Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday 21 August 2009

I taught a cooking class last night and was late coming home. So this AM I got to the farm a little late. No worry. Jenny met me with the news that her sister-in-law, Jon's sister Sarah and her friend Kyle, Old Mission native living now in the San Franciso Bay Area, were coming to help me along with my trusty friend Maureen. I felt buoyed up by their obvious enjoyment and willingness to do the grunt work. Thanks Women.

I visiting the farm earlier this week to show it off to a childhood friend. I learned that Robert had severed a tendon in his index finger harvesting our cauliflower. He had to have surgery to repair it. Bummer for such an active, athletic man--Robert rock climbs and swims, neither of which he can do for awhile. I hoped maybe I could make some healing voodoo with our food.

When I asked what vegetable was abundant and what they might like to eat, Sigh popped out with "Baba Ganouji". So we made lots of it. Yum. And M'jedderah, lentils and rice cooked separately and tossed with lots of onions brown-fried in olive oil.

Sarah made a tomato salad/salsa with basil, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. We made a cucumber salad with finely sliced cucumbers, olive oil and red wine vinegar. And lastly we steamed broccoli and tossed it with lemon zest (organic) and lots of crispy garlic chips. Kyle made those. She'd never made them before but they turned out fabulously. She sliced the garlic with my evil mandoline then browned it, stirring constantly, in olive oil, to make crispy golden garlic chips. I always say that I'd take an untrained person who Pays Attention over a trained cook who doesn't. It's elementary: Pay Attention to what you're cooking and it will, most of the time, be a success.

Garlic chips are understandably Eli's favorite. Robert said that he doesn't really care for broccoli, but with garlic chips it tasted great. That, and happy thanks from the rest of the crew, keeps me coming back.

My Modern M'jedderah

2 cups brown basmati
1 cup French green lentils
1 medium onion
olive oil

Rinse, drain and pour rice into saucepan. Cover with 3 1/2 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lower heat and cover pot. Cook rice till tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and set rice aside.

Meanwhile, rinse and drain lentils. Pour them into a saucepan and cover by several inches with cold water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until lentils are tender, but not falling apart, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and set lentils aside.

Slice stem end of onion off and slice onion in half through root end. Lay onion on flat cut side and remove root end. Finely sliver onion by slicing from stem end to root end.

Heat a generous amount of oil in a heavy sauté or cast-iron pan. When hot, pour in onion and cook over high heat until browned, 10 minutes or so. Too many onions in a pan too small will create too much moisture. So use a pan that is large enough to accommodate onions in one layer. Season with salt.

Toss rice, lentils and onions together 10 minutes before serving. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.

11 August 2009, Tuesday Lunch

This week's lunch was based on pie dough. Yep. The old butter crust. Nothing beats it. I had many admirers after this lunch.

I wrote a piece on rustic tarts or galettes for Edible Grande Traverse and Barb and Charlie, the editor-owners wanted a photo to see what they looked like. So I made my basic pate brisée and brought it to the farm. Ella rolled out the dough into 15 or 16 small rounds and we filled them with a mixture of cooked, chopped kale, flat leaf parsley, sautéed onions, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Dee-lightful.

Perfect Pie Crust

1/2 pound cold, unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
Ice water

Cut butter into flour and salt. I use a food processor. Leave butter pieces pea-sized. Dump into bowl and smear butter into flour into flakes the size of cornflakes. Slowly, tossing and pressing flour-butter all the while, pour in ice water. Be careful. Too much will make dough soft. Drizzle in just enough water for dough to hold together, no more.

Bring dough together into a ball, flatten into a thick log and slip it into a plastic baggie. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

For rustic tarts:
Cut thick log into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Roll each out on flour dusted surface to about 7 or 8 inches diameter. Fill with whatever filling you desire, sweet or savory, leaving an inch or inch and half border. Wet this lightly. Bring it up and pleat it around. Then cup your hands around it and press lightly to seal the pleats.

Chill 30 minutes in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake tart until golden, 30 to 45 minutes.

We also had carrot salad with almond mayonnaise and lots of fresh dill and two cold zucchini soups: one was yogurt thickened, the other was walnut thickened, in the spirit of the first gazpacho--white gazpacho--which is white grapes, bread, almonds, garlic and water puréed together. The almond mayonnaise is from Marilyn Diamond and has long been a vegan favorite.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jane the Salad Lady

This is Jane Watts. She is a busy, active person--I always see a swimsuit hanging from her car mirror--young for her years. Plus she is active at Unitarian Universalists. Jane is also Jon's mother and she helps to wash, spin-dry and bag the salad mix. It's a huge job. Since the C.S.A. serves around 200 shares and sells wholesale to markets and restaurants, Jane is a busy salad lady. The salad people are the last ones to trickle in and eat. Here is Jane with her washing-machine-turned-salad-spinner. I wish I had one of them, don't you?

