August 25, 2020

 

What’s in this Week’s VEGGIE BOX: Eggplant, Shishito Peppers, Plums, Figs, Heirlooms and Early Girl Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Parsley, and Squash

 

Bread this week: Rosemary Foccacia and French Baguette-your choice of one


 

This Week on The Farm

It seems like this year keeps finding ways to test us, to test our resolve, our spirit, our strength, our ability to keep going. Just when we were finally getting a handle on the changes that came with COVID, 2020 threw another curve ball. I’m not sure how many of you were able to witness the lightning storm that caused these fires, but I did, it was something that I haven’t seen in years. We were in Santa Rosa and I got woken up at 4am by the loudest thunder I have ever heard. It was right outside the window, everything lit up as the lightning cracked across the sky. For an hour, I was like a little kid again, counting the seconds after the lightning until I heard the thunder, trying to determine how far away it was. It was a spectacle, and throughout the night, the biggest concern I had was if the car windows were down, if it was going to hit the palm tree outside our window, or if the power was going to go out. But slowly the count started climbing, and the storm moved past us. I fell back to sleep, not thinking about it again.

             For the next day or so, I saw Facebook posts and photos of the storm and how amazing it was. People were talking about how beautiful it was, how long it has been since we have had a storm like that. How weird the summer weather has been. It was a lighthearted topic that brought fascination and wonder into people’s lives, if only for a short period of time. But the aftermath of that storm, has felt like something out of a nightmare. The fires that were started because of that storm have caused so much fear, panic and chaos in the last week, and still continue to do so.  But it also brought people together again. I feel like COVID has taught people to be distant, to keep to themselves and be careful who they see, talk to or be around. It’s been hard to not be able to go places, have gatherings… hug. Its isolating, and I have talked about it before, but I struggled, and still do with what COVID has done to this country. But seeing the people come to support one another during the fires has helped me once again see how amazing communities can be. Because Cal-Fire was spread so thin due to the 360 some odd number of fires that were started in California, they didn’t have the man power to send anyone to the Capay Valley for the first couple days. So it was the farmers and our volunteer firefighters were out with their own tractors, water tanks and anything else they could find to protect their neighbors homes, land and memories.  They were out for three days disking around properties, saving homes and bordering on exhaustion, moving animals and working together. During the last week I have heard, read and seen some powerful stories of support, heroism, community and strength. I read a story about how employees and a handful of firefighters came together to save Nichelini Winery on Hwy 128, the fire had them surrounded and they refused to give up and were able to save the family owned winery. How only a handful of Cal-Fire firefighters fought the English Hills fire in Vacaville, going for days on end, with no sleep to protect the homes of perfect strangers, finally getting control of it and then starting all over again the next day, in a new place on a new fire. Stories of people saving the lives of their co-workers, of people opening up their home and land to people who have been displaced by these huge blazes. People put aside their fear of COVID to help their neighbors and community members. That to me is what makes people so strong, the ability to put aside their fear, their struggles, and their concerns and help others.

The fires are far from over, which is obvious as I look out to the hills for the 8th day in a row and only see a faint outline. Smoke has hidden the hills from us for the last week; it has blocked out the sun and stunted the growth of the vegetables. We have been lucky that the fire hasn’t made its way to us, but we feel the pain for those that have lost. I haven’t seen most the people in my community for months; we are all trying to keep our heads down, wait for this COVID time to come to an end so we can finally have our gatherings, our celebrations, our much needed interactions with our neighbors. But this last week, I was proud, amazed and in awe of what this valley came together to do when needed. It is just another piece of the reason that I love my community and the place I call home. It reminded me that people are resilient, people are strong, and I need to keep sight on that, not let the darkness block my view of the light.

Cal-Fire has since come and they continue to get control of the wildfire, and the danger to this valley that is the LNU Lightning Complex seems to be coming to a close. I want to thank everyone that reached out to check in on us during this time. It means everything to me to see that kind of love and support. I also wanted to send my thoughts, prayers, and love to those that are still affected by the fires, and all those that are fighting them. Have a great week~ Claire

 

Robust End of the Summer Spaghetti

I made this recipe years ago for the family knowing that I am the only eggplant lover at the table. I said nothing, and they all were going on seconds when Zach asked “does this have eggplant in it”? He knew from the crunch of the seeds, yet they all agreed that it was creamy and yummy. Jeff even thought it had meat in it! And now it is a summer favorite. ½-2 pounds eggplant peeled and sliced a ½ inch thick

