August 17, 2008

Week 50

One of my favorite publications is “The Stockman Grass Farmer”
It’s a little, homey newspaper that comes once a month with the purpose of sharing proven perspectives on raising and finishing livestock using only the grass from your own ranch. It comes with financial and marketing advice for cattlemen and while much of it is livestock specific, a lot is applicable to what we’re doing and would like to do.
As an example, we’re working hard to offer you Organically produced, grass finished beef that’s consistently enjoyable and affordable. Right now, you’re enjoying fresh Organically produced chicken and eggs that have the advantage of healthier birds without the antibiotics. I’d love to figure out how to offer pastured poultry & eggs with all the balanced nutrition that would bring you, but we’ve proven with our offering of the Heritage chicken, that regardless of the ideology, if it’s not affordable, even within this sophisticated clientele, it’s not going to sell. How do we bring efficiency of production, processing and distribution to a product that by nature, (now there’s a play on words) isn’t efficient? These are the sorts of challenges I enjoy putting my mind and experience to and the “Grass Farmer” helps encourage the process.
One of the regular contributors over the years has been Joel Salatin, a fellow who’s reached some notoriety recently by being profiled in “Omnivore’s Dilemma” as well as “Crunchy Con” as a man who’s taking on the above challenge successfully. The way he’s doing it with his pastured poultry however is by using conventional feed in addition to what the birds get out of the pasture. He cuts his grain bill in half, which makes his pastured product as affordable as organic. More nutritious pasture, less nutritious conventional grain, affordable, and just another real world example of the challenges of this whole thing. Joel is going to be speaking 9/01 from 2-4pm in Turlock. Just this week, I came within inches of offering you all grass finished beef from a rancher who does a good job EXCEPT : when he needs to he uses antibiotics, and he uses Ivomek to worm ‘em and when the flies get bad he nukes ‘em with pesticides and yeah, it’s grass finished & good and affordable with the omega 3 & 6 ratios right, but how can we put our name on that?
This is real life application here folks. You guys know who your farmers are. You can see the integrity by name and it’s not just a bar code on the bottom of a clam shell. It’s real folks, waging real cultural battle on your behalf with real world ethical decisions to be made everyday while still being held accountable by the bottom line! Okay Vernon, calm down now.
Hey, Shukhrat’s jumped right in here & put the first videos up. Just click the video button and you can see what’s going on over here. I think you’re going to dig it and our hope is to further close the gap of connectedness between our farms and you all. That coupled with chef Deb (who’ll be videoed also) is making August an incredible month,

Even if you have seen the recent Disney film you may not know that ratatouille is a popular dish that originated in the Provence area of France. It was a dish commonly prepared during the summer months using the variety of fresh summer vegetables that are available.
Ratatouille may be served as a side dish, or as a main meal accompanied, perhaps, by rice. There are as many variations to ratatouille as there are cooks who prepare it. No matter the cook you will find that the key ingredients are tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and herbs. The debate usually revolves around how the ingredients are prepared and assembled. You will find chefs who will serve the ratatouille, after being simmered in the pot, as described in today’s recipe. Others will make a sauce of the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and bell pepper and layer it in a casserole with the eggplant and zucchini, then warming it in the oven.
However you cook it ratatouille is one of those dishes that the flavor increases after the first day. If you allow the liquid to reduce, ratatouille is a delicious filling for omelets and crepes. Try it at room temperature, or cold, with toasted baguette or sliced French bread.
If your eggplant is large be sure you peel it, slice it, and sprinkle it generously with salt. Let it sit for about an hour and then rinse it well in cold water and squeeze it dry. Pat dry with paper towels and then prepare as directed in your recipe. The salt helps pull out moisture and bitterness.

This week we bring you another variety of grapes from Bob and Mona Warren. This variety of grape was developed in California and is the result of a cross between the ever popular Thompson and other grape varieties. Flames, in addition to the Thompson, have become one of the most popular varieties. They are seedless, crunchy and have a sweet-tart flavor.
One acre of Bob and Mona’s land is devoted to several varieties of grapes including the Summer Royal variety you got last week and this week’s flames.
This year’s flames aren’t coloring well but the crunch and sweetness are definitely there and we know you are going to enjoy them.
In a couple of weeks, as the grape harvest picks up, we will be making grapes available as an add-on. The grape harvest goes into the fall months and will include several different varieties.
Keep your grapes unwashed in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. When you are ready to use them just rinse in cold water and serve them, or add them to recipes.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Flame Grapes
Bob & Mona Warren, Kingsburg
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Red Bell Peppers
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
-Italian Parsley*
California Organic, Lamont
-Juliet Tomatoes
-Torpedo Onion
Michele Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Yellow Spanish Pepper
-Roma Tomatoes
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

By now you have seen the new, sturdier, small box. Yes, they do fold. On the ends of the box you will see “PUSH”. The end panels push in and then the box collapses.

Ratatouille 3-4 Servings Recipe courtesy of Craig Claiborne
1/3 cup olive oil
2 or more garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
2 cups (1 large) sliced onions
3 cups (2 medium) sliced zucchini
4 cups (1 small) cubed, peeled eggplant
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips *any peppers will do fine
1 ½ cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Optional: 1 tablespoon capers
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are transparent. Meanwhile, slice the squash and peel and cube the eggplant. Add squash, eggplant and peppers to the skillet, cover and cook slowly about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold.
Note: Eggplant may be grilled. If eggplant is large it should be salted, rinsed and then squeezed dry.

Red Pepper Salsa
2 red bell peppers, sliced 1 medium cucumber, chopped
2 small onions or 1 large, chopped 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 small hot pepper, minced
Mix together and chill allowing flavors to blend

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