Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Season's End

It's my last week on the farm since the CSA season has officially ended. I am thrilled to be leaving the farm and heading back to the city, yet I know I will miss it here. I will miss the folks I've gotten to befriend, the dark nights and fresh air, and yes, I'll even miss being inundated with vegetables! Actually, I never did tire of being surrounded by wonderful fresh veggies although, I will admit there are a few that I'll be glad not to handle for a while: can we say leeks and fresh onions?

It's been a truly wonderful experience overall to witness this side of the food chain. It was a challenging season in so many different ways and I feel I am definitely better for facing up to the challenges, many that were unexpected, and that I feel have helped me to grow. I am grateful for having this intense growing opportunity. I guess that's what a farm is for; growing things, people included.

I'll be spending the next few weeks reflecting on this experience and hopefully coming up with some ideas in my mind as to how we, as communities, can better support local agriculture and what kinds of legislation, programs or projects can be created to benefit both consumer and producer, ending the cycle of waste and destruction that is our current food system. Experiencing the system on the food production end really puts into perspective the stupidity and wastefulness the system has created.

An example: Wednesdays we process loads of freshly harvested vegetables to prepare for market the following day. Thursdays we toil all day, washing, bunching, trimming and packing for the weekend farmers markets in the city, some 200+ miles southeast of Norwich. Friday morning somewhere around 1am Zaid and Haifa head to the city for market, one driving the truck and the other driving a large van. The routine is repeated on Friday and Saturday and another driver is sent to bring fresh produce into the city for Sunday and Monday farmer's markets. The truck returns on Tuesday afternoon and we unload everything and sort through all the unsold produce. Often we end up throwing enormous amounts of perfectly fine food away because they may be a bit wrinkled, soft, bruised or blemished in some other way that would not be acceptable for purchase by most market shoppers. So the energy in sunshine, human labor, fuel and more human labor, essentially ends up in the compost. We sort what is fine and it goes back to market, either to be sold or returned once again to be sorted and composted. For the field worker, it is truly heartbreaking to see your hard labor end up in the compost and equally heartbreaking for us to have to unbunch and unpack what we spent hours doing a few days prior. For the farm owner, they have to pay for the labor, fuel and other energy costs that is required to keep it up all season long. This cycle is just plain inefficient and stupid.

Now I have nothing against the farmer's market. It is the bread and butter for many small farmers and I love to support them. But there has to be a place for farmers to sell what is left over at the end of the day, at a fair price so all the food does not have to be trucked back to the farm or tossed. With all the restaurants, schools, hospitals and other institutions in NYC, why is there no system in place for some kind of mutually beneficial exchange?

I have learned to truly appreciate the simple brilliance of the CSA model, one where veggies move in one direction: out. There's no returning once it leaves the farm. And because the produce is already paid for and distributed amongst many, the percentage of waste is most likely low. Restaurants also purchase a fair amount from the farm and that is another model that I see works, again a one way affair.

It will be an interesting challenge for the next few weeks to reflect on this problem. There is a lot to ponder and much research to do. I'm ready to head back to the big city and see what good work can be done so that farms like Norwich Meadows can continue to exist, and folks like Zaid and Haifa can continue to provide nourishment for our communities here in the city while maintaining a decent livelihood they so well deserve. It takes serious love, dedication and physical stamina to be a farmer as well as a farm worker. We all need to recognize and be thankful for those who willingly choose to take on the tremendous responsibility of providing us with clean, delicious food, and I am proud to have been for a season, one of them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Winter in Fall

This past week has been freezing on the farm --literally! Tuesday night the temp hit a low of 27 degrees. There was ice on Betty Blue's (my car) windshield. I had to carve a little hole out of the ice to see just enough to get myself to work somewhat safely, although I'm being very liberal with the use of the word "safe". I learned later on from the upstate guys that I could have easily just let the car warm up for ten minutes. I woke up early Thursday morning to find snow covering everything. It was a gorgeous sight to see houses, trees, the entire landscape covered in a serene powder of white, the kind of snow that's light enough where you can see individual snowflakes and that packs perfect for awesome snowballs. I still can't believe there's snow in mid October! It has been a very freaky weather year. It's also been a busy week preparing for the freezing temperatures, as everything that can come out of the ground, must. The field hands have been harvesting furiously, and in the shed we've been moving crates of food around trying desperately to find a home for everything. In fact, we just got an additional trailer to fit all the winter storage veggies. We are packed to the gills with celery, celeriac, onions, potatoes and winter squashes of multiple varieties, beans, green tomatoes, and beets, carrots, turnips, brussel sprouts, and cabbage galore. The carrots are especially sweet and delicious as the cold weather forces them to gather all the energy they can (for plants that means sugar!)

