Camalay Heirloom Tomato

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There’s only a few of us that have the seed for a unique variety of tomato that has it’s roots right here in Calaveras County. In fact, the family that intentionally bred this fine red tomato were our neighbors and the three of them (Ernie, with half sister Josephine and her husband Sharkie) all lived to be in their 90’s and Ernie until 104!

Our personal theory goes: that by living off the land, feeding themselves, growing a large garden and feeding others they remained free of stress and enjoyed their health right up to the end.

Every year, for the past 28 years, we’ve grown these beauties and when we reach the point of harvest we heartily thank the Vogliotti family. If you’ve ever dappled in seed saving you will know that there is a science to saving seed that demands attention,
patience and dedication.

Imprinted on my memory is a time when we visited Josephine (the last one left of the three). She was often alone and we would go down to pay her a visit every now and again and hear the old stories of how and what they did making a living on the land. I remember distinctly the first time we showed up with a beautifully ripe Camalay. She took the tomato into her hands and brought it up to her nose for a long inhalation, just as any tomato connoisseur would, and declared, rightly so, that it was “one of ours wasn’t it”? The love for something so fleeting and special was the best reward we could ever have wished for in taking on the legacy year after year.

This year, 2020, they are showing up big time with that old fashioned tomato flavor. Get them while they are in!

CSA Strong

About a month ago, as the Coronovirus took effect world wide we reached out to our biggest supplier, Coke Farm and checked in with them to see if we could expect any production issues and this is what Christine Coke wrote:

How much the world has changed in the last month. Like you, we are concerned for our family and friends. That includes all of you!  Your welfare, health and continued success are extremely important to everyone at Coke Farm.  We are so grateful to be part of an industry that feeds people during these trying times. We and every person in this county are going to continue to eat every day. We will remain open and we will continue to sell produce grown by our community of organic farmers….We want to weather this storm with you and keep our businesses strong throughout this unprecedented global crisis. Thank for putting your trust in us and for supporting our family farms. Please stay healthy, Christine and Dale Coke”

Now a month later, we see clearly that our strength as a CSA business model works. It’s resiliency has responded calmly to the urgency of the moment and has been able to expand to unbelievable numbers and feed a great many more people than we had ever expected.

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Two of our favorite Thursday shoppers at our Farm Stand on Penn Gulch, c 2000

As we all align ourselves to the natural rhythms of life and hone down those non-essential “things” we tap into the essential basics like healthy bodies, generous hearts and loving communities. We are all invited to reweave the grandeur to which this earth of ours entrusts us with. Our greatest longing for peace comes when our internal world has time to breathe, time to pause from so much doing and time to relax into the natural rhythms of life.

Gardening affords a close up view of the microcosm and here we rest for a moment at soil level to take in the view. Today, we planted 500 tomato plants, a far cry from our 1600 all time record at the height of our farming career. Way back in the beginning, 30 years ago, we set forth with a handful of seeds, a pitch fork and a novel business model called CSA. In the 21st century, this model is better suited than ever. Fresh local seasonal organic food is our adventure in our life and we are grateful to be on this journey.

“Eating is one of the great pauses – a splendid time to indulge with others and feel into the luxury of nourishment. Cooking comes before eating and growing comes before cooking. We start with the seed and all else follows.” Christine T

Meeting the needs of the 21st century

In these unprecedented times miraculous things can occur. Our 28 year history of Community Supported Agriculture CSA has led us along a pathway from humble beginnings to an explosion that looks like Alice Waters’ “food revolution”. Our numbers are swelling, our supply lines are expanding and our vision is exploding dynamically in all ways. As this hyper evolution is occurring we are forging relationships with future farmers and producers – every day brings a new idea and a new contact.

