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Campos at Willard HighMissoulian article by Keila Szpaller, photos by Tom Bauer, 10/26/2014

Editor’s note
This year, the Missoulian had a reporter and photographer spend time with the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest, a nonprofit with a mission to build community through agriculture. Formed in 2003, the Youth Harvest Project is a therapeutic work program with a focus on service, and it hires eight to 12 teens each year to work on the PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake Valley. The PEAS Farm, Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society, is a program of Garden City Harvest and the Environmental Studies program of the University of Montana. It operates on land owned by Missoula County Public Schools and subleased to Garden City Harvest through the city of Missoula.

Skyler Villwock was bullied at a traditional high school for his weight and his speech impediment.

His brother had gone to Willard Alternative High School, and Villwock’s mom recommended he enroll there, too.

“Going to Willard changed our lives. I’m kind of glad my mom knew about Willard,” Villwock said.

This year, Villwock was one of 12 teens who worked for the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest. Youth Harvest is a therapy and service program that puts teens to work on the PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake Valley.

Most of the crew members came from Willard this year, and over the course of the season, as they weeded around cabbage heads in the field and bagged beets for the Missoula Food Bank, their school was a frequent topic of conversation. When Karrina Campos first told her dad she wanted to go to Willard, she said he advised her against it, noting the bad reputation of students there.

This year, Campos’ father encouraged her to not work while school was in session so she could focus on her classes at Willard.

As far as many teens are concerned, Willard Alternative High School is a rock.

“Willard is like a family almost,” said Cody Lesh.

***

One morning last week, Cecil B. Crawford stood on a small hand-woven rug on the steps outside Willard at 901 S. Sixth St. W. Crawford, a Native American specialist for Missoula County Public Schools, shook hands with every single student in his morning ritual. “Sometimes, it’s a fist bump.”

“A lot of these guys go through a lot of trauma. A lot of them have never been told, ‘Good morning,’” Crawford said.

He greets them for himself and for them. It makes him feel good, he said, and it allows him to take the temperature of the student body.

“I can tell if a student is having a bad day. I can nip it in the bud right there,” Crawford said.

Just the other day, a couple of parents walked up the steps where Crawford stands on the rug that was made for him by a student. He thought the parents were going inside the building, but they stopped by just to tell him their child had a paper to write, and the student had written about Crawford’s influence.

“This could be done at every school,” Crawford said of his good mornings.

Inside, Campos ate breakfast during her life skills class with Carolyn Grimaldi. The topic of the day was Facebook, and the eight students talked about its pros and cons.

“A con will be people will be misunderstood a lot because there’s no voice inflection,” Campos said.

Campos and Villwock

Grimaldi tells them even if they don’t like Facebook, they can use their knowledge of it as a skill when they apply for jobs. Many companies want to hire people who can run their social media pages, she said.

The students tell her they would rather learn about banking and renting apartments and applying for scholarships. They ask about an absent classmate.

“There was a death in (her) family, so we’ll be really nice to her when she comes back,” Grimaldi said.

***

Early in the season on the farm, Youth Harvest director Laurie Strand Bridgeman talked with the crew in the barn about work expectations. She told them she knew they had attendance and behavior standards in school, and crew member Katelyn Cox chimed in to note it’s harder to pass classes at Willard.

“You have to have your grades higher than at other schools,” Cox said.

There’s also less homework, Campos said. At her other school, she had “all this pointless math,” 64 problems a night sometimes, and at Willard, she can complete her homework in class.

“Willard is awesome like that,” Campos said.

On the farm, she and other crew members talk about cliques, getting bullied and being ignored by teachers – essentially, getting swallowed up by an institution. The alternative school has shortcomings, too, but they appear to be lost on the students.

Every day on the farm, crew members share their highs and lows, and toward the end of summer, Sierra Gehring had school on her mind.

“My high is that school is about to start. Usually, that wouldn’t be a high, but since I’m going to Willard, I’m pretty excited,” Gehring said.

Posted in Neighborhood Farms, PEAS Farm, Youth Harvest | Leave a comment

Missoulian article by Keila Szpaller, photos by Tom Bauer, 10/26/2014

Editor’s note
This year, the Missoulian had a reporter and photographer spend time with the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest, a nonprofit with a mission to build community through agriculture. Formed in 2003, the Youth Harvest Project is a therapeutic work program with a focus on service, and it hires eight to 12 teens each year to work on the PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake Valley. The PEAS Farm, Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society, is a program of Garden City Harvest and the Environmental Studies program of the University of Montana. It operates on land owned by Missoula County Public Schools and subleased to Garden City Harvest through the city of Missoula.

