September 11, 2013 ~ Get cookin’

A few weeks ago, when I was organizing in the farmstand on CSA pick-up day, I overheard a little voice say, “We could make pico de gallo if we had cilantro.” I turned my head and was surprised to realize that the culinary tidbit came from the grandchild of a shareholder, as she led the way for her grandmother around the tent to collect the week’s bounty.

Sophisticated taste aside, this moment remains vivid in my mind because it reiterates why it’s so vital to get kids interested in good food. Why? Well, the obvious reason is to encourage confidence and promote healthful eating habits and relationships with food from a young age.  The second reason involves upholding and maintaining certain social and culinary traditions of food.

Chef Geoffrey Zacharian touched upon this later point in a recent interview, in which he suggests,

You’re not just eating because you’re hungry, you’re eating because it’s an act. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, everyday of your life there’s a chance to say something and do something different and enjoy something and share something with someone.

The tradition of sitting down to meals together may seem a bit antiquated, as working patterns shift parents out of households and school and extracurricular schedules do not seem to factor in nourishing, meaningful mealtimes. I am really fortunate to have grown up in a home that made family dinners a priority. It’s a tradition that I’ve carried on into my adulthood. And, while away from my immediate family, I’ve adapted it to regularly include friends and community members. While there’s certainly other defining moments in my life that have shaped me as an individual, it’s from my early memories of cooking with my mom, setting the table and sitting down to eat that remain the most impressionable. I’ve learned responsibility, generosity, reciprocity, how to communicate and the all-important listening skills.

Teaching kids about food is one of the best lessons we can arm them with and it’s most definitely one of the cutest. For example, I’ve watched Nicole’s and her husband Paul’s son, River, grow up here at Hunts Brook in and amongst the healthy, beautiful food. My heart swells when, even at 20 months, he can match and identify fruits and vegetables from his food alphabet picture book to the real ones growing at the farm. He seems to always be ready and willing to help:

Little River supervises the butternut squash harvest. (September 10, 2013, A.Gross)

Little River supervises the butternut squash harvest. (September 10, 2013, A.Gross)

Even though I do not yet have children of my own, I enjoy watching the little gears churn in their heads, their ability to make connections and share what they’ve learned. It’s an amazingly gratifying process to witness as both a farmer and good food advocate. Their active involvement in the eating process – from harvesting to visiting the farm on CSA days to cooking at home – can’t start early enough.

Here’s to treating farm visits and meal times as tasty teaching and learning opportunities!

On behalf of the HBF crew,


CSA Week 14 ~ September 10, 2013

The bounty this week

      • Arugula!
      • Lettuce
      • Kale or collards
      • Kohlrabi
      • Radishes or fennel
      • Potatoes
      • Leeks
      • Winter squash – Cinderella pumpkin!
      • Onions
      • Garlic
      • Tomatoes
      • Eggplant
      • Peppers (sweet and hot)
      • Herbs
      • Asian pears!
Asian pears! (September 2013, A. Gross)

Asian pears! (September 2013, A. Gross)

Are you ready?! Arugula is back, and I’ve missed you, you spicy green. You can, of course, sauté and wilt arugula, but my favorite method is raw, in a flavorful salad with Asian pears:

Asian pear and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese (from Food & Wine)

Time: 20 minutes; Servings: 10 (adapt accordingly if you are cooking for fewer people!)


      • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
      • 2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
      • 1 tsp honey
      • ½ tsp chopped thyme (variation: rosemary, sage and/or parsley are excellent substitutes here!)
      • salt and freshly ground pepper
      • 5 ounces baby arugula (I usually use more!)
      • 3 Asian pears, peeled, cored and very thinly sliced (a mandolin is ideal, but not necessary)
      • ½ cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds*
      • 3 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (Mystic Cheese Co.’s Melville or Beltane’s chevre, perhaps?!)

1. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice, honey and chopped thyme (or any other herb you are using). Season the salad dressing with salt and pepper.

2. In a large bowl, toss the arugula with the pear slices and pumpkin seeds. Add the dressing and toss well. Top with the crumbled goat cheese, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and serve right way.

Make ahead: The salad dressing can be refrigerated overnight.

Tips & Notes:

*I love using all parts of a vegetable, saving a trip to the compost and the grocery store. How appropriate that you are receiving a pumpkin this week because, now, you can save those seeds and make your own roasted pumpkin seeds!

On the subject of pumpkins, this week you’ll be getting a Cinderella pumpkin. (Bonus: What kids don’t like pumpkins? It won’t be difficult to get them to help you cook this magical winter squash.) This Cinderella pumpkin is a French variety called Rouge Vif d’Etampes. Don’t worry – there’s no pronunciation quiz this week. It may look too beautiful to eat, but don’t let the decorative possibilities tempt you. Here is the simplest way to prepare a Cinderella pumpkin: Roast it!

The pumpkins are here and will soon be in your kitchen!

The pumpkins are here and will soon be in your kitchen!

Roasted pumpkin puree

  1. Set your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With a sharp, heavy knife, cut the pumpkin in half.
  3. Scoop out the seeds and stringy center. (Save the seeds to roast!)
  4. Place your prepared pumpkin halves, cut side down on a baking sheet.
  5. Poke the skin side with a fork in several places.
  6. The squash is done roasting when a fork can easily pierce the skin. Depending on the size of your pumpkin, this could take up to 1.5-2 hours.
  7. Once the squash is done, scoop out the flesh and place in a strainer to remove excess water.
  8. If you want a truly pureed consistency, place the strained pumpkin in a food processor and blend.

Tips & Notes:

        • Ok, so now what? What can you do with roasted pumpkin puree? It can be used in soups, baking recipes and even serve as a creamy, dairy substitute in some dishes pumpkin (baked ziti, anyone?). If you’re not quite sure what you want to do with it, consider placing it a freezer-safe container or bag and freeze for a later time.

Question of the week:

What are your earliest recollections of cooking, baking or preparing food in your kitchen? What did you cook?!


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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One Response to September 11, 2013 ~ Get cookin’

  1. runbikegrrl says:

    Nice article Alex, and what an adorable photo of River!

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