Our Winter CSA from Main Street Farms ended in February, but we are still reaping the benefits. Vegetables like carrots and beets keep for a long time, and we loaded up on onions and potatoes at our final Saturday pick-up at the Central New York Regional Market.
All that's left to do until spring, then, is cook! Here's a look at some of the things we have made and enjoyed with our winter bounty. (We never did try the kohlrabi, but there's always next year. We will DEFINITELY sign up for the winter CSA again.)
Note: Now is the time to sign up for Main Street Farms' regular-season CSA. Pick-up is available all over Central New York -- in Syracuse, Liverpool, Onondaga Hill, Fairmount. Elbridge, DeWitt, Fayetteville, Homer, Cortland and Binghamton. Those who prefer a market-style CSA (with eight selections, like the one we enjoyed this winter) can pick-up at several locations rather than receive a box share. Vacation stops are available, and new payment options include weekly billing for those who do not wish to pay for the whole season upfront. CLICK HEREfor more information.
Carrot and Fennel Soup
Main Street Farms salad greens with roasted beets and walnuts
'Tis the season for cookies and candy and rich meals. But vegetables can be in short supply. That's one of the reasons we decided to sign up for the Winter CSA offered by Main Street Farms, in Cortland.
Main Street Farms offers a "market style'' CSA that runs six weeks -- every two weeks from December to February. In Syracuse, pick-up is at the Central New York Regional Market, where Main Street Farms owner Allan Gandelman and his team set up each week. While there, we can pick up our favorite yogurt and cheese curds from Wake Robin Farm and check out all the other offerings at the market.
The winter share isn't a typical box share, with the contents selected for you. Instead, bring your shopping bags to the Main Street Farms stand and make eight selections from what is available. On December 1, our first week, we came home with onions, carrots, kale, cabbage, beets, Brussels sprouts and spaghetti squash. I used the carrots to make one of our favorite soups. And a recent dinner at Moro's Kitchen in Skaneateles inspired the beet bruschetta appetizer (below), which we enjoyed with a side dish braised kale and fried potatoes.
Each week of the CSA share includes a "value added'' local product. The first week, it was naturally fermented sauerkraut from local producer Food and Ferments -- look for them in the market's C Shed each week. On subsequent weeks, we're told, we'll enjoy local pasta, pesto, goat cheese and more.
This is our first experience with a CSA and we're loving it so far. Every two weeks works well for us -- the vegetables keep well and there isn't the pressure to do something with them immediately. We can always use things like carrots and onions and Main Street Farms grows salad greens year-round in greenhouses and using aquaponics -- a definite plus. I am not a turnip fan, but we'll give them a try, roasted with beets, onion and potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Did I just Google kohlrabi? Yes, I did! This member of the cabbage family looks like a pale green alien from outer space. The CSA is an opportunity to try new things. Maybe a slaw with apples and toasted walnuts? Or stir-fried kohlrabi seasoned with chili powder or crushed red pepper?
The six-week CSA costs $150, or $25 per week. Considering what we come home with and what we could/would spend at the grocery store for food that has traveled thousands of miles, it's a great value.
We'll keep you updated on what we're doing with our winter CSA produce. For more information on Main Street Farms, CLICK HERE or call 607-218-2101.
Roasted Beet Bruschetta Salad for Two
(Inspired by an appetizer at Moro's Kitchen, Skaneateles)
Diced, roasted beets (roast in advance; see below)
8 slices from a baguette of your choice, sliced diagonally
Goat cheese (I used Lively Run Goat Dairy)
2 cups arugula for salad
Balsamic vinaigrette dressing (see below)
To roast the beets: Wash beets, trim them if necessary and dry lightly. Pierce the beets with a fork. Place in a foil-lined pan and roast, covered, in a 450 degree oven. This will take an hour or more, depending on the size of the beets. Cool beets, remove skins and dice a couple of them -- how much you use depends on how much you like beets!
For the vinaigrette: Combine one-third cup olive oil and one-quarter cup balsamic vinegar or blended balsamic vinegar (like fig balsamic) in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Place the arugula in a bowl and toss lightly with dressing.
For the toast: Heat a skillet or griddle over moderate heat on the stove. Butter both sides of the bread slices and grill until nicely browned. Remove grilled bread from pan and spread one side generously with goat cheese.
To serve: Place the arugula in the middle of a medium-sized plate. Arrange the cheese-topped bread slices around the salad and top each slice with a spoonful of diced beets. Drizzle a little vinaigrette on top of the bruschetta. Enjoy bites of the bruschetta with bites of the salad.
Long before there was the express lane and self-checkout at the grocery store, there was the self-service farm stand.