7 August Friday 2009

This Friday was squash blossom Friday. Robert picked a lot of them--45 I think. We pick only the male plants--without zucchini. When you pick them and use right away they don't close up and are easy to stuff. I take out the stamen inside, pull off the tiny spiky green leaves on the outside, chop off the stem and shake out bugs, maybe lightly rinse, though I hate to.

I made a stuffing with cooked quinoa, olive oil sautéed onions, thyme, currant, toasted pine nuts and Italian Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Then I baked them for 45 minutes, covered, with a little broth and olive oil poured over to steam them. Breadcrumb, herb and cheese stuffings or ones with meat are common in Italy. We all loved the lightness of the quinoa.

I also made White Bean Soup (yep we have lots of white beans and Robert especially likes them) with potatoes and kale. I started with a sofrito of onions, leeks, carrots and sliced garlic cooked in lots of olive oil. I added the cooked beans, their cooking water, rosemary and salt and simmered it for 30 minutes. When I was ready to serve the soup, I brought it to boil and add chopped kale. That I cooked for 4 minutes. A dollop of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper finished it off.

I also made a traditional Dijon mustard emulsified vinaigrette. It went over green salad--and I tossed it with raw chopped vegetables--Swiss chard and chard stems, carrots and green beans with minced garlic for the salad.

Jenny gave me 3 of her prized heirloom tomatoes, which I sliced and set out next to the vinaigrette.

Here's a recipe for the vinaigrette. I made it in a blender.

Mustard Vinaigrette

1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 ounces oil: half olive half sunflower or canola
salt and pepper

Whisk together mustard and vinegar in bowl. In a SLOW and THIN stream, SLOWLY add the oil, whisking constantly. The vinaigrette will thicken as you add oil. If it "breaks" or separates, place more mustard into a clean bowl and slowly this time, whisk broken vinaigrette into it.

This is great on vegetables or fish. Purée herbs into it or add chopped things. I added minced garlic. Yum.

7 August Friday 2009

Maureen came to help me again this week. After the stuffed kitchen of last week I was a little worried she wouldn't. Maureen is a huge help--together we can actually get the meal on by 12.30. She faithfully, and without complaint, scrubs mud encrusted potatoes, sweet, but dirt dusted carrots, peels shallots, does dishes and chops a dance of vegetables. Here she is working in the kitchen. I love having her lilt of a Brit accent surrounding me as I work.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thai Veg Curry Day 28 July

The Meadowlark Farm kitchen was packed with help on Tuesday 28 July. Meg Staley of Fake Rock Farm, her step daughter Nelle from Brooklyn, Nelle's daughter Violet and her friend Sultana from Brooklyn came to aid me and Maureen.

We had a lot of vegetable chopping to do. We made Thai Coconut Vegetable Curry, Fluffy Brown Basmati Rice, Steamed Vegetable Medley with Sesame Oil, Ginger and Soy Sauce and my favorite bean dish--I vary it constantly--Cold Bean Salad. This time I made it with cooked white beans, cooked onions, carrots, sugar snap peas, lots of cilantro or parsley--olive oil and rice or red wine vinegar.

Although everyone loves Thai coconut curry--the flavors of cilantro, shallot, lemongrass and lime leaf infused into luscious coconut milk--the recipe everyone wanted was this simple bean salad. I make it over and over again. It's my stock dish for potlucks. I never make it with canned beans--the beans need to be sweet and freshly cooked. If you forget to soak beans, quick soak them for one hour in boiled water, drain and cook as usual.

