Catching up … or trying to!

Some of the best things in life are indeed free, including the abundant blackberries growing at the edges of the farm. Making our annual batch of blackberry jam is on this weekend's 'to do' list! Making blackberry jam is a summer 'must do' for our household! We're still enjoying last year's batch, but it's almost gone!

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Fennel bulb or basil — For some reason, fennel is a vegetable that persistently daunts folks. I guess it doesn’t fit easily into a pre-existing category, being neither root nor green. I think of it being very similar to celery in that it imparts a strong (but mellow) flavor to any dish. It also has a very similar texture (slightly stringy when raw but easy to integrate with some cooking). The easiest way I’ve found to use fennel is to wash and chop the bulb (removing any tough parts by the base), then sauté with onions and use as the base for a pan or pot vegetable dish — add chard or beet greens to go in one direction; or add chopped carrots and summer squash to go in another. The fennel flavor goes well with Italian seasonings and spices too. You could also chop it and roast it in a pan with new potatoes and onions. Experiment!
  • Beet greens
  • Chard OR kale
  • Lettuce mix
  • Carrots
  • Beets — We are still eating beets almost every day at our house. What a joy!
  • New potatoes
  • Summer squash & zucchini

The summer is suddenly flying by. I’m sure Casey and my perception of everything is strongly affected by that date at the end of August when our second baby is likely to arrive (less than a month now! Woah!). But it’s also startling to realize how little we have left to sow or plant in this calendar year.

Not to say that our workload is fundamentally slowing down — the ‘to do’ lists remain as long as ever (that’s farming!), but folks have been going home closer to our planned end time than they have in months. So, it feels like the season is passing even as the weather continues to mystify us (drizzly morning in late July? Hot weather one day and gray cool the next? Huh?).

As I was thinking about this week’s newsletter, I realized I’ve been negligent on providing recipes as much this year — there’s just been so much to share and say that they keep getting put off. Perhaps as a way of “catching up” a bit in this particular space, I decided to make recipes the focus, including a few classic favorites that we like to republish every few years.

But one last bit of “news” — our second CSA meeting went great this weekend. People were once again very engaged and thoughtful regarding our future plans. Unfortunately, the summer season seems to have kept many people from attending, so we’re going to try to chat more at pick-up. You might even see my (Katie) friendly face a few times. I will post detailed information on our website shortly as well. These are big changes and we want to give people plenty of time to ponder the new plans and ask questions before we do sign-ups in September.

Hope you all are enjoying the festivities of summer! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
… and the rest of the farm crew!

~ ~ ~

Think you don’t like beets?

It’s been a while since I published this series of beet recipes — I’m sure there are some “beet haters” out there who could use some tips! I understand, because beets were a new vegetable for us when we started farming in 2004. We’d had the canned version, which we didn’t much like, but we were willing to try anything growing in the fields. Now, we love beets (as does Rusty!). Here are our favorite ways to eat them, which will hopefully convert the skeptics:

Raw beets!

Beets can be eaten raw, especially when they’re the smaller roots. We enjoy beets sliced thin and piled on a BGS (Big Green Salad). Some people prefer to grate them for a salad topping.

Steamed beets!

If you prefer cooked beets, steaming them is the simplest way to cook them. You don’t need to peel or slice—just slightly trim the ends. If you have varying sized beets, cut the larger beet into two or more pieces so that they’ll cook at the same rate as the smaller beets. Add about an inch of water to a saucepan; add the beets; and put it on the stove on high. Once the water is boiling, turn stove to medium. Cook until the beets are tender; check by sticking them with a knife—it should slide in without resistance. Actual cooking time will vary depending on size of beets, but it will range from five to twenty minutes. Add water as necessary.

You can eat the steamed beets anyway you like. If you prefer them without the skin, it should be easy to slide off once cooked. Just rub the skin off with your fingers.
This is the way we eat them most often, because it is really simple and Rusty enjoys the results. I just slice the beets and serve them on a plate.

Pickled beets!

Once steamed, you might enjoy slightly pickled beets. Chop your beets into largish bite-sized chunks and put them in a bowl or mason jar. Add a touch of oil and then vinegar to taste. You can also add salt and pepper. Mix, and preferably let sit for at least an hour before eating. You can serve as a side dish with a meal or on a salad. If you put the beets in a jar or container, they will store this way in your fridge for several weeks (but be aware that the oil might congeal in the cold—this is fine, just let the beets warm up slightly before serving).

