Farm Newsletter

Week #17, Sept 13, 2018

Farm News

This was a nice week.  Sunny and mild, it was just what we needed.  To follow up last week’s newsletter, no one quit, not even Steve.  We thought about it during the incessant rain.  

This has been a productive week.  Too many jobs were impossible during the rain and we haven’t put a tractor in the fields for weeks.  We were all quite motivated once the weather cleared.  Steve, Raul and Roger focussed on field work, cultivating, mowing and even doing some tillage.  The first winter squash are harvested and curing for next week’s boxes.  The winter squash crop is my baby so the early harvest makes me happy.     Beth


Maggie and Charlotte pick dill bunches.  Maggie puts dill flower bouquets on her kids’ nightstands, to sooth nightmares and help them sleep.


We are still harvesting good plum tomatoes from one variety in a field that was otherwise overwhelmed by rain.  See the pail tilted at top?


The crew broadcasts music from their phones with this “speaker pail.”  This is low-tech but it works!


Collard greens glowing in the sun.

Let’s talk Romano beans.

Romano beans are more robust and meaty than green beans.  They are excellent raw but really shine when gently cooked for a long time.  Pat and Lauren both have good recipes below.  I notice that most people who love Romano beans are dedicated to a particular recipe.  There’s overlap between these recipes, but here goes:
– Lauren asked me to remind you about last year’s African Peanut Stew recipe, which is easily adapted for this week’s veggies.  It’s an excellent recipe for this time of year.  
– Former Tipi crew member Jon Fagan raves about Braised Green Beans with Tomato and Fennel Seeds (in previous newsletter, scroll down).
– My favorite Romano bean recipe (which I recommend every year but also look forward to every year!) is Sausages and Summer Beans with Tomatoes & Caramelized Onions.  
– Finally, here’s a 2017 quote from Tipi member Steve Rankin:

“You have finally sold me. I have never been a fan of Romano beans.  This week I have been sautéing them with various peppers and garlic, as well as the oregano from earlier this season.  They are especially tasty with Poblanos.  Lots of black pepper and some soy sauce, which make the pan sticky. I deglaze the pan with wine and braise them in the wine. I’m sold!”

Some of you might have poblanos from last week.  Otherwise this week’s shishitos will be a good addition to Steve R’s approach.  Beth.

Everything I know about shishito peppers

This is our first year growing shishito peppers.  Look for a handful of shishitos in your bag of beans, where they are easy to find and recognize.  I hesitate to spend a lot of time on such a small amount of food but these are new and interesting.  We’ll send them again in a few weeks.  You will receive green and/or red ones.  Some of the most tasty ones are the soft, full-ripe red ones.  They get leathery but are delicious.  There are reports online that a low percentage of shishitos will be spicy.  We have not encountered that yet.  Here’s the lowdown from Johnny’s Seeds:

“Heavily wrinkled fruits are thin walled, mild (no heat) when green and slightly sweet when red.  Popular in Japan where its thin walls make it particularly suitable for tempura.  Also very good in stir fries or sautés.  In Asia, fruits are always cooked green but they also may be used red.  Thinly sliced, the red fruits are excellent in salads and coleslaw.”

Blistered shishitos.  If you search “shishito recipe,” almost all results are for blistered shishitos.  Here’s my version, courtesy of Lauren.  She puts blistered shishitos on hamburgers, I add them to grilled cheese sandwiches, and you can use them to top any dish.
1.  Cut the caps off your shishito peppers.  Trim the core with the tip of a paring knife.  Flick or shake out the seeds.
2.  Heat a little grapeseed oil in a skillet until it’s hot but not smoking.  Add peppers.  Cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally until they blister in a few places.  They don’t need to be blackened, just a few charred spots.  This is quick, about 3 – 6 minutes.  Don’t peel – they are too thin-walled.
Alternatively, you can grill them or put your cast iron skillet under the broiler.  


Everyone gets a handful.


I tried cooking intact shishitos versus ones that were capped and seeds removed.  I like the latter.  Then the peppers are ready to use once blistered.

Veggie List and Veggie Notes
Week #17, Sept 13/14, 2018
Weekly and green EOW shares

Red potatoes, ~3.5 lb
Romano beans, 1.4 lb
Collard greens, 1 bunch
Bell or frying pepper, 1 – 2
Shishito peppers, a handful
(in bag with Romano beans)
Plum tomatoes, 2.9 lb
Yellow onions
Dillweed & flowers, 1 bunch
– By site, you’ll get broccoli OR cauliflower OR eggplant.
– By site, you’ll get 1 zucchini OR 1 frying pepper or Oranos peppers.

Next week’s box will probably contain cabbage, winter squash, peppers, (cauliflower or broccoli or eggplant), peppers and more.

Red potatoes – These were grown by our friends Josh and Noah Engel of Driftless Organics, or as Steve says “the Engel boys.”  He knew them as kids when he farmed in the Driftless area and carpooled with the Engel family to Pleasant Ridge Waldorf school in Viroqua.  Now they are all grown up with families of their own and a thriving farm.

Collard greens – This is the first picking from a fresh field, so quality and texture are excellent.  Collards are as nutritious and versatile as their close relative, kale.  Use interchangeably in kale recipes.  Storage: Cover and refrigerate.

