Zuppa e mele! (soup and apples!)

CSA Week of October 10, 2011

What’s In Your Box?

  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos–last chance for chile or chicken verde!
  • Potatoes
  • Italian Chicory–the traditional green in Minestrone Soup! (see recipe below)
  • Kale
  • Summer Squash (slim pickings, finally!)
  • Cucumbers (as supplies last)
  • Strawberries–weather permitting
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Chives
  • Recipes Below!

Dear Friends,

Jo and I had dinner last night with CSA subscribers Rick and Linda Aeschliman.  They’re fellow farmers, with extraordinary unique heirloom apple trees.  Walking through their peaceful orchards, it was a great pleasure to see the care they’ve bestowed on their trees, covered now with apples.  Even more pleasurable was sampling their apples.  With each bite, I was taken back to similar experiences I’ve had on occasion over the course of my life, sampling apples from under a tree.  The taste of a crisp, sweet and slightly tart apple, standing in the shade of an apple tree in a pine forest, and with that unique Fall coolness seeping into everything as summer leaves…what could be better.

Although you won’t get to stand under their trees to sample their apples, they’ll be setting up a booth this weekend at the Saturday morning Nevada City Farmers’ Market at the bottom of Broad Street, where you’ll be able to purchase apples from them and learn about the varieties they grow at the same time.  Their apples have names that may have been common among folks in different parts of the world but are rarely spoken now:  Golden Russet, Wickson, Winter Banana, Black Twig.  Each has its own unique flavor and characteristics.  You can read more about their farm and their apples at their website, which is http://www.wintercreekapples.com/Home_Page.html

For dessert, Linda baked a really good apple crisp and, to entice you to the market, we’ve put her recipe in with the recipes below.

One of our interns, Debbie Lehman, is the guest writer of this week’s blog.  Debbie has been working here since April.  She’s a pleasure to work with and is always enthusiastic.  On any given day you can hear Debbie exclaim: “That’s the best (potato, tomato, pepper, kohlrabi….fill in the blank) I’ve ever eaten!!!!”  Debbie is working on a plan to return at the conclusion of the season to her hometown in the Bay Area and start a farm of her own.  She’s working on budgets and plans for developing her farm, and is looking for land on the edge of the urban area where the market will be strong.  We wish her all the best!

Here’s Debbie’s post:

Lunch in the Intern Kitchen  (or, In Praise of Simple Food)

The most important part of the day for me here at Riverhill Farm, without any doubt, is lunch. No matter how much I enjoy working in the fields, after six hours of harvesting there is nothing better than taking off my hat, sitting down in the shade, and putting some food in my stomach.

In a shared kitchen, is not always easy to get to this point of relaxed satiety. Every day at noon, the hungry interns take part in what is now a carefully choreographed dance from sink to cutting board to fridge to stove. We duck down to find a pan while somebody reaches over our head to grab the salt. We reach into the left side of the fridge while somebody else looks for the cream cheese on the right. “Don’t close that door!” “Are you using that knife?” “Coming up right behind you.” “Are you almost done with that burner?” We cook the way people drive in other parts of the world: we don’t wait for cross-traffic to get out of the way, we just go around.

We have learned a lot during our season at Riverhill, but there are few things we have mastered as well as the 15-minute meal. Almost every vegetable on this farm — everything from eggplant to green beans to potatoes — has at one point been cooked during our one-hour lunch. We have become so good at flash-cooking that we have time to eat, check our email, lie down for a little bit and do our dishes before reporting back to work.

I often look at the vegetables in our fields and daydream about all of the deliciously complicated dishes I could cook. My love of farming stems from interests in ecology, sustainability and community-building, but it comes most deeply from a love of food. And, to be really specific, a love of vegetables. When I was in fifth grade, my favorite food was not pizza or ice cream, but sugar snap peas, which I devoured by the bag. In my early teens, I dragged my mom to farmers markets and cooked things like radicchio risotto for the family. In college, my friends and I walked three miles each way to the farmers market (in rain or sleet or snow) to buy our produce. There are few things that make me happier than fresh vegetables, and their potential in the pan.

At the beginning of the season, I eyed each of our nascent crops and made grand plans. Tomatoes, parsley and onions, along with rice and pine nuts, would be made into my Turkish grandmother’s stuffed zucchini. Peppers would turn into a gratin with kalamata olives, topped with breadcrumbs, goat cheese, parsley and plenty of olive oil. Tomatoes would end up in a gallette with feta cheese and thyme.