Any Bean Salad

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely sliced or slivered
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, more to taste
2 cups dry white, kidney or pinto beans, soaked or quick soaked, drained and cooked till tender
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, large stems removed, 1 or more cups chopped

Heat oil in large pot. Cook onion over medium heat until soft. Add vinegar and remove pan from heat. Pour in drained, cooked beans, oregano and season with salt and pepper. When beans have cooled to warm, fold in parsley. Allow dish to sit for 30 minutes. Come back and taste again: season with more oil, vinegar, salt and pepper until you can't stop at one bite.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

This is Augustus Finch Gossett. He's very kissable. His mom and dad are Jen and Berkeley who work at Meadowlark. The A-man has been getting an education on farm life. He spends most of his days suspended on his mother's body. Lucky guy. Augustus doesn't eat with us yet but I swear he smells the food and will be moved by it as he ages. What shapes us. I like to think Aug is shaped by green growing things and the community of warmth that is Jenny and Jon's farm. It's a haven for neurotics like me. Like my rat terrier Xena, I've gone to ground. I hope that dirt and green growing things can offer the big A the same comfort. He looks pretty comfortable don't you think?

Fennel Friday

Cool and rainy weather hovered over us Friday. We had a really simple, but satisfying meal of De Cecco linguine tossed with steamed broccoli, carrots and garlic oil. I wanted to make garlic chips, but the garlic hadn't cured yet--the crew and volunteers just harvested it two days before--so it was really moist. Eli peeled and finely sliced mammoth garlic cloves from 6 heads of garlic on the mandoline finger-eating slicer. No blood.

For the chips I heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil in a deep pot to fry chips. This just turned to garlic mush, which was awfully tasty. I also made chile oil from dried red chiles. Heated the oil and dropped in the chiles. I tend to remove stems and seeds so there is less heat.

I tossed the just boiled pasta with lots of salt and the garlic oil, steamed broccoli and carrots. Since Eli prefers non-spicy hot food I left the oil on the side to spoon over the pasta. Any vegetable, grain or legume goes better with garlic and chile oils. And salt.

I also made my ubiquitous bean salad. I take this to potlucks and parties. I love it after it's had time to sit and marinate. Here's the recipe--you can make it with any legume but it's prettiest with white beans or chickpeas.

Nancy's Queen Bean Salad
It's GOOD for you.

2 cups dried beans like Great Northern or navy, washed and drained
1 large red onion, finely slivered
1/4 cup olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons very good red wine vinegar (I favor the "live" Eden red wine vinegar available at health food stores)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (I separate the stems and finely slice them if the parsley is fresh)
2 or more tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves (you can use dry, but use less)

Either quick soak beans with 1 tablespoon sea salt for 1 hour in boiled water or soak overnight with 1 tablespoon sea salt. (The salt will act as a bean tenderizer for those of us with hard water.) Drain and cover with cold water. Bring beans to boil, lower heat and simmer beans covered until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile sliver the onion: cut off the stem and root ends, set the onion on one flat side and cut through it in half. Peel and rinse onion. Lay it on your cutting board and slice perpendicular to cut edges, in other words, slice through an uncut edge.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until tender and transluscent, about 5 minutes. No color. Add the vinegar and season with salt. The onions will turn a lovely violet red. Remove the onions from the heat.

Drain the cooked beans and pour into a mixing bowl. Scrape in the onions, parsley and oregano. Mix and taste, seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper and more oil or vinegar to get an attention getting sharp flavor.

For lunch I added just dug raw carrots and sugar snap peas, but this is great without any other adornments. You can add garlic to the just cooked onions if you like. I like to add loads of parsley--I think of Jenny's parsley as a green, not an herb. It wilts a bit when it hits the warm beans.

Oh, I almost forgot. There was a lot of fennel. Jenny's gotten so good at growing fennel. Last year I made a salad of it by finely slicing it on the finger-eater mandoline and tossing with lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper. So Eli and I decided to grill it this year. I sliced it in half, rubbed each half with olive oil and salt, then we grilled it over medium heat. I would have finished it in a 350F oven with a little white wine or broth (covered) because it was still a little tough, but I wanted to get lunch on the table. Eli was so great: he kept at me to cook it further so we steamed it. Softened it just enough for eating. The oven method tenderizes it so beautifully--you can cut it with a fork!

I think it was Dean Ornish who said the best way to lose weight is to stock up on vegetables, grains, beans and fruit.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Liz Och

This is Liz. Liz is full of enthusiasm and warmth. She is a joy to be around. Liz loves food and cooking. And Meadowlark. This is her second year with us.

Liz is a really bright young woman. She was valedictorian of her Leland High School senior class in 2006. She will be a senior at Northwestern University in the fall and is double-majoring in Environmental Sciences and Legal Studies. She plans to attend law school after completing her undergraduate work, and enter a career in environmental law.