Plum tomatoes – This week’s plum tomatoes are good, better than the last few weeks.  These are from a sturdy variety called “Granadero”  which really shone this year.  It kept healthy leaves despite all the rain.  That’s how you get tasty tomatoes; you need healthy leaves to photosynthesize sugar and flavor in the tomatoes.

Dillweed – We’ve timed the dill for delivery with beans (e.g. for dilly beans) and the potatoes (e.g. for potato salad).  Both leaves and flowers can be used as an herb.  Storage: Refrigerate.  Wash and freeze if you don’t plan to use within one week.

CauliflowerStorage: Cover and refrigerate.  Should store for up to two weeks.

Romano beans – See above.

Shishito peppers – See above.

RECIPES

Visit our 2018 Recipe Log or our 2017 Recipe Log or join our Facebook discussion group.

LOCAL THYME/ Comforting Classics
Lemony Braised Romano Beans
Lemon Dill Grilled Chicken, Zucchini and Potato Salad
Old Fashioned Southern Braised Collard Greens
Cauliflower or Broccoli Strata

LOCAL THYME/ Outside the Box Recipes
Romano Bean, Potato and Meatball Stew
Red Potato and Sweet Pepper “Shmash”
Polpetonne Stuffed with Collard Green Pesto
Cauliflower “CousCous” with Dried Fruit and Almonds

LOCAL THYME/ Quick and Easy Meal
Pasta Puttanesca

RECIPES FROM LAUREN

CROCKPOT ROMANO BEAN STEW

6-8 hours + 20 minutes (almost entirely inactive after the initial 20 minutes of dicing)
Serves 6-8,

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
4 shishitos, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed
1 pound romano beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups diced tomatoes
15.5-ounce cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
7 cups water
1 cup shredded parmesan

  1. In a crockpot, combine all ingredients except parmesan. I added the ingredients in the order they are listed so that the onions had a little extra time to cook and caramelize before everything else.
  2. Cover crockpot and heat on high for 2 hours. Reduce to low and cook for 4-6 hours more (or overnight).
  3. Alternatively, if you don’t have a crockpot, you could make this by cooking the mixture in a Dutch oven in a 350 degree oven for 4 hours.
  4. Sprinkle with parmesan. And serve with extra buttery garlic bread crostini.

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COLLARD DETOX SALAD
Adapted from Well and Full
This is certainly the year of the grain salad. I’ve really fallen in love with roasting veggies, steaming veggies, and tossing them all together with a a bunch of greens, a bunch of grains and a yummy dressing. This recipe is inspired by a new favorite blogger. Her recipe is much smaller and uses a lot less greens, but I call for you to use your whole bunch of collard greens (and loved it!). That does mean a LOT of greens so feel free to start with less and see how you feel.  Lauren.

Takes 80 minutes (mostly inactive).
Serves 4 as a meal or more as a side.

3 lb red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
15.5-ounce can chickpeas or garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons olive oil + more to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup prepared pesto
1 bunch collards greens, stems removed and cut into a chiffonde
1 colored pepper, diced
3 cups cooked wild rice (or other favorite grain; the nuttier the better)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 avocados, optional
Toasted sesame seeds, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, onions, and chickpeas with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Lay out mixture on two large baking sheets and roast 55-60 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and crispy. Rotate a couple times to ensure even browning.
  2. When done, put potatoes back into the bowl you prepared them in and toss with pesto. Stir to combine. Add collards, pepper, wild rice, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings. The flavor will vary based on the pesto used. The pesto I used was homemade and honestly, a bit bland, so I added another drizzle or two of olive oil, a teaspoon of white wine vinegar (to brighten things up) and an additional teaspoon salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with avocado and sesame seeds.

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Week #16, September 6, 2018

It’s too wet.  That’s all we think about.  This isn’t news; you’ve experienced the endless rains too.  Honestly, this is a difficult moment for us.  Our crew is struggling with the rain, mud and mosquitos.  It’s hard to keep our spirits up.  

Some items in this week’s box have more water than usual and are more perishable as a result.  Keep an eye on your produce and be strategic about what you use first.  Everything we pack in the CSA boxes is in good shape, but some things might have a shorter shelf life.   Our summer crops are fading away.  We’ll continue to pick tomatoes as long as at the flavor is decent.  Peppers and zucchini remain productive and good quality, which we appreciate.  Lettuce, sweet corn, cucumbers are finished for the season, probably Swiss chard too.  This is probably the final melon.

We look forward to fall crops.  Carrots, greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and winter squash all look great, and will be productive if the weather turns dry.  We need some sun and wind.   The sweet potatoes remain a mystery until we start digging them.  We’ve got several bean plantings scheduled for harvest over the next month.

Farming means accepting the weather but how can we avoid reacting to it?  We’re pretty philosophical by this point in our farming careers but it hurts to watch lovely crops melt down in the rain.  We’ve had wet spells before but rarely for more than a month.  A series of wet months is different.  Our workers soldier on.  They are amazing.  Tuesday was a sunny day and we tried to store that energy before today’s rain.  Beth, Steve and the crew.