The Outer Aisle Food Hub model was launched 14 years ago as a response to a situation that lost us our first farm. What we faced was a growing customer base but no farm to supply them – that’s when Outer Aisle was born and we forged many relationships with many producers within a 150 mile radius of Calaveras. Farmigo (an online management system) also launched that year and we were one of their first guinea pigs. This amazing system is what brings us to this present moment: a tool that allows us to manage input and output in an efficient and accurate way. We eventually found a new farm (and it’s not so new anymore – 13 years we’ve had it). An incredible piece of agricultural land with ample water and a landowner that shares our values.

This is the moment the CSA was born for! We’ve often referred to the growing of food as a sacred act and waxed poetically of our roles as farmer/nurturer. It’s the kind of hard work that puts hair on your chest, makes a man of you and humbles you to tears at the grace and beauty that abounds from a single seed. The slow trajectory that began with a handful of seeds, a pitchfork and $1,000 was fueled by our dreams and longing to live in a world where we all honored the land, our health and the health of our community.

Now year’s later, our CSA model is a beacon of hope. A delivery system already in place, with ways to manage product in and out, accounting, vacations etc allowing flexibility. What was once “inconvenient” and difficult to comprehend by some is now convenient and meets the needs of our community of health conscious eaters.

While the future is deeply uncertain and our quest to know is so strong. Eric and I are hopeful emissaries in these times. Bringing the light of good clean healthy food to the tables of hundreds of people and growing. Join our movement and let’s revolutionize our relationship to food, bringing warmth to our hearth and families. And put the priority on health and wellness in a way that changes our bodies and prepares ourselves for the future.

We have a chance – a great opportunity to ignite and fuel this movement from the inside out. The call has gone out to young up-coming farmers like we were 28 years ago and instead of being armed with just a few humble ingredients they will be armed with the might of hundreds of committed folks just like yourself.

More to come, I’m sure….but for now

All our love and health to you,

Eric and Christine Taylor

Outer Aisle Foods, Catering and Venue

 

 

Vogliotti family heirloom onion

Sweet crisp, eat like an apple, red onions are the harbingers of spring. Day length sensitive their expanding bulbs push out to form the onion revered in this county for over hundred years. The story goes that Ernie Vogliotti’s father acquired seed in the late 1800’s and over the next one hundred years they grew this onion on their ranch, selling first to the miners and then to the town folk. We acquired the seed by luck from Josephine (Ernie’s sister) in her 90’s. She was proud of the onion as an enduring accompaniment to her life of eating the foods they grew. It was around 1996 that we stepped down into her cellar with instructions to look for the “jar on the top shelf”. Less than 30% germinated and the first year we grew a small stand of onions and instead of eating them we replanted them in the fall, nursed them all winter and harvested thousands of seeds from their pompom flower heads in the spring. Today we only grow this variety, knowing how proud Josephine would be to know that we continued the legacy of the onion.

Reflections on deep time

Eric and I have been doing the final clean-up and the first of the spring tilling. Admittedly, and this is coming from a hard-working Kiwi, the work is tough on the body. Eric in the boxing ring with a 300 lb alligator, his arms and body dragged along as the rototiller bounces on the root matted winter grasses, he’s then flung into some fluffy realty to only be dragged off again hanging on for dear life. And then there’s the task of rounding up the last of the 300 tomato cages; a walking marathon, carrying 6 at a time, back and forward. Every rock and stone marked, I am zenned out to the feel and sounds surrounding the human created ecosystem. Beyond the fence, trees glowing new leaf shoots of greenery in every possible hue. A backdrop so alive that the farm with it’s formidable plastic deer fencing reflects out in a promising hope of greenery itself.

