Summer CSA Week 14

 

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Last week I wrote about how busy things are this time of year and how I feel summer has just flown by. While this week was no less busy I did manage to take some quite time to myself, about 3 minutes to walk the field with no agenda. Normally on a field walk I am looking for specific things like plant health, weed pressure, germination rate ETC. This time I was just there to enjoy the company of my plants, something I don’t do enough. While walking past the baby Salanova head lettuce I was stuck by its beauty. This is not an uncommon thing as I absolutely love vegetables and think their beauty is unsurpassed, but what really struck me was how much effort this plant did to look so beautiful. The reality is the plant did absolutely nothing to be perfect. It just existed. It just “is”. It didn’t have to try to be anything, it just was.

So, I started to think about this head of lettuce further. What do I have to learn from this beautiful being? Here I am, a relatively young guy trying to be the best me that I can be. I read books, I work out (sometimes) I eat good food, I cultivate great relationships, and I do a whole host of other things in an attempt to better myself. Yet I often feel as if I’m not doing enough, or not doing the right things at all. How is it that this small plant can essentially do nothing and achieve near perfection and I, with all of my good intentions consistently fall so short? It took a seemingly unrelated conversation with a coworker to show me the answer. The answer is the Ego.

All of us have an ego, some more than others. The ego is not ones true self, but one’s self-image of themselves that is influences by labels, definitions, analysis, judgment and pressures. One’s ego is not only created by the individual, but it is also influenced by the outside world on a conscious and sub conscious level. The beauty of the Salanova lettuce is that, being a plant and all, it has no ego. It does not judge itself or others. It does not analyze every situation it is faced with. It doesn’t live its life trying to adhere to some definition, and it certainly doesn’t care what you want to label it – call it Salanova or call it gobbledygook; it’s going to be exactly the same. So, imagine how close to perfection we reach if we shed our ego. After all, humans are just as much a part of nature as Salanova head lettuce.

I will take this lesson forward with me as I continue to be the best me that I can be. When I start to wonder why I don’t feel like I am achieving my best potential I will remember how the Salanova lettuce got to reach its highest potential; by not caring about, or being influenced by labels, definitions, analysis, judgment and pressure. The truth is, I already am the best me that I can be. I just have to strip way the junk that is in the way of my perfect self, to really let it show!

On that note, from one perfect being to another, I wish you happy eating and happy life.

Enjoy those veggies this week.

-Farmer Nate and the Heritage Prairie Farm Family
 

Vegetable Forecast (about as reliable as a weather forecast)

Mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes

 

Large heirloom tomatoes

Cucumbers

Green Beans

Summer Squash

Dandelion Greens

Cilantro

Chard

Head Lettuce

Radicchio

 

Sort-Of Frisee Lardon

I’ve taken my favorite bistro salad-frisée, poached egg, and bacon-and turned it into my favorite sort-of sandwich. Large chunks of bacon, rustic hunks of toasted bread, peppery greens, and scoops of soft-cooked egg tossed together with a warm mustard-sherry dressing will satisfy the Francophile in you.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces bacon, preferably applewood-smoked, sliced off the slab into 31/2-inch-thick strips

For the Croutons:

  • 1 1-pound white sourdough loaf
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 5 extra-large eggs
  • 1 medium head (about 8 ounces) radicchio leaves, removed and torn into large pieces
  • 1 medium head (about 4 ounces) frisée, center core removed, pulled apart into small bunches
  • 1 large bunch (about 4 ounces) dandelion greens, mizuna, or arugula, tough stems removed

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup bacon fat (if you don’t get enough rendered fat from frying the bacon, add enough olive oil to make up the quantity)
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup sherry-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the Bacon: Cut each strip of bacon into 4 pieces. In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until cooked all the way through but not crisp. Drain it on a paper towel, and reserve the fat.

For the Croutons: Cut the loaf of bread in half and reach in beneath the crust to pull out 1 1/2-2-inch pieces of bread. Place the bread chunks on a baking sheet, drizzle them with the olive oil, and toss well. Toast them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure they’re evenly baked. When the croutons are cool enough to handle, rub them with the garlic clove and set aside.

To Cook the Eggs: Place the eggs in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring them to a boil, then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Simmer the eggs for 5 minutes, then plunge them into a large bowl of ice water for a minute or so. Take them out as soon as they’re cool enough to handle.

In a huge bowl, toss to combine the radicchio, frisée, dandelion greens, toasted bread, and bacon.