Ellen and Sena head back to the buildings.  The crew have kept their spirits up despite soaked clothes, soaked socks and predatory mosquitos.  We used our rain coats with mosquito nets on Monday.  Trust me, that’s a steamy combination.  I asked Steve “who do you think will quit today?”  He said “me.”

Veggie List and Veggie Notes
Week #16, Sept 6/7, 2018
– weekly shares
– purple EOW
– moon sampler

Carrots, 1.7 lb
Plum tomatoes, ~2 lb
Slicing tomatoes, ~2 lb
Muskmelon or red watermelon (by site)
Red frying peppers (or Oranos), 3 – 4
Bell pepper, 1 – 2, red, yellow, orange or purple
Green zucchini, 1 big or 2 small
Yellow onion, 1 or 2
Poblano chiles, 3
Garlic, 1 bulb
– Some sites get eggplant.
– Some sites get lettuce.

Next week’s box will probably contain Romano beans, red potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, some type of greens, and more.

Tomatoes – The tomatoes are hanging in there.  We have a few plum tomato varieties that are just ripening, so those are the best right now.  The beautiful orange plum tomatoes are finally ready en masse this week.  We will keep picking plum &/or slicing tomatoes until the flavor gets weak. As usual, we send a mix of fully ripe and slightly underripe tomatoes to ripen at room temperature.  Watch your tomatoes closely.  If spots develop, use quickly or refrigerate.

Melons – Everyone gets one large melon or two small ones.  We’ll distribute watermelons and muskmelons by site.  The watermelons will hold well.  Muskmelons are ripe and should be eaten in the next few days.

Green zucchini – These nice zucchini are from a new field, so quality is high again.  We’ve included some big ones but they are tender because picked from young, healthy plants.

Garlic – This is German Extra Hardy, a variety with big, fat cloves.  This variety grew well for us this year.  We’ll increase this type in our fall planting.

Lettuce – Wash well!  There’s lots of grit because of splashed soil.  These are small; we had to strip off a lot of outer leaves.  Think about cutting a little higher than usual above the base when you prep your lettuce, to avoid rusty spots on the lower stem.

Peppers:


You will receives some of these peppers.  I photographed more to help you identify the different types by shape, size and color.  
Clockwise from top left; 
Frying peppers (slender; red or yellow; SWEET) – These peppers are thin-walled with low moisture, which allows them to fry readily in hot oil.  Excellent raw or cooked.
Bell peppers (blocky; various colors; SWEET)  Bell peppers are thicker-walled and juicy, great for eating raw in salads or roasting on the grill.  Your bell pepper this week could be yellow, orange, red or purple.  Purple peppers taste like green bells.
Poblano chiles (triangular, shiny;  red or brown; MILDLY HOT) –  Poblanos are the creme de la creme of chiles.  They have lots of great flavor in combination with manageable heat.  Roast and add to soup or casseroles.  To reduce heat, remove the seeds and midveins.
Oranos (slender; orange or orange and green; SWEET) – These are snacking peppers, with excellent flavor and few seeds. 

RECIPES

Visit our 2018 Recipe Log or our 2017 Recipe Log or join our Facebook discussion group.

LOCAL THYME/ Comforting Classics
Garlicky Glazed Carrot
Pan Seared Chicken Breasts with Garlicky White Wine Reduction Sauce with Tomatoes
Nigel Slater’s Eggplant Tomato Curry
Peppers Piedmontese
LOCAL THYME/ Outside the Box Recipes
Indian Moong Dal with Carrot and Tomato
Quick Chopped Kalamata Tomato Relish Crostini 
Eggplant Falafel
Smoked Trout Salad with Peppers
LOCAL THYME/ Quick and Easy Meal
Poblanos Rajas Scramble

RECIPES FROM LAUREN

GRILLED CARROTS, STEAK & ONION WITH SMOKY FISH SAUCE
Recipe adapted slightly from Six Seasons
I had this at a potluck a few months ago and fell in love with Portland chef Joshua McFadden and his beautiful cookbook Six Season immediately. I think this is probably the fifth or sixth recipe I’ve adapted for you all from this cookbook so if you are loving these recipes, it’s really time you checked it out yourselves. Lauren.

Takes 1 hour.
Serves 4.

1 pound steak (skirt, tri-tip, rib-eye or other cut that’s tasty grilled)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds trimmed and peeled carrots, split lengthwise into quarters
1 large yellow onion, cut into fat slices
Olive oil
1 or 2 lime wedges