Hannah Ellison worked in the Youth Harvest Project of Garden City Harvest in 2006. This year, she returned to the farm to do an internship as part of her University of Washington studies in Law, Societies and Justice. Here’s an adapted question and answer with Ellison about her first season with the program and her return this year.

Q. How did you sign on with the Youth Harvest Project?

A. I had left home, and I had been doing drugs and living on the street. We had known Josh Slotnick, director of the PEAS Farm, because my dad had gone to college with him. My dad was considering putting me in foster care and some other things like that. I had been de-toxing in Roundup, and we were passing through Missoula.

Josh said, “Why don’t you meet up with my friend Tim Ballard, who started the program in 2003? Maybe he can help you.” So we met up with Tim Ballard in the Good Food Store. My father and I had a screaming match in the store, and Tim said, “Well, this isn’t going to work.” He took me on a hike in the Rattlesnake and told me about the program. He offered me a position to work and get paid on the farm. And I was ready for that.

Q. How long did you spend with the program? What was it like, and how did it affect you?

A. I did just that one summer. I also worked for Garden City Harvest’s farms on the Orchard Homes garden and at Greg Price’s River Road farm. That summer was magical for me. I had never had my own living area, so I had this apartment room that I was renting. It was the first time in my life where I’d had my own space. It was the first time in my life where I’d been treated by adults like I was someone who mattered, and my work, what I was doing with my hands every day, meant something to the people that were around me. So it was vital to who I am now.

Q. The teens this year talked about how you spent nights in Big Red, the panel truck on the farm. Is that true? Why were you doing that?

A. I was homeless. I lost that room. I was living on my own and putting myself through high school and I wasn’t 18 so I couldn’t sign a lease. I was camping up by the Rattlesnake Creek and sleeping in Big Red when it got cold.

Q. Why did you come back this year?

A. The Law, Societies and Justice program requires an internship. For years, I’d been wanting to go back to the PEAS Farm to volunteer and be a part of it and meet kids and see if I could help. I thought being on the other side of that life, I had something to offer them. The internship fit the criteria of the program because Youth Harvest is looking at harm reduction for these kids instead of just processing them in the system on this conveyor belt. And it was mostly a personal adventure for me. I was ready. The story didn’t end after I got out of the program. Life didn’t suddenly blossom and become this beautiful flower, but finally, I have become my full person. I’m 25. My daughter, Maya, is beautiful and 6. And I felt strong, I felt I could finally be something for someone else instead of just trying to take care of myself.

Q. What was it like to come back?

A. It was kind of weird. I felt like if I had been able to have a little bit more unstructured time with the kids, it would have been different. But every moment was so structured, there was no room for a genuine interaction. It felt strained. But I liked all of them for different reasons, and I was able to engage as a funny friend more than as a mentor. We laughed and bantered and talked about inappropriate stuff, and I think that was valuable to them, too, but who knows.

Q. Did the program have a lasting impact on your life?

A. I was a really troubled person. I was very self-destructive. I was so hurt by the world, and I had been so mistrusted and abused and just hurt, and almost every person I came in contact with wanted something from me. I came to the farm, and it was first of all, beautiful. And I simply worked all day and I made these beautiful relationships with these adults, these college students, and Josh and Ethan Smith, the operations manager, and all of these people who I got to see again this summer. And it was those relationships that were important. They would tell me how good I was doing, how strong I was, and I would look across the fields and know what I planted and when and with who. It was, again, that I mattered. Somehow, I mattered. I was important, and the work I was doing with others was important to them, too. That started a foundation for me for being a person.

 

 

Posted in Neighborhood Farms, PEAS Farm, Youth Harvest | Leave a comment

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa Ingredients

Fall has arrived in Missoula. Frost has come and gone, and come again. My garden is winding down and my kitchen is full of garden bounty. Tomatoes rest in boxes, ripening at their leisure. Onions, garlic, and winter squash are tucked away in a warm spot in the garage. Jars of dilled green beans and carrots wait patiently in my cupboard for a festive occasion. Tomatillos nestle inside their husks, ready to liven-up dinner with a fresh citrusy bite.

