This Week’s Box Highlights May 7th-May 9th 2014

What an exciting week!  Stone fruit is here (early!), and there are peaches and nectarines in deliveries this week from Burkart Organic Farms in Dinuba.  
 
Milliken Family Farms in Santa Barbara has gorgeous ‘Dragon Tongue’ Mustard Greensfor us this week.  From the farmer, They have some spice raw, I like to put one big leaf on a sandwich instead of mustard, it adds a nice flavor and not too spicy.  Cooked they mellow out and become sweeter, great in stir-fry.”  
  
 
Included in the fruit and mostly fruit boxes are 1st of the season Valencia Oranges.  These are best for juicing, and will only become sweeter as the summer heats up.  These are from Glen Ivy Farm in Corona, as well as the ‘Shambar’ variety grapefruit and Hass Avocados.  
Some Friday boxes will be receiving a small crop of hyper-local lettuce from Gladys Ave Urban Farm, grown right here in Long Beach.
More beets, zucchini, cabbage, and carrots help round out the box this week.  I’m thinking a summer slaw, veggie wraps, and look for zucchini and beet hummus recipes below.  The strawberries from Smith Farms in Irvine took a bit of a hit with the heat last week, but we should have larger quantities again in a couple of weeks.  

Farm Trip Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving week for beachgreens is usually very hectic.  We squeeze 3 days of deliveries into 1 day (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving).  This year, in an effort to be ultra prepared, I gathered some produce before the market that we generally go to on Wednesday mornings.  I decided to make it a fun farm field trip.

First, I met Sergio, the farmer at Glen Ivy Farms in Corona.  We usually meet somewhere between Corona and Long Beach, this time, we met in Corona, just off the freeway, so I could get on my way to other farms.  I get navel oranges, pomegranates, avocados, persimmons and more from him throughout the year.  Believe me, the 20 acre certified organic farm where this delicious fruit comes from is much prettier than the back of my car, but here we are, making the deal on the side of the road:

Fuyu Persimmons!

Next stop was Bernard Ranch in Riverside.  I was excited about this visit, as I have been buying oranges from this farm for years, but had never had the chance to visit.  After a maze of dirt roads, and 3 times I was sure I was lost, I made it to the family’s 10 acres in Riverside County (they also have 50 acres or so in San Diego County).  Bernard Ranch has some of the sweetest Valencia oranges I have ever tasted, which A.J. says his dad claims is helped by the seaweed spray used on the trees.  I also joke with him that sometimes I’ve gotten some of the ugliest oranges from them, but seriously the sweetest I’ve had.  Below are some photos of the Riverside acreage, as well as the really cool old packing machine they have for sizing and packing oranges.  It was taken out of a citrus packing facility from the 30’s in downtown Riverside.

Some of the 10 acres of Citrus Trees in Riverside County.
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Sizer
Sizer Take 2

It’s hard to tell, but in the photo above are wooden rollers of different sizes, so that different size oranges fall through.  A.J. says the thing is a pain to repair, but it’s really cool to look at!  I think vintage farm equipment is some of the coolest stuff of human innovation out there.  

A.J. with fresh picked oranges

 

My last stop of the day was Unity Farm in Rubidoux.  Here Gabriel farms 8 acres on an old horse farm.  I picked up carrots from him, but neglected to take any pictures, as I was tired and hungry on my last stop of the day.  Next time!

We are very proud to be able to support small family farmers in California and are very thankful for those that we have been working with since the inception of beachgreens 5 years ago.  

Preserving Summer’s Bounty

This time of year the amount of produce we have available to us is absolutely plentiful. And sometimes while preparing dinner it seems like I can never possibly stand to look at another tomato or zucchini or eggplant or pepper, I know that soon enough summer’s bounty will be a distant memory. One of the easiest ways I have found to save a little bit of that summer flavor is by simply freezing it. Also a great way to preserve those veggies we didn’t end up using by the end of the week.  I dice up tomatoes, and zucchini, and eggplant, and peppers, and place the diced vegetables on trays. I then place the trays in the freezer overnight to let them freeze completely. Then I transfer the veggies to re-sealable bags, label, and toss them in the freezer. I try to forget about them until I just can’t eat one more winter squash or kale dish, and then voila, pull out the frozen veggies to use in a stew, or saute up with some onion or potato. Frozen tomatoes are a terrific substitute for store bought canned tomatoes, and taste so much better! Also, frozen in season produce tastes so much better than a pepper bought in December that has been shipped in from miles away.