One thing for certain is that the storage veggies sure are heavy! Moving crates of root veggies, cabbage and potatoes around provides an incredible workout. Forget the gym folks, the farm will buff you out! I will be returning stronger in many ways than one. Watch out NYC.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can it

The end of tomatoes is near. Despite the tomato blight that destroyed much of the tomato crop early in the season throughout the Northeast, we were fortunate enough to have had a good tomato crop on the farm this year. Not the best but considering the awful weather, we were very lucky to have any tomatoes at all.

The best way to preserve the flavor of fresh tomatoes is to can them. On the farm we tossed away criminal amounts of tomatoes since fresh tomatoes, especially heirloom varieties, do not have a long shelf life, and they are very easily bruised or damaged. I had very little time to can this season but I did manage to save a few crates of badly damaged tomatoes from the compost and now have some jars of wonderful bursts of summer for a cold winter day.

Heirloom tomatoes are especially wonderful to can since the flavor is so intense and the thin skin makes peeling unnecessary. I usually roast the tomatoes to release the liquid since tomatoes are mostly liquid. I cut up the tomatoes in big chunks and throw them into the oven for about half an hour or until plenty of liquid is released. The roasting also intensifies the flavor and adds another layer of depth. I scoop out the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place them in a jar, follow basic canning directions and voila, summer in a jar. The remaining liquid could also be canned and used in soups, braising, cooking rice dishes or simply drinking. The color of the heirlooms are also wonderful. I canned orange, yellow, red, and striped varieties that look so enticing, it will take some will power not to crack those jars right away.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More Food

Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Fresh Sage
Cook the beans slowly in fresh mashed tomatoes. Simmer until the beans are done and season to taste. Add a bit of olive oil and sage and cook a little while longer. Simple and satisfying in cool weather. I had this with a crunchy baguette and aged sheep's milk cheese, produced locally of course.

Broccoli with Peppers
I like my broccoli with a bite, not raw but with texture and some crunch still intact. I've met enough folks throughout my life who said they hated broccoli as a kid because it was always overcooked and mushy, only to rediscover the beauty of broccoli later in life. If you are a parent, please do not ruin broccoli for your kids by boiling it to death or any other such hideous preparation for this wonderful food. My mom always blanches broccoli before putting it in a stir fry but I'm lazy and sometimes just throw it into the wok. Okay so it takes a bit longer to cook, but it still comes out really good. I seasoned this dish with soy sauce and some sliced chilis and garlic, finished with a touch of toasted sesame oil. I made an arrowroot slurry to thicken the sauce a bit. If I had some sesame seeds, I'd toast 'em and throw them on top.

Pickled Jalapenos
I can't get enough of my pickles, in case you haven't noticed. These were the most unusual chilis. I first took a bite of the tip and they were sweet, which was disappointing. Then I took another bite, and at first there was a bit of sweetness and then the heat nearly burned my face off. These jalapenos are no joke! It was a shame to see them shrivel up and go to waste so I pickled them in brine and some garlic. Well, that was quite a few weeks ago and when I recently revisited them, they were hot as ever with wonderful flavor but the chilis were very mushy. I have learned my lesson never to make fermented pickles with old veggies. I had to toss away many pickles with veggies I tried to salvage only to learn weeks later that they turned into mush. Well, all is not lost necessarily with these chilis since I have decided to try yet another experiment and turn this jar of pickles into a tasty fermented burn your ass hot sauce. I will report later on the results.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gifts from the Underground

I'm a beautiful flower in the summer, a tasty food in the fall and a permaculturist's dream. What am I? A sunchoke aka Jerusalum Artichoke! Sunchokes are a native of the US and is a species of the sunflower producing an edible tuber beneath the stalk. This was the first crop of the sunchoke on the farm and they are the biggest sunchokes I have ever seen, huge knobby clusters gorgeousness. Sunchokes can be eaten raw, but in my opinion, are sweeter and more delicious cooked. They are a perennial although they need to be kept under control since they are prone to spread and will take over if given the space and opportunity. I haven't had a lot of experience cooking with sunchokes but this recipe was pretty yum.
Sunchoke Fritters
Chop celery and onion very fine. Grate the sunchoke and mix together with salt, pepper and some flour to bind. Heat oil and brown on each side. My first batch was done with medium to low heat and it took a while to brown. My impatience got the better of me and the second batch I turned it up a bit and also didn't add as much oil. The first batch was much better as the slow cooking allowed the super sweetness to be released, not only from the sunchoke but the onion and celery as well. The oil also creates a crispy edge. Very tasty indeed!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Reflections

It is getting very chilly on the farm these days. The first hard frost is expected this weekend so the field workers are trying their best to get all the delicate veggies out of the field. The fall veggies are looking gorgeous with many variety of winter squashes, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and other brassica. Root veggies are abundant and there's been a whole lot of washing going on since everything that comes out of the ground is caked in dirt.

