Friday, December 12, 2014

Birch Point Fall-Winter CSA Week 7: the penultimate week

Warm weather!  Thursday was the loveliest day since summer, I believe. I hope you all got outside for a good stretch of Thursday. Friday wasn't bad either... this reprieve from bitter cold and gray has got spirits up, even though the ground is still frozen solid.  We'd love to harvest the last few root veggies that were still in the ground when the deep freeze hit, but it may be next week before that happens.    In good news, the sunshine has warmed up the hoophouse to the point where the baby greens are harvestable!  Most things we grow in the winter hoophouse can handle a certain amount of freezing and thawing (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, lettuce, claytonia, parsley), but quality is much higher when the greens aren't actually frozen solid at the time of harvest! Today they were nicely thawed out and perky, so we were able to harvest a lovely winter salad of arugula, baby kale, and a smattering of lettuce-- mainly arugula and kale, a handful of red lettuce just for color.  Hope you enjoy this special treat!
Remember: next week is our final week of CSA for the fall-winter season.   We look forward to seeing you-- if shares are outside of Bldg 50, be sure to come say hello when you pick up your box!

In This Week's Share

Winter Squash-the squash we carefully harvested, cleaned, sorted, and stored is just starting to show signs of not loving its storage life-- parts of the squash field sustained minimal frost damage this fall before harvest, which can shorten storage life.  We've been on the lookout for rot all fall, and I'm impressed that it's just now showing up.  Squash normally keeps for several weeks up to several months, but once soft spots develop, the best thing is to use it up or cook and freeze it for later.
For maximum storage life (of non-compromised squash), keep at approx 50 degrees F in a relatively dry environment.  Attics or garages that stay well above freezing, spare rooms that are minimally heated, or root cellars with good ventilation are all good for squash storage. What's bad for squash storage: temps too close to freezing or much above 60 degrees F, high humidity, bruising.

Brussels sprouts- the last of these little lovelies for the season!  Brenin harvested them frozen earlier this week, and they are still so sweet and tender, if on the small side.  If you think you're (or someone in your household is) not a Bsprout fan, try this: trim and clean, and slice super thinly across sprouts, then fluff into a frizzy, fluffy pile (basically destroying the evidence that they started out as sprouts).  Saute onions with olive oil or butter til tender and browned, add shredded sprouts and a generous sprinkle of salt, saute on med heat til bright, bright green and tender.  If it starts to dry out or stick, sploosh in a spoonful or two of water. Toss in pan with balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice- balsamic vinegar will add more sweetness, lemon more acidity.  I also like to throw in some dried cherries or cranberries, chopped, at the last moment of cooking. There. See what the haters say now.

Rutabagas!  I think rutabagas are delicious.  The secret?  Bring out their sweetness- they ARE sweet, but also pungent.  If you love pungent, go for it; you're in your element.  If not, take advantage of caramelizing and maximizing surface area-- e.g. rutabaga fries (cut like steak fries, brush with olive oil and bake at 375 til brown and crisp on edges, soft at centers) with  ketchup OR spicy mayo (half-half mayo and your favorite hot sauce), rutabaga-and-potato gratin (see recipe below), rutabaga hash browns --use some combo of potatoes and rutabagas (half-half or any ratio, really), and mashed rutabaga (straight up roasted- not boiled- rutabaga OR mixed with potato).  These techniques maximize the transformation of starches into sugars, not changing the inherent rutabaga-ness, but allowing their inner sweetness to shine through.

Salad mix-- a winter combo of baby arugula, baby red Russian kale, and lettuces (barely any lettuce-- this is mostly arugula and kale).  These greens are so tender I hope you'll try them with the most nominal of dressing- e.g. olive oil and salt, grape seed oil and verjus (the hyper-local equivalent of olive oil and lemon juice), or the like.  Let the delicate greens shine as themselves rather than a vehicle for heavy dressings!

Onions- either Rossa di Milano (big red) or a mix of small reds and yellows.  Try chopped, roasted onions along with your rutabaga and carrot (and last week's potatoes if you still have some) in a roasted root medley.

Carrots- a rainbow mix of orange, purple, and/or white.  Enjoy fresh or roasted.  I made a lovely purple-and-orange carrot slaw the other day with just grated carrots and an apple, onions, toasted sunflower seeds, cilantro, a minced dried hot pepper, and a sesame oil-rice vinegar dressing. YUM!

Ida Red Apples- another installment of certified organic apples from our friend Gene, the organic orchardist in Northport. Ida Reds are great for fresh eating OR baking; they also store well if you can't use them immediately- keep them cold and humid (refrigerator=great, but anywhere that stays slightly above freezing is fine (breezeway, drafty attic, etc).

Rutabaga and Potato Gratin
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 lb. rutabagas, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 tbsp. minced thyme leaves
2 cups (about 4 oz.) grated
Gruyére cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425°. Heat butter and oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour, and cook until smooth, about 1 minute. Add milk and cream, and stir until smooth. Add potatoes, rutabagas, and 2 tsp. thyme, and bring mixture to a boil; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are slightly tender and broken apart, about 5 minutes. Stir in half the cheese and salt and pepper, and then transfer to a 9″ × 13″ baking dish; top with remaining cheese and bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining thyme before serving.

And an Even Fancier (more delicious sounding) Brussels Sprout Recipe
Brussels Sprouts Chiffonade with Caramelized Onions

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