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Farm Fest part 2: meat and veg
Wednesday June 30th 2010

Andy is not just a farmer of vegetables, but he also has cows, chickens, sheep, goats, and donkey’s on their farm. They all make it to the table. Um, well, he doesn’t eat the donkeys! They are, as he put it, his pets. In fact, there is a clear delineation of “ownership” on the farm – Julia says that “anything with four legs is Andy’s!” But, Julia, what about the goats milk cheese, didn’t you make that? To which Julia replied, “Yes, but I only make it if the milk is delivered to my door!”

On Sunday the clear culinary focus was one of Andy’s four legged animals, a young lamb of only about 6 months. It was all prepped and ready to go for Stuart to show us how to break it down. Implements were assembled at the butchery table and away we went. Well, by we, I mean Stuart and Andy!

Here is a short video (Continue Reading…)

A visit to Mariquita Farm!
Tuesday June 29th 2010

Quite the picture to start off a post with, eh?! You may not recognise who those two guys are, but that’s Andy Griffin (left) and Stuart Brioza, in Andy’s walk-in cooler. And that big piece of meat? Well that’s a lamb from Andy’s farm, and we’re getting ready to break it down and eat it!

So how did I get this picture? It all started last last year at Street Food Fest when Stuart, Andy and I cooked up an entire 100lb pig in a caja china in my back yard. It was a crazy good time, with veggies from Mariquita, and a keg, and a margarita machine. So when Andy called Stuart a little while back and said he was in the mood to fire up the outdoor oven and get a lamb going, Stuart was excited and Andy said “Alright then, lets make it a party!”

That’s how last Sunday, Melinda, Emma and I (Alexis was still at sleepover camp at Bearskin Meadow – bummer she missed out) drove down to Andy and Julia’s home farm in the rolling hills just east of Watsonville. See, for those of you who don’t know, the veggies in your Two Small Farms CSA box come from a few different patches of land. Some of the veggies come from High Ground Organics, and some come from two different patches that Andy leases out in Hollister. Very few of the veggies come from Andy’s home farm in Watsonville. Not to say there isn’t serious action there though! This is the home of the CSA headquarters (when you get an email from Shelley, that’s where she’s emailing from!) and the assembly line for restaurant orders, and also the farm for herbs and seed crops, and also Andy and Julia’s HOME with their two kids.

We had such a fabulous time at the farm getting the lamb and pork and veggies ready, cooking everything either over the open fire or in Andy’s outdoor pizza oven, and just hanging out enjoying the beautiful day, talking about food, talking about farming – it was really really lovely.

I’m going to split this story into a few different blog posts. Over the next few days I’m going to show you how the lamb was broken down and cooked (and if my technical skills are good enough, maybe even a video!), how we cooked up the veggies (yumm, fried in pork fat!), and how Nicole made bread and dessert in the oven!

I’ll leave you now with some photos to get your appetite going!

Here’s Stuart and Andy walking through the dry-farmed herb field, as we collected basil, oregano, sorrel, lovage, and other herbs for our cooking.

And to get you really jealous, for those of you who love Andy’s peppers, here is the very first batch of peppers of the season, hitting the cast iron pan.

Keep an eye on the blog (or even subscribe – button on the right!) over the next few days to see the stories from the day!

Nobody’s perfect
Thursday June 24th 2010

I was hungry at work today. Got up way too early this morning (to wait in some crazy line at the Apple store – what a fanboy!) and was beating hunger all day. Hit the lunch room, and what is staring at me but a bag of crunchy cheetos. Yup, not actually Pollan approved, and to be honest, an edible food-like substance I haven’t had in maybe 20 years. True, there was a bowl of fruit next to it, but the cheetos were calling my name. So I tucked in to a bag. And you know what? They’re really really good. Wow, it pains me to write that, but gotta be honest. Tasty salty finger staining good cheetos.

I got home and felt kind of, um, not too good in my stomach. So I wanted a light, and veggie-centric dinner.

Whipped up a frittata with a zuc and some onion and some parmesan and egg, and like the cheetos more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy.

And some roasted cauliflower with anchovy and garlic

And a simple, but oh so good salad.

Do I regret the cheetos? No. I don’t eat them much and they taste oh so good. But tonight’s simple dinner tasted good too!

Farm Box arrives, and so has summer!
Wednesday June 23rd 2010

This week’s bounty arrived today. Nice, eh?

In it:
- Basil
- Purplette Cocktail Onions
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Zucchini!
- Strawberries
- Lettuce (Little Gem, Red or Green Butter)
- Orange Cauliflower,
- Mei Quin Choy

I didn’t have much time to make dinner, but it was just for me cuz Alexis is at overnight camp, Emma is at her favourite friends in the whole world for a sleepover, and Melinda was out at yoga. I could make anything I wanted, as long as it was fast – I didn’t have much time!

Nothing says summer like tomatoes and basil, so I hit those with a vengeance. So I got some of the cherry tomatoes and sliced up baby onions and some basil and got the lot macerating in some balsamic.

Then the butter lettuce was so damn lovely looking I wanted to handle it very lightly. I saw that crazy screaming british chef Ramsay do this on one of his shows – I gently peeled away the leaves and let the lettuce dress itself! Just shook it around in a bowl …

And here’s how it turned out …

I even ended up eating it like those vietnamese lettuce wraps you can get – and it was loverly!

And why did I have to hurry? Well my tasting group was coming over and I had to clear the table for flights of Brut Rose Champagne (and one sparkling wine)! Lucky me!

A miraculous way to store strawberries
Tuesday June 22nd 2010

Strawberries. Glorious glorious strawberries. And the ones we’re getting from the Farm Box are so glorious ripe and red all the way through and taste oh so good. But if yours last more than 24 hours without getting eaten, there’s one potential problem – they are so ripe they will not last that long. It breaks my heart to open a container of strawberries 1-2 days after pick-up day and see a quarter of them have gotten soft or whatever – what a loss!

