Newsletters: 5 Oct., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 5 Oct., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
I’ve written about CSA shares before, but this seems like a good time to remind you of all the great vendors we have who are joining the CSA parade. Mostly I’ve spoken of the advantages to the farmers and other producers, who love to have those advance sales and a little predictable income, and also just enjoy having a personal relationship with their best customers. This time I’m going to say a little about the advantages to the customer, beyond the discount. You, too, benefit from a personal relationship with your farmer (or baker, or soap-maker, or…), with special frills such as first-of-the-season produce, limited-run specialties, farm news, and deals on, or first shot at, additional products. A traditional produce CSA can also help you eat better, because you’ve got this huge box of beautiful vegetables and there’s another one coming! You get to try new things with the help and advice of your personal farmer, often including preparation instructions and recipes in your CSA newsletter. Not sure you want to try new things? Most farmers will let you trade what you won’t use for something you will.

In the kitchen
How about recipes from CSA newsletters to go with the CSA information? Here are some late-season selections from our two “anchor” farms. No, it’s not at all that I’m rushed and lazy, they just fit in so well… OK, it’s because I’m surrounded by half-packed moving boxes and don’t know where I put the inspiration.

Creamy Potato and Parsnip Gratin
8 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
8 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, halved
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 c whipping cream or yogurt
Generously butter a 13×9-inch baking dish and rub with garlic. Arrange a single layer of potatoes in dish. Sprinkle lightly with a little of the thyme, salt and pepper. Add a layer of parsnips. Sprinkle with seasonings. Repeat layers with remaining vegetables. Pour in enough cream to come three-quarters up side of dish. Place on baking sheet and bake, covered, in 375 degree F oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes longer or until top is brown and crusty and potatoes are cooked through.
Variations: Butternut squash, kohlrabi, or celeriac may be added to the vegetables. Maple syrup may be added to the cream.
From: Left Foot Organics CSA News, October 16, 2008

Sweet and Sour Peppers
1/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups very thinly sliced onions
2 large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
2 large green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 can baby corn, drained
1 1/2 cups cashews
Combine catsup, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, water, and cornstarch to make a sauce. Heat oil in wok or large skillet and stir-fry garlic and onions for 3-4 minutes. Add peppers; add 2-3 tablespoons water if necessary to prevent scorching. When peppers and onions begin to soften, add corn and cashews. Stir fry 1 minute, then add sauce mixture and let simmer another minute.
From: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, as quoted in The Kirsop Farm news, October 14, 2009

Red Cabbage with Apricots
2 1/2 lbs. red cabbage, sliced thin
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup dry red wine
Salt to taste
Combine cabbage and apricots in a slow cooker. Mix honey and juice; drizzle over cabbage mixture. Add wine; cover slow cooker and cook on LOW until cabbage is very tender (5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours). Season to taste with salt.
From: Left Foot Organics CSA News, October 22, 2009

Fennel with Parmesan Cheese
2 pounds fennel bulbs, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, in small pieces
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Blanch or steam fennel 8-15 minutes, until tender but firm. Cool and quarter, leaving a thin layer of the core to hold the bulb together. Arrange cut side up in a buttered 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Cover with cheese and butter and season with salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is lightly browned.
From: Victory Garden Cookbook, as quoted in The Kirsop Farm news, October 13, 2010

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Newsletters: 28 Sept. 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 28 Sept. 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
This seems like a good time to look at stress. Stress is, at heart, the feeling that things are out of control. It can be counteracted to a certain extent just by taking charge of your life — if not of the events themselves, then at least of your reactions to those events. This is at the heart of stress management. Nothing can really stress you out without your permission, but of course just not worrying about it isn’t that easy. There are all kinds of techniques out there for dealing with stress, and we all have our own methods as well — some healthy, some not so good. Some popular methods of stress management are over-eating, smoking, and excessive drinking; healthier options include meditation and relaxation in many forms, exercise, laughter, gratitude, altruism, various sorts of social activity, improved time management, counseling, journaling, and various sorts of “me-time” or self-care (I was going to say self-indulgence but that has negative connotations; that’s what we’re really talking about here, though). Stress has a bad reputation these days, but a certain amount of stress is actually good for you, and keeps life from being boring. Too little stress can lead to depression. The trick is finding the right balance.
Standard disclaimer: I’m a librarian, not a doctor. Make up your own mind and don’t believe anything just because I put it in this newsletter.

