“Sexy Seconds” from Vollmecke Orchards & Insomnia Kitchen

Guest blogger and longtime work share member Tracy M. gives us a peek into what goes on in Insomnia Kitchen…

Why do I call my kitchen “Insomnia Kitchen”?  Those who know me, know my brain doesn’t shut off at night, so I tend to drag myself into the kitchen to get myself doing something productive, instead of just watching TV!

farm secondsI have been working at Vollmecke Orchards for over two years now as a “Work Share Member,” which means that you basically trade “sweat equity” for your lovely CSA share.  I found Vollmecke Orchards while looking for volunteer opportunities and was thrilled to hear that this was an option.  I soon learned that the people there were absolutely fantastic people, that I immediately fell in love with!  We laugh till we cry, talk about food—eat/share all the time, and find a great sense of peace in just being there. Farmer Karen is great about hooking up the lunch table with a great “lunch melon” or gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, and sometimes will crack out some of the wonderful bread and cheese that we sell from Stoudt’s Wonderful Good Market, which is also a wonderful local brewery!!

Since we tend to have some beautiful fruits and veggies at the farm that are amazing in flavor, but just do not look so pretty, we try to have fun with our “Seconds”.  Sometimes it just takes a little extra time to cut off the bruises/scars/soft spots, but the money you can save by purchasing seconds is outstanding!!  I occasionally get sent home with “homework,” with Farmer Karen knowing she will get to taste the results at an upcoming farm lunch.  I am happy to spend time in the kitchen trying to find some new fun things for my lovingly named “test monkeys,” who all are very adventurous eaters!  We tend to walk up to each other holding something out and say “hey, eat this,” and sometimes we ask what it is, sometimes we ask afterwards!

This week I decided to try out some new recipes. For the carrot seconds, I read about a very simple cold salad that I needed to try.  The best thing about organic veggies, you really don’t need to peel them, just a good bath and scrub down will do.  I shredded the carrots, added fresh crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh chopped cilantro, cumin seeds, and tossed with some honey and rice wine vinegar.

carrot seconds      carrot relish with bag

Next I went to the Squash. I have been loving a recipe for very simple zucchini pickles, which is sweet and simple, and last a month in the fridge without even canning them. They are not super crazy pickling, and more of a sweet and sour deliciousness!

ugly zukezuke pickles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then the squash needed a sweeter side!! Farmer Karen handed me a huge Zuke that shredded down perfectly, just over the 2 cups I needed to make the Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake. You may notice that I omitted the chopped nuts, and surely did not measure the chocolate chips that go on top.  Super moist cake!

zuke shredszuke cake mixzuke cake done

Next was to deal with the sad state of the beans.  We were hand sorting out the string beans, and lamenting the fact that the Mexican bean beetles had made these delicious, crisp, and otherwise amazing little beans look like crap with the stupid nibbles here and there.  I figured that I would need to find a great way to hide the “non-perfectness” of them, so I thought maybe a relish?  None of us have had such a thing that was not a salad-type recipe, so I went to the wonderful world of Google and found a recipe for Green & Yellow Bean Relish.

ugly beanschop green beansgreen bean relish beforegreen bean relish cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had this today for farm lunch and shared with the CSA members for a fun happy hour.  I thought it would be fun to cook up some of those “Little Smokies” hot dogs that you buy for under a buck at Amelia’s Grocery Market, popped a toothpick into them, and drizzled on the relish!!  Even Farm dog Izzy got to savor a few hotdogs from heaven!

Make sure you check out our “Seconds Section” whenever you are at the farm.  Look past the ugly, and on to the tasty!!
Cheers!  Tracy

LETTUCE!

Green Summer Crisp

Green Summer Crisp

green forest romaine

Green Forest Romaine

Nancy butterhead

Nancy Butterhead

Nevada

Nevada

Red Cherokee

Red Cherokee

Two star

Two Star

Vollmecke has an abundance of lettuce right now, but it won’t be around for much longer, so make sure to get the most of it. Although lettuce is one of those vegetables that is heavily associated with one dish (salad), don’t let that limit you. Lettuce has a lot of untapped potential. At most grocery stores, you will find “green,” “red,” and perhaps some romaine or iceberg. Here at Vollmecke Orchards, we grow many kinds that are too delicate to withstand shipping and storage, so you will only find them here. Our favorite? Nancy Butterhead!

