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The Summer “Crunch”

 

Pickles and summer go together like cherries and ice, ice cream and sticky faces, picnics and grass stains, and sweet and tangy relish on a hot-off-the grill burger. Crisp dill-infused spears of zucchini use up the inevitable glut of the loved and loathed summer squash. Blushed tangy purple onions that kick up the juiciest of tacos. Sweet and sour cherries next to creamy cheeses spread over crackers at a grown-up picnic.
 
Notice I didn’t even mention little dimpled cucumbers? Usually when the topic of pickles comes up, dill pickles or bread and butter pickles seem the most pressing choice, but in our house pickles come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve pickled peaches, onions, cherries, strawberries, prunes, zucchini, fennel, carrots and peppers. 
 
My other standard practice in pickling is to skip the water bath. I stick to small batches and store them in the fridge. Refrigerator pickles come together quickly and are a clever way to use up the bountiful produce available this time of year.  
 
My recipe in this newsletter uses a mix of summer vegetables: zucchini, carrots and fennel. The spices and herbs can be altered to your desire. In under 20 minutes you’ll have a fridge loaded with fresh pickles. I can’t seem to wait more than a day to start enjoying them, but if you are more patient than I, then a few days bathing in the potent brine will do the vegetables well. 
 
Use these pickles as a bright summer appetizer, alongside a grilled burger or as a healthful snack. Once you’ve discovered the simplicity and delight of fridge pickles, it’s quite possible there will be little room in the refrigerator for anything else. Not a bad problem to have, I’d say.
 
MIXED VEGETABLE FRIDGE PICKLES
 
Ingredients: 
2 zucchini
2 carrots
1 fennel bulb (with fronds attached) 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon whole coriander
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons mustard seed
½ teaspoon chili flakes
3 Tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 ¼ cup water
2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
¼ cup sugar 
 
Directions:
Cut the zucchini into spears that fit the height of the jars you are using. Place the spears in a bowl with ice water and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of the salt. Submerge the zucchini in the water, weighing them down with a plate. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will keep the spears crisp when pickled.
 
Cut the carrots in the same manner as the zucchini. Slice the fennel in ¼” pieces, reserving the fennel fronds. Set vegetables aside.
In a saucepan combine the remaining ingredients, including the 2 Tablespoons salt. Bring to a simmer then turn off heat.
 
Place the cut vegetables in clean jars. Add a couple pieces of fennel frond to the jar(s).
 
Carefully pour the hot brine over the vegetables until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least one day. Well-sealed refrigerator pickles will keep for 1 month.
 
*NOTE: While I have never had the experience of making classic cucumber based pickles I do have discerning tastes and have garnered highly opinionated perspectives on a good pickle in which I am happy to share with you. A good pickle is well balanced with a bright vinegar bite, I like a touch of heat and nice balance of salt with a whisper of sweetness. The greatest classic pickle I ever met had all these things plus a satisfying crunch that is hard to find in a homemade pickle. The key was a grape leaf tucked into the jar. Apparently grape leaves have a substance that inhibits the enzymes that soften the pickles. The source of these enzymes is located in the blossom end of the cucumber, so you could simply remove that part and achieve the same affect.
 
Makes one quart.
Inspired by Bon Appetit, August 2011
 
by Ashley Rodriguez
 
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Quinoa Salad with Cucumbers and Bell Peppers

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
INGREDIENTS:
2 cups uncooked quinoa
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely diced
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
PREPARATION:
To cook the quinoa: Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender but not mushy. Drain and transfer the quinoa to a baking sheet to cool. Once cool, fluff the quinoa with a fork and reserve. Toss the cooled quinoa, cucumbers and bell peppers in a large bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
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“It is not Farmland without Farmers”

I see bumper stickers from time to time with this message. However, this message just doesn't resonate with me. Granted, it takes a farmer to bring the land into production, but the farmer doesn't make it farmland. The bumper sticker is attempting to get at an issue, a very real issue—that we need more farmers, especially younger farmers. The average age of the American farmer is 57. Yikes! That means there is a lot of really old farmers getting ready to retire. For sure this is an issue, but this bumper sticker, directly or indirectly, incorrectly places the focus on the farmer and not on the land. 
 
