Hey, what happened to week 5?
We apologize to everyone that we did not get a post out last week, particularly since some of you didn't know what those round yellow things were that showed up in your basket last week. Yes, they were golden beets, of the Touchstone Gold variety, one of our favorites out here on the farm. Suffice it to say that our internet connection went down in a manner completely typical of living in the forest: a log truck took out some overhead wires, and the resultant power surge blew out all the fiber optic modems in a wide area around us. It took our provider a week to replace them all, and somehow we ended up last on the list to get our service back. We are grateful to be back in communication, however, which leads us to:
Hey, what are these alien things in my CSA basket?
Well, the bright yellow things that look like a flying saucer from the planet Amarillo are patty pan summer squash. For those of you who have not cooked with these before, these are exactly the same genus as zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, and you can use them in exactly the same way: slice them into a vegetable casserole; grate them for use in bread or as fritters or pancakes, or simply cut them up and put them on a veggie tray with your favorite dip. They are also perfect for stuffing: cut off the stem end, scoop out the meat to within about a half inch of the skin, mix the meat with anything you want (bread crumbs or croutons, other grated vegetables, any kind of cheese, even cooked sausage, with an egg as binder), and stuff it back into the shell. Bake at 350 degrees until everything is heated through and the shells are soft and saggy, and you've got an easy side dish or even an entrée.
The long red things are, of course, rhubarb. This is one my favorite vegetables masquerading as fruit. If you haven't cooked with rhubarb before, I think you're in for a treat. Again, this is a very simple process: chop the rhubarb into one-inch chunks and place them in a small saucepan with just a little bit of water. Add sugar or other sweetener and cook the mixture on low until the chunks are soft. Taste and adjust for sweetness. You can use this compote as you would any other fruit sauce: on pancakes or ice cream, on your breakfast cereal, or with pound cake and whipped cream. Or, look up "Rhubarb Fool" on the internet; it's a parfait made with yogurt and whipped cream. One word of advice: if, when you are chopping the rhubarb, the skin seems to be stringy like tough celery, peel that outer layer of skin. You can do it with your fingernail, but a sharp paring knife works as well.
You can also make pickled rhubarb almost as quickly and easily:
1 bunch rhubarb stalks, trimmed to fit 2 8-ounce or 1 pint resealable jar
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
Tightly arrange the trimmed rhubarb stalks upright in the jars. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Boil for one minute. Pour the vinegar-water mixture over the rhubarb, leaving a half-inch headspace at the top of the jars. Seal the jars and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
You can add spices of your choice to the pickling liquid; cinnamon, star anise, mustard seeds and allspice all have their fans. Just remember to take the more potent flavorings (like star anise) out of the liquid before you store the jars, or you'll end up with flavors that mask the rhubarb rather than enhance it. These pickles are great with cheeses and pate; or they make a great garnish for cocktails, especially ones made with floral liqueurs. When you're finished with the pickles, use the pickle juice in your cocktails, topped with club soda.
Rounding out the baskets this week are Bergam's Green leaf lettuce and some lovely white salad onions. As you can tell, these onions are extremely fresh, with no outer skin--they have not been "cured." This means they need to be used quickly and should probably be refrigerated until you are ready to use them. We think they would be great minced into the stuffing of your Patty Pan squash.
And finally, about egg cartons:
Thank you so much for returning your egg cartons along with your baskets. We truly appreciate the reuse and recycling opportunities, and we are planning on expanding our flock of chickens greatly so that more of you can take part in the egg shares next year. However, we have received many more egg cartons with other companies' logos and trademarks than we can use right now, so please, return only the plain, non-printed egg cartons that we use to send the eggs to you. We'll use what you've sent us so far for refrigerated storage, with gratitude. And now, it's time to load up the truck and get your baskets of alien veggies to you.
Be Well. Eat Well.