Monday, April 9, 2007

Two Small Farms Newsletter #391

Issue Number 391, April 9th, 2007

Table of Contents:
1) In your box this week
2) Vitamins, Calcium, and Irony from Andy
3) Upcoming Events
4) Some answers to Frequently Asked Questions
5) Photos
6) Recipes
7) Which Farm?
8) Unsubscribe
9) Two Small Farms Contact Information

1) In your box this week: Cardoon, Erbette Chard, cilantro or thyme, salad mix, mystery item, braising mix. Wednesday: baby carrots, Thursday and Friday: a mystery item.

This week's vegetable list: I try to have it updated by Monday night, sometimes by Mon. am:

To store and use first: the carrots, cardoon, and thyme will all keep at least a week in your fridge. The chard, cilantro, and maybe the shrooms will keep nearly a week but try to use them in fewer than 5 days. Eat in the first 1-3 days: braising mix, salad mix (likely will keep longer, but best first 3 days), berries....Everything should be stored in the fridge this week.

2) Vitamins, Calcium, and Irony from Andy

Swiss chard is a joke that most of us don't get. I don't mean to cast aspersions on the peaceful Swiss, nor do I wish to discourage consumers from eating green that are high in vitamins, calcium, and iron, but it's true; most people don't get the joke about chard. The Swiss speak French, German, or Italian. At some point in the past Swiss cooks had to hear their French compatriots to the south along the Mediterranean lowlands rave about the fabulous, succulent flavor of chardon. Chardon is the French for "big thistle", and the word descends from the Latin carduus.

Most thistles are spiny weeds, but two have been developed to serve humankind. The most common type of edible thistle that we encounter today is the artichoke. An older form of domesticated thistle called chardon, cardon, cardoni, or cardoon is still around and is still a staple of Mediterranean cookery. Cardoon is simply English for chardon, just as artichaut is French for artichoke. Whereas artichokes are appreciated for their tender flower buds with the cardoon, or chardon, it is the meaty midrib of the plant's huge leaf that is eaten.

The cardoon was taken by the Spaniards to their new world colonies in the 1500s as a food crop. Once in the Americas some of these plants escaped cultivation to become feral. Charles Darwin visited a little town called Guardia del Monte in Argentina on September 19th, 1836. He wrote about the cardoon weeds in his Diary Of The Voyage Of The Beagle, "Several hundred square miles are covered by one mass of these prickly plants, and are impenetrable by man or beast."
Back to Switzerland. As their alpine nation is too cold to grow the frost-tender chardon Swiss farmers improved a local leafy beet until it's leaves sported a broad fleshy midrib in its leaf which could be prepared after the fashion of the luscious thistle. The Swiss succeeded at their task and smothered these beet stems in rich French sauces. "Chardon Suisse," sniffed the French chefs, "Swiss thistle."

Sometimes American diners ape the French without understanding all that's really going on. And so it is that we should adopt what has become a popular vegetable world-wide and call it "Swiss chard". By eating these greens we digest plenty of vitamins, calcium, and iron without, perhaps, tasting any irony. Half the time we only eat the leafy greens and throw the stem away, not understanding that it's was originally the whole point of the vegetable.

This week we are harvesting Erbette for you. This plant is the original form of beet green that was later "improved" into Swiss chard. If you want to call this green a "chard" call it Italian chard. Note that Erbette lacks the broad mid rib of Swiss chard, but it does have lots of delicious, spinachy greens. We're also putting in the real chardon, Cynara cardunculus, or edible thistle. Cardoon only looks like a celery because we've cut away most of the plant's foliage, which isn't edible.

A few warnings are in order; after working with cardoon wash your hands because the stems will leave a bitter, tarry flavor on your hands that will taint any other foods you touch. Also, if this is your first experience with cardoon, follow Julia's instructions. If you enjoy cardoon you may want to plant one in your yard. The plants are easy to grow, lovely to look at, and you can control them by eating them.

julia's notes: there are a few recipes below in the recipe section. Here's a link to a photo essay on making a cardoon gratin
3. Upcoming Events

Fava Bean Upick in Hollister at Mariquita Farm Saturday April 28th 9am - 12 noon (this event is scheduled for the morning because the afternoons at our field get hot, windy and dusty.) Come pick fava beans and visit the farm with Andy. more information

Homeschool Field Day Wednesday, April 25th 9am to 1pm. RSVP required. Free for current CSA members. More information

Redmond House Farm Stand Opens: April 25th for the season: High Ground Organics run a farm stand just off highway 1 at 129 at the Redmond House. They will be opening on Wed April 25th. Days/Hours = Wed-Sun 10am to 6pm.

Come join us for seed collection and grassland tending on SATURDAY May 5th, from 10-1pm. Families with children are welcome. Contact Laura Kummerer (831)761-8694 for details.

4) Some Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I forget to pick up my box?
We are not responsible for forgotten boxes. The site host may remove the box by the next day. You can go by the site first thing the following morning if you have forgotten. The box may be there but we can't guarantee it.

What happens if I'm out of town on distribution day?
We suggest you have a friend, relative, or neighbor pick up your share. If no one can pick up your share for you we will donate it to The Santa Cruz AIDS Project. Please give us 24 hours notice if you want us to donate your share. We cannot refund money for boxes that will not be received. The scale of our planting is determined by the number of CSA signups and we have no ready market for our produce if the subscribers don't use it. The efficiency of our CSA service eliminates waste and allows us to charge lower prices than you would find for comparable items in most organic food outlets.

