In looking back over photos from this past week, it feels like it was kind of quiet. Work got done, sure. We’re kicking off our CSA next week, with the start of the Fall session, and there’s always a lot that goes in to getting that up and running again. We made a mid-week trip to Dallas, the highlight of which was a spectacular celebratory dinner at Lark on the Park, and a very inspiring meeting with an artist who’ll soon be doing a cosmetic makeover on the exterior of our classy delivery van! (More on that later). And did we mention we got 3 1/2 inches of rain on Saturday? It’s quite possible that nothing beats rain when you’re a farmer.
But, all that being said, we also managed to carve out a lot of family time, which is always a gift. We had a lot of delicious meals at home, and that always makes both John and I feel good. It’s amazing how home-cooked meals and time around the dinner table really help anchor us. It does something for the spirit, no matter how weary you might be from the day. Plus, it was John and my anniversary this week, and Sam turned 4 months old. Pretty special all around!
Did you hear? We were acknowledged as being “The Best CSA” in Dallas by The Dallas Observer in their annual Reader’s Choice Awards. The issue is on newsstands now — go grab a copy!
It’s an award we proudly share (because it was a tie) with another Dallas CSA run by our farmer-friend Marie. When the news reached us last Friday we were beyond excited, due in no small part to the fact that we didn’t even know we were up for it! I’d by lying if I said we hadn’t been celebrating since we found out, and cracking a big smile at random times of day for no apparent reason.
I kind of sat back and wondered, What does it take to be The Best? Besides organization and lots of hard work, it takes terrific and loyal CSA members.
And we’ve got them.
A CSA is nothing without it’s members, but the key is that these members stick around, and that while they’re sticking around they are happy. John and I talk about this a lot. We don’t just want members. We want happy members, members who feel like they’re getting a return on their investment, that they’re learning something new about food, about agriculture, about what we can successfully grow here, and that they’re getting the most delicious, high-quality, insanely fresh vegetables!
We want members to stick with it not because they’ve been forced to by contract, but because they want to keep renewing their subscription time and time again, keep challenging themselves in the kitchen when faced with sweet potatoes for the sixth (or tenth) week in a row in the Fall, keep pushing themselves to try new things and keep an open mind, even if they thought they didn’t like Rainbow Chard…
So, to all of our members–present and past–we thank you! Each of you, whether you’ve stayed with us or not, have taught us something that we’ve learned from and have used to improve our CSA – so much so that enough people voted to make sure others know we’re The Best.
I know…that’s a rather extravagant amount of cheese I put on top of these delicious stuffed squash, but out of excitement for how well everything was coming together on the fly, I got a little carried away. Maybe it looks complicated (I could be giving myself too much credit here), but this came together pretty quickly for a weeknight meal.
We like to cook what we grow, we love eating at home, and we like to use the same ingredients that our CSA members will soon be getting. This recipe came to mind knowing that our members are gonna be up to their ears in fall squash and may be looking for new, creative ways to use it. Sweet and hot peppers will also be around for a while, showing up in the CSA boxes, and it was the addition of these two that really made this dish excellent.
Serves: 2 if you’re hungry, 4 if you have a salad or something else to accompany it
1 small-medium butternut squash, sliced in half and seeds removed
1 medium-large Mexican squash (such as “Lolita”), sliced in half and seeds removed, enough to make a boat (*alternatively, you can omit the Mexican squash, technically a summer squash, and use two butternut squashes)
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 – 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 – 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (80/20 for better flavor)
6 – 8 sweet peppers, red and orange mix, ribs removed and finely chopped
3 hot peppers, such as garden salsa, fresh cayenne, padron, shishito, etc., remove some of the seeds if you prefer, but keep some of them in for flavor, finely chop
6 sage leaves, chopped
about 1/2 tsp. fresh marjoram, chopped (or substitute oregano)
fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1. Preheat your oven to 375. Rub the cut-side of the squash with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and place cut-side down on a baking pan lined with tinfoil or parchment paper. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove the mexican squash. It should be sufficiently soft by this point, and you don’t want to overcook it to the point where it loses its shape. Continue roasting the butternut squash an additional 20 – 30 minutes, until it is easily pierced with a knife. Combine the squashes on the baking pan, cut-side up, and let cool while you prepare the filling. Reduce the heat to 350.
2. In a large, dry saute pan set over medium-high heat, add your ground beef and cook—breaking it up with a wooden spoon—until it is nicely browned and cooked through. Turn off the heat.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked beef to a paper-towel lined bowl, and pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of the fat. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan and set over medium-low heat. Add your chopped onions and garlic and cook until soft and lightly golden, about 4 – 6 minutes. Next, add the chopped peppers and continue to cook until the peppers soften some, about 3 more minutes. Finally, add your chopped herbs, stir to combine, and turn off the heat. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and let cool some. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding more herbs, salt, or pepper if you like.
