summer CSA week 12, and Great Harvest Bakery Friday, Aug 26 2011 

Thursday was pretty rainy, but I timed my pickup between the storms. This week we got 6 ears of corn, a head of lettuce, 2 lbs tomatoes, four apples, four peaches, four nectarines, a pound of fingerling potatoes, and a pound of green beans. This was a non-egg week so they gave us cheese (I got Muenster) and I picked up lemon pound cake for the bread item.

summer CSA, week 12

No herbs, alas, because we’re not allowed to go out onto the herb garden when the ground is wet. When I asked why, they said something about wet ground being more susceptible to the bacteria on my shoes. Oh well, don’t want to hurt the herbs.

too wet for herbs

The lemon pound cake is fantastic, by the way. I’m an even bigger fan of Great Harvest Bakery now that I’ve actually gone to the store (it’s along Centre Park Drive in Columbia). The staff is incredibly friendly and they give very generous samples — thick, beautiful slices of bread, which you can often slather with whatever preserves they’re letting you try. (I had lemon curd on challah for my sample this morning: divine.) The selection changes daily, too (they have the menu on their site), so when you get that day’s baked good, you can eat it with special relish, knowing that they likely won’t make it again until the next week.

Although they open at 6:30am, buyers should be aware that they’re still baking; only some breads are ready right away. When I went early in the morning to get parmesan sourdough (made only on Wednesdays), they told me it wouldn’t be ready until midmorning. They offered to hold a loaf for me, so I swung by and picked it up after work that evening… along with another meal-sized sample. Really, it’s a wonderful place.

Also: free coffee on Friday mornings! Get there before 8:30.

(Mini food review: I’ve loved all the breads I’ve tried, as well as the Jewish apple cake and the lemon pound cake. The cream cheese scones are a little too moist and cakey for me though — I tend to like my scones with more crumb.)

summer CSA, week 11 Friday, Aug 19 2011 

This week on the CSA: 6 ears corn, 4 kohlrabi, 1 eggplant, four nectarines, five plums, fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, green bell peppers, a head of garlic, eggs, and bread (honey whole wheat). There’s also a bundle of basil and parsley hiding behind the eggplant.

summer CSA, week 11

There were samples of raw kohlrabi at the farm, cut into matchsticks. I tried one. It tasted, well, raw and crunchy. Apparently it makes good slaw. I can see it being pretty tasty with a good dip, like hummus or a creamy dressing.

I’ve also recently rediscovered my love for ripe red tomatoes. This has become my favorite summer dish:

– Toast a slice of parmesan sourdough bread. (Other bread will work too, but parm sourdough is the best.)
– Rub the toasted bread with the cut side of a clove of garlic.
– Spread mayonnaise on the bread. (There was mayo in the first tomato sandwich I ate, and now I’ve imprinted on it.)
– If you’re brave and like the bite of raw garlic, mince up the garlic and sprinkle that on the bread too.
– Cut a ripe red tomato into slices, from pole to pole. Spread the slices on the bread, overlapping if necessary.
– Sprinkle with a chiffonade of basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
– Eat!

tomatoes on toast

half a cow from Wagon Wheel Ranch Tuesday, Aug 16 2011 

This is our third time buying half a cow from Wagon Wheel Ranch. We split both cow and cost with T and C, our intrepid partners in local eating (they also get half of our CSA share every week). The beef is from a small frame steer, which produces about 125 pounds of meat per half. It’s a lot of meat, but split between two households, it’s manageable.

Each of the roasts and cuts come vacuum sealed into packages, and each package is labeled with the cut of meat and the month and year of slaughter. When you go to pick it up, you’ll get about four printer paper size boxes of meat. (The cat can be used to estimate the scale of this enterprise.)

four boxes of half a cow

We then split the beef in half, first by counting out all of the ground beef (it’s packed in roughly one-pound sacks), and then sorting out the rest of the beef on the table. The kitchen scale is there so we can most equitably split the cuts by weight. What you see is just the steaks and roasts; we left the ground beef in the boxes.

roasts and steaks on a table

After all was divided up, our quarter of the cow consisted of about 75 pounds, 40 of which was ground beef; about 19 pounds were various types of steaks (chuck, sirloin, NY strip, ribeye, filet), and the rest were roasts and miscellaneous cuts. We paid $437.50 counting the initial deposit, which works out to about $5.75 per pound.

This is a trifle expensive for ground beef (other local farms will sell it for $5/lb), but the savings become substantial once you move into steak and roast territory — you won’t easily find free-range, grass-fed steaks for under $10/lb.

After noticing that our take was lacking in organ meats and marrow bones, we asked the ranch and they said we could come by and pick some up. So we went back to the ranch and came back with two big bags of marrow bones, four packs of liver, a heart, a tongue, and a bag of unidentified smaller bones. I suspect they’re probably not from the same cow as the rest of the meat, but I don’t mind.

organs and bones

I didn’t weigh them, but since the beef costs the same whether or not you take the bones and organs, the total price doesn’t change.

We’ve also purchased lamb, chicken, and pork from the ranch in the past. The meat has been very tasty and satisfying overall, and it’s nice not to worry when I hear the occasional news about salmonella outbreaks and E. coli contaminations and the like. I also feel good knowing that the meat I’m eating was raised organically, on local pasture rather than on grain, and lived a happy life before it came to my freezer.

