Pickled Fennel and Salmon with Beans & Arugula

by Judith Hausman, The Hungry Locavore at Urban Farm Online

Fragrant and crunchy, local, organic fennel is smaller than the big supermarket bulbs and delicious raw. For this salad, it’s just pickled for a day or two with a licorice trifecta: aniseed, fennel seed and star anise. Make this dish mid-summer through harvest for a special lunch, first course or light salad dinner. Canned beans are fine but if you have time to simmer some at home (with bay leaf, peppercorns, the fennel fronds and a saved cheese rind or two), they are even better. I used cranberry beans but white beans or chick peas work nicely as well.

Italian or Spanish salmon packed in olive oil is essential and serves as dressing when you toss the salad with the pickling juices. Look for delicate, small arugula but larger, torn leaves are also good. Consider a handful of good olives as well and supply some crusty bread for scooping up the salad.

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Pickled Fennel and Salmon with Beans & Arugula

The fennel:

1 whole star anise

1 tsp. aniseed

1 tsp. coriander seeds

1 tsp. fennel seeds

¼ tsp. cumin seeds

about 4” lemongrass stalk, outer layer removed, chopped

zest of ½ lime (Substitute orange or lemon if you like)

½ c. rice vinegar

½ c. apple cider vinegar

3-4 Tbs. olive oil

1/3 c. sugar

 2 Tbs. kosher salt

1-2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, some fronds reserved and chopped

Mix all ingredients except the fennel. Simmer or microwave for 1-2 min. until the salt and sugar dissolve. Transfer to a non-metallic container and stir in the fennel. Cool and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, turning the fennel occasionally.

Assemble the salad:

2 cans of cranberry beans, white beans or chick peas, rinsed (or a half-pound of home-cooked beans)

1 small can olive-oil packed salmon

8 oz. baby arugula

¼ c. black olives (optional)

salt & pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, pile the salmon with its oil, the rinsed (if canned) and drained beans, the washed arugula (torn if large), spun dry and the fennel with all its pickling juices. Toss well and season to taste.

Veggie Pancakes

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Vegetable Pancakes:
From: Foods of the Hudson: A Seasonal Sampling of the Region’s Bounty by Peter G. Rose, Overlook Press, 1993. Reprinted with permission.

You can vary the combination of vegetables for the following recipe according to what you have on hand. Serve with or without a burger or chop and a green salad for a delicious family dinner.

Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 3-4 minutes on each side. Yield: 12 4″ pancakes

2 cups peeled potatoes, coarsely grated or cut into matchstick-
thin strips
1/2 cup carrots, coarsely grated, or cut into matchstick-thin strips
1/2 cup zucchini, coarsely grated, or cut into matchstick thin strips
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped chives (or minced green onions)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
Wrap the grated vegetables in a clean towel and squeeze the towel to remove excess moisture. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the vegetables with the eggs, flour and chives. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Fry 4 little pancakes at one time, using 1/4 cup of vegetable mixture for each pancake. With a pancake turner, flatten each pancake to a 4-inch round. Cook until golden brown, turn to brown the other side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in pre-heated oven at 300 degrees F. Repeat with remaining vegetable mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed. Serve hot with or without ketchup. Note: Variation: Sprinkle the pancakes with grated cheese in the last minutes of cooking and serve as a meatless meal.
 

Garden Tips for July

This month the most important tip is the most obvious. With so much rain the weeds are rampant. Try to keep up with them so they don’t compete for light, space and nutrients with the things you want to be growing.

Secondly, it’s time to pull out spring crops that have gone to seed like lettuce, spinach, arugula and peas — and plant summer crops like beans (I like haricots verts, Triomphe de Farcy from Cooks). Sow summer lettuce (oakleaf, Summer or Heatwave blends only) and arugula, and keep shaded from the full sun by your taller plants. Replant broccoli, kale and carrots all of which will grow until Thanksgiving. Plant fall peas, scallions and zucchini now too.

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Put a couple of inches of compost down and mix it into rows to rejuvenate your soil before you plant. This is important because you want the best soil possible for the best results. Soil should not be allowed to dry out or your plants will stress. Remember that insects only feast on weaker plants.

