Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week Sixteen: Autumn Harvest

It's officially here. The equinox has passed and now the days are getting shorter for sure. The days are still nice, but I can feel a chill from somewhere (or maybe that's just the A/C at work?), and the nights are getting downright cold. I don't feel bad about having pumpkin beer now - especially beer that was brewed with pumpkins from the farm! (I do wish that there had been a touch less cinnamon in this sugared rim, though... talk about major dry mouth!)
Watch City Brewery's Pie-Eyed Pumpkin Ale. More sugar on the rim, please!
We were treated to a stunning sunset last night at the farm... I'm bummed that they're getting sooner, but they're so darn pretty that they almost make up for the early arrival:
Hashtag no filter! (See how silly we are here)
We had a good time at the farm again this week. The raspberries, happily, are hanging in there, so while we haven't been collecting our allotted half-pint each week lately, we do take a stroll through the rows to pick what looks good. It's totally worth it for the few perfect berries we find. Back in the barn, we got more leeks, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and beets. 
Leeks, tomatoes, and peppers
I was happy to have the pick of my "regular" haul again, mostly for pickling. We got frying peppers and bell peppers, which I sliced up to have with the carrots. I really do miss the cucumbers... but I made do! I was rather disappointed in my previous batch of pickled goods, where I'd used radishes. They weren't quite as yummy as I'd hoped.
Lettuce and broccoli
We'd split the leeks last week, so we had a double repeat for dinner tonight: potato and beet cake with bacon and leek risotto. I used the stock I made from my roasted chicken for the risotto - delicious! It's really cool to see what I can make with just the local veg - we're considering joining a meat share this winter, so that would be an interesting next step!
Both kinds of peppers, broccoli, and the ends of my carrots
I didn't realize until I started scrubbing my beets tonight that only one of them was a standard "stain everything the juice touches bright red-purple" beet - I had two pink and a golden, too! It's really hard to tell when they're dirty, in my defense... like I care. And so I leave you with these pictures of beet-and-potato cake in the making.
Psychedelic beets!
It's ok if you question the sanity of the food processor in the sink.
I've had a bad experience with splattering, so I opted to try and save my clothes...
They're like an art project.

Shredded potatoes. This took approximately four seconds.

Rainbow beet shards!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week Fifteen: The Cold Begins!

The weather continues to be all confused: nights in the high 30s/low 40s and days that just seem to do whatever… yesterday (Tuesday) was 64 and today is in the low 70s. Friday may hit the near-80s. I guess it’s time to take the A/C out of the window and relocate it to the attic! I've got some grand plans for this week, including roasting a chicken for dinner tonight (with local veg, of course!), making stock and at least one kind of soup, and freezing some stuff for later. A small offshoot of the freezing task is to assess and organize what’s already in the freezer… how fun! Must be the onset of fall putting me into hibernation mode – I just wish I had more sunlight to work with ;)  
Good time to break out this candle!
This week at the farm was pretty chilly, but the harvest is still going strong. I picked up some leeks, scallions, potatoes, kale, and celery – the lightest bag I've had since June! We've definitely turned the corner back into “leafy things”. Aly got tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, peppers, and broccoli. I almost got some kohlrabi (it looks like a purple alien turnip thing – and we had no idea what to do with it), but then the scallions came out so I scrapped that. We took a short trip through the fields to grab some dill and snack on some raspberries. They were delicious, as usual.
Celery and scallions.

Kale! To be chipped, souped, frozen...

I still had my melon from last week, and I finally got a chance to cut it up. I’d looked up how to de-seed a watermelon, but I think the technique is better used on the ginormous ones you get at the grocery store – I don’t think there would have been much left of my little round one if I’d gone along with this plan completely! I don’t have any pictures, unfortunately (it’s really messy!), but here’s a link to the guidelines I used.

Basically, you cut the ends off the melon, and then cut a wedge into the long side (not all the way to the middle). You can then break off that chunk – the seeds will come out with it. Keep doing that all around the melon until you get back to the beginning, and then you’re left with the delicious “heart”. You can cut the seeds out of each long slice, and then use the flesh as you normally would. It seemed exceedingly wasteful to do that with mine, so I did my best to scrape out the seeds and chunk up the rest for freezing.
Filthy dirty leeks - who let them out of the barn?!

Bacon, Leek, and Egg Risotto (via Smitten Kitchen)
I usually halve this recipe because I feel it makes plenty for a side plus leftovers, but I've made it for a meal and been happy.

6 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable broth, plus some extra to thin out the rice
1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped bacon (about 4 slices) or pancetta (I would never halve this!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large or 3 smaller leeks, quartered lengthwise, cleaned*, and chopped small
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to fry eggs
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups arborio, carnaroli, or another short-grained Italian rice
1/3 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish if desired
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 large eggs, you’ll want one per serving (I don't usually use them)

Put the stock in a small pot and heat gently - it should be warm but not yet simmering. Heat another pan, about 3 quarts, over medium heat, and cook the bacon until just crisp and the fat is rendered. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and put aside. Add a splash of oil to the pan if needed, then cook the leeks on medium/low for about 10-12 minutes. Scoop out and add to the bacon.