Smoky Fish Sauce:
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 poblanos seeded, de-ribbed and minced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Season the steak with 1 teaspoon salt and several twists of pepper then heat a gas grill to medium.
  2. Prepare your sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and stirring until sugar dissolves then adding 2 tablespoons water. Let sit on counter to marinate while you cook.
  3. Once preheated, arrange the carrots and onion slices on the grill. Cook, turning every couple minutes, until they are starting to soften and brown a bit (the carrots should be about as soft as a cooked beet, and the onions should be tender and juicy but not yet significantly charred), about 15 minutes.
  4. Increase the grill heat to medium-high, blot any moisture off the steak, and add it to the grill. Cook to medium-rare, 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on how thick it is. Leave the vegetables on while cooking the steaks but keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not charring too much. A few dark edges are nice, but take them off if they are getting more blackened than that.
  5. Take everything off the grill. Let the steak rest as you cut the carrots at an angle into long slices and cut the onion rings in half; they will likely fall apart at this point.
  6. After the steak has rested for at least five minutes, cut it across the grain into thin strips. Place the steak, carrots and onions into a large bowl and pour on 1/2 cup of the spicy fish sauce (the batch makes more like 2 cups; save the remaining to drizzle over grilled meats, to marinate some chicken, or to use as a dressing for roasted vegetables (particularly poatoes). Also add any steak juices that have accumulated on the resting plate or cutting board to the bowl. Toss, taste, and add more sauce if you need for the flavors to be bright and flavorful.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil, a bit more salt and pepper, and a few squirts from the lime before serving.

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VEGETARIAN STUFFED PEPPERS
Takes 1 hour, 30 minutes (only 30 minutes active).
Serves 4-6.

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 orano pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 eggplant (if you got one), cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 can black beans
4 red frying peppers, cut in half, seeds and ribs removed
1 bell pepper, cut in half, seeds and ribs removed
1-2 avocados, optional
Sour cream, optional
Hot sauce, optional
Fresh lime juice, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, salt and pepper and cook until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add pepper, zucchini and eggplant (if using) and saute 10 minutes longer. Finally, add garlic and saute until that is fragrant (about 5 minutes more). Stir in tomatoes and spices followed by quinoa and beans. Cook for 5-10 minutes until tomatoes aren’t too liquidy.
  3. Stuff each pepper half with quinoa mixture. They will likely be heaping. Place peppers with room between them in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Pour a few tablespoons of water into the pan to help steam the peppers. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more until peppers are soft and lightly browned.
  4. Serve warm with sliced avocado, sour cream, hot sauce, and/or lime juice.

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Week #15, August 30/31, 2018


Steve and I picked melons together today, something we do a few times each season and the traditional way to celebrate one’s 20th anniversary.  What??  Not everyone celebrates this way?  I’m pretty sure 20 years is the “melon anniversary.”  “Paper anniversary” for the first year, cotton for the second, etc.  We look forward to celebrating our 25th “red pepper” anniversary.  Honestly, china and silver are overrated.

It was crazy to get married in late August; we neglect every anniversary.  We planned our wedding for August to gather our families in Wisconsin during the summer.  It worked well, with a lovely wedding and reception at Folklore Village in Dodgeville.  What a beautiful place.  The reception was potluck and all our friends brought their best cooking.  August was great for the wedding, but now we tend to work right through our anniversary each year.  Steve and I will go out to dinner this weekend to celebrate properly, and will be sure to order melon salad.  Beth

Farm News and Tomato Update


From our fenceline, this is the view past our neighbor’s prairie and down to the Evansville wildlife area.

Rain continues for us, but not as torrential as last week. We got a mere 1.5 inches this week. Our farm gets wet and muddy but doesn’t flood. There’s good drainage into the broad wildlife area at the northern edge of our farm.  We hope you are all faring OK.  We watch the flood maps in Madison and across Wisconsin and hope for the best for our friends and CSA members.

This week’s tomatoes are better than last week because of lighter rain.  We offered extra slicing tomatoes for sale this week.  Our first priority is always to fill the CSA boxes.  Once we have 4 or 5 pounds picked for each CSA box, then we can sell extra tomatoes to members.  We might have extra plum tomatoes to sell next week.  Those are in good shape.  Watch for emails from us next Tuesday/Wednesday (Thursday sites) or Wednesday/Thursday (Friday sites).

We are not going to host a tomato upick this summer.  First, we need to conserve the tomatoes for the CSA boxes.  Second, they are a difficult pick this year.  Leave this harvest to the professionals.  We’ll try again next season.

Veggie List and Veggie Notes
Week #15, Aug 30/31, 2018
– weekly shares
– green EOW

It’s a salsa box!

Sweet corn, 9 – 10 ears
Watermelon, red (most sites) or yellow (2 sites)
Slicing tomatoes, ~5 lb
Romaine lettuce, 1 medium
Colored bell peppers, 2
Red frying OR Oranos peppers, 2
Zucchini/ squash, 1 small (most sites)
Red onions, 1 or 2
Jalapeno chile (HOT), 1
Cilantro, 1 bunch
Garlic, 1 bulb

Next week’s box will probably contain tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, carrots, onions, Romano beans, and more.

Sweet corn – This Steve’s favorite variety again, “Vision.”  Most ears have worms at the tip, following a big moth migration.  When corn is likely to have worms, I just cut the tips off the ears before husking.  It makes handling the corn more pleasant.
Watermelon – Most sites get a small red watermelon, a variety called “Dark Belle,” bred to produce personal-sized melons.  This is a great size for CSA when the boxes are so full.  One or two sites get a yellow watermelon instead.
Garlic – The first garlic!

RECIPES

Visit our 2018 Recipe Log or our 2017 Recipe Log or join our Facebook discussion group.