CSA will end in just a few weeks and I'm gearing up for the end of the season. I will not tell a lie, I cannot wait for the season to be over!! I'm done with the super long hours, long trips back and forth to and from the city, not sleeping in my own home and eating meals late and alone, with no wine to boot! It's been an interesting season with many unexpected challenges. I feel this has been a growing season for myself as well. I've learned a great deal about myself and how much I can handle, and I feel like I've faced all the challenges with maturity and surprising patience I didn't know I had in me! We all go through periods in life where we experience spurts of growth and this has certainly been one for me personally. Professionally, the time I've spent on the farm has also given me the opportunity to experience the other side of the food chain and has made me realize just how screwed up our food system is and how very tough it is to produce food for a huge population. It has certainly made me even more aware of the enormous problems we will be facing in the near future around our food supply if significant changes are not made to our current food system.

I'm looking forward to November when I will return to the city from the farm and hope to spend some time reflecting and writing more about these food systems issues we face and possibly come up with some viable and realistic solutions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Farewell Summer Squash

It's amazing to watch the cycles of harvest throughout a season. What was once abundant, everywhere you looked, and couldn't seem to get rid of, is now waning and will soon be gone until next year. Take summer squash for instance. When it was at it's peak there was a small city of crates of squash filling up the cooler, for several weeks even. We spent many hours loading and unloading it, sorting it, and sending a criminal amount to the chickens or the compost. At times it seemed like squash that left the farm for market over the weekends just took a tour of the city and came back. Restaurants ordered a few bushels here and there but certainly not enough to make a dent in the supply. Squash was a CSA regular for weeks and sometimes members even received 2 or 3 pounds of it. Our field manager Khaled would joke that we should give a crate to every member (and there were times we almost could!). I definitely ate more squash in one season than I ever have in my life.

Now that summer squash is on it's way out, we are unable even to fulfill all our orders for it. Everyone seems to want some all of the sudden. Today I packed more orders of squash than at any time while it was peaking out a few weeks ago. Perhaps it's the taking over of the winter squashes that have folks scrambling for that last bit of summer, or perhaps I didn't notice as much before because whatever amount left the farm, there was always more left behind.

Caramelized Summer Squash and Basil
This super simple dish I prepared many times this summer with variations. Heat a pan, toss in a generous amount of butter, add thinly sliced onion and burn a little, then add thinly sliced squash and keep the heat at a medium high. Let the squash brown before you turn it and keep rotating the pieces until they all get nicely browned a bit. Just before it's done add some basil, I like it chiffonaded, sliced in thin ribbons. Salt and pepper to taste. Delicious!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall and Wine Weekend

Things on the farm have normalized a bit since we finally got together a new crew that is so far so good. We've got two guys from the city, Shawn and Tagyur; and two local guys Leo and Will. It's a good team with very different characters and personalities, which makes for an interesting work day. Hopefully everyone will hang around for the rest of the season. They are all hardworking and appreciate the food aspect of the job, which is a definite plus.

It's full on fall upstate and we had our first frost over the weekend. It's interesting to see the cycles of nature at work here. Vegetables that were abundant in the spring, such as lettuces and other delicate greens, seem to be getting a second life, while other summer varieties are giving way to their winter cousins. Fall squashes have just come in, beans are prolific, and the hearty winter greens are thoroughly enjoying the cooler weather. We've piles of storage veggies such as onions and potatoes taking over our cooler space. I notice aside from the greens, that cold hearty veggies are heavier than their heat lovin' relatives. Leaves are already changing color and I predict that by the end of this week, the scenery up here is going to become one giant explosion of ostentatious show offery. I can't wait!

I have been spending the past two weekends visiting Ithaca and have had the opportunity to meet some very wonderful people, drink great wine, eat well and just enjoy being upstate. Some highlights were visiting the Ithaca Farmer's Market, which is a wonderful community space for excellent local produce, artisinal cheeses and breads, prepared foods, wines, arts and crafts, and other regional specialties. It is located right on the south end of Cayuga Lake with a small dock where you can hop on a boat for a quick tour of the lake. I was also shown the Ithaca Brewery where you can hang out and taste their selection of beers, that was a little too enjoyable!
These past two weekends I've also been checking out some of the vineyards in the Finger Lakes region, which is only an hour and a half from Norwich, and discovering the wonderful wines the region produces. White varietals dominate here and there are wonderful Rieslings, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and a surprising range of flavors from the Gewurstaminer, as well as local varieties such as Cayuga and Vidal. The Finger Lake wineries also produce a wonderful selection of dessert wines that are pretty much honey ambrosia in a glass...yummmmm. Some reds grown in the region are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. I only had the opportunity to visit a few wineries since there are only so many hours in a day and so much wine you can drink in those waking hours. A few that really impressed me are: Sheldrake, which had the best Riesling ice wine that was spectacular; Red Newt who had the best reserve reds hands down; Damiani who also had some tasty reds including a very well priced table wine; Standing Stone, who also produced wonderful Ice wine and an impressive Riesling. There are over 50 wineries in the entire Finger Lakes region and I highly recommend a visit to the area. The views of the country around Seneca and Cayuga Lakes are stunning. The wine trails are well marked, easy to find, and the wineries are staffed with very friendly and knowledgeable staff. I would love to spend an entire week up here enjoying the scenery, the wines and quaint farm stands and specialty shops scattered in the area. There are also many restaurants in the area, which I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to try--too busy tasting wine! I've been to the vineyards out on Long Island and also in the Hudson River Valley region but the Finger Lakes win out by a long shot. Okay, so there's my Finger Lakes plug.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ugly but Tasty

