Monday, July 27, 2009

Vincent, Potatoes, and Your Harvest Baskets

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, 1885. Oil on canvas 82 x 114 cm. Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

       Today, as I reached into the earth to dig up potatoes, I thought of Vincent van Gogh, the fact that he died this very day, long ago (July 27, 1890), and of his first major painting, The Potato Eaters...
     "He is a filthy beast," so thought Vincent van Gogh about his family's estimation of him. What others would diagnose as mental illness, Vincent thought of as illumination - a new vision of what painting could be: a revelation of heaven here on earth. He thought himself a prophet-painter and a thinker. The thinker side of him poured thoughts out in a deluge of words in the letters he wrote to his younger brother, Theo. The prophet-painter side began as an epiphany. He decided he would be an artist and it would take him ten years to do it. After ten years, quite eerily, Vincent killed himself. He knew for certain that painting was in the very marrow of his bones. He wanted his fellow humans to know that this man feels for the earth keenly. If he were to demonstrate to the common poor that if heaven were in simple things - the smell of the soil, the petal of a flower, a frugal meal - he had better be one with them, not above them.
            And then it happened. The Potato Eaters is his first undeniable masterpiece. It is a curriculum vitae of everything he'd thought and felt up to this point, everything that would make him a revolutionary artist is already here. The dark thick color was chosen not just for pictorial effect but you might say philosophically.  For a starter, the brown is - to be blunt - a manure brown. This color, Vincent explained, was of dusty spuds before they’ve been rinsed. Lost in total identification, Van Gogh paints like a clod. The heavy loaded brush doing its own manual labor. The picture appears dug and tilled rather than painted. There’s total union between painter and farmer family. It's all in the hands.
           "I tried to bring about the idea that these people eating potatoes by the light of their lamp have dug the earth with the self-same hands that they are putting into their dish. Manual labor, a meal honestly earned. Anyone who wants to paint peasants looking mamby pamby can suit himself." So wrote Vincent to his brother, Theo.
           It's almost as if he’s giving a smirk at the polite siennas and decorous burnt umbers of the drawing room paintings he’d had to sell to the rich and famous with a clinched jaw as a young man London. It’s this humble, hard-working family before you who dine in a state of grace. Their potato supper is a holy communion of the toiling class. His art, like this painting, would reclaim what had once belonged to religion: consolation for our mortality through the relish of the gift of life.
And now I understand
how you suffered for your sanity
how you tried to set them free
perhaps they'll listen now.
For they could not love you
but still your love was true and when no hope was left in sight on that starry starry night. You took your life as lovers often do;
But I could have told you
this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you...


For your baskets tomorrow:
Freshly-dug Red Potatoes (of course)
A Sprig of Rosemary (great for baking with your potatoes!)
Salad Cucumbers
Several Ears of Delicious Sweet Corn
A Bunch of Swiss Chard
A Bag of Heirloom Lettuce
Baby Carrots

From Pearl Whitley's Lavender Lane Cookbook
Roasted Vegetables
The great thing about this recipe is that you can use any  combination of vegetables  that you like;  tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, parsnips, summer or winter squash, sweet potatoes, turnips,  onions, rutabagas, zucchini, squash, etc. This recipe serves 4-6 people.
Potatoes,  peeled or not and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium Butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425o F. Place vegetables in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the vegetables well with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes.

Roasted Rosemary and Red Potatoes 

red skinned new potatoes
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, grated
2 tsp. rosemary
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Quarter potatoes and arrange in baking dish in single layer. Salt and pepper potatoes. Combine butter, lemon juice and lemon zest in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted. Pour mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle rosemary over potatoes. Bake until lightly browned for 30 to 45 minutes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

One Wild and Precious Life

After working in the fields, looking at the gorgeous clay oven that Mary, Anders, Christian, and Augie worked on today, I decided to pick up some poetry tonight as an out breath this summer day. The first poem I began to contemplate is by Mary Oliver, a native of Maple Heights, Ohio. 

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper I mean
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down 
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. 
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?  

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zucchini and Beans and Cukes, oh my!

Dear Friends,

Just a note to let you know that we are alas ready to sell our fresh goat cheese in little tubs to any takers. The ingredients are simple: biodynamic goat milk, organic lemons, and sea salt. Below you will find a delicious recipe for zucchini and goat cheese.

First, does anyone have any coffee cans or something similiar as a platform for melons? If you do, we could sure use some. Thanks!

Here is more or less what you will find in your baskets this week:

Candy Onion
Black Beauty Zucchini
Straightneck Yellow Squash
A Bag of Heirloom Lettuces
A Large Bag of Derby Bush Beans
Bounty Basket (Hot, Mild, and Sweet Peppers, Detroit Dark Red Beets, etc.)


