welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Saturday, July 31, 2010

eggplant caviar

This is a wonderfully quick and easy recipe. Serve on a hearty, crusty bread.

1 large or two small eggplants
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to broiler setting.

Wash eggplant and pierce the skin several times with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and broil on center rack of oven for 10 minutes. Turn and broil an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly.

Split eggplant in half and with a spoon, scoop pulp into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly, just until smooth. Add onion, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Pulse only until mixed. You don't want to puree or further chop the ingredients, just blend them.

That's it! You can serve this warm or chilled. Another variation would be to roast some garlic on the bottom rack of the oven while the eggplant is broiling and add it to the mixture.

Monday, July 19, 2010

busy day last week

First, I took myself off to the Kirkwood hay auction and bought a load of grass/alfalfa mix hay. I would have preferred straight grass, but the sheep have eaten the pasture down to a nub and so I took what I could get. Very nice stuff, but the problem with the added alfalfa is that it's more expensive and it has stems. My sheep don't eat stems, you see, so there's a lot of waste. Once they have selected all the soft and tender bits, all that's left in the manger are stems. Then they scream at me to bring them more of the good stuff and of course I comply. Have you ever been in a barn full of angry screaming sheep glaring balefully at you? (Try it sometime and get back to me.) Heading home from the auction I was followed by the very nice gentleman whose load of hay I bought. He then backed his truck up to the barn and threw the bales in to me while I stacked them six high. Over 3,000 pounds of hay, 82 bales, 90 degree heat and high humidity, with hungry sheep screaming for lunch and three cages of roosters and a hen voicing their displeasure. I never thought I'd make it.

happy, hungry sheep

I came in the house covered with sweat and hay chaff and immediately got in the shower. Then loaded up the three cages of roosters in my Bug and headed off to Roots small animal auction, feeling like a traitor the whole way. You see, I've had two of those roosters for several years and we've always gotten along quite well. They didn't have a mean bone in their bodies and always took good care of their hens. But, they wouldn't stay out of the greenhouse and market garden. They've eaten tomatoes and scratched up seedlings. Instead of roosting in their own pen, they chose the rafters of the barn, defecating on anything below. And they refused to stay out of the dog's yard. So although it hurt my heart to do it, I took them to be sold. Tough decision and I'd like to say the right one, but I'm still not clear on that. Things are certainly more peaceful here without the constant (and I do mean constant) crowing of four roosters, each trying to assert their aural dominance. What's left are only the silkies that came as peeps this spring. They can't fly over fences and barn stall barriers, or up into the rafters, making it much easier to keep them contained. There are 25 of them, several are roosters, a few of which will make that same car ride to the auction. What I hope to end up with by autumn is a nice-sized flock of silky hens with two roosters. A flock that stays in the pasture and their designated pen in the barn.

young silky chickens (please ignore the fact that my barn needs to be painted)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'tis the season

For my all-time favorite sandwich in the whole world...

The BLT.

The combination of flavors and textures adds up to something that I look forward to from the time that vine-ripened tomatoes are over in the fall until they return again the next summer. Now, let me just say for the record - I do not and will not eat BLTs made from grocery store tomatoes. Period. Amen. They may look similar, but they have none of the complex flavor or juicy goodness of a tomato with the good fortune to fully ripen on a vine whose roots have sunk themselves deep into the earth. And that's all I have to say about that.

Back to the most delicious of all sandwiches ever...

Start with your favorite bread, preferably toasted, and spread a liberal amount of mayonnaise all over it. Please don't be stingy. And don't worry whether this will be messy - it will be. Go with it.

At this point you'd normally add the lettuce part of the BLT. I'm using sunflower shoots instead. Because I can. But more importantly, because they're tasty. They have the green crunchiness of lettuce, but with an added nuttiness to the flavor. You should seriously try them.

Okay, so now add slices of those luscious orbs,

And top it with bacon.

My goodness I love this sandwich.

Heaven on a plate.

With a side of home-brewed mint iced tea.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

vermicomposting, continued

I've been adding shredded paper and kitchen scraps to the worm bin and although materials kept being added, volume did not seem to be increasing. Taking this as a potentially good sign, I decided to take a look at things this morning. Much to my dismay, there seemed to be fly larvae in the bin along with some gnats. Ugh! The last thing on my agenda is to contribute to the population increase of flies in the world. Googling this issue, it appears that what is co-existing in the bin alongside the worms are actually "black soldier fly" larvae. A very good thing, if that is indeed what they are. From what I've gathered, black soldier flies are increasingly being used to compost kitchen waste and - bonus! - their mature larvae can be used very effectively as fish or chicken food. Check out Black Soldier Fly Blog if you're curious or want to learn more. Another bonus to having these guys in the worm bin is that they seem to repel house and other pest species of flies. As adults, the black soldier flies live only long enough to breed and reproduce (a few days) do not eat, buzz, or try to get in the house. They don't even really look much like flies. From what I can tell, there is no downside.

