Tomatoes! We’ve been harvesting tomatoes for a couple weeks now. It started slowly at first and we didn’t really have enough for all the CSA members, so we brought them to the farmers’ markets. The heat of the past couple weeks has made a huge difference for the tomatoes, though, and the harvest really picked up toward the end of last week. That means that we’ve got enough tomatoes for everyone this week! Most of them will be regular red slicing tomatoes, but there are a few of the heirlooms mixed in too. This week you’ll also be getting the first garlic of the season. This fresh garlic is quite juicy and is especially great raw (in salads, mixed with olive oil for dipping bread, etc.).
The end of last week also saw the completion of our new wood-fired pizza oven. Many thanks to Maggie’s friend, Tyler, who’s biking around the state this summer building ovens at different farms; it would not have happened without him (or Maggie). We’re hoping to fire the oven up sometime later this week.
Tyler, Olmo, and Remi mixing the clay, sand, and straw for the final layer.
The finished oven; ready to be fired up!
Fennel – Fennel has a flavor similar to licorice and is popular in Italian cooking. Usually only the bulb is eaten but the feathery leaves can be used as an herb, similar to how you would use dill (to which fennel is related). Fennel is good raw, sliced thinly, and tossed into a salad. You also can add it to a saute of zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. I sometimes add it to tomato sauce to add another level of flavor (the main seasoning of italian sausage is fennel seed). Here at the farm, we most often have fennel grilled. Simply slice the bulb in half lengthwise (or quarter it) and toss it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Here are a couple other ideas for using the fennel in your share this week (courtesy of the Joy of Gardening Cookbook):
Fennel Broccoli Saute
8 tbs water
3 cups julienne-sliced fresh fennel bulb
2 tbs olice oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups broccoli florets
3 tbs dry white wine
2 tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the water in a large saute pan and add the fennel. Steam saute the fennel until the water disappears and the fennel is barely cooked (about 3 minutes). Add the oil, garlic, and broccoli and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and steam saute the vegetables until the wine disappears and the broccoli is tender crisp (3-5 minutes). Sprinkle the lemon juice over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
Cream of Fennel Soup
2 tbs butter
1 1/2 cups diced onion
4 1/2 chopped fresh fennel bulb
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large soup pot, melt the butter, and saute the onion until limp (3-5 minutes). Add the fennel and chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the fennel is tender. Cool slightly
In a blender, puree two-thirds of the soup, return to the pot, and add the cream and milk. Cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad – Quinoa is a South American grain that I’ve been introduced to this summer by Jennifer, one of the other apprentices here. I’m really starting to like it and definitely will be incorporating it into more meals. This recipe comes again from The New York Times and is a great thing to try if you’re looking for something different to do with all your cucumbers.
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
Salt to taste
2 cups diced cucumber
1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
2 cups finely diced tomatoes
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish
1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags. Flatten the bags and seal.
2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.
3. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro sprigs.
Yield: Serves six.
Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well, and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. The leftovers will be good for a couple of days.
Zucchini – If you’re looking to turn your zucchini into something a little sweeter, try Maggie’s recipe for Zucchini Bread:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.
Do you have a favorite way to prepare fennel or a great zucchini bread recipe? Please pass it (or any other recipe) along, or just post it in the comments section.
Have a good one!