Tomatillos are easy to grow. They like a sunny, well-drained garden spot and are tolerant of dry spells. I like to plant them at the edge of the garden, an area I can water less than that planted with moisture demanding vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, and beans. Tomatillos grow 2 to 3 feet tall, host small yellow flowers, and produce green or purple fruits surrounded by a papery husk. The color of the fruit depends on the variety you plant – the purple are beautiful but lose their color when cooked. If you leave the fruits on the plants long enough, they’ll turn yellow and will become sweet. Tomatillos are ready to pick when they “fill out” the husk surrounding them. At the green stage, they have a citrus tang with strong lime overtones.

Once picked, tomatillo fruits will last for several weeks in the refrigerator or (my preference) in the cupboard. Leave the husks on and do not seal in an airtight container or plastic bag. Keep them in a colander or paper bag. They freeze very well. Simply remove the husks, put fruit in a container or Ziploc bag and place in the freezer. To use, thaw the tomatillos and add to sauces, vegetable or chicken soup, or make into cooked salsa.

My favorite use for fresh tomatillos is salsa. . .  Here’s a recipe.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh tomatillos, husked, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium sized avocados, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped (Slightly firm avocados work fine in this recipe. Helpful hint: If you pour the lime juice directly over the chopped avocados, they will be less likely to oxidize and brown.)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and chopped (1 cup or so)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 red jalapenos, coarsely chopped (If you don’t like heat, add half of a chopped red bell pepper. You can also heat up this salsa: add several jalapeno, serrano, or habanero peppers. You can use green jalapenos too; you just won’t have the color contrast.)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Salt & black pepper to taste (I use just a quick sprinkle of each.)

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors meld; stir, and serve

This fresh tomatillo salsa is great served with tortilla chips or carrot and celery sticks. I like to serve it as a “sauce” for grilled chicken or seared salmon. It’s also a delicious addition to tacos, burritos, or quesadillas.

Fun Facts: a single tomatillo has approximately 11 calories, 3% DV of potassium, 7% DV of Vitamin C. So, if you eat 10 tomatillos in your serving of salsa, you’ve consumed, roughly, 30% of the potassium and 70% of the Vitamin C you need for the day. Tomatillos – delicious and good for you! (Basic nutritional information from Wikipedia.)

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I don’t know about you, but I spent my weekend peeling tomatoes for tomato sauce and slicing and drying apples for my daughter’s winter lunches. It can feel overwhelming, the amount of work it takes to put it all up.

At this time of year, it only seems right to re-post this great blog by Cori Ash, Manager of the Youth Farm, about putting up your stores for the winter. So here it is. And enjoy the mayhem.  You’ll thank yourself in a month, and another month and another month.

 

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My mom hates Brussels sprouts because they unearth memories of the ones from the frozen food aisle that she was forced to eat as a kid.  But such bitter parcels of mush resemble fresh Brussels sprouts about as much as Amtrak resembles the TGV.

Brussels sprouts are having a bit of a renaissance.  It seems like every restaurant that is courting high-waisted hordes of gastrohipsters has a version of charred Brussels on the menu.  Cooks are creating great versions but sometimes the charring can get competitive and extreme.  I ate some sprouts at a Seattle cocktail den that were so torched their texture resembled dried thistle husks and they disintegrated into tiny shards between my teeth.

I’m not here to knock browned Brussels as a concept.  Getting them good and brown carmelizes and sweetens them.  Add some shallots and salty bits of smoked pork and it doesn’t get much better. (Though my mom still might beg to differ.)  But if you feel like blackened Brussels sprouts are getting to be as tired as ironic mustaches, here are a couple of simple recipes from Nigel Slater’s Tender that are worth trying out.  Both recipes highlight different dimensions of Brussels flavor.  The first is centered on the crisp sweetness of uncooked sprouts and the second harnesses the rich, broccoli-like flavor that Brussels exude when baked with cheese and cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A salad of sprouts, bacon and pecans

This is basically a slaw made with sprouts instead of cabbage and it is very satisfying.

  • 5 slices bacon
  • 7 ounces Brussels sprouts
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 Tbs shelled pecans
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbs peanut oil
  • 1 Tbs walnut oil
  • 1 small bunch of parsley
  • salt and pepper

Broil the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet until lightly crisp. This is a great way to do bacon as long as you watch it and don’t overcook.  Drain the cooked slices on paper towels and then cut them into strips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wash the sprouts and pare away all bad parts.  Send any aphids or slugs packing.  Cut off the stalk ends and remove loose outer leaves.  Then sliver them on the thinnest setting on a mandoline, or slice them thin as possible lengthwise with a very sharp knife.