LOCAL THYME/ Comforting Classics
Simmered Tomato and Jalapeño Salsa
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
Refried Bean and Corn Enchiladas
Tomato, Ham, Cheese Omelette

LOCAL THYME/ Outside the Box Recipes
Spiced Shrimp with Corn Cakes
Watermelon, Corn and Black Bean Salsa
Snapper Veracruz
North African Roasted Vegetable Salad

LOCAL THYME/ Quick and Easy Meal
BLT

Recipes from Lauren

GRILLED VEGETABLES WITH SWEET CORN POLENTA
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a side.
Takes 30 minutes.

1 red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wide slices
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black peppers
3 red peppers (a mix of fryers and bells is fine)
2-3 tomatoes, cored and diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup cornmeal
2-3 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional

  1. Preheat your grill to medium high heat. Alternatively, if you don’t have a grill, preheat the broiler of your oven.
  2. In a medium bowl combine onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine. Place on preheated grill. Also place whole peppers on grill (no oil or seasoning necessary). Grill for 15-20 minutes until onions are charred on both sides and peppers are blackened on all sides. The onions may get done first but probably just 4-5 minutes before.
  3. Meanwhile, get your polenta going. You can easily walk away from your grilling veggies for 5 minute intervals to do this inside, but if you have a burner on your grill, by all means use that to make the polenta!
  4. Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat. Add garlic, jalapeno and remaining salt. Cook until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes then add milk and water. Turn burner to medium high and continue cooking mixture until it just begins to get foamy. (This should take about five minutes. Watch the pot carefully at this time since once it gets foamy, the mixture quickly rises to the top of the pan). Remove the pan from the burner and turn it to medium low. Slowly add the polenta to your pot, stirring with a metal whisk as you go. Return to burner and cook for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add corn and cook 5 minutes longer.
  5. Remove grilled onions to the same bowl you prepped them in. Add peppers once charred and cover bowl with a plate for 5 minutes. Remove skins from peppers followed by tops and sides. Roughly chop the peppers and return to bowl. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, maple syrup and vinegar. Toss to coat.
  6. Serve polenta warm with diced tomatoes, and grilled veggies. Sprinkle with cilantro if using. Taste and adjust flavors as desired. I added a little more balsamic and salt.

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TOMATO PIE
Takes 2 hours (a little more if making the crust from scratch)
Serves 4-6

1 batch favorite store-bough pie crust (or make your own; my favorite tomato pie crust is here)
4-5 pounds tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 cups shredded havarti (or other favorite cheese to pair with tomato; something simple like cheddar or swiss would work just fine)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 pieces cooked, thick-cut bacon

1.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2.  If making your crust from scratch, get this going first so it has plenty of time to chill in the freezer. If not, hop to step 3.
3.  Core and cut tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Lay tomato slices on two large baking sheets so that they overlap slightly but are mostly in a single layer. This may take four pounds of tomatoes or it may take five depending on how thick your slices are. Drizzle with olive oil (probably a tablespoon or two for both pans) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 45 minutes until the tomatoes look dehydrated and most of the liquid has evaporated.
4. Then, work on preparing your filling. In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute for five minutes until softened. Add garlic and continue cooking for 20 minutes until onions are beginning to caramelize.
5.  In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, havarti, parmesan, thyme and bacon. Stir until smooth. Once onions are done cooking, add those to the mix. Stir to combine.
6.  By now your tomatoes should be done cooking. Remove them from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Roll out the crust and place in a 9 or 10-inch pie pan. Place aluminum foil and pie weights (or rice or dried beans) inside and bake for 15 minutes.
7.  Remove crust from oven. Pour onion mixture over the bottom. Add sliced roasted tomatoes and bake for 45- 55 minutes until the crust is golden. Let cool at least 5 minutes before devouring.
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Week #14, August 20/21, 2018

Weather report

Occasionally, I ask Steve what information he’d like to share in the newsletter. Without fail, he says “the heat wave,” “how wet it is,” or “what a windy week.”  Weather is a big deal for any farm.  I stopped writing about weather in the newsletter after a few years when it became monotonous.  Also, I try to obsess less about the weather than Steve does.  This week is different because of the intense rain on Monday.

We are fine and the farm is fine.  Thank you to everyone who expressed concern.  We were lucky (!) to get just 3 inches, combined with Friday’s rain for a total of 6 inches.  That left our fields muddy but undamaged.  We are usually grumpy about 6″ but that’s nothing compared to the 11″ and 15 ” that fell in Middleton and Cross Plains respectively.  The news footage was terrible.  Tipi members in that area, we hope you are OK.  We’re hoping for the best for our farmer friends west of Madison too.  Word is still trickling in how everyone fared.

Heavy rain takes a toll.  Repeated rain takes a toll.  It’s worth discussing how this summer’s extended wet weather has affected the farm.  We’ve had wet spells before but this is a genuinely wet summer.  Too much rain has lasting effects.

Too much rain = weeds.  The fields are too wet to cultivate or hoe.  Our fall crops are getting so, so weedy.  Steve is anxious about recovering control of those fields.

Too much rain = disease.  Oh, the tomato plants are not happy.  In messages with farmer friends yesterday, everyone was sad about their tomato fields.  Leaf diseases are rampant.  Enjoy this week’s tomatoes because we don’t know how long we’ll have them.  Weather like this shortens a tomato season.  There’s not much we can do about it.  We really need the rain to stop before it causes trouble with our fall brassica crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, greens).  They look fine so far but wet weather causes problems as the nights get cooler in fall.

