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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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Thomas Susty photoJanuary has been a busy month for us in regards to farm related meetings and social gatherings. As part of my duties as President of the Central Coast Chapter of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) I helped to organize our annual meeting which was held in nearby Aromas on Monday the 12th. Three wonderful presenters agreed to speak on topics that are very relevant to growers here on the Central Coast. Lisa Bunin from The Center for Food Safety spoke about efforts to get the organic strawberry industry to transition to organically produced starter plants.

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Happy New Year to everybody. With 2014 gone, it’s time to look ahead to the 2015 farm season (March 18/19 to November 18/19), even while we harvest for the winter shares. This is a good time for us to be reminded of why Community Supported Agriculture is such a helpful model for small farmers, as well as for those who crave local fresh produce.

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You want lean bacon for this without too much smoke on it. You could use pancetta as well. The bacon should be fairly thickly sliced. If it is really smoky, cut it and drop it into boiling water for 10 seconds, then pat dry.

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I love gratins. I like to experiment with various ingredients and see how well they go together. Knowing that celeriac and potatoes go well as a mash, I was pretty sure this would work well also. It sure does. This light version of a gratin does not use cream or cheese.

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Maple syrup makes everything taste better it seems, and bacon can improve just about anything (except chocolate, but that’s another story), just as a good balsamic vinegar can. In combination, even those who think they loathe Brussels sprouts may be converted. Here, a small amount of vinegar is used as a contrast, so use the good stuff you have stashed in the back of the cupboard.

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INGREDIENTS:

3 – 4 quarts water
2 1 pint Brussels sprouts (10 to 12 ounces)
tablespoons salt, plus two more 

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SFC_brusselssprouts_stalkA relative newcomer to the vegetable world, Brussels sprouts have only been around for five hundred years, whereas there are records of cabbages that go back three thousand years. Why the name “Brussels” sprouts? It is thought that they have always grown near Brussels and that they were good, and so they became associated with the area. Thomas Jefferson was an avid farmer, and his are the first records of the vegetable in North America from 1812. Chances are good he brought them here originally.

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str rowsAt the end of the road where we farm in Monterey County, there are two shallow ponds in the shady bottom of a small valley. In the thirty-plus years that he has lived there, our neighbor Keith, the beekeeper, had never seen the ponds dry up. But last year, dry up they did, and with all of the rain we have gotten so far this season, dried up they remain. For me this serves as a useful gauge of just what a serious drought we remain in. The rain so far has been great–but much more is needed.

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So simple, and yet so flavorful. This is one of those things where the whole is so much greater than the parts. Do not try doing this in a food processor. It will simply be a mess. From this basic recipe there are many other directions you can go. Use Meyer lemon and or orange zest. Add lime to it and use cilantro.

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The silky texture of escarole always seems at such odds with its bitter flavor. Adding a little sugar and caramelizing it until on the border of burnt both tames and points out the bitter quality of this vegetable, and the addition of sweet/tart fruit and vinegar made from the fruit amplifies this idea. This dish goes well with meats with mild roast chicken or fatty pork chops with a nice crust for textural contrasts. It would also be a nice complement to kasha with braised mushrooms or even fried eggs.

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Minestrone is part of the “Cucina Povera” school of Italian cooking. “Povera” and poverty share roots, so this is a soup that is usually made of what is on hand, and recipes vary widely. Here is one based on my college days.

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A festival of flavors for the face. Sweet, earthy, tart, pungent, freshly herbaceous, it really is a party of tastes. Making the gremolata the day before makes this dish pretty simple to put together.

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strawberry plugThose of you who are long time newsletter readers will recall that we have been involved in the effort to transition organic strawberry growers into using organically grown starts. The problem we are facing now is that virtually no organically grown planting stock is currently available and the standards allow growers to use non-organic plants when their organic counterparts aren’t available. To make a long story short, there was an organic plant nursery (Prather Ranch) that grew beautiful plants for a four year period between 2005-2009.

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This mélange could be used as a stuffing for poultry, Portobello mushrooms, or Delicata squash, a filling for pasta or chard leaves, or just served as a side. Add grains to it for a heartier dish, or top with pine nuts for elegance.

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Here is a sauce that feels rich in the mouth and has big flavors. The texture of the sauce comes from the squash and onions, and there is no cream in it. This sauce was devised for topping red beets, but it would be fine for fish, chicken, or even pork. It would also be nice on pasta as a fun twist on the classic Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce (see recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli on site). Stuff ravioli with chard and cheese, or add ground turkey or pork, and top with the sauce.

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This is a colorful dish with an interplay of textures and contrasts of flavors to add interest. The sauce is sweet and provides high notes, the cabbage is the mid-range and provides sweet and earthy, where the beets are mostly low range and have earthy notes tinged with a mellow sweetness. The vinegar the beets are drizzled with after roasting adds balance. Be sure to cook the cabbage just long enough render it tender, but still possessing some crunch.

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3carrotsWe hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving!

Welcome to the winter season of every other week deliveries. During the last harvest the crew found these three carrots intertwined, which we are taking as a good omen for the season ahead (displayed here by our packing shed manager Aquileo at our harvest party.)