In the kitchen
A friend of mine just bought 30 lbs. of onions for the winter. I can’t imagine what she’s going to do with them all. She says she puts them in everything.

Cabbage with red onion and apple
1 large apple, cored but not peeled, shredded
2 med. carrots, scraped and shredded
10 oz shredded cabbage
6 oz shredded red onion
1 t cumin
3/4 t ground coriander
Place all ingredients in a pot over med-low heat. Stir, cover, cook 6-8 min. until soft.
From: 20-minute menus / Marian Burros. 1st Fireside ed. Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Caramelized onion and parsnip soup
2 T butter
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 T light brown sugar
1 c dry white wine
3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
5 c vegetable stock
1/4 c cream
fresh thyme leaves, to garnish
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sugar and cook over low heat for 10 min. Add the wine and parsnips and simmer, covered, for 20 min. or until the onions and parsnips are golden and tender. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 min. Cool slightly, then place in a blender or food processor and blend in batches until smooth. Season. Drizzle with a little cream and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
From: Bowl food / edited by Kay Scarlett.

Pickled onions
16 white boiling onions (about 1 lb.)
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 Tbsp. coarse salt
1 c white wine vinegar
1 c water
3 Tbsp. sugar
Bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer in a non-reactive saucepan; simmer, covered, 10 min. Remove from heat and let cool, still covered. Pour into a 1-quart jar and refrigerate at least 12 hours; keeps up to two weeks.
From: Vegetables / James Peterson. William Morrow and Co., c1998.

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Newsletters: 14 Sept. 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 14 Sept. 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
The eggplant, also called an aubergine, belongs to the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Like tomatoes, it is really a fruit. When immature it contains toxins that can cause illness (but it grows out of it). People with arthritis and related issues should consider avoiding eggplant and its relatives, because the solanine they contain can be a problem for them. However, eggplant has also been used to reduce other kinds of swelling and bleeding, and to treat dysentery, so you’ll have to make up your own mind whether to eat it or not. Eggplant is full of bioflavinoids, and the skin of the purple varieties contains another kind of anti-oxidant, anthocyanins. It has some nice B-complex vitamins, but it is more known for its minerals, especially manganese, copper, iron and potassium. It is also a very low-calorie fruit and provides plenty of fiber.

Eggplants probably originated in India or Southeast Asia, and was cultivated in China as early as the 5th century. The Moors brought it to Spain in the 8th century, and the Italians were trading with the Arabs for it in the 13th century. In India it is called brinjal, Australians call it an eggfruit, and West Africans call it garden fruit. Some use it to treat scorpion bites or frostbite.

In the kitchen
I went looking for some nice leek recipes because they looked so pretty, and of course I immediately ran up against my collection of Welsh recipes. So here are two traditional Welsh soups and a fairly modern chicken, just for variety.

Swp cennin a thatws (leek and potato soup)
3 leeks
1 lb. potatoes
2 oz butter
1 oz flour
3 pints chicken stock
1 c milk
3 sprigs parsley
salt, pepper
Trim leeks, wash thoroughly and slice finely. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place leeks and potatoes with 1 oz butter in a large saucepan. Cover and heat gently 5 min. until the leeks are very lightly coloured. Shake the saucepan gently to prevent the vegetables burning. Pour on the stock and simmer 3/4 hour. Melt the rest of the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the flour using a wooden spoon. Stir in the milk, making sure there are no lumps. Simmer 2-3 min. on a gentle heat and add to soup. Stir well and bring back to a boil. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.
From: The Welsh dresser : more recipes from Wales / by Sian Llewellyn. Cardiff : Emeralda, c1986.