Too much rain = rot.  We harvested tomatoes a little underripe this week because the ripest fruits split.  We also picked bell peppers less ripe than usual.  If water sits in the sunken area of a pepper crown, there’s too much risk it will go bad.  It’s better to pick the pepper early.  Storage life can be shorter too because the fruits are fragile and loaded with water.  It’s not a disease problem, but some vegetables are less flavorful if they mature during wet weather.  Tomatoes in particular can taste watery and diluted.  They have their best, concentrated flavor under sunny, dry conditions.

What’s the upside?  What’s done well this season?  It has been a ridiculously productive summer for every crop in the cucurbit (squash) family.  That’s muskmelons, watermelons, cucumbers, zucchini, etc.  I was concerned about overwhelming you with cucumbers but kept sending them.  That’s the CSA deal, right?  When a crop thrives, we all share in the bounty.  We hope the winter squash and pumpkins do as well.  We’ll find out next month.  Beth

Irony


Our daughter worked at a Chocolate Shoppe ice cream shop this summer. (She also interned at Olbrich Gardens.)  Check out her work t-shirt.  That gave us such a laugh.

#2 Grade Red Peppers

I write about pepper grading every year.  Returning members can say “yeah, yeah” and skip ahead.  New members, please read.
Many of the red bell peppers we send in the CSA boxes will be our #2 grade.  We do this to avoid waste and to deliver good value to our CSA members.  The #2 grade peppers are excellent eating quality, but are not quite pretty enough to sell to stores.  As a result, we place a much lower value on these peppers.  This allows us to provide generous amounts of peppers over the course of the season.  We feel this is a good exchange, even if it means you occasionally open a pepper and find that it needs trimming.  Here are the reasons that peppers are downgraded from #1 grade to #2 grade:

  • They may have a minor blemish, or
  • They may have minor insect damage, or
  • They may be very ripe and beginning to wrinkle.  (These are especially sweet and delicious as they are fully ripe.  These cannot be sold to stores because their shelf life is short.  You will find that the texture is less crisp than a #1 grade pepper, but the flavor more than makes up for it.)
  • They might be partially red and partially green.
  • Others are just too small.

The eating quality is fine (or excellent) for all these #2 peppers.  We throw away ALL peppers that we suspect have rot inside (although one may occasionally slip through in either #1 or #2 grade.) 

This week’s peppers


This week’s peppers are a mix of #1 and #2 grade.  Everyone receives some of the sweet peppers above, for a total about four peppers.  
Frying peppers are thin-walled with low moisture, which allows them to fry readily in hot oil.  They are so fragrant!  Identify this week’s frying peppers by their slender shape and color (red or yellow).
Oranos are sweet snacking peppers.  They resemble frying peppers but don’t fry as well.  If you get an Orano, just eat it as a snack.  The flavor is excellent and they have few seeds.  All Oranos peppers are orange (or orange and green.)
Bell peppers are thicker-walled and juicy, great for eating raw in salads or roasting on the grill.  This week’s bells are mostly red, but a few sites will get an orange or yellow bell.

Veggie List and Veggie Notes
Week #14, August 20/21, 2018
Weekly, purple EOW, sun SMP

Sweet corn, 9 – 10 ears
‘New Orchid’ orange watermelon
Tomatoes, plum, ~1.6 lb
Tomatoes, slicing, ~3.3 lb
Cucumber, 1
Silver Slicer cuke, 1
Colored bell peppers, 2
Frying peppers OR Orano, 2
Yellow onion, 1 or 2
Cilantro, 1 bunch

Next week’s box will probably contain melon, peppers, tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, garlic, an herb and more.

Sweet corn – This week’s variety is ‘Fabulous.’ The seed breeders are not modest but they don’t need to be.  This is a very excellent corn variety.  We got a lot of positive feedback about last week’s corn. This batch is just as good, maybe better.

‘New Orchid’ watermelon – This is my (Beth) favorite type of watermelon, with beautiful sherbet orange color, great flavor and texture.

Tomatoes – OK, we’ve hit peak tomato season.  This week, more tomatoes than usual are slightly underripe; the ripest tomatoes split after the heavy rain.
Storage:  Store at room temperate on your kitchen counter.  Watch closely.  If soft spots develop, eat quickly.
Other storage: If there are more than you can use, just freeze the extras. We freeze plum tomatoes intact and whole. When it’s time to use them, we run the frozen tomatoes under tepid water and the skins slip right off.  This should work with slicers too.  It’s OK to cut up either type and freeze in a bag or container to save freezer space.

Yellow onion – This is the first storage onion of the season.  These have lower moisture than sweet Walla Wallas, so these will fry nicely.  Storage: please refrigerate this week’s onion to be sure it stays in good shape.

RECIPES

Visit our 2018 Recipe Log or our 2017 Recipe Log or join our Facebook discussion group.

