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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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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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Here is a riff on the famous New Mexican “Green Sauce” using end of season green Corno di Toro peppers and leeks, with a little almonds and maybe some honey for a Spanish inflection. Try this on just about anything from turkey and pork to fish and vegetables such as winter squash, or on eggs or potatoes. The original iteration has a little more heat and Southwest seasonings. Check it out on the website.

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bald-eagle-fledgling-closeupA new young eagle has fledged! In my last eagle report I noted that one of the bald eagles that had been nesting here on Harkins Slough since 2014 died, and that the remaining adult appeared to have found a new mate this spring. Until now, we didn’t know if they raised any chicks this summer in their nest in the eucalyptus trees across the slough from our farm. Then our eagle-eyed daughter saw an adult flying with a fledgling just before Thanksgiving. The baby obliged by perching on a tree in our restoration area long enough for us to get a good picture. The young eagle is as big as his or her parents, but won’t develop the white head and tail for a few years. This is now the fourth eagle to be born and survive to adulthood on Harkins Slough.

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The sweet crisp apple is a great foil for soft chard with its shaved tongue feeling engendered by oxalic acid. Also, adding a little vinegar seems to tame that feeling and helps with calcium absorption. The un-toasted pine nuts give a resinous nutty flavor that helps pull things together. Be sure to cook the stems and onions gently so they do not turn bitter or singe.

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This is the sort of thing that can be thrown together with help from the pantry and leftovers, and is just right for a cold evening or lunch time. Or, if like me you are tired of cereal or omelets for breakfast, fire this up and add a couple poached or basted eggs on top and enjoy. You can also skip the eggs and have a piece of toast spread with some soft goat cheese smoked olive oil and you have a complete protein breakfast.

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A cool weather warmer that can be used as an opening course for a fancy dinner, or just enjoyed as is.

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This salad takes a little planning and has a few steps to it, but with a little bit of strategics it is easy enough. And the work that goes into this is rewarded with lots of clean flavor and crunch. Although substantial on its own, if you need more protein, it will take easily to some chicken or bacon.

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A variation on a theme, where carrots get cooked in some water and then a glaze is made of the cooking liquid. Pomegranates are in season right now, and if you see a white pomegranate, the seeds would look lovely in this dish and would add a nice textural and flavor “pop” to the whole.

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Be sure not to overcook the spinach. This recipe yields some nice color on the plate. The pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are there to provide a crunchy contrast, but if you don’t want to take the time to clean the seeds or if they are just too few to be worth the effort, use store bought or substitute toasted pine nuts instead. The ingredients list looks long, but half of it is just options you can choose from. This is a fairly simple recipe that can go in many directions with ease.

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soilHealthy soils not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, but also provide tangible benefits to farmers’ bottom lines, their communities’ health, and the wildlife around them. So wouldn’t it be great if the farmer you get your share from could get paid to improve their soil’s health? Thanks to new groundbreaking legislation, they can.

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This is another “vegetable as sauce” recipe, and is simpler than the others, both in method and ingredients. This was first made to go on roasted cabbage but is really nice on other things. See notes.

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Another dish with vegetable as sauce. The kids are not too fond of cabbage (except in egg rolls) usually, but seem to eat anything roasted. So this was a logical next step. And they really like carrot sauces, so here you go…

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This came about as a result of eating out and having pork cutlets with fried capers. The capers stole the show for me. One night I was craving the capers and had a different meat dish planned, so this came about. Be sure to dry the capers really well so they open out more and get crisp.

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yuma-myotis-batOctober is Bat Appreciation Month, and with the celebration of Halloween this week I thought I’d take a moment to share with you some of the awesome things I learned about bats while earning my degree at UCSC.

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This recipe takes my riff on the classic French peas cooked in lettuce as its inspiration. The squash stands in for the peas, and the trick is to not overcook the squash or it will turn mushy and bitter. The little bit of sugar helps with the flavors as well as helping get some color on the squash. This dish comes together quickly and is a boon when in a hurry or making something fancy on the other burners.

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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. Here is a riff on my variation that includes toasted bread crumbs that add a nutty quality, as well as crunch to a dish. This version uses grated or chopped carrots to add moisture and sweetness. The carrots must be chopped fairly finely to release enough moisture to achieve the desired effect. To that end, coarsely grate the carrots and then use a knife that is not razor sharp, or pulse in a food processor or blender.

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Here, the nutty earthy flavor of roasted broccoli is countered with a slightly sweet carrot inflected persillade-the classic parsley garlic mixture used to top many a bistro dish. The persillade has the crunch of toasted bread crumbs as well as carrots-and if you like, pistachios-to play off the slightly chewy broccoli. Serve as a side with steak, duck, tuna, or other items with a deep dark flavor.

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rainbowHere atop our coastal terrace where our home ranch is located, there is very little between us and the coast to slow storm systems down as they come off the Pacific Ocean. For most of the day last Sunday it felt as if our house was in an enormous car wash—being buffeted by near-40mph gusts and driving rain.

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Roasting concentrates the flavors of the squash and tomatoes, and adds sweetness as well.

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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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