Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thunderstorms and Week 1 2013

Let's face it. It's been a spring of strange weather. Here in the Capital District, we've encountered flash floods and funnel clouds, and each day leaves us asking, "Will we be near frost tonight or will it be 90 degrees in the shade come the morning?"

My girls and I ran out in between the thunderstorms on Sunday to jump through the puddles on our street. The silt and the splash came up and out and over our ankles, up to the hems of their shorts and straight out into laughter. We dashed inside once the storms returned. We hoped they were a reprieve from the heat that had sent us scrambling from the funnel cloud a mile away earlier in the week and huddled in the air conditioning just the day before.

Oh, to be a farmer in this weather. I am not envious of the decisions that need to be made, but I am glad to say that I've got a stake in what happens next. Whether the weather calms down or no, I am a part of a Community Supporting Agriculture.

This week's share from our CSA at Denison Farm will include:

1-2 heads of lettuce
Garlic Scapes
White Turnips
Bok Choi

Step 1: Triage

Short Life: Lettuce, Scallions, Turnip greens, Basil
Medium Life: Bok Choi, Garlic Scapes
Long Life: White Turnips

For all the long life of the White Turnips, they are usually the first to go in our house. They are delicious raw, sliced thin with a peeler over salad or as a peppery addition to a pastrami/roast beef sandwich.  My recipe for Roasted Turnips and Potatoes remains the most popular post this blog's ever had and it's deliciously simple to boot. 

Step 2: Divide and Conquer

Speaking of turnips, do NOT throw out those greens. When you're ready for an easy side dish, or while your turnips are roasting, rinse the greens well. Let your garlic (two or three cloves) is heating up in your olive oil. Give the greens a goodly shake then toss them wet into the pan, stir briefly to get the garlic up and in, and cover until bright green - about 3 minutes. Serve as a side dish or fold into an omelette with cheddar.

Bok choy stems can be eaten as well as the leaves, but need a little more cooking time. Begin them in your stir fry first and allow them a head start before their leaves hit the pan.

Your Basil should not be divided, but rather left whole, with the tips in a container of fresh water, ideally in your window, until you're ready to use the individual leaves.

Step 3: Everything in it's Place

Justine Denison really covered Garlic Scapes beautifully in this week's Newsletter and you can find more recipes for your scapes here on Noshing Confessions. What I can tell you about scapes is that there will be fresh pesto in our house this week, combined with the basil and walnuts. Here's my favorite recipe:

Pasta with Lemon Pesto
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 cup basil leaves
garlic scapes
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil

1 lb pasta Note: We use whole wheat pasta with this dish. This sauce really can stand up to the whole grain flavor.
1 T salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Add walnuts to food processor. Pulse until finely pureed. Coarsely chop garlic scapes. Add to food processor, along with basil, Parmesan, salt and the juice of 1 lemon. Process until the mixture begins to come together into a paste, adding olive oil as need be.

2. Meanwhile, add salt to boiling water. Cook pasta according to directions (we're an Italian household and we set a timer for pasta - go for al dente on the box). 

3. Add remaining lemon juice to large serving bowl. Add cooked, drained pasta and toss through. Add pesto and toss through. Serve immediately with a simply dressed salad of Lettuce.

But what to do with Bok Choi? Well, the simple truth is I find it best to use bok choi with Asian seasonings. This can be as simple as adding soy sauce and sesame oil to my traditional garlic and olive oil method for greens or as complicated as a full stir fry. Most likely, I will make my version of Bi Bim Bap - a Korean dish that will allow me to use some of those amazing fresh eggs arriving in our share this week, not to mention have leftovers to add my scallions to for some fried rice via the leftovers.

Step 4: Storage

Basil will last on your window sill in a vase the whole summer, as long as it's water is kept cleans, it's ends are kept fresh, and all leaves are kept out of the water. The other way to store it is to turn it instantly into pesto with your garlic scapes and to freeze it for long term storage. Garlic scapes themselves can be placed raw into a ziploc bag and set in a deep freeze to store fairly indefinitely. Scallions can also be frozen in the same manner if need be.

With their greens removed, turnips will last indefinitely in your dry crisper drawer, though their flavor will become sharper over time.

We've neglected the lettuce until now. Your lettuce will keep best wrapped in slightly damp paper towels. It will keep a little bit longer than the lettuce you buy at the supermarket, due to it's freshly picked status, but it's best to eat ASAP. There is much more of it on the way.

Here's to a bountiful harvest!

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