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Eggplants and Peppers
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Chopping Eggplant
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Poblano Peppers
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Remove seeds and veins
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Peppers into strips
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Veggies onto tray
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Frozen Tomatoes
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Once frozen, into the bag!

Summer Cooking with beachgreens

Summer is one of my favorite times to cook.  There is so much abundance in the summer, recipes are not needed, just a few fresh ingredients, 20 minutes, and voila! a delicious summer meal.

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This is a Romano Bean Salad that I made the other night. Romano Beans are a heartier version of the more commonly known Blue Lake green bean. They are wider and flatter, and take a bit more time to cook, and just as delicious. Just a few simple ingredients–Romano beans, feta cheese, chopped tomato, olive oil–and you have a filling summer side dish. Boil the beans for about 5 minutes in salted water, then cool. Add crumbled feta, some chopped tomato, and enough olive oil to make it shimmer, than combine. Optional ingredients include chopped herbs (mint, parsley, basil), and a little fresh onion. Done!

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Above are the crispy potatoes I made to accompany the Romano Bean salad. Just chopped red white and blue potatoes (I like to chop fairly small, as they cook faster), cooked in coconut oil in the cast iron skillet, plus salt and a little bit of dried Italian seasoning. The Sierra Gold Potatoes from Rutiz Farms work great as well.  Done!

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Last but not least, I prepared this simple vegetable soup. Homemade chicken stock, plus an array of veggies that I had in the fridge–carrots, bell pepper, celery, leeks, zucchini squash. Plus some garlic. Chopped, sauteed, and simmered for 20 minutes. Add tomato if you have it. Add fresh or dried herbs if you have it. Make sure to salt and pepper to taste. Done! The key to this simple soup is the homemade stock and fresh fresh veggies.

That’s it! I hope this summer season inspires you to keep it simple and delicious! And don’t forget that perfect summer peach for dessert!

A Trip to Burkart Organics Farm

At the end of March 2012, we took a trip to the Central Valley to visit Burkart Organics.  We have been buying fruit from the farm for the last 4 years.  Located in Dinuba, just south and east of Fresno, the farm is in a beautiful setting.  With the stunning Sequoias in the background, this tranquil location is gorgeous.  In this season (early spring), we are buying Navel Oranges from them, and when summer comes, they will be our main supplier of stone fruit.  Burkart Farms grows on about 65 acres in Dinuba, CA, and has been doing so since 1979.  My family and I got to see the inner workings on the farm.

Burkart Farms is just under 300 miles from Long Beach.  They are one of the furthest away farms that we buy from.  While I wish they could be closer, I have grown to define the definition of local for beachgreens to include that of transparency.  Saying this…buying local is about food miles (how far away your food is coming from), but it’s also about accessibility, transparency in growing practices, and relationships.  The guys of Burkart farms (Oliver and Josh, and owner Richard) have always been an absolute pleasure to work with.  They welcomed us for a farm tour with open arms, taking the time on a Saturday to show us around.  They understand what beachgreens is doing as a business, and are a partner in education for the company.  While there might be other farms closer to Long Beach, finding a farm with enough volume, that is easy to work with, is something to be cherished.  Enjoy some of these beautiful pics!

The beautiful view from the fields of Burkart Farms. The snowy mountains are Sequoia National Park.
Rows of Navel Orange Trees
Bin of Oranges, with the cooler door behind.
How the oranges are cleaned. These are rollers with a rough surface that dry scrubs the oranges.
Oranges are loaded into here, then dumped and sorted (hand built machine!)
Fruit Sorting Area
Stone Fruit Trees in Blossom
Aprium trees Blossoms and Fruit. They are the 1st Stone Fruit to Ripen at the farm.
We learned about flood irrigation.
Wouldn't be a trip to the farm without a ride on the tractor!
Standing in the Orange Tree Groves
Grape vines are just starting to come out. I can't get over that view!

Chard with Pine Nuts and Feta Cheese

This is a simple dish using only a few fresh ingredients.  Below is pictured some spring onions from Jaime Farms, and red chard from my garden.  This dish can be made with any type of chard, or spinach.  The recipe for this dish can be found here.

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I start by separating the chard stems from the leaves.  Both will be used in this recipe.  This can be done by chopping them out, or just ripping the stems out with your hands.

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The chard stems can be roughly chopped.

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Then I chop the onion.  1st in half, then a rough chop.

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Next rough chop some garlic.  Be sure to smash those garlic cloves to peel them!

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Go ahead and put the onions and chard stems and garlic into a bowl to get them out of your way.

