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.

Spring’s Abundance

Dear all, we have a promising season of abundance ahead of us. The spring rains have quenched the soil’s thirst for moisture and the garden is well under way with young plants eager to nourish. We harvested our first salad greens this week and they are so tender they practically melt in your mouth. Next week French breakfast radishes with their red and white exteriors will be plucked and bunched for market.

Asparagus has had it’s usual spring glory and now that is fading out and Fava beans are coming in. It’s hard to resist is the Fava bean – the Italians make a hoo-ha about this vegetable, celebrating their spring arrival with a holiday and festival. The bean is also called a horse bean by the English and in other colonial countries. Simply shuck the pod to reveal a large bright green kidney shaped bean. This activity can be done while sipping wine. In their tender early stage they can simply be steamed and served with a little butter. Later in the season they are steamed and their tougher outer skins pop off, with a pinch, to reveal a bright tender green heart that can be pureed and made into a delicious dip. May 1st is the date the Italians celebrate the fava and Eric tells me that he was there in 1976 when he was ten. It wasn’t until another ten years later that he encountered the fava bean at a roadside stand grown by an Hispanic family. We grow a small amount of this crop every year. It has the unique ability as with all legumes to fix nitrogen to root nodules and acts as a natural fertilizer for plantings that come after their harvest.

Our farmstand is open in Douglas Flat on Thursdays from 11 am to 6pm. Soon to be open more!

Citrus Aioli and the First of the season Asparagus

Easter is almost upon us and asparagus season is in full swing. Catch our Easter Brunch and celebrate with your family and friends. Reservations recommended by calling 209/728-1164 or emailing: OuterAisleFoods@gmail.com

All ingredients need to be at room temp or the sauce just won’t set up. Classic aioli employs 100% olive oil but I prefer to mix it with grapeseed oil, especially if I don’t have a high quality olive oil on hand. The flavor is more subtle—but try it both ways and decide for yourself.  Making aioli by hand is easy, and I think faster than in a food processor. If you haven’t made it before, don’t feel daunted by the directions below. You’ll get the swing of it in no time and soon it will be a regular sauce for your fish, lamb or veggies. Make your aioli before roasting the asparagus and keep it in the refrigerator (up to 2 days) until you’re ready to use it.

1 pastured egg yolks (left at room temp for at least an hour)

1 cloves of the freshest garlic you can find, minced

1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral tasting oil.

1t finely grated lemon zest

1T lemon juice

1 t salt

With a large whisk or electric food processor begin to beat the yolk until even consistency, continue beating and have someone else drizzle in the oil. The mixture will emulsify before your eyes as you fast-beat and continue to drizzle in the last of the oil. Add the zest and lemon juice and salt to taste!

 

We have Easter Brunch Buffet this weekend …join us and book your table now!

Spring Asparagus Salad

Ingredients
  • 1-2 bunches asparagus
  • 2 Cups Cous Cous (uncooked) Pearled
  • ½ Cup kalamata olives ( pitted, sliced)
  • ½ Cup feta
  • ½ toasted pine nuts ( optional)
  • Handful fresh mint, tarragon or Italian parsley
  • Zest from one lemon
  • Dressing:
  • ⅓ C olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon Red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. 350 F oven.
  2. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus off. Lay them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1-2 T olive oil, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and cracked pepper, and half of the lemon zest. Roast in the oven until just tender, about 20-25 minutes. Cut into bite size pieces. (Alternatively, for faster preparation, blanch bite size pieces of asparagus, along with the cous cous, during the last 2 minutes of the cous cous’s cooking time.)
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 2 cups Israeli Cous Cous, and cook until al dente.
  4. While cous cous is cooking, make the dressing. In a small bowl, stir all ingredients together.
  5. Drain cous cous, and place in a large bowl. Toss it with the dressing, olives, asparagus, feta, pine nuts, fresh herbs and lemon zest. Serve warm, or chill and serve as a salad.

Two Classic Eggplant Recipes

ERIC’S SKILLET EGGPLANT PARMESAN

Takes 10 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook. Ideal warm or cold in a sandwich.

1 Globe Eggplant

1 Brandywine Tomato

2 cloves garlic

½ bunch of lemon/lime basil

cheese – Mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan

Slice eggplant lengthwise, ½ inch thickness. Cook in skillet with olive oil until browned. Flip eggplant over and place a slice of tomato, squeeze of garlic, slice of cheese and leaves of basil. Place a lid on the skillet. Cook 10 minutes until underside is browned.

ASIAN EGGPLANT AND CHERRY TOMATO PASTA DISH

4-5 Asian eggplants

1 basket of cherry tomatoes

1 bunch basil

4 cloves garlic

Pasta of your choice

Parmesan cheese

Slice eggplants diagonally and saute on stove top until browned on both sides. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and marinate with olive oil, garlic and chopped basil. Combine eggplants and cherry tomato into pasta, with Parmesan.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce with Lime Basil


Peel, halve, and slice into half-moons:

1 medium cucumber
Toss in a medium-size bowl with:
A pinch of salt

Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Drain off any liquid that has collected. Stir in:
3/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 small garlic clove, pounded to a puree
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 bunch lime basil or 2 mint springs, leaves only, cut in chiffonade

Baked Summer Squash

Serves 6

2 pounds summer squash (such as zucchini, pattypan squash, yellow crookneck squash)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon flaked salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the stem ends and slice the squash cross-wise in 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Toss with the olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Arrange the squash rounds in a 9-x12-inch rectangular baking dish, or 10-inch pie plate. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another five minutes until the top is bubbling and crispy