LOCAL THYME/ Comforting Classics
Watermelon Cucumber Feta Skewers
Corn, Pepper and Tomato Flatbreads
Black Beans and Yellow Rice
Chicken Cacciatore

LOCAL THYME/ Outside the Box Recipes
Watermelon Vinaigrette
Mexican Corn Salad
Stuffed Pepper Soup
Tomato Salad with Lime and Herbs

LOCAL THYME/ Quick & Easy Meal
Quinoa Salad with Watermelon, Cucumber and Cilantro

RECIPES FROM LAUREN

SUMMER TIME PIZZA

Serves 2-4.
Takes 30 minutes (if using store-bought or already prepared dough; takes 90 minutes if making dough from scratch).

1 batch favorite pizza dough
1 large red bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta (or tomato sauce or pesto if you prefer)
2-3 tomatoes, cored and sliced
1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 ears corn, cooked however you find easiest (in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes, on the grill or in the microwave)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro

  1. If making your dough from scratch (and it isn’t already prepped) make that first and get it rising.
  2. Preheat the broiler of your oven to high. Place a small piece of parchment paper on your pizza pan. Add red pepper and roast under high heat of broiler for 10-12 minutes, rotating occasionally until all sides are blackened. (This can also be done on a grill if you are using it for some other reason).
  3. As soon as the peppers are done in the oven turn off the broiler and preheat the oven to 525 degrees (or as hot as the oven will go). Place your pizza pan in the oven immediately (even as it preheats).
  4. Let red pepper sit for 5 minutes outside of the oven and then peel off skin as best you can. Remove the seeds from the pepper and slice thinly.
  5. Roll out your risen pizza dough. Remove the pan from the oven and quickly drizzle with a tablespoon of oil. Add pizza dough. It hopefully will sizzle a bit. Using a spatula, spread ricotta over dough followed by tomatoes, peppers, onions and sweet corn. Add mozzarella then sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil and then place in hot oven. Bake for 10-13 minutes until crust begins to turn golden brown. If the cheese is nicely browned, perfect! If not, feel free to turn the broiler back on for just a couple minutes.
  6. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cilantro and more salt to taste.

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WATERMELON GAZPACHO
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

Serves 2-4.
Takes 25 minutes (excluding time to chill gazpacho).

4 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed
2 pounds tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 Silver Slicer, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1 red frying pepper, seeds removed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For serving:
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 ounces feta, crumbled
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 cup watermelon (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
1/2 silver slicer, seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
More olive oil
More Kosher salt
More freshly ground black pepper

  1. Puree watermelon, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, oil, and vinegar in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least 1 hours before serving.
  3. To prepare topping, combine feta, yogurt and milk in a small bowl. Whisk with a fork until combined. It won’t be smooth because of the feta; that’s how it should be so don’t stress.
  4. Serve chilled gazpacho with a dollop of feta mixture, some almonds, some cubed watermelon and cucumbers, a drizzle of olive oil and more salt and pepper.

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Week #13, August 16/17, 2018

Badger!


I looked up and found a curious badger watching me.  I was lucky to catch a video snippet.


The badger has taken up residence in our sand pit, near the place I found a badger living last year.  Apparently it’s a prime spot!  The sand pit walls are steep and sandy but stabilized by young trees growing at the rim.  The wooden boards in the photo cover a cubby that our son Ari dug as a secret hiding place years ago.  

This sand pit has been a wonderful place for our family.  It was dug when the previous owners sold sand for road construction.  Our kids spent countless hours digging in their own enormous sand box, hunting for fossils, sledding down the slopes or having bonfires with friends.  Steve still digs sand to fill farm potholes.

Over the years, it’s become wilder as the surrounding area grew up with shrubs and trees.  The kids don’t play there any more.  I’m the only visitor, there to tend prairie plants I’ve seeded on the walls.  Badgers, skunks, raccoons, deer and farm cats all visit the sand pit now.  (I have a trail camera.)  It’s been interesting to watch this develop on our small farm, especially because the pit is quite close to farm buildings.  

The facial markings for this year’s badger are different enough from last year’s resident that I think it’s a new visitor.  I suspect it has lived in the sand pit all summer, as I’ve seen extensive tunneling and characteristic prints.  I didn’t mention the tunnels to Steve.  One weekend, he spent hours hauling away sand by tractor.  The badger didn’t seem to care; it stayed in residence and as active as ever.

I doubt I’ll see this one again in person.  Last year’s sighting was prolonged.  The badger popped its head out to watch me for about 3 minutes.  I returned to look for it every day but never saw it again.  Our outdated trail camera captured a few blurry images but that’s all.  This year’s encounter was shorter.  I’ll return to look for it (from a distance!) but might not see it again.  It’s time for us to get a better trail camera,  Beth

Veggie List and Veggie Notes
Week #13, August 16/17, 2018
Weekly shares & green EOW

Sweet corn, ~9
Carrots, 2 lb
Muskmelon, 1
Tomatoes, plum, ~2.3 lb
Tomatoes, slicing, ~1.7 lb
Cucumbers, 2 – 3
Silver Slicer cukes, 2 or 4
Red bell &/or frying peppers, ~3
Walla Walla onion, 1 or 2
Basil, generous bunch
– A few sites get an eggplant or a handful of pickles.

Next week’s box will probably contain tomatoes, peppers, melon, cucumbers, an herb and more.

