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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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ketchupThis recipe is from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Using “paste” tomatoes such as San Marzanos are ideal because of their low moisture levels. Quickly blanching the tomatoes (boiling them until the skins split then transferring them into ice water) helps to remove the skin efficiently. A quick squeeze of the peeled tomatoes can release most seeds. Processing with a food mill can help remove any skins or seeds you didn’t catch and will give the ketchup the right consistency. This homemade ketchup tastes divine and has quite a bit less sugar and salt than the store-bought kinds.

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This is a bare bones simple White Balsamic dressing for when you want the flavors of the salad to stand out.

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A light and satisfying dish that goes well with lighter flavored proteins, or pairs well with beans and light grains such as rice or quinoa.

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For this salad, a tender lettuce like Butter or Oakleaf is the perfect contrast to the dense beets and crunchy quickles. If you can’t find small red onions for your quickles, go with shallots instead. Although very simple, this salad is so satisfying with the range of textures and flavors. Also, the beets and quickles can be done days ahead, along with the dressing.

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This dish has an earthy flavor that has sweetness and complexity to it. It can serve as a side dish, a base to a stack of items, or thinned a little it can be a sauce. Formed into quenelles it elevates the lowly beet into something quite elegant. A scattering of tender fresh herbs such as tarragon, basil, or shiso is nice, and chervil seems to work quite well here.

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stevediscingThis is the time of year when we really start to keep an eye on the weather.

The strawberries are going to be hit and miss from now on. The heat did a number on them last week, but they are rebounding surprisingly strongly. With possible rain in the forecast we may lose some of this ripening fruit.

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Not a true jam, but one of a series of “jams” made from various vegetables that are used as toppings, sauce enhancers, dips, or spreads for sandwiches. There are “real” tomato jams, and they all seem to use a 1:1 ratio of sugar to tomato. Not so here, where there is only a little sugar and some vinegar to enhance the tomato flavor. Use this for fish, flattened and bread pork chops, or poultry such as grilled or roasted chicken, or roast turkey thighs or turkey scallopine.

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Odd though it may sound, this is a salad that is served warm. It could easily become and entrée by adding a grilled pork chop or some grilled chicken. If you wish to use it for a main dish, use more carrots, bumping the carrot recipe up by 50%. Try marinating the meat in the vinegar and herbs used in whichever dressing you choose for a while before grilling it.

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Peeling the squash before cutting makes it easier. Don’t worry about getting all the peel off; a little left on is fine and looks nice. If it is easier, cut it into larger pieces, and use a very sturdy peeler such as the kind with the u-shaped handle. Save the seeds to roast; just wash well and dry, then oil and sprinkle with salt and bake 10-15 minutes at 350°F or until done. Eat as is or save and use as garnish for this dish.

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These are the potatoes that brought Chef Joel Robuchon to world notice, and they are the potatoes that brought Jean Pierre Clot fortune. He is the man who resurrected this potato from the Alps and sent it to Chef Robuchon, who proceeded to make this over-the-top version of mashed potatoes. This version is simplified from Chef Robuchon’s, as it skips using a tamis, or drum sieve, for the potatoes. Do not attempt this in a food processor or blender as it will provide you with gummy, pasty potatoes. You will need a food mill, or a ricer.

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Another salad from the Tour Du Fridge Department, or, what leftovers can be transformed into dinner? Leftover farro and lots of peppers led to this. You can use other chewy grains such as wheat berries or barley of you don’t have farro handy. Serve this as a side or part of a mezze/antipasto/appetizer spread.

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This is a simple dish with nowhere to hide for inferior ingredients, so make this with ripe flavorful tomatoes and fresh aromatic herbs. As it says, this is a great topping for fish, whether grilled, roasted, or poached. Use it with any thicker fish. Use a milder olive oil, and only enough to be noticed. Too strong and it will overpower the tomatoes, and too much will muffle all the flavors and make the salad/topping heavy.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch Tokyo turnips*, washed well and cut into ½-inch wedges
2-3 firm apples, sweet-tart, cut into ½-inch wedges, seeds removed
1 small white or yellow onion, finely diced

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Pumpkinpatch2Thanks to those of you who braved the heat to come out to the Pumpkin Patch on Saturday. We enjoyed seeing you, and the goats and cows loved all the food and attention. We donated 100% of the pumpkin sales (over $800) to Linscott Charter School.

The high pressure zone and the heat that accompanied it during the later part of last week made life interesting around here. Normally our proximity to the coast (two miles) takes the edge off of most heat spells,

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kidsandgoatsUsually this time of year we are gearing up for our big Harvest Festival, which we’ve done for several years with the help of volunteers from Linscott School in Watsonville. The event has been a great success and fun for everyone. Unfortunately, this year our Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier has nixed the event, citing concerns that our volunteers could make claims for injury. This makes no sense to us — they are not employees and should be a concern of our liability insurance carrier not our Work Comp carrier, but our Work Comp insurance company threatened to drop our policy if we went ahead with the event.

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This dressing would go well with a salad of arugula and frisee with pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts, or another salad with similar flavors. This dressing would also be a good sauce on chicken or grilled lamb chops, or drizzled over grilled salmon or used to dress lentils while hot.

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This dish is sweet, nutty, and “green”, with a sweet and funky base from leeks, garlic, and sage, and then is topped with a bread crumb Persillade. Both light and satisfying, if you add some cooked shelling beans and grains like barley or farro you have robust vegetable dish that can stand alone.

