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Fresh This Week Tips 9.26.2010

DAPPLE DANDY PLUOTS

STORE: Your pluots will continue to ripen once off the tree. Turn them upside down and leave them on the counter away from the sun. When ripe, store them unwrapped in the refrigerator for up to three days.

PREP: If stored in the refrigerator, remove your pluots before eating and let them return to room temperature. They taste much better this way. Rinse and leave whole, slice into wedges or cut into chunks.
USE: These sweet Dapple Dandy Pluots can be eaten out of hand, as a fresh topping for yogurt, dehydrated into dried pluots or made into jam. You can also experiment by substituting them for plums in recipes (afterall, they are the delicious hybrid of the plum and apricot).

KEITT MANGO

STORE: Keep your mangoes in a plastic or paper bag in the cupboard. The Keitt mango changes color from an orange-ish green to a bright green when ripe. A ripe mango will yield to gentle pressure. Once ripe, refrigerate for up to 1 week.
PREP: Using a sharp knife, slice around the stone. Cut a checkered pattern onto the cut mango. Flip the skin inside out and slice the cubes into a bowl.
USE: The Keitt mango is larger, sweeter and less fibrous than other mangoes. They can be eaten whole or used in desserts and curries. For a delicious morning treat, enjoy a mango smoothie: a combination of diced mango, a banana, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 cup of orange juice and ice cubes. Blend till frothy!

JUMBO RED ONIONS

STORE: Store your red onions in a cool, dry place (not in the fridge as they will go soft). They will keep for several months. Once cut, wrap them up in the fridge and use within two or three days.
PREP: To prepare your onion, begin by cutting off the top and removing the papery skin. To chop, cut your onion in half and slice vertically from top to bottom and horizontally. To slice, trim the root off, then cut in slices moving from the root end towards the top. Leave as slices or separate each one out into rings.
USE: Enjoy your red onions raw in Greek salads or on turkey sandwiches. If you aren’t a fan of raw onions, add them to a stir fry, pickle them or try a new twist on the old classic with French Red Onion Soup. http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/2000s/2008/09/redonionsoup

TOMATOES

STORE: Store unripe tomatoes in a paper bag until ripe. Store ripe tomatoes in a cool place for up to 5 days.
PREP: Wash tomatoes in cold water before use. Slice tomatoes vertically for salads and sandwiches to prevent the juice and seeds spilling out. To peel your tomatoes, cut an X on the bottom of each tomato and blanch.
USE: Tomatoes are wonderful accompaniments to salads and pastas. Chop tomatoes and add them to a simple pesto pasta. You’ll get beautiful color and fresh flavor with one easy step!

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The Spring and the Fall: 
Assorted musings from the farmer

The spring and fall farm seasons are similar in many ways, especially with the erratic weather patterns.  The big weather difference, however, is that now the days are getting shorter and the soil getting wetter verses in the spring when the day length is increasing and soil is getting warmer. That subtle change, now magnified with this wet September, has made our fall chores more interesting than usual.

So in the spring we run around getting the ground ready for planting and in the fall we run around spreading compost, planting cover crops, garlic, shallots, and harvesting the summer (as if there was a summer) planted crops.  I love this season, but there are literally not enough daylight hours to get the work done, especially when you only get one or two days of good field work weather. And trust me, when we get those days, we are as busy as beavers from dawn to dusk.

This week we are hoping to do all of the above and get closer to taking a long winter nap. My new team of horses, Sally and Sandy, are sure sweet to work with. Together, last week, we disc-harrowed an acre of ground that had provided us with green beans and tomatoes and then we planted winter wheat for a cover crop on top of it.

Speaking of tomatoes . . . I grew Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes this year, mostly on a whim. Mike and Joanie, at the Rents Due Ranch, had a couple hundred extra plants, so I, in a moment of romanticism, picked up 100. They were incredibly flavorful, but ripened too quickly and didn’t have good shelf life. I have put them on the “do not grow in the future” list.

Back to the horses. It was fun driving the horses through the tomato plants and discing them down. Every now and then a green tomato would burst and I would get lightly splattered.  All and all, Sally, Sandy and I worked together for six hours. That was as close to pure bliss as I have come to farming with horses.  I am looking forward to finishing the fall farm chores with them.

Thanks for supporting our family farm and our family of farmers. This farming year, with all of its challenges, is more enjoyable because the food we raise goes to our family of local customers.

