Lunchtime at the farm is a normally a brief affair. Everyone brings a lunch, anything from a humble sandwich to last night’s dinner leftovers ready for a quick reheat in the microwave. Our helpers go into the house around noon and take a half hour or so to wolf down their midday sustenance (which is usually eaten in silence, as they also like to use this short break for some individual reading time), after which Farmer John and I follow.

John and I explain to all new hires that we aren’t being “elitists” by eating separately from the rest. “Selfish” is probably a more accurate word – we both like to spread out with the newspaper while we eat, and our kitchen’s island cabinet only allows so much space. It’d be mighty crowded with six folks crammed around it. Besides, what would happen if two people wanted the funnies section at the same time? Mayhem, that’s what. Chaos.

Recently, however, an exception was made to the speed-eating rule, and for good reason. Charles, who’s been helping out around the farm, said he’d like to make us all lunch. Already that was a darn fine offer, right? Thing is, though, it was a way bigger deal than that. Charles, as it turns out, used to cook at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Anyone who considers themselves a “foodie” or “locavore” knows what that means: Chez Panisse is the restaurant owned by Alice Waters, and Alice Waters is the biggest name in locavore-foodiedom there is.


[Reprinted from the Chez Panisse website]

So although there usually isn’t time for such a lavish extravagance as a multi-course group lunch, we couldn’t resist Charles’s proposition. And because he’s a considerate guy, he recognized that he’s of more use to us out in the farm than in the kitchen (tempting as it is to keep him in the kitchen most of the time) and did the lion’s share of food preparation the night before.

[Notice there’s one stuffed squash missing. Charles’s wife commandeered it for her own lunch before he left for the farm that morning. Obviously, she’s a smart one.]

Fortunately for all involved, Charles did manage to sneak into the kitchen between farm chores to do some fresh cooking as well.

While that’s certainly not a chef’s hat on his head, we weren’t too concerned with that kind of formality. All we were interested in was the food.

And I do mean we were REALLY interested in the food. In addition to the pan of stuffed squash (sans one), Charles served us some delectably thin roasted squash strips with Italian parsley and chevre,

along with an incredible eggplant caponata (that even Farmer John, the devout eggplant hater, snarfed down like there was no tomorrow) and Garbanzos con Espinacas (made with chard, since it’s too early in the season for spinach).

I noticed that the four people seated at the island cabinet weren’t so interested in their reading material that day.

And as Farmer John and I sat at the “big people’s table,” dining at the same time as everyone else…

…it struck me that we didn’t miss our lunchtime newspaper at all. Isn’t it something what a good meal can do?

Thank you Charles.

* * *

We’re harvesting a bigger selection for the farm stand – with more and more coming soon! Here’s what we’ll be bringing this week (and see below** for recipes from Charles’s delicious lunch):

Oodles of Summer squashes – Zephyr, yellow squash, zucchini and some pattypan; Asian cucumbers; bunches of green onions; butternut squash; heirloom eggplant, Italian eggplant and white Japanese eggplant; red, yellow, white and green bell peppers, cubanelle peppers, jalapenos and some Corno di Toro peppers; bags of arugula; large bags of mixed Asian-American mustard greens; and maybe more….

**See below for recipes from Charles and Chez Panisse**

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center on Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)

GARBANZOS con ESPINACAS (SPANISH CHICKPEA AND SPINACH STEW)

2 Cups of dried chickpeas soaked overnight in a good amount of
water or 3 cans of chickpeas
1 pound of Spinach or Swiss Chard, washed
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed
3 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 handful of preferably fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon of red chili flakes
2 tablespoons of good red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of smoked Spanish paprika (very important – you can buy this at Central Market)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
good extra-virgin olive oil

1. Cook your chickpeas by adding them to a stockpot, covering them with at least an inch of water and
adding 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the bay leaves, salt, onion, and carrot quarters. Bring to a boil and then
allow to simmer. Cook chickpeas until they are very tender and taste creamy.

(Alternatively use 3 15 oz cans of chickpeas. This will not taste as good but it is an adequate
substitute in a pinch.)

2. Add some olive oil to a large frying pan and fry the washed spinach or chard in batches,
being careful not to allow the greens to wilt too much. You should cook the greens just until
they have absorbed some of the oil. Place the greens in a bowl and reserve for later.

3. Fry the bread and garlic slices in a pan over medium heat with olive oil until brown on
the outside. Toast the cumin seeds in a toaster oven or in a dry pan over a flame until
brown (throw away any seeds that turn black).

