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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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This 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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The 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. Yesterday we transplanted out a new block here at our home site (most of the planting we have done up to this point has been at our Lewis Road parcel which has sandy soil that dries out much faster). Broccoli, red and green cabbage, romanesco, cauliflower, celery, fennel, and rainbow chard were among the things we planted.

One of the great ironies of this wet winter is that our cover crop has grown poorly in many places here on our heavy clay soils—it’s simply been too wet. I’ve made the joke that we would have been better off planting a rice cover crop, but that is not far from the truth. To compensate for this lack of organic matter, we’ve brought in a large amount of compost that we’ll be spreading over the next few days. As we mow down what cover crops there are, we spread the compost over the top and disc them in together. The microbes in the compost help break the cover crop residue down more quickly.

In addition to doing field prep, my other major project these days is doing a complete overhaul of our 1953 Allis Chalmers “G” cultivating tractor which is currently strewn about my workshop floor in pieces. I had to take it apart in order to fix a problem with the differential and am using the opportunity to replace or upgrade many of its parts. Among the things I’ll be replacing are the clutch-plate, throw-out bearing, wiring harness, hydraulic hoses, fuel lines, thermostat and drive belt. I’ll also be adding weight to the front end so it steers better and completely redoing the “belly bar” where all of cultivating knives are mounted.

To the back of this “belly-bar” we will be adding European finger weeding assemblies, which is one of the things I am most excited about this season. The cultivating tractor uses knives that do a great job undercutting weeds between rows and on the shoulders of our raised beds, but it still leaves a 4” wide band between plants that we have to cultivate by hand using hoes. These new European units use rubber fingers that are gentle enough to leave our transplants intact, but still take out most of the weeds.

Making repairs and upgrades like these ourselves is part of the economic reality for a small farm like ours—it would simply be too expensive to hire things out every time something broke down. The large farms around us all have large shops with full-time mechanics and fabricators working for them. I’m not complaining, however. It keeps things interesting for me, and there is a lot of satisfaction in getting to know a piece of equipment that you rely on inside and out.

I hope you are enjoying your spring projects too!

Note: This week restarts our weekly CSA deliveries for the 2017 season. If you are signed up as a biweekly subscriber, this is an “A” week.

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This dressing was originally intended for the Arugula, Radish, Avocado, Breadcrumb Salad.

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This salad is all about the interplay of the ingredients-the various kinds of crunch against the silkiness of the avocado and the dressing. The nutty flavor of arugula and the bread crumbs and the bite of radish and arugula.

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Mayonnaise is used for simplicity, as well as for its wonderful ability to brown up and form a nice glaze. If you wish for something lower calorie and lower cholesterol, you can use whipped egg whites instead, although it may not brown nearly as well. You could whip the whites and fold in the whisked yolk if you want loft and richness as well. If you do not have green garlic, just use a single clove of garlic minced or just season the pan by cooking the whole clove in the oil you’ll cook the spinach in. Don’t have oyster mushrooms? Don’t worry about it. Cook ¼ of a finely diced white or yellow onion and cook it until soft before adding spinach. Although the recipe looks long, it is really not. There are just lots of tips to ensure this is an easy dish.

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cover crop 2017I hope you have all weathered the storms in your homes or are at least getting the relief you need at this point with a little sunny weather. It was a frosty morning here, maybe the coldest night of the year so far. We are seeing dry-ish weather in the near-term forecast and are jumping on the chance to knock down some of the cover crops at our Lewis Road property to prepare more ground to plant into.

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This is a brightly flavored treatment for meaty swordfish. The radishes are a great foil for the buttery sauce and sweet tasting fish. Untoasted coriander seed has a citrusy profile that matches well with the sauce. If you wanted to, you could lightly cook the radishes in the sauce to give them a softer flavor, but the soaked raw slices provide a nice crunch as well as a little heat for contrast.

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A very basic “creamy” dressing for when you want a little sweetness, but still want the vegetables to shine through. This was first made for a Rainbow Carrot Slaw.

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Colorful and crunchy, this “slaw” type salad is easy to vary. Try adding Tokyo and/or golden turnips, kohlrabi, or even cabbage. The dressing is simple and easily varied as well. You can use a mandolin for creating thin matchsticks or just use a large-holed grater. Do purple carrots last and add them in at the end so they don’t turn everything else the same color, although that would create a nice pale reddish salad. Serve as a side or plop into a smoky pulled pork sandwich. You can also use the same recipe, but switch to a vinegary/no mayo dressing (use the same dressing only switch to all oil and no mayo) and use as a side for banh mi (classic Vietnamese sandwiches) or with noodles.

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This iteration of the classic French sauce was made with swordfish in mind, but will work for most seafood, and light poultry as well. It can be used as a lower cholesterol substitute for Hollandaise sauce also. The sauce is pretty simple. The trickiest part is mounting the sauce with butter and not breaking the sauce. This is easily avoided by simply paying attention and pulling the pan from the heat while adding (mounting) the butter, returning it to the heat if the pan cools too much.

