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With today’s box, the season comes to a close. Boo! It’s been a great season – full of fresh fruits and vegetables from Fogline Farm and a wide array of goods from local producers including Monterey Bay Salt CompanyCountry Flat Farm, Coke Farm, Belle Farms, Far West Fungi, Carmel Valley Glassware, and more!

However you celebrate the holidays, we hope that the end of 2013 is full of many gatherings with family, friends, good food, and fun libations. Cheers!

The contents for today’s boxes are listed below. Bear in mind that there may be some variation in the boxes – and we’re not sure what will appear in the chica boxes versus the grande…but, rest assured, whatever is in your box will be fresh, organically-grown, and delicious!

Fruits and Veggies: chard, rapini, lettuce, kale, sage, rosemary, parsley, carrots, baby spinach, butternut squash, broccoli, and potatoes

Goods: Surprise! Who doesn’t love a surprise?!?

And here are a few suggestions of what you might do with your farm-fresh goodies and goods… [Click on the title to go to the recipe post.]

Herbs are culinary fairy dust

Use more of them – and less salt – to season your dishes!

Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon

Salmon en Croute – with Chard

Looking at the list of veggies in our boxes this week from Fogline Farm, I immediately started humming Scarborough Faire…

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

Remember me to one who lives there,

For once she was a true lover of mine.

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme…well, we aren’t getting the thyme. But everything else.

Fresh herbs are akin to culinary fairy dust. They add that delightful je ne sais quois to dishes, adding dimension and freshness. I think if more people used herbs liberally, they could get away with so much less salt in their food. 

How do you use fresh herbs? I’ll be mincing parsley for a gremolata to go with our braised beef brisket with roasted grapes on Thursday, folding fresh rosemary into rustic smashed potatoes, and floating crisped sage leaves on top of a vegetable-matzo ball soup. I can’t wait to showcase some of our Fogline goodies on my Thanksgiving table.

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From Planting to Plating

I’m not sure if the leeks we’re getting this week are ones we planted back then, or a few generation gone by. But when we put them on our table this week, we’ll definitely be talking about how they looked when we planted them…and how big they grew to make it onto our plates. Can’t wait! That connection – from plant to plate – is one of the main reasons that I support a CSA each season.

With today’s box, the countdown begins. Only one more CSA boxes after that. Boo!

The contents for today’s boxes are listed below. Bear in mind that there may be some variation in the boxes – and we’re not sure what will appear in the chica boxes versus the grande…but, rest assured, whatever is in your box will be fresh, organically-grown, and delicious!

Fruits and Veggies: lettuce, greens, bok choi, leeks, fennel, sugar pie pumpkins, sage, carrots, rapini, and potatoes

Goods: lemons from Eichorn’s Country Flat Farm in Big Sur and raw organic almonds from Kashiwase Farms in Winton

And here are a few suggestions of what you might do with your farm-fresh goodies and goods… [Click on the title to go to the recipe post.]

Sweet’N'Sour Braised Leeks

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

Oven-Roasted Broccoli (use your rapini for this!)

 

One of the great things about being part of a CSA is that the subscribing members are connected to the providing farm for the entire season – and maybe longer! Before our season even started members were invited to visit Fogline Farm in Soquel. We toured the farm, we picnicked, and – most importantly – we helped to put some plants in the ground.

We planted cauliflower…

And we planted leeks that day…

It was exhausting!

But what we learned – and how connected to the farm and the food we became – was priceless. I’m not sure if the leeks we’re getting this week are ones we planted back then, or a few generation gone by. But when we put them on our table this week, we’ll definitely be talking about how they looked when we planted them…and how big they grew to make it onto our plates. Can’t wait! That connection – from plant to plate – is one of the main reasons that I support a CSA each season.

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Though I always resent when I have to set my clock back an hour – because I don’t like driving home from work when it’s already dark – I do love that it means persimmon season is upon us.

There are Fuyu persimmons and Hachiya persimmons. To remember which is which: think Fuyu = Flat. F and F. Hachiya are the other ones. I vastly prefer the Fuyu and use them to garnish soupsto top salads, and more.

Fuyu persimmons are flat and squat and should be more orange then yellow. These are commonly eaten raw though they can also be roasted. They have a mild, pumpkin-like flavor. I just peel and eat them whole. My husband even eats the skin. 