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Back to the chard leaves.  Below is what the leaf will look like with the stem removed.

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Make them easier to work with, by cutting them in half again.

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Then stack and roll the leaf halves, and chop.  (This is called a chiffonade).

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You will end up with a pile of chopped chard leaves.  Feel free to run your knife through them one more time.

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Toast some pinenuts in a dry skillet over medium heat.  Be sure to watch them closely, as they can burn quickly.  You want a little bit of color on them and they will become fragrant.

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Be sure to remove toasted pinenuts to a bowl or plate, if you leave them in the hot pan, they will continue to cook, and most likely burn.

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Back to the chard.  Heat up the 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, and add onion, garlic, chard stems, and salt.

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Add cinnamon.  Stir well.

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Add half of the chopped chard leaves.  Don’t worry, they will cook down.

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Then add the 2nd half of the chopped chard leaves.

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Cook until wilted, and add toasted pinenuts.

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Turn off heat, and add crumbled feta cheese.  

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I packed the finished dish in a container to take for lunch, but had a little snack in a bowl first!  This can be enjoyed hot, room temperature, or cold.  One bunch of chard serves 4 people.    

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Sweet Potato Hash

This is one of my favorite ways to cook sweet potatoes, and regular potatoes too.  I just never get tired of it!  

While heating a large cast iron skillet (12″ size), over medium-high heat, I start by cutting 2 sweet potatoes into small cubes:

 

Once the cast iron pan is heated, I throw in the fat (bacon fat in this case), and the potatoes.  It’s important to WAIT until the pan heats up before adding the fat and then the potatoes.  If you don’t wait, they will STICK to the pan.  We don’t want that.  In order to test the pan to see if it is hot enough, I splash a drop of water on it.  If it evaporates immediately, you’re good to go.  Also, make sure your pan is big enough to  fit all the sweet potatoes in one layer.  This will help them brown properly.  

 

While these are cooking, I cut up some onion and garlic:

 

Next I cut up some frozen red bell pepper that I have in the freezer.  They freeze wonderfully, and I have them throughout the winter to fancy up what I’m cooking.  You may also use jarred roasted red peppers, or leave it out altogether.  The original recipe actually calls for pickled jalapenos, which I left out, because my 3-year-old daughter can’t handle that 😉

 

Once the sweet potatoes have been cooking for awhile, about 10-15 minutes, they look like this.  Notice how the color is changing, and the edges of the potatoes are becoming rounded.  I have been stirring them periodically.

 

At this point, after the sweet potatoes have browned up a bit, I add the onions, garlic, and pepper.

 

I stir it, in and let it cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are done.  At this point is when I add salt and pepper, and ground cumin.

I served it up with some grilled fish and braised cabbage.  Yum!

NOTE: The original recipe calls for bacon, which I didn’t have on hand.  I used bacon fat to cook with, which made it delicious.  Feel free to make this with just olive oil or butter too.

Turkish Style Braised Leeks (or how to clean leeks)

This leek dish is one of my all time favorites. It’s quick and simple and delicious.  (For the actual recipe, go here.)  I think people are often intimidated by leeks, or don’t know what to do with them, partly because they need a good cleaning.

Leeks

 

I like to start by chopping off the root end of the leek, the ‘hairy’ part.

 

Then I separate the dark green tops from the white and lighter green part of the leek. This is where a lot of the dirt is, so don’t be alarmed when your cutting board gets dirty.  We will be washing! Most recipes call for just using the white and light green part of the leek, as this is the most tender part. Wash off the dark green parts and save them for homemade stock, or compost.

 

Then I cut the leeks in half lengthwise.  This is to help clean them.  I don’t cut them all the way through, as you can see in the photo below.  This makes them easier to clean and chop later.

 

Next I find a long container to submerge the leeks in water, as they need a bit of a soak.  An old yogurt container works just fine.  I ended up using 4-5 leeks.  Some were bigger and some were smaller.

As I let the leeks soak, I get the rest of the ingredients ready, namely half an onion and some carrots.  I just chop them up into rough chunks.

I also get the oil ready in the pan.  A shallow wide pan works best, over medium heat.  You don’t want any of the ingredients to brown in this dish, so make sure that heat isn’t up too high!  I add about 1/4 cup olive oil to the heating pan.  Use your best oil here, as the taste will come through in this simple dish.

Wait until the oil starts to shimmer before adding the onion and carrot.  If you add them to cold oil, they will soak up the oil, which is not what you want in this case.