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During a “normal” rainy season, if there is such a thing, the water in our neighboring Harkins Slough can, in places, turn the color of a cup of coffee with half & half mixed in.

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New start greenhouse Feb 2017 It is looking like we will soon be back into the wet and windy weather that has characterized this winter so far, but we are grateful for the brief sunny break that we are experiencing now. Combined with the longer days, it feels like we have turned a small corner of sorts in the stretch toward spring. It has allowed us to get caught up on many things—getting mulch down on our front strawberry patch, changing the aging film on our transplant greenhouse (destroyed in the storms, picture at right), and planting.

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The deep earthy flavors of the greens work in harmony with the bright and lightly sweet flavor of the roasted romanesco, which, like most brassicas, develops sweetness in the oven.

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Another riff on the Italian classic. Where gremolata usually uses garlic, this version contains none, and uses shallot instead. It also uses only a little lemon zest, and calls for Meyer lemon rather than Eureka. This iteration came about as a garnish for seared and roasted butternut squash rounds, which are sweet on their own, and have a nutty flavor. This version would go well on other roast or crisp sautéed vegetables such as parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, or other dense-fleshed winter squash. Try it on turkey cutlets, pan roasted halibut, or charred octopus as well.

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Thick rounds of butternut squash pan seared and roasted are paired with a fresh, herby gremolata variant, then toasted hazelnuts or raw pine nuts are added to light the nutty flavor of the squash a little higher. Use this as a side instead of a starch, or as an entrée on a meatless Monday.

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alysyum in greenhouseJust as people resolve to make major changes in their lives at this time of year, these winter months give us the perspective to step back and think about the changes we want to make as a farm.

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The profile of this dish can easily be changed by altering the spices. Go with thyme, marjoram and fennel seed for a French flare-you could even add some lavender- or use oregano or sage for a more Italian turn. Use some Moroccan spices and go North African/Mid-East. Curry will take you to India, and you can add hot chili for an incendiary approach or use fennel seed with a sweet curry for mild but fragrant. Use this for topping fish, boneless chicken breasts or cubed chicken chunks, or cut cauliflower into large pieces and roast them after oiling and seasoning. You could serve at room temp or cold as part of a mezze or thali lunch. It would also do well with cooked chickpeas or kidney beans heated up in it. This is the iteration for roast cauliflower, or for topping fish or even shrimp.

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Have this for breakfast or dinner. Substance, flavor, and color are all here. Enrich the dish with a poached or fried egg, top with béchamel or a Hollandaise or Maltaise sauce*.

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Here, Butternut squash slices replace potatoes in variation of a typical gratin. Vegetable stock stands in for the usual dairy, and bread crumbs are there to soak up moisture and add some texture and loft. Chard adds a contrast to the sweetness of the squash, and you could mix potato slices into the squash slices if you wish to tone the sweetness down as well.

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vacuum-seederThe first week of the New Year is generally the time that we throw ourselves into preparations for the coming season with increased vigor—making seed orders, starting transplants in the greenhouse, and checking things off our long project list. This coming week is shaping up to be a very wet one. Between the storm that is expected here this afternoon and what the National Weather Service calls a “potent atmospheric river” event predicted for this weekend, we could get between 3 and 6 inches of rain here—a significant portion of the 23 inches that we get in an average year.

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These can be done in stages ahead of time up to the final cooking if you wish, and they are quite flexible in terms of what you use. Instead of lamb and currants, use pork and a fine dice of apples. Skip the meat entirely and add in some cheese, firm or pressed tofu, or chopped nuts.

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Halved florets of romanesco pan-fried and then steamed with a shot of white wine to finish is then garnished with a variation of gremolata, the classic Italian mélange of flat-leaf parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. Be sure to use good oil that has a high flash point, good wine (if it isn’t good just use water) and a heavyweight pan with a tight fitting lid.

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A variation on classic gremolata, tweaked a little to match up with romanesco or cauliflower fried until crisp.

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bald-eagles-flying-croppedWell, I have to eat crow on my eagle post from last time. It has been pointed out to me that the young eagle has the white chest coloring of a 2nd year juvenile. We wanted it to be a new chick from this year, and we hadn’t seen last year’s juveniles in a long time, and it was flying with both adults, so we just assumed it was a new fledgling. But you know what happens when one assumes…

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This recipe makes a very moist, non-crumbly muffin, or a great cake. A cream cheese frosting would be excellent on the cake.

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A dish that uses some of the sweet flavors of the holiday season, but comes off as light and sort of refreshing.

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Another one of those things from the “I love to treat vegetables as something other than a vegetable” files. Here beets get turned into a sweet instead of a sauce, although you would use this where you might use sauce, as an accompaniment to meats or duck.

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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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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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