To Make the Vinaigrette: In a medium-sized skillet, over medium heat, warm the bacon fat (and olive oil, if necessary). Add the shallots and cook them for 2-3 minutes, until they just begin to sizzle. Whisk in the vinegar, salt, and pepper, and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the mustard, and cook another 30 seconds. Remove the vinaigrette from the heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour most of the vinaigrette over the salad, and toss well to combine. Cut the top 1/2 inch off the eggs and, using a spoon, scoop them out of the shells in large spoonfuls into the bowl. Pile the salad onto 4 plates, and drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over each.

Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever – From Thursday Nights at Campanile by Nancy Silverton and Teri Gelber (Knopf, 2002). Copyright 2002 by Nancy Silverton and Teri Gelber.

 

Tips for cooking with honey.

There are no hard and fast rules to substituting honey and sugar in recipes, but these guidelines should help you quickly decide how much honey to use in a particular recipe instead of table or cane sugar.

In general, substituting honey for sugar seems to be a matter of taste. Some people use it cup for cup,  while others prefer 1/2 cup – 2/3 cup of honey per cup of white sugar. Reduce the amount of other liquids by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey used. Lower the oven temp about 25 degrees F to prevent over-browning and add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey to your batter. Honey is naturally acidic and the baking soda tempers it.

Diabetics should keep in mind that honey does not reduce the calorie or carbohydrate content of the sugar recipe, and thus is not an acceptable sugar replacement for people on diabetic diets.

Substituting honey for other sweeteners

  • Molasses: To substitute molasses for honey, use exactly the same amount. The resulting flavor and color will be a bit darker and heavier. The reverse is true if you swap honey for molasses.
  • Corn Syrup: To substitute honey for corn syrup, use exactly the same amount, but reduce any other sweet ingredients, since honey has more sweetening power than corn syrup.
  • Dark Brown Sugar: Follow the equation for plain table sugar under General Recommendations, but also substitute a little molasses for a portion of the honey to retain the expected flavor. Brown sugar is just white sugar where the molasses have not been completely removed by refining. Brown sugar, on the other hand, attracts moisture, so it will keep baked goods from drying out so quickly. Also, brown sugar has some molasses in it, which adds moisture, and certainly changes the taste.

http://www.michiganbeekeepers.com

Here is a great recipe for a seasonal Pumpkin Honey Bread.

Sounds of Quiet on the Farm

Have you ever heard the sound of quiet? When I was a little girl, growing up on our farm in Ohio, I remember trying to listen to “quiet”. My folks were in their 50s (now, I think that was really quite youngish) and my sisters were grown and off in their own lives. I was alone a lot. I look back on it now and see how I thrived occupying myself. My dad mowed and cleared walking paths all over our hilly 160 acres. Paths through the woods and around all the fields. I would spend hours finding just the right spot to read my book or take a nap.

Sometimes I would take my bright red portable record player out to the barn and sing to records—records like South Pacific and My Fair Lady. We had a little greenhouse radio that would get about three stations on it and had a thermometer. I distinctly remember singing along to Tony Orlando and Dawn and thinking how it had just reached 70 degrees. No head phones. In fact, I tried to get Hannibal, my Irish Setter mutt, to howl along.

Confession time: I also talked to myself regularly—a habit carried on today. Sometimes I would even read out loud to Hannibal. That sweet dog would try to look interested. My parents and I read out loud all the time. Sometimes the newspaper, sometimes a good book. We all took turns, but  Dad and I loved listening to my mother the most. She could make any story come alive and jump off the pages—still can.

But most of the time, however, there was quiet. It wasn’t ever silent. There were always sounds in the background. A tractor way off in the distance,  birds, a dog barking somewhere, on our farm it was so quiet you could hear a plane flying overhead heading to Cleveland or Pittsburg almost 100 miles away. I remember lying in bed at night wondering if the quiet could ever be complete and total silence.

Early this morning around 4:00 one of our dogs barked and woke me up. It got quiet again as I lay there deciding to start my day. Memories flooded back about the quiet times of my childhood. As I started to listen it seemed at first like silence, then I started hearing the quiet noises—a tractor in the distance harvesting corn, birds, a dog downstairs getting up to get a drink then laying back down. I hadn’t heard quiet in a long time.  It was so soothing. Heaven knows how hard it is to listen when we’re bombarded by 20,000 messages a day. Our on-demand lives can rob us of these tender moments if we’re not careful.

Today at our farm life is busy, a lot to accomplish. But I don’t want to get so busy that I don’t listen to the quiet of life.  Even for just a little while.

Then a glass of wine and a piece of Apple Pudding—

Here’s my mother’s recipe if you want to join me:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup spry (I use butter or vegetable oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 scant tsp soda
  • 1 tbl cinnamon (make sure you use a whole tablespoon)
  • 1 scant tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (sometimes I substitute rolled oats)
  • Lastly, add 2 1/2 cups raw, unpeeled, diced apples

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes and serve with real whipped cream