It is true that the land and the farmer are tied together, but one really is not a farmer without land. And even more important, one is a better farmer with farmland than most other kinds of land. I would contend that farmland is farmland with or without a farmer. It would be more appropriate to say, "It is not farmed land without a farmer." And just because a farmer no longer wants to farm the land doesn't make it any less farmable or valuable for farming.
 
Not all farmland is the same. There is no perfect soil type for all crops (e.g., vegetables, dairy or berries), but there are some good general soil types that support a wide variety of farms. The most valuable farmland is what we farmers call "bottom land" and in Western Washington this is typically found in the flood plains. This land is rich and has been traditionally productive for centuries because of the flooding.
 
Bottom land is the most important land to save for future farmers or “stewards,” if you will. I don't want to conserve this land, I want to actively manage its uniqueness and allow it to feed generations to come. This is the big difference between a conservationist model and a stewardship model. Both have their place, but farmland has a different purpose than a national park or even an industrial park. Each of these uses are important for society and need to be planned for, but farmland is the bedrock of civilization and our nation should work hard to make it difficult to change the use of farmland to other uses.
 
Thoughtfully, raising food in a very wet year,
 
A steward of the land
 
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Grilled Nectarines

INGREDIENTS:
2 Nectarines
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of honey
1 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
 
PREPARATION:
Halve and core the nectarines and place in medium bowl. Pour vinegar, oil, honey and vanilla extract over nectarines and let marinate for a few minutes. Make sure to reserve some of the liquid for brushing while the nectarines are on the grill.
 
Place the fruit cut side down on the grill for 1-3 minutes, then turn the slices up and spoon some of the marinade over. It will pool in the center and caramelize. Grill for an additional 1-3 minutes, until fruit is very soft to the touch.
 
Place a few scoops of ice cream in a bowl and top with the nectarines and the remaining balsamic mixture and enjoy!
 
Original recipe and image source: http://acozykitchen.com/grilled-nectarines-other-4th-of-july-fare/
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Farmland = Food

The other day, I was driving through our valley and noticing the diversity of crops and farms. Our valley in the lower Stillaguamish hasn’t changed much since the 40s. We are, relatively, newcomers to this section of the river, having arrived in 2003, which is longer than any other place we have lived.  When we found this farm, we were super excited and got to work restoring an 1892 built farmhouse and building our legacy of farming. 
 
Surrounded by several generations of farmers, we moved into the “old Martin place” and started the process of learning how to farm this ground. We knew the ground had potential, we studied the soil maps and talked to farmers who had farmed it and gleaned stories about when to work it and when not to, and most importantly how it floods!
 
The reason we were able to buy this farm is because the Stillaguamish River frequently overruns its usual meandering path and covers the whole valley. Oh my, what a shock to actually experience the power of the Stillaguamish River. But it is the Stillaguamish River’s propensity to flood that has actually preserved farmland or else I wouldn’t be writing this newsletter.
 
But isn’t this the crux of the issue, we have a farm because the river demands us to share the land, otherwise it would look like a city! It is more though—our farmland is a community resource.  No farmland means no food and no food means no people.  We, as community, have a personal and collective interest in preserving our farmland.  More than food is produced on our farmland. There are other creatures that have their homes and lifestyles preserved because of the river and the farmland. I believe we need to switch from chemical farming and GMO farming to organic type farming. It will be better for our health and the health of our world.
 