Liz says, "I had to make a decision this summer whether to stay in Chicago and find an internship or come home and work at Meadowlark again. I decided to come back home mostly because of Meadowlark. After a year of living, working, and playing in the city, I crave the feeling of my hands in the dirt. I enjoy watching things grow, and the treat of eating fresh, local food. Beyond the tangibles, I appreciate the opportunity to have stimulating conversations with people in the Meadowlark community and to form friendships with people outside of my immediate age group."

By that I think she means us oldsters. Somehow around Liz I never feel old. Maybe Robert does though because he keeps an eye on her as if Liz were his baby chick. Can you see him in the background?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 9 Lunch

Our lunch today was simple. Maureen Suelzer and I made Chinese strange-flavored black beans, brown Basmati rice boiled with diced garlic scapes and topped with crispy fried shallots, and a vegetable stir-fry.

That's Jane Watts, Jon's mom who helps with the salad greens finally sitting down for some lunch...after we'd all eaten..

The sauce on the blackbeans consisted of finely chopped scapes and scallions and lots of fresh finely diced ginger cooked for a few minutes in a little oil. Then I added tahini, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, chile oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and broth from the black beans cooking. This went into the warm beans and sat for an hour to absorb the flavors. Finely chopped cilantro went in a little before serving.

The rice was a takeoff on m'jedderah, which is rice and lentils mixed with crispy onions...I love those shallots Jenny has stored from last year. I tossed a lot of chopped raw garlic scapes into the rice cooking water and just boiled them along with the rice. Wow, they were so SWEET. I finely sliced the shallots and fried them at high heat in oil until browned and crispy. They went into the cooked rice a few minutes before serving. Let the cooked rice cook and harden a bit before tossing with cooked shallots.

Garlic harvest is next Wednesday so we'll be swimming in garlic finally. I want to do some really garlicky sauces.

Last we made the vegetable stir-fry. Maureen and I both handled woks. Since the burners don't put out high BTU's we had to do small batches of carrots, broccoli and collards in our woks. We seasoned each batch with finely chopped ginger, scapes which I chopped in the food processor to a fine chop and soy sauce--and scraped it into a large bowl. We cooked chopped scallions for a minute at the end and tossed them into the bowl then seasoned everything.

Here's my textbook on stir-fry:

Wok Work Stir-Fry Tips

1. Choose.
Colorful and flavorful combinations (three to five foods).
Choose seasonings like chile or curry pastes, soy, fermented black beans, Szechuan peppercorns, and sherry.
Aromatic vegetables like garlic, onions, and ginger.
Or a prepared sauce like hoisin, plum or one of your own devising (with or without cornstarch).

2. Organize.
Prepare all food and seasonings by slicing, dicing and pre-cooking or pre-treating foods where necessary. Make food pretty, uniform and bite-sized. Expose as much surface area as possible so food cooks quickly. Foods should be dry.
Line up everything you need next to the cooking area, including utensils—BEFORE you begin cooking.
Prepare a condensed cheat sheet of procedure and hang it where you can easily see it as you cook.

3. Stir-fry.
Heat dry wok or a heavy skillet over the highest heat your burner can muster. The wok should be as close to the heat source as possible. If you have a round-bottomed wok, flip your gas burner over to form a cup. Avoid wok rings like the plague—they keep the wok too far from the heat source, but if you have a round-bottomed wok and cannot overturn your burner, use it to avoid catastrophe.

When wok is hot, dribble cold oil in around the edges, about 2 teaspoons for each batch. Swirl it around to coat wok sides. Choose a mild-flavored oil like refined peanut, canola or grapeseed that can maintain high temperature without smoking. A spray bottle filled with your favorite cooking oil will distribute oil lightly and evenly.

Quick infusion—Cook seasonings in the hot, almost smoking oil, briefly. You may start with garlic and ginger in hot oil but keep them whole and pull them out when they begin to color. Add minced garlic later, so that it doesn't burn.

Rapid searing— Add the meat or protein to the hot seasoned oil first (in batches to keep from overcrowding) and cook until done. Toss the ingredients in hot oil and keep them in contact with the hot metal of the wok for a minute or so until they color. Remove seared food to a plate to keep warm

Don't overfill wok. Fill your wok about one-third full--if it gets too full, you'll be stewing not stir-frying. Listen for the crackling-searing noise that means you've got a dry wok or skillet.

Regulate heat as you cook so food cooks evenly and at a reasonable pace without burning. This means that you use the knobs on the stove to turn heat higher and lower. Stand facing stove not your girlfriend. Stir-fried dishes are like babies, they need your constant attention. Don’t be guilty of neglect.

