Getting the beet right

This week my kitchen looked like I butchered a chicken indoors, novice that I am, and that I lost hold of the bird. Oh my goodness! The mess! Only beets can make for a gruesome show but they are tasty plain, pickled, in a soup, roasted, on pizza, or as a salad.

I had extra cooked beets from making pickles and the following salad was a hit for supper:

Beets Vinaigrette – 2 Cups sliced cooked beets, 1/4 C chopped leeks, 1 clove minced garlic, salt, 2 Tbsp wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp walnut oil, black pepper

Here is Esther’s Beet Salad with Caramelized Ginger & Citrus that she made to sample for market several weeks ago: Mix together 2 raw grated beets, 1 orange, 2 green onions (or leeks)  Caramelize the following until they are brown: 3 Tbsp grated ginger, 1-5 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp sugar. Then add 3 Tbsp soy sauce and 3 Tbsp lemon juice. Serve cold.

This Wednesday is Sunflower Day in Mountain Lake and we will have some entertainment – you! The person who can spit their knack zoat (sunny seeds) the furthest gets a loaf of Sunny Bread or something else of equal value.

Produce should include: beans (wax, purple, green), leeks, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, onions, melons, sweet peppers, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, herbs and maybe raspberries. CSA members may need to take turns and some get berries one week and not the next. We harvest berries everyday but I freeze everything up to two days before market. Raspberries will also be for sale: fresh and frozen.

Glorious fennel

My recollection of world history class consists of wars and rumors of wars….not an inspiring session. I would have remembered if history had been taught from the perspective of carrots and choke cherries. I just learned that fennel was a key ingredient to the rise of western civilization! The war between Persia, the superpower of the day, and the upshot Athenians & Greeks was held in fields of fennel or translated into Greek: the plains of Marathon!

HaHa! Steve is training for the Twin Cities Marathon this fall. The word ‘marathon’ attached itself to long runs since Phidippides, the best runner at that time, in 490 BCE, ran to the next town to request aid against the Persian invasion. Perhaps all the horses were occupied with pulling disks to rid the marathon (fennel) fields of pig-weed thus no other mode of transport?

Marathon history makes for an interesting read of a tasty, aromatic vegetable that has flavors of licorice and anise. Store fennel fresh in the refrigerator and plan to eat it soon after harvest for the best flavor. All parts, bulb, stems and fronds are eatable. I dry the fronds for lovely cups of tea to enjoy during those cold winter nights…..I have oodles of recipes but an easy one is:

Fennel Carrot Salad

1 fennel bulb thinly sliced
4 large carrots, grated
1 T parsley, chopped
salt
pepper
¼ C lemon juice
1 garlic, minced
6 T olive oil

Harvesting after such a wonderful gift of rain is inspiring! We plan to have market boxes brimming once again with fennel, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, tomatoes of all kinds, kale, leeks, cucumbers, a variety of summer squash, onions, herbs and maybe a choice of wax beans or eggplant.  We will have green peppers & potatoes for sale along with fresh herb bread, jams and pickles. A few of Farmer Lynn’s eggs are available but she will be at the fair this week.

Lettuce

When thinking about lettuce – what visual image comes to mind? The chopped lime green leaves served before the main course arrives is NOT what I’m referring to. Iceberg lettuce came into flavor in the 1930′s due to a savy entrepreneur who carefully shipped his produce east under a cover of ice. It keeps its crispy crunch longer than most other lettuces. Flavor – none. Nutritional goodness – none. After the boycott of the 1970′s to protest the working conditions, the iceberg wedge with thick dressing oozing down its sides lost its prominence.

Let us reconsider what other options are available for this once plain cousin which now has color and pizzazz! Of course, there are innumerable salads with fruit and veggie additions to the lettuce. The dressings can be as simple as oil and vinegar or a flavored variety ie: raspberry vinaigrette, walnut oil or balsamic vinegar.

Let us think about wraps. The Jericho and red-tinged Skyphos head lettuces in the market boxes this week are coming plate-sized! I’ve wrapped leftovers into a lettuce leaf with entertaining results. Think ‘spring roll’ thus grated carrots or slightly steamed baby carrots, which you will get a share of, bits of chicken, vermicelli noodles, crushed peanuts are great fun to prepare at table. A sweet and sour dipping sauce with grated radishes, which will also come with your share, will give an elegant ‘Wow’ to the simple meal.

Let us be creative! I found out that lettuce gravy is not a household recipe. This one came down through the Anna and Frank Harder family…and maybe others? You start out with a washtub of greens – a LOT of them anyway, and these include lettuces, green onions, and any other greens you can throw in. First make a cream gravy then add in the tub of greens and a fistful of chopped fresh dill. Season to taste and serve with new potatoes, rice, millet or other grain.