From the beginning of civilization, farms and cities have coexisted in proximity and community. The Klesick Family Farm and you represent the future of farming and the future of good nutrient-rich food for future generations. Organic farmers and organic consumers are providing sanity to a system that is bankrupt, where farmers act more like miners robbing our soils of the nutrients we need to live.
Your weekly support of home delivery service impacts the future. Essentially, consumers of organic food today are preserving the healthy farmland for tomorrow (with the help of the Stillaguamish River, of course). 
 
And maybe, just maybe someone will look at my farm in a 100 years from now and pick up the soil and look at its tilth and smell its life and want to farm the “old Klesick place” and continue to feed their neighbors nutrient-rich food.
 
My goal is to raise nutrient-rich food and one day leave this farm more fertile and more friendly to all those who call this place home.
 
Farming “the Old Martin Place” with an eye towards the future,
 
 
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Roasted Beet and Corn Salad

INGREDIENTS
3-4 beets
2 corns
Olive oil
2 Tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped 
Juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
 
DIRECTIONS
1. Roast beets: trim the greens off the top (about 1/2 inch), scrub the beets clean, put them on a pan with a splash of water, seal tightly with aluminum foil, and roast at 400F for one hour.  Then let them cool (very important!) for about 20-30 minutes before you peel and cut them up.
2. Roast corn, you can do it on the grill or follow steps above.
3. When beets and corn have cooled to room temperature, combine them in a medium/large bowl with the parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, and shallot.  Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve room temperature or chilled.
 
Original recipe and image: http://willblog4food.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/roasted-beet-and-corn-salad/
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Ahhh…the smell of fresh coffee!

I love the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. As it percolates and fills the air of my kitchen this morning, I’m reminded of my recent visit to Camano Island Coffee Roasters. I’ve been to the roaster many times before, but this time was different. Just recently, CICR had a research company conduct a study on coffee. This research uncovered some astounding things. I thought to myself, “Why not share some of these insights with the Klesick Family Farm community?”

One of the first things I learned was that coffee is one of the most absorbent crops on the planet. Pesticides used on food today are carcinogenic. Because of the carcinogenic nature of pesticides and coffee’s high absorbency, organic coffee is essential to protecting our health.
 
Second, modern coffee farming techniques have led to damaging levels of acidity and caffeine in your coffee. If you have experienced heartburn, acid reflux, or stomach pain after drinking coffee, then you need shade-grown coffee. Shade-grown coffee grows much slower than modern sun-grown coffee farming, and develops much less acidity and caffeine — no more stomach ache!
 
Third, over-roasted or burnt coffee results in high levels of carcinogens. An astounding study conducted by the FDA found the levels of Acrylamide, a known carcinogen, to be 50 times higher than the EPA’s safety standard for drinking water.
 
Lastly, most grocery store coffee is stale and moldy. Why? Because of the logistics of distribution and time spent on the grocery store shelf. In fact, studies have found Ochratoxin, a toxin produced by mold, in grocery store coffee. It’s a common industry standard that most grocery store coffee has been sitting for at least 3 months before you buy. How can you know this? Check the roast-on-date on the bag.
 
Because of these reasons, and the fact that I love the flavor, we only offer Camano Island Coffee. Today, I am pleased to announce that we have come to a special agreement with Camano Island Coffee Roasters. We will now carry 2 lb. bags of coffee for $25.95. This is the direct from the roaster rate, and since we’ll deliver it with your box you save on shipping charges. Just let us know how often you need it: weekly, bi-weekly, etc. This saves you $1.94 over 1 lb. bags. You’re going to buy coffee anyway, so why not let us save you some time and money, and put some freshly roasted organic coffee from a local company in your box. 
 
Your farmer and partner in good health,
 
 
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The Exquisite Cherry

Grandpa would hoist me deep into the branches. Suddenly I was surrounded by a forest of fruit-heavy limbs with hundreds of plump cherries at my disposal. My arms blurred in hurried motion as I picked as fast as I could before Grandpa’s arms grew tired. I looked as if I had come from battle, descending the tree with every inch of me stained with flecks of blood red juice.  
 
