Monday, August 31, 2009

And Then There Were Three

The summer stint has come to an end and though they were loathe to leave, the interns said their farewells to Green String Farm on Saturday, packed their felco pruners, and went off in their respective directions. Some are on their way to graduate programs in agriculture and social work, while others plan on starting farms or even suburban gardens in neighbors' backyards. Because this group had such diverse interests and backgrounds, it is inevitable that the seeds they gathered over the course of the summer, bearing principles of natural-process and sustainable farming, will be spread far and wide through their influence. That is the hope, anyway.

When I say that the interns said their farewells, I ought to say that most of the interns did so. As it turns out, three of the interns could not be gotten rid of and I count myself among them. Julie, Courtney, and I will still be around, helping Bob out on his farm, learning more about natural-process farming, and, well, living the dream. On that note, I leave these words of Henry David Thoreau (how fitting!) for my departing fellow interns, in the hopes that they go off, do good work, and grow good things.

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

Bye, summer group; welcome new interns!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Things to do when you're drowning in zucchini, part two

There is a second part to my plan of attack against the onslaught of zucchinis, another way to use them up, without really making me feel like I'm eating the same thing, all the time, every day. Aside from canning- which is essentially a procrastinator's way of eating zucchini- there is one other little trick. Hide it in a dessert of course! When I worked as a baker, the one certainty with which I began every morning was that I would need to bake at least twice the amount of zucchini muffins as any other kind. Always. People love zucchini desserts. Perhaps we think they're more healthy?

In any case, the thought of zucchini desserts led me immediately to one taste-memory: Janet's zucchini bread. Janet has been my next door neighbor for over twenty years and, when we were growing up, her daughter and I were best friends. We even built a little brick pathway between our houses so we could run back and forth without having to go all the way around the driveways. Every year, without fail, Janet makes zucchini bread for Christmas and passes out loaves to all the neighbors as gifts. I never ate it as a child, but now, having grown out of that silliness, I adore it.

This morning, when I woke up- with zucchini on my mind- I decided to call my dear neighbor and finally get the recipe after all these years. I always knew that this recipe was special; Janet's zucchini bread is sweet and moist and slightly fragrant and...just perfect in a way that I could never before identify. Now that I've got my little paws on the secrets, I get it. You'll see the tricks below. The holidays come early this year!

Janet's Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 9x5" loaves
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1/8 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (Janet uses untoasted walnuts)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour 2 large or 3 small loaf pans.
  2. In a small bowl, combine eggs, oil, and sugar, and beat well. Then mix in zucchini, lemon peel, and extracts.
  3. In another, larger bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients except the nuts.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Add nuts when all is mixed.
  5. Pour batter into pans and bake for approximately one hour, until loaves are set and a knife inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Things to do when you're drowning in zucchini, part one

Sometime last week, I promised Jenny that I would help her run the zucchini recipe marathon, but I got so busy that until this point she's been valiantly carrying the torch all alone. Now, it's my turn to take the baton and continue the rather futile attempt to exhaust our massive zucchini supply. I come bearing recipes and a secret plan to stem the tide.

Here's the problem: when you're drowning in zucchini, you must, inevitably, tire just a bit of eating them. In that scenario, you must preserve them to eat sometime in January or February when, perhaps as a result of your courageous effort to eat as locally as possible, you find yourself surviving on turnips and garlic with nary a zucchini or squash plant in sight.

I've been there. When I was living in Boston, I, rather foolishly, vowed only to eat produce grown in Massachussetts. In August, that plan worked just fine, but come December, I was dying for something green. It was then that I decided to learn to preserve. For beginners, boiling water canning is the best, most fool-proof method of making your zucchini last. There are several steadfast rules of canning that you should absolutely know before you begin- the best primers that I've found are in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving and the Joy of Cooking. They are both easy to read and comprehensive for the home canner.

That said, I give this recipe to you in the hopes that it will keep you from getting so desperately over your head in zucchini that you covertly hide it in the handbags of every house guest you entertain from July through September. You're welcome.

Zucchini Relish

Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. A little on the sweet side, but works perfectly as a nice subsitute for that creepy neon green relish that so often graces the bun of the hot dog or hamburger. Makes about 4 half pints
  • 2 cups finely chopped zucchini, about the size of your pinky nail
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet green pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  1. Combine zucchini, onion, green and red peppers; sprinkle with salt; cover with cold water and let stand for two hours
  2. Drain; rinse and drain thoroughly.
  3. Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, add vegetables and simmer twn minutes
  4. Pack hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. You may have more liquid then you need to put in the jars.
  5. Remove air bubbles; adjust two piece caps and process for ten minutes in a boiling water canner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mac 'n Cheeze 'n Zuke

Well, I was going to post a recipe for zucchini bread, but my adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe in The Bread Bible was really disappointing.

Anyone have a good zuke bread recipe to share?

In the meantime, here's last night's super-comfort-food dish.

