The end of the CSA season is nearing for most of us in the Upper Midwest, but some of the most delicious and interesting items show up this time of year. Apples, pears, mushrooms, winter squash, brussels sprouts, rutabaga, parsnips, dried beans and canned goods such as pickles, jams and sauces may find their way into CSA shares. Not everyone knows what to do with all of the items that come to their table. In some cases we are experienced and adventurous cuisine warriors and in some cases we are just learning what kohlrabi is and what to do with it, which is part of the point of this blog. There are a plethora of fun and flavorful local foods that provide important nutrition, but of course we must be confident in our abilities to identify and prepare them. To help you out, we thought this link might help clear up some of the common “challenge” veggies:
Speaking of lesser-known foods, King Stropharia, also called Wine Cap Mushrooms, are a delicate and beautiful mushroom that is cultivated by layering inoculated sawdust in beds of wood chips or straw. Inoculation simply means that the spores of the mushroom, which behave much like seeds of plants, were introduced to a substrate – in this case sawdust – and held in proper conditions until the substrate is colonized with mycelium. The mycelium is the part of the mushroom that feeds and spreads under the cover of mulch or soil and can span vast distances, sometimes for miles. It generally appears as a fine white webbing on roots, mulch and decaying wood, and eventually, when it’s well and established and conditions are right, it forms the fruiting bodies we recognize as mushrooms or fungi. Each type of mushroom prefers a different combination of weather conditions to fruit. While most shiitakes like cooler weather (32 – 50 degrees F), Wine Caps can fruit in temperatures ranging from 40 to 90 degrees F, but seem to prefer temperatures hovering around 60/70 degrees F and – like all fungi – generally pop out just after a good rainfall.
Wine Caps are named for their deep wine-red caps that fade to a white wine color as they mature. They have dark gray gills that release a blue/gray or purple “spore print“, which you may notice on your fingers when handling the mature mushrooms. Similar in shape and size to portabellos, they can be prepared in a similar manner, although they are a bit more “watery”, so care must be taken to avoid keeping them from getting mushy. Grilling or baking is better than sauteing. Stringy stems should be removed from the fully open mushrooms, but left attached on the smaller, “button” caps. They are best stored wrapped in a paper towel or in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Wine Caps have a pleasant, mild and somewhat nutty flavor. We hope our CSA’ers enjoy the lovely Wine Caps in their share tomorrow!
THIS WEEK IN LOCAL CHOICE CSA
Bifrost Farms – Herbs de Provence Chevre
Essence Homestead – Eggplant
Hexagon Projects Farm – Beets, rainbow chard, arugula, radish and scallops
Mary Dirty Face Farm – Apples
Towering Heights Farm – New York strip, ground beef and tomatoes
Winnowburrow Farm – Wine Cap mushrooms and Cinnamon Cardamom sweet pickles
Week 16 meal plans provided by Meg Wittenmyer of Bifrost Farm
Meal #1 – New York Strip Steaks with Roasted Fall Veggies over Chard
Cook Strip Steaks your preferred method and doneness.
2 T. butter and sesame or other oil
8 or so radishes and a couple of beets
Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt & dried herbs of choice
Wash and quarter radishes and beets, and set aside.
Melt half the butter in a skillet with a little oil.
Cook the radishes and beets over medium heat, tossing occasionally to assure they cook evenly.
Add lemon juice, remaining butter and herbs. Cover and continue to cook vegetables over medium heat for 8-12 minutes until they brown.
Once the radishes are tender, place them over a bed of chard and top with parmesan shavings.
Note: The Chard can be served raw or lightly sauteed with salt and minced garlic. Serve with dressing of your choice.
Meal #2 – Beef and Eggplant Casserole
1 lb. Ground beef
Eggplants, cut into ¼ inch slices
¼ cup chopped Onions (can use shallots from box)
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (or dice up and use tomatoes and their juices from box)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
10 slices (8 ounces) mozzarella cheese (can use half mozz and half Chevre)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Prepare eggplant by placing in colander and sprinkling with salt and letting sit for 30 minutes. This pulls out the moisture. Pat with a paper towel.
Place on greased or nonstick baking sheet and brush with oil using pastry brush. Broil for approximately 4 minutes, or until slices are just browned. Turn slices over and repeat process for the other side. Layer slices in 9×13-inch dish and set aside.
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine the onion and ground beef and sauté until meat is browned. Stir in the garlic, oregano, basil, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Add the tomato sauce. Remove from heat and stir in pine nuts. Cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place large tablespoonfuls of the beef mixture on top of the eggplant slices in the baking dish. Places slices of mozzarella cheese over the top to completely cover the beef layer. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle with additional Parmesan and serve while hot.
