What’s in my farm share: June in New England

Stearns Farm CSA Fruit and Veg on Table

This summer I’ll be heading west to the farm every other week as part of a CSA (community supported agriculture) program at Stearns Farm, in Framingham, MA. Unlike the CSA boxes that end up on your doorstep, Stearns is a bit more hands on, and requires both regular work hours, and picking a good portion of your produce each pickup. It’s a way for me to avoid the supermarkets, eat in season, and (selfishly) farm without the larger commitment.

:: Storing and prep ::

On CSA pickup day I try to clean my fridge and re-organize in advance so I’ll have space for my produce when I return.

When heading to the farm, I bring large cooler bags, and a few assorted sizes of Ziplocks. I also bring a pair of scissors to cut herbs and certain vegetal leaves. I bring a sharpie to label my produce with a name and date picked.

If produce can stay on the counters in a shady part of my kitchen, I’ll leave them out. If I have no space, I’ll freeze leafy vegetables like spinach and chard to put in smoothies.

Stearns Farm CSA June Haul

So, what’s on the table?

:: June 19th produce at Stearns Farm CSA ::

To pick: 1 quart snow peas, 1 quart snap peas, 10 stalks of swiss chard, 2 quarts of strawberries, and glean spinach which was going to seed. Herbs: sage, marjoram, garlic chives, and mint.

Pre-picked: 1 lb. zucchini, a large head of escarole (or a kohlrabi), a huge bok choy, mustard greens, scallions, and three heads of lettuce.

:: Quick Meal Possibilities ::

When dealing with my CSA vegetables, I like to have an arsenal of easy no-recipe meal ideas that use a lot of vegetables. Many of my go to meals are here. I also make a lot of stir fries, serve quick cooked vegetables with ground meat, mix vegetables with eggs, eat large salads, and break out my spiralizer to make vegetable noodles.

My cookbook collection certainly helps with ideas – I have a good selection of vegetable based cookbooks which are organized by vegetable type. I also make good use of my Eat Your Books subscription.

My Walden Meat share (pictured below) also helps me plan – I try to defrost a few meats in the fridge every week, and then build meals based on what I’ve pulled out to cook.

Walden Meat Share June Haul

Just a few of my meals this week – not all of these are exclusively with farm produce, but I prioritize what needs to be eaten quickly (lettuces), as well as any existing leftovers in the fridge.

  • fresh herb and scallion frittata
  • single serving strawberry crumbles
  • salad with Turkish köfte, peppers and avocado
  • peanut soba noodles with scallions, snap peas, and chicken
  • salad with snap peas and cabbage, and cumin spiced chopped beef
  • potato and cauliflower jalfrezi with hard boiled eggs
  • chicken tikka masala with garlic sautéed spinach
  • goulash with ground beef, red lentils, tomato, and cauliflower
  • farm lettuce salad with fennel, pepper, roasted broccoli, vadouvan sausage

I’ll try to drop in notes over the course of the season so you can see what I’ll be doing with my produce. In the meantime, I’ve been sharing most of my meals here on Instagram lately. Take a look!

Portsmouth Farmers’ Market + Garlic Scape Pesto

One of the best ways to orient yourself in a new place (or in my case, a familiar place that I’ve been away from for a long time) is to visit the local markets and farmers’ markets. I instantly feel calmer once I know what is growing and in season. Just walking around, taking everything in and breathing, I immediately start dreaming of the possibilities in the kitchen, and spend less time worrying about being in a foreign place.

After a long week on the road driving from San Francisco to New Hampshire, we were a bit zombie-esque but jumped at a chance to get out into the sunshine and find some good produce. The Portsmouth Farmers’ Market is held in the parking lot of the city municipal complex and Connors Cottage Senior Housing building.

Despite pleasant pea-loving patrons, this was the location of scandal last year as some residents of Connors Cottage began complaining of early morning rooster crowing during market set-up. I always assumed the elderly loved early birds, or at least their specials. As a side note, that building used to be the old hospital and I was actually born there.

For the next couple of weeks we will be staying with my parents in their home on the Seacoast and then we plan on moving to the Boston area. Somerville? Cambridge? Newton? I’m not quite sure yet. We don’t have a firm timeline – but the concept of moving into your parents house with your significant other in tow feels a little crazy, so I’m just treating this like an extended vacation and plan on getting my act together quickly.

My mom and I are like two slightly deranged excited people when we reunite.  We like to get things done – walking on the beach, taking on big house projects, cooking any number of delicacies, and especially shopping together.

