter which features chervil (which has a flavor like tarragon, but lighter) spiked with some Meyer lemon, or not as you choose. The fennel see on the carrots will add layers of flavor to the dish and will support the chervil in the butter. As the fennel seed roasts it will take on a nutty flavor as well.

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This dressing delivers a dressing full of smoky garlic flavor without the heat of clove garlic. Once the season for green garlic is past, you could grill thin leeks and a clove or two garlic instead for a good alternative. As well as topping sautéed or grilled vegetables, it will complement salads of sturdy lettuces like romaine and things like escarole, endive, and radicchio.

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This butter will have a light anise/licorice/tarragon flavor to it, and is good for poultry, light meats, fish and seafood, and vegetables. It is perfect for adding to a pan of mussels or shrimp at the end, or slipping frozen slices under the skin of a chicken to be roasted. You can use this butter to make a “buerre blanc” – a sauce of shallots, wine or vinegar, and bits of cold vinegar swirled into a pan to form an emulsification.

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This gratin is for those who love the flavor of garlic. The nice thing about this is that using the green garlic gives you lots of flavor but leaves the pungent heat behind.

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One of the happier things to happen here in the last five years is that the neighboring 400 plus acre property was purchased by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The three parcels that make up this property are now in agricultural easements which will protect them from development in perpetuity. The previous owners had drawn up elaborate plans for a 1000 plus unit development, complete with shopping center and golf course.

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This is a nice and light dish with bright flavors. If you have green garlic, be sure to use some of that in the filling. Button mushrooms will work fine in lieu of oyster mushrooms, but avoid shiitake as they will take over the dish.

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Definitely a fusion dish drawing on India and Southeast Asia for inspiration, with some pure California thrown in as well.

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The taste of fresh ground coriander is a refreshing floral, citrusy flavor with a little bit of nuttiness to it. I like to use it as one would pepper when I don’t want the bite or heat pepper can bring. I have a pepper mill just for coriander seed I like it so much. I suggest giving it a try. Find an old mill at the flea market, or grind some up and try it to see what you think before buying a new mill.

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Use these on sandwiches, roast or grilled meats, combined with sprouts to top things, or as here, as an element to a green salad.

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This dressing was made to go with a salad of Little Gems and Oakleaf lettuces and Quickled Leeks, but would be good with a cabbage salad with peanuts and shrimp, or on grilled chicken or pork chops. This would be good in a shrimp cocktail with avocado as well.

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pear blossoms3The CSA is starting up again and it certainly feels like spring at the farm. The pear trees are bursting out in blossom, the blueberry bushes are loaded with green berries, and of course the weeds are going gangbusters. The bees are thick around anything in flower, ducks are flying over in pairs, and the swallows are swooping about overhead catching flying insects. It’s hard to argue with these beautiful sunny days, though we’re still hoping for some more winter rain before the end of March.

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Use this to top grilled or roasted fish, or serve as a side. This would be good mixed into hearty grains or thinned with a little pasta cooking water and used as a sauce on pasta shapes like campanelle or dischi volante. The fava greens are the tips of some of the plants and may include flowers. They have a “green” spring quality to them, and you want to just cook them.

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The cabbage is rendered tender but still crunchy by salt-wilting it, then it is gently warmed in a sauté pan with a mélange of soft cooked leeks and green garlic. This method brings out the sweetness of the cabbage which works well with the sweetness of the alliums and makes a great foil to the silkiness of the leeks and garlic.

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The briny capers, sweet nutty pistachio oil, and crunchy nuts all play off one another and make a great foil for the earthy chard.

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This light soup celebrates spring. If you have asparagus, add some 1/8th inch bias cut slices and you have all the local vegetable harbingers of the season. This recipe is more of a guideline, really. Feel free to play with it. You could just add the chard stems to the liquid, but the sautéing brings out sweetness in the stems, and wilting the chard in a separate pan gives a lighter, cleaner flavor to the broth. The fava greens are the tips of the plants, including some of the flowers.  Add mushrooms, carrot shreds, whatever you find.

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lettuce in greenhouseThis week’s imminent rains are very welcome indeed. The timing of the first system, late Wednesday morning, should allow us just enough time to get the harvest done for our Thursday deliveries. Things greened up remarkably quickly after the last rounds of rainfall, the bell beans and peas in the cover crops are in bloom, and all is starting to feel right with the world again.

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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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