Cawl Aberaeron (Aberayron broth)
1.5 lb. bacon
1 lb beef
1 white cabbage
1/2 lb. carrots
1/2 lb turnips
1/2 lb parsnips
1 lb potatoes
2 small leeks
salt, pepper
Wash and shred the cabbage. peel and cut up all the other vegetables. Dice the bacon and beef. Place the meat and all the vegetables except the leeks in a large saucepan; cover with water and season to taste. Simmer 2-2.5 hr. Add the leeks and continue heating for a further 10 min. Serve hot.
From: The Welsh kitchen : recipes from Wales / by Sian Llewellyn. Cardiff : Emeralda, 1972.

Chicken braised with leeks and figs
1 T butter
3 c coarsely chopped leek (ca. 4-5)
2 T flour
3/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
4 chicken drumsticks, skinned (4 oz ea.)
4 chicken thighs, skinned (4 oz ea.)
2 c dry white wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T honey
6 parsley sprigs
1 sprig thyme
16 medium light-skinned fresh figs, halved (ca. 1.5 lb)
1 T chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
thmye sprigs, for garnish
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over med-high. Add leeks; saute 5 min or until tender. Remove leeks from pan and set aside. Combine flour, salt, pepper, chicken in a plastic bag and shake to coat. Place chicken in the skillet and brown on all sides, ca. 10 min. Return leeks to pan and add wine, vinegar, honey, parsley, thyme. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 15 min. Add figs and simmer another 10 min. or until chickien is done. Remove parsley and thyme sprigs. Sprinkle with parsley and thyme garnish if desired.
From: Cooking light, Aug. 2004.

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Newsletters: 24 Aug 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 24 Aug 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
Tomatoes are native to central America and were cultivated by the Aztecs. They belong to the nightshade family, which also includes chili peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. This may be why people in some places and times have been leery of eating them. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, manganese, and the anti-oxidant lycopene, which gives them their red color. Other flavinoid compounds in tomatoes are good for the eyes. Tomatoes are also helpful against urinary tract infections, skin ailments, diabetes, thrombosis (blood clots), inflammation, and hypertension. Cooking tomatoes actually makes the lycopene more accessible, especially when eaten with a little fat or oil — so it could be argued that spaghetti is a health food (I’ll take any excuse I can get).

In the kitchen
With much less fanfare than the carrots, apricots, and blueberries, the humble cabbage has arrived at the market. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing to do with cabbage is shred it and fry it up in bacon fat, but many people prefer to make it into cole slaw or sauerkraut.

Sweet and sour cole slaw
6 c (1 lb.) red or green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt or 1 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. celery seed
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c rice wine vinegar (use cider vinegar if making ahead)
pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients but oil, vinegar, and pepper; let stand in a colander 1-4 hours, until cabbage wilts. Discard drained liquid and remove to bowl; add oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Season to taste. May be refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days.
Variation: add 1 tsp. curry powder, 1 peeled, chopped apple, and 1/4 c raisins with the oil and vinegar.
From: The best recipe / by the editors of Cook’s illustrated. Boston Common Press, c1999.

Mixed pickles (aka Compost)
2 lb. mixed parsley roots, carrots, radishes, turnips, peeled, thinly sliced
1 lb. white cabbage, cored and shredded
1 lb. hard eating pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
6 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. saffron strands
2 c white wine vinegar, divided
2 oz. currants
2.5 c fruity white wine
6 Tbsp. clear honey
1 tsp. French mustard
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. anise seed
1/4 tsp. fennel seed
2 oz. white sugar
Slowly bring root vegetables and cabbage to a boil in a large pan of water; add pears. Cook until pears start to soften; drain and spread in a 2-inch layer in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Sprinkle with salt, ginger, saffron, and 4 Tbsp. vinegar. Cover and let sit 12 hours. Rinse well and add currants. Pack into sterilized jars, leaving at least 1 inch headspace. Bring wine and honey to a simmer; skim. Add remaining ingredients, including the rest of the vinegar. Reduce heat and stir without boiling until sugar dissolves. Return to a boil and pour over vegetables, covering them by 1/2 inch. Cover with vinegar-proof seals.
From: The medieval cookbook / Maggie Black. British Museum Press, c1992.

Cabbage the Athenian way
1 small white cabbage, finely sliced, washed, drained
2 heaped tsp. chopped fresh green coriander in oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh or dried rue
3 Tbsp. honey vinegar
2 pinches asafoetida powder
Toss cabbage with coriander, rue, and honey vinegar. Sprinkle with asafeotida powder and salt.