I had a lovely weekend couchsurfing in Ithaca. The highlights include: cooking my butt off in my hosts' kitchen; meeting three very cool and fabulous young women; checking out some of the Cayuga Wine trail and sampling some delicious wines; and relaxing! Ithaca is only an hour and a half from Norwich but quite a different world. It's a wonderfully progressive and artsy town with the Fingerlakes wineries a stone's throw away.

I returned a bit early to Norwich so I can prepare some meals for the coming week and to take some pictures on the farm, which if you have been following this blog, will notice are conspicuously missing!

Let me focus on food and more on the farm and livestock later.

The past few meals have not been very good looking but if you can get past the appearance, I assure you they have been tasty regardless.

Cauliflower with Indian Spices
I noticed my host Hannah had some tumeric and other Indian spices in her kitchen so I made some cauliflower in a style learned from my trip to India. Heat up oil and throw in some tumeric and let it cook a bit. Add finely chopped red onions and then tomatoes. There was no chili powder so I sliced a few fresh chilis which added a nice heat. Let it cook down for some time and then add the cauliflower with some ground cumin and coriander. I usually toast the seeds whole and grind but previously ground is fine. Cover and let it simmer until soft.

Fresh Cannelini Bean dip

This was the first time I got to use fresh Cannelini beans, very exciting! Shelling the beans was a pain but my ipod cranking house music was very helpful. The beans are quite beautiful and the nice thing about fresh beans is that they cook much faster than dried. I sauteed some thinly sliced leeks and finely chopped carrots in lots of olive oil, then added the beans covered with water one inch above the beans. Let this cook until the beans are soft and then add salt, pepper, and a generous amount of fresh thyme, I'm sure dried would work just as well. Smash the beans with the back of your spoon, and top with more olive oil before serving. This is a great dish for sharing and picnics.

Chicken Vegetable Soup
I used chicken back from our lovely broilers for the broth since they are very meaty and bony at the same time, good combination for soup. The rest is a standard veggie stock: onion, carrot, celery. I added tomatoes cause I like the tartness it adds and I just happened to have a bunch of busted wonderful heirlooms that I really wanted to use. I let it all cook without a cover for close to an hour and a half, skimming the foam occasionally. This is a good time to add some herbs if you have them. Take out the chicken and remove the meaty bits. This is my lunch for the week.

Corn Soup with Stock and Peanut Sauce
I tried to take a photo but it came out very blurry. I basically sauteed some onions and scraped corn off the cob. I added some broth from the chicken soup and added some peanut butter sauce I had. It was an experiment and I think it tastes great, sweet and earthy. I'll serve this with fresh lime to brighten up the flavor.

Heirloom Tomato Sauce
I love the orange heirloom tomatoes! I have discovered that they make excellent sauce. First of all, their color is simply gorgeous. They are less acidic and more dense with less water than other heirloom varieties and they have minimal seeds that are very tiny. The tomatoes I had were also very ripe so the skin came off very easily even before cooking. I usually chop them in huge chunks and mash them when they start cooking down. I first slice some garlic and cook in lots of olive oil until fragrant and then throw in the tomatoes, simmer until saucy. This will be savored with pasta or a pizza if I feel ambitious later this week.

Ma's Salsa
Is it obvious yet that we're inundated with tomatoes? Just a few weeks ago I canned a bunch but there is still much more. Just when you think you can't eat any more tomatoes, there is always another recipe you can use them in. I almost forgot about my most famous salsa. Heirloom tomatoes bring the salsa to another level of scrumptiousness. I don't know all the fancy names of the varieties but this one has a tinge of purple in it. They have nice acidity and are very juicy. I usually drain the salsa with a slotted spoon and reserve the liquid for drinking. Great chaser for tequila shots. But alas, no alcohol in this household! Chop up tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, garlic, fresh chilis to your desired heat, add salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. You will never go back to store bought salsa!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Bear with me as I try to catch up. Although the past few weeks have been too busy to prepare any meals, I did have a few days here and there over the past month to cook it up a bit. So this entry is all about the FOOD!