Hachiya persimmons are disturbingly unpleasant unless completely ripe. Ripe hachiyas are unbelievably soft – almost liquified into a silky smooth pulp inside. They have one flattened end and one pointed end. Hachiyas are thought of as “baking” persimmons and are commonly peeled and pureed into a pulp to add to baked goods. They add moisture and a mild, pumpkin-like flavor to cakes, puddings, and other treats.

Do you like persimmons? What do you do with them?

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The time changed this weekend. Fall back. It’s only one hour, but now I drive home from work in the dark. Not only are days shorter, they are colder, too. There is a chill in the air that signifies the coming of winter. This is the time of year when I pull out the soup pot and soups become a dining table staple for the next few months.

So, I wanted to share some soup-making secrets. Well, they aren’t exactly secrets, but they are tips to help you make some delicious, seasonal, and filling dinners.

Start with a Mirepoix, pronounced mirh-pwah. It’s usually a mixture of carrots, onions, and celery – finely diced, and used as an aromatic seasoning base. But I use whatever I have in the fridge. It might be leeks and carrots one night. Fennel, onion, and carrots another night. Make the mirepoix sweat! Before you add any liquids to the pot, cook the mirepoix at a low heat until it begins to soften but not brown. It softens their texture and blends their flavors. Mirpoix au gras includes fat, maybe chopped bacon or pancetta. Bacon makes everything better, right?!

Flavorful Fluids are also key. Since soups are a majority liquid, make sure you’re using something that tastes delicious! Use homemade stock, if you can. If not, many butchers and delis sell stock or bone broth. If you must purchase broth at the store, try to buy it in tetras versus cans; you can avoid the metallic taste that way.

Mix it up! While soups gain depth of flavor through long simmering, hit them with something fresh to shake up the tastebuds. I usually sprinkle in handfuls of fresh herbs – or even the green off my carrot bunch. A splash of fresh citrus juice brightens up the pot. Or a dollop of fresh sour cream can turn a soup from satisfying to sublime.

One of my favorite soups…

Winter Root and Barley Soup

 

I know lots of people use garlic and onions together. I still hear Maria’s voice in my head in my head: Non cucinare con la cipolla e l’aglio insieme. (Don’t cook with onions and garlic together.) Maria is the Italian woman who taught me to cook in Rome. I almost never break her rule.

  •  1 bunch carrots, with tops
  • 2 C barley
  • 12 C organic chicken broth
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 5 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 1T fennel pollen
  • 1/2 C fennel fronds, roughly chopped
  • 3 T sambuca

Slice the carrots into coins. Wash the carrot tops carefully and chop them finely. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and add the carrots, onions, celery and fennel. Saute until tender. Add in the barley, the broth, and the parmesan rind. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until the grains are almost tender. Add the chopped greens, sambuca, and the fennel pollen. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until done.

Locate the parmesan rind and scoop it out. 

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Halloween is here! And while we’re all dressing up, seeking treats, and carving pumpkins, let’s remember Halloween’s Gaelic Roots. Instead of the commercialism, Halloween – as Samhain – used to be a post-harvest festival. So, while you’re roasting those pumpkin seeds from your jack o’lanterns, give thanks to Fogline Farm for all the fruits and vegetables we’ve enjoyed so far this year. I know we’ll be doing that!

The contents for today’s boxes are listed below. Bear in mind that there may be some variation in the boxes…but, rest assured, whatever is in your box will be fresh, organically-grown, and delicious!

Fruits and Veggies: peppers, lettuce, carrots, beets, leeks, potatoes, winter squash, sage, parsley, cilantro, radish, kale and some other surprises

Goods: two pounds of organic, hand sorted beans from Coke Farms - Gila River Beans and Blue Coco beans

And here are a few suggestions of what you might do with your farm-fresh goodies and goods… [Click on the title to go to the recipe post.]

Salt’N’Pepper Kale Chips

Wild Sage Bread

Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

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These days Halloween is a holiday for costumed kiddos to take to the streets asking for candy and treats. Spooky tales are told around fires, scary movies titles are featured on theatre marquees, and pumpkins are expertly, or not, transformed into jack-o’-lanterns.

