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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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winter day on the farmLast week, my son Lee and I attended the annual Ecofarm Conference in Pacific Grove for a day. As a presenter–I spoke at a session on CSAs in the morning—I was given free admittance for the day along with lunch and dinner. The session I spoke at went well. It was great to see a large, enthusiastic group of people committed to the CSA movement. It was also great to hear the stories of the other two farmers that presented with me. Most of all it was good to spend the day in such a beautiful setting being inspired by some of the impressive things that others are doing.

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The Silk Robe refers to the silky texture leeks, fennel, and carrots take on when cooked slowly. You can grill the salmon, or roast it high or low temperature as you wish, or cook it entirely in a pan on the stovetop. Each method gives a different but delicious result. Higher temps yield a crispy part of the fish, where a slow and low cooking results in a supple and silky fish that matches the vegetable topping. Pan searing gives a crisp top deck and low oven heat yields silky flesh to meld with the topping. Because there are so few ingredients here, and cooking is so simple, be sure to use only the best ingredients. You could use halibut or other thick bodied flaky fish for this recipe, or even slowly poached chicken.

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This is a pureed soup, so it is smooth and “creamy” feeling, although there is no cream. The ingredients combine to make a slightly sweet soup, so serving this with a salad of bitter winter greens with a sharp-ish vinaigrette is excellent. The flavoring of this soup can go from Provençal to Southwestern American to Indian with ease. See Chef’s Notes for ideas.

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Variation on a theme, with Moroccan accents. While the orange flower water is not essential, it really does add an extra dimension that’s delightful and mysterious all at once.

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The meaty, winey Portobello mushroom and the nutty starchy farro mellow the bitter and earthy flavor of the radicchio while the sweetness of the carrot and onion dice act as a counterpoint. This is a dish with some substance, and the mushrooms make a good substitute for meat texturally and flavor-wise.

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Having always been a stickler as to the definition of “pesto”, I have relaxed about this a bit, but still feel “pesto” should contain an herb, garlic, nuts, and olive oil. In this case the herb is the fronds from fennel combined with a little parsley for bulk, the nuts are coarsely chopped almonds, and the pesto is pretty runny. There is no cheese in this, although you could add some young Romano to the recipe if desired. This recipe was meant for Carrots with Fennel Jam, but would work well with chicken, fish, pork, pasta, or drizzled on spaghetti. Mortar and pestle is my preferred method for texture and longevity of end product, but a blender works, and the method for that is listed after the mortar method.

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This dish is quite dramatic on the plate, especially if you have purple or multicolored carrots. If you wish, you can steam the carrots instead of roasting. Roasting and steaming help purple carrots retain color, and in the case of the purple carrots it intensifies the color. Wet cooking purple carrots washes out the color and tints every other vegetable in the pan a not pleasant shade or blurple. The earthiness of the carrot is offset by the fennel and the pesto, while roasting intensifies the sweetness of the carrots and intensifies the flavor at the same time.

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harvesting in the rainShortly after 5 am this morning, as I sat down in front of the computer to check the weather forecast, the possum that lives under our tub in the adjoining hall bathroom got into a fight with a skunk that wandered into the crawl space looking for shelter from the rain. I heard the whole thing transpire and ran into the bathroom stomping on the floor in an effort to break it up, but it was too late. The skunk let loose at full force, and now the entire house is permeated. The joys of rural living can be exaggerated at times.

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“Condiment” is used for lack of any better word, but I suppose salsa, jam, or chutney could be used as well. It is, essentially, sweet vegetables cooked until melting, to boost the flavors of earthy late season peppers. This is used as a topping for seared and quickly braised mei quin. Use as a side dish, add ground pork, tofu, or bits of leftover chicken and serve with rice for a main. A mandolin is very helpful with this recipe.

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The lettuces used here are what was used for this recipe originally, but other choices will work as well.

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The lemon brings out the brightness in the mustard, and the sesame adds a slightly sweet/nutty flavor with random spots of crunch that plays well with the mustard.

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ring roller with cover cropThings have played out perfectly here this fall. We’ve had enough rainfall to bring up the cover crops and stabilize the hillsides with breaks in between that have allowed us to get the work done that we’ve needed to.

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The peppery notes of the cress and rocket play up the sweetness of the beets. The shreds of Little Gems add crunch and loft to the salad, while the orange in the dressing adds a bright note with some sweetness to marry with the beets and contrast with the nutty peppery cress and rocket. If you wish, you can serve the salad without the lettuce and use a standard Balsamic Vinaigrette. Use this as an accompaniment to things like steaks or roast chicken. You could also serve it alongside (or in the cup of the cap) roasted Portobello mushrooms. If you wanted you could add orange suprêmes to the salad just before serving.

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This was first done for a salad of beets, a peppery cress, arugula, and shreds of Little Gem lettuce. It will go with plenty of other salads of sharp or spicy elements, as well as on pork chops or chicken. Use a milder olive oil, and be sure to use organic oranges with plenty of flavor and some acid. Organic because you want to rub the bowl with the orange skin to flavor the dressing.

