Let these photos entice you into signing up to get our weekly newsletter (and avoid the reduntancy of emailing you to check your blog) and inspire you to eat the following from our fields:
Greens – Chard, Kale, Collards
Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers. Tomatillos Hurrah!
Garlic and Onions
Cucumbers, maybe Basil
Sorry for the vagaries in the harvest list, willow and I have both been gone and it is much too dark to go poke around in the field. But expect abundance, per usual. Abundant sexiness I mean…
The farm is a quiet place lately. The last successions of lettuce and root crops are in the ground, and now instead of planting we are focusing on harvesting and starting the annual process of putting the farm to bed. The winter squash are peeking out bright orange and green behind their browning vines, the corn stalks are drying, rustling gracefully in the autumn breeze, and the finches are plucking out the seeds from the last sunflower heads. There is more spaciousness to the work, not the frantic pace of “getting everything into the ground in time” of the spring, but a slow steady rhythm of abundance.
The fall tasks tend toward stocking up for the winter; preserving everything possible in order to savor some summer sweetness in January. On Sunday Chris and I made four gallons of the Sicilian spread caponata. I had never tried caponata, but Chris promised it was well worth all the effort of dicing, and so we began. We got up early and cut up tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and onions into tiny pieces, fried them in olive oil and threw all those glistening jewel-colored bits into a big pot. The pot simmered on the stove, filling the house with savory, mouth-watering smells. We listened to loud music as we chopped and rambled on about whatever popped into our heads. It was a good four hours to get everything into the pot but felt like the right way to spend time, in the tradition of slow food and Italian grandmothers. By the late afternoon the caponata had cooked down into a thick, chunky sauce and we took it still warm to the river to enjoy on crusty baguette with good friends. It was such a satisfying process and a timely reminder of what life had been and could be, focused on feeding and sheltering yourself and your loved ones with tangible effort, rather than having a job in order to buy those things.
This is why I love fall, and why I love farming. The abundance that comes at the end of the season, and the lifestyle that includes preparing and eating food with family and friends. When I encourage people to buy local and organic foods, besides all the myriad health and ecological reasons, the incredible flavor and pleasure of eating is probably the most compelling to me. The slow food movement recognizes and celebrates this and I encourage y’all to look into it more here if you haven’t heard about it. I hope you are able to spend some slow, pleasurable time enjoying this week’s share, and I’ll see you on the flip side.
Here’s the caponata recipe we used, courtesy of Susan Shehab (Chris’s mom)
2 large eggplants, diced
1 cup olive oil
4 bell peppers, diced
1 large onion, diced
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted and sliced
3 hearts of celery, chopped
1/4 cup capers (the celery & capers are important)
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
Brown the eggplants in half of the oil. Remove.
Add more oil if necessary & when hot – add
Peppers – cook ’til wilted & remove.
Now, sauté onions ’til wilted then add
Tomatoes & simmer ’til they are reduced to sauce.
Add olives, celery, capers; simmer a few minutes
Then add wine vinegar, water, sugar, cooked peppers
& eggplants. Season with s/p and cook over low heat
’til vegetables are well cooked and sauce thick (30 minutes).
If you are canning: process in hot water bath as follows:
1/2 pints for 20 minutes boil
pints for 40 minutes boil
Serve at room temp on small pieces of good bread
With a sprinkling of grated cheese. Enjoy! Love, Mom
And in case you haven’t already had an eggplant parmesan (a favorite way of mine to eat eggplant and tomatoes) here’s a nice twist on this traditional dish.
Eggplant Parmesan (adapted from Joy of Cooking)
The eggplant is normally baked in a single layer with sauce and cheese, but in a pinch you can feed more people in one pan if you do it lasagna-style in layers. Serve over angel hair pasta.
5-7 large tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1Tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
4 medium eggplants (about 4 pounds), cut in 1/2 in. thick slices
2 eggs, beaten
Olive oil, for frying
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (about 8 oz)
2 cups shredded mozzarella (use fresh, water-packed mozzarella if you can)
1. Preparing the Sauce:
Dice the tomatoes and put them in a colander in the sink. Let them sit for about 20 minutes, so that all the extra liquid drains out. In the meantime, chop your basil and garlic. You’ll have some extra time to use up here, so start slicing your eggplants up. When the tomatoes are drained, mix them in a bowl with the basil, salt, garlic, and olive oil and let it all marinate.
2. Frying the Eggplant:
Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. (Or, if you’re coordinated, I recommend doing two pans simultaneously, to save time.) When the oil is hot, lower the temperature to medium. Briefly dip each slice of eggplant in the egg and shake off the excess, then toss it in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until it is soft. Put the cooked slices on a platter off to the side.
3. Assembling the Casserole:
Preheat your oven to 350°. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Lay slices of eggplant on top, with edges touching. Sprinkle about half the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses over the top, then add another layer of sauce and another layer of eggplant. Spread the remainder of the sauce over the top, then finish off with the rest of the cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through.
I don’t know friends, I’m at a loss this week of what to say. The farm has been beautiful. The trellising is practically falling down from the weight of so many tomatoes. The zinnias bloom with bright colors like skittles, the statice with its delicate hues of blue, and the frosted explosion grass with explosions of frost. We’re not big weeders, Willow and I, and so quite a few puddles of purslane dapple the landscape as well. The eggplant are loaded (is it redundant to say eggplant plant?). The grass in the pasture has dried a golden amber. And I am mostly happy, content with the everyday stuff of living, missing the one I love, loving the life i lead.
No theme this week for the newsletter. No poignant stories or farm gossip really either (with Willow on vacation I mostly just talk to myself). I just feel fine, and that is an alright feeling to have. Today, with the help of some friends, I finally finished the deer hide I started tanning last fall. My trailer fills with the smell of woodsmoke and the finished hide lays over my chair. There is something completely engrossing about working a hide, and today I found myself deeply engaged in the present moment to a degree I don’t always experience, even on the farm. There is a way in which working with natural materials, on nature’s clock, slows down everything before and blurs the importance of an after, leaving only the responsibilities of the moment – feeding the fire, watching the hide, and sitting on upside down milk crates with friends, idly discussing the changes of fall.
So fine. Life is a beautiful thing these days. It is picking eggplant plants and sewing deer hides. It is loving someone so big and watching that love challenge me to open up even further. It is feeling grateful for my community at large, and for the love that jumps oceans and state lines to connect me to those that don’t live here. It’s also honey dripping and manzanita berry picking, closing in the chickens and falling asleep to the crickets, today’s tranquility and yesterdays agitation. Yep. That’s it. Time for bedtime. Make ratatouille and be happy.
Greens – Kale/Collards/Chard
In case you have forgotten this simple pleasure, the variations are endless and the ingredients abundant this time of year. Here’s one idea, which you can cook in a cast iron on the stove top, stirring occasionally, of you can bake in the oven too. Shredding cheese on top ain’t bad either.