From the Field
We're shifting gears here at the farm -- while the fall harvest season is winding down we are preparing for the main growing season, which starts with the New Year. We seeded our first round of over 1,000 tomato plants in trays in our potting shed, and they're growing bigger by the day. We're ordering seeds, watching the nutrient-rich cover crop grow, and preparing fields for planting. So while we take a break from CSA pick-ups these next few months, your farmers will be hard at work in the gardens, fields, orchards and pastures at Ridge to Reef. Keep an eye out for the Winter 2014 CSA announcement -- we expect to open sign-ups soon, with a start date in early January.
This week we have a few new items for you! Seasoning peppers are small sweet peppers that are widely grown throughout the Caribbean. They look like hot peppers, but are actually extremely mild, sweet and flavorful. Think of them as habaneros without any of the heat, and use them as you would any sweet pepper or bell pepper!
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is an aromatic grass prized for its essential oils like citral and geraniol, which is used for cooking, teas and chlorophyll, herbal remedies and cosmetics. Lemongrass Tea is used to treat digestive problems and fever, and is known to be anti-inflammatory. To use in cooking, tie several pieces into a bundle and add during the initial stages of your dish, then remove it at the end like you would a bay leaf. To make hot or iced tea, bring water to a boil, then steep a bundle of lemongrass (and any other herbs) in a cup or pot with a lid for 10 minutes, then sweeten or ice as desired.
Malabar Spinach can be eaten a variety of different ways. This week we harvested the tender new shoots for you. The entire red vine can be eaten, along with the nutritious green leaves. Try the recipe below for Coconut Dahl with Malabar Spinach.
You are also receiving a bunch of fresh Green Onions - use both the green tops and white bottoms, raw or cooked in any recipe that calls for scallions, onions or green onions.
There is more of our unique blend of Salad Mix -- a blend of young, mild Asian greens that is best eaten raw just like a lettuce mix, but can also be blended into a green smoothie or cooked like spinach.
With this week's eggplant and parsley, try the recipe for Broiled Eggplant below.
Claudia and the crew at Ridge to Reef Farm
Photo above: Salad mix, Bok choy and bananas in the CSA fields
Coconut Lemongrass Soup
1 can (or equivalent) coconut milk
3 or more lemongrass stalks, knotted
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped (both green tops and white bottoms)
5-10 Seasoning peppers, seeded and chopped
1 chilli pepper, chopped (optional)
2 cups water
1-2lbs sweet potato or local pumpkin, peeled and diced (optional)
3 curry-lime leaves (optional)
salt (to taste)
In a large soup pot, lightly sauté the onion, garlic and ginger in oil for about 5 minutes until lightly carmelized, so that the flavors release. Add the peppers and the white part of the green onions, and cook 1 more minute.
Tie the lemongrass stalks in a knot. Add the remainder of ingredients, excluding the coconut milk and and simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste the soup frequently, check the sweet potato or pumpkin for doneness and add salt as to your liking.
Add the coconut milk, stir, and simmer on low heat for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, and remove the lemongrass stalks and lime leaves. Serve with the green onion tops as a garnish.
Coconut Dahl with Malabar Spinach
You can use all the Malabar Spinach plant in this recipe, from the stems to the leaves.
2 cups red lentils, washed
4 large ginger slices
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 tablespoon curry powder
10 curry leaves (optional)
1 can (about 2 cups) coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 bunch of Malabar spinach stems and leaves, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
Place the lentils into a medium sized saucepan with ginger, tumeric, salt and curry leaves and cover with 4 cups water.
Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered for 40 minutes or until the lentils have broken down and the mixture has reduced and thickened quite considerably.
Add the coconut milk and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes or until it has thickened once more.
Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, heat the oil on a medium-high heat and cook the onion for a few minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onions for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and the Garam Masala stir to coat the spices with the onion and cook for a further 5 minutes.
When the Dahl is cooked add the onion mixture and the Malabar spinach and stir to combine.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:
For an eggplant recipe with rich, meaty flavor, we turned to salting. We found that eggplant must macerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably for two to three, to allow the salt to do its job. Salting alone, however, was not sufficient. The flesh of the eggplant also had to be firmly pressed between sheets of paper towels; pressing extruded the juice and compacted the flesh. Finally, no matter what the cooking method, we found eggplant always came out firmer, browner, and sweeter when cooked slowly rather than quickly.
As an alternative to broiling, you can bake the eggplant in the upper third of a 375-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning it once. The effect is virtually the same. If you want to make these slices as a main course, the recipe will serve 2.
2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium eggplant)
1 tablespoon table salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 - 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves or finely shredded fresh basil
Ground black pepper
1. Cut off and discard stem and bottom end of each eggplant. Do not peel. Cut eggplants crosswise into 3/4-inch slices. Lay slices out on a work surface, sprinkle tops with half the salt, and rub it in with your fingers. Turn eggplant slices over and repeat procedure with remaining salt. Place eggplant in a colander, set colander over bowl or in sink, and let eggplant stand for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2 to 3.
2. Rinse eggplant under cold, running water, rubbing slices lightly in your hands. Shake colander to drain. Lay slices about an inch apart on triple thickness of paper towels; cover with another triple layer of towels. Using your palms, press each eggplant slice very firmly until it looks green and translucent and feels firm and leathery when pressed between fingertips. Repeat pressing process on fresh toweling if eggplant has not yet reached this stage. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices. (Can refrigerate up to 3 hours before cooking.)
3. Heat broiler. Mix oil, vinegar, and garlic in small cup. Arrange eggplant slices fairly close together on a baking sheet; brush tops with half of oil mixture. Turn slices over and brush with remaining oil mixture. Broil eggplant slices about 8 inches from heat source until tops turn mahogany brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn slices over; broil until other sides brown, an additional 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle eggplant with herbs and pepper, adjust seasonings, and serve.
Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated
This Week's Harvest
Ridge to Reef Farm serves the US Virgin Islands with certified organic produce grown with sustainable permaculture practices (and a lot of love).