Don’t be shy about trying new vegetables

nom de plume of Francine Wolfe Schwartz

Last Wednesday while choosing my farm share for the week I was standing next to a gentleman staring into a bin of crisp heads of escarole.  He looked at me and said, “What do you suppose you do with that.”  I stopped for a moment and automatically replied “it’s a green you can eat in a salad or cook it.”  We both nibbled a piece.  He shrugged his shoulders, turned and stared at the Swiss chard.

And that got me thinking. I’ve never chosen escarole. How could I have overlooked this deep green member of the chickory family?  Considering this is my third year organic farm C.S.A. (community supported agriculture) membership I can only attribute this oversight to habit. You see, I pick up my share on the farm choosing my veggies  “market style” instead of receiving the “classic harvest box.”  In some respects the bountiful box is as one farm share member says,“it’s like a Christmas gift, you open the lid and it’s a surprise every week.”  So surely the fluffy dark green head of escarole would be the standout veggie of the week to cook and eat.

Well, still standing at the bin of escarole I decided from this week and the next seventeen weeks forward I will choose a vegetable unintentionally overlooked and coax you to do the same.

About escarole: Cousin to endive and radicchio, members of the chicory family.  This snappy flavored green adds flavor dimension to salads and when cooked becomes surprisingly sweet.

kitchen math: 1 medium head = about 8 cups torn

preparation:  Remove leaves and wash in a sink full of cold water several times to remove any lingering sand at the base of the leaves.

nutrition: Excellent source of fiber, calcium, iron, Vitamins A & C.

storage: keep unwashed, wrapped in paper toweling or a clean cotton kitchen towel in a perforated plastic bag.  Eat within a week.

Escarole Soup with Meatballs

Italian comfort soup with pastina to warm your body and soul.  Try quick cooking pastina as a side dish with a little olive oil or butter, chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan.

4 entree or 6 first course serving

Meatballs

1/2 pound ground turkey or lean ground beef

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 slice bread, soaked in milk and squeezed dry

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Soup

6 cups chicken stock

1 head organic escarole

1 small onion, finely chopped

3/4 cup pastina

2 eggs, beaten (optional)

1/4 cup minced Italian parsley

freshly grated Parmesan cheese

freshly grated nutmeg

Meatballs

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Taking one tablespoon at a time form into balls 1-inch in diameter.  Refrigerate meatballs until ready to add to soup.

Soup

Trim escarole and wash well, pat dry or spin in salad spinner. Tear into small pieces (about 8-10 cups) Save more tender inner leaves for salad.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, bring chicken broth to a boil.  Add escarole, onion and meatballs.  Cook for 3 minutes.

Add pastina and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

If including eggs, add parsley to eggs and lightly beat or if not just add parsley directly to soup with Parmesan cheese and nutmeg.

When ready to serve, whisk stock and gradually pour in beaten egg mixture creating thin strands. (tip: For easy pouring use a measuring cup to pour eggs into soup)

Serve soup with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and nutmeg.

Serving suggestion: Preheat soup bowls with boiling water.  Serve with crusty bread and for adults a glass of Sangiovese wine.

My husband claims this is the best soup I’ve ever made.

from “Little Italy Cookbook”, by David Ruggiero

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

about 8 cups

One 3 -pound chicken, cut-up

2 medium onions, quartered

3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped

4-5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

1 fresh thyme sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)

freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Add 3 quarts water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 1-1/2 – 2 hours.

Spoon off and discard any foam on top of stock as it  simmers.

Remove pot from heat.  Remove chicken and set aside.   Strain stock thru a fine mesh strainer, pressing vegetables to extract juices.

Discard vegetables saving chicken for another recipe. Use in chicken salad, enchiladas or other recipes.

Allow stock to cool and refrigerate.  Once fat rises to the top of the stock remove and throw fat away.  Freeze stock in labeled/dated containers.  Stock maybe frozen up to 3 months.