Many years later, my husband and I bought our first home. It met much of our criteria, but it was t  he two cherry trees in the front yard that had me signing on the dotted line. Disappointment hit initially as the summer brought forth berries of a light pink hue. They weren’t the cherries that I remember eating with grandpa. I mourned the idea of eating the cherries straight off the tree only briefly, as I quickly learned that sour cherries create the most lovely preserves and pie. We’ve since sold that home and each year I think of those trees hoping that the current owner realizes the treasure they  now have.
 
Chef and author Nigel Slater says, “A bag of cherries is a bag of happiness.” I could not agree more. There is nothing wrong with simply plucking the dense berries from their stem and placing them directly into your mouth. No recipe could be easier or more rewarding. But there are hundreds of creative ways you can incorporate cherries into meals, sweet or savory. 
 
At the end of a summer meal, a large bowl of cherries over ice, served with another large bowl of whipped cream, creates the perfect dessert. Guests are encouraged to dunk the berries deep into the subtly sweet cream, then straight into their mouths. A light dusting of cinnamon onto the cream transcends the dessert even further, as cinnamon and cherries create an endearing union. If chocolate excites you more than cream, simply replace one for the other. Cherries dipped in chocolate –what could be better? You could do this ahead and serve as a lovely after-dinner treat. Simply melt a bowl filled of chocolate, dip cherries in leaving a bit of their brightly colored flesh showing, refrigerate, then bring out to a table filled with happy people upon seeing the arrival of fresh fruit and chocolate.
 
Atop a bed of peppery arugula, cherries soften the greens with their sweetness and add a brilliant pop of color. Shavings of Parmigiano-Regiano are highly recommended. Or start the meal with a platter of cherries atop fresh goat cheese. Serve with crackers or bread. 
 
If the cherries are a bit lacking in flavor it is a tragedy, but not all hope is lost. A bit of time in the oven brings out their natural sweetness and changes the flavor to something new and quite exciting. Toss with a bit of sugar or honey and enjoy over ice cream, yogurt or alone with a spoon.
 
Lately, our cherries disappear too quickly for me to do anything except enjoy my own children getting as much pleasure with them as I do. If we do have a few stragglers or some berries that are less than perfect but still needn’t be wasted, they have become part of our lemonade. A quick muddling of a few cherries with cold lemonade splashed over top instantly feels of summer no matter what it looks like outside.
 
by Ashley Rodriguez
www.notwithoutsalt.com
 
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FINGERLING POTATOES – CRISPY OR NOT

Ingredients: 
1 1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons. kosher salt
Several sprigs of rosemary and thyme, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, smashed
For crispy, you’ll also need:
Olive oil
Kosher salt
A few more sprigs rosemary and thyme, leaves removed and minced
 
Directions:
1. Place fingerlings in a pot. Cover with approximately one inch of water. Add the salt, whole stems of the herbs and garlic. Bring the pot of water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Let the potatoes cool completely in their liquid before proceeding.
2. Once cool, you can drain and then eat the potatoes as they are or you can proceed to step #3 and brown them to make them crispy. These potatoes are wonderful to have on hand — they are truly delicious cooked as they are, sliced and tossed into salads or just eaten straight out of the refrigerator. You can also serve with a dipping sauce such as aioli. 
3. If you want to crisp the potatoes up a bit, slice the potatoes in half on a bias (or leave them whole if they are really small). Then, heat a pan (preferably cast iron or carbon steel or stainless steel) over med-high heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom — the pan and oil should be very hot before adding the potatoes. Add the potatoes, shake the pan once and then let them be. Do not disturb them for a minute or two. Check one before trying to shake the pan or stir them with a spoon — you want that edge to get crispy and it won’t get crispy if you try to move them too quickly.
4. Once the fingerlings are browning nicely, shake the pan, toss in the herbs and give them a pinch more of kosher salt. Serve immediately. Try eating them with Sriracha hot sauce. Yum!
Serves 2-4