Keep your basil deadheaded and it will continue all sumer ready for those tomatoes, which will be ripening soon. Keep pinching off suckers from tomatoes and keep them staked. Suckers are found along the main stem of the tomato sprouting between the leaf and the stem. They can easily be snapped of or cut off as soon as you notice them. If left, they will grow into a branch and flower. They won’t harm the plant but the tomatoes will be smaller as too many fruit drain the plant of nutrients, water and light.

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Get some good organic fertilizers and be sure to feed your crops at the recommended times. A good organic foliar spray also gives a boost. It’s a good time to feed now as tomatoes are maturing.

 

Spring Risotto

A risotto is a celebration of the new garden. With a little thought, you can easily span the seasons, combining wintered-over carrots or leeks and emerging treats, such as asparagus, peas, herbs and greens.

You can also thriftily make use of leftover holiday meals in a risotto by adding bits of roast chicken, ribbons of ham or diced shrimp near the end of cooking. Save chopped herbs for the last ten minutes of cooking too. Tender vegetables can cook right in the softening rice while firmer ingredients may need to be cooked beforehand. Classic Arborio or carnaroli rice is authentic but you might find a short-grain brown rice.

While warm stock (chicken or vegetable) is important in order to keep the rice cooking at a constant temperature, eagle-eyed supervision is an exaggeration. Don’t overdo the Parmesan either and try a sprinkle of grated lemon at the very end…and a pat of butter.

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Spring Vegetable Risotto

1 small onion, 1 leek or 1 large shallot. chopped
1 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 c. rice (See above)
½ c. white wine
5-6 c. stock
2 c. peas, broccoli rabe or chard leaves, chopped OR 7-12 asparagus, cut in 1” pieces
1 c. or less cooked ham, shrimp or chicken, chopped (optional)
2 c. cooked carrots, diced (optional)
¾ c. freshly grated Parmesan or other cheese
2-3 Tbs. minced fresh parsley, thyme or chive
rind of one lemon, grated (optional)
pat of butter (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

Gently sauté the onion, leek or shallot in the butter and oil a wide pan. Stir in the rice, toasting it for about a minute. Add the wine, continuing to stir until it evaporates. Now add the warmed stock, a cupful at a time. Rice absorbs at different rates so you may not need all of the liquid. Stir and cook gently for about 25-35 min., adding stock as needed, until the rice is almost tender to the bite. Stir in the broccoli rabe or chard until it wilts or stir in the peas or asparagus pieces, cooking until they become tender. Add cooked carrots and/or meat or shrimp, if using. Taste, add more stock if necessary and stir. When the rice is tender and somewhat creamy, add cheese and chopped herbs. Season to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Quinoa Salad with Arugula and Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves 6

For a refreshing splash of summer, use this lemony vinaigrette dressing on a variety of spring greens; it is especially good for bringing out the tart notes in arugula.

arugulasalad

Photo credit: Ellen Ecker Ogden

1 cup vegetable stock or water
1 cup quinoa
1 cup dry green lentils
½ cup Lemon Vinaigrette ( see below)
4 cups fresh arugula or mesclun greens, washed and dried
6 scallions or 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (Optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock or water to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover, and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.

2. In a separate saucepan, cover the lentils with enough water to cover them by 1 inch, and simmer over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain any excess water and cool.

3. In a large salad bowl, combine the lentils and quinoa and toss with half the lemon vinaigrette. Cool at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. Just before serving, coarsely chop the arugula and combine it with the lentils and couscous, along with the scallions, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. Crumble on the feta cheese, and add more dressing, to taste.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes 1/2 cup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, mashed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a Mason jar with a lid. Shake to blend until emulsified. Set aside until the salad is prepared.

Worms Are Your Friends

It is traditionally thought that worms are only appealing to fishermen, kids who like to play in the dirt, and (maybe) other worms.

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But worms are also a vegetable gardener’s best friend. Below is an except from a recent post at VegetableGardener.com, all about the virtues of our slimy legless garden companions:

Worm castings do amazing things for the soil (and plants) and are the top of the line as far as soil amendments go. They have five times the nitrogen potency of good topsoil; seven times the amount of potash; and one and a half times the calcium.

Traditional composting and vermicomposting both break down organic materials and provide a perfect plant product for the garden. But worms bring a little something extra to the table — significantly more beneficial micro-organisms, enzymes, humus, and plant stimulants than regular compost.