Serves 6 as a starter.
1 zucchini or two
2 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (you can substitute another kind of fruit vinegar if you wish)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Trim the zucchini and cut it in paper-thin slices using a sharp knife or a mandoline. Arrange in a circular pattern on individual plates. Start from the outside and work your way in, each slice overlapping the previous one. Sprinkle the cheese over the slices.

2. Whisk together vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl and drizzle over zucchini and cheese. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.


Serves 6
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1 pound summer squash, sliced
1/3 cup water
3 large plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the onion, garlic and seasonings in oil until onion is tender. Add the beans, squash and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until just tender. Add tomatoes and parsley; cover and simmer 5 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Serve with a slotted spoon.


3-4 small to medium zucchini
5 green onions, finely chopped
6 oz feta cheese
Small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
Small bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tsp paprika
1 cup flour
3 eggs beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying
2-3 Limes

Grate the zucchini by hand or food processor. Spread on a kitchen towel to soak up a little of the moisture. Place the green onions in a bowl. Crumble in the feta. Stir in the parsley, mint, dried mint and paprika. Add the flour and season with salt and pepper. Add the egg and mix thoroughly, Mix in the zucchini. It won’t be pretty, but that’s just as it should be.
Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your pan. Drop tablespoons of the mixture into the oil and flatten with the back of your spoon. Cook approx. 2-3 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Move them to a plate covered in paper towel or something equally as absorbent and continue cook ing the remaining batter.
If you like, sprinkle a little lime juice on the fritters before serving. Also very good without.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pick-Up Day!

The weeks of the summer are floating by like a wispy cloud. I can’t thank all of you enough who turned out for our work day this weekend! You all reminded me of busy little bees (pulling weeds, cutting trees, removing sod, hanging our beautiful school bell, working on the clay oven, meditating in front of the chicks...), so I came up with a thought about the food you helped so much to cultivate. We are told that one of the means of communication and integration within the hive of the honeybee is through food, the honey, that is created and shared by its members. This sun-filled food is packed with information about the universe and literally becomes a part of the bee. When we eat biodynamic food, we eat to communicate and to gain knowledge about the world in heretofore unseen ways. We should revel in the idea that we eat not only to live and to satisfy our appetites but to become attuned to another level (or as some would say, a greater level) of consciousness.       

I remember going to IHOP for breakfast before Sunday Church as a young lad during the Bronze Age. Loaded with “maple syrup” (wink, wink), these pancakes, each weighing about 20 pounds, did a number on numbing me. Little wonder I often fell asleep through the sermon. Just think if I had some of the biodynamic salad you are about to eat this week!

Speaking of which, here is what you will find in your baskets.

Salad Slicing Cucumbers
A Bag of Fresh Picked Lettuce -
“Forelleschuss”, “Reines de Glaces”, and “Merlot” - and a nasturtium flower.
A Pound of Detroit Red Dark Beets
Rainbow and Fordhook Swiss Chard
(And yes, you’re right -) Collards!!!
1 Box of Blue Ridge Blueberries
(try some of these notoriousy sweet berries in your salads...)

Here is a good recipe... (Just ask and I can tell you where you might find some of the best goat cheese on the planet:)

Salad with Chevre and Walnuts
3oz (90gr) goat cheese
1/4 cup (1oz, 25gr) walnuts 
1/2 cup (3oz, 90gr) cherry tomatoes (sorry, not quite ready, but soon you will groan in collard-like fashion!)  
1/4 cup Greek olives 
Tarragon Vinaigrette

Prepare lettuce and put into a medium bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss (using tongs) to combine. Arrange on 2 dinner plates. Slice six 1/3" (1cm) rounds of goat cheese and arrange on lettuce. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and arrange on lettuce. Divide walnuts and olives and sprinkle on salad. Serve. 

Tarragon Vinaigrette
3 tbs olive oil - the good stuff (not cold pressed in Nebraska)
1 tbs apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s)
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh tarragon (cut a sprig or two from our herb garden)
2 tsp snipped chives (same with this...) 

In small bowl whisk vinegar, mustard and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil. When incorporated add herbs and whisk to combine.

Simply Swiss1 bunch of fresh Swiss chard1 small clove garlic, sliced 2 Tbsp olive oil2 Tbsp waterPinch of dried crushed red pepper1 teaspoon butterSalt  

1 Rinse out the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest third of the stalk, discard or save for another recipe. Roughly chop the leaves into inch-wide strips.
2 Heat a saucepan on a medium heat setting, add olive oil, a few small slices of garlic and the crushed red pepper. Sauté for about a minute. Add the chopped Swiss chard leaves. Cover. Check after about 5 minutes. If it looks dry, add a couple tablespoons of water. Flip the leaves over in the pan, so that what was on the bottom, is now on the top. Cover again. Check for doneness after another 5 minutes (remove a piece and taste it). Add salt to taste, and a small amount of butter. Remove the swiss chard to a serving dish.