Digging Deeper into Nutrition with Johnne Smalley of Towering Heights Farm
Eggplants are a nutrient-dense food, meaning they contain a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber in few calories. One cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 20
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
- Folate: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 3% of the RDI
Apparently, eggplant got its name in the 1700s when early European versions of this fruit (although often considered a vegetable, it is a fruit by botanical definition, as they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds) were smaller and yellow or white. They looked a bit like goose or hen’s eggs, which led to the name “eggplant”.
To prepare your eggplant, slice off the very top and the very bottom. You can peel off the skin if you prefer, but it’s entirely edible. Cut eggplant into disks, strips, or cubes. In addition to bringing a unique texture and mild flavor to recipes, eggplant brings a host of potential health benefits. From reducing the risk of heart disease to helping with blood sugar control and weight loss, eggplants are a simple and delicious addition to any healthy diet.
Eggplant is incredibly versatile and fits well into many dishes. It can be baked, roasted, grilled or sautéed and enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil and a quick dash of seasoning.
It can also be used as a low-calorie replacement for many high-calorie ingredients. This can reduce your carb and calorie intake, all while increasing the fiber and nutrient content of your meal.
Eggplants are best stored in a cool place, outside the fridge.
Shallots are a type of onion. Typically, they are small bulbs with copper, reddish, or gray skin. They have a sweet and mild (although pronounced) flavor, with a hint of garlic, and lack the bite you get with yellow or white onions. Shallots work especially well in dishes where they’re eaten raw, like dressings and salads, and can blend well in delicate quiches and custards. They may be pickled. Finely-sliced deep-fried shallots are used as a condiment in Asian cuisine, often served with porridge.
According to Wikipedia, shallots probably originated in Central or Southwest Asia, travelling from there to India and the eastern Mediterranean. The name shallot is also used for a scallion in New Orleans, Australia and among English-speaking people in Quebec. Anglophone Quebecers and British English speakers stress the second syllable of shallot, as “shall-OH” and “shall-OT” respectively, while other varieties of English pronounce it as “SHALL-ət”.
Fresh shallots can be stored in cool, dry area (0 to 4 °C, 32 to 40 °F, 60 to 70% RH) for six months or longer.
Dark, leafy green vegetables are among the most nutrient-dense foods. Although kale is often deemed the king of greens, Swiss chard is equally impressive in its wide array of nutritional benefits. Just 1 cup (175 grams) of cooked Swiss chard has:
- Calories: 35
- Protein: 3.3 grams
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Fiber: 3.7 grams
- Vitamin A: 214% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 53% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 17% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 716% of the RDI
- Calcium: 10% of the RDI
- Copper: 14% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 38% of the RDI
- Manganese: 29% of the RDI
- Iron: 22% of the RDI
- Potassium: 27% of the RDI
Swiss chard belongs to the Chenopodioideae family, which also includes beets and spinach. Grown worldwide, it’s prized for its ability to grow in poor soils and its low need for water and light. Although its name may lead you to believe it originated in Switzerland, Swiss chard is native to the Mediterranean.
There are many types of Swiss chard. Rainbow Chard has colorful, jewel-toned stalks and veins, making this chard particularly pleasing to the eye.
Swiss chard is also high in many antioxidants including beta-carotene and flavonoids, which may help prevent certain conditions like heart disease and pancreatic and lung cancers.
Grassfed New York Strip Steaks
The strip loin, more popularly known as New York Strip, is one of the most popular, expensive, and flavorful cuts of beef. It is not quite as tender as some of other loin cuts, but the right marinade can really enhance the tenderness.
The right marinade is the key here. Acidic marinades with significant amounts of wine, vinegar, or lemon juice can actually make grassfed beef tougher. Oil based marinades using unfiltered organic extra virgin olive oil* do a great job of tenderizing. Fresh organic ginger also does a great job.
Here is a simple recipe I have used.
3 organic green onions, coarsely chopped and crushed
4 large cloves of organic garlic, coarsely chopped and crushed
4 teaspoons fresh organic ginger, coarsely chopped and crushed
- Crush the vegetables with a rolling pin. Mix them well, and rub all over the meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Take the meat out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to cook it, so it can reach room temperature.
- Once the meat has reached room temperature, scrape the marinade off.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron or heavy bottomed pan until hot. Cook the steaks for 3 to 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the meat and how you like your steak.
There are many good marinade recipes. If you are not experienced at cooking grassfed beef, make sure the source of any recipe you use is actually experienced with the different cooking methods of grassfed beef. Shannon Hayes and Stanley Fishman are two such.
*Note: It is important to use unfiltered olive oil for marinating. Filtering olive oil removes the enzymes that tenderize the meat. Filtered olive oil is fine for sautéing.
Last week’s Local Choice CSA
Thanks for reading and – most of all – for supporting clean, locally grown food!