Asian Dinner: Scallion Pancake with Spicy Eggplant and Coconut Corn Soup
This was one of the first corn of the season. It's sweet but not cloyingly sugary like some new hybrids. More "corny" flavor if you catch my meaning. Don't know how else to describe it. I prepared one of my favorite corn dishes: Coconut corn soup with chilis, topped off with a squish of lime juice. Sautee some onion, throw in some corn scraped off the cob and let it cook. Add coconut milk and some water if it's too thick, and some thinly sliced fresh chilis. Fresh cilantro on top with the lime juice seals the deal, but I didn't have any that day. The gorgeous eggplant is of the Asian variety which I prefer since there's no bitterness, the skin is very thin so you don't have to peel it, and it's so yummy. I sauteed the eggplant with garlic, sliced chilis and soy sauce for seasoning. Eggplant does not have a lot of liquid in it so you may have to add some water to keep it moist while cooking. Now ever since I laid eyes on these wonderful spring onions, all I could think about was scallion pancakes. I finally had the time to make them and boy were they tasty! The dough is simply flour and warm water. Let it sit for a bit and chop up the scallions on a slant so they are long and fine. Roll out the dough into a flat round and oil the surface, sprinkle with salt and scallions. To get the layers, you have to roll the dough into a cigar and coil it into a tire shape. Then you roll it out and pan fry it. Let it get brown and crispy. I made a scallion and ginger dip with a bit of soy sauce, rice vinegar and water. This was a great meal!

Summer Pasta
August was squash overload so let's just say I ate a whole lot of it. We produce so many different and interesting shapes and varieties. This is one simple and very quick prep. Olive oil, butter, fresh sage, and summer veggies tossed together.


Late August, early fall is the best time for this dish. All the ingredients are ripe at the same time: eggplant, peppers, onions, tomato, basil. Just throw it all into a pot and let it cook slowly for about an hour until all the veggies are tender but not mushed.

Haifa's Eggs
I modified her recipe a bit to include some garlic cause I love garlic with eggs, and some sliced chilis for a little kick. Sautee chopped onions and Swiss chard stems until the chard is soft. Add scrambled eggs and make an omelet. The farm produces some of the most stunning Swiss chard in a rainbow of colors. I discovered this summer that the stems are more enjoyable than the leaves. They have a rich, deep flavor when you cook them up and I've been eating copious amounts of chard all season.

Beet Showdown
When people tell me they don't like beets I know immediately that they are speaking of the pathetic canned variety. It's amazing how many have never had a well cooked beet. The farm produces 5 varieties: red, white, orange, cioggia and forono. I decided to have a taste off to experience the difference between the varieties and pick my favorite. I compared the cioggia, white and orange in this test. The results: orange are the sweetest hands down, it was like candy; cioggia is also very sweet but with an almost minty flavor and very strong "beet" finish; the white is sweet and has a very chestnutty flavor. All the beets were delicious and I ate them undressed and enjoyed them immensely.

Zaid grows some of the most amazing tasting tomatoes, I daresay, in the state. So many different heirloom varieties in all shapes, sizes and colors, as well as standard hybrids. Caprese is one of my best loved dishes for its quick prep and deliciousness. Homemade mozzarella is best and high quality olive oil. I drizzled just a touch of aged balsamic which took it over the top!

Poached Plums
These were extra plums from another farm left over from the CSA fruit share. I poached them in a sugar water bath with a cinnamon stick and some sliced ginger. Remove plums from hot liquid once they're soft (they can be easily skinned) and reduce the liquid to a nice sauce. These were gobbled up 2 days later on top of vanilla ice cream, scrumptious!

Colorful Trio: Corn and Tomato, Swiss chard with bacon, Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw
I just love colorful food. I believe a meal should be balanced not only in flavors and texture but also in color. The cabbage in particular is just the most gorgeous shade of purple. Sliced thinly, and tossed with sliced chilis, lemon juice, scallion, and olive oil. Corn and tomatoes go really well together. I start this dish with sauteed onions and add the corn, some sliced squash and chopped tomatoes at the very end. I like the tomatoes fresh. Bacon and Swiss chard is a winning combo. Cook bacon and throw in chopped stems and finally the greens. Yes, that simple.


Throughout the season there are always moments of overabundance. A simple way to preserve some of that overflow is by pickling. What I mean by pickling is fermenting. Here are a few pickles I've been making: Onion and chilis in soysauce; kimchee scallions; chili with carrot and onions in brine; napa cabbage with chili and napa cabbage with tumeric and brown mustard seed. These pickles should all be ready to eat within the next few weeks. The best part of making pickles is the anticipation of your creation after maturation (couldn't help the alliteration).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

August and now

Wow! It's been over a month since my last post?!! Well, this entry will be a long one to make up for all that lost time. So much has transpired in the last month, much of which accounts for the weeks of missing content.