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This is very definitely an autumnal salad that is a study of contrasts and complements. If you can get the pomegranate seeds, do use them as the acid really adds to the whole. This salad can easily be turned into a full meal by enlarging it and adding grilled chicken or shrimp that has marinated in pomegranate juice, garlic, and mint.

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Persillade is a condiment or topping, the most basic version of which is a mixture of chopped flat leaf parsley (persil in French) and garlic. Different iterations feature vinegar, different herbs, pepper flakes or powder. Anchovy often shows up in Provençal versions. Look for it in French, Cajun, Quebecois, and other French influenced foods, as well as Greek cuisine. Adding lemon (or other citrus) zest turns it into gremolata, the traditional topping of osso bucco, which are slices of lamb shank slow cooked and topped at service with aromatic gremolata. This is a variant that includes toasted bread crumbs that add a nutty quality, as well as crunch to a dish, and mitigates the powerful flavors of garlic and lots of parsley.

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This salad is a contrast of sharp and peppery with sweet and crisp. If you are not a fan of cilantro feel free to skip it, but the minty-citrusy hard to describe flavor of cilantro leaves, in a small quantity add a nice note in the face of the more bold flavors of radicchio and arugula. This salad is a great foil for pork, duck, turkey, or chicken. If you feel the salad needs toning down a little, use the option for adding the lettuce, which will spread out the other more forthright flavors.

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The roasted tomatoes can actually done a day or two ahead. They are the sort of thing you can do if you find yourself with a surfeit, and can be used for pasta, in salads, pureed for a sauce or a soup.

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Prosciutto works just fine here as well the Serrano ham, and is much less expensive. Regular arugula can stand in for the wild, and if you don’t have Petite Basque or Manchego handy, go with buffalo mozzarella. If you wish to be authentically Spanish, use sherry vinegar for the onions and Serrano ham. Going Italian? Use balsamic vinegar and mozzarella with Prosciutto.

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This is dish with some substance that is still brightly flavored and not heavy. Depending on how much you reduce the cooking liquid, it can be soupy, a little saucy, or dry. Use it as a base to a protein, or a main course. Add some grains and a little yogurt or cheese and you have a complete protein. Using different herbs or spices will change the flavor profile, so have fun seasoning the dish.

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For what it’s worth, gratin refers to the cooking vessel and the way it is used, not just the dish itself. Anything can be cooked “au gratin” and the recipe itself is varied. Potatoes alone, or mixed with other roots such as parsnip, turnip, or onion. Mushrooms, kale, artichoke hearts, olives, all these can go in as well. The dish can be made with or without cheese, with cream, milk, stock, or any combination of these. In summer, I make gratins with vegetables that are “wet” (tomatoes, eggplant, etc.) and the only liquid I use is a little bit of flavorful olive oil. In colder months I make traditional creamy, cheesy gratins with roots and tubers. You can be precise in the way you lay in the ingredients or you can be casual. Bear in mind that the thickness of the cuts, the density of the vegetables, and how tightly packed in the dish everything is can affect the cooking times. This recipe is a variation of a quiche I used to make, and it is named for Denise who likes it so much I can never make enough.

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This recipe calls for new potatoes, but you can use anything really, as long as it is a waxy type. The new potatoes have a sweetness and nutty quality that just really plays well with this iteration of pesto. If the potatoes are smaller- 1-inch or less- smashing them with a fork or cutting board is great. If they are bigger, slicing is a good way to go, or cut the potato into 1-inch chunks and go from there. This helps to keep a good potato to pesto ratio for good flavor. If you decide to salt the finish dish, be sure to use a large crunchy type and go light with it. This is one of those simple dishes where it is all about the ingredients, and how some things just seem to go so well together.

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Here is another iteration of mint pesto. This uses traditional pine nuts, but you could substitute roasted almonds or combine the two. If you do not have fresh marjoram, skip it, but it adds depth to the mint and brightens it up. I prefer to use a mortar and pestle for my pesto, both for flavor/texture, and because it is hard to do smaller batches in a food processor. Both methods are given, but I hope you will try the mortar and pestle method.

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PUMPKINSAs we approach the official end of summer, things are really getting dry out on our grassland and the surrounding hills. There’s a sprinkle of rain in the forecast — hopefully much more will come. While the slough we live beside (Harkins Slough) has maintained its water level due to some upwelling groundwater, the other fingers of the Watsonville Slough system are getting noticeably drier every week.

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potatoes-new washedSome of you will receive “new” potatoes in your box this week. These are simply potatoes that have been dug before the skins have set and the plants have dried down. I remember an English customer at a Farmer’s Market once who asked if my potatoes were “English” new potatoes, as if the name implied a specific variety. In fact, they can be from any variety—this week we are digging Desirees.

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One of the simplest ways I know to enjoy tomatoes is this quick and very traditional Mediterranean snack. I first made this when inspired by a description I read in a book by Lawrence Durrell if I recall correctly. I have since seen it in many other places. There is no set recipe. It is a technique. I suppose a 1:1 ratio of medium tomato to slab of toast might work.

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Roasting the tomatoes concentrates the tomato sweetness, while also adding a haunting roasted background note. The basil oil is a great finish, and you could use Thai basil for the oil which would be great also. If you don’t have that handy, the mint crema (yogurt and mint) will work fine. You could also drizzle with some balsamic vinegar, especially if you have some of the thick aged stuff stashed.

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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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