If you’ve ever grown a garden, and I hope that you do, you’ll know too well that you can’t start without finishing up. And that the curvature of the environment is no straight line but that it weaves about in a cyclical spiral. The seasonal rhythm is a timing that is governed not by our clocks or our lineal minds, but by the seasonal shifts and more closely by the weather. If ever you need to experience a different kind of realty, one that is shaped by these terrific forces, then gardening would be the task to pick. As one engages in these seasonal rhythms, then one can get in touch with deep time that goes beyond our everyday scheduled lifestyle and approaches something closer to what humans practicing agriculture 10,000 years ago experienced. The work of breaking down and building up, finishing and starting is cyclical to our intuition, and every year of working in this way we get a little better at getting the timing just right; our sense of observation is keener. The garden gives us a portal from which we can glimpse into a world that is wholly governed by nature as it strives to connect us to the process, putting seeds in our hands, giving us knowledge of plant, soil health and treating us to a reflection of ourselves glowing back at us.

To find ourselves again on this threshold of ending and beginning, coinciding with Spring and it’s greenness, is to grasp at what it means to be alive, to have hope and renewed joy in the world. The gift we are showing the world is the unfolding of the story of the garden from the hummus to the humans, from the earthworms to the hummingbirds, from the ancient seed to the table. A gift that is a co-creation of the forces of nature, the human intention and our dedication to being in deep time with our surroundings in such a way that we are harnessed to the task by our own impulse to be part of the great spiral of life.

 

 

 

Grilled Peppers with Saffron Vinaigrette

This makes for a good mini salad in a multi-course meal, or try it over crostini for an appetizer you can make ahead and keep in the fridge waiting for the moment to strike. It also just has a lot of yummy tips for how to best bring out the flavor in peppers, and the dressing is a fantastic addition to your repertoire. This recipe is from one of my favorite books: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (by Deborah Madison, which my family lovingly refers to as the family potluck bible. If you’re interested in canning those peppers from the market and save Summer for the coming Winter, check out this old time method.

Directions:

Grill and peel a selection of different-colored bell peppers (directions below), allowing 1/2 pepper per person. Be sure to reserve any juices that collect in the bowl while they’re steaming.  Slice the peppers into halves or quarters, scrape out the seeds, and layer the peppers on a platter. Make Saffron Vinaigrette with Basil (see recipe below), adding any reserved pepper juices. Toss the peppers with vinaigrette to moisten and serve garnished with sprigs of basil and Nicoise olives.

How to grill and peel peppers:

roasted peppersPlace whole peppers directly on a gas burner (on your stovetop) or on the grill. Roast the peppers until the skin becomes wrinkled and loose, turning them frequently with a pair of tongs. If you want the peppers to be soft and slightly smoky, roast them until the skins are completely charred. Set the peppers in a bowl, put a plate on top, and let them steam at least 15 minutes to loosen the skins.

If you wish to grill bell peppers without peeling them, slice off the top of the tip of the pepper, open it up, and remove the veins and seeds. Brush with olive oil and grill, skin side facing the fire, until the skins are puckery and lightly marked but not charred. Turn the grill on the second side for a few minutes, then remove and season with salt and pepper. Leave the peppers in large pieces or cut them into strips as desired.  Skinny peppers and chiles can be brushed with oil, grilled whole until just blistered, then sprinkled with salt.

Saffron Vinaigrette with Basil

For a saffron lover, this dressing will become a favorite. Use it with summer vegetables- roasted peppers and potatoes, grilled zucchini, tomato salads, grilled fennel. Or add finely diced tomatoes to the dressing and spoon it over grilled or roasted eggplants.

oil with saffronIn a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons snipped chives, 1/2 teaspoon grated or minced orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Warm 2 tablespoons of oil right over the heat in a small measuring cup, crumble in a pinch of saffron threads and let stand for a few minutes. Add this oil to the dressing and whisk in 6 more tablespoons of olive oil, Add 2 tablespoons of snipped or torn basil leaves just before using. Makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.

Tomato-Basil & Spinach Risotto

Here’s a great recipe for the changing of seasons, borrowed from Iowa Girl Eats.

