Category Archives: Farmer Kev

So It Begins: Farmer Kev’s Summer CSA and a Nifty Way to Eat Radishes

On Tuesday, I received my first box of vegetables from Farmer Kev’s Community Supported Agriculture program—henceforth referred to as CSA. I’ve written about Farmer Kev many times in this blog. For new readers: He’s young, he’s energetic, he doesn’t come from a farming family, and he’s been farming on leased land since he graduated from high school. Go, Farmer Kev!

Our own Farmer Kev
Our own Farmer Kev, from a photo taken last year

This year will be especially exciting for me and, I hope, for Farmer Kev. He’s become a sponsor, of sorts, of this blog. In exchange for writing about his vegetables and ways to use them, I get a free CSA share. (I will write for food, as long as it comes from a source I approve of, and I most definitely approve of Farmer Kev.)

For the next month, I will, of course, be focusing on greens because let’s face it—when those greens get going they come in an avalanche that can be downright alarming. What to do with all those greens?

I have some ideas, and I am lucky to have a good friend who is also a good cook. Her name is Alice Johnson, and when she heard about how I would be writing regularly about Farmer Kev and his vegetables, she jumped right into the fray and has been sending me wonderful recipes that will make short work of those daunting greens. (Farmer Kev, you are in effect get two heads for the price of one.)

But for this week, which is just the start of the greens avalanche and should thus be manageable, I am going to focus on the humble radish. Yes, yes, they are good in salads, and I’m sure everyone knows this. But they are also good on buttered toast, which is a relatively new trick for this Yankee cook.

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I got this idea from JoEllen Cottrell, who is director of the Winthrop Food Pantry. A while back, she told me about toast and radishes and said this is something that is eaten in Germany. (She has a German daughter-in-law.)

Really, toast and radishes couldn’t be easier. Make a toast—the better the bread, the better the toast—and butter it. Top the toast with thinly sliced radishes and sprinkle with a little salt, if you like.

The butter and the toasted bread go very well with the crunchy, tangy radishes. I had this for lunch yesterday, and I had it again today. It’s strangely good.

Starting next week, I’ll begin posting recipes that use spinach, Swiss chard, and Kale. I even have an idea or two for salads. With the help of my friend Alice, we’ll show those greens a thing or two.

Happy eating!

 

A Gray Spring Day: Perfect for a Tomato Soup with Farmer Kev’s Vegetables

IMG_8281Today is a gray day, but I am not sorry for the misty weather because truth be told, I am a little achy from the sudden burst of outdoor activity. Over the past few days I have been sweeping, removing leaves from flower beds, picking up sticks from the backyard, and hauling outside furniture up from the cellar.

Even though I regularly ride the exercise bike and take the dog for a walk almost every day, my body was, ahem, unprepared for all the outside work. So a day of rest is a good thing. When the next nice day comes, I’ll be ready for more outside work, which I really do enjoy. It’s funny how working in the garden is so much more satisfying than, say, dusting or vacuuming. I suppose it’s because I’m outside, with the sun on my face and the birds fluttering and singing in the trees overhead.

On this cool day, homemade tomato soup is on the menu for supper tonight. I made the soup on Monday, and we’ll be eating the last of it this evening. In fact, we’ve pretty much been eating it all week, but it’s such a good soup that Clif and I haven’t minded the repetition one bit.

Basically, as is the case with so many of my soups, this tomato soup is a variation on a theme, and I’ve made many a minestrone following this template: tomatoes, water, onion, garlic, vegetables, chicken sausage, chickpeas or white beans, spices, and some kind of pasta added to the bottom of each bowl before the soup is ladled on top. (Pasta added directly to the soup tends to swell and swell until it becomes truly alarming.)

However, this time when making the soup, I did something a little different. In my pantry, I had a can of crushed tomatoes with basil—Muir Glenn, a little more expensive but worth it. I also had a can of Muir Glenn diced tomatoes. I often buy fresh basil for my minestrone soup, and I thought, why not try the crushed tomatoes with basil? Somehow, I had never done this before. I’d always just used diced tomatoes.