2 red, yellow, or green peppers halved lengthwise

¼ cup olive oil plus extra for the eggplant

1 onion chopped

1 garlic minced

3 anchovies, chopped

1/3 cup chopped parsley

2 pound ripe tomatoes chopped

¼ cup Kalamata or Gaeta olives pitted and chopped

¼ cup capers, rinsed

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper

1 pound spaghetti

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the broiler. Brush a sheet pan lightly with oil. Arrange the eggplant on it, and brush the tops with more oil. Broil on both sides until browned 12-20 minutes per side. Remove and cut into wide strips. Lightly oil the peppers, then broil, skin side up, until blistered. Stack them on top of one another to steam for 15 minutes, then dice into small squares. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven; add the onion, peppers, garlic anchovies, and the parsley. Sauté over medium heat until they are softened about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and add the eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and ½ cup water or juice from the tomatoes (I added a small can of tomato paste). Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until done, then drain. Place in a large heated bowl, spoon over the vegetables sauce and top with cheese and parsley. Toss before serving.

 

P’tit Basque Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Shishito Peppers

No matter how simple grilled cheese sandwiches are, there is something exceptionally gluttonous about them. A mild, but occasionally hot pepper, Shishito peppers are typically ideal for light appetizer fair.   Simplistically addictive in their own right, we thought it seemed fitting to find a way to incorporate these peppers in a sandwich with similar characteristics. The trick was to pair them with a cheese that wouldn’t overwhelm the Shishito’s delicate flavors. Our answer was P’tit Basque, a semi-soft French sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees with a mildly pungent flavor that works as an enveloping background flavor to the pepper’s principal delightfulness, making for clean cheesy gooey flavorful fun.

  • Italian or Sourdough Batard Loaf (sliced)

  • P’tit Basque Cheese (thinly sliced)

  • Shishito Peppers

  • Olive Oil

  • Salt & Pepper

  • Butter (room temperature)

Sauté the peppers in a frying pan over medium heat with a generous splash of olive oil. Cook until slightly charred on all sides. Remove from heat and generously season with salt and pepper.  To create your sandwich, coat one side of two slices of bread with butter.  Layer the interior (non-buttered side) of one slice with P’tit Basque, top with 4-5 Shishito peppers, top with more cheese, and cover with second slice.  Reduce heat on frying pan to medium-low. Cook the cheese sandwich in the pan until each side is toasted and cheese has melted. Remove from heat, slice, and enjoy! By Jed Gray Recommended four peppers per sandwich

Eggplant Sandwich with Peppers & Olive Tapenade

Do yourself a favor. Make this for lunch tomorrow. A little party with smoky, spicy, and sweet is a good break from the monitor. The nightshades in this recipe are not skinned or seeded, so anyone avoiding the toxins beware. IMO spicy capsicums and larger eggplants are better skinned, but the smaller, milder ones are better whole (seeds and all). I also really love roasted garlic rubbed on toast, or roasted and just popped in your mouth. So, admittedly, when I assembled these sandwiches this morning I ate one clove and rubbed the other on the toasts.

Assembling the sandwich
Roasted eggplant
Sautéed frying peppers
Whole roasted garlic cloves, halved
Tapenade
Chevre or other fresh goat cheese
A handful of basil leaves, washed and chiffonade
Pepper
Whole grain bread, sliced and toasted

Rub the garlic on one side of each slice of toasted bread. Add the tapenade on one slice, and top with some crumbled goat cheese. Place the eggplant and peppers on the other slice and top with some basil. Season with pepper. If you’re bringing it to work, pack tightly in wax paper and then wrap in tinfoil.

Roasted Eggplant
2 eggplants, washed, stemmed and sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Salt & Pepper

Set the oven to 425. Place the thyme, olive oil, salt, whole garlic, and pepper in a bowl. Coat the eggplant and place on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Sautéed peppers
4 Shishito peppers washed and stemmed
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
A handful of basil leaves, washed and chiffonade
One clove garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Heat the oil over medium-high. Sauté the garlic. Add the peppers and thyme. Sauté for 5 minutes, until beginning to brown. Add in the basil and sauté for a minute more. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Olive Tapenade
1 red onion, diced 1/2 inch
1 clove garlic, minced
Butter
1 cup Kalamata olives, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon red chili paste, or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
Pepper

Sauté the onions and garlic in butter over medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and caramelized. Add in the olives and thyme and cook at medium for 10 minutes more. Turn the heat up to high and deglaze the sides with Balsamic. Turn back down to medium and add in the chili paste. Cook until the olives begin to fall apart. Season with pepper.