You've no doubt stopped at a place like this: You pull off the road, seduced by a sign with an arrow that says ASPARAGUS -- or sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, eggs, honey... or all of the above. You look around for someone, then walk to the table or into a small shed or makeshift store, and find a notepad, pen, adding machine and cash box.
This is what is known as The Honor System, and it's a time-honored tradition: The farmer trusts us, the customers, to do the math, make change and deposit the money in the box, in exchange for the farm-fresh goods.
In this fast-paced, digital age, when people commonly pay for purchases by a swipe of their credit or debit card or by using their smartphone, The Honor System is a quaint reminder of days gone by.
In addition to being a charming slice of Americana, The Honor System allows farmers to work in the field or in the kitchen rather than mind the store, which is usually open all day, every day.
Most of the time, The Honor System is a system that works well for all parties. But, as with anything else, there can be bad apples that threaten to topple the cart.
A farmer in Madison County told me she has had an occasional problem with marauding youth squeezing tomatoes and doing minor damage to her merchandise and displays.
She is quick to add that she has never had a problem with money -- or, more specifically, with money being stolen. In fact, she says, it often happens that people over-pay -- and leave a note with instructions to keep the extra or to consider it a pre-payment for their next visit.
Some farmers, as you can see, have installed cameras so The Honor System isn't dishonored.
Another farm whose stand I frequent installed a camera system for a short time last year after both produce and money in the cash box was stolen more than once.
"To our most valued customers,'' a sign read. "Due to a few people who don't understand what we're trying to do here... We're sorry to have to record you... Thank you for your honesty.''
The cameras have not been in use this year. The Honor System tradition carries on, even when trust has been breached.
Said a friend who visits that stand regularly: "Folks who are farm stand thieves should be sentenced to community service and work on a farm.''
My friend Peg Roblin Maroney, weathering the winter in Buffalo, has it right: "This abominable weather calls for the delicious cheesy comfort of a great mac and cheese,'' she said recently on Facebook.
It's March now, and while we might have had our fill of soups and stews and casseroles, the weather still calls for comfort. As I type this, the snowbanks are so high you can't see out of some windows. And it's snowing. Again. March brings "wintry mix."
This recipe, from the Canal House restaurant in New York City, is featured in Marian Burros' 2003 cookbook, "Cooking for Comfort: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes That Are as Satisfying to Cook as They Are to Eat'' and was included in The Post-Standard Food section some years back. A friend reminded me about it. She said her kids didn't care for it, but that she liked to make this mac and cheese for herself and her husband.
Hence the nickname "Macaroni and Cheese for Grown-Ups." The flavor punch comes from extra extra sharp Cheddar cheese and a spoonful of Dijon mustard. It's really good. I mean REALLY good. Hard-to-eat-just-one-serving good.
Use the sharpest aged cheddar you can get your hands on and cavatappi instead of the usual macaroni elbows. We used four-year-old Great Great Grandad cheddar from Jewett's Cheese House, in Earlville.
Canal House Macaroni and Cheese
(from "Cooking for Comfort,'' by Marian Burros)
1 cup diced onion 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour 2 cups low-fat milk 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 10 ounces extra-sharp aged white Cheddar, grated, plus 2 ounces, grated Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce 8 ounces cavatappi or other corkscrew pasta 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs, toasted on the stove (optional)
In a large saucepan, cook the onion over low heat in the melted butter until the onion is soft but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Remove from heat and whisk in the milk until thoroughly blended. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in mustard, 10 ounces Cheddar, salt, pepper, nutmeg and hot sauce.
Meanwhile, cook the cavatappi according to package directions until just al dente. Drain but do not rinse. Stir immediately into prepared cheese sauce until well blended. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Spoon the mixture into a 9-by-9-inch buttered baking dish. Top with the remaining 2 ounces of Cheddar and the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then top with the toasted panko breadcrumbs (if using). I recommend using them. They add a nice bit of crunch.
Place oven rack in the bottom third of oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is hot, bubbling throughout, and golden. Makes 4 generous main course servings.
Note: The finished casserole can be refrigerated before baking. To serve, let the dish return to room temperature and bake as directed.
Out with sandals... in with socks and fuzzy slippers to keep our feet warm. Out with windows wide open for a cross breeze... in with an extra blanket or two on the bed. Out with salads from the garden box... in with soup simmering on the stove.
We don't want to rush the seasons -- we're still savoring local tomatoes and will enjoy at least one more Caprese salad before fully surrendering to fall.
We also don't want to peak too early with soup, which is something we eat A LOT of in fall and winter. It's so easy to make and so versatile -- perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich or panini for supper and perfect to pack for the office. Because who needs a ho-hum lunch?
