Thursday, July 5, 2012

week 7

Lettuce Onions Fresh Garlic
Carrots Beets Summer Squash
Fennel Chard Tomatoes!
Parsley Sorrel Cilantro or Dill Basil

The life of the soul is truth and the awareness of the soul is love.”
~Saint Bernard

We hope you all had a safe and fun Independence Day – free of excessive sparks! If the tomatoes didn't look so good, we'd have the raggedy blues this week. It's reached triple digits in the sun every day for the last several. It's too hot to walk barefoot in the garden, and definitely too hot to work in the sun for a good part of the day. The humidity has increased in the last couple days, and it looks like there's been rain in the area – but none in our valley. Surely, it will rain on us eventually. Bugs seem to love the heat, there are blister beetles, and japanese beetles all over the basil, sorrel, and chard. Wash well.

The orange tomatoes with green shoulders are our favorite heirloom variety by a long shot. They go by the name Paul Robeson, for the African American opera singer and athlete. They have a complex and smoky flavor different from your standard red slicer. We hope you enjoy them. They've come on early this year, and hopefully, they will stay late too, though they are making it clear by the condition of their leaves that they would appreciate some rain soon. Early Girls are the other main tomato this week. I remember being so skeptical when seeing them at a friend's farm – all so uniform, so firm and red – I couldn't imagine they would have much flavor, but I was wrong. They perform well and turn out buckets of tasty firm red slicing tomatoes. We love heirlooms, but we still grow Early Girls, too.

We just heard on NPR, verified by America's Test Kitchen – tomatoes keep better resting with the stem end DOWN. So, take some that are ripe, and some not so ripe, and keep them all with the belly buttons facing down until you eat them up. Our favorite tomato salad is so simple: cube or slice tomatoes, mince a clove of garlic and a sprig of basil, maybe some red onion sliced thin, salt and pepper, oil and balsamic vinegar. Crumbled feta cheese is a great addition, though Parmesan will do well, and nutritional yeast is great if you're not into cheese. Toss it all together and eat at room temperature.

Here's this year's fennel crop. We haven't irrigated it at all, and this is the first time we've seen it actually reach toward blooming. Usually it gets some kind of rot in the blooming sprout. I suppose the drought has made it happy enough to want to set fruit. Fennel grows wild in coastal California. We've remarked a few times this season that this must be what it feels like to farm in southern California – everything will be alright as long as we go on irrigating! Strange season, this one.

Fennel is an interesting vegetable. Any part of it that is tender enough to slice is good to eat. We recently enjoyed it sliced and sauteed with summer squash. First, we sliced and gently browned an onion and some garlic, then cranked up the heat again and threw in the sliced fennel and squash. Grated Parmesan on top once it was done. Use the long stalks like you would celery or carrot sticks. You could have one festive looking and sweet tasting raw platter with this week's basket – beets, carrots, and fennel sticks. Fennel can be served raw, as they do in Italy – brush raw slices with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve as an appetizer. Try it grilled, braised or roasted. It likes Parmesan, basil, coriander, paprika, parsley, olive oil, lemon, garlic, and tomatoes. Play. Enjoy.

The Chard is being devoured by blister beetles. They skeletonize the leaves - we've really never seen anything like it. So we're cutting what's left and seeing what happens next! This might be the last of the Chard for awhile. In the top garden, the melons continue to grow unhindered by hot sun and drought. Peppers and eggplant are loaded with very small fruit. They're looking sun-burnt. We're working on irrigation plans, but rain would be a much simpler solution.

Here's a solid salsa recipe:
1 1/2 pounds firm, ripe tomatoes , cut into 3/8-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 large jalapeño chile seeded (seeds reserved and minced), flesh minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup minced red onion                  1 small clove garlic , minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro            1/2 teaspoon table salt
  Pinch ground black pepper                2 - 6 teaspoons lime juice from 1 to 2 limes
  Granulated sugar to taste (up to 1 teaspoon)

1. Set large colander in large bowl. Place tomatoes in colander and let drain 30 minutes. As tomatoes drain, layer jalapeño, onion, garlic, and cilantro on top. Shake colander to drain off excess tomato juice. Discard juice; wipe out bowl.
2. Transfer contents of colander to now-empty bowl. Add salt, pepper, and 2 teaspoons lime juice; toss to combine. Taste and add minced jalapeño seeds, sugar, and additional lime to taste.

Tomato Fennel Pasta Sauce
(says blogger: You could use any pasta, but ideally it should be long pasta, like spaghetti. This is a thick sauce, so don’t go with any pasta shape that is too delicate, like angel hair. Once you make the sauce, it will store in the fridge for 10 days or so. You can also freeze it.) Serve 6-8, and can be doubled
4 tablespoons olive oil                                     1 cup fennel, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped                              1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur    1 quart tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey                                         1 tblspoon mint or lemon verbena, chopped
Salt to taste                                                       Parmigiano or pecorino cheese to garnish

1) Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, deep pan or a large pot. When the oil is hot, add the fennel and onion and saute for 4-5 minutes, until translucent. Sprinkle some salt over everything while they are cooking. Don’t let the veggies brown — turn down the heat if needed. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two.
2)Pour in the ouzo and let this boil until it is reduced by half.
3)Add the crushed tomatoes, honey and mint and mix well. Taste for salt and add some if needed. Let this simmer gently for 30 minutes.
4)If you are going to serve this sauce with short pasta, like penne or bowties, you don’t need this step: Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and buzz to puree all the bits of onion and fennel. Pour the blended sauce back into the pot and bring to a simmer. You’re ready to serve.
This is a powerful sauce, so use less than you think you need at first. Serve with a light red wine like a Sangiovese or a Grenache.

Next week – no more chard or fennel, but add some more tomatoes and green beans to the mix.  Maybe cucumbers too.

Remember to send in your blueberry orders asap.
Stay hydrated and eat well. The Entwistles

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