We hopped in the car and headed over Saturday morning farmers’ market with Devon in tow, who seemed slightly concerned at our level of general excitement. The first thing I noticed was that finding a parking spot was remarkably easier than doing the same in San Francisco. Win!

We have a method to our madness. Usually, we circle around the entire market a few times to survey everything, chat with friends, and plan our meals. Then we do the shopping. While my mom and I did the rounds, Devon went off to find food. The food options at the Portsmouth market are mostly bakeries, a few tea companies, a maple syrup company which has maple cotton candy, Applecrest serving up apple cider donuts (see below), a few pastured meat farms with breakfast sandwiches and sausages, and an Indian food stall. Devon ended up with a little blueberry muffin, and a home made hot dog. Of which I got none of… because, apparently I was too busy shopping.

[These donuts are very, very good. I generally hold back at the market though, because I prefer them hot (which you can get at the farm). And also, because it is particularly difficult to eat only one and not crave them for the rest of the week.]

One of the things that I’m going to have to get used to is the fact that I don’t have as easy access to nicely labeled organic, local produce all in one place. We certainly don’t have a Rainbow Grocery, and you simply don’t have access to the same options at the local supermarkets here. Fortunately, the majority of the farms at the farmers’ market are small, family run, and environmentally conscious. They use low-impact farming practices, even if they don’t pay for Organic Certification, so I can still feel confident in what I’m eating.

The Bounty: We didn’t over do it this week (sometimes we do), but came out with a good selection of mostly green vegetables. After a week of road food, I’ve been craving all the green I can possibly get!

Zucchini, Onions, Garlic, Green Peppers, Turnips, Beets, Fennel (Wake Robin Farm)
Garlic Scapes (Stone Wall Farm)
Green Beans (Applecrest Farm)

The Plan: I’m thinking of making zucchini fritters, Turkish stuffed green peppers with rice and currants, and a green bean and potato salad with anchovy dressing which I’ve been eying from the Leon Vol.2 Cookbook

With the fennel I’ll make my shaved fennel salad. I haven’t decided about the beets yet, because although I prefer them roasted, the idea of cranking up the oven in 90 degree heat seems a little silly. They’ll probably be shaved into salad as well.

You can also get all manner of other fun things at the market, including flowers, leather products, lambskins, home made soaps and candles, Kit Cornell Pottery which Kit herself sells out of the back of her van, and these extraordinarily happy yarn balls. I feel like if you got a few of these and strung them up at a party, everyone would have a wildly good time.

To the Kitchen: Once I got home, the first thing I made was Garlic Scape Pesto. Garlic Scapes are the shoots and bud of hard-necked garlic, and are delightfully zippy. Garlic scapes are not to be found anywhere in California markets because hard-necked garlic is primarily found in colder climates. Even though San Franciscans complain of the cold summers, this apparently does not qualify. Although maybe they do exist, and I was just forced to suffer for four years in ignorance.

Garlic Scapes are fairly versatile, and some of my favorite preparations are grilled, whirred into pesto, or chopped and used to impart a garlicky taste to stir-fries with some actual body and crunch. When they are plentiful, I like to buy them and chop them into inch-long pieces to freeze as well.

Garlic Scape Pesto

This recipe is for garlic obsessed, and preferably not to be served if you are aiming for romance later in the evening. I first tried Garlic Scape Pesto at Stearns Farm which was pretty straightforward but added some basil. But, I like this recipe because it keeps the flavor cleaner and yet adds both oil and butter, which seems a little bit fancy, but nicely complements the strong garlic taste of the scapes.

adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Food Processor Pesto Recipe

For the processor:

10 garlic scapes (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts or slivered almonds)

Sea salt

To mix in by hand:

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated romano cheese

3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

Put the garlic scapes, olive oil, pine nuts and salt in the food processor and process until fairly smooth – about 4 to 5 minutes, pausing every minute or two to scrape down the sides. You don’t want to skimp on this step, because if the pieces of scape are too big, they may taste too strong.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and stir in the cheeses and mix well. Finally, stir in the softened butter. Then go ahead and taste it – it might need a little bit more salt, and if you’d like you can go ahead and brighten it up with a little bit of lemon, but I usually think it is fine just as is.

Things to do with Garlic Scape Pesto: you can eat this stirred into pasta (just loosen it a little bit with some pasta water), or serve it with fresh pita or little crackers. Or you can rub it on chicken, and put it on the grill. You can add some to brighten up a summer minestrone, or on top of some fried eggs.