Where do I begin? The season peaked out in August with cucumbers, and squash coming out of every pore of the farm. Add to that, wonderful heirloom tomatoes that were fortunately saved from the evil blight that plagued many a Northeast farmer this season. The first half of August remained relentlessly wet and muddy, then transformed into weeks of gorgeous hot, sun shiny days that forced everything into maturity at the same time. The harvests were bountiful and stunningly colorful.

The bad news was, in the midst of all this abundance, the staff of three workers in "the shed" where we receive and process all the produce, walked out one cloudy afternoon, never to return. Let me give a bit of background and then an explanation.

The workers on the farm consist of just a few hands, amazing for the amount of food we produce and process. There are 7 H2A (temporary from overseas)workers from Egypt who have been working the farm tirelessly for the past two seasons. They are incredibly hard working and expert farmers who do all the planting, tending and harvesting for the entire farm. Then there are the local guys; Ron the handy man extraordinaire, Andrew the livestock expert, Mark the driver and do it all guy, Dag my partner in crime, who is the other eye and ear of the shed, and Chris who comes occasionally to lend a helping hand and drive the truck. In addition, I worked directly in the shed with two Tibetan workers from the city; Dhargay and Sonom.

Over the summer we also had two more hands; Abdo, the son of the farm owners, and Shams, the son of the other partner of the farm. They both left in early August to resume school and enjoy what was left of their working summer.

Once the 2 boys left, another young Tibetan worker named Chosan came up from the city to join the crew. SO here I was left with three Tibetan workers and I noticed a change in their attitude right away and the air in the shed became thick with bad vibes and disrespectful attitudes, directed at yours truly. In case you haven't noticed from all the name tossing, I am the only female working in the shed. When I first joined the crew I knew immediately that I had disturbed the lion's den and that my presence had shaken up the testosterone laden atmosphere enough to elicit some resentment amongst members of the den. It wasn't until later that I also learned that political influence played part in the way I was viewed in the eyes of the Tibetan workers, myself being of Chinese descent. To make a long story short, things finally came to a head after two weeks with the Tibetan crew. One day an argument arose out of the thickness and the three make a collective decision to walk out and headed straight to the first bus out of the city, which they did with incredible speed.

I was left in the shed surrounded by crates of freshly harvested produce and resumed my work. I felt a great tension lifted and happier than I had in weeks. After a few phone calls, Dag and some other local folks came to the rescue and we made do with a makeshift crew for the next few days. Zaid was recruiting staff from the city, mostly newly arrived Egyptians who had no idea what they in for. After two weeks of such workers, we finally got together a somewhat solid (I hope) crew in the shed to get us through the season. There are only a few weeks left of the season and I pray we get through it smoothly.

It has been a rough few weeks working extremely long shifts in the shed and dealing with all kinds of mini crisis that are just part of the day to day workings of a farm. I will save my reflections for another time, for now I will just stick to the facts.

I've had many dinnerless work nights since I usually get home too late eat or prepare anything for that matter. It has become a cycle of very hard work for four days straight and very hard rest and play for the three I have off. Those days off have been spent back in the city with family and friends, mostly cooking and eating. I don't mind the hard work and long hours, the toughest thing for me this season has been eating alone and not having time to cook. Hopefully the new staff will work out and in the very least there will be time to prepare some of the wonderful food the farm has been producing. It's frustrating to be surrounded by all the fabulous produce and not have time to prepare any of it. As I handle the vegetables I can only dream of the wonderful dishes I could make if I had time...

As soon as September arrived I noticed an immediate change in temperature, almost overnight. The nights have been cold and mornings are so covered in mist you can watch it literally rising as the sun begins to warm the day. It's a beautiful sight as the mountains are slowly unveiled as the mist whorls briskly skyward.

We are now slowing production although colder weather veggies will start rolling in. The melons this season have been spectacularly fragrant and sweet; so many varieties and subtle flavors. The winter squashes will slowly replace the summer varieties and lettuces are returning with a vengeance.

The cycles of the season have been a joy to witness. I can honestly say, despite the tons of vegetables I have had to move, wash, pack, weigh, count, bunch and send, I have not tired one bit of admiring the gifts of the amazing botanical world that nourish us. In fact, it has only magnified my gratitude that we should be so lucky to be fueled by plants as a life preserving necessity. It makes me happy to eat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Only at a third

According to the head field worker Khalid, we are currently producing only 1/3 of what the farm has planted. This seems astounding to me since we move so much food on a weekly basis. That means we haven't even reached our peak yet!! We're gonna be past our eyeballs in produce very shortly!

One thing I've learned to deal with is the amount of food that goes uneaten. Much of the food that cannot go to CSA or market is still perfectly edible and delicious, it's just not perfect. We, as consumers have gotten so used to demanding produce that is in pristine condition without thinking about where that food might end up if it's not purchased. I think about the food we throw away here, at the beginning of the production chain. Then more at the wholesaler, then more again at the retailer, then much of it going rotten at the bottom of the fridge. I've learned here on the farm that you can't possibly save every bit of food and that I just don't have the time to prepare all the food I would like. So the chickens here get it all.

