October Is My Favorite Month

CSA Week of October 17, 2011

What’s In Your Box?

  • Acorn Squash
  • Red Kuri (Hubbard) Winter Squash
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Tomatoes
  • Green Tomatoes (Recipes for Fried Green and Green Tomato Chutney below)
  • Sage Bunch (leave this to hang and dry for use during the winter)
  • Kale
  • Strawberries
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Dear Friends:

October is my favorite month.  The heat, long days and workload of the summer are behind us and we can catch our breath and enjoy the last warm, sunny days before we head into winter.  I’m enjoying a rare afternoon in the kitchen with a pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove for canning, and NPR on the radio.  Alan is out on the tractor, busily turning the summer crops back into the soil and preparing the soil for covercrop seed before the next set of storms move in.  While there is still plenty to do, most of the heavy lifting is behind us and we can start to make time for other activities.  We are able to look up more often from our tasks and take stock of the changing colors in the trees, the lowering angle of the sun and the beautiful clouds that announce a change in weather patterns.  Last week, we actually took the afternoon off to celebrate our anniversary.  After making our BriarPatch and restaurant deliveries, we drove up the hill to experience a few hours of high-country bliss in the Grouse Ridge area.  Our first time away from the farm together in many weeks.

This morning, Alan was eager to make some headway on the tractor and asked if I would write the blog for a change, allowing him an uninterrupted afternoon of work.  Filling his shoes in this regard is a bit intimidating.  As you have all discovered, Alan has a way with the written word – one of his many talents.  Secretly, I’m excited to have the chance to talk about Alan behind his back.

Most of you have gotten to know me a bit from my post behind the table while you fill your boxes.  Alan, however, is probably more of a mystery to you.  He is almost always busy in the fields doing a million things: irrigating, tilling, weeding, picking and on and on…. basically, making the farm tick. Besides that, he’s a quiet sort and can be pretty shy, sometimes making him more of a challenge to get to know.  His weekly musings may have given you some insight into his thoughtful soul and intelligence.  Yet, there is more you don’t know…….

Though he often seems serious, Alan surprises us on occasion by breaking into song, usually some corny show tune of all things!  At odd moments, I’ll hear strains from South Pacific or Oklahoma echo across the farm in his rich baritone.   He has a quirky sense of humor and has been known to lob a rotten tomato at an unsuspecting intern, volunteer or me.  He was raised in the Third World (first in Laos and then in Ecuador) where his father worked for the State Department doing relief work.  By his own admission, he remains a peasant at heart and is totally out of step with popular culture.   Life with Alan is not always Easy Street, but it is never boring.  I feel lucky to be his partner – in business and in life.

Alan is also one of the most dedicated and hard working people that I have ever known.  Riverhill Farm was his vision and he has worked tirelessly to make it a reality in the face of long odds.   He has set out to create a farm that honors and protects the environment of this place and to feed the community in a meaningful way.  The beauty and bounty that you see when you visit the farm is the physical manifestation of his ideals, principles and integrity.  If you take pleasure in the farm and your food, you have Alan to thank.

Enjoy the first of the Winter Squash this week – a personal favorite of mine.  And watch out for rotten tomatoes on your way up the path!

This week’s recipes:

Pork-and-Green-Chili Stew

Time: About 45 minutes

  • 1 1/2 pounds pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into small strips or chunks
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 2 cups roughly chopped roasted or broiled green chilies
  • Minced Garlic
  • Warm flour tortillas or rice for serving.

1. Put a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking, just until the meat juices evaporate, about 8 minutes (you’re not looking to brown the pork here). Add the onion and garlic and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water, not quite enough to cover the mixture. Bring to a boil, and let it boil vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chilies and a sprinkle of salt. Reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily, and cover partly. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates, 6 to 10 minutes (there should be some juices left in the bottom of the pot, but the mixture shouldn’t be soupy). Taste, add a little more salt if necessary and serve with warm flour tortillas or over rice.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

A note about Jerusalem Artichokes: Jerusalem Artichokes, more aptly called sunchokes, aren’t from Jerusalem and are not artichokes.  These vegetables, native to the U.S., are part of the extensive root system of a tall, perennial sunflower.  Eaten raw, they are crisp and refreshing like water chestnuts.  Cooked, they are moist, sweet and their nutty flavor reminds some people of globe artichokes.  We recommend roasting them as follows:  Wash thoroughly, rub with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Spread on a pan and roast in a 400 degree oven for approx. 40 minutes or until tender in center when pierced.

Fried Green Tomatoes

  • 4 to 6 green tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • cornmeal
  • vegetable oil

Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 – 1/2-inch slices. Salt and pepper them to taste. Dip in meal and fry in hot grease or oil about 3 minutes or until golden on bottom. Gently turn and fry the other side. Serve as a side dish – delicious with breakfast!

Green Tomato Chutney -This sweet, tangy chutney is a fine topping for burgers, fish tacos, rice and beans, or grilled chicken. Chopping ingredients in the food processor makes prep time go faster.

  • 4  cups  chopped green tomato (about 5)
  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 1/2  cup  chopped sweet or bell pepper
  • 1/2  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/4  cup  cider vinegar
  • 2  teaspoons  grated lemon rind
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  tablespoon  minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Cool; pour into airtight containers. Refrigerate Green Tomato Chutney in airtight containers up to two months.

Kale and Garbanzo (Chickpea) Soup  – We often add spicy sausage to this traditional Portuguese Stew

  • 2 onions or shallots, diced small
  • 11/2 t. fresh thyme or 1t. dried
  • 3-4 T. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ t. pepper flakes
  • 4 large tomatoes, fresh or one small can
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/3 cup sherry or white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped small
  • 1 ½ cups dry garbanzo beans, cooked, or two cans chickpeas
  • Salt and pepper

If using dry chickpeas, soak overnight.  Cook them in at least four cups of water for three hours until soft.  Be sure not to put salt in until peas are fully cooked.  Cook the onions and thyme in the olive oil over medium until soft.  Increase the heat and add the garlic, pepper flakes, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and sherry or wine.  Stew for 15 minutes.  Add the cooked chickpeas and the 8 cups of liquid.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the peas absorb the flavors.  Add the kale leaves and cook ten more minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Winter Squash with Sage Butter

  • 2 small or one large winter squash
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Scrub the squash well and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and attached pulp and reserve for toasting if desired. Cut each half lengthwise again, then slice crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices.

In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the honey. Arrange the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush each piece with the butter and honey, reserving half of that mixture. Season the squash lightly with salt and pepper and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Roast for 20-30 minutes.

Add the chopped fresh sage to the remaining butter-honey mixture. Remove the squash from the oven and turn them with tongs. Brush each piece with the butter mixture, season again with salt and pepper, and return to the oven, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Southwestern Stuffed Winter Squash

(Use either Acorn or Red Kuri Squash for this recipe)

  • 1 Acorn or Red Kuri squash
  • 1/2 lb. bulk sausage meat
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans or pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Several dashes hot red pepper sauce, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with vegetable oil.
  2. Cut squash in half horizontally. Scoop out and discard seeds. Place the squash cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes to one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with vegetable oil; heat over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, beans, salt and hot sauce, scraping up any browned bits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the tomatoes are broken down, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. When the squash are tender, reduce oven temperature to 325°. Fill the squash halves with the sausage mixture. Top with cheese. Place on the baking sheet and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.

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