 

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 3/4 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded & chopped (or equivalent amount of Roma or Compari tomatoes)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • handful torn basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep hot. 
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat then add shallot, season with salt & pepper, and then saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic then saute for 30 more seconds.
  3. Add rice then stir to coat in butter. Add wine then stir until nearly absorbed by rice. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth then stir continuously until broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until nearly absorbed before adding more.
  4. When there’s 1/4 of the broth remaining, add tomatoes then continue stirring. Add baby spinach and basil with the last broth addition then continue stirring. Stir in parmesan cheese then add more salt & pepper to taste.

Braised kale with bell pepper and bacon

Looking through our recipe archives, I don’t think that we have nearly enough bacon recipes.  Not only that, but with the discount on bell peppers, I wanted to give you one more recipe to use them up while they’re in season. (Check out our other bell pepper recipe here), and don’t forget the shishito peppers, also in season and on sale (recipe here). The following recipe is from celebrity chef Guy Fieri and serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces slab bacon, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bunch curly kale, stemmed and cut into pieces
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Render the bacon until crispy in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the onions and bell pepper to the pot and sprinkle with salt. Stir to combine and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Allow the kale to wilt, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and toss in the apple cider vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Three ways we Cantaloupe

Play outside the melon with these three recipes for salsa, sorbet, and salad that expands the can-do in cantaloupe:

 

Melon Salsa

Ingredients for Melon Salsa:

  • 2 cups diced Cantaloupe (1/4- to 1/2-in. cubes)
  • 1 cup diced cucumber (1/4- to 1/2-in. cubes)
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped red onion. To take the sting out, after dicing up, sit in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, then take out, pat dry with a paper towel, and continue)
  • 1 serrano chile, stemmed, halved, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions (that’s it!)

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Make ahead: Up to 1 day, covered and chilled.

 

Shaved Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Salad

Ingredients for the Cantaloupe Salad

  • 4 slices (1 oz.) thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 recently ripened cantaloupe, halved, seeded, and rind cut off (the less ripe, the easier and cleaner the shave for the salad, but the riper, the sweeter.  Find your sweet spot 😉
  • 8 to 10 large mint leaves, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°. Set a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Lay prosciutto on rack and bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully. Let cool, then break into shards and chips.
  2. Shave off ribbons of cantaloupe onto a large serving platter, using a vegetable peeler, mandoline, or very sharp knife (really! Sharpen your knives folks!). Sprinkle prosciutto and mint over melon shavings. Drizzle oil very lightly over salad.
  3. Note: Nutritional analysis is per 3/4-cup serving.

 

Cantaloupe Sorbet

Ingredients for Cantaloupe Sorbet:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded cantaloupe (about 1/2 cantaloupe)

Instructions:

  1. Combine sugar and water in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil. Transfer to 11x7x2-inch glass dish and chill until cold, about 2 hours.

  2. Puree cantaloupe in blender until smooth. Add to sugar syrup in dish and stir until well blended. Freeze until almost firm, stirring occasionally, at least 3 hours or overnight.

  3. Transfer cantaloupe mixture to large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until fluffy. Return to freezer and freeze until firm (do not stir), at least 3 hours or overnight. (Sorbet can be prepared 3 days ahead.) Cover and keep frozen.

 

Recipes are from Sunset (my favorite west coast magazine) and Epicurious.

 

 

Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Frittata

I learned about the magic of frittatas from Yebuny Johnson, who you may know, is a fabulous cook, a heart-centered human being, and a brand new mom. Turns out, frittatas are easier than I ever thought, and is a great quick dish to pop into the oven and walk away from, and can include just about whatever you have left in your fridge and pantry. I’m a big fan of goat cheese, and that rainbow of peppers at the market are just too beautiful to pass up. I found this recipe from Eating Well:

 

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

 

Directions

  1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.
  2. Whisk eggs, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until the scallions are just wilted, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook, lifting the edges of the frittata to allow the uncooked egg to flow underneath, until the bottom is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Dot the top of the frittata with cheese, transfer the pan to the oven and broil until puffy and lightly golden on top, 2 to 3 minutes. Let rest for about 3 minutes before serving. Serve hot or cold.