Let us think about stir-frying vegetables. Lettuce can also be added along with the pac choi and spring onions with either a bit of meat or tofu to spoon over rice or noodles. Lettuce can also be lightly sauteed in olive oil or even sesame oil with sesame seeds sprinkled on the top.

Let’s not leave out the rest….spring onions, pac choi, radishes, lemon basil, sweet Thai basil, baby carrots and whole baby beets with a salad mix, Skyphos and Jericho marching along behind.

Stinging in the rain

I felt like a princess trying to save the world while out harvesting nettles in the rain. The fairy tale, “The Wild Swans” written by Hans Christian Anderson is about a princess who has to weave 11 jackets out of nettles to rescue her brothers from an evil witch’s spells. Their sister was condemned to die at the stake for her strange actions and her inability to talk about it. I often think about her courage and fortitude sitting in a nettle patch.

Some good recipes to experience the flavor of nettles and to keep bad spells at bay  -

Garlicky Nettle Pesto  1/2 lb nettles, 4 smashed garlic cloves, 1/2 C roasted pine nuts, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 1/4 C olive oil, 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese.  Simmer the nettles in boiling water to denature their sting for 2 minutes. Drain and wrap them in a clean dishtowel to remove the moisture. Whirl the garlic, pine nuts, nettles, lemon juice in a food processor until finely chopped. Drizzle in the oil and process until smooth. Add cheese and season to taste.

Nettle soup  1 lb chopped fresh nettles, 1/2 lb potatoes, 3-4 green onions, 3 tsp oil, 1 3/4 C water, 1/3 C cream. In a saucepan, saute the onions. Add the potato and water and cook until soft. Add in the nettles and cook for a couple of minutes. Puree and return to the saucepan and add in cream. Season.

Spinach and Nettles Spanakopita (crustless) 2 lb spinach, 2 C nettles, 3 C water, 1/4 C olive oil, 1 diced onion, 1 1/2 tsp dill, 1 tsp salt, 30 grinds of pepper, 8 oz feta cheese, 2 happy eggs, 1 Tb butter for greasing baking dish.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash and stem greens, Add greens and nettles to boiling water for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain, saving water for later use as soup stock. Chop greens and set aside. Heat oil and saute onions.  In medium bowl, whisk eggs, dill and other seasonings. Add greens, onion and feta cheese – stir again. Spoon into a buttered dish and bake for 40 minutes. Yummers!

Some of you still are not impressed and that is just TOO bad. That means Steve and I will have Spanakopita with the greens remaining after market!

Included in the market boxes this week should also be Mizuna, spinach, lettuce, radishes, asparagus & Solomon’s seal, pea shoots and some other choices to fill out the order. And did I mention radishes? Now is the time to eat them good and sweet.

Search under tags “recipes” or “radishes” etc. to find what has been mentioned in the past. Mizuna might be new to some folks but we harvest it each year in spring and fall. I like it best in scrambled eggs, happy ones, of course.

The final munch

Our last harvest was yesterday…..carrots. It was much too cold for them even under a belated haybale quilt. In farming, the chance to modify procedures may come but once a year. When the dial swivels around to 10-2014, we will winterize the outdoor produce in a more timely manner. Crops are actually in cold storage in the high tunnels; some growth may occur on a sun-filled day at noon when the indoor temperatures reach above freezing. We were not planning on the extention to the base of our thermometer! Next year we will have more reliable cold storage – a thermostat that can say, “Enough already!”.

My final tomato, lettuce, homemade cheese and bread and butter pickle sandwich on carrot rye bread was savored munch by munch. Sandwiches will continue to be sensational, though not as colorful, with a variety of bean spreads, cheeses by Loida and Nathan, pickles and new breads. The bread for sale this week will be a whole wheat potato dill bread.

I made my first curry powder to add to a butternut squash and chicken dish that was served over millet. Silly me, for the longest time I thought there was a special curry powder pepper as there is a chili pepper! Curry powder is a mixture of spices and it varies the world over. I liked this recipe: 5 T coriander, 2 T cumin, 1T turmeric, 1 t ginger, 2 t mustard, 2 t fenugreek, 1 1/2 t black pepper, 1 t cinnamon. 1/2 t cloves, 1/2 t cardmom, 1/2 t cayenne. All the spices are in powdered form and of course can be modified up or down.

The market boxes this week should contain: potatoes, the last leeks, a couple onions, candy carrots, zeppelin and butternut squash, dried mint, frozen corn and frozen raspberries.

The plan for the remaining time is to continue each week with potatoes, onions, candy carrots, buttercup squash (the big ones) and a one week addition of: dried fennel, dried tomatoes, dried red sweet peppers, bread and butter pickles, a choice of sauerkraut or hamburger dill pickles and most likely other things.