Down on the Farm Notes
Nighttime temperatures have been steadily increasing and the crops are responding nicely. Another nice surprise this week, we have a mixture of slicing and pickling cucumbers in your basket this week. First pick of the season is always very exciting!
What will you find in the basket this week? Organic Gourmet Lettuce, Organic Braising Mix, Organic Carrots, Organic Green Garlic, Organic Swiss Chard, Organic Blood Beets, Organic Basil, Organic Zucchini on Thursday, Organic Cucumbers (a mix of slicing and pickling cucumbers), Cabbage from Pioneer Farms on Tuesday, Broccoli from Pioneer Farms on Thursday, Arugula from Pioneer Farms, and Hiratake Mushrooms from Sierra’s Edibles.
Green Cabbage should have a firm, dense head with smooth leaves. Its outer leaves vary from pale green to dark green and the inner leaves are white to pale green. It has a mild flavor and crisp texture. This is one of the most commonly found cabbages. A fast and easy way to remove leaves from cabbage is to cut around the core at the base of the cabbage. Remove the core and grasp each individual cabbage leaf at its base, rather than at the leaf’s outer edge. Gently lift the cabbage leaf from the cabbage. To shred the cabbage by hand, quarter and then core the cabbage. Separate the cabbage quarters into stacks so leaves will flatten when pressed lightly. Use a large knife to cut each stack of cabbage diagonally into thin shreds. To chop the cabbage, turn the pile of shredded cabbage widthwise, and then cut the cabbage shreds into a fine dice. For a crisper cabbage for salads, shred the cabbage and soak it in salted ice water for 15 minutes and then drain.
Broccoli is best when quickly steamed or stir-fried. Overcooking enhances its strong flavor and aroma, dulls the color, and leaches out nutrients. It should be cooked a minimum amount of time until tender, but still crisp. If you plan on using the stalks and florets in the same dish, begin cooking the stalks 1 to 2 minutes before adding the florets. The stalks take longer to cook. To cook broccoli florets, trim them to uniform size to promote even cooking. When steaming broccoli, remove the lid several times to release steam which helps the broccoli retain its bright green color. Do not wash broccoli until just before you prepare it. Lemon juice and mustard seeds can liven up cooked broccoli. If you only need the florets for a dish, do not toss the stems. Peel, blanch for two minutes, and freeze up to three months for use in soups and stews.
Mushrooms There is no need to peel mushrooms. The only trimming they may need is the stem end, if it’s dry, or the tough stem portion of Shiitakes or the root of the Portabella. All other mushroom stems may be prepared along with the caps. Mushrooms can be sliced thick or thin, cut in quarters, coarsely or finely chopped using a sharp knife. For slicing or chopping large quantities, use a food processor with the slicing or wing blade attachment. If a recipe calls for just caps, twist stems loose or separate them from the caps with the tip of a knife.
Sautéing: For each eight ounces of mushrooms, melt one tablespoon butter or heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Add mushrooms. Cook and stir until golden and the released juices have evaporated, about five minutes. Don’t overcrowd the skillet or the mushrooms will steam rather than brown.
Microwaving: Mushrooms cook extremely well in the microwave. Simply clean and cook as follows: Put eight ounces thickly sliced mushrooms in a microwaveable bowl (no oil or butter needed); cover and cook on HIGH (100% power) for two to three minutes stirring once.
Roasting: Place mushrooms in a shallow baking pan, toss with a little oil and roast in a 450 F oven, stirring occasionally until brown, about 20 minutes. Use about one tablespoon of oil for each eight ounces of mushrooms.
Grilling or Broiling: Lightly brush caps and stems with oil to keep them moist, and season with salt and pepper. Grill or broil 4 to 6 inches from heat source for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, brushing again once or twice.