After tasting the finished soup, I wondered why in the world I hadn’t used the crushed tomatoes sooner. This definitely comes under the category of an old dog learning a new trick. Not only did the basil give the soup a lovely taste, but the crushed tomatoes also gave it a smooth, rich texture. (The diced tomatoes are important, too. They add a satisfying chunk to the soup.)

For vegetables, I used Farmer Kev’s frozen string beans and yellow squash, perfect for this kind of soup and for many other kinds, too. I had two cups of chickpeas in the freezer, so out those came to thaw and go into the soup.

This type of soup is perfect for the slow cooker. Basically, just chop, add, and stir everything in. Bring the ingredients to a simmer, and let them bubble until the flavors have mingled.

Biscuits are always a nice addition to soup. They are quick and easy to put together, and I plan on making some tonight, using a recipe of my mother’s. (Oh, she was quite the biscuit maker.)

As we Mainers might say, biscuits and soup on a cool, rainy spring night make the finest kind of meal.

 

Smooth and Chunky Tomato Soup

(Note: This makes a lot of soup—10 or 12 generous servings. My large slow cooker was filled to the brim. To make a smaller batch, use small cans of tomatoes and cut back accordingly on the other ingredients.)

1 (28) ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 (28) ounce can of crushed tomatoes with basil
42 ounces of water. (I used the empty cans—1 1/2 cans of water.)
4 cloves of minced garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup of summer squash, chopped
1 cup of string beans, chopped
1 (12) ounce package of chicken sausage, cut in rounds and then cut in half
2 cups of chickpeas (White beans would work well, too.)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
Salt, to taste

Put all the ingredients into your slow cooker, and let ‘er simmer until your house is fragrant with the smell of tomatoes and spices. On high, the soup will take about four hours. On low, seven or eight hours. Cook some pasta, if you like, to go in the bottom of each bowl and then ladle some soup over the pasta.

 

 

Southwestern White Bean Soup to Make on a Reluctant Spring Day

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Farmer Kev’s vegetables, frozen then thawed

Clif and I love soup, and living in Maine gives us the opportunity to eat soup nine months of the year. (I’m counting June, which is often rainy and cool.)  Soup has so many things in its favor. A bowl of soup is warm and filling and comforting. It is forgiving and lends itself well to improvisation. Soup is often low in calories and usually can be made in a slow cooker. As if all this weren’t enough, most soups are very economical to make. Yes, indeed. There is a lot to like about soup.

Thanks to Farmer Kev and his winter CSA share, I have packets and packets of frozen vegetables in my freezer. Soups are the perfect way to use frozen peppers, beans, and zucchini, and over the winter, I’ve made quite a dent in those packets.

Last week, I was in the mood for a Southwestern soup. I had everything I needed—dried white beans, Farmer Kev’s frozen vegetables, onion, garlic, spices, tomato paste, and soy sauce, which I put in many soups to give them more of that coveted umami flavor. I also had some chicken sausage and chicken broth.

I seldom use canned beans, which always taste tinny to me. I much prefer the flavor of beans I cook myself, and since I am home all day, I have ample time to soak the beans overnight and then simmer them the next morning. For this recipe, I soaked two cups of white beans, which gave me about six cups of cooked beans. ( If time is of the essence, then by all means use canned beans. The soup will still be good.)

Basically, I chopped the vegetables into small bits, browned the sausage, and threw everything, including beans and spices, into the slow cooker. By the time Clif came home from work, the house was fragrant with the smell of bubbling soup—-another point in soup’s favor that I forget to mention in my opening paragraph.

I made a huge slow cooker full of the soup, thinking I would freeze some if we grew tired of eating it. However, this didn’t happen. We gladly ate the soup for three nights—Clif always has seconds—and didn’t mind one bit.

Soup, soup, soup!

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Southwestern White Bean and Sausage Soup

Makes 9 generous servings

2 cups of water
1 (32-ounce) box of chicken broth
1 cup of diced carrots
1 cup of green beans, chopped small
1 cup of zucchini, chopped small
1 cup of chopped green peppers
1 medium onion, chopped small
4 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of salt
6 cups of white beans ( I mashed two cups to give the soup a thicker texture.)
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
Several shakes of soy sauce (Or more depending on taste)

This soup couldn’t be easier. Basically, when everything is chopped and browned, put the ingredients in a slow cooker and let them come to a simmer. On high, this soup takes about four hours. On low, seven or eight hours. When the soup has bubbled for a while, taste it to see if more spices need to be added. Serve with dollops of sour cream, or eat it plain. As you like it.

