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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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One of the consequences of a prolonged, wet winter is that our cover crops can get out of hand. Because the soils are too wet to drive the tractor on, we simply have to wait while the cover crops get taller and taller before things are dry enough for us to mow them down.

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Back when we first moved onto our home ranch here on Harkins Slough, we quickly realized that our 40 horse power Ford tractor, the one that had seemed so big when we first bought it, was no match for the amount of acreage and the heavy clay soils we would now be farming on.

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I’ve always been very fond of swallows. They are hard-working, industrious birds who are a joy to watch fly.

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Those of you who have been faithful newsletter readers for a while know that we have been involved with the effort to transition the organic strawberry industry into using organically grown starter plants for some time now.

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Things are hopping on the farm now. We’re doing a lot of planting every week, and getting into the swing of harvesting more each week.

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This sauce was designed around a wine from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s second label Quinta Cruz. This is a label that produces only wines from Portugal and Spain. The wine is Graciano, and is a wine that is savory first, then fruity. To me, the flavor profile is oil cured olives, oregano and marjoram, then a shovelful of really good farm dirt, finishing with blueberries. Now, this is my opinion but I am sticking with it. If you cannot find a wine from these grapes I suggest using a petite sirah.

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The sauce for this dish easily works with pork or even beef, but is especially good with all poultry. Duck has a reputation of being difficult-from greasy to rubbery to gamy to hard to cook. It really isn’t that hard to deal with as long as you don’t try to cook the duck whole. The breasts are easily done in a sauté pan that is transferred to the oven to finish. Legs should be cooked separately, either roasted, braised, or confited (slow cooked in their own fat). Depending on who you talk to, duck fat is considered to be between butter and olive oil as far as health benefits go. I recommend you look it up yourselves if you are curious. I will say it washes off hands a lot easier than any vegetable shortening I’ve ever used, and it tastes great. So, while cooking this recipe, have a little heat-proof container to put the fat you drain off into handy. Look for moulard or Pekin duck breasts for this recipe. These breasts are larger and ½ a full breast (1 side) will feed two.

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This is a simple dish with a mild ginger glow and coconut sweetness that was acts as a foil to the earthy minerality that is collards. This dish was first concocted to go with tandoori chicken and cinnamon cardamom carrot threads. This would work with other greens such as Portuguese kale, lacinato, or mustard greens.

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This recipe was originally made with ramps, which is a wild onion which does not seem grow here and is really delicious and has a season about a month and a half long it seems. This is an approximation of that sauce made with items readily available here-baby leeks and scallions. The sauce is essentially a vinaigrette thickened up with lots of alliums and herbs, and is great for topping meats (this was first made for red wine marinated lamb chops) and fish, or being used on a salad made with flavorful sturdy lettuces such as romaine, Little Gems, and the like.

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This dish was inspired by a 12 pound tub of Kimes Apiary honey from the main farm I was gifted this winter. The flavor of this honey is phenomenal and brings a lot to the dish. The leeks have an earthy funky note that marries so well with honey. If you don’t have access to the Kimes Apiary honey, look for something that is floral, buttery, and low-key, and not cloyingly sweet for best results. Use these leeks as a starter dish or a side to something braised in wine or vinegar, or something fried like chicken or squid.

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This compound butter is a quick “sauce” for steak, chicken, fish, or anything else that might come from around the Mediterranean basin. Store in the freezer for nights when you are tired and inspiration is lacking. The flavors are earthy and bold.

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This was made to go with steak in lieu of spinach. It has a similar texture, but doesn’t carry that oxalic acid texture that spinach sometimes has that makes the teeth feel furry. Also, mei-quin has a brighter flavor that goes well with hanger or flap steak and grass fed beef, and makes a nice foil to the flavor imbued by grilling.

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This is a sort of modern California riff on the steakhouse classic of steak with maître d’hôtel butter served with spinach. While a baked potato or frites might be what comes to mind as a starch, I’d go for Pommes Anna instead. The recipe calls for a hanger steak- there is one per animal and it has a strip of gristle running down the center that must be cut away (ask the butcher to do it) – which has a wonderful “beefy” flavor. However, if you like meat cooked more well done, this is not the cut for you. Anything past medium and the steak is chewy as wet saddle leather. Other cuts that are flavorful and off the beaten path include flap, chuck eye, and flatiron. The last is a steak that is flavorful like a chuck steak, but has the tenderness of filet, except for a strip of gristle running through the middle. Cut it out after you have cooked it or you end up cutting the steak into tiny bits that cook too fast. Be sure you use a hot flame or pan so the meat chars a bit, as that flavor is part of the overall appeal.

