Week 13

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Hi everyone! Welcome to lucky Week 13! It’s been a busy week already, and the fields are just bursting with great things to eat! We are finally getting some much-needed rain, and the plants are loving it. Much of Minnesota and Wisconsin are once again experiencing drought, and while we are fortunate enough to be able to irrigate, it’s so much nicer if it can happen from above. As you would expect, farmers are a bit obsessed with the weather, and a good weatherperson is worth their weight in gold. One of the most interesting weathermen I’ve ever run across is the Twin Cities’ own Paul Huttner of Minnesota Public Radio. He maintains a wonderful weather blog called the Updraft, and has recently addressed what he refers to as the”flash drought”. It seems that MPR’s listening area is experiencing the fastest-growing drought in the nation. He also writes a good deal about “weather whiplash”, which our region has been the leader of for the year 2013. We’ve all noticed these swings in the weather this year, but thanks to people like Paul we can learn more about why they happen.

We just enjoyed our 2013 Member Party at the farm. We had a great crowd of people, pretty good weather, and lots of fun grilling pizzas, eating, touring the farm and getting to know each other more. It was so much fun for Brandon and I to meet people, exchange recipes, and hear what you’ve been enjoying about the season. Below is a recipe for the pizza dough if anyone is inspired to grill pizzas at home this week. I know we will! Thanks so much to everyone that attended, everyone that brought great food and drink, and everyone that helped us get ready and stay ready. What a true community event! Here’s some photos of the festivities:

photoBrandon and Freya working hard on maps and posters
 
IMG_2299It turns out that our friend and member Emily Johnson is not only a talented jeweler but a master pizza chef, too!
 
 
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The crowd enjoying the day
 
 
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Sliced heirloom tomatoes-one of the many toppings
 
 
IMG_2301More goodies for the pizzas

We’ve got a great assortment of melons in the field, as usual, and we thought we’d give you a photo highlighting some of the loveliest. As Brandon mentioned on the farm tour, and in previous posts, while the melons are suffering greatly at the hands of poor soil fertility, we have high hopes that everybody will enjoy some throughout the season.

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Top row, l to r: Snow Leopard, Diplomat, Cream of  Saskatchewan Watermelon
Middle row, l to r: Sensation, Blacktail Mountain Watermelon, Ha’ogen
Bottom row, l to r: Petite Yellow Watermelon, Tigger, Boule D’Or

What’s in the box this week?

Beets
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Sweet/Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers
Onions
Oregano
Tomatoes
Kale
Melons (medium shares)
Zucchini/Summer Squash
Radishes-French Breakfast (medium and full shares)
Ancho Peppers (full shares)
Cauliflower-Purple of Sicily (full shares)
 

Beets- these giant red beauties are what we’ve been waiting for. The first succession of beets was ok, but these guys are big and meaty! Beet greens can be eaten, too. Try them sauteed with garlic, hot pepper flakes, and olive oil.

Sweet/Bell Peppers-we’ve used an assortment this week. The really large red and green beasts are an Italian variety called Giant Marconi. We harvested Chocolate Sweet, which is about palm sized and truly chocolate brown, Jimmy Nardello’s, which is a charming squiggly bright red pepper, and Corno di Toro, another Italian heirloom variety, this time in yellow.

Hot Peppers-The hot pepper for the week is the Fish Pepper. Here’s what it looks like:

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The plant has stunning variegated foliage, and often the peppers are green and white striped, too. Originally brought to the US by slaves from Africa, it is now a significant pepper in the cookery of seafood around Baltimore. Said to have been revived in the 1940s through the Seed Savers Exchange program, this pepper is about as hot as a cayenne, and can be eaten fresh or dried and ground up.

Oregano-Everyone is getting this pungent little herb in their box this week. A little goes a long way, so taste foods as you add the oregano, but it’s long been a staple of Italian-American and Mediterranean cuisines.

Ancho Poblano Peppers-Full shares get a treat this week: Ancho Poblano peppers. Called Poblano when consumed fresh, and ancho once dried, these peppers are a staple of Tex-Mex and Southern cuisines. I love to make them into enchilada sauce, roast and puree them to add to soups, or, best of all, stuffed with cheese and beans! Ole!

Cauliflower-Full shares also get a gorgeous cauliflower variety, Purple of Sicily. This is the first year we’ve grown it, and while it started heading up several weeks too early, it is stunning and delicious. We steamed some last night and the purple color remained.

Recipes

Member Party Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water

2 tsp. active dry yeast

pinch sugar

2 T. olive oil

21/2 – 3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Pour the warm water into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast and sugar in. Stir well to combine, then let proof until foamy, about 5-10 minutes. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix 1 cup of the flour with all of the salt. Add the yeast/water/sugar mixture. Blend to combine. Add the olive oil, and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the rest of the flour until a dough is formed that just cleans the sides of the bowl. Change to the dough hook and knead on medium for about 3 minutes, adding flour a tablespoon at a time only as needed to prevent sticking. Remove dough to a lightly greased container and let rise until doubled. Punch down, cut into desired sizes, and roll into balls. Either freeze at this point for future use or let rise once more before rolling out to desired thickness. If grilling, pre-grill both sides before placing toppings, then return to grill to melt the cheese and heat the toppings.

Eggplant Salsa with Basil

Our friend Ingrid made this for the pizza party and thankfully she gave us the leftovers. We can’t stop eating it! It just so happens to go fantastically with the grilled bread for the pizzas…

adapted from Alexandria’s Kitchen

1 large globe eggplant or 2 medium eggplant
1 small red onion
balsamic or red wine vinegar (I love white balsamic, but I was out and so used red wine vinegar)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped basil, parsley, cilantro, etc*
kosher salt or a nice sea salt like Maldon and freshly ground pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil to taste

*I used basil because I had some on hand, but feel free to use whatever herb you like best. The spread tastes incredibly delicious without any herbs, too, so don’t worry if you find yourself without any.

1. Preheat a grill to high. Alternatively, place a cast iron skillet into your oven and heat oven to 500ºF.

2. Place eggplant directly on the grill. (Do not oil or salt and pepper). If you are using your oven, place eggplant into heated cast iron skillet (again, without oil or seasonings). The large eggplants will take about 20 minutes on the grill and in the oven — cook 10 minutes a side. The medium eggplants will take about 10-15 minutes total. The key is to be patient. If you really let the outside char, peeling will be easy. Remove from the grill and let cool completely before peeling. If the eggplant seem really watery — the larger ones tend to give off more liquid — let them drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, peel and dice the red onion very fine. Let them macerate for at least 10 minutes in about 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. (I let them macerate the whole time the eggplant was cooking.) Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the onions and vinegar. When the eggplant is finished cooking, cooling, and being peeled, place it in a bowl and sprinkle it with salt and pepper to taste. Mash it all together with a fork.

4. Add half of the macerated onions and garlic to the eggplant mash. Add in the chopped herbs and a drizzling of olive oil. Mix and then taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary with more salt, pepper and onions. Serve with grilled bread.

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