Mac 'n "Cheeze" 'n Zukes

I was vegan on and off for a couple years, and though I eat dairy now, I still make macaroni and faux-cheese -- with nutritional yeast instead of the real deal -- because it's got a great flavor that you can't get anywhere else. Mix in some zucchini, and you've got a pot full of creamy awesome. Disclaimer: some people seem to a have an innate hatred for nutritional yeast. If you're one of those people, you're probably better off mixing zucchini into your own recipe for mac 'n cheese. Serves 4-6
  • 12-16 oz medium-sized pasta (like rotini), cooked al dente
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 dried cayenne pepper, chopped
  • kosher salt, to taste (three pinches or so)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast, plus some for topping
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tasty olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ white onion, chopped fine
  • 2 medium white Lebanese zucchini, sliced into sixteenth-inch rounds
  • more salt! more pepper!
  1. If you have a dutch oven or any other oven-safe pot that will hold the dish, it's nice to use that to build the sauce, then pour in the pasta and bake it all without dirtying an extra dish. If you don't though, a casserole dish does just fine.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°. Over medium-high heat, melt butter and add flour when hot. Stir to get rid of any lumps, and cook until the mixture has slightly deepened in flavor and smells nutty, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add milk and water, whisking constantly. Add soy sauce, mustard, cayenne, and salt. Lower heat to medium-low and cover until thickened and boiling, stirring occasionally. Stir in nutritional yeast and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, and then add pasta. Pour into casserole dish if you need to.
  4. Top with a tablespoon or so of nutritional yeast and a good drizzle of olive oil. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, heat the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. After it foams, add the onions and a good pinch of salt. Stir and cook until onions are soft, a couple minutes.
  6. Add zucchini. Toss occasionally until zucchini slices are soft and translucent. Top with more pepper. (Zucchini loves pepper!)
  7. When the pasta comes out of the oven, mix the zucchini into the pasta. Allow to cool before serving -- that thick sauce is like napalm!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Zucchini Scramble

I have to admit, almost all of my zucchini recipes consist of grating and sautéing zucchini, and then adding it to something.This recipe is a particularly simple version of that formula, with only eggs added to the zucchini. The result is surprisingly good, with an almost souffle-like consistency.

Zucchini Scramble

Serves 2

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small green or Ronde de Nice zucchini, grated
  • heavy pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • pepper, to taste
  1. In a small skillet, warm olive oil over low heat. Add zucchini and salt.
  2. Cook, stirring, until zucchini has turned translucent.
  3. Beat the eggs and stir into zucchini. Stir slowly until eggs have set to a custard-like thickness. Don't wait until it looks dry, or it'll be rubbery!
  4. Add pepper and serve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zucchini Comfort

A few years ago, I got a moderately bad case of the flu while I was living in Boston, 3,000 miles from where I grew up. I was in such a crummy mood, and all I wanted was a little homey comfort. My then-boyfriend asked what he could do to cheer me up, and I told him I was craving my mom's style of sautéed zucchini. So he borrowed my phone to call my mom, and got this recipe:

Sauteed Zucchini

Quick, easy, warm, and delicious. Like so many Mom recipes, it's impossible to give exact quantities for ingredients - just go with what looks good. Serve with Kraft mac n cheese or filet mignon, or absolutely anything else. Stir into a creamy sauce for something truly special.
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • garlic, chopped fine
  • zucchini, grated
  • salt and tons of freshly ground pepper
  1. Melt butter in a wide skillet. Add olive oil.
  2. Add garlic, sweat for a minute, and then add zucchini.
  3. Cook over medium heat until zucchini has turned translucent.
  4. Add salt and pepper, and serve before it cools off too much.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Zucchinis take over the world!

I walked behind the farm store today and my jaw dropped. THERE ARE SO MANY ZUCCHINIS. We've got good ol' green zucchinis, delicately striped romanesca zucchinis, globe-like Ronde de Nice zucchinis, and beautiful, eggplant-shaped white Lebanese zucchini. And suddenly, there are a million of each.

Now I don't know about you, but I find this kind of thing incredibly exciting. I've never understood how people can complain about vegetable gluts -- there's that much more to enjoy! Plus, zucchinis have been my favorite vegetable for as long as I can remember. There's no such thing as too many zucchinis.

There is, however, such a thing as not enough recipes. If you only know a couple ways to cook a zucchini, you won't be able to enjoy the tremendous swell in production. Even the most die-hard fan (i.e. me) can't eat the same pile of grated and sautéed zucchini day after day.

In the interest of spreading the green, squashy love, I'm going to post my very favorite zucchini recipes here over the next few days, and hopefully some of the other Green String Farm folks will join me too. We'll see how long we can keep this up!