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1210141809aSavoy spinach has a slightly more robust flavor than the flat kind, is well suited to cooking. However, the folds mean you need to be more attentive to washing it. Not a big deal really. Just use a large bowl to swish the leaves around in, then lift them from the water into a colander. Repeat as needed. To check that, look at the bottom of the rinse bowl for dirt, and bite a piece. That should let you know.

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With roasted beets in the refrigerator, you always have a dish waiting to happen. Here, roasted Chioggias are given a North African or Turkish treatment. For the recipe, the beets are cut into batons just because, but if you already have them in wedges, no worries.

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If you have the marmalade ready to go in the refrigerator, this is a quick and simple dish to prepare. The flavor of the crust is nice, but if you put it on a couple days ahead of time and let the chicken “marinate” in the refrigerator, the flavor will permeate the chicken. Since you have carrots in the marmalade, serving carrots alongside the chicken makes a nice pairing.

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Although it says marmalade, there really is no citrus peel here, it is just that the carrot shreds look like orange zest. Use this to top fish, pork chops, or chicken roasted with a fennel coriander seed crust (see the recipe). You want to have your Ben-Riner or mandolin handy for this recipe to make things easier, but a sharp knife can do the trick as well. The best pan for this recipe is a “chef’s pan”.

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It’s hard to believe another CSA season has come to an end. This week we’ll deliver the final boxes for the regular season. Next week we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving and then we’ll take some trips to visit colleges with our eldest daughter. (This is quite a milestone. We leased our first few acres and started farming the year she was born. The kid and the farm are both growing up!)

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Finding different ways to use celery leaves besides sticking them in stock is a “chef thing”. Here is a dual recipe. Chopped, it makes a condiment to be used as you might Salsa Verde. Chopped finer in food processor you get a pesto like paste that can be used on pasta, or on slabs of cheese or smeared onto things. For pasta, try it with something like bucatini or try a whole grain noodle with a little more chew and deeper flavor. Barilla makes a “Plus” line that is made with spelt and barley, chickpeas and lentils, as well as semolina, that has a nice flavor that would go well with this recipe. Try it on fish or poultry-it would go well with turkey for instance. Use as a smear for the white meat or use on sandwiches of leftovers later.

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The pesto is on quotations because you can just toss a handful of basil and garlic into a blender and then add almonds for a quick pesto-ish mélange rather than making a full on batch of pesto. If you wanted to, you could toss in flat leaf parsley with the basil to stretch it, or you can even use pesto from a jar. You would still need to add almonds for the flavor they impart. This is here to use up the last of the season basil you might have in the garden, or in the refrigerator.

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I tend to think of this as Christmas Salad. Not because of when it is served, but because of the reds and greens of its colors and the jewel-like look of the pieces. This would be a good “company” salad as you can cut all the components except the avocado in advance. Then it is just a matter of assembling it at the last moment. This salad is a study in contrasts of colors and textures, and is fun to eat. If cutting lots of cubes seems like too much work, see Chef’s Notes for an easy variation.

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catmodelThe National Weather Service is calling for some substantial rainfall during the early part of next week—which we are delighted to hear about. It’s been just about a perfect fall so far. We’ve had enough rain so that we haven’t had to irrigate much during the last few weeks, and out on the grassland, things are greening up fast. At the same time, the storms so far have been spaced far enough apart to allow us to get in with the tractors and do the things that need doing—cultivating, preparing ground for cover crops and planting a few last vegetable crops.

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Although I usually wouldn’t use chard raw, kale salad got me wondering. If the chard is very tender and the leaves are smaller, they are perfect for this. If they are larger and thicker, and eating some raw makes your teeth feel sort of furry, wait for another time to make this. Serve this as a salad on its own or as a side to cider braised pork chops, ham steak, or sausages.

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A variation on a theme, this soup is made easier by simply roasting the squash and scooping out the flesh rather than peeling and cutting and cooking it. It is a fairly simple dish, and is smooth enough to serve in cups to be sipped if you wish, or you could add substance to it by adding shrimp and/or some rice-even easier if you have some left over in the refrigerator. This soup can be made thicker and then double as a sauce for fish or on noodles with peppers and shrimp added to them.

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cowpumpkin“Severe Drought, Heavy Rains Hamper Pumpkin Crop,” read the headline in one of the ag papers we get. Steve pointed it out to me, “That about sums up farming right there.” Our pumpkin crop did fine here, though, and the cows and goats are now enjoying what’s left of the jack o’lantern pumpkins. The rain we did have last week was about perfect – a nice soaking to help our cover crops and the pasture grasses along, but not a gulley washer. Now we just need it to continue to rain like that once a week or so through the winter.

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This is a twist of another tuna salad recipe, which happens to use the more familiar red globe radishes. Here, black radish fills in for celery and adds a bit of contrast with its mild horseradish-like bite. You could use this tuna salad for a straight-up sandwich, but here it is paired with lettuce and tomatoes and slices of baguette for a build-your-own affair.

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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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