May 14, 2013

CSA News for the Week of May 13th

Reminder: This week we are distributing vegetable, egg, and dairy shares. The delivery calendar for the whole season can be viewed here.

This Week's Vegetable Share
  • Arugula
  • Chives with Flower Buds
  • Rainbow Swiss Chard
  • Popcorn on the Cob
  • Two Bunches of Asparagus
  • Three Types of Head Lettuce
  • Lonesome Stone Cornbread Mix (made from local, organic grain milled in Lone Rock, WI)

Vegetable Notes

Like other members of the allium family, chive plants form purple flowers as they mature. Chive flower buds are not only pretty, they are also very tasty. Try sprinkling them over salads, roasted asparagus or as a last-minute garnish for cream of asparagus soup. Use chopped chives in potato salads, egg dishes, salad dressings, marinades and much more.

Arugula, also known as rocket or roquette, is closely related to the radish. It has a mild kick but is not bitter. Because of its tender texture, we prefer to enjoy it in salads rather than to cook it. We also love it on sandwiches in place of lettuce and as a pizza topping. Try strewing a handful of arugula leaves on top of a pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven. Put it back in the oven for 30 seconds--just long enough to wilt the arugula slightly.

Our asparagus is starting to come on strong now. Over the course of the asparagus season, you will receive asparagus of different sizes. One week you may get thinner asparagus and one week the stalks may be thicker. Each type works best for different types of dishes and preparations. I think there is a common misperception that thicker stalks mean that the asparagus is older, and I want to reassure you that this is not the case. The truth is that from the moment the tip of the asparagus emerges from the ground, it is either thick or thin. Then over the course of a couple of days the stalk grows taller but not fatter. In other words, some of them are born thick and some are born thin. It all depends on the age and variety of the plant that gives birth to it. I love slender stalks for certain things, but I often find myself reaching for the fatter stalks because, once peeled, they are just as tender and delicious as the skinny ones, and they actually stand up better to the heat of cooking.

We harvested these ears of popcorn just before Thanksgiving. They've been stored all winter, and the kernels are now dry enough to pop. (You should store them in a cupboard or other dry place.) Making popcorn on the stovetop is a little more work than the microwave version, but the results are well worth the effort. Start by removing the kernels from the cob. I like to work over a dish towel, pushing the kernels off with my thumbs. (The towel prevents the kernels from bouncing all over the place!)  Cover the bottom of a pot with vegetable oil. Add one layer of kernels to the bottom of the pot and cover with a lid. Place the pot over medium heat. Be sure to remove from heat as soon as the popping stops. Add salt to taste.

Swiss chard is flavorful yet mild, and can be substituted for spinach in many dishes including quiches, omelets, lasagna, pasta sauce, etc. Chard is high in vitamins A, E and C and the minerals calcium and iron. You can use the entire leaf as well as the tender stem. Here are some simple ways that we've been enjoying it lately at our house:
  • In cold pasta salads, combined with green peas, baby shrimp and chives
  • As an omelet filling, combined with chopped chives and aged cheddar
  • As a pizza topping, combined with roasted asparagus, a bit of feta and some mozzarella 

This Week's Dairy Share
Dairy shares are delivered every other week. Each dairy share is accompanied by a mini-newsletter with information about the week's featured dairy artisans and one or two recipes. Here is what's in this week's dairy share:
  • Braun Suisse Käse Aged Cheddar
  • Nordic Creamery Handmade Butter Flavored with Real Maple Syrup
  • Sugar River Dairy Yogurt Sampler--2 Each of Strawberry, Blueberry & Peach

Peg's Farm Photo Journal

Monday, 8 p.m.
I arrive back at our farm in Brodhead, tired but content. I spent much of the day at the Grayslake farm, checking on the progress of the crops there and coordinating packing and delivery logistics with Jeff and Jen. I was struck by how far some of our crops had come in just over a week. After a slow start to the season, the pace of things has really started to pick up. Jeff and Jen and their planting crew have managed to keep up with the steady flow of seedlings coming out of the greenhouse. The planting of spring and early-summer crops is done, and our crew is now moving on to planting crops that will mature later in the summer.

Tuesday, 5:30 a.m.
This morning I wake early to a chorus of birdsong and can't wait to get outside. There have been a number of gorgeous mornings lately, but this one seems to top them all. Orioles, bluebirds and warblers abound. Everything is suddenly green. Even the big bur oak, always slow to awaken in spring, has begun to display a leafy green canopy.

Over by the barn, three thousand tomato plants glow in the morning light as they wait patiently for their turn to be planted. 


On the other side of the fence, the ewes and their lambs wait in a not-so-patient way for me to hand over their morning treat--a small handful of oats for each of them. I stand quietly and watch them as they watch me.


Finally, reluctantly, I realize it's time to return to the house. My early-morning reverie has come to an end, and I start to make a mental list of the day's chores. The first order of business will be getting the kids out of bed. Normally this is a tough assignment, but I know that today it won't be. There are 31 chicks waiting in a box in the kitchen, having arrived from the hatchery only yesterday.  

As I expected, the kids fly down the stairs and into the kitchen. They eagerly inspect each little ball of fluff, chattering excitedly as they try to figure out, based on the color and pattern of the feathers, the breed of each little chick. Egyptian Fayoumi or Silver Spangled Hamburg? Golden Polish or Speckled Sussex? Blue Laced Wyandotte or Buff Orpington? It's a little hard to tell when they're this size. Eventually I coax the girls to the breakfast table where they each clutch a chick in one hand as they wolf down their cereal with the other.

Four minutes later they are back at the box, animatedly debating the best name for each chick. Getting them out of bed was no problem, but it seems that getting them to school on time will be another story!

Happy spring, everybody!  --Peg

This Week's Featured Recipes

Cheddar Polenta with Swiss Chard and Asparagus
For the polenta:
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter
For Vegetables:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
To make polenta, combine milk and water and a pinch of salt in a medium or large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the polenta, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently with a whisk, until polenta is soft and creamy and doesn't taste gritty. Stir in the cheese and the butter, season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and chard and cook 5 additional minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, mound a scoop of polenta onto a plate or a shallow soup bowl. Top with a spoonful of the chard-asparagus mixture. If desired, grate a little additional cheddar cheese on top.

Linguine with Asparagus and a Poached Egg
3/4 pound linguine or fettuccine
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise, & cut into 2-inches pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (optional)
4 large eggs
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions, adding the asparagus in the last minute of cooking. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid; drain pasta and asparagus and return to pot along with butter and Parmesan. Toss until butter is melted, adding enough pasta water to create a thin sauce that coats pasta.
While pasta is cooking, in a large straight-sided skillet or pot, heat 2 inches water over medium heat until a few bubbles rise to the top. Crack each egg into a small bowl and gently pour into skillet. Cook until whites are set and yolks are runny, 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
To serve, divide pasta among four bowls, top each serving with an egg, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan if desired.

Coming Up...
Next week we will be distributing vegetable shares only. Our best guess for next week's harvest is baby salad turnips, baby spinach, asparagus, radishes, green garlic, head lettuce, rhubarb and more.