Blueberry Muffins  

1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup orange juice
1 cup blueberries
2 tbsp flour.

Heat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs then add the oil and orange juice. Add to flour mixture and mix a few turns. Add blueberries and fold in gently.

Fill 12 greased muffin cups with batter. Bake 20-25 mins. Cool in pan a few minutes then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Harvest Day

We hope you are all enjoying the fresh, healthy, biodynamic vegetables which you have received in the past weeks. For this week, we are offering the following:

Gonzales Country Cabbage - a large, crisp head; delicious shredded with lemon and salt.
Sweet Candy Onion - a freshly-dug onion; excellent raw in salads or on a sandwich.
Pickling Cucumbers - crunchy and cute, these are a perfect snack by themselves.
Mix of Heirloom Salad Greens from a Biodynamic Seed Company- until fall, this will be the last week to savor these unique greens not found often at markets or stores: corn salad, miner's lettuce, watercress, arugula, purslane, nasturtium flowers...
Dill Bouquet - this herb is wonderful on potatoes or in one of the following recipes.
Stevia/Mint combo - stevia is a great natural sugar substitute. Cut this and the mint and brew some sweet mint iced tea!
Bounty Baskets:
And from this point on for all of you hot pepper fans, we are going to have a great variety in our bounty baskets, including jalapeno, habenero, paprika, fish, anaheim, hungarian banana, and more. Not all care for hot peppers, so we will have them available for you to choose. We will also have Winterbohr, Red Russian, and Dinosaur Kale in the basket. We have turnips as well.

And - as always - some recipes to go along with this week's harvest:

Cabbage Rolls
(Serves 6 to 8)

This is a great recipe using Chinese cabbage or regular green cabbage from the well-known Moosewood Restaurant series of cookbooks.

1 large head of green cabbage or Chinese cabbage*
2 medium onions (or 1 large onion)
2 tsp olive oil
3 ½ cups chopped mushrooms
1 cup grated carrots
6 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
¼ tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh, chopped thyme
½ tsp dried or 2 tbsp fresh dill
¼ cup fresh, minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp tamari sauce (soy sauce if you prefer)
1 tbsp miso
12 oz cake tofu, pressed and mashed**
1 cup tomato juice
*If you use Chinese cabbage, pull off about 12 large leaves and blanch them for about 2 minutes.
**Place tofu cakes of firm or soft Chinese-style tofu between 2 plates. Rest a heavy can or book on the top plate. Leave for 30 minutes. Remove the weight and top plate and drain the water. The tofu is now ready to be mashed with a fork.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Core the cabbage and chop the onions. Carefully place the cabbage in the boiling water, cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until the leaves pull away easily from the head. (Use 2 forks to test whether the cabbage is ready, one to20keep the head steady, the other to try to loosen a leaf). Once you have determined that the cabbage is ready, carefully pour the hot water off and set aside 12 leaves to cool while you go on to the next step.

In a large skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms, carrots and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes. Add the thyme, dill and parsley and continue to cook until the mushrooms are soft. Add the lemon juice, tamari, miso, and mashed tofu. Mix well. When all is heated through, remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Assemble the roll. Place ½ cup of filling at the broad end of each cabbage leaf. Fold the side edges toward the middle over the filling, and then roll up lengthwise. Place the rolls, seam side down, in a 9x12 inch baking pan. Pour the tomato juice over and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until hot.

Cucumber-Dill Salad
(Serves 4)

3 pickling cucumbers
3 tablespoons cider or white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, sliced and broken into rings
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

Wash the cucumber(s) and partially remove the peel in lengthwise strips using a vegetable peeler or fork and leaving a little skin between each strip. Thinly slice the cucumber widthwise. Place the vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk. Add the cucumber, onion, and dill, and toss well. The salad can be served at once, but it will improve in flavor if you let the ingredients marinate for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fire Fairies (flies)

Last night, my daughter Gemma looked out over the cornfield and said, “there they are, the fire fairies.” Before each meal, we light the candle with this verse:
“Fire Fairies come to us.
Bring to us your golden light.
When the Fire Fairies come, 
They bring light, light from the sun.”
Oh, those magnificent fireflies. Memories. Who needs fireworks. I remember, back about a thousand years ago when I was a college student, sitting in a lawn chair watching the fireflies dance and play in a meadow. I accompanied them on my stereo with Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Somehow, we must carry the gift of these kinds of memories into the winter to warm our hearts. These dog days, when Sirius, the dog star rises and sets with the sun will be fleeting...