Cucumbers From crisp Kirby’s to nearly seedless greenhouse cukes, there are plenty of alternatives to the thick-skinned types that typically dominate supermarket bins. While the cucumber isn’t known as a nutrition powerhouse, it does provide a small amount of fiber, minerals and vitamins—particularly vitamin C. But perhaps its most important nutritional contribution is refreshment: at 95 percent water content, a cup of cucumber slices is nearly as thirst-quenching as a glass of water. Just thinking about cukes makes us feel cooler.
Country Kitchen Recipes
French Salad with Russian Dressing
Yields: 6 servings
1 lb. leaf lettuce, torn
2 small cucumbers, sliced
2 large carrots, shredded
Russian Salad Dressing
1/2 cup French salad dressing
1/2 cup creamy salad dressing
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Place eggs in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover pan, and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, cool, and peel. Cut in half and remove yolks. Mash yolks with a fork. Slice whites into small pieces. In a large bowl, toss together the egg whites and lettuce. Arrange the cucumber slices on top of the salad in a ring along the inside edge of the bowl. Sprinkle salad with carrots inside the cucumber ring. Sprinkle all with egg yolks. In a separate bowl, mix the French salad dressing, creamy salad dressing, and hot pepper sauce. Serve with salad.
Chicken Broccoli Stuffed Bread
Plan ahead to refrigerate the chicken broccoli mixture at least 4 hours or overnight to let the flavors meld.
Yield: 1 loaf
2 cups cooked chicken, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
2 packages of canned crescent rolls, chilled
Combine chicken, broccoli, mayonnaise, Cheddar cheese, red bell pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, dill, and dry mustard. Cover and refrigerate 4 hour or overnight to let flavors meld. Preheat oven to 350 F. Unroll 1 can of the crescent roll dough on a flat cookie sheet, without separating the perforations. Unroll the second can and overlap the first rectangle long side by 1/2 inch of the second rectangle. Use a rolling pin or press the seam flat with your fingers. You should have one large rectangle. Spoon the chicken mixture down the center of the rectangle on a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner up to 2 inches from the point of the corners. Fold those bare corners up over the filling, leaving the two opposite large sides open. Use a sharp knife to cut 1 inch strips on a diagonal outward from the filling to the edge of the dough on both sides, making sure you have an equal number of strips on each side. Begin on one end with the flap already folded over. Take one strip from each side, and pull them over the filling. Pinch the ends together. Continue until all strips are folded over. It should look braided. Spray the top with oil or brush with egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting to serve.
Japanese Cucumber Salad
Yields: 4 servings
2 small/medium cucumbers
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (see Tip)
Peel cucumbers to leave alternating green stripes. Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise; scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Cut into very thin slices. Place in a double layer of paper towel and squeeze gently to remove any excess moisture. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium bowl, stirring to dissolve. Add the cucumbers and sesame seeds; toss well to combine. Tip: To toast sesame seeds, heat a small dry skillet over low heat. Add sesame seeds, stir constantly until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl, let cool.
Yields: 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
4 oz. angel hair pasta, broken into 2-inch lengths (2 cups)
½ medium onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2-oz. soy chorizo (1 sausage), halved and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, optional
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
3 green garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
4-oz. sodium-free tomato sauce
1 cup mushroom broth or low-sodium vegetable broth
4 oz. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Heat ½ tablespoon oil in wok, paella pan, or large skillet over medium heat. Add pasta, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and opaque, stirring constantly. Transfer pasta to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Add remaining ½ tablespoon oil to pan, and heat over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Stir in mushrooms, soy chorizo (if using), bell pepper, basil, garlic, and smoked paprika, and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until most liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomato sauce. Add pasta, broth, and 1/4 cup water, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add asparagus, and cover; simmer 3 minutes. Preheat oven to broil. If using wok or skillet, transfer pasta mixture to 10-inch cake pan. Place paella pan or cake pan under broiler, and broil 3 to 4 minutes, or just until pasta is crisp on top. (Watch carefully—it burns quickly.)