The guys at Main Street Farms, of Homer and Cortland, were offering two big, beautiful bunches of kale for $5 on a recent Saturday at the CNY Regional Market, and I couldn't resist.
We enjoyed one bunch with our supper that night, and saved the second one to make soup a couple days later.
This is a quick soup, ready in 20 minutes or so, after you've done the prep work. Enjoy it on its own, or serve it with crusty, toasted bread if you can afford a few more calories.
1 big bunch of kale, washed well and rough chopped
8 cups chicken stock or broth
Kosher salt, as needed
Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
If using sausage: Remove the casing, break into pieces and brown over medium heat. Drain, blot with paper towels and set aside.
In the same pot: Heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent then reduce the heat a bit and cook until onion begins to caramelize. Add the garlic, the crushed red pepper and the black pepper and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the potatoes and toss with the onion mixture at the bottom of the pot. Add the kale and toss again. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. Add the broth, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes and kale are tender. Add the sausage to the soup pot in the last few minutes of cooking.
Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve the soup with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, if desired. Makes about 8 servings.
It's that time of year. Everybody wants to pick strawberries - or pick up a quart or two or three of fresh-picked strawberries at a farm stand.
Did you know there's a place where you can pick or purchase strawberries for your shortcake -- AND help an excellent cause?
Clear Path for Veterans is a not-for-profit organization that serves service veterans, military members and their families. Educational, support, health and wellness and other programs are offered at the Clear Path facility, off Salt Springs Road in Chittenango -- which has a two-acre U-Pick strawberry field.
The field was empty at lunchtime Monday, and it took me about 15 minutes to step carefully down the rows and among the strawberry plants to pick the beautiful quart of strawberries shown here.
The price to pick is $3 per quart and the price of a quart of berries at the self-serve farm stand is $5. The farm stand is in the shade and visible from Salt Springs Road. All proceeds are used to support Clear Path and its programs.
Seven varieties of strawberries are planted and they ripen at different times. The field is expected to be open through early July.
Clear Path for Veterans is at 1223 Salt Springs Road, Chittenango. Volunteers are invited to help with picking and to work at the stand next to the field. For more information and to sign up to volunteer, CLICK HERE.
Speaking of strawberry goodness: The second annual Farmshed CNY U-Pick Organic Strawberry Party will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 29, at Cobblestone Valley Farm, 2200 Preble Road, Preble.
Cobblestone Valley is one of just a few farms in Central New York offering organic strawberries. Last year’s event drew more than 450 people, so arrive early for prime picking. (Berries are priced by the pound. Bring your own containers.)
Neil Miller, founder of Farmshed CNY, has assembled a variety of local farms and producers for a "pop up" market.
It's only Monday, but I'm already looking forward to the debut of the Fayetteville Farmers Market at Towne Center at Fayetteville on Thursday.
I'm sure I will want to share to share some highlights from the new market. But first, let's have a look at some of Saturday's haul from the Central New York Regional Market. We left the market with Wake Robin Farm yogurt, cheese curds and granola, two dozen clams and a pound of halibut from the fishmonger in Shed A, vegetable plants and other items.
But I went to the market, really, looking for one thing in particular -- local rhubarb.
I know, I know: Not everyone is a fan of rhubarb. It's a vegetable masquerading as a fruit. It's tart. It starts out crisp and supple and has a strange, somewhat stringy texture after it's cooked.
Seeing those beautiful red and green stalks makes me think of rhubarb pie, my Mother's rite of spring. I wanted to make something a little more healthy, so I decided to roast the rhubarb. It comes out a little soupy and is delicious on yogurt or frozen yogurt (or ice cream) and in smoothies.
1 bunch rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1-inch or longer pieces
Zest of one orange (optional)
1/3 cup natural cane sugar (or more, to taste)
Vanilla extract (optional)
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the washed and sliced rhubarb with sugar and orange zest (if using) in a shallow glass baking dish.
Let rest for 5 minutes or more, until the rhubarb starts to give off a little juice. Cover dish with foil and roast for about 10 minutes if you want the rhubarb to retain a bit of its shape, longer for more of a puree. Remove foil and continue roasting for about five minutes, if needed.
When the rhubarb has cooled a little, give it a taste. Add a little honey, if needed, to sweeten it how you like it. Add a little vanilla extract, too (optional).
Serve the rhubarb warm, chilled or somewhere in between. I like cooked rhubarb at room temperature, with a few blueberries, served with yogurt for breakfast or with frozen yogurt or ice cream for dessert. Makes 4 to 6 servings.