I can't say the food goes to waste since it either ends up in compost or to chickens. They are a finicky bunch since they don't eat certain things like fennel or garlic. Those spoiled chickens! Since I'm on the topic of chickens, I will start with my most recent meal and catch you all up a bit on some meals I had this past week.

Tonight's Feast: Roasted chicken with veggies
I roasted a chicken last night with some potatoes, carrots, sweet onions, fresh garlic cloves and a combination of fresh herbs; thyme, marjoram and flat leaf parsley, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. I cooked it in a ceramic dish with a glass lid for 2 hours until the chicken stopped bleeding and the whole house smelled like roasted garlic and herbs, yumm. As you can see in the photo, I added some previously prepared collard greens with garlic and lemon juice. I used to think good collards had to be cooked with a "leg" but I've changed my ways and I think collards are equally good with lots of garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish. It also gets better after a few days.

I didn't cook an entire chicken, but half of the most gigantic chicken I have ever cooked in my life, probably that I've ever seen! Don't know if you can tell from the photo, but that's a wing and a small piece of the upper thigh that is attached to the back. Let's just say I'm going to be eating chicken every meal for at least a week!

About garlic: if you ever want to be in taste bud heaven do yourself a favor and roast some fresh garlic. Garlic transforms itself from a stinky, pungent and spicy kick in the butt to a sweet, sexy and creamy wonder that is so unique and seductive. You don't even have to peel it since it can be easily squeezed out of the skin when roasted and you can spread like butter on a naked piece of crusty bread. Your mouth will thank you.

Breakfast of Champs: Granola, yogurt and fresh strawberries

Strawberries are among my favorite fruits. I don't eat Driscolls and I don't eat strawberries out of season period so when summer rolls around I try to get my fill of strawberries to hold out for the rest of the year. Thank goodness Zaid produces some of the absolute tastiest strawberries hands down. They're small and bursting with sweetness with that hint of tartness and concentrated flavor that makes for an awesome berry. Add some excellent local yogurt and handmade granola and you have a winner. Keeps me going all morning.

Quickie Dinner not so quick

I meant to have just some salad but I had some shell peas I wanted to eat and a stale old piece of bread that I didn't have the heart to toss so I prepared them as well. I made a makeshift pain perdu by soaking the bread in a fabulous egg, again from our wonder chickens. This is what an egg should look like: bright orange yolk full of omega 3's, standing high and looking you in the eye; nice clear white, not cloudy or runny. These eggs are the real thing. In the meantime I threw some butter in a pan and tossed in some sweet onion until it smelled delicious and then the fresh peas. Sautee a few minutes, add salt and pepper. Fresh peas are such a treat straight from the pod, all sweet and crunchy. > Just look at them all cute and cozy in their pod, can't help but gobble them up. Butter and fresh peas also make a fabulous combination. The salad is simply baby greens with strawberries with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The heaviness of my pain perdu, yes i finished it in the toaster oven with some Parmesan cheese, along with the peas, were a perfect match for the bright, tart, sweet, cool, lightness of the salad. Very satisfying.

Pickles: Japanese style turnips
These were going to the chickens too so I salvaged a few to make some pickles. I rarely make vinegar pickles but these are so good, I couldn't resist. I added two radishes just for color. They'll be good in just a few more days.

I've been documenting most of what has been harvested in the past week and the variety is awesome. Several kinds of peppers, eggplants, beans and squash, all different colors, shapes and sizes. I'm happy to report that diversity is alive and well here. I will be sharing these photos as soon as I figure out the best way to do it. Perhaps my next blog entry will be a photo log.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Weekday Meals

So Tuesdays and Wednesdays we prepare for CSA delivery here on the farm. In addition to preparing for CSA we also have to unload and sort through all the produce that returns from the weekend market. Imagine crates of food everywhere along with empty crates, bins and other containers of all types. Everything has to be checked for freshness and placed in the cooler right away. Old stuff gets tossed and the good stuff gets sent to a CSA as a bonus item or saved for next market depending on how much there is and the condition of the produce. Naturally, some things have a much longer life than others.

These days I stay away from cooking since Haifa is back and commands the kitchen, usually cooking up something that smells wonderful. I usually have something light and quick like a salad.

Tuesday Evening: Sprout salad

I sprouted some mung beans over the weekend that came out beautiful so made a random salad with whatever I had in the fridge. I was feeling really lazy. After two days off it takes a while to get back into the groove of things. I made a peanut butter dressing with crushed peanuts (from the peanut butter machine) thinned with a little water and some vinegar, a bit of honey and chili powder.