But restaurants get Andy and Stephen’s strawberries, don’t they? They can’t use them up within 24 hours, can they?
When Melinda and I were in Range recently we asked their pastry chef Michelle Polzin about how she stores her strawberries. And yes, she said she gets the same strawberries as you get in your Two Small Farms box – yup, those are Michelin one star strawberries, baby! Anyway, Michelle said they line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lay the fruit out on a single layer, and then cover with parchment, and put it in the fridge. Couldn’t be easier than that.

So we got our strawberries for our preserving session on Friday, and here’s how they look today, on Tuesday! That’s 4 full days after delivery, and I didn’t think they’d last 36 hours! It worked – miraculous!  Give it a try.

Ahh, beer and pork …
Monday June 21st 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gotten into beer making. When I started a few months ago, I decided to go straight to the “end-game” and started with all-grain brewing. Yup, kind of crazy I know, but I got lucky and the first two batches I made were pretty good, the third one sucked so bad I tossed it, and the latest batch is barely palatable. I’m so lucky I didn’t start with disasters or I bet I would have thrown in the towel! One of my wine-tasting buddies, Michael, is a professional wine maker up in Napa at Merryvale, but also used to be a passionate hard-core home brewer. I described my problems to him and he just said, “Let’s make a batch together!” So that we did! Stuart has been wanting to be part of the beer making too, so Sunday we made it a party!

Here’s a shot of the beer during the final boil. No other photos, sorry, cuz you know, beer making does not take to photos too well.

But beer making DOES take to beer drinking! And to pork!

I took out (Continue Reading…)

First preserving session of the year
Monday June 21st 2010

Saturday saw the first preserving session of the season. And it was coupled with a special treat – I finally got to meet Stephen from High Ground Organics. I’ve known the other side of Two Small Farms, Andy and Julia at Mariquita, for a long time, but have never met Stephen or Jeanne. In fact for a while it seemed like maybe they wanted to stay out of the limelight. Take for instance this very dated photo of the Two Small Farms families – come on, it’s blurry, shot from a distance, lots of shadows, and I know for a fact that Andy and Julia’s kids are way older than that now. And if you go to the High Ground Organics web site, you won’t see a single photo of Stephen or Jeanne! So I made sure to get a snap of Stephen on Friday (thanks for manning the camera, Melinda!) when he was working the pick-up site for the strawberry delivery. Here you go folks, a recent photo of Stephen of High Ground Organics! Now I just need to meet Jeanne and get a photo of her!

So Saturday saw a marathon session of jamming – luckily I had a helper at home, our 6 year old Emma (aka ragamuffin). Any chef out there should get tears of joy in their eyes when they see this photo – you see how she’s holding her knife?! Great wrist position, keeping her work surface clean and organized!

 Emma trimmed the tops of 15 baskets of strawberries! But not all of them made it into the bowl!

Then they got cooked up, pectin and sugar added, and then (Continue Reading…)

Caught in the act … of making dessert!
Friday June 18th 2010

We were rushing off to go to Sean and Claudine’s house last night for dinner (very excited for Claudine’s new commercial kitchen lease - I’ll post on that later as it develops), but before we left Melinda had to make some dessert to bring along. She had a bowl of cut up strawberries from the Farm Box out…

… and some shortcake dough out on the counter…

… when who stops by for a visit but Nicole. And who’s with her? None other than Michelle Polzin, the pastry chef from Range. Now come on, we never make dessert in our house. Dessert is usually a piece of fruit, or maybe a some ice cream from the corner store. So Melinda happens to be making dessert and two of SF’s most famous pastry chef’s walk in?! What are the odds of that!

Turned out great and only slightly decadent with some whipped cream on top.

Oh, and I just got an email from Alpen, who’s home today and used up the end of last week’s avocado’s for lunch. Whizzed them up with ice, chives, lemon, and parsley. Looks damn good, no?

Ate almost a whole box in one meal!
Wednesday June 16th 2010

Look carefully at the contents of the box from today. I’ll go step by step.

See the strawberries at 10 o’clock – they’re almost gone already by the time I got home and had a chance to take this picture!

See the beans in the bag next to (Continue Reading…)

What’s coming this week
Wednesday June 16th 2010

The list went out from Two Small Farms about what we’re getting in the box today. Thank god we’re getting some veggies because we are bone dry in the fridge!

- Fennel
- Spinach
- Salad OR Little Gem Lettuce
- Strawberries
- Cherry Tomatoes OR Green Beans
- Chives
- Chantenay Carrots
- Basil
- Erbette Chard

There are some easy items: strawberries, spinach, lettuce. Easy peazy

Chives? Hmm, I guess just chopped fine on salad and really just about anything

Oh yumm, the first basil of the season. I don’t think I’ve had any basil in over 6 months. I love the taste of something when you haven’t had it in a long time. And with Two Small Farms’ basil, it’s even just the aroma – it fills up the whole house instantly!
If it’s tender and young, I may add it to a cherry tomato and mozzarella salad. Just a spritz of lemon and some high end olive oil.

On the topic of mozzarella, I need to learn how to make it. Maybe Claudine can help me. Or maybe Stuart – they’re coming over for dinner this weekend, maybe I’ll hit him up for a lesson.

What about the fennel? I was intrigued by the caramelized fennel idea from Shelley at the CSA headquarters. Sounds like a long slow cook in butter would work. I’ll bet that’ll even keep for a couple days in the fridge.

And again if there are extra carrots, I’m going to make them into a fast pickle. I had some pretty bad ones at Heirloom Cafe last night and I’m pretty sure I can do better.

What are you going to do with your box?