SF Underground Farmers’ Market

Yesterday was the Underground Farmers’ Market in San Francisco. My initial plan involved walking over to The Mission to get some exercise before gorging myself in the underground. Instead, I lazily took the MUNI to 18th street where on the way, I was “accidentally” seduced by a chalk board that boasted exciting flavors at Bi-rite Creamery. I couldn’t restrain myself. I ended up with a cone of earl gray, which I blissfully ate as I walked through the neighborhood. You know… to prime my stomach.

The SF Underground Farmers’ Market is an event that allows small time vendors to get their businesses off the ground and test the market with their wares. It’s been organized by Iso Rabins from Forage SF, who has done a brilliant job of putting together a great community of vendors and people looking to support the local food movement.

This location was in a moderately awesome space on Capp Street. (Up a mysteriously lit set of stairs, which evoked memories of basement raves at M.I.T. Yep. Nerd.) Despite arriving punctually at its 5pm opening, the place was already packed! I heard from Iso that he had a list of over 600 people signed up, and there were more registering at the door.

There was a plethora of options and the market was heavily skewed towards gently prepared foods: ranging from sauerkraut, kombucha, honey, chocolate, mushrooms, pies, lasagna, bread, and sandwiches. There was live music, families with small children, and plenty of happy, food lovin’ people to share the evening with. Fun!

My first big stop was to see Shakirah of Slow Jams (this lovely lady below, being interviewed on the camera). I heard tell that her Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon Marmalade was to die for, so I snatched one up before anyone else could get to them. I also managed to score the lone jar of her Milk Jam, which Jessica from the Golden Crust was using in some amazing cream puffs she was selling at the market.

Her jams are beautiful, as are the cute containers! Which is another trend I’d like to point out – the Underground Farmers’ Market was filled with simple, pleasantly aesthetic design. Not really a surprise, given that these entrepreneurial folks have a great sense of taste. Including the limited edition poster from local artist Philip Clark. (Really though. I considered buying one to spruce up the ol’ abode, but now, my apartment is only decorated in regret. Maybe next time Phil C.)

After making my initial rounds, I ended up purchasing a jar of raw local honey from Oakland, two Slow Jam jams, and a few bags of delicious Treat granola (which was stirred into my morning oatmeal with great success). While there, I ate a fair deal more than that, including my absolute favorite food of the evening: the corned beef sandwich from Pearl’s Kitchen, with lightly spread mustard on caraway bread. Pictured below is a woman holding said Manna from Heaven. Where my Jews at? Can’t these people open a deli in San Francisco? I’m pleading!

I could have eaten three of these.

Don’t miss out next time! SF Underground Farmers’ Market is gearing up to be a monthly event if Iso can swing it.

SF Underground Farmers’ Market
When: (Hopefully monthly)
Where: Secret-ish location, changes each time. (This last one was in the Mission at Capp and 17th)
How: It’s free! But sign up is required.
Sign up HERE to be on their mailing list.

December 29th Farm Box

Here are the contents of this week’s farm box from Farm Fresh to You: leeks, nantes carrots, collard greens, red leaf lettuce, a red cabbage, a butternut squash, kiwifruit, and a bag of fresh walnuts. The walnuts are particularly exciting because fresh walnuts are eons better than the old, dried out stuff you get in the tins. [Yes, eons is the wrong measurement here, but I like the word, and am going to attribute using it to the mental melting that occurred last night while watching Megashark vs. Giant Octopus.]

My first step this week was to take everything out of the box and put it on the table – not specifically for a little photo shoot, but to clean and prep everything for the refrigerator. A few years at Stearns Farm and I got it down to a system: I now have Ziplocks of two sizes to keep things fresh. I rinse and dry salads, I trim off tops and excess before putting them in the refrigerator. Ok, but the photo shoot helps – specifically so that by the end of the week I don’t forget that I have something in the recess of my fridge and let it go to waste.

And then the excess tops (only leek and carrot tops this week) go in a pot with a bunch of water to make some homemade vegetable stock. Nothing to waste!

Except it’s not a perfect system. I was freezing and had the heat on yesterday and therefore couldn’t hear the gentle ho hum of the boiling pot, and consequently forgot about it until I had only a few cups of concentrated stock left.

So? Leek soup for lunch! I snipped in some fresh parsley and a good squeeze of lemon and it was ready to go.

Things I plan on making this week with my vegetables:

1. Roasted Butternut Squash

2. More Kiwifruit Sorbet (notes about this soon)

3. Red cabbage and onions with Chicken Schnitzel

4. Indian Spiced Collards with Yogurt

I’m still not sure about the walnuts… I was tempted to make a walnut liquor but they are so tasty I don’t know if I want to give up the pleasure of eating them all now.

