August 5, 2008

Week 48

At first glance, this abundant harvest thing is a bunch of fresh Organic produce at a fair price. If you can get past the weekly produce appointment hassle, it works out pretty cool. Kind of a farmers market run by Costco and delivered by FedEx.
But what are we really harvesting and delivering here anyhow? I’d say for our family, it’s a tremendously expanded menu experience that we’re just jazzed about. I mean come on. Most people have never even tried parsnips, much less know all the ways you can incorporate them into a meal! (You folks who joined since winter will just have to wait til next soup season) Who, other than Rachel Ray or Emeril has a vase of fresh basil on their kitchen table? And remarkably fresh basil leads to all sorts of remarkably fresh menu ideas--don’t stop me I’m on a roll here—Remarkably fresh menu presentations facilitate the bedrock of family life which is everybody sitting down together for dinner. That thought all by itself is enough to keep team Abundant Harvest going.
We’re also harvesting a connectedness between eaters and farmers. Those peaches you got for $0.53 / lb is below most u-pick, but paid Paul Muradian 40% more than his normal best price for Organic freezer peaches.
My Mariposa plums, (those green ones with the red flesh you‘ve enjoyed the last few weeks) are an heirloom’s heirloom. They were ancient when your granny was a little girl and a total surprising delight. The video on the website is in the Mariposa patch which is the largest planting outside mainland China. A whopping 4 acres! They’re called Nam Wha Le there. It took me 9 years to figure out how to set the crazy things and then for the last 8, nobody could sell em. They’re not very big and real hard to handle and go soft fast. The only salvation is they just eat great which is first on your list but third on the retailers. So, for 17 disappointing years, we’ve persevered with that plum because our heart said it should be valuable and now, you finally got the benefit. (Any question as to my sanity or the lengths I’m willing to go when I think I’m right, should now be removed.) That story, combined with the pleasurable eating experience will now remain in your memory banks until next summer and it’s just something you don’t get with “Organic Plums $3.99” Shukrat is interning with our farm from Uzbekistan for the next year and his first job is to do the “what’s going on on the farm this week” video to expand on this connectedness that we’re very serious about. There are a couple other things up our sleeves, but we won’t let the cat out of the bag just yet.
Last week, Kyle came up short on his Armenian cukes and Erik decided to only put cucumbers in the small box. Long story short, the big box got ripped. Big box gets more this week by that amount and problem solved except for 1) folks who vacationed out this week did get ripped-off. & 2) Big box folks who were vacationed out last week or just joined are getting more than they paid for. In Agriculture, 2+2 sometimes = 1 and other times = 7. We’re supposed to be professionals but 32 harvests later still leave a lot for me to learn. My uncle’s fancy packing shed has the 3 parking spaces next to the entry labeled “grower” “grower” & “best grower”. In the 100 times I’ve been there, the “best grower” spot is always empty and any farmer who did park there wouldn’t do it his 2nd year farming. It’s a perpetually humbling & learning and adapting experience. One thing I hope all of you know by now is that if it’s not right, we’ll do all we can to make it so and we so appreciate your support.

Maybe you have seen it in the market and passed it by because you didn’t know what it was or how to cook it. Crookneck squash is a “summer squash” like zucchini, globe, pattypan, and scallopini, which we had earlier in the season. Unlike winter squash you can eat summer squash rind, seeds and all. Although the summer squashes vary in size shape and color, one can easily be used in the place of another in your recipes.
In days past the names summer and winter squash were indicative of their growing season. With today’s growing practices you can find either most any time of the year. Now days the term “summer squash” generally refers to varieties that do not store for long periods of time as opposed to the varieties that are referred to as “winter squash” and can be stored for months.
Crookneck is a mild squash and herbs such as dill, pepper, basil, marjoram, chives and mint are great enhancements to its flavor.
Serve your crookneck raw on a vegetable platter with dips, in salads; grilled, steamed, fried, baked, well you get the idea. This squash can be cooked almost any way you can think of and will add color, flavor and texture to main dishes and pasta sauces. Several of the items in your box this week compliment crookneck squash. Get creative and use it in combination with onion, pepper and tomato. Cook it soft or keep it crisp. Let your family be the judge of how they like it best.
Store your squash in a perforated bag in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Squash can be frozen but the flesh will soften so it will be best used in casseroles or other dishes where crispness is not a factor. To freeze your squash cut it up and blanch it for 2 minutes. Place it in storage containers or plastic bags in the freezer for up to 4 months. If your preferred use for squash is in breads you may freeze the squash raw, either whole or grated.

Fresh dill has feathery green leaves. Dill leaves usually droop very quickly after being picked so even if the dill looks a little wilted it is still acceptable.
Store fresh dill either wrapped in a damp paper towel or with its stems placed in a container of water in the refrigerator. Fresh dill can be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers for future use. You may also freeze dill leaves in ice cube trays covered with water or stock for use in soups and stews.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Bell Pepper
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-Russet Potatoes
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Armenian Cucumber*
Kyle Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Heirloom Tomato*
Ginger Balakian, Reedley
California Organic, Lamont
-Crookneck Squash
-Mediterranean Cucumber*
-Red Spanish Pepper
-Yellow Spanish Pepper
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

Peel and half the peach, sprinkle lightly with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Place the peach on the grill while preparing your meat and leave it just long enough to heat through. Watch it closely so it does not burn.

Mushroom & Spinach Stuffed Peppers Preheat Oven to 350º
4 bell peppers (any color) tops sliced off, seeds removed
1 Tbsp salt, plus more to taste, and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup butter, divided
1 large onion, minced (about 1 cup), divided
1 ½ cup uncooked long grain white rice or brown rice
½ pound mushrooms chopped
1 cup finely diced celery (optional)
¼ cup finely diced carrots
¼ cup fresh or frozen corn
1 large handful spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Dash cayenne pepper, or diced other peppers
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, diced
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large soup pot
Add the peppers and 1 Tbsp salt
Cook the peppers until they are almost soft, 3-4 min

Remove peppers from water and set in a colander to drain (reserve cooking water). Transfer the peppers to a rack, cut-sides up, and let cool.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add half the onions, sauté until translucent and soft, about 5 min. Add the rice and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the rice begins to turn golden, about 10 min. Add 3 cups of reserved cooking water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until liquid is completely absorbed, 12-15 min.

Melt remaining butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining onions, mushrooms, celery, corn, spinach, garlic, and cayenne pepper (or other small peppers); sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 min. Add salt to taste.

Combine rice and sautéed vegetables in a large bowl. Stir in tomato and half the Parmesan cheese. Season with pepper to taste.

Fill each pepper case with the filling and arrange them in a 9 inch square baking dish. Garnish with the remaining cheese. Spread any extra filling around the peppers. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

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