Fried beets!

This is our ultimate favorite way to eat beets when we have time for something a little more involved. We call this fried beet recipe ‘beet fritters’:

Coarsely grate about a bunch worth of beets (no need to peel first). Measure out the volume of the beets in a measuring cup (pack it tight). Empty into a bowl and then add about a third as much flour to the bowl as well. Add salt and pepper. Mix the grated beets, flour, salt and pepper with your hands. The consistency should be wet and sticky.

Once mixed, form into balls and then ‘squish’ into three or four-inch patties, ¼ – ½ inch thick (thinner is better for getting the fritter cooked all the way through and crispy outside). Heat up the oil of your choice (olive, canola, or butter) in a frying pan (medium-high temp). The oil should cover the bottom of your pan with a thin but visible layer.

Add the patties to the pan and cover with a lid, if possible (this will help the middle of the fritters cook). Turn when one side is slightly browned and crispy. Leave the lid off as the second side fries.

Once both sides are slightly browned and crispy, serve and eat immediately (this should probably be the last part of your meal that you cook).

This is a great recipe for playing around with, depending on how big you want your fritters and what else you might have on hand. Sometimes we add other yummy things to the batter, such as chopped cooked bacon or diced onions.

Serving size: 1 cup of beets (less than one bunch) makes 3 medium sized fritters

And don’t forget: beet greens are yummy too! (Beets and chard are cousins, so you can almost treat the beet greens exactly the same as chard, or even use them in the same recipes.)

A final ‘warning’ about beets: they, um, color your, um, ‘outputs’—so don’t be scared the next day if you see pinkish red in the bowl!

~ ~ ~

It wouldn’t be a mid-summer newsletter without a zucchini bread recipe or two! You can use either color squash for these recipes interchangeably.

Zucchini Bread
adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini

•    3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
•    1 teaspoon salt
•    2 teaspoons baking powder
•    ½ teaspoon baking soda
•    2 ½ cups grated zucchini
•    1 cup sugar
•    4 eggs
•    ½ cup vegetable oil
•    1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch loaf pans. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine zucchini, sugar, eggs, and oil in a separate bowl and mix well. Stir dry ingredients into zucchini mixture just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to loaf pans. Bake 50-55 minutes, then remove bread from pans and cool on racks.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake
adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini

•    ¾ cup oil
•    1 ¼ cups sugar
•    2 eggs
•    1 teaspoon vanilla
•    2 cups grated zucchini
•    ½ cup sour milk or buttermilk
•    2 tablespoons cocoa powder
•    ½ teaspoon baking powder
•    1 teaspoon baking soda
•    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
•    ½ teaspoon cloves
•    2 ½ cups flour
•    small bag of chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees; grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Mix all ingredients and bake 30-35 minutes.

Mannie’s Cold Zucchini Salad
adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini

And, something “healthy” too … Slice zucchini into thin strips lengthwise. Fry lightly in hot oil until soft throughout. Transfer zucchini to a bowl; salt lightly. Discard most of the oil in the pan. Add generous amounts of garlic or minced onion and sauté lightly. Add some red wine vinegar to about 1/4 inch in the pan and bring to quick boil. Toss sauce with squash. Cover and refrigerate. Ready to serve in a few hours.

~ ~ ~

Next week’s veggies (probably!):

Green beans • Lettuce • Kale & chard • Broccoli & cabbage • New potatoes • Carrots • Summer squash • Sweet onions

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One Response to Catching up … or trying to!

  1. Michele says:

    You know my preferences when it comes to beets, but this recipe may get me to try again… I found it on Pintrest last week.

    Baked Beet Chips

    4 medium beets
    2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
    Sea Salt

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Peel beets and slice 1/16 inch thick with a mandoline. In a large bowl, toss beets with extra-virgin olive oil. The beets should have a very thin coat.

    2. On two rimmed baking sheets (or use one sheet and bake in two batches), arrange beets in a single layer. Sprinkle with a small amount of sea salt.

    3. Stack another rimmed baking sheet on top of each. Bake until edges of beets begin to dry out, about 20 minutes. Uncover and rotate sheets. Bake 10 to 20 minutes, removing chips as they become lightened and pale in color. Note: Pretty much all of mine needed the full extra 20 minutes of baking time. Transfer to a wire rack; chips will crisp up as they cool.

    Adapted from Martha Stewart

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