Can members visit the farm?
Yes! This year we have a Restoration event (noted above), a kids' day event in the summer, a fall pumpkin patch and several 'u-pick' days where folks can visit the farm and pick extra for their canning/freezing needs. We love showing off our farms, but they are also our homes, and we must balance farm visits with a very busy work schedule. Events page
5) Photos:

Peel stalks of cardoons to get the bitter outer skin off. Boil in salted water until tender, that could be from 5-20 minutes. (I would cut the stalks in half so they'd fit my pans. -jw)
Slice cooked stalks on the diagonal (like you would celery) then dress with a vinaigrette. For this dish the vinaigrette has a bit of anchovy, garlic, lemon and a small splash of red wine vinegar, and olive oil too of course. (Julia's hint: one basic formula for vinaigrette I've read includes 3 parts oil to 1 part acid: lemon juice or vinegar)
They serve the cardoons this way room temperature with some hardboiled egg: either chopped or in wedges. Russ said this dish benefits from a bit of fat served with it and he likes the hard cooked egg for that contrast.

Cardoon thoughts and a recipe from Chef Andrew:

Cardoon is a vegetable like artichoke in that it oxidises and discolors. Chefs will usually toss it into acidulated water (water with lemon juice) to keep it from discoloring.
When thinking of cardoon, keep the flavor of artichokes in your mind when planning the dish.

Andrew's simplest Cardoon-Pasta preparation:
Slice and blanch cardoon. Saute onions and garlic and toss with pasta. Grate some parmesan cheese. This could benefit from some green olives as well.
Here's an idea I picked up from a book of Mid-east cookery. This is based on a lamb dish with cardoon. Cut cardoon into 2" long pieces and blanch in salted water. Saute onions and garlic with turmeric, paprika, parsley, and coriander. Add in cardoon and a handful of cracked green olives or oil cured black olives. Give a toss, and add a couple chopped tomatoes and some water( a couple cups). If you have some mid-east style preserved lemons, cut one up into largish pieces(1" or so) and toss that in as well. Cook for a 1/2 hour to soften vegetables and integrate flavors. This could take peppers(hot or sweet) or eggplant as well. Simmer cardoons cut into batons (3"x1/4") until tender and layer into a gratin dish that has been rubbed with a garlic clove and lightly oiled. Layer with parmesan or gruyere, then pour in cream over all. Bake until golden and bubbly.

Bean and Swiss Chard Soup (Pasta e fagioli)
1/2 pound (225 g) Swiss chard or kale, trimmed
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus additional to taste
2 flat anchovy fillets (I use a little anchovy paste - it won't taste fishy, but it will taste richer!)
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves or dried
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 cup (225 g) cooked small white beans or drained and rinsed canned beans
4 cups (1 liter) chicken stock [or Garlic Broth for a meatless soup] freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup (60 g) small shell macaroni
freshly grated Parmasan cheese, for serving

In a medium saucepan, cook the chard with 1/2 cup (125 ml) water and the salt over medium heat until tender. Drain the chard, reserving any liquid that remains. Coarsely chop the chard. Very finely chop anchovies together with the rosemary.
In a medium saucepan, stir together the oil and garlic over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is pale gold, about 10 minutes. Stir in the anchovies and rosemary. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Discard the garlic. Stir in the chard and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to thoroughly coat it with the oil. Stir in the beans. Cook for 3 minutes.
Stir in the reserved cooking liquid and the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and stir in the macaroni. Boil for 6 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Pass Parmesan cheese at the table.
Makes about 5 cups (1.25 liters); 4 first-course servings.
>From Soup: A Way of Life, Barbara Kafka

Chard Rib Gratin: Victory Garden Cookbook
Make Bechamel Sauce. (2 1/2 Tablespoons butter 3 Tablespoons flour 2 cups heated milk 1/2 teaspoon salt freshly ground pepper Melt butter, add flour, and whisk to remove lumps. Cook butter and flour slowly together for 2-3 minutes until flour is golden, but not browned. Remove pan from heat, add milk, and beat sauce vigorously to disolve the flour and smooth the sauce. Bring to a boil, add salt, reduce heat to simmer, and cook slowly for at least 5 minutes to remove any floury
taste. (simmering longer will improve the flavor) Thin with milk if too thick. Season with salt and pepper. (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
Place 3-4 cups drained blanched ribs, cut into 1-2 inch pieces, into a buttered casserole, add sauce, and top with a mixture of buttered bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top has a light brown crust and the sides are bubbly.

Sauteed chard--yum! After sauteeing with garlic, etc, I like to toss in some goat cheese and pine nuts. . .zowie!

Honey Mustard Cilantro Dressing
1 bunch cilantro stems
1/4 C water
1/4 lime juice(or lime/lemon or lemon)
1/4 C honey
1/4 dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 small clove of garlic peeled(optional)
Puree in blender til smooth, then through opening in top add olive oil slowly until the hole at the center of the dressing disappears. This is usually the proper amount of oil for a properly emulsified vinaigrette. Options: use some cayenne powder to heat it up. Use 3:1 basil to flat leaf parsley instead of cilantro and use red wine vinegar instead of citrus juice.

Cilantro Pesto:
1 clove garlic
2 T chopped walnuts or almonds
1/2 c washed, roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 c olive oil
2 T grated Parmasan or crumbled feta cheese
Mince garlic to a paste in food processor or garlic press or bowl. Grind together walnuts and chopped cilantro. Add garlic paste, the oil, and the parmesan cheese and blend the mixture until combined.
Boil the pasta with which you'll serve the pesto (recommended: ravioli, but you could use anything). Reserve 1/4 c cooking liquid when you drain the pasta.
Add the reserved liquid to the cilantro mixture (makes it smooth, and warms it for eating) and blend until smooth.
Toss the pasta with the pesto and serve.
Little bit fussy due to all the chopping, but easy, and tasty. Just need to be aware that you'll have strong garlic breath for at least 8 hours afterwards, maybe a day!!!

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