Honey vinegar
1/2 c honey
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Bring honey to a boil and skim. Add vinegar; continue boiling until it reduces a little.
From: The classical cookbook / Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. J. Paul Getty Museum, c1996.

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Dandelion and Fennel Salad

1 bunch dandelion greens, finely chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1/2 cup bean sprouts or sunflower shoots

juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. mirin
1/8 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. tamari soy sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. maple syrup or honey

Combine dressing ingredients; toss lightly with greens.

Adapted from: Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type by Dr. Mercola, as posted on

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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.


native to: Mediterranean region
in season here: summer-winter
Cabbage is another brassica, or cruciferous vegetable, related to the broccoli I talked about last week and the kale I’ll get to pretty soon. In fact, “brassica” actually means “cabbage” in latin. It comes in three main types: green, red, and savoy. Some “red” cabbages are actually purple, while most of the ruffled savoy varieties are green or even yellowish. It was developed from wild cabbage, which doesn’t form heads and looks more like collards or kale. Historians mostly think it was brought to Europe by wandering Celts around 600 BCE, and it was highly regarded in ancient Greece and Rome as being generally good for whatever ails you. Later, fermented cabbage such as sauerkraut was carried by Dutch sailors as an antiscorbutic (a source of vitamin C, eaten to prevent or relieve scurvy).

Cabbage is another good cancer fighter and also helps lower cholesterol (for that particular feature, steaming is your best bet). Savoy cabbage is particularly good for cancer prevention, while red cabbage is the best choice for all-around nutrition. Cabbage juice is a long-standing remedy for stomach ulcers, and more recent research is finding that cabbage itself is just generally good for the whole digestive system.

It’s most nutritious raw or only lightly cooked, with a quick sauté being the current favorite.* Once cabbage is cut, it begins to lose its vitamin C content, so precut cabbage isn’t the best choice. However, it contains enzymes that convert its glucosinolates to isothiocyanates (which fight cancer), so it’s not a bad idea to let chopped cabbage sit 5-10 minutes before cooking.

I have to admit, most of the debate over raw vs. cooked, steamed vs. microwaved, or whatever tomorrow’s hot research topic is — eaten with the right hand or the left, for all I know — is kind of lost on me. I like to keep it simple: the way to get the most nutrition out of your vegetables is to eat them, so the cooking (or not cooking) method that gets the things inside you is the one I’d go for. Cabbage is a quarter calorie per gram, so it’s not like you have to limit yourself.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw cabbage
label-style nutrition information for cooked cabbage

*I suspect the kind of sautéing they recommend is not the method I use, which includes a lot of butter or bacon grease and results in a fair amount of caramelization. Actually, the healthy-cooking arbiters would probably call what I do to it “frying.”

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Medieval mixed pickles

In recreationist circles, this dish is often called by its amusing medieval name, Compost.

2 lb. total parsley roots, carrots, radishes, and turnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1 lb. white cabbage, cored and shredded
1 lb. hard pears, peeled, cored, and cut up
6 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. saffron
2 cups white wine vinegar (divided)
2 oz. currants
2 1/2 cups fruity white wine
6 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. French mustard
1/8 tsp. each ground cinnamon and ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. each anise and fennel seeds
2 oz. sugar

Bring root vegetables and cabbage to a boil, add pears, and cook until they start to soften. Drain and spread vegetables in a 2-inch layer in a shallow non-metallic dish. Sprinkle with salt, ginger, saffron, and 4 Tbsp. of the vinegar, cover, and let sit 12 hours.

Rinse well and add the currants, then pack into sterilized canning jars, leaving at least 1 inch headspace. Bring wine and honey to a simmer, skim, and add the rest of the vinegar, mustard, cinnamon, pepper, anise, fennel seeds, and sugar. Bring to a boil and pour over vegetables, covering them with 1/2 inch of liquid. Close with vinegar-proof seals and store.

From: Black, Maggie, The Medieval Cookbook. British Museum Press, 1992. ISBN: 0714105562

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.