Better Ideas?

Sauteed Cabbage with Onion and Prosciutto

Sauteed Cabbage with Onion and Prosciutto

I recently subscribed to a new CSA (community supported agriculture) here in San Francisco. Every other week, I’ll be getting a box from Farm Fresh to You delivered right to my doorstep. I’ve been going each week to farmers market for the past year, but it’s a little chilly lately and I’ve been slacking. This way I’ll definitely have some fresh organic fruits and veg, even when I don’t feel like going to market. And it’ll make me eat more dark leafy greens. Kale chips, here I come.

It’s not as wondrous as my previous membership to Stearns Farm at the outer edges of Framingham, Massachusetts – but it’s still pretty exciting. [I could wax poetic about Stearns for hours – it’s exactly what a CSA should be – required farm hours, picking about half of your own weekly vegetables, shared meals, harvests, a real connection to a farm and a community, but alas, I’m a little far for that nowadays.]

This weeks box:

Dec 15th box

Sauteed Cabbage with Onion and Prosciutto
serves 1 as a meal, or a few as a side dish

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat a Tablespoon  of Olive Oil on medium heat, and saute 4 slices (about 2 ounces) prosciutto that you have chopped until crisp, just a few minutes. Take the prosciutto out and set aside. Then, add a roughly chopped onion to the pot, and cook until slightly tender – about five minutes. Go ahead and deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of sherry to help lift up any brown bits and add some flavor. Add in one chopped head of cabbage, preferably Savoy, but whatever you have is fine. Stir around until things are coated, add a cup of low sodium chicken stock or water, turn the heat to medium low, cover, and let braise for 20-30 minutes until everything is tender and soft. Season with lots of pepper and a tiny bit of salt. Serve hot, topped with the crispy prosciutto.

You Say Tomato…

EarlyGirl Tomatoes

While we were growing up, my dear friend Julia hated tomatoes. This was always completely perplexing to me, as there is nothing in my mind as perfect or as wonderful as a tomato. Who could possibly hate such a thing? Sweet, just slightly tangy, with multiple textures as you bite through a fresh one. And don’t get me started about sun warmed tomatoes fresh off the vine. My mother always kept them in her garden, and I remember fondly summer afternoons at my CSA picking them off the vine and eating them almost as fast as I picked them.

It’s with great sadness that I can’t grow my own tomatoes here on the third floor. Julia, at least, has since found pleasure in tomatoes, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.

Over the past few months I’ve been eating tomatoes almost every day, taking full advantage of these summer beauties before the season is completely over, and we are forced once again to give them up for the winter. Before the summer ends, I implore you to head out and try my newest tomato obsession – Dry Farmed Early Girl tomatoes.

Now, the Early Girl tomato is… gasp! a hybrid tomato!

While I do believe that choosing an heirloom vegetable over hybridized versions is important for continuing on longlasting varietals, I don’t exclude choosing hybrid tomatoes that are sustainably farmed. Early girl tomatoes are just too good to pass up, and are perfectly suited for dry farming – a technique that requires less water for farming. After transplanting, the tomato is no longer watered, which causes the roots to grow larger to attract more moisture, and in consequence, the tomato ends up with a more concentrated tomato-ey flavor. In this neck of the woods, Dirty Girl Produce happens to be championing the dry farming of early girls, and I’m so happy to support them.

After reading about these for weeks – and finally picked up some of my own at farmers market. Oh my goodness. How have I lived without them? These beauties I picked up from Dirty Girl Produce – I’ve been getting them at the farmers market, and when I needed a midweek fix I was so excited to see them at the new Whole Foods in my neighborhood.

I think I’m also smitten because Joe Schirmer, who owns Dirty Girl, is on this years reader’s choice “Farmers Under 40“, alongside Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. Novella made us all giggle incessantly when she came to visit Omnivore Books for a signing last month. I’m a big fan!

Just a few things I’ve been doing with these tasty tomatoes:

:: Sliced up for breakfast with a cube of cheddar, some turkey bacon and Turkish tea.

:: Oven- Roasted – with some olive oil and rosemary and thyme (see above). I don’t have an after photo, because, ahem, I forgot and then ate them all. I’m going to do another few batches soon and preserve some in olive oil, and puree some for the freezer.

:: “Just tomato” soup: Blended raw with basil and a little bit of chicken broth, and heated up over the stove, seasoned with salt and pepper and a swirl of peppery olive oil.

:: The Lazy Salad – Sliced up tomatoes, tossed with frisee and Whole Foods marinated gigante beans from the antipasto section.