Add the butter to the same pan and cook the onion until translucent and tender, 5 minutes or so. Add the rice and saute about 4 minutes to lightly toast. Add the wine/vermouth and cook until almost gone. Add about a cup of the warm stock to the pan and simmer while it absorbs. Stir frequently. Add the rest of the stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring, until the rice is done. This usually takes me 20 minutes or so for al dente. Keep tasting to check for your personal version of "done". When you're happy, add the bacon and leeks back into the pan, then stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper if desired, then serve.

If serving with fried eggs: Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a small nonstick pan on medium/low heat. Crack an egg into the pan and cook gently until the whites are set - you can put a lid on the pan to speed this up if you'd like. Cook to your preferred "done" - this recipe calls for sunny-side up, but if that's not cooked enough for you, keep on cookin'. Transfer to the first bowl of risotto and add more cheese and seasonings if desired.

* To clean leeks: Shake over a sink to get the easy stuff off, then peel back a couple of the dirtiest leaves if needed. Quarter lengthwise as directed, then slice thinly. Have a big bowl or pot of cold water handy. Dump the sliced leeks into the pot or bowl and gently swish them around to loosen up the dirt. Let everything sit for a couple minutes for the dirt to settle, then carefully skim off the floating leeks. Dry in a towel or salad spinner.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Week Fourteen: Mixed Bag of Weather

Over the past few years, I’ve been finding September to be a very strange month. The days leading up to Labor Day are hot and sticky, and then on that darned Tuesday everything gets all confused about what season it’s supposed to be. Do the leaves start to fall now? Do I need to keep blooming? Should it get cold at night? How hot are the days, again? Does it rain, or should it hail instead?
Seriously. Please explain.
We had beautiful days and cool nights this weekend. Friday I had to dress for two seasons: fall on top (sweater and fall-colored nails) and summer on bottom (skinny jeans, sandals, and pink toenails). I can’t say I minded; it really was a beautiful day. I unfortunately wasn't able to post last week, but don’t worry, nothing exciting happened. We got more of our usual: carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, lettuce, and so on.
More tomatoes, including a few "orange blossom", this week.
This week we got a bunch of good stuff: peppers (two kinds), broccoli, collards, a melon, tomatoes, beets, radishes, onions, and carrots. I pickled the radishes, half an onion, and a couple of the peppers... can't wait to try those! Unfortunately it does seem that most of the “delicate” summer veggies are going away for the season since the weather’s turned cooler… thanks for everything, cucumbers! It was great while it lasted
Collards and broccoli (!)
I signed up for some “techniques of cooking” classes over in Cambridge, and the first class this past weekend was knife skills – so I’ve been practicing the proper grip and slicing technique. I’ll try to play with (and document!) my newfound skills and cuts as I get more stuff to slice up. My immediate takeaway from the class was that I have a weird mental block about using the “claw” grip… I totally get that it’s supposed to protect you from slicing off your fingertips, since you have your knuckles out in front, but then I worry about slicing my knuckles off. Even though that’s not supposed to happen at all!

Frying peppers, bell peppers, and onions.
Little radishes and another melon.
I got an “all vegetables all the time” cookbook from my aunt for my birthday (wohoo!), so I’d been eager to try out one of the beet recipes in there. I got a chance to try it tonight – it’s sort of a beet and potato latke thing. I’ve also kept up (of course) with my regular pickled things… the frying peppers I got a couple weeks ago were great, and last week’s tiny bell peppers were, too. 
Golden beets this week
Crisp Beet and Potato Cake (from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop)
We halved this recipe since I was making something else alongside... and I'm very glad! I'm sure we would have had too much for the pan if we'd used the full amounts. I think next time we'll try draining the beets a little bit; the outside seemed to be overly crisp and the inside a little mushy, although it still tasted great! It had the potato-y goodness of a latke and the "red" taste of the beets, which I thought made a great combination. Confession: Most of (okay, all) the hard work of washing, grating, and mixing was done by Dan, so thanks, honey!

1 lb russet potatoes (we used farm potatoes, no idea what kind)
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 medium beets (we used one red and one golden in the halved version)
1/4 c fresh snipped chives (subbed in leeks instead)
2 T butter

Peel the potatoes and grate with a box grater (don't forget your safety glove!) or a food processor. Toss with the salt. Peel and grate the beets, then mix with the potatoes. Throw in the chives and mix well.

Melt 1T butter in a wide (10-inch) nonstick skillet. Once the butter stops foaming, add the beet-potato mixture to the pan and press down to spread in an even layer. Cook over medium heat about 10-12 minutes until the bottom is nice and crispy. Press down with a spatula every now and then.

This is the tricky part: getting the cake out of the pan, onto a plate, and flipping it back into the pan so you can cook the top. Once the bottom is cooked, carefully slide the cake onto a big plate (ours wasn't quite done so it didn't slide very nicely). Melt the last tablespoon of butter in the pan until it stops foaming. As I'm re-reading the recipe now, I realize there is a much easier way to have done this: flip the cake onto another plate and then slide back into the skillet. (In the heat of the moment I just asked Dan for help, since I was stirring risotto and he happened to be there. He saved the day.) Cook the second side another 8-10 minutes until crisp on the bottom.

Slide onto a plate and serve in wedges.