Now, with just one month left of the season, I haven’t made any of these things. There isn’t enough time in a day to prepare a filling, stuff a vegetable and bake it for 40 minutes. And there isn’t enough space in the kitchen.

Instead, I’ve been cooking the simplest of dishes. I sauté sweet peppers in olive oil, adding garlic only if I can bring myself to chop it, and crack two eggs on top. I steam chard with its stems until it is melt-in-your-mouth silky, and top it with lemon and olive oil. Far from being bland or boring, these meals are extraordinary; a true testament to the flavor and quality of the vegetables we grow here. When I go home to the Bay Area on weekends, I dive into more complicated things — caponata and frittata and long-stewed green beans. But inevitably, I crave a return to those simple dishes that keep me going during the week.

And that brings me back to why lunch is the most important part of the day for me. Not the best, not the most relaxing, but the most important. At lunch, I take an hour not just to eat, but to really taste the fruits of my labor, to appreciate the food we’re growing and selling. It really is good food, and that’s what keeps me going.

Recipes:

Sauteed Peppers with Eggs

Cut up any of our sweet peppers into thin strips and sauté in olive oil until soft. Add garlic if you want to, and sprinkle with salt. When the peppers are soft and starting to caramelize, crack an egg or two into the pan. When the whites have solidified, give everything a mix so that you end up with large chunks of scrambled eggs amid the sweet peppers.

Lunchtime Chard

Heat some olive oil in a pan and sauté two or three cloves of garlic. Slice the chard stems thinly and add them to the garlic. When soft, add the greens, chopped into large pieces, and some salt and pepper. Add a splash of water, cover and cook for a few minutes, until the chard is very tender. Drizzle with more olive oil and some lemon juice.

15-minute Tomato Soup

Saute some garlic and some fresh thyme in olive oil. You can also add a chopped hot pepper if you’d like. Add chopped tomatoes and salt, and simmer uncovered until the tomatoes release all their juice. Add some chopped parsley, cook a few minutes more, and enjoy.

Chive Scrambled Eggs

A favorite in the intern kitchen. Saute a handful of chives in olive oil, then add eggs and scramble. Amazingly delicious.

Parsley pesto

In the food processor, briefly pulse a handful of pistachios, two cloves of garlic and a large pinch of salt. Fill the food processor with parsley leaves. Run the food processor, adding olive oil until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency. Add juice of half a lemon. Spread on bread, toss with pasta, or spoon into tomato soup.

And, as promised, here are the recipes for Minestrone Soup and Linda Aeschliman’s famous Heirloom Apple Crisp:

Heirloom Apple Crisp with Maple Syrup and Walnuts

Apple mixture:

  • 6-7 cups peeled, sliced apples (about 3 pounds – a mixture of varieties is nice)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (honey works too – or a mixture)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • A few scrapings of freshly grated nutmeg

Crisp topping:

  • 1/3 cup flour (any type)
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts (or choose your favorite)

Directions:

Peel and slice apples. Mixing different varieties allows the different textures and flavors to complement one another. Mix apples with maple syrup/honey (note: honey keeps apples from turning brown), cinnamon, and nutmeg. Turn apple mixture into 8 inch square baking pan or 1 ½ quart casserole dish.

Mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon for topping. Work in butter with pastry blender or your hands until crumbly with chunks of butter holding together the dry ingredients. Add walnuts.

Sprinkle topping on apple mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until apples yield easily to a knife and look almost transparent. Crisp topping may brown quickly so keep an eye on it and put a cover on during part of the baking time if needed to prevent scorching. Baking time can vary from 45 minutes to one hour or more depending on your apples.

Minestrone Soup with Italian Chicory

  • 1 lb. ground Italian Sausage (optional)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 squash
  • 3 sweet peppers
  • 1 hot pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 cloves  garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, fresh or dried
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup penne pasta
  • 1 bunch Italian Chicory greens, washed and chopped (you may also substitute kale)

Chop all veggies into bite size pieces. Brown sausage in a large stock pot.  Add onions, carrots, peppers and garlic – sauté until soft.   You will need to add a little olive oil if you are using a lean sausage or omitting sausage.  Add broth, tomatoes, beans, bay leaves, oregano, potatoes and carrots.  Simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender (approx. 30 minutes).  Add squash, chicory and pasta.  Cook until pasta is cooked (approx.  10 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with fresh parsley.


One thought on “Zuppa e mele! (soup and apples!)

  1. What a lovely posting from Debbie. Maybe she wants to come over here and cook one of her specialties. I will stand aside. She can have the stove to herself! Thanks so much, Debbie and the other interns, for the beautiful food of your labor. Sandra

Comments are closed.