Toast the pecans to your liking on medium high heat and chop them into small pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wash the carrot and slice lengthwise as thinly as possible with a mandoline or vegetable peeler.  Finely slice the green onions.  In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, oils, chopped parsley and salt and pepper until combined.  Toss vegetables, nuts and bacon together with dressing, taste and adjust seasoning.

Mashed Brussels with Parmesan and cream

  • 1 1/14 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Clean the sprouts and remove tough stem ends and loose outer leaves.  Boil sprouts at a good clip for 4 minutes, then drain.  Coarsely chop sprouts in a food processor with a little salt and pepper.  They should still have texture.  You don’t want a puree.  Stir in a pinch of nutmeg, the cream and most of the cheese.  Spoon into a baking dish and sprinkle top with remaining cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden.

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Refrigerator Pickles

Turning cucumbers into refrigerator pickles requires little effort or time. Refrigerator pickles are a great way to use an abundant cucumber crop without the canning process.

All you need for quick, fridge pickles are a non-reactive container with a cover or lid, cucumbers, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt. I prefer to make mine in a half gallon glass jar, but any size jar will do. Reused commercial pickle jars work very well. I prefer white, distilled vinegar. Apple cider vinegar works well, as does rice vinegar.

Here’s the basic recipe: Equal parts vinegar and water and sugar; 1 teaspoon salt. What does this mean? 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, and 1 cup sugar mixed together until the sugar dissolves, then add the teaspoon of salt. If you want more liquid, just double the amounts.

Now, for the fun part: you can flavor the pickling liquid anyway you like. Add a few cloves of fresh garlic. Add a sprig of oregano. Add a half teaspoon of mustard seed. Add fresh dill and you’ll get a sweet, dill pickle. Add a teaspoon of crushed red peppers or a jalapeno sliced in half.  If you really like some heat, add a sliced scotch bonnet pepper.

Next, simply slice your cucumbers how you like them, place in the jar, and pour your pickling solution over them. Place in the fridge and wait a couple of days, then eat and enjoy. Fridge pickles will last a few weeks and are great for snacks or a quick dinner side. When you empty your jar, feel free to reuse your pickling liquid two or three times.

If you have an abundance of carrots, small onions, broccoli, cauliflower, or zucchini they can be quick pickled the same way. Just add them to the jar and wait. Carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower take a little longer to pickle, but zucchini slices or chunks take only a day or so. If you use a large zucchini, remove the seeds and pith before slicing. Feel free to mix your jar with any vegetables you have. Pickled kohlrabi taste great!

Another quick pickle favorite at my house is Sliced Cucumber-Carrot Salad.

Sliced Cucumber-Carrot Salad

 

What I did:

Slice cucumbers and carrots fairly thin and arrange on a plate, sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar and ½ – 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, add a little freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, wait 15 minutes or so, and serve. This makes a pretty potluck dish and is a great salad to serve with spicy dishes.  

Be creative. Let refrigerator pickles reflect your garden and your palate.

 

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Looking for some way to use the glut of food coming out of the late summer garden (including elephantine summer squash), I came upon this recipe in “Fried & True,” Lee Brian Schrager’s recent paean to America’s deep fried bird. The recipe has four main components: a yogurt/Sriracha marinade for the chicken, a rice flour and cake flour dredge that produces a thick, crunchy fried crust, a honey/vinegar glaze, and fresh vegetables charred in a skillet. The recipe calls for okra, tomatoes and onions, but I used what was available: fresh corn cut from the cob, summer squash, onion and tomato.

You’ll want some time to make this. It’s more suited to a lazy Sunday afternoon in the kitchen than a fraught weeknight at the stove.

For the marinade:
2 cups whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup Sriracha
1 tsp kosher salt
8 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs pounded 1/4 inch thick

Lay the thighs flat on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap or paper towel. Pound with medium force until they are a uniform 1/4 inch thickness. Place thighs in a bowl or Pyrex storage container. Mix yogurt, Sriracha and salt and pour over pounded thighs. Mix with hands to make sure all surfaces of chicken are well-coated in marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2-6 hours.