4. Add the bread, garlic slices, cumin seeds, chili flakes, vinegar, and oregano leaves
to a mortar, a molcajete (normally for guacamole), or to a food processor.
Crush or process everything until it is a smooth paste.

5. Add some olive oil to a large frying pan and cook on medium heat.
Drain your cooked chickpeas, remove the bay leaves, onions, and carrots, and add
the chickpeas to the heating pan. Add the bread and garlic paste to the chickpeas.
Season the whole mixture with salt and the Spanish paprika. Stir everything together
to distribute the bread paste and the seasonings. Add a little water if the mixture
looks too thick. Finally, add the cooked spinach or chard and mix well to distribute
evenly. Serve as soon as the greens are warm. This dish tastes best
when eaten immediately.

STUFFED SQUASH from CHEZ PANISSE

3 Yellow, Zephyr, Zucchini or other Squash
1 large handful (about 1/4 lb.) of Pitted Kalamata Olives
3 Garlic cloves, sliced and chopped roughly
1 good handful of capers
1 handful of Italian parsley leaves, chopped
into small pieces
1 SMALL handful of fresh marjoram leaves, chopped
into small pieces
1 handful of store-bought or homemade breadcrumbs

1. Place your breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Add enough milk to cover
the breadcrumbs. Leave them alone for at least 10 minutes.
2. Pick your marjoram and parsley leaves. Pile up the leaves on your cutting board into a tight mound.
Using a chef’s knife, chop the leaves into small pieces.
3. Peel your garlic, cut off the root end, and chop into small pieces.
4. Chop your kalamata olives into thin rings.
5. Take your marjoram, parsley, garlic, and capers and place in a large mixing bowl.
6. Pour your breadcrumbs through a wire strainer to remove the milk, pick them
up a squeeze out a little more milk, and then add them to the mixing bowl.
7. Cut any kind of summer squash lengthwise in half. Run a spoon down the length of a the squash to scoop out about half of the
flesh, being careful not to break the squash as you go. Chop up the scooped-out squash flesh
into small chunks and add to the mixing bowl with the rest of the stuffing.
8. Using your hands, toss all of the stuffing ingredients in the mixing bowl
well until everything is well-distributed.
9. Scoop up handfuls of the stuffing and add to the hollowed-out squash halves,
filling them until the stuffing slightly overfills the squash. (It will sink down during cooking.)
10. Place the squash halves in a rectangular glass or earthenware baking dish,
drizzle olive oil down the length of the stuffing of each squas.
11. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check to see
if the stuffing is turning golden brown. If not, continue cooking for 10 more minutes
and repeat until you see the golden-brown coloration.

ROASTED SQUASH WITH MELTED GOAT CHEESE

4 summer squash – Yellow, Zucchini or Zephyr will all work
1 6-8 oz package of your favorite fresh goat cheese
(I recommend Pure Luck Chevre or Cheesy Girl Buff)
1 bunch of Fresh Italian Parsley, leaves picked
and chopped roughly
1 tablespoon of dried thyme leaves
approximately 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to around 425 degrees.

1. Cut squash lengthwise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Use a mandoline if
you have one for perfectly even slices but use a wider setting so as not
to get slices that are paper thin.

2. Place all of your Squash slices in a large mixing bowl. Add all of the rest of
the ingredients except the goat cheese, season with salt to taste, and then toss
everything vigorously with your hands. Make sure that all of the squash get a
good coating of oil and that the salt is evenly distributed before you stop
tossing.

3. Place the dressed squash slices in the largest baking / roasting pans
you own (hopefully you will need only 1 or 2 pans but you might need
3), lining the slices up so that they do not overlap and there is a minimum
of space between slices. You want nice tight rows of squash slices.

4. Once your squash slices are lined up in the pans, use your fingers
to form little balls of goat cheese the size of marbles. Place 2-3 marbles
of goat cheese on each squash slice, smushing them down just a bit to
make sure they stay on the squash during cooking.

5. Bake the squash for 25 minutes and check to see if the squash
and / or the goat cheese is browning. If nothing is turning golden brown,
continue cooking for 5-7 more minutes and check again. Sometimes
you will need to scoop out 1 or 2 squash slices that are turning brown
in order to allow the other slices time to brown.

6. Remove all of the squash from the oven when you are satisfied
that most of them are showing at least a bit of browning somewhere.
Use a (preferably long) spatula to scrape up the squash slices while
maintaining their shape. Place immediately on a serving dish and
serve.

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