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The Problems with Agriculture Today

Kale

This month our students were instructed to read an article by Michael Pollan. The article was published in the New York Times(2008)and was a letter to President Obama before he took office. The letter calls the president to action and refers to him as the “Farmer in Chief.” I particularly liked this article because it lays out, very simply, the issues with our agricultural systems today. Knowing how important it is to provide relevant information to audiences that might not otherwise see it, I found this article to very concisely do just that.

Pollan has a way of really speaking to your heart and mind simultaneously and in the past I have enjoyed his writing immensely. I am looking forward to hearing what the students think of the article next week. I wonder if they will feel inspired or reinvigorated to work on their school farm. I also wonder if they will understand the gravity of what they read in the article, and how they will propose to implement change as young adults.

Check it out….

Joanna

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Building an Urban farm

 

Compost was the theme of the week at GSMS! There is a lovely compost area on the campus but it really needed some attention. Theri used this opportunity to give an in-depth look at how compost actually “works” and how our compost piles will work for us.

We learned how micro-organisms break down the waste in the pile and how important pile content and arrangement can be. We discussed how nitrogen (green things) and carbon (brown things) are really only two of four ingredients required in a proper compost pile. The pile also needs water and oxygen to properly break down the waste. This is where our hands-on work came in! The students are now working to turn their compost pile (provide oxygen) every week. There was an issue with the location of the pile, since it was located on a slope, because it loses water due to gravity. It is possible that the compost pile may need to be relocated but the students are working to clear the debris that has accumulated around the area so that they can decide on a solution.

Proper pile content and arrangement is important because this is how it reaches the highest temperatures. High temperatures are particularly important to breaking down seeds, particularly weed seeds. At our compost pile a gourd seed was able to germinate due to a hiatus in care over the summer break. This perfectly illustrates why we need our pile in working order!Joannablog 10-2

Eggplant Parmesan

A streamlined version of this classic: baking the prepared eggplant slices, rather than frying them a few at a time, both saves time and results in a lighter dish.

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 globe eggplants, about 2 pounds total, sliced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • Pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups dried breadcrumbs, preferably homemade, or panko works well too
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups tomato sauce, preferably homemade
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, grated, to yield 2 cups
  • Fresh basil (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1 teaspoon plus another large pinch of salt. Transfer to two colanders set in the sink and let the eggplant drain for about 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425° F. Combine the flour and about 1 teaspoon pepper in a large ziplock bag and shake to combine. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a second shallow dish. (Alternatively, you can season the eggplant rounds once they are breaded with salt and pepper to taste.)
  3. Spread the drained eggplant over paper towels. Press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible. Working with about 8 eggplant slices at a time, place them in the bag with the flour, seal, and shake until thoroughly coated. Remove the eggplant, shaking off any excess flour, and dip it into the eggs. Remove the eggplant from the eggs, allowing any excess egg to drip off, and coat evenly with the breadcrumbs, pressing them to adhere. Lay the breaded eggplant on a wire rack. Flour, dip in egg, and coat the remaining eggplant in breadcrumbs in the same manner.
  4. Remove the preheated baking sheets from the oven. Pour 3 tablespoons oil onto each sheet, tilting to coat the sheets evenly. Spread the breaded eggplant in a single layer over the hot sheets. Bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp on the first side, about 15 to 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices over. Switch and rotate the baking sheets, and bake until the second side is brown, about another 10 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.
  5. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Shingle half of the eggplant slices over the tomato sauce. Distribute 1 more cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Shingle the remaining eggplant in the dish and dot with another cup of the sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so that it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and the remaining cup of mozzarella.
  6. Place the dish on the lower-middle rack of the oven. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and well browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the basil (if using) over the top and cool for 10 minutes before serving. Pass the remaining cup of sauce and 1/4 cup Parmesan on the side.

Source: Alexandra Stafford, adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Baba Ganoush

This smoky dip is one of the simplest and best uses for eggplant.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 5 medium eggplants (give or take, depending on their size)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus the zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • about 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (optional; walnuts also work)
  • a large pinch of sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the wire rack in your over close to the boiler, and pre-heat the broiler on it’s highest setting. Score the eggplants all around and then place them on a baking sheet directly under the broiler. Broil the eggplants for about 45 minutes – 1 hour, turning over half way through. You want them to be totally charred on the outside, and soft on the inside. When they are done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.
  2. Once cool enough to handle, open them up and scoop out the flesh into a colander using a spoon. Allow some of the water to drain and then transfer to a bowl.
  3. Mix the eggplant with the lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, garlic, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Garnish with basil and toasted pine nuts or sesame seeds, and serve with pita chips or crudités.