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This dressing was made for Grilled Romaine with Shaved Beets, Carrots, and Radishes, but will go with lots of other things as well. Use for other salads, as a dip for vegetables or chips, or for felafels or grilled chicken.

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Grilled Romaine tastes great and the textures add a lot to the dish. The shaved roots each bring a different texture, color, and flavor to the salad that play well off each other to please the palate and eye. The dressing brings everything together.

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lettuce transplantsWe are saying goodbye to Molly this week, which is a sad thing for us because she has done just an amazing job as our CSA administrator.

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fennel etcThe USDA has proposed imposing an Organic Check-off Program in which all organic producers would pay a percentage of their income to a federal program that would fund research and marketing for the industry as a whole. Think “Got Milk” or “The Incredible Edible Egg.”

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This dressing is pack with herb flavors. Although it was made to go with a fava and lettuce salad, it would be great as a dip for vegetables or falafel, and would be good in chicken salad or with skewers of grilled chicken, lamb, or beef. Avoid using curly parsley here as it will make it taste bitter and vegetable.

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These tubers are neither from Jerusalem or are they related to artichokes. They are in the sunflower family, and have some of that nutty flavor. This recipe takes its name from my kids. Once when I was making this, they were watching and my daughter commented that the slices of sunchoke looked like gold coins. These are great-they taste like a cross between potato chips, French fries, and sunflower seeds. Just be sure to serve them hot, as they do not hold well. Peeling these is beyond tedious. Soak them in cool water for 5 minutes or so, then scrub them with a brush.

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This dish combines two basic dishes where the sum is definitely more than the parts. This is easily varied, and could be a good breakfast or light dinner with the addition of some fried eggs with crispy edges.

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strawberry plants April 2017This “winter” just doesn’t want to go away—another storm is forecast for tomorrow. We are up to nearly 40 inches of rain this season, which is nearly double what we get in a normal year. This is how I imagine it is to farm on the East Coast, where they get rain throughout the spring and summer.  

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For a simple yet elegant soup, try this asparagus soup. Subtle and velvety, without any cream. By the way, you do not want this soup to boil- by not allowing it to boil it will retain a greener, more pleasant color. Boil this soup and it will turn khaki.

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Carrot and Spinach Saute with Green Garlic and Roasted Almonds

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An elegant presentation of spinach that can be made a day ahead and reheated in the oven in a bain-marie just before they are needed. Serve it with rings of roasted Delicata squash and drizzle with a light simple syrup spiked with Meyer lemon juice.

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This is the most fundamental way of cooking asparagus. I learned this from my wife, and as long as I pay attention, it has never failed me. It yields moist, perfectly textured asparagus, tender without being the least mushy, slippery, or thready/stringy on the outside. This also works for asparagus that has been cut into smaller pieces.

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rainy harvest 4This first day of spring is being ushered in with yet more rain, making for a wet harvest day. Steve was on the tractor dawn to dusk through the weekend getting ground worked up and compost spread in advance of the storm. He wasn’t the only one. Some nearby farms have had tractors working through the night.

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A quick sauté with lots of earthy green flavors with funky overtones from the onions and garlic chives. Use this as a side for chicken of pork strips, add tofu, or add some cooked Chinese style noodles.

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This recipe makes a simple dish with that has plenty of flavor. If you wish to, adding some chopped lacinato kale adds color to the dish and contrast to the flavors, all of which meet under the aromatic umbrella of the garlic chives. This recipe is set to yield a “dry” dish, but if you wish, you can use more stock and have the carrots in a broth, adding little pasta shapes or Israeli couscous or grains if it pleases you.

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Here’s a salad where textures, flavors, and colors all play off one another. Even the beets join in as the different color beets are seasoned with different types of vinegar. The dressing is a light creamy (yogurt) dressing flavored with garlic chives. The flavor and aroma are redolent of garlic, but do not have the heat of clove garlic.

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Allis Chalmers G 2The National Weather Service reminds us that winter is not over—they are calling for a pattern change and chance of showers after the upcoming weekend.  But it has sure felt like Spring the last few days. We are in full production mode.

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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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