Hello! It’s been a while, but don’t look at the year of the previous post and we’ll say it’s just been a few days. I’m super excited to join Isabelle Farm, a certified organic vegetable farm just a couple of miles from my home, writing how to’s on enjoying the produce they grow this season! Their farm store is open six days/week year round, showing their commitment to our local community, as there isn’t a year round growing season in Colorado! Their 2017 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) season starts up this week, and I’m happy to provide cooking, preparation and storage tips to their members over the next 20 weeks.
Natalie and her husband Jason oversee and work all aspects of Isabelle’s operation, from greenhouse to field to harvest to distribution, farming over 400 acres at various locations in Boulder County. The beauty, quality and consistency of their produce never ceases to amaze me, especially at that level of production. And yet they find the time to connect with the people and support organizations in our community through education, events and running the farm store. You guys rock!
So here’s to a productive and delicious 2017 growing season! Let’s all eat well!
When you are a CSA member, salad should be part of your summer meals because
- you don’t heat up your kitchen
- you can create lots of flavor and variety with a well-stocked pantry and fridge
- it’s quick and easy with a sharp knife and some beforehand preparation
- you almost always get greens in your share, usually lots
When you bring your vegetable share home, take the time to properly store any produce you aren’t going to use right away. You don’t necessarily need to wash everything; in fact in most instances unwashed fruits and vegetables store better, because you don’t introduce extra moisture that can cause foods to mold and spoil faster. Follow these guidelines and your farm fresh produce should last a week or even longer.
- separate roots from their tops, either saving the tops if desired or composting them; store the roots themselves in a plastic or similar type of bag
- store leafy vegetables including saved tops in a plastic bag to prevent wilting, but also make sure they are not too wet*
- store most herbs (except basil) with their stalks freshly cut and in water; cover the tops with a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator
- basil will brown if it gets too wet or cold; best to leave it out on the counter like a flower bouquet and change the water daily, especially if the weather is warm
- fruit-type vegetables (eggplant, peppers, etc) store well for several days unbagged in the crisper drawer since they have a protective skin; leave tomatoes out of the fridge for better flavor and texture
- I keep mushrooms and thin-skinned cucumbers in paper bags in the crisper; they need a little protection from drying, but storing in plastic seems to make them spoil
*When you have time, wash lettuces (separate leaves off heads) and other greens you’ll use for salads, being sure to spin off excess water before placing back into clean plastic bags. I like to place a paper towel in the bag to wick away moisture. Plan to use washed greens within the week. Later you’ll save more than the time spent one time washing all your greens, and be able to quickly put a salad together.
Finally you’ll want to make your own dressing. No? Really, now – how could you pour bottled dressing on those beautiful greens you just prepared. It’s really pretty quick and easy! The basics are oil, vinegar (and/or other acid like lemon juice), salt and optional pepper. There’s a whole world of oils and vinegars, but for now, just use a good quality olive or neutral oil and a vinegar you like. It can be red or white wine, apple cider, sherry, balsamic, etc; just stay away from the white distilled vinegar. You can even dress your greens right in the bowl as follows.
- Place torn or cut greens, including fresh herbs if desired, in a large bowl
- Scatter salt and pepper to taste over the top
- Drizzle with a splash of the vinegar/lemon juice; don’t use too much
- Toss with tongs (or even clean hands); this dissolves the salt and coats all the leaves
- Follow with a more generous drizzle of oil, 2-3 times more than the vinegar
- Toss again and taste; adjust any of the ingredients if needed
It’s hard to give exact measurements, but your goal is to lightly coat all the leaves with a little richness from the oil, tanginess from the vinegar/lemon and a hint of the salt. You want to taste the dressing without drowning the leaves; a pool of dressing left in the bowl after eating is a signal to use a little less of everything the next time.
For more than just one salad’s worth of dressing you can shake the same proportion of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small capped jar, or use a stick blender to combine. Dip a leaf into the mixture to taste and adjust ingredients. It’s also easier to incorporate other ingredients such as mustard, sweetener, spices, fresh/dried herbs, etc in a larger batch.
For more detailed instruction, pictures and a real recipe, look here. Their proportions are a little heavier on oil than mine, but remember this is to your taste. Enjoy those cooling salads this summer!