Biscuits or cornbread make a mighty good accompaniment. If I were serving this to company, I would add chopped cilantro as a garnish.

Alice’s Magic Trick: How to Make Delicious String Beans from Frozen Ones

Magic beans
Magic beans

I have a confession to make: I am not a fan of frozen string beans. Oh, how slimy they are and how I hate their texture. I would take a can of string beans any day over frozen ones, with fresh, of course, being the best.

However, this year in Farmer Kev’s winter CSA I got packets of frozen string beans. Lots of packets. (I completely understand why Farmer Kev would prefer to freeze the beans rather than can them. I would make the same decision if I were in his situation.) I’ve been using the string beans, diced small, in various soups, and this hides their slimy nature. In fact, the frozen beans are very good in soup.

Then not long ago, when my friend Alice was visiting, she told me what she had done with part of a packet of frozen string beans I had given her. “I stir fried them with garlic and oil until the beans were blistered and well cooked. They were delicious.”

Alice is a good cook, and I trust her judgement. Despite my aversion to frozen beans, I resolved to try her method. Not long after her visit,  I whipped out my trusty cast-iron frying pan, added some oil, heated it, then added some thawed beans. I let them sizzle for quite a while, say, five minutes or so, until they were nicely blistered and more than a little brown. I added the garlic during the last minute—I didn’t want the garlic to be as brown as the string beans.

And the results? Readers, the beans were utterly delicious. The slimy texture was gone, gone, gone to be replaced by a crisp, garlicky one. The beans were so good that I gobbled them up before I ate my potato and chicken, and I wished I had more when the beans were gone.

I see other possibilities for these stir-fried string beans. They are terrific with just the garlic, but soy sauce and sesame oil could also be added. The beans are great as a side, but cut a little smaller, and they would also be delicious in stir-fried rice, one of Clif’s favorite dishes and a staple in our house.

How nice for this old cook to learn a new trick, to take a vegetable I was not excited about and to turn it into something that I eagerly eat.

Many thanks, Alice!

 

 

From Farmer Kev’s Carrots to Ginger Carrot Soup

From Farmer Kev's carrots...
From Farmer Kev’s carrots…

The other day, I looked in the crisper of my refrigerator and saw that I had carrots—lots of them—from Farmer Kev’s winter CSA. The carrots were all still perfectly good, but I knew the time had come to make a serious dent in them.

Ginger carrot soup came immediately to mind. Clif really likes it, and especially with Farmer Kev’s lovely carrots, which only need to be scrubbed and not peeled, it is an easy soup to make.  A food processor for chopping the carrots makes the soup even easier to put together, and this device, along with an immersion blender, should have pride of place in all frugal kitchens where most of the meals are home cooked.

The following recipe is adapted from a recipe I picked up somewhere—unfortunately all I have is the card with no identifying name. However, I’ve fiddled with the recipe so much that I can safely call it my own. There is as much of my own writing and instructions on the card as there is of the original recipe.

Ginger carrot soup is good anytime, but it is especially good in the spring. Its bright color is matched by an equally bright and spicy taste. Just the tonic for coming out of the long, cold winter. Serve it with a salad, and you have an utterly healthy meal. Add biscuits or bran muffins, and you still won’t be too far over the edge. But any way you serve it, enjoy!

To ginger carrot soup
to ginger carrot soup

Ginger Carrot Soup

2lbs of carrots, peeled (if necessary) and chopped
6 cups of water or stock
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
Pepper to taste
1 large potato, chopped
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, large chop or crushed
1 teaspoon of grated ginger or 2 teaspoons of ground ginger

In a very large stock pan, heat the oil and add the carrots, potatoes, and onion. Sauté them for several minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute more. Add the water, the salt, and the pepper, and let simmer for at least  45 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft. Purée the soup and add the ginger. If using ground ginger, add 1 teaspoon, then taste. Add the next teaspoon according to taste. (Clif likes it spicy, so I always add more ginger.)