For the dredge:
2 cups rice flour
2 cups cake flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Canola or peanut oil for frying (I used about a quart of canola in a 12 inch cast iron skillet. I found that this recipe makes enough dredge for a double batch of chicken, so I saved half for a later date.)

Mix dry ingredients well in a bowl or deep-rimmed baking dish. When chicken is finished marinating, remove and shake off some excess marinade.  The chicken will be pretty gloopy with the yogurt.  That’s good.  You don’t want to scrape it all off. Dredge chicken in the dry ingredients until it is well coated on all surfaces.

For the glaze:
1 cup sherry vinegar (I used good red wine vinegar)
1 cup honey
1 medium jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and minced

Bring all three to a boil in a medium saucepan, reduce heat and simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon- about 10 minutes. The glaze will thicken substantially as it cools.

Fry the chicken:
Heat oil to 325 degrees (use a candy thermometer).  (I set my burner midway between medium-high and high).  Use tongs to place thighs in oil, careful not to crowd chicken. I fried the thighs in two batches til crisp and browned, about ten minutes, flipping halfway through.   Allow chicken to rest on paper towels for a few minutes while you char the vegetables.

For the vegetables:
1 large summer squash cut into rings or wedges
1 large yellow onion sliced into thick rings
4 medium tomatoes of any sort
Corn cut from 4 cobs
2 Tbs good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large iron skillet on high without oil, add vegetables and cook until lightly charred, stirring often- 4 to 5 minutes. Toss vegetables in oil, salt and pepper.

We sauteed some collards with chopped onion, oil and a bit of wine vinegar- just to have something green on the side.

Place a mound of charred veggies on a plate, set a fried thigh on top and drizzle with glaze to taste. Chow down. Leftover thighs make fabulous, next-day sandwiches on toasted bread or bun with mayo, preserves, pickles, more Sriracha.

Posted in Neighborhood Farms, Recipes, Veggie Subscriptions (CSA) | Leave a comment

In Missoula, August is a “glory” month for home gardeners. After planting, weeding, and watering the harvest can begin! Bumper crops of zucchini, green beans, basil, carrots, beets, onions, Swiss chard, kale, and lettuce are ready for picking. Now, the gardener’s dilemma begins: what to do with all the fresh food? One tasty solution in my kitchen is beet pizza. Yes, you read that correctly, beet pizza! And, you’ll use both the beet tops and roots in this recipe.

I make my own pizza dough (recipe below) but feel free to purchase pre-made dough at the grocery store. Many local stores carry Le Petit pizza dough which makes an excellent crust. You can also make your pizza on a French loaf, cut in half lengthwise, or on split English muffins (a favorite for the toddler crowd). Do note, if you make bread or muffin pizzas, your cooking time will be cut in half.

To begin, plan on making the pizza dough an hour or two before you cook the pizza. The dough will need time to rise. I often make mine in the morning before work and let it rise in the fridge through the day – just make sure you place the dough in a large enough bowl so it doesn’t “overflow” and make a mess!

Beet pizza

Beet pizza ingredients.

Pizza Dough

(recipe makes one large pizza crust or two small pizza crusts)

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 to 1 & 1/2  cups (or so) all-purpose, unbleached, white flour

I’m a fan of the one bowl, no mess on the cupboard, bread making. Here’s my bread/pizza dough process:

  1. Mix warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Let sit 15-20 minutes until foamy.
  2. Add salt, olive oil, ground flax and cornmeal to the water mixture and stir.
  3. Add whole wheat flour and mix well.
  4. Add the all-purpose, white flour in ½ cup additions, stirring after each addition. Eventually, the dough will get too thick to stir with a spoon and will form a ball. At that point, knead the flour in with your hands. You can keep the dough ball in the bowl. Dust your hands with flour first or the dough will stick to you! Once you’ve added all the flour the dough ball will absorb, knead (in the bowl) for 5 minutes. Lightly grease the bowl and dough with olive oil, cover and set the bowl aside. Let the dough rise 40 to 60 minutes. When you’re ready to make the pizza crust, push the dough down, let rest for 5 minutes, then shape your crust.

While the dough is rising, get the rest of your pizza ingredients ready:

2 medium (or 3-4 small) beets: wash & remove the tops and reserve for later. Boil or roast the beets until done (30-40 minutes) then peel and slice thinly.