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Smashed Potato and Leek Soup

Adapted from www.soupchick.com
Ingredients:
2 large leeks
1 lb new potatoes, washed but not peeled
2 strips no nitrate bacon
2 tsp olive oil or butter
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus a few extra for garnish
4 cups homemade chicken stock (or low-sodium store-bought broth)
Kosher salt, if needed (taste first; if you’re using store-bought broth, you won’t need salt)
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk

Directions:
Trim the stem end and down to 2 ½ inches of the green parts of the leeks, and remove the outermost layer. Dice the remaining white part of the leeks into 1/4-inch pieces, and place in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cool water, and agitate with your hand, swishing the leeks around to loosen the dirt. Then, set the bowl aside, and do not disturb it. The dirt will settle to the bottom, and the clean diced leeks will float on top.
Dice the potatoes into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside.
In a small (3- or 4-quart) Dutch oven or heavy nonreactive saucepan with a lid, cook the bacon over low heat until semi-crisp but not brittle. Drain on paper towels, and set aside.
To the bacon fat in the pot, add the olive oil. Use a strainer to gently skim the leeks out of the water (don’t stir up the water, as the dirt has settled on the bottom), and add them to the pot. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, until the leeks are translucent but not brown. Add the potatoes and thyme, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Then, add the stock. Turn heat to high, and bring the soup to a boil; then, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
Taste, and add salt (if needed) and black pepper. With a wooden spoon, smash most of the potatoes against the side of the pot, leaving at least one-fourth of the potatoes in chunks. Stir in the milk, and crumble in 1-1/2 strips of bacon. Stir to combine, and taste again. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve hot, garnishing each individual bowl with a bit of crumbled bacon and some thyme leaves.

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Know Your Produce: Kiwi Berries

Berry meet kiwi. Kiwi meet berry. And you have kiwi berries!

They are the peel-less, fuzz-less cousin of the more well-known kiwifruit. Brought from Asia to the United States in the 1800s, the kiwi berry packs a big nutritional punch as the most nutrient-dense of all major fruits. One berry has five times the vitamin C content of an orange and twice the amount of vitamin E as an avocado. From folic acid and antioxidants to fiber and chromium, kiwi fruits contain 20 nutrients that are connected to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and slowed aging.

Not just good for you, kiwi berries are delicious! Each variety has a unique flavor and color and their smooth skins make them the perfect snack. They can be eaten fresh, in salads, salsas, dessert sauces, ice cream and sorbets. Their tropical tastes pair well with orange, honey, and chocolate.

Kiwi berries should be allowed to ripen at room temperature. When they are ready to be enjoyed, the berries will turn a dark green color and feel slightly soft to the touch. Unlike most fruits, they are not ready to eat until they look wrinkled and soft. Once they are ripe, store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or eat immediately. Let them come back up to room temperature before eating.

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Fresh this Week 9.19.2010

SPINACH
STORE: Store fresh, unwashed spinach loosely packed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for about five days.
PREP: Wash thoroughly by swishing leaves in a bowl full of tepid water and repeat until clean. Dry with paper towels or in a salad spinner.
USE: Boil spinach for one minute to bring out the flavor or simply keep raw. Make a delicious Strawberry & Spinach salad or substitute spinach for the Swiss Chard in these delicious Swiss Chard & Caramelized Onion Tacos. You can also add spinach to smoothies, add layers of steamed spinach to lasagna or simply saute with a little olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt.

Sekel Pears
STORE: The Sekel pear can be stored in the refrigerator for two to seven days. To ripen, leave them at room temperature for two to four days.
PREP: Wash pears under cold water. Leave whole, cut into fourths or cube depending on your preference or desired recipe. To prevent pears from browning, brush with a lemon juice-water solution (1 cup water mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice).
USE: This delicious dessert pear is best used for pickling, poaching and canning, but is tasty eaten whole. When baked, the flavors of the Sekel pear work wonderfully with honey and cinnamon (a scoop of vanilla ice cream is also delicious).

Yukon Potatoes
STORE: Store Yukons in a cool place in an open paper bag. They should last a couple of weeks.
PREP: Wash and lightly scrub potatoes before using. Peel potatoes before using or leave the skin on for baked potatoes or to add additional texture to mashed potatoes.
USE: Yukon potatoes have a delicious buttery flavor. They make wonderful home fries, mashed potatoes and soups. If you’re feeling adventurous, try out this yummy Fall recipe for potato pancakes!

