Our newsletter from August 3:
Dear CSA members,
I hope all of you made it through last night’s storm safely. We were a little worried about the possibility of hail, since that can devastate a garden, but that didn’t materialize and everything seems to have survived the winds pretty well. We’re sure glad for the rain—we can get water to most, but not all of our growing areas through one means or another but it takes a lot of time in moving hoses and/or monitoring the irrigation system. Nice to have a reprieve from watering for a few days at least.
We spent a good portion of this week on fencing. It seems like we are having more trouble with mammalian pests this year than we have in the past. This week it was rabbits jumping the electric fence into the bean patch and raccoons playing havoc with the sweet corn. So the bean garden got an extra two strands of electric wire and the corn patch got a brand new electric fence. This coming week we plan to focus on preparing beds for fall planting and seeding fall crops like carrots, beets, pac choi, and Chinese cabbage.
I have to say that our decision to shrink the CSA this year has been a great one for us. We’re still up to our ears in tasks that need attending to, but being able to get away for a few days and to have a slightly less frantic work pace has made this a truly enjoyable summer. I actually feel rested for the first time in several years! I’ve also been delighting in having more time to prepare and preserve food this summer, something I used to do quite a lot of before I started growing food for others. My friend Crystal inspired me to make my own vegetable broth this week. Wow, was it good! And super easy—I don’t know why I’ve never done it before. It’s a great way to use up those parts of vegetables that usually get thrown out or vegetables and herbs that you know you aren’t going to get around to eating before they go bad.
Here’s what I put in my broth: scallion tops, funky-looking carrots, enormously overgrown zucchinis, snap peas that I found in the back of the fridge, funky-looking potatoes, parsley stems, some tomatoes that I dried last year whose skins got really tough and inedible. The bigger vegetables like the zucchinis I chopped into coarse chunks. The smaller stuff like the peas I left whole. I threw everything in a pot (it probably filled about one half to two thirds of the pot), filled the pot with water, and then brought it to a boil over high heat. Then I reduced the heat and let it simmer for a few hours until I tasted it and it tasted good. Then I turned off the heat and let it cool for a few more hours.
The liquid was a clear golden color and tasted rich and delicious. I drank a few cupfuls right away and then froze the rest, some of it in freezer boxes and some of it in ice cube trays so that it will thaw fast on those winter nights when I’ve forgotten to take it out of the freezer earlier in the day. Crystal keeps a gallon-sized bag in her freezer where she collects vegetable scraps for broth until she has enough to make a pot. I did a little reading on what sorts of vegetables you can use for broth and it sounds like the only things you might want to steer away from are in the brassica family (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) as they can impart a strong flavor that some people don’t like. But everything else sounds like fair game—peelings, parings, tops, ends, stuff that’s languishing in your crisper drawer getting ever-increasingly less crispy. (Obviously, you don’t want to use anything that’s spoiling though—that would not make delicious broth!)
Once you’ve made broth, you could go ahead and make soup! John and I often make a summer lunch out of a kale and potato soup like this one. You don’t really even need to add broth to it—the potatoes, onions, and garlic create their own as they cook.
Kale & Potato Soup
Ingredients: 4-5 medium potatoes; 1-2 cloves garlic; 1 onion; 1 bunch kale; butter or olive oil; broth or water; salt & pepper to taste. Optional toppings: chopped scallions; sour cream or yogurt.
Cube potatoes and place in saucepan. Cover with water and boil until tender. Meanwhile, mince garlic, dice onion, and shred kale. Once potatoes are approaching tenderness, sauté garlic and onion in butter or olive oil, then add them to the potatoes and their cooking liquid. Add enough additional liquid (broth or water) to cook the kale—probably a couple of cups will do it. Bring back to a boil, then add kale and simmer until kale is wilted but still bright green. Salt & pepper to taste. Serve warm and add optional toppings like sour cream and chopped green onions to the individual bowls.
I really like the Yukon Gold potatoes in your shares today for their versatility. They are good boiled, in soups and potato salads, and baked too. (In fact, we are baking some right now for lunch.) When my aforementioned friend Crystal brought her family over on Saturday to help us dig the Yukons, she also brought along this zucchini casserole for lunch. I think I’ve put this recipe in past years’ newsletters, but it’s so good that I’m going to repeat it here. If you aren’t a meat eater (or even if you are), try using the minced portabellas instead of the meat—they are really good in this! Also, apparently the zucchini plants heard all my worrying about not having enough zucchinis for you because they’ve kicked their production into overdrive. Thank you, zucchinis!
Zucchini Pizza Casserole
Ingredients: 4 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 2 eggs; 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese; 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided; 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided; 1 pound ground turkey or beef (or portabella mushrooms, finely minced);1/2 cup chopped onion; 1 can (15 ounces) Italian tomato sauce; 1 medium green pepper, chopped
Place zucchini in strainer; sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze out moisture. Combine zucchini with the eggs, Parmesan and half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Press into greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook beef (or mushrooms) and onion over medium heat until browned; drain. Add tomato sauce; spoon over zucchini mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; add green pepper. Bake 20 minutes longer or until heated through.
Wishing you a delicious week! -Amy & John