Steaming and Blossoming--Add liquid and/or seasonings, then cover to allow steam to finish the cooking process and the seasonings' flavor to "blossom". Good for hard, green vegetables like broccoli.

Final blending with sauce or seasonings—Return all ingredients back to wok and add toasted sesame oil, scallions, seasonings, or a cornstarch based glaze/sauce. For a sauce: Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot with every 2 1/2 to 3 ounces or 1/3 cup of cold liquid and seasonings. Pour in slurry mixture and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce clears and thickens, stirring and tossing the stir-fry constantly. Over-cooking can cause sauce to break and become watery again.

Pile your stir-fry high onto a platter and bring to table immediately.

Ah, you there, don’t just leave the wok to crust over. Please take it while it's hot to the sink, rinse it out (no soap remember) and scrub with a fiber brush or paper toweling if necessary to get out stray bits hanging on. Dry wok and place it back on burner to dry thoroughly for a few minutes. Rub with oil again to re-season. Cool wok and towel off excess oil. Stack woks with paper toweling in between to prevent rust. Rust never sleeps you know.

©2000Nancy K. Allen, C.C.P.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Helio Conceicao

This is Helio
Helio is from Salvador Bahia, Brazil. He fell in love with Alita Townsend and moved to the chilly north from the sunny, southern weather. Love will do that to you! Now they have a baby. Love will do that for you too.

Helio has been in Northern Michigan for 3 years this August. He has worked at the farm most of that time. He always has a ready smile and winning ways. (He calls me Miss Nancy.) In the photo he is holding an instrument called a berimbau, he made from Brazilian wood and gourd. It has a very beautiful sound, haunting. He is showing it to all of us, Benny Bowmaster is just out of camera range. The metal string is from a car tire--you know, steel belted tires? I guess in Brazil necessity is the Mother of invention.

Today at lunch Helio was flashing his pearly whites telling stories. It was something about curing warts and old underwear but I'm not going there. There was much howling and wild laughter. Helio does that to you. He reminds me of a magical necromancer and laughing buddha like mystic, shaman and trickster all rolled into one. There is almost always something quiet, mysterious and exciting brewing around him.

Last week while I was sitting and eating I chanced to look at Helio and think of how beautiful was his face. I realized that it is quite symmetrical. Someone said that symmetrical faces are considered most handsome by those who objectively view them for tests. Helio would win in a beauty contest hands down, don't you think?

And he's always pulling something out of his hat to quietly wow the crowd. Lucky us.

musical broccoli

Doesn't this symphony of broccoli remind you of a musical score?

Friday before the 4th of July

The morning started out chilly and drizzly, but by lunchtime it had warmed and we had sunshine. I stopped alongside the road this morning and picked 70 wild grape leaves. I left the very small top and bottom ones and picked most of them from the largest middle leaves. I blanched them for a minute in boiling water. Later Maureen Suezler(spelling?) came and stuffed them. She appeared at just the right moment! Ella was helping the salad crew. They went from 40 to 50 pounds to 120 pounds of salad mix this week!

For the grape leaf stuffing I cooked brown basmati--3 1/2 cups water to 2 cups rice and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Let sit for another 15, adding a bit of water if necessary. In olive oil, I sautéed sliced shallots, white of scallions until tender and added pine nuts and currants and cooked until pine nuts started to color a bit. This I mixed with rice so there is a lot of the good stuff-see photo. Lots of chopped green of scallion, dill and a little parsley and lemon zest. Salt and pepper to taste. Maureen wedged the dolmas into a baking dish and I covered them with broth or tomato water. Baked for 45 minutes in 350 to 375 degree oven, covered. We served them with hommous sauce:
5 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 to 3/4 cup tahini
juice of 3 to 4 lemons
1 tablespoon ground cumin
salt to taste
chickpea cooking water or water

Purée everything together and taste taste taste--should be very lemony. Serve this as a sauce with grape leaves.

I also made quinoa tabouli with lots of parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, diced and cooked garlic scapes, last year's frozen diced tomatoes and a cucumber.

Made za'atar bread too. Fun.
Pita bread with za’atar
Makes 8 to 10

1 package of yeast or a scant tablespoon
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour (half wholewheat and half white)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar or honey
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons XVO

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy. Combine flour and salt in large bowl.

Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression. Slowly add 1 cup of warm water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic.