Castings offer these nutrients in a slow-release form and they’re available for a longer period of time. “Available” meaning that the casting nutrients are easily absorbed by plants because they’re water-soluble. Worm castings offer superior soil-binding, and water-retaining, abilities. As well as excellent aeration, porosity, and structural properties. All of these things greatly improve the texture of your soil, as well.

Of course, worms are present in traditional compost piles and help with the breakdown of organic matter — so you’re getting castings there, too. But actual worm farming (vermicomposting) is done in a container suited that’s specifically for this purpose. Raising worms in their own closed system intensifies the end product, so you have a super-charged soil amendment in bulk.

Worm farming is the perfect solution for people who live in apartments or condominiums who would love to have a compost pile but don’t have the room. It’s a portable composting system that’s doable for anyone in any living situation. You keep the worms in a box-sized container or bin, which makes a large yard or garden area unnecessary. In fact, you can even keep a worm farm indoors.

If you’re interested in becoming a worm-wrangler, check out these posts for more information:
Let Worms Compost Your Kitchen Scraps and How to Start a Worm Farm

Outstanding In His Field

“I can’t talk long, I’ve got about 4000 sweet potato plants I’ve got to put in this week. Every minute I’m not doing that, I’m behind.”

So says Doug Decandia, who is trying to stay on schedule in his mission to grow food for the Food Bank for Westchester, which fights hunger and food insecurity in our county by maintaining a storehouse of food it distributes to over 200 local relief programs.

Doug helped form the Food Bank’s Food Growing Program, and he is personally cultivating about 3 acres of land on five separate plots in Westchester. The produce from those 3 acres will go right to the Food Bank’s storehouses.

Doug Candia

Doug has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and online journals, and they have been able to spotlight how broad the impact of Doug’s work really is. Here’s an excerpt from Chris Hunt’s 2012 profile on the website Ecocentric:

“The job involves farming, of course, but it also entails serving as a teacher and mentor because in addition to producing vegetables, the initiative is designed as a vocational program to train at-risk youths to grow food. Doug works the land alongside children who face a range of emotional and behavioral challenges, some of whom are currently incarcerated in the county’s juvenile correctional facility. Together, they grow fresh, healthful food for those who need it the most.”

2013 marks the third year of Doug’s ambitious project, and he has no intention of stopping. In fact, his ambitions for farming Westchester go far beyond the Food Bank, He’d like to see the whole county farming, for private and public resources.

As he told KatonahGreen’s Heather Flournoy when she profiled Doug last year: “”You know, there’s no reason we can’t produce a lot more of our food right around here. Those big lawns could all be turned into productive farms.”

Don’t be surprised if this local food hero shows up at your door someday, offering to farm your lawn. Bravo, Doug!

Mimi Edelman: Farmer

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Photo credit: Tanya Savayan

If you’ve enjoyed African blue basil or stinging nettles in your dishes in past seasons at farm-to-table inspired restaurants such as Bedford Post or Restaurant North, there’s a good chance they started out in the fields of I & Me Farms in Bedford. Which means they got to your plate through the loving work of Mimi Edelman.

Mimi farms four acres off of Wood Road (on land secured through the Westchester Land Trust’s land match program), specializing in heirloom vegetables and unusual herbs, along with a more traditional mix of lettuces and vegetables.

Fingers are crossed that all those items will be back this year, but nothing is guaranteed. I & Me farm took a direct hit from Sandy last year, and the damage was extensive, not just to the crops and the soil that supports them, but to the infrastructure of the place. Fences, posts, wires… almost all of it was rendered useless by the impact of the storm.

The farm is rebuilt now — with help from grants, other farmers, and lots of good folks in the community — and planting in the fields is underway. Of course, rebuilding isn’t a new experience for Edelman; she took a big hit from Irene, too. But, as she told the Journal News last spring:

“Whatever challenges there might be, they’re kind of offset by what you get in return. There are not many jobs you can go to where the job actually revitalizes you.”

In addition to full-time farming, Edelman is one of the leaders of Slow Food Metro North, the local chapter of Slow Food USA, which is itself part of the global movement Slow Food International, based in Italy. Through Slow Food, she is responsible for creating fun and educational food-based events in Westchester, Fairfield, and beyond: restaurant dinners, farm tours, networking events for farmers and chefs, and the awarding of Slow Food’s cherished “Snail of Approval” awards for those who make our food system better.

Want to learn more about I & Me or Slow Food? Send the farmer an email!