I add salt (about 3/4-1 teaspoon) at this point, and stir it in.  I like to add salt from the beginning, to build flavor.  I will taste it again at the end and add more if needed.

Back to the leeks.  I’ve let them soak in the water in the yogurt container until all the dirt has fallen to the bottom.  At this point, don’t pour the water off, but give the leeks a good swish and lift them out of the water.  You will see the dirt at the bottom of the container.

Now you have some clean leeks and are ready to chop!  Inspect the leeks first, and rinse off any extra dirt under running water.

Go ahead and chop them up…

And add them to the pan!

I also like to add 2-3 Tablespoons white rice to this dish.  You can also use brown rice, but cooking time will be longer.

I then added about 1/2 cup water, turned the heat to low, covered it, and let it simmer.  Check it every few minutes at first to make sure there is enough water in there, and it doesn’t burn.  Add more water if needed.  After about 20 minutes or so, remove the lid, and test the rice to see if it is soft.  When it’s soft, it’s done!

Add the juice of 1 lemon.  I used a Meyer lemon, because it’s what I had, but you can also use a regular Eureka Lemon.  Make sure you taste, and add more olive oil or salt as needed.

Dish it up and enjoy!  This recipe serves about 4

Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew

Last week was the 1st week we bought sweet potatoes for beachgreens deliveries, and I wanted to do something special to highlight them.  After searching around for a recipe for a couple of days online, I decided to open my good old Joy of Cooking.   Well loved and very reliable.  I happened upon this sweet potato and peanut stew recipe, and decided it sounded different enough and delicious to try.  It was a hit!

I started off by 1st chopping the sweet potatoes into large chunks.  I chopped up some red onion (because it was what I had on hand, white or yellow would be fine too), and added it to the pot in some coconut oil.  After that I added some chopped red bell pepper.

Although, the recipe calls for fresh garlic and ginger, I used granulated garlic, and powdered ginger, because it was what I had on hand .  I also added ground ancho chili, cumin, and fresh mexican oregano from the garden (pictured below on the cutting board.)  I was staying away from any spicy flavors that the recipe called for (jalapeno, crushed red pepper), to make the dish palatable for my 3-year-old daughter.  I figured we could add the spice separately into our dishes at the end if we wanted it.  I added the sweet potatoes to the pot, along with 1 cup or so frozen diced tomatoes (I didn’t have any tomato paste on hand).  And salt and pepper to taste.    

Then I added just enough water to cover everything, and started simmering. 

In a separate pan, I began browning the ground beef.  (Grass fed of course!)  This can absolutely be left out for a vegetarian, and even vegan version, or ground turkey can also be substituted.

After some simmering, the recipe also called for some chopped zucchini (pictured below is the last zucchini of the season!)

After the sweet potato mixture had simmered for about 45 minutes, I added the zucchini, and browned meat.

After this simmered for about 15 minutes, I added the peanut butter.  I did this by putting 1/2 cup peanut butter into a small bowl, adding about 1 cup of the hot stew liquid, and mixed it until a paste formed.  I then added it back into the pot, and simmered for another 15 minutes.

I served the stew over white rice, with a side of wilted chard from the garden.  It was delicious, there were rave reviews, and happy and full tummies!

Recipe from Joy of Cooking:

Heat in a large heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat:

1/4 cup peanut oil (I used coconut oil)

Add:

1 onion, chopped

1 red or green bell pepper, chopped

1 fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and minced (I left this out)

Cook until vegetables are tender, but not brown, 7 to 10  minutes.  Add:

4 cloves garlic (I used 1-2 teaspoons granulated)

1 Tablespoon minced fresh peeled ginger (I used 1-2 teaspoons dried)

Cook for another 2-3 minutes and stir in:

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I omitted)

Cook for 1 minute and add:

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/3 cup tomato paste (I added ~1 cup diced frozen tomatoes)

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Add enough water to barely cover the vegetables and mix well.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the stew cooks, heat in a medium skillet over medium heat:

1 teaspoon peanut oil (I used coconut oil)

Add:

12 ounces ground beef or turkey (I think I used a pound)

Saute, turning often, until browned.  Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside until the stew has cooked for 45 minutes.  When ready, add the meat to the stew, along with:

2 small zucchini, trimmed and sliced

Cook for another 15 minutes.  Place in a small bowl:

1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth), preferably unsalted (mine was salted, didn’t matter)

Stir in 1 cup of the stewing liquid until smooth and add the peanut butter mixture to the pot.  Mix well and cook another 15 minutes.  Season with:

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Serve plain or with:

Hot cooked rice or couscous