October 9, 2013 ~ Food as art

Well, the moment’s arrived when we say goodbye to the 2013 CSA season. As I tried to think of a way to summarize not only this season but also my overall experience here at HBF, I was a bit overwhelmed. Where do I even begin? Instead, I’m ignoring all those usual emotions that come with the season’s end – sadness, relief, anxiety, excitement – to talk about something that makes me happy: The beauty of farm food!

Chester Sunday Market (A.Gross)

Chester Sunday Market (A.Gross)

The mission of Hunts Brook is to provide you with “healthy beautiful food.” We take all elements of the growing process extremely seriously, from careful crop planning to mindful field and crop management to the presentation of our wares to the public. As a visual person, I’m most intrigued and inspired by this last piece. I take the “beautiful” criteria to heart.

When you have such high-quality, gorgeous-looking produce, it’s difficult to make it look bad. Yet, I treat every display at our farmers’ markets or under the CSA tent as a mini art show and as an attempt to enhance this natural beauty. I’m a firm believer that you should feel something when you consume our food besides, well, the grumbles of an eager stomach. A visit to our farm or our booth at the market should be a joyful, sensory experience. You should see the bold colors of the root crops contrasted next to the greens. You should feel the texture of different winter squash skins, potatoes and eggplants. You should smell the fresh scents of just-picked arugula, pawpaws or a mesmerizing flower bouquet.  You should taste the juicy turnips, crispy lettuce or heat of a hot pepper. Hopefully, these moments should resonate with you.

The harvest awaits under the CSA tent (A.Gross)

The harvest awaits under the CSA tent (A.Gross)

I take pride in the vegetables and fruits that I’ve played a part in growing for you. Simply throwing produce on a table and sticking labels or tags on them does not do the vegetables justice. Further, it doesn’t respect us as farmers for the incredible amount of work that we put into the growing process. The presentation is meant to make you feel inspired to cook, eat and share with family and friends.

Selfishly, our vegetables displays are also a way for me to express this pride as a food grower. In the two years that I’ve known Teresa, she has a regular saying, and that is, “Do what makes your heart sing.”  Arranging vegetables may seem like a mundane task, but by doing so in a visually pleasing, mindful, thoughtful way, it resonates with me and, yes, it makes my heart sing.

I hope you have enjoyed your time with us during this CSA season. Thank you for letting me express myself creatively and grow for you during the past two seasons at Hunts Brook!

So, here’s to experiencing food with your senses and some feeling!

On behalf of the HBF family,

Alex

Week 18: October 9, 2013

The abundance this week:

    • lettuce
    • Swiss chard
    • hon tsai tai
    • tatsoi
    • summer squash
    • eggplant
    • hot peppers
    • beets or carrots
    • winter squash
    • broccoli!
    • garlic
    • tomatoes
    • pawpaws

Beets are delicious in their own right. Whether they’re boiled, roasted or shaved raw over a salad, you don’t need to do much to this root to make them tasty. But for the last recipe, I wanted to end on a sweet note:

Oh, beautiful beets! (A.Gross)

Chocolate Beet Cake* (From “Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables”)

(*There’s no need to advertise that there are beets in this cake, especially for the vegetable-phobic loved ones in your life. A suggestion? Call it chocolate cake or red velvet cake. They’ll never know.)

Ingredients:

      • 3-4 medium beets
      • butter and flour for preparing the pan
      • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
      • 1 c. mild-flavored vegetable oil
      • 3 eggs
      • 1¾ c. sugar
      • 1 T. vanilla extract
      • 1½ c. all purpose flour
      • ½ c. whole wheat pastry flour
      • 2 t. baking soda
      • ¼ t. salt
      • powdered sugar for dusting

Scrub the beets with a vegetable brush and trim roots.  Trim stems and save greens for some other use.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beets.  Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until the beets are tender and the skins slip off easily.  Let the beets cool a little, the slip the skins off under cold water and then purée the beets in a blender or food processor.  You should have about 2 cups of beet purée.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Butter and flour a 9×13” pan or Bundt pan and set it aside.