So what to do with this abundance? Here are a few ideas:
  • Make WRAPS! Instead of a tortilla, use a giant lettuce leaf! Much healthier, and adds some crunch. Try these lettuce wraps, based on the delicious ones served at P.F. Changs.
  • Juice it! Combine it with some strong fruits in your next juice or smoothie. Because lettuce has a subtle flavor, it won’t make your juice taste like liquid lettuce. This is a great way to stay hydrated!
  • Shred it and add to dips! Lettuce is especially good with Mexican themed dips, like seven layer or enchilada dip.
  • Put it on a sandwich! This seems obvious, but I know I sometimes forget about adding lettuce to sandwiches. Great way to eat your vegetables without overwhelming the meal.
  • Grill it! Yes, grill it!! Marinate in some Italian dressing and throw a whole head on the grill. Excellent BBQ/picnic side! Here is a Grilled Caesar Salad recipe. If it sounds like a lot of work, just substitute your favorite dressing for Casar dressing.
  • Make Soup! I know it sounds odd, but a fresh spring lettuce soup is actually quite delicious.
  • PRESERVE IT! You can actually freeze lettuce. We don’t recommend this for all of your lettuce, but don’t let it rot in the fridge just because you can’t eat it fast enough. If you feel like your lettuce is getting close to the end of it’s life, follow these instructions and save it for later (keep in mind the texture may be compromised).
To make sure your lettuce lasts as long as possible, you will want to store it correctly (click here to see how to store other veggies).  We recommend washing lettuce right before you eat it in order to maximize shelf life. But if you do want to give it a quick rinse, dry it THOROUGHLY before storing in a loose plastic bag. OR you can put taller head lettuce in an upright pitcher with a little bit of water (like so: picture). Both options will help your lettuce stay tasty and fresh longer.
Do you have any interesting or unique recipe ideas? Lettuce know!

How to use your share

 

Typically, Farmer Karen and I (Kate) are the ones to write the blog posts. However, we thought you might appreciate a different point of view from time to time. So, introducing Kris, one of our new Work Share Members this year!

SFC_kohlrabi_labeled

 

As a fairly new CSA member, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed and perplexed by some of the produce I receive in my share, as I’m sure many new members do. However, this is not an issue as long as you push yourself to be (and stay) creative! A recommendation for everybody: Try each of your share items RAW, at least once (like kohlrabi–it is delicious)! You may be pleasantly surprised and discover your new favorite vegetable! This also helps you get an idea for the taste, and more easily allows you to imagine it in some of your more familiar recipes…

SFC_garlic_scapes_labeledWhich brings me to another recommendation: Add your new produce to your old dishes! Your macaroni and cheese recipe that’s been in the family for decades may benefit with a little added kale mixed in! Throw some sauteed green onions or garlic scapes in there to give it a more savory flavor.  Don’t confine yourself to one recipe per dish—slowly add and/or omit ingredients, tweak ratios, taste test, and bulk up your cookbook! This process is very inventive and fun, and you typically get a very tasty end result!
OK, so worst case scenario, you hate a dish you created…what now? Well, this is a learning experience! Get back up and try again! Or totally scrap that dish and try something completely new. Just remember: CSA shares are for your health and happiness, don’t be afraid to use what has been given to you!
And one more (obvious) recommendation for you: Search the net!  The internet is the best tool SFC_beets_labeledfor finding new recipes and preparation ideas for unfamiliar produce. Websites like Pinterest, Yummly, and AllRecipes are top notch resources. All you need is the name of the vegetable or fruit you want to use, plug that into the search bar, and get ready to be bombarded with mouth watering recipes! You will be shocked by the clever things people can do with food! Who knew you could make DELICIOUS red velvet cupcakes using beets? (we also have a recipe on our site that we made last year–either way, give it a shot. They are delicious!) Or homemade ketchup with rhubarb? Possibilities are endless, as long as you are open to trying new things and experimenting!
So, from one seasonal eater to another, I urge you to be curious and brave with your food!
Eat, drink, and be merry!
—Kris

Lots of greens!

Broccoli rabeOne thing you will notice about your first share…there are a lot of greens in it.  If you didn’t grow up eating a lot of greens, you may be challenged by this. For instance, if you are unsure about broccoli rabe–never had it, had it but don’t like it, try making it into a pesto. Easy AND delicious! The recipe below was adapted from Mario Batali’s collection. Scroll down for recipes for Asian Salad Greens, which can be another head scratcher…

broccoli rabe pestoBroccoli Rabe Pesto
Yield: 1 cup

  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb broccoli rabe, stems removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds (can use toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts instead)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 – 6 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 2 tbsp kosher salt. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking; drain well.

