Thursday, June 27, 2013

CSA in the Kitchen

We're back in the kitchen cooking up some recipes and ideas for you to make good use of your summer produce share!  We'll be doing our best to change things up as often as possible, but I will warn you now - we make lots of fresh salsa and we grill often - it's possible that we will eat fajitas every week for the entire month of July.  With that said, let's dive into our early summer meals.


Early summer is the time of greens.  Greens and green lettuce and green garlic scapes ... and sometimes a few red radishes.  With all the lettuce, of course some good salads are in order.  Pictured above is Grady's grilled calamari summer salad.  

1/2 cup of chopped carrots
1/2 cup of chopped celery
3 - 4 green onions, chopped
grilled calamari - enough to satisfy 2 people
a few spoons of mayonnaise
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all together, line your bowls with rinsed lettuce - at least 2 leaves each! - and fill with calamari mix.  This makes a wonderful, light lunch, especially with some bread and butter on the side.


When you are given such wonderfully fresh ingredients, such as we get from Montalbano Farms, sometimes the best preparation is the simplest one.  Sweet raw carrots and lightly boiled chard with butter to compliment some barbecued chicken.  

The potatoes took a bit more effort here, though, because when Grady cooks it will never be straight-forward and not messy (it will always be good though, so it's a worthy trade).  The potatoes were chopped and deep fried in small batches, in a small pot - so as to use less fat - in duck fat.  We beyond recommend duck fat for frying; it's delicious.  For inquiring minds, we bought ours at our local local-foods store, Green Grocer.


An essential part to properly enjoying your CSA, is to eat meals made with it outdoors (at least if you  have an outdoor dining area!).  You slow down, relax, take in the breeze and then eat more slowly and enjoy more fully.  Summer dinners don't need to be elaborate affairs to be fulfilling.  Here we're having a small salad (and by that I mean lettuce with basic vinaigrette), some aged Gouda, kofta kebabs with mint-yogurt sauce and a side of rice.


We'd love to hear from you in the comments!  If you have other great recipes you've discovered, or questions related to what we've made/what we do with our CSA please share them with us.  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

flowers for home, seasonally

Until this year, I never gave much thought to adorning my table seasonally.  Of course I decorate for Thanksgiving and Christmas and perhaps even a bit for Independence Day, but it never really occurred to me that flowers have seasons.  Writing that out feels rather dumb, but I know very little about flowers and I was quite content to simply pick up a pretty bouquet at the grocery store and try to make sure that it at least came from somewhere inside this country (usually California).

The light bulb finally went off in my mind when we started picking up our weekly flowers from the farmers market.  Finally I saw one type of flower give way to another as I was already well aware happened in the edible vegetable world.  I've looked through my photos over the summer now gone by and here is a small progression of flowers across the season.

 Table set for a party, decorated by small flowers and greens gathered from my parents' yard.

Pre-party on Labor Day (yes, I realized I just skipped most of the summer - work with me here)

 Lilies in September

 Our last fresh bunch of the season

Around September, our flower vendor started advertising some types of flowers as being good for drying.  I'm glad she did because now we have a few arrangements to cheer us through the winter.

Dried hydrangea bouquet

 Not flowers ... but these squash were too starchy to eat, so they've graced our fall table.  The red branches in the corner will go in the living room soon.

 A big bouquet of dried eucalyptus - smells so wonderful!

Pink berry branches ... ahem ... I do realize that they're at a slightly funny angle, but you work with what you're given, ya know?

At the last farmers market we were able to pick up a few branches of juniper, which should make our house feel more festive as Christmas approaches.  I find myself now wishing that I had thought to plant a few dry-able flowers in my little plot this year so that I could fill my home with flowers through these winter months.  Ah, but there is always next year!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

settling in {again}

Here we are standing at the beginning of November - already?!  My last farmers market of the season was Saturday, and when I woke up Sunday morning I realized that, all of the sudden, we're in deep autumn-almost-winter!  When did this happen?  Only a few days ago the leaves were changing and I started slowly changing out my summer clothes for long sleeves and sweaters.  Perhaps my twice-weekly work outdoors simply kept me aloof to how cold it was actually getting (thinking warm thoughts does, sort of, help).  In any case, I find myself quickly switching from hanging on to the end of summer to preparing for snowy, cold weather.  As today begins November, I'd say this happened just in time.

As you may have noticed, I was a bit MIA these past ... well ... many months.  Full-time farming led straight into selling pies both in a tiny shop and at a farmers market.  The summer brought loads of fresh produce through our kitchen that needed eating/preparing/putting up of some kind and I joined a gym!  Now that we've gotten a few light frosts though, some of these things will change.  My knitting needles have seen some work and there are holidays approaching.  I'll start this month out right by saying, I'm thankful for the holidays because they get my creative mind working and inspired!

Wishing you a lovely November!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CSA in the Kitchen - our final meals

We have reached our final week of enjoying this season's CSA!  You may have a week or two left if you took them off earlier in the season, and some of us will be looking forward to the fall share in just a few weeks from now, but the last regular season share has come to our table.  We've been so thankful for the chance to cook with you through this season and hopefully we'll all be returning to Montalbano Farms again next spring!