The origins of Halloween are often overshadowed by more colorful, sexier commercialism. Don’t get me wrong – my kids carve pumpkins, dress up, and trick-or-treat, too. But I am careful to acknowledge that Halloween is much more than that. Halloween, in fact, has a rich and fascinating history.

Halloween’s roots can be traced back – about 2,000 years ago – to a Gaelic festival called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), which means “summer’s end” in Gaelic. Samhain was celebrated on, or around, October 31st. Because ancient records are spotty, the exact nature of Samhain is not fully understood, but we do know that it was an annual communal meeting at the end of the harvest season, a time to squirrel away resources for the winter months. Additionally there were supernatural and ritualistic aspects to the pagan festival.

So while we dress up and celebrate like everyone else, we also offer homage to Halloween’s Gaelic roots. We silently – or overtly – thank everyone whose harvests have fed us throughout the year!

 

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It’s almost Halloween! For us that means costume prep goes into overdrive – thanks to my husband and my mom because, as my boys say, I’m “not that handy” -, we pick apples, and I descend into pumpkin madness.

Funny story: my 9-year-old has a pet pumpkin. He got it at a market at the beginning of the month and it sleeps on his pillow and watches him do his homework. One day I jokingly threatened to cook his pumpkin. I was joking, but Dylan was not amused. So, needless to say…when I served this dinner, the first thing he did was run to his room to make sure that his pumpkin hadn’t been a casualty of my pumpkin massacre. Then he announced, “Pumpkin is not coming to the dinner table tonight because I don’t want him to see me eating his friends.” Fine by me.

Somewhere along my pumpkin travels, I saw meatloaf-stuffed mini pumpkins. Maybe I was in the checkout line at the grocery store. Maybe it was in a cookbook. But it definitely wasn’t pinned to any of my Pinterest boards, so I decided to wing it. How hard could it be? Turns out…it was a piece of cake…and the perfect dinner for a busy school night. You can use your regular meatloaf recipe.

 Serves 6

  • 6 mini pumpkins
  • 1 lb ground meat (I used turkey)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 C ground almonds
  • 1/2 C shredded cheese (I used mozzarella)
  • 1/2 C raisins
  • 1/2 t curry powder

  • dash of ground cardamom
  • dash of ground coriander
  • dash of smoked paprika
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil

 Cut open and clean out your pumpkins. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

 In a large mixing bowl, blend together the meat, egg, leek, ground almonds, and spices. Mix well. Add in the raisins and cheese. And mix again.

 Stuff the pumpkins with the meat mixture, taking care to press the meat all the way into the pumpkin so that there are no air pockets. 

 

Place the pumpkins back on the baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil.

 Bake for 50-55 minutes. Your pumpkins should be soft to the touch, i.e., squeezable, and the meat nicely browned on the top.

 Serve hot with some greens on the side. I served these with some just wilted spinach from Fogline Farm in our CSA box this week. 

 Hope you’re enjoying pumpkin season.

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A few months ago Bob Kirkland invited me to visit Monterey Bay Salt Company‘s salt house at The Carmel Valley Ranch…to see how he harvests salt from the waters of our Bay.

To extract the salt, he heads out about a mile into the deeper waters of the Bay. Using a deep siphon, he draws water from a hundred feet down in the water column, where the water is pure and fresh.

Water is placed into troughs in the salt houses where the sea water evaporates naturally from the heat of the sun and the drying effects of the wind blowing through the structures. As water begins to evaporate the salt begins to take shape. Over a period of time, salt crystals float on the pool surface.

The first salt formed is a flaky, flat Fleur de Sel.

Once the Fleur de Sel is harvested, the remaining salt drops to the bottom of the pool. The heavier crystals form uniquely shaped cubes. And the different colors of the salt are due to the mineral traces in the sea water.

Bob offers many different salt-spice blends many of which are available for purchase at EcoCarmel, one of our CSA pick-up locations! He has a unique Coffee Salt that I enjoy rubbing on beef just before grilling. But I recently became enamored with his California Sunshine Citrus Blend, an alluring mixture of orange, lemon, lime zest with rose hips, black pepper and hibiscus flowers. For any purists out there, stick with the original sea salt. 

Whatever you choose, this salt is completely unprocessed, is locally sourced, contains no additives, and has virtually no carbon footprint. It’s truly the salt of the earth…the bounty of our bay. And it’s fantastic!