With the motor running, drop the garlic into a food processor and finely chop it. Add the broccoli rabe and pumpkin seeds and pulse until finely chopped. Add the mustard and blend well. With motor running, drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the parmesan.

Note: The pesto can be stored in a lightly sealed jar topped with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Source: Molto Gusto by Mario Batali

FunJenAsian salad greens, aka, Fun Jen cabbage isn’t something a lot of new members are familiar with. It is technically a cabbage, and can be treated like one, but its leaves are very full, and “fluffy” more like a lettuce. In fact, this cabbage can be sauteed or stir fried like a “regular” cabbage, or tossed into a salad. Below is a quick stir fry recipe, though Fun Jen is equally good fresh in a tossed salad as well! fried-brown-rice-shrimp-ck-x

Quick Fried Brown Rice w/Shrimp, Snap Peas and Asian Salad Greens
Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 (8.8-ounce) pouches precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
  • 10 ounce medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (or chicken, pork or tofu)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, diagonally sliced (or asparagus or snow peas)
  • 2 cups shredded Asian Salad Greens
  • 1/3 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  1. Heat rice according to package directions.
  2. Combine soy sauce, sambal oelek, and honey in a large bowl. Combine 1 teaspoon peanut oil and shrimp in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add shrimp to pan, and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add shrimp to soy sauce mixture; toss to coat shrimp. Add 1 teaspoon peanut oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add eggs to pan; cook 45 seconds or until set. Remove eggs from pan; cut into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add rice; stir-fry 4 minutes. Add rice to shrimp mixture. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sugar snap peas, Asian greens, peanuts, salt, and garlic to pan; stir-fry for 2 minutes or until peanuts begin to brown. Add shrimp mixture and egg to pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Adapted from Cooking Light

 

 

First CSA Pickup!

At long last, the 2014 CSA season has begun! As I sit here typing this, work share members are already at the farm–harvesting greens for tomorrow’s shares. Last night’s brief showers have hydrated all the lettuces and greens beautifully! They will be harvested, and packed into the cooler, and on your table tomorrow night. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait! Read on to learn about a few things that will hopefully make your CSA experience a more enjoyable one!

Each week, you will receive an email reminder from us the night before your pickup. We will give you an idea of what to expect in your share, plus any other updates you may need to know for that week.

We have added a few links to our website to help you get the most out of your shares. First, we have Storage Tips. This is a work in progress, and will be added to as we progress through the season. If you are still in doubt about something, please just ask. We want to make sure you get the most out of your shares. We also have a guide for pickup day. This can be confusing, especially if you are new. Even if you aren’t new, we have a listing of all the pickup days. And, though this is just a rough guide, we have a guide showing the crops you can expect this season, and when they should be ready to harvest.

Our main goal this year, other than growing delicious produce, is to help you use and enjoy your share. Seasonal eating can be a challenge if you aren’t used to it. We will be posting recipes here on our blog and adding interesting finds to our Pinterest board.

There is also a new service that you may be interested in, which is designed to help you get the most from your shares. Patricia Mulvey, the Fair Share CSA Coalition chef, and co-writer of Asparagus to Zucchini, is the creator of Localthyme.com, a CSA menu planning service. She is working to end “veggie guilt” one share box at a time by providing CSA members with a range of tools to put veggies on their plate, not in the compost. Membership includes:

  • the largest online searchable database of seasonal vegetable-centric recipes
  • a beautiful vegetable ID section
  • tips and tricks
  • support from the chefs
  • menu plan and shopping list generators or menus planned by Local Thyme chef

Membership starts as low as $20 a month. Here is a link to a free 1-month trial. Vollmecke Orchards is not currently a member, but this is something we are looking into as well. If anyone joins, we would love to hear your feedback!

Hail Storm Missed the Farm…Whew

We saw the ominous dark storm clouds looming off to the North last Thursday evening, hours after we finished planting 100s of cucumber and squash seedlings. The weather seemed unstable and we had an eye to the sky. We watched as the wind picked up and the clouds released some rain over us, but thankfully no hail.

We later heard Chester Springs, Exton and West Chester all suffered a considerable amount of damage due to a heavy hail storm. This is every farmer’s worst nightmare, and one we were very thankful to avoid! Hail can absolutely devastate vegetable plantings and fruit trees alike. We have a lot of seedlings in the ground and plenty more lined up on the transplant wagon. All is okay for now, and we will certainly be keeping our fingers crossed in the coming days and weeks that these crazy storms continue to avoid us!