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Honey! Bar the door! We’ve got ourselves a crawler!

I know it’s inevitable. At some point in time every little one gets mobile and life changes, but I was secretly hoping for a few more months of “stationary” play! Officially, she began crawling at 5.5 months. This isn’t our earliest. Her sister, Emily, started crawling at the same time 17 years ago and she hasn’t stopped moving since! We will have to see if Joanna walks at the early age of 8.5 months, as her older sister did. Time will tell. Having a little one reach that wonderful age of mobility quickly moves them into a new phase of learning, which means it moves us, as parents, into a new phase of teaching. Now that she is scooting across the floor we need to begin training her to make good choices. Of course, this will be a gradual process, but now she will be discovering toys left out by siblings, the cat food dish, a fireplace, older siblings with quick feet, etc. One of the most comical learning opportunities comes when the little ones begin to learn to negotiate the happily wagging tail of our big (giant to them) black Labs.

It is all good! It is all supposed to happen! Every stage of life is special, and laying a foundation of love and respect early is critical to a great relationship later. Teaching her that “no” means “no” will be one of the next things she learns, and when she is a little older and getting around well, it will be time for her to learn “Joanna, come here, please”.

Sadly, as parents of young children, it’s easy to train children that we are not serious about our requests. And the constant negotiating or nagging eventually can wear a parent out and put a strain on the relationship. But if one establishes “no” early or “come here” early then parents will naturally have a better relationship with their child, for the simple reason that there’s not always a mini war on their hands. Children thrive with love and healthy boundaries. Good seeds planted now will bear good fruit later and as a father and a farmer, life has taught me planting the good seeds is the way to go.

– Tristan

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Fresh This Week Add-Ons: It is cooking greens season!

If you like ratatouille…this is a great time! We’ve got basil, zucchini/yellow summer squash, red bell peppers,  garlic & onions available to go with! For a great Ratatouille recipe, go tohttp://smittenkitchen.com/2007/07/rat-a-too-ee-for-you-ee/

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Know your produce – tips for storing & preparing produce

KIWI

They’re a really good source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber and very low in calories. Kiwi fruit can also be used for certain fruit preparations where kiwi is used a meat tenderizer.

For a delicious Kiwi Raita visit : http://www.foodgal.com/2010/09/kickin-with-kiwi/

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BEETS

Store: Before refrigerating, separate the beets from the leaves. To keep the beets dry, store them and the leaves, unwashed, in separate plastic bags in the vegetable drawer.

Shelf life: The leaves will last for only two to three days, but the beets can stay fresh for two to three weeks.

Prep: Small, young beets are tasty grated raw in salads. (Beet juice can stain, so protect your countertops.) All types are delicious steamed or boiled. Or roast them at 400º F for 45 minutes; slice and top with goat cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

This Unbeetable Chocolate Cake recipe was shared with us by one of our customers http://www.rightathome.com/Food/Recipes/Pages/UnbeetableChocolateCake.aspx

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CARROTS

Loaded with beta-carotene (a great source of vitamin A), carrots are colorful, flavorful, and versatile, working in either sweet or savory dishes, cooked or raw.

Store: Carrots keep in the vegetable compartment in a plastic bag for up to 10 days.

Prep: Along with celery and onions, carrots are used to create depth in stocks, marinades, soups, and sauces. They pair well with honey, thyme, cumin, curry, and orange.

For a simple delicious pot roast visit: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pot_roast/

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Fresh this week 09.14.2010

Gala Apples:
A superb dessert apple that is excellent for fresh eating and baking! Enjoy them raw, cooked, roasted or in vegetable platters.

How to store:

To store, keep apples as cold as possible in the refrigerator. Apples do not freeze until the temperature drops to 28.5 degrees F.

Green Bell Peppers
Bell peppers add fresh flavor and splashes of color to raw and cooked dishes. They’re also great sources of vitamins A and C.

How to Store:

Refrigerate peppers unwashed (moisture speeds decay) in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer. Red and yellow peppers will last up to 5 days; green, about a week

Arrugula (Also called Roquette)
Arrugula adds spicy accents to dishes far beyond Italian. Arrugula is used in Italian dishes and with many foods containing olives, garlic, tomatoes & peppers. It’s leaves are zesty and when harvested before fully mature make a great addition to salads.

How to store:
Place the bunch, or the loose leaves, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer, where they’ll last up to 3 days.