The kids were on fall break Friday and Monday. I took Friday morning off and we went to visit a local dairy farm for some fall festival fun. They spent the night with my parents Sunday night, so I was able to harvest with the crew Monday morning. We are all well rested and ready to start school again tomorrow morning. The crew has been adapted really well to taking care of harvest while I help the kids with school most mornings. It's been hard for me to give up some oversight and control of the harvest, but it's also been great to delegate those tasks to some very capable hands. I didn't realize when we started along this farming path, that one of my most important roles would be that of a manager. Luckily for me, I enjoy having a lot of different types of work to do, and while learning to be an effective manager has taken some time and concerted effort, it's become a rewarding part of what I do here on the farm. Hopefully I'm getting better and better at it too :) As the season winds down, I'm really looking forward to getting into planning for next season. It's really important for us to sit down and take stock of the current year's season and decide what went well, which crops failed or did poorly, and what changes we'd like to make for next year. This was a really stellar growing season for us, so we are feeling especially good as we take stock of the year. I would also like to get some feedback from all of you. I often send out a short survey at the end of each season to hear what worked well for you as a CSA member and what we could improve upon. I'll be putting that together to send out during the last week of shares, so stayed tuned. Your opinions and feedback really help us to improve each year!
The share this week has a lot of awesome fall veggies. Napa cabbage (pictured above) is a new item this week, and we have a couple other items that haven't been around for awhile: fennel and mini romaine lettuce. The Napa and Fennel are just especially awesome. We haven't been able to grow nice napa cabbage for several years due to disease and insect pressure. This year it is huge and amazing. If you haven't cooked or used napa cabbage before, it can be substituted for regular cabbage, but it's a bit lighter in texture which makes it great for raw salad applications. I also really like adding it to soups and Maria's pasta recipe which includes napa sounds delicious. If you are feeling ambitious, you could try fermenting the cabbage to make kimchi (a korean spicy sauerkraut). There are lots of tasty options! These fennel bulbs are the nicest we've had in awhile as well and quite large. Fennel has a nice light anise flavor and is great cooked or raw. Simple ideas would be to roast chunks of it along with other root veggies or to thin slice in salads. The potato gratin dish including fennel below uses several items from the share and would be an excellent way to use your fennel. This is the last week for sweet and bell peppers (although we'll probably have some left for swaps or additions next week), as we are taking out these plantings to make room for winter crops. I hope everyone has a great week!
Recipes from Maria:
Pappardelle with Cabbage, Prosciutto, and Sage
8 ounces pappardelle or some other wide pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 head Napa cabbage -- quartered, cored, and sliced (8 cups)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 pound sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the cabbage and broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the prosciutto, butter, and sage and cook until the butter has melted. Serve over the pasta.
Red, White, & Sweet Potato Gratin with Fennel & Sage
1 cup grated comte cheese (or other semi-firm nutty cheese like gruyere or emmental)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups heavy cream, can substitute half the cream with whole milk
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (sounds like a lot, but this is a lot of potatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 lb red potatoes
1 lb white potatoes
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 large to 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb)
2 small to medium onions (about 1/2 lb)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Preheat oven to 400F and adjust rack to the middle of the oven.
Toss cheeses together in a medium bowl to combine. Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to another bowl and set aside for later use. Back in the first bowl, add cream, salt, pepper, garlic, sage, & thyme; and stir or toss to combine. Set aside.
Using a mandoline slicer, slice all the potatoes, unpeeled, into 1/8 inch thick disks and place into a very large bowl. The larger the bowl, the easier it will be to toss the potatoes with the cream without making a mess. Slice the onion(s) and fennel bulb(s) to the same thickness and add to the potatoes. Pour cream and cheese mixture over the potatoes and toss toss toss to completely coat each slice of potato with cream. Use your fingers to separate any potatoes that may have become stuck together, so that every single slice is coated in the cream mixture.
Butter the inside of a large casserole, or 12″ cast iron skillet. Organize handfuls of potatoes into neat stacks, along with some slices of onions and fennel, and line them up in the casserole with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing stacks of potatoes into the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all potatoes have been added. Potatoes should be tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with the remaining cream mixture, and add to the casserole. Pour the remaining cream mixture evenly over the potatoes until the mixture comes about half way up the sides of the potato slices. You may not need all the liquid.
Cover dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and transfer to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid/foil and bake for 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven to bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for at least 15 minutes, and serve.