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I was reminded of a dish from a restaurant I worked in long ago when flipping through a recent cookbook about modern French bistros. We used to cut potatoes to the size of rice grains and cook it like risotto. The starch of the potatoes gave a very similar texture to traditional risotto. Here, carrots are cooked similarly, but you won’t get the same mouth feel until you choose to take some of the veg and broth and pureé it in a Vitamix or food processor and add it back in at the end. As I love to play with variations of peas and carrots, I include an option for adding shelled edamame. Look for frozen non-GMO organic beans, and cook them a little longer than called for. They should be tender all the way through, with a creamy texture. The recipe is great without them if you wish to keep things quick and easy.

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cover crop with blackbirdsThe winter session is upon us with nice cold weather to usher it in. Our winter plantings are coming along well, while on the rest of the farm the cover crops are greening up the landscape nicely. For the winter boxes, you can expect a similar mix to last year, with kales, collards, leeks, fennel, beets, winter squash, dandelion, arugula, curly cress, escarole, cilantro, dill, parsley, radicchio, as well as broccoli and cabbage later in the season. In addition to apples, we’ll bring in some goodies from our friends Steve Marsalisi (lemons and limes), and Phil Foster (like this week’s celery root). It’s shaping up to be a good winter!

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Whenever I work with root vegetables, I am bound to wonder, at some point, what it is like roasted whole. Here is one answer to that question.

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This recipe was made to go with Crisp Pan Roasted Salmon, but will go with roast chicken as well as seared scallops, black cod, or pork chops. Leeks cook to a silky texture similar to escarole, and the earthy funk combines well with the slightly bitter escarole. Although the recipe calls for white wine or sherry vinegar, a white balsamic or a good quality red wine vinegar would go great here as well. If you do go with red wine vinegar, serve a red wine that has plenty of fruit, but also some tannins to match the vinegar and act as a foil to the rich salmon and the smoothness of the vegetables. You could also toss this with pasta or grains such as farro.

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Using a slightly leaner salmon is a good strategy for this dish as the leeks and escarole have enough fatty qualities already. The Japanese peppers mentioned are fushimi and/or shishito peppers, which are quite mild but have a pleasantly “green” flavor. Searing adds another dimension of flavor that enhances the whole dish. Add shavings of carrot to the leeks and escarole (see recipe) or cook using a roll-cut and plate on the side. You can make this recipe using roast or grilled chicken or pork chops as well, but in this case the escarole-leeks will bring the richness instead of the salmon.

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When cooking fish there are two things to remember. “Fresh!” And -“Eight minutes to the inch”.

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cover crop November 2015This week we’ll deliver the final boxes of the regular season. Thanksgiving week will be off and then we’ll start the biweekly winter deliveries the following week (December 2 and 3). Sarah has information below about the winter session logistics.

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This is a dish I eat for breakfast from left-overs, or as dinner if I am alone and want something simple and satisfying as a “comfort food”. The main parts are the winter squash, onions, and greens, but feel free to add mushrooms, tomatoes, beets, or apple. Eggs poached or fried either way, as long as the yolks is soft and can run into the ingredients as a sauce. I douse them with plenty of something spicy and vinegary.

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INGREDIENTS:

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar

1½ tablespoons water

1 teaspoon sugar

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Here is a dish that is perfect for Holiday tables or at home dinners, and is, in fact, a riff on the classic green bean casserole with fried onions. No cream of mushroom soup or sauce. The leeks and pancetta or bacon can be cooked a couple days prior and they will hold in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep the fat from the pancetta or bacon as the flavor is integral to the dish.

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This is a simple dish where the components speak for themselves, and the aim of the dish is to exalt the flavor of the beans. The carrots add a subtle woody flavor as well as sweetness, and the color pops against the green of the beans and the mustard brown of the sauce.

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fall cover cropYesterday’s rainstorm was a very pleasant surprise. The National Weather service was only calling for a quarter inch or less in our area, and we ended up getting over 1.25 inches. It was mainly the steady, gentle early season type of rain that is perfect for getting cover crops established without doing any damage. It is amazing how fast the dry ground sops up that much rain. If 1.25 inches were to fall on already saturated soil in the middle of winter there would be standing puddles everywhere—but less than 24 hours after the rain stopped there is little sign of it.

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Make this with wild rice, or if you have other leftover grains, you can use those. The flavor of wild rice goes perfectly with other ingredients.

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This is a dish of subtle flavors. The cucumbers lend a touch of bitter to contrast with the sweet rich cream which takes on a touch of caramelization with reduction. Their texture is firm and tender at the same time, while the beans are softer but still have a little bite to them. Bits of almond add a definite crunch to counter the soft onion. This pairs up well with simply cooked fowl or steak. You could cut the beans into 1-inch lengths and then toss this dish with pasta, perhaps adding herbed bread crumbs and cheese to the dish to finish it up. If the idea of cooked cucumbers is too weird for you, simply omit them, knowing the dish will be richer without them.

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An autumnal salad that is pretty to look at and tastes of the coming season. The ingredients act as foils and links all at the same time, and form a sort of flavor merry-go-round with each other. If you wish, you can add diced apples for more sweetness and crunch to the salad. See the “option” in the recipe.

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New CratesThe first batch of reusable crates has arrived! We will try out our new crates this week for the Thursday route. Please bring reusable bags (like the High Ground Organics Bagito bag you got if you made a donation to the crate fund) to the pick-up site. Take your fruits and vegetables out of the crate and leave the open crates in a nested stack. Thanks to all of you who helped make this happen. We look forward to fewer trips to the landfill!

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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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