For a convenient small amount of stock, freeze in ice cube trays. Pop the stock cubes and store in a ziploc bag

Shortcut Chicken Stock

2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth

2 ribs celery, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 onions, roughly chopped

2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

Place stock and vegetables in a large heavy saucepan (fitted with a lid) set over medium heat.  Bring mixture just to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and strain stock thru a mesh sieve strainer, pressing down the vegetables to release juices.

Should yield about 8 cups of stock.  Freeze in labeled containers for up to 3 months.

Comprehensive resource of the week: Farmer John’s Cookbook The Real Dirt on Vegetables”, by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics with Lesley Littlefield Freeman.  Copy available to read in the Worden Farm Barn Resource Library.  (my copy is dog-eared)



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Whether you live north or south of the Mason-Dixie line chances are you’ve eaten some variety of “green”

first taste of collards nurtured at Worden Farms, Punta Gorda, Florida

From tender beet greens, spinach, and escarole to more sturdy Swiss chard, mustard green, kale and collards, vibrant greens are a full-flavored stand out and a nutritional powerhouse.  Dark greens deliver vitamins A and C, fiber, lutein, folic acid and calcium to your body helping reduce cholesterol and fighting some forms of cancer.

Greens are tender and easy to prepare stir-fried, roasted, braised or steamed plain or fancy with spices and herbs.

Store – dry, unwashed wrapped in a clean cotton towel or paper toweling sealed in a plastic bag.  Tender greens (beet greens and spinach) eat within one week, sturdier green up to two weeks.

Prepare – fill a sink or bowlful of water, swish greens allowing any sand to sink to the bottom, remove greens, drain water and wash again. Remove tough stems.

Quick meal tip: Freeze leftover cooked greens to combine with eggs for quiche, omelets or a frittata.  Add cooked greens to enchilada or lasagna fillings. Stir into soups.

Pantry tip: Keep on hand cous cous and bulghur wheat for quick side dishes

braising greens…



Spicy Orange-Scented Greens

Prep time 10 minutes

Cooking time 5 minutes

4-6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic minced

1(2-inch) piece of ginger, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

zest from 1 orange

1 bunch collard, kale or mustard greens, washed, stemmed, thinly sliced

juice from 1 orange

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a large covered skillet, heat oil.  Over medium high heat, saute´ onion until soft, add garlic, ginger and orange zest.  Continue to sauté 1-2 minutes.  With tongs gradually add greens allowing them to wilt before adding more.  Reduce heat to low toss with orange juice, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Cover and continue to cook 3-5 minutes.  Add more soy sauce or red pepper flakes to taste.

Recipe adapted from “The Flying Biscuit Cafe’ Cookbook” by April Moon.

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Care and Eating of First Farm Share

When Farmer Eva Worden of Worden Organic Farm asked if I’d like to write a recipe and tips “column” to post on Words from Worden Farm I jumped at the chance to create a place for sharing tips and recipes to savor the harvest.

Whether you’re a new or “old” farm share member storing your vegetables is key. To me it’s respecting the hard work devoted to growing and providing the vegetables to us.
A few tips…

for your refrigerator

  • Trash bottles and containers of “mystery food”
  • Wash your refrigerator vegetable bins and shelves with a solution of 1 tablespoon of  baking soda mixed with 1 quart of warm water.
  • Reorganize your “frig” making room for your farm share.
  • Veggies can be stored on any shelf in the refrigerator and not just in the bin.
  • Check temperature zones. Most refrigerator temperatures are adjusted only by numbered dials so I like using a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.
  • Set the temperature to fall between 32-40 degrees F keeping milk and dairy products in the coldest area. Keep in mind warm air rises and cold air falls to the bottom of the refrigerator.