We tucked into this autumnal meal over the weekend and enjoyed every bite of it!

The sweet potatoes we pricked all over then roasted in a 400 degree oven for about an hour (as I recall it was actually just one huge potato).  When it is soft, remove from the oven and let cool until you can touch it without burning yourself; remove the skin.  Mash potatoes with a fork or masher with 1 tsp of brown sugar (or more, to taste), 1 tablespoon of butter, and a little bit of salt and pepper.

Our salad was lovely and well-balanced.  Arugula leaves, sliced Honeycrisp apple, grated Parmesan cheese and a dressing of honey, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  Peppery, crisp, nutty, and sweet!

Our meal also featured rosemary-infused steak {Grady placed a branch of rosemary beneath the steak as it rested after grilling}, with a side of homemade horseradish cream, and a little brioche bun.


With the remaining sweet potatoes, I made a side-dish of candied sweet potatoes, but I was so excited to eat them that I forgot to take any pictures.  To make these addicting bites, peel a sweet potato or two and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.  Heat at least 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot over medium heat.  When the butter stops foaming, add the potatoes, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, a pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cover and reduce the heat to medium low.  Cook until the potatoes are soft, stirring every 5 minutes.  When they are cooked, remove the lid and turn the heat to medium-high, stirring constantly, but carefully - trying not to break the potatoes.  After about 5 minutes, the potatoes should be covered in an addictingly delicious glaze.  Off the heat and serve.


Crispy roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and steamed brussel sprouts with some roasted chicken.  Although the chicken was wonderful, the stars of this meal were the veggies.  The potatoes are cooked with the roasting chicken, which is a clever idea brought to us by the brilliant people of America's Test Kitchen.  They suggest butterflying the chicken and roasting it on a broiler pan in a 500 degree oven for about 40 minutes total, turning half way through.  Cover the bottom half of the pan, which is used to catch drippings, with tin foil and that's where you'll spread the potatoes.  Peel and slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick; toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and allow them to crisp up in delicious roasted chicken drippings - seriously the most amazing potatoes!

While the chicken is resting after the roast, turn the oven down a bit to 475, put in another foil-covered tray for about 10 minutes.  During that time, chop the carrots into 1/2 inch thick, 2 inch long pieces.  Toss these with melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  When the pan is hot, carefully spread the carrots on it and return to the oven.  After about 10 minutes, turn the carrots over and cook another 3 - 5 minutes.

Finally, I must admit that I have never loved brussel sprouts.  Never.  My mom made them for dinner occasionally when I was a child, and only she ever ate them.  After sawing each mini cabbage from the stalk and then boiling them for about 10 minutes in a pot of salted water, I bathed my sprouts in melted butter (a consistent theme in this meal - butter makes everything taste awesome).  While they were much better than those I turned my nose up at years ago, I still can't say that I love them.  However, I'm sure there are a few brussel sprout lovers out there who were very thankful to have received such a beautiful stalk in their share.


And this brings me to pumpkins ... and by that I mean ... I'm now going to share with you my awesome pumpkin bread recipe.  But first, let's quickly discuss homemade pumpkin puree.  It's super simple.  First, dissect your pumpkin.  I do this by stabbing my biggest knife in the top of the pumpkin, taking it straight out, and then stabbing again and again so that I make a circle around the stem on top.  Then, I cut from the top and work my knife around the entire pumpkin to cut it in half length-wise.  After that, you can open it up, get the seeds out (save and roast later) and cut the halves into smaller pieces if necessary.  Cook these halves in a baking dish partially filled with water in a preheated oven at 350.  Bake until soft, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Allow to cool a bit, peel off the skin, and puree the chunks in a food processor.  Add water a bit at a time if the puree isn't smooth enough.  Now you have puree that you can freeze it for later or use it fresh for pumpkin bread/muffins/pie??!!

For this recipe, I have drawn from this blog and this blog to make what is, in my opinion, the most awesome pumpkin bread.


1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
3/4 cup of sugar (I've even used just 1/2 cup)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup of yogurt (plain)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
{all spices are ground - or use 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie or 5 spice blend}


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Next, in a medium sized bowl combine the dry ingredients, and in a large bowl combine the wet ingredients.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, but taking care not to over mix.  Once everything is mixed together, line a bread pan with parchment paper, and pour the batter into the pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

For muffins or smaller loaves, simply adjust the baking time.  Muffins take 15 - 20 minutes and small loaves about 25 - 30.


Finally, we'd like to leave you with a few pictures of the farm from this time last year.  We are so thankful to Rob and Christina for taking the plunge and committing to farming in a way that is good for us and for the environment - for their vision, hard work, determination, and care.  We're thankful to all of the farm hands and worker share volunteers who help to make this food appear on our table every week.  We are thankful to all of our fellow CSA members who agreed to support this lovely farm and enjoy the season of produce with us.

 ~ Grady and Courtney