All I’m scared of now is a power outage.

summer CSA, week 10 Friday, Aug 12 2011 

This week’s CSA: 1 head green leaf lettuce, 6 ears of corn, 2 lbs tomatoes, 2 lbs onions, 2 lbs summer squash, 4 nectarines, 4 peaches, 1/2 lb mushrooms, 1 head of garlic, a dozen eggs, and bread (Parmesan sourdough). I actually requested that the CSA hold a loaf of Parmesan sourdough for me, because apparently Great Harvest only bakes it on Wednesdays, which explains why I haven’t been getting it since I began picking up on Thursdays. Guess I might have to stop by Great Harvest myself on Wednesday mornings if I want my fix.

summer CSA, week 10

If you look next to the carton of eggs, just above the mushrooms, that’s a packet of fresh herbs. One of the things I love most about picking up right at the farm is getting to pick your own herbs from the herb garden. There are rows upon rows of flourishing herbs, and I usually go straight for the basil and parsley. There’s also dill, cinnamon basil, oregano, lavender, thyme, borage, and more.

herb garden, looking out

I love picking herbs on a sunny afternoon, brushing aside the bees and butterflies that are also enjoying the herb blossoms. I knew that basil flowered white, and cinnamon basil flowered purple, but I did not know about the lovely little purple thyme flowers or the big yellow dill blossoms. These are things you miss out on when buying herbs from the grocery store.

herb garden, looking in

I buy potted herbs from the farmer’s market every spring, too, but apparently I can’t manage to keep plants alive. This is why I leave the growing of vegetables to other people.

fruits and vegetables outside the CSA Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Ever found yourself with a crudite platter? You know, the trays with containers of cut vegetables and a little plastic bowl of dip? You might find one when you’re cleaning up after a party, and some well-meaning guest brought a crudite platter which people barely touched. And then there you are with a huge tray of cold, crunchy vegetables. What do you do?

crudite platter

Me, I can only take so much raw veg, so I roast them. Toss the broccoli florets, carrot sticks, and cauliflower with a good drizzle of olive oil and some seasonings; I like salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little cayenne for kick. Then spread them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Add the tomatoes after. Tomatoes are fragile and don’t like getting tossed with harder vegetables.

roasted vegetables

Roast at 350F for as long as seems appropriate. K likes cooking the vegetables until they’re just a bit brown on the outside, but still crunchy on the inside; I like roasting them to utter oblivion, until the tips of the florets darken and the carrots are limp and the tomatoes are wrinkled little sacks. It’s your call; just check up on them every now and then to make sure they don’t burn. You can serve them alongside any kind of entree, or just eat them as is, fresh from the oven. Put the leftovers in the fridge; they’ll reheat.

Our house is also currently well supplied with fruit. The CSA peaches were so perfect and juicy that I couldn’t wait an entire week to get more; I headed out to the farmers market on Sunday and bought an $8 basketful. Some were firm and some were so soft and ripe that they just begged to be eaten that very day.

peaches and apples

I also picked up a $3 quart of apples from the same vendor but sadly, those weren’t as good — the flavor was okay, but the texture was very mealy, and I prefer my apples crunchy. Still, they make perfectly decent afternoon snacks.

To round out my non-CSA fruit and veg experience, I’ve been getting a lot of produce from a coworker of mine who has a garden that’s producing overtime. For a while he was picking two cucumbers a day, and lately he’s been inundated with tomatoes. I helped myself to some of his extras: sweet, delicious cherry tomatoes, normal red tomatoes, and little green tomatoes called “green zebra stripe.” They’re all fantastic. We like serving tomato slices alongside fried eggs for breakfast, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

garden tomatoes

Perfect peaches and ripe, juicy tomatoes. I love summer.

summer CSA, week 9 Friday, Aug 5 2011 

The CSA pickup this week (actually this week! I’m on time!) brought us a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread (Great Harvest oatmeal), cantaloupe, six ears of corn, two pounds potatoes, two pounds yellow squash, two pounds tomatoes (yes, those two giant tomatoes weighed one pound each), four nectarines, four peaches, and two green peppers. I also walked out to their herb garden and picked some dill, basil, and parsley.

summer CSA, week 9

The pickup this week was slightly confusing. Generally, the amount of food you’re supposed to take is written on a little chalkboard, so the sign above the tomatoes says “2 lbs tomatoes” which means you’re supposed to weigh out two pounds of tomatoes. This week involved a lot of weighing, first potatoes, then squash, then tomatoes… and then I saw a man in front of me weighing out two pounds of peppers. One of the ladies gently pointed out to him that the board said “2 peppers,” not “2 lbs peppers,” and he sighed in relief and put back something like 10 peppers. You have to read carefully at the CSA.

Thanks to last weekend’s heroic efforts, there is actually space in the refrigerator for all of this stuff. I’m just glad that there isn’t any zucchini. I’m stuffed to the gills with zucchini.

summer CSA week 8, and zucchini adventures Tuesday, Aug 2 2011 

Last week’s CSA brought us cantaloupe, 3 beets, 6 ears of corn, 2 pounds tomatoes, a single large eggplant, peaches, zucchini, and nectarines, as well as the usual eggs and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA week 8

We’ve already made pretty good progress; the cantaloupe was ripe and perfect, so K and I ate it up within the first couple of days. The peaches and nectarines disappeared similarly quickly (Maryland summer peaches are absolutely wonderful). I made the Lee Bros. Creamed Corn recipe* with the corn, and K made two stir fry dishes: one with shrimp and tomato, and another with ground beef and cubed eggplant. Fantastic dishes, both.

* Note on the Lee Bros recipe: if you try it, go easy on the salt. I think the Diamond brand of kosher salt they have down south is less strong than the Morton’s we have up here. I salted to taste and used barely half of what they did.

This past weekend was notable for two things: 1) K cooked an entire ham on the grill, and it was amazing (went well with the creamed corn, too); 2) I used up four pounds of zucchini.

See, we had a giant zucchini sitting in the fridge; a friend of ours picked it from his garden. Apparently zucchini gets really big if you don’t pick it in time…

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