4. Using a spoon and working gently, scrape some of the roasted filling from the butternut squash to add to your ground beef mixture. Break it up with a fork and stir gently to combine. You want to scoop just enough out to create a larger cavity for the filling, and simultaneously get enough roasted squash to give the beef mixture more flavor.
5. Evenly divide the beef filling among all the roasted squashes, packing it down some. Put the baking pan back into the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, or until it is sufficiently warmed through. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle the cheese on top, and put back into the oven for 5 more minutes to melt the cheese. Serve immediately!
Note: The skin of the Mexican summer squash is totally edible. And although we drew a blank as to weather the skin of the roasted butternut squash made for good eating or not, we ended up eating it…and loving it.
When we resume our CSA for the fall session next week, members will be getting beautiful little heirloom eggplants. We’re always thankful for eggplant because it’s a terrific transitional veggie. We can count on it throughout the summer, when it goes just beautifully with peppers, fresh basil, and fresh, ripe tomatoes, and—if we’re lucky—it continues production well into the fall. When little else besides okra and peppers can survive the heatwave we so often face in late summer, it’s nice to know we can count on eggplant to help deliciously bridge that seasonal gap.
Serves: 2 – 3 as a side
4 – 5 small eggplants, sliced in half
about 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
fresh-grated mozzarella cheese
chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, or marjoram (*optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 375, and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or tinfoil. Slice the eggplants in half, brush with the olive oil, and season with kosher salt.
2. Place the eggplants cut-side down on the sheet pan, and roast for approximately 30 – 45 minutes, or until the bottoms of the eggplants are deeply colored a golden brown and they yield to the touch when squeezed with tongs or pierced with a small knife.
3. When the eggplants are finished roasting, turn off the heat and flip them over. Sprinkle fresh-grated mozzarella over top (and the herbs, if using), and then leave the eggplant in the oven for 5 more minutes or so, just long enough to melt the cheese.
Serve as a side with pasta and ragu, or cover with marinara sauce and more cheese, place in individual au gratin dishes and broil to melt the added cheese. Would also be good as part of a tapas-style dinner, with companion dishes like grilled sausages, lamb kebabs, sauteed spinach with pine nuts, or tomato-braised okra.
We’re still talking about the amazing time we had last Thursday at the Harvest Moon Dinner benefitting Cafe Momentum. The dinner was held at The Wine Poste. It’s a cool mixed-use space in Dallas’ Design District that sells wine in-store and online, and also functions as an event space where you can host private tastings or parties. They also have an incredible lineup of wine dinners coming up, featuring some of Dallas’ top chefs: Tre Wilcox, Tiffany Derry, and Omar Flores of Driftwood.
When our chef-friend Matt Ford, of CBD Provisions, got in touch with us about providing some vegetables for the dinner, we were stoked. Along with Graham Dodds, Chad Houser, and pitmaster Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge, these guys put together a most memorable meal. I keep wishing I’d eaten more! Everything was amazing.
But by far, the star of the night had to be the 200-lb. Red Wattle Hog that was donated by Legend Meats. The chefs did a nose-to-tail preparation of the pig, which included a tasty sampling of porchetta (belly and loins), head cheese and trotter torchon, smoked ribs, smoked hams (pit ham style), pulled pork (shoulders), and chicharrones. Served with homemade hot sauce and Carolina Barbecue Sauce, this was some of the best meat both John and I have ever had.
The farm-to-table salads and starters featured a tomato, cucumber, sweet pepper, basil and wild arugula salad with Caprino Royale Chevre, and an heirloom squash and eggplant salad with micro herbs. The farm-to-table sides that accompanied the main course were sauteed greens, tomato-braised okra, Graham’s famous cornbread, and a delicious end of summer squash gratin. This was not one of those events where you left hungry!
While it’s not every day you can have a heritage breed pig prepared nose-to-tail by a famous pit-master, this is the way we ought to be eating all the time: hyper-local and seasonal. Among other things, eating what’s locally grown and in season rewards you with exceptional flavor and variety, and it just makes sense.
Although the dinner was supposed to be held outdoors, the humidity and looming rain moved the event inside. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Wine was flowing, people were full and happy, and the young men of Cafe Momentum were having a ball. They worked as servers, food runners, gracious hosts, and more to make the dinner a success; and, all proceeds from the event go to serve these young men and the mission of Cafe Momentum. We were honored to have our vegetables featured and proud to be able to donate them on behalf of such a worthy cause. We can’t wait to be involved again!