Every year I learn new ways to keep my farm share fresher longer. Wrapping vegetables in clean “old” cotton dish towels instead of  buying rolls of paper towels has worked well for me. Not only saving trees and money,  I think dish towels are more effective absorbing moisture. I even line the vegetable bin with a clean dish towel. You’ll want a supply of about 12 towels to use and rotate thru washing from week to week. (remember not to use fabric softener)

For storage I like using assorted sizes of re-sealable plastic zip bags. The jumbo size easily stores greens and lettuces and smaller sizes for radishes, squash etc. They can be rinsed, dried and reused several times and even from season to season.

Labeling the plastic bags makes it a lot easier to find a specific vegetable in your refrigerator. Making labels with masking tape and a “sharpie” pens are quick and inexpensive.

Organizing your storage supplies before picking up your share helps get your veggies in the refrigerator more quickly.
(I’ll pass along vegetable freezing tips soon)

As soon as you get home, work with the most perishable vegetables first – lettuces and leafy vegetables. Store salad greens unwashed. Wet greens spoil quickly. I roll heads of lettuces in a clean dish towel and store in a labeled zip bag.

Veggie Storage

Storing the delicate mixed lettuces (mesclun) in a plastic bag with several sheets of paper towel (an exception to using cloth towels) will absorb more moisture. Enjoy mesclun mixes in a few days and lettuces within a week. At my house we eat a big salad for dinner the first night to really enjoy the freshness. (it’s sure been a long summer without fresh delicious salads hasn’t it!)

And…if you do not own a salad spinner now is the time to buy one! My first farm season I thought a spinner was just another useless gadget to store. Thankfully a farm intern convinced me to buy one. A salad spinner is one of the best kitchen tools I have ever bought. They are great for washing any green leafy vegetable, herbs, draining vegetables after washing them and a can be used as a serving bowl. Just make sure to buy the largest size.

Now to get you started let’s work with this week’s share and the veggies needing a little extra care. Tomatoes and avocados like to sit on your kitchen counter until ripe. Eat ripe tomatoes right away. They hate cold refrigerators. Avocados once soft to touch can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Wrap eggplant in a clean dish towel (do not store in a plastic bag) and since the optimum storage temperature is 50 degrees they do best on the top shelf.

Store summer squash in a perforated plastic bag in the bin or in a sealed bag lined with a clean dish towel. Remove the radish greens and store the radishes and greens separately loosely wrapped a clean cloth or paper toweling in plastic bags in the bin or in middle area of refrigerator. Store arugula, bok choy, lettuce and green onions wrapped in labeled plastic bags.

I know these steps sound time consuming but it’s worth the effort to enjoy your farm share the entire week.

Note:  Worden Farm of Southwest Florida  harvest season begins late mid-October to mid-April.

Arugula and Whole-Wheat Pasta

Arugula, a traditional Italian green a rich source of iron, vitamins A&C.  Enjoy arugula within 3 days

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 10-12 minutes

4 servings

1 (13.25 ounce) box whole-wheat rotini, penne or farfalle pasta
1 tablespoon of sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (or 1/2 cup “cherry” tomatoes halved)
1 bunch arugula, washed and drained
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil add sea salt. Add pasta and cook al dente. (Very important as whole-wheat pasta quickly becomes mushy when overcooked.)

In a large frying pan heat oil, saute´ onion about 3 minutes or until soft, add garlic, sun-dried (or cherry tomatoes). Continue to cook 2 minutes and add cooked pasta. Gently toss arugula with pasta and vegetables. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water if desired.
Serve with freshly grated pepper and cheese and a mixed green salad.

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It’s official Francine Wolfe Schwartz announces Farm Fodder PR, a new division of Creative Consumer Services. “Farm Fodder PR will serve small farmers and farm enterprises promoting The Farm to People Connection.”

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Banner Photo Credit

The beautiful banner shot was taken by Rebecca Lang, author, cooking instructor and friend extraordinaire during our vineyard tour to the Willamette Valley, Portland, OR. Just one of  the “field trips”  experienced at International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference in Portland.   Get to know Rebecca  @ rebeccalangcooks.com

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Hello world!

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