But back to my original question this morning - how are the worms doing? In a word, great! They are making their way through the bin, munching as they go, and the bin gives off a mild, moist, slightly earthy smell. Perfect. Now, next on my agenda will be to build a larger, moveable wooden bin that can be kept in the greenhouse in the winter. Looking through YouTube videos, I came upon a pretty good one here. Not sure when I'll get it done, but now I have a plan of action.

Friday, July 9, 2010

summer harvest bolognese

Some of the best fresh vegetables of summer are brought together in this one dish. If you like pasta, you'll love this.

8 tablespoons olive oil
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into half inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 sweet pepper (ribs and seeds removed), finely chopped
1 zucchini (about 8 ounces), quartered lengthwise, then sliced 1 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 pound lean ground beef
1 quart fresh tomatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and torn or cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 pound penne pasta (or your favorite shape, after all, they all taste the same)
parmesan cheese, shaved or grated

In a five quart saucepan with a lid, heat six tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, sweet pepper, zucchini, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables have softened, about 7-10 minutes.

Add ground beef. Stirring to break up the meat, cook until no longer pink.

Add tomatoes, oregano, and reserved eggplant and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25 minutes until sauce is thick and eggplant is tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain and serve topped with sauce and parmesan cheese. Some crusty bread would be perfect alongside this dish.


Note: This recipe makes enough for eight people. When I made it, I cut it in half and saved the extra veggies for another day.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

rumtopf, part 2

Just added sweet cherries to the rumtopf brandy pot!

cucumber mint sorbet

I have quite a lot of cucumbers, and my mint patch is no slouch either. Pondering how best to use some of the excess, I wondered if there were any recipes online for cucumber sorbet. Lo and behold, there were many! Of course, I fiddled around with them and what follows is the result...

You'll need an ice cream maker, cucumbers, mint leaves, sugar, and water. That's it.

Make a mint-infused simple syrup by combining one cup water, 2 cups sugar, and a large fistful of fresh mint leaves in a saucepan. Bring it to a slow boil on medium to medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not walk away from your pan as it can boil over pretty quickly if you're not paying attention. (Don't ask me how I know, just trust me on this one.) Using a slotted spoon, remove the leaves from the syrup and allow it to come to room temperature. Peel and roughly cut up three cucumbers, removing the ends, because sometimes they're bitter. Put them in a blender along with one cup* of the cooled syrup and blend until smooth. Strain into a bowl and refrigerate until cold. Pour this green goodness into your ice cream freezer and process according to the manufacturer's directions. That's it! Serve in a pretty dish and garnish with a mint sprig if you're feeling fancy.

It's an icy-cold, refreshing essence of summer on a spoon.

* You'll have some mint syrup left over. Feel free to use it any way you like, but it's a nice way to sweeten ice tea. Keep it refrigerated and use within a week.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the bucolic plague

Don't you just love that title?

So do I, which is why I bought this book...

This week, I read said book. And enjoyed it very much. 

It's not really about farming so much as it is about two guys that fall in love with a mansion/farm, buy it, and get in over their heads. It's light entertainment and a quick and easy read. 

Monday, July 5, 2010


I recently learned about rumtopf and thought it sounded like a fun project. Rumtopf literally means rum pot and is a method of preserving fresh, ripe seasonal fruits and berries. I don't like rum and so am using brandy instead. So I guess what we've got here is actually a brandy pot. This is a long-term project, with fruit, brandy and sugar being added all summer, then allowing the whole thing to steep until the holidays. I started with strawberries and then added blueberries, red raspberries, and black raspberries. Somehow I missed out on sour cherries, which is too bad, since they'd probably make a very nice addition, plus, I really like them. And see all that sugar at the bottom of the jar? I don't think it's supposed to settle like that without melting. Hopefully I didn't mess it up.
If you are curious to learn more, check out this page which goes into detail about how to make your own rumtopf. Or brandy pot. Whatever.

Friday, July 2, 2010

roasted squash

Roasting is quite possibly the very best way to bring out the nutty flavor of young squash. And then served over a bed of linguine tossed with garlic pesto is just good eating.

First, cut some squash into half inch slices. Any nice young squash will work. I used Costata Romanesco zucchini, Yellow Zephyr squash, and patty pan squash. If the patty pans are small enough, you can roast them whole. Keep in mind that everything will shrink down while roasting, so don't make your pieces too thin.

Next, toss the squash in a bowl with some olive oil and coarse salt. Don't be afraid to be generous with the olive oil, after all it's good for you, right?
Now, arrange the squash on a roasting pan and bake in a pre-heated 350° oven for about 15 minutes or so. Check on them frequently to make sure they aren't getting too brown. To make things easier for yourself, use either parchment paper, quick release foil, or a silpat sheet to line your roasting pan so these guys don't stick.

Remove from the oven and enjoy! They are a nice side dish to a good steak or, as I had them here, with linguine and garlic pesto. Yum!