Zucchini Bisque

This very, very creamy soup is one of my grandma's creations. It was one of my favorite dishes growing up, and I have a sneaking suspicion it was one of my mom's favorites when she was a kid too. It's a great way to use up those larger zucchini that aren't great for other applications. Oh, and if you make extra, serve the leftovers cold for lunch the next day -- it's like a squashy version of vichyssoise. Serves 6

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1½ pounds zucchini, grated, shredded, or chopped
  • 2½ cups broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • small handful basil leaves (about 20), cut into ribbons
  • 1 cup half-and-half (or ½ cup milk and ½ cup cream)
  1. In large saucepan, melt butter.
  2. Saute onion until limp.
  3. Add zucchini and broth to onion.
  4. Simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  5. Puree zucchini mixture in processor in 2 batches, OR use an immersion blender to puree.
  6. Add salt, nutmeg, pepper, basil, and half-and-half, and stir until well mixed. Taste for additional seasonings.
  7. Serve hot or cold.

Monday, August 10, 2009

August Newsletter

Okay, so this month's newsletter is really late, but hey, it was my birthday last week! Cut me some slack. :-D

View the newsletter online
Download the PDF

Our list of produce available in the store keeps growing and growing! Summer vacation for the kiddies may be drawing to a close, but for some of our favorite veggies, the season is only beginning.

In this issue of the newsletter, we tell you a bit about our beef (did you know that we had beef?) and share a recipe for meatloaf that comes -- no joke -- from my boss's mom. We also have a new recipe for zucchini, and easy directions for a fresh tomato-basil sauce.

We hope you enjoy this month's newsletter! Remember that you can stop in at the store to grab a hard copy, and email to get on the mailing list for next month.

Monday, August 3, 2009

On the nature of square dancing and potato salad

When we set out to throw our barn dance, we had many goals in mind; we wanted to have a big party in the big barn; we wanted to fundraise; we wanted to raise awareness about the farm and the institute, we wanted to bring our community together.

Now, having lived through the exciting event that was our barn dance, we've decided that it was that final goal that was really the dearest to our hearts. We wanted people to get to know us and the farm, perhaps see why we love this place so much, yes, but we also wanted those same people to meet one another. It is rare, after all, to really meet with one's neighbors these days.

That is where square dancing comes in. For our barn dance, we had a caller named Tina, who stood with her band at the end of the barn and told us uncoordinated chickens what moves to make, when to hold hands, bow to our partners, and do-si-do. We formed long lines, held hands with complete strangers, and skipped down the length of our barn like children. There is something about square dancing that makes you put your guard down. For one thing, everyone looks just plain silly and so no one feels silly alone. And for another, the dance goes on whether you know your dance partner or not, and if you don't grab on to someone, you'll be left behind.

We read, recently, a beautiful account of that night that really brings to light this community-building aspect of our dance, and asks some really great questions about the relationship between communities and nature in our culture today; go here to see it:

Now, at the barn dance we made a special dinner for our musicians, that we designed to be friendly and familiar, because we wanted them to feel like our neighbors too. Only one dish would do. We firmly believe that many a neighbor has bonded over this ubiquitous dish, that graces the table of every American summer block party and bbq: potato salad. It brings people together, especially if you buy the potatoes at your friendly neighborhood farm stand. Try some!

Potato Salad with pickled onions

Serves 8-10
  • 10-12 large potatoes, washed and cut into 1 1/2-2" cubes
  • 2 cups of green or yellow wax beans, washed with the stems cut or broken off
  • 1/2 cup pickled onions (or more if you like), recipe follows
  • 1 batch mustardy mayonnaise, recipe follows
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  1. Put cubed potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cook over high heat until they come to a boil and add a tablespoon or more of salt to the water (just enough so that you can taste the salt). Turn the heat down so the potatoes are at a very low simmer and cook until they are tender but not mushy.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, put a small pot of water on to boil, and add salt to taste again. Have a small bowl of ice water ready, next to the stove. When the water in the pot is at a rolling boil, add the beans and cook until they are tender, but still a little crisp, then add them to the ice bath to stop their cooking. When cool, drain the beans and cut into thirds; set aside until the potatoes are done.
  3. When potatoes finish cooking, drain them and put them, still in the collander, in an empty sink to dry out and cool, covered with a dish towel.
  4. When potatoes are barely warm, toss with the mayonnaise, pickled onions, blanched green beans, oregano, and 1-2 tablespoons of the onion pickling liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to combine.

Pickled Onions

  • 4 medium sized onions
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili flake
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
  1. Peel, halve and thinly slice onions and put in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Combine all other ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Take hot pickling liquid and pour over onions. Allow to cool and refrigerate at least overnight before using.

Mustardy Mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place yolks in a medium sized bowl with a damp towel underneath it, to keep it from sliding around while you whisk
  2. Beginning just one spoonful at a time, alowly add the oil to the egg yolks in a drizzle while constantly whisking, waiting until each bit of oil is absorbed before adding another spoonful. Eventually the mixture will begin to be a more pale yellow, and will thicken. At this point, it is okay to add the oil straight from the container in a steady stream, whisking all the while. It should continue to thicken until, when all the oil has been added, you need to add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.
  3. Grate or finely chop the garlic and add to the bowl along with the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper and taste. Adjust seasoning if you need to.