Source: Jodi Moreno, food52.com

Zucchini, etc.

Our summer squash has been arriving in steady abundance! Here are a few recipes for branching out beyond grilled or sautéed zucchini: a fresh take on zucchini bread; homemade zucchini candy; and your new favorite pickle. As always, you can find these catalogued in the Produce Index.

You can also find this nice article at the Kitchn on A Visual Guide to 8 Varieties of Summer Squash, with its own set of favorite summer squash recipe links, including zucchini butter and squash and onions with brown sugar.

Zucchini and Basil Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • Salt
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, cut in chunks (if zucchini is large and watery, remove core with seeds)
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped, divided
  • 5 cups water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh juice from 1 lemon, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or saucier over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion. Season with salt and cook, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add half of basil, stir to combine, and add water.

  2. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender but still bright green, about 10 minutes. Add remaining half of basil and blend soup using an immersion blender until it is as smooth as you like it. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and lemon juice. Serve, drizzling with additional olive oil at the table.

Source: Adapted (i.e., simplified a bit) from Zucchini-Basil Soup at Serious Eats. (There’s a 2 1/2-minute video of the process as well.)

Salt-Roasted Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • beets, washed, greens removed
  • salt
  • goat cheese
  • walnuts, toasted
  • corn kernels
  • romaine lettuce
  • an olive oil-citrus dressing

Instructions

  1. Roast the beets: Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Sprinkle salt heavily into a roasting pan or pot that has a lid (a dutch oven works well). Place beets on salt bed. Cover and place in oven for about an hour (or, until the beets easily slice with a sharp knife). When cool enough to handle, rub off beet skins and discard. Cut into chunks or slices.
  2. Assemble the salad: Arrange greens on a plate. Top with goat cheese, corn, walnuts and beets. Season with a pinch of salt. Spoon dressing over salad.

Source: This salad is adapted (in this case, simplified) from one found at Alexandra’s Kitchen.

Eggplant

Eggplant is being harvested  in various shapes and colors. Here’s an old favorite from Gourmet Magazine 2011eggplant2-e1503539545859.jpg

Ratatouille

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 onion, sliced thin
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 5 tablespoons olive oil
    • a 3/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
    • 1 small zucchini, scrubbed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into thin slices
    • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
    • 3/4 pound small ripe tomatoes, chopped coarse (about 1 1/4 cups)
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

PREPARATION

  1. In a large skillet cook the onion and the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and heat it over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened. Stir in the zucchini and the bell pepper and cook the mixture over the moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the oregano, the thyme, the coriander, the fennel seeds, the salt, and pepper to taste and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the basil and combine the mixture well. The ratatouille may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated before serving.

Jalapeño Poppers

There seem to be an infinite number of ways to make this appetizer. The simplest version: slice jalapeños in half lengthwise; scoop out the pith and seeds; fill them with any semi-soft melting cheese (e.g., cheddar, Chihuahua, or pepper Jack), and grill or broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling.

If time allows, try deep-fried method, which can easily be scaled up for a crowd

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 15 jalapeños
  • 8oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • oil for deep frying

Instructions

Slice jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Combine the cream cheese and cheddar, mixing until well blended. Fill the jalapeno pepper halves with cream cheese mixture and press halves back together.

Put milk in a shallow bowl. Combine the salt and flour in a separate shallow bowl. Put bread crumbs in a third shallow bowl.

Dip the peppers in the milk, then in the flour, coating thoroughly. Set them on a sheet of foil or waxed paper to dry for about 15 minutes.

Dip the peppers in the milk again, then in the bread crumbs. Let them dry again for 10 to 15 minutes. If necessary, dip again lightly in the milk and again in the bread crumbs and let dry again.

Meanwhile, heat oil in deep fryer to 370 F.

Deep fry the breaded peppers in batches for about 3 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Transfer jalapeno poppers to paper towels to drain.

Source: the Spruce

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

If you don’t have a favorite tomato sauce recipe, or even if you do, give this one a try. It comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and is justifiably hailed as “the most famous tomato sauce on the internet” on the Food52 posting (which has some lovely photos of the finished sauce). The sauce is excellent for pasta or pizza, or probably for anything else calling for a tomato sauce.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, skins removed
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Place tomatoes in a saucepan, add butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir from time to time, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before using.

Note: This sauce freezes really well. Discard the onion before freezing.

Note: To prepare tomatoes, use a food mill or blanch the tomatoes for one minute so that the skins remove easily.

 

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