Fill a medium saucepan about halfway with water and bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set a heat-proof bowl over the simmering water.  Place the chocolate and ¼ c. of the oil in the bowl and heat, stirring frequently, just until the chocolate melts.

Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly beat in the remaining oil, the chocolate mixture, beets, and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt.  Gently stir the flour mixture into the egg and chocolate mixture until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Carefully remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool completely before sprinkling with powdered sugar to serve.

Variations: On my personal blog, I have gluten-free and vegan variations to this recipe.

Oh, boy, broccoli! We’ve been waiting for this fall planting, eagerly walking through the rows for the first flush of broccoli. And, this week’s the week! Again, to truly enjoy this tasty brassica, keep it simple. I like it roasted, and you’d be surprised how many individuals on the anti-broccoli team that you can convert with this recipe.

Community circle:

Last week, we asked you to share a highlight of your CSA experience, whether it was a particular vegetable or a new favorite recipe. Here are a few of your comments:

Really enjoyed the lettuce, and it was just about the right amount. Less Kale. Cucumbers and tomatoes wonderful, and always look forward to the butternut squash. [M]ade lots of pickled and pickled beets. – Nancy

Everything has been wonderful and loved being introduced to Asian greens that I had not tried before. Keep the surprises coming. I’m always thrilled to see dandelion greens, not because I care that much for the greens, but because I like the cooking water. Boil up a bunch and let sit for a few minutes. Give the greens to someone else. Tell them they are really really good for them. Then strain the cooking water into some big mason jars and get the liquid really cold. Add lemon juice. I think it tastes a lot like unsweetened grapefruit juice this way. – Cindy

It’s never too late to share, so comment below with a favorite memory of the season!

Greens display @ the Chester Sunday Market (A.Gross)

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About Hunts Brook Farm

Hunts Brook Farm is a small family farm in Quaker Hill, CT. We grow vegetables, cut flowers, herbs, fruit, and berries and are continuing to grow every year! We use organic practices, although we are not certified. We have a CSA, a farm stand, and also go to local farmers markets.
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5 Responses to October 9, 2013 ~ Food as art

  1. Alice says:

    We thrive on Huntsbrook vegetables all summer long! This season we loved the Asian greens. My kids will eat bok Choy and tatsoi!!-sauté in ginger and garlic-finish with a dash of soy sauce and fish sauce. Roasted potatoes and roasted eggplant with tahini dressing were also a staple. Finally, I have found a love for beets. Growing up I hated them and that continued until the day those golden beets made it into my basket with arugula and some goat cheese!

  2. pnc15 @tvcconnect.net says:

    Experimenting with Asian Pear Jam/Jelly recipes, but good just eating like an apple. Blended the pawpaw with a banana and milk and a little vanilla, made a great shake/smoothie. Nancy

  3. John Bodin says:

    Don’t forget!
    Hunts Brook Farm also has delicious, pure maple syrup from our friend, John Bodin’s sugarbush in Elmore VT. (FB@elmoremountainmapleworks)
    Here’s an easy way to use some of it.

    MAPLE GLAZED CARROTS
    Ingredients:
    16 ounces of carrots (about 3 1/2 cups)
    1 tablespoon melted butter
    2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
    Sea salt, to taste
    Pepper, to taste
    pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon (optional)
    Method:
    Steam carrots over boiling water until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour oil or butter and maple syrup into a sauté pan. When carrots are done, drain and sauté them for 5 minutes in the oil and maple syrup over medium-high heat.

    Nutritional Info:
    PER SERVING:Serving size: About 1/2 cup, 50 calories (20 from fat), 2.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 5g sugar), 1g protein

  4. Barbara Stevens says:

    Really enjoy the newsletters from Alex . They are a delight to read……perhaps he should take up writing as a winter activity. Thank you for sharing your creative thoughts,

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