PLace dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer stick and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded. Coat large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated. Allow to sit in a warm place for about 1 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Once doubled, with oiled hands, roll out in a rope, and slice off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on oiled surface and coat them with oil. Let sit 5 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Set a heavy baking sheet on it to preheat.

Press each ball of dough into a round or oval. Each should be around 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle salt and za'atar mix on top. Transfer them to pre-heated baking sheet and place back on bottom of oven.

Bake pitas until bottom browns and they cook through, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove each pita with a spatula or tongs from baking sheet and place on remaining pitas and finish baking them. Serve immediately.

Storing Pita Bread

Pita bread can be stored for up to a week in pantry or bread box, and up to a month in freezer. Use freezer bags when storing in freezer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This is Jenny Tutlis. She is Meadowlark Farm. Here she is presiding, as much as anyone can over this lively crew, over lunch. I think of Jenny as Queen Bee--all of us are worker bees doing what is necessary to keep her and the hive going. She is very queenly in the BEST sense of the word. She is self-confident, fair and balanced and kind-hearted--how could you not be with all that green growing stuff under your care? She is the one with the small white floppy hat, her ersatz crown, and the symbolic green tank top.

I want to be reborn as her child.

I once painted a portrait of Jenny as Kali with four or six arms. Jenny needs at least eight. Yet she always has time for everyone. Jenny's private, quiet, meditative space is the greenhouse. I love being allowed in her private domain in early spring: it's warm and moist with lots of new green life. The greenhouse fills you with a sort of quiet surrender to what is real, whole and abiding.

Jenny has taught me the power and pleasure of dirt. I don't like the word soil--it makes me think of underpants or diapers. Dirt is what helps to bring forth all this beautiful food--and Jenny and Jon's constant vigilance. What would we do without them? If you dig in dirt then you know what an absolutely miraculous thing we have happening every day at Meadowlark Farm.

Thich Nat Hahn (spelling) says that it isn't whether you can walk on water, it's whether you can walk on the earth--or dirt. To me Jenny and Jon walk on dirt.

Garlic scapes (see photo below of them growing in the field, shooting out from the buried garlic bulb) are my Next Big Thing. I'm loving them. They are sweet and slightly garlicky. Last year I trimmed them and tossed 'em with olive oil and salt and quickly grilled them. You have to watch them and turn constantly or they'll be toast. Burnt toast. Last week we made pesto: garlic scape and basil. I want to make garlic scape purée soup with them next. They were stacked four or five boxes high because the farm folks had trimmed them all down--to keep the nutrients and energy going to the garlic.

As you can see in the photo, this week we treated the scapes like green or Chinese-style long beans: stir-fried till charred in small batches, and then added a little water and covered them to steam for a couple minutes until tender. Ella did many batches and it took 45 minutes because the gas burner isn't super hot. She added Thai red curry paste and soy sauce and scallions. Very nice.

Lots of beautiful kohlrabi so I shredded those and seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil and vinegar to make a quick slaw. I had cilantro but I saved it for the white beans, which I seasoned with hoisin sauce and oil and vinegar. The crowd favorite was wholewheat spaghetti with peanut-tahini sauce and lots of scallions, though. Ella loves peanut noodles so here is the recipe, now named in honor of our beloved Ella.

Ella's Peanut Noodles
6 to 8 servings, 4 if you're hungry

Chengdu is in Szechwan province where some of the best and most flavorful of Chinese food reigns. The chile oil is typical of this region. For a heartier lunch dish you could add baked tofu or diced cooked chicken or shrimp to these noodles.

1 pound wholewheat spaghetti or fresh thin egg noodles
2 teaspoons each Asian toasted sesame oil and chile oil (or all one)
4 to 6 scallions, finely chopped, white and green kept separate
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
4 tablespoons minced gingerroot
2 tablespoons minced garlic or 1/2 cup finely chopped garlic scapes
2 tablespoons each peanut and sesame butters
5 to 6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons sugar or maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Bring 4 to 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender but still resistant to the tooth. Drain well, toss with the sesame and chile oils and scallion greens in large serving bowl. Leave at room temperature or chill.

Heat oil in small saucepan and add ginger, garlic or scapes and white of scallion. Cook gently until vegetables are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Taste and adjust with soy, vinegar and maple syrup or sugar. When you are ready to serve, toss dressing on noodles. Mound on a platter.

This is a really great place to add chopped greens like kale or collards--or any lightly cooked vegetable. Just chop into bite-size pieces and lower into boiling pasta cooking water until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and toss with noodles and dressing.