Wednesday Lunch: Brown rice with curry dal, collard greens and kimchee cukes
Should have taken a picture of my lunch but I didn't have my camera. Everything was prepared in advance and I just nuked it. I hate to nuke anything but that's the only heating device on the farm and I hate cold rice. The kimchee I made almost two weeks ago and I always regret eating it too soon cause now the jar is almost empty and it's at the perfect sourness. Always jump the gun with kimchee, gotta have more patience. Lucky there's a small crate of wrinkly cucumbers in the cooler just waiting to be kimchee'd. I promise to wait this time...

Wednesday Dinner: Up and down salad

I call this up and down salad cause it's a mix of things that grow up; baby greens and sprouts, and things that grow down; beets, carrots and potatoes. the potatoes are left over from the weekend and I threw them into the salad to balance all the crunchiness from the root veggies. Have you ever seen anything more gorgeous than a Cioggia beet? These are the baby ones but they also get huge. I like to eat these raw just so I can see how cool they look inside. When you cook them, they usually just turn pink. They also have the added benefit of tasting as wonderful as they look!

Tomorrow is preparing for the weekend markets, the craziest and longest day of the week. So much food so little time...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Season's Eating

Hi All,

Welcome to the Season's Eating blog. Coming to you from Norwich Meadows Farm in Norwich, NY close to 4 hours northwest of NYC. Since I'm here for the summer working on the farm, I'll be keeping you all up to date on what's in season here in New York State and how I'm cooking it all up. The farm produces a huge variety of amazing organic produce and I'm planning to share some of it with you here.

I generally work 12 hour days from Tuesday to Saturday and have Sundays and Mondays off. These are the days that I generally get the most time to cook my butt off. During the week late hours limits the amount of cooking time although I do try to prepare meals for workday lunches.

This was the first weekend I spent on the farm so I went crazy with the cooking. Here are some of the dishes and meals I prepared.

Saturday Dinner: Purslane Salad
Saturday is a very long day so I usually do a very quick prep. Most of the fresh produce I get on the farm is left over veggies that cannot be sold because they aren't perfect or have blemishes. I also get what's left from bunching, which can be a lot. On the weekends, because we prepare for market which has a greater variety of produce than CSA, there's usually an awful lot of food to choose from. I made a super quick salad from what was left over that day.


I chopped it all up and tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Simple and super delicious. The crunchy texture and tartness of the purslane, mixed with the flavors of the other veggies made it a terrific mix. Yummy!

Sunday Dinner: Steak with roasted new potatoes, green beans and golden beet salad

I cooked a big meal since I had the time. I decided to have some meat so I cooked up a big steak and made some accompanying veggies. The steak is not pictured here because I want to highlight the veggies. Plus it made most of my meal. That steak will last more than three days.

I sauteed the green beans with fresh garlic salt and pepper.
I roasted the beets on the oven early in the day, peeled them and chilled them. I made a mustard dressing with more fresh garlic minced and mixed the chopped beets and topped it off with fresh flat leaf parsley.
The new potatoes are roasted with baby sweet scallion bulbs, salt, pepper and dried rosemary. The potatoes are creamy delicious.
I took a bike ride around town yesterday and happily found a french bakery that sold excellent bread and also got a hunk of brie which I had after dinner. I ate like a pig! oink, oink!

Monday Cooking: Fresh Cherry Pie and Pesto

I made my first ever cherry pie and I'm happy to report that it came out astoundingly beautiful. We received way too many sour cherries this week for the CSA share so I took some home and decided to bake a pie. I actually went to look for a pre-made crust (I know I was trying to cheat) since I couldn't find a rolling pin in the kitchen. The one crust I did find had so many funky ingredients in it I opted for home made. Glad I did. I found a wooden dowel that rolled the dough just fine and dandy. As you can see, the pie came out fabulous. It took half an hour just to pit the cherries but well worth the effort. I would do this again.
BTW got the recipe from the internet, a combo of three different very similar recipes.

I also made pesto which I don't have a photo of sorry. The basil this week was gorgeous, beautiful big juicy leaves and bright green. There's always lots left over from bunching that usually go the chickens but I had to have some of this basil so I made two jars of pesto (one to share) that will most likely last the entire season.

I toasted the pine nuts in the oven and grated the cheese by hand. Never buy pre-grated cheese (or pie crust!) they are usually mixed with anticoagulants like corn starch or other weird things that don't go with cheese. The garlic produced on the farm is some of the best I've had. It's very strong and the flavor is amazing. Threw it all in the Cuisinart with just the tender basil leaves, olive oil and salt. Two thumbs up for the pesto!

Monday Lunch: Steak sandwich with pesto on French bread

I spread some pesto on lightly toasted bread and thinly sliced steak from the night before. Does it get better than this?

Tomorrow starts the intense work week so I will keep you all posted later in the week on what's on my plate next.

Have a lovely week. Good night!

Eat well to live well and love better.