Fall has definitely arrived here in the foothills with the first rain storm last week. Three days of a deluge, and now beautiful, crisp, sunny days and fire-time nights. All the oaks are turning yellow, the days short and sweet. Halloween approaches next week and close on its heels, Thanksgiving, the epitome of fall harvest and abundance. It’s a time for gratitude (of course, any time really is) to the earth, the sun, the soil, everything that conspires to bring us this incredible nourishment. It’s such a mystery and such a simple thing, yet think about the miracle of planting a seed and the seed unfolding into a spreading pumpkin plant. It’s pretty amazing. This time of year, my pantry is full of canned and dried foods, potatoes and winter squash precariously stacked in the corner of my bathroom, and the freezer jammed to the point of things falling out when I open it. I feel so safe, so securely provisioned for the winter. A full pantry and a full woodshed at the onset of November are the definition of wealth in my opinion.
And now, sitting on my couch, watching the afternoon sun through the window grace the ridge across the valley, I want to express my gratitude to all our wonderful CSA members. Thank you for supporting us this season with your money and time. Thank you for investing in small, local farms and trying things you may have never tried before. Thank you so much for coming with your bags and boxes every week and oohing and aahing over the veggies. Maisie and I couldn’t have done it without you!
Enjoy the last harvest and get some cozy time this winter!
Pumpkin Doughnut Holes:
My friend Stephanie Rosenbaum is a great chef and cookbook author and recently sent me this recipe, which I plan on trying as soon as possible. I recommend you do to! For Pumpkin Doughnut Holes click here.
Parsnips: I like to roast my parsnips in a simple fashion. Just cut them into small chunks coat with olive oil and salt and roast in the oven until soft and slightly crispy around the edges. They are also great in chicken soup.
Harvesting squash in the autumn sunlight!
Here’s to pumpkins, here’s to fall, and here’s to curling up in front of a fire with your sweetie, drinking hot drinks and watching the rain squall. That’s my plan, as soon as it starts to rain that is. We just planted cover crop this morning, and our irrigation water from the NID ditch turned off last week for the winter. So now we are waiting patiently for the rain, waiting for it to wake up all those little bean, vetch, and rye seeds. For now they are cloaked under a layer of rich soil, and hopefully the birds won’t find them as it’s likely to be another week of dry, 80 degree weather.
Thus is the farmers lament, it’s dry when you want it to rain, and wet when you want it to be dry. And you just really have no control over it. Over the last five years of farming in earnest, one lesson that’s hit me over the head over and over again is non-attachment. Farming is the ultimate test in faith. You do everything you can do, and then hope for the best. Sometimes, a huge hail storm comes in June and takes down all your tomato plants. Sometimes a foreign pest sneaks into your field and eats all your seed potatoes just a week after you’ve planted them.
I’ve seen an evolution time and time again, of a first-year farmer falling to pieces over things like this to three years into it realizing that you just can’t let it faze you. This has been my journey, and I’m finally coming to realize that no matter what the circumstances, something is going to go wrong, and something is going to surprise you with its success. Of course, life is like this, and of course there are a million analogies one could make to practice this age-old wisdom of the buddhists. But it really is the key to success and happiness. I know it. Because when I think back on all those times of hardship or pain, it was because my expectations were firmly cemented into my head. When expectation is fluid, joy can find you in the most unusual of places.
much love and autumn sunshine,
sunshine kabocha winter squash
the last of the tomatoes/peppers/eggplant/cucumbers
The shallots are still green (they still have the green tops on them) and make for a delicious salad dressing. Just throw the shallot greens in a blender or food processor with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a little salt and puree. You get a delicious, creamy, green-goddess-like dressing.
The Kabocha squash is one of my all-time favorites. Just cut up, scoop out the seeds and bake in the oven for about an hour. You get a delicious, sweet, dry-textured squash, much like a chestnut. I like to just eat them plain, but with a little butter they are divine!
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.