Sweet corn – This variety (named “Enchanted”) is new to us. Organically-raised sweet corn seed is rare so we were glad to try it. Unfortunately, too many husks strip off as we pick the corn. See photo. Handle it gently to avoid bruising since some ears have lost protective husks.


As we snapped off the stems, husks pulled away on some ears.  See the two ears on right.  We can’t leave the stems on or the corn doesn’t fit in the CSA boxes.  The ear on the left isn’t snapped properly and you can see how much longer it is.  We will not be growing this variety again.

RECIPES

Visit our 2018 Recipe Log or our 2017 Recipe Log or join our Facebook discussion group.

LOCAL THYME/ Comforting Classics
Orecchiette with Tomato Concasse
Prosciutto and Melon
Tomato, Cucumber and Corn Panzanella
Shrimp or Cashew Biriyani

LOCAL THYME/ Outside the Box Recipes
Basil Oil Marinated Caprese Salad
Orange Blossom Water Scented Melon with Basil
Sweet Corn and Basil Lasagna
Cinnamon Carrot Pie

LOCAL THYME/ Quick & Easy Meal
Black Bean, Shredded Carrot and Pepper Burrito

Recipes from Lauren

LOW-MAINTENANCE FREEZER LASAGNA
I know lasagna may not scream summer, but hear me out. I love making lasagna this time of year, when abundance can be overwhelming, for a lot of reasons. First, it is a really effective way to “deal with” several vegetables in one massive dish that will feed your family for several days. I think a hearty batch of lasagna can round out your week when most of what you are eating are hearty vegetable side dishes and loads of fresh delicious simple salads.
However, what I really recommend folks do is make this lasagna as a simple way to preserve the bounty inherent in August for later in the year. I love making this recipe and freezing it before the baking step (you can freeze in Pyrexes or those nice aluminum pans from the grocery store; either can go straight into the oven) and cooking it up any night I run short on time and don’t know what to make for dinner, or (even better) I wait until December when local veggies are less plentiful and I am really craving summer flavor.  Lauren.

Makes 6 hefty servings
Takes 1 hour, 50 minutes

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
8 ounces lasagna noodles
1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage (vegetarian? substitute 1-2 cups of cubed eggplant!)
1 onion, diced
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 red peppers, diced
1-2 pounds tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
16 ounces cottage cheese or ricotta
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups favorite pasta sauce (homemade is great; but the jarred stuff works too!)
3 to 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Ω cup Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (if baking lasagna right after assembling) and grease 9◊13 baking dish.
  2. Bring a large pot water to a boil on the stove top. Add 1 tablespoon Kosher salt. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
  3. Combine meat with onion, carrots, peppers and tomatoes in a large skillet. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until carrots get a little caramelized and meat is fully cooked.
  4. Mix cottage cheese (or ricotta), egg, remaining 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and dried herbs in a large bowl.
  5. Spread approximately one cup of sauce on the bottom of baking dish. Place a third of the noodles on top of the sauce. Add another cup of sauce followed by half of the meat mixture, half of the cottage cheese (or ricotta) mixture, and a third of the mozzarella. Top with another third noodles, another cup of sauce, and the rest of the meat mixture and cottage cheese mixture. Cover with another third of the mozzarella followed by the rest of the noodles and sauce. Top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. The lasagna can be refrigerated or frozen at this point. Let lasagna defrost in the refrigerator for a day prior to baking.
  6. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Increase baking time if lasagna is cold. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 5-10 minutes for top cheese to brown (or place under the broiler for a minute or two). Let stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

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TOMATO & CORN PANZANELLA
Adapted from Six Seasons
Honestly, the corn, tomatoes, Walla Wallas and cucumbers are perfect after the second step. These fresh veggies with a tough of vinegar, salt and pepper are a dream snack so feel free to stop right there.  But if you’re feeling a little fancier go a bit further and follow the recipe for the torn croutons from Joshua McFadden’s great Six Seasons cookbook and add the toasted walnuts, Parmesan and basil! You’ll be thrilled either way.  Lauren.

Serves 4-6 as side or 2-3 as a meal
Takes 30 minutes if making the croutons, 15 minutes if not

4 ears corn, shucked
1-2 pounds tomatoes, the more shapes, sizes and colors the better, cored and sliced or cut into wedges (or some of both)
1/2 Walla Walla onion, thinly sliced
2 cucumbers or silver slicer, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
3 cups torn croutons (recipe below)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 handful basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. If making the torn croutons, also preheat your oven to 400 degrees at this time.
  2. Once water is boiling, add corn to pot and cook for 4 minutes. Once finished cooking, drain and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Using a knife, cut kernels of corn off ear.
  3. Place corn in a large bowl with tomatoes, onion and cucumber. Add vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss gently with a spatula to combine.
  4. Add walnuts, Parmesan and torn croutons and toss again. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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Torn Croutons
1/2 loaf favorite fancy bread (6-8 ounces), I used Pepitas Polenta from Madison Sourdough
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Tear loaf into bite-size pieces. The pieces can and should be uneven to allow for different amounts of soft and crispy pieces. Add pieces to a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes until crispy on the edges but not cooked all the way through.
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