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

6-8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 pound (or so) mixed greens, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped. I like a mix of Swiss chard, beet greens, and kale but use whatever is ready in your garden. Mustard greens make for a nice spicy pizza!

Sauté the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes or so. Once they start to look opaque, add the greens and balsamic vinegar and sauté until the greens are wilted but not cooked all the way through. This will be your sauce base and they’ll continue to cook once you put the pizza in the oven.

¾ cup pecans, walnuts or almonds (or a mix of all three), lightly toasted. (To toast, place nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently).

6-8 ounces fresh goat cheese

1 cup (or so) fresh basal leaves, roughly chopped

Roll or hand shape your pizza crust, pinching up the edges to keep any liquids from spilling out. Before you place the crust on your pizza stone or pan, dust the pan with cornmeal. This will keep the crust from sticking to the pan.

Cover the crust with the greens, onion, & garlic mixture. Arrange the sliced beets over the greens. Sprinkle the nuts over the pizza. Dot the top with the goat cheese and spread ½ of the fresh basal leaves over everything. Bake in a preheated oven at 375-400 degrees for 20 minutes. Check the pizza at 15 minutes for doneness.

Once you take the pizza from the oven, add the rest of the fresh basil. You can also top the cooked pizza with freshly grated Parmesan to taste. Enjoy!

Putting the final cheese sprinkles on beet pizza.

 

 

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Hark! Fresh fava beans are coming at you in this week’s CSA share from Orchard Gardens.  Scroll down to cut to recipes.

When it comes to food plants, people have been growing fava (broad) beans for a long time.  At least 5000 years.  They are delicious, nutritious and easy to grow in a wide variety of climates.  They can withstand cold and prosper in poor soil.  Almost everyone eats them.  They are prominent in North African foods like falafel and the Egyptian national dish:  ful medames- a stew of cooked, dried broad beans, oil, cumin, chile, garlic, wedges of boiled egg, and lemon eaten with bread.  Food to fuel a revolution.  When I worked as a fire lookout years ago, ful medames was the one thing I could coax from my limited pantry that I never grew tired eating.  The Romans and ancient Greeks (with the exception of Pythagoras, who, for some kooky reason, disdained them) loved their favas.  Modern Romans cook fresh green favas with pork jowl and Tuscans like to eat them uncooked, dredged in salt with shavings of pecorino.  Uncooked favas have a slightly astringent tang and a rich, powdery sweetness.  Fermented favas are mixed with soybeans and chiles to make doubanjiang- the blessed paste used in mapo tofu and other transcendent dishes from Sichuan Province, China.  And they are eaten in many places as a fresh green vegetable, steamed, blanched or fried.

 

 

A field of favas in Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan Province, China

Fresh, skinned favas fried with dried chiles, a vibrant dish on Chinese New Year 2010, Yunnan.

Fava beans are high in protein and fiber, folate, magnesium, manganese and potassium.  They are easy to cook and shelling them is a wonderful group activity.  Just grab a bowl and a bucket for spent pods and start popping!  You can have a fava bean battle, launching beans at your neighbor with your thumbs.

Fava rocket

Here are a couple of simple recipes, one using fresh beans and the other using dried.

Ful Ahdar bel Laban, Fava Beans with Yogurt

From The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.  This lovely Egyptian dish couldn’t be more simple or delicious.

  • 1 pound fresh shelled fava beans
  • salt
  • 1-2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt at room temp
  • pepper
  • 2 tsp dried mint or generous handful of chopped fresh mint leaves

Mix yogurt with salt, pepper and mint.  Boil the beans in salted water until tender, 2-5 minutes depending upon the age of the beans.  Drain. You can skin the beans for a smoother texture or leave the skins on if the beans are relatively young.  The skins make the beans a bit more chewy, but I think they add flavor.  Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add garlic and beans and stir until garlic aroma arises.  Serve beans with the yogurt poured over.  If you choose, garnish with preserved lemon and harissa, the mouth-watering North African chile paste.

Left to right: young, un-skinned fava, skinned fava, older, un-skinned fava

 

Ful Ahdar bel Laban with harissa and preserved lemon

Caldo de Habas, Dried Fava Bean Soup

From The Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy

This tomato-based, cilantro-perfumed soup from Hidalgo uses dried, skinned fava beans available at Mexican or Middle-eastern markets.  I usually stock up when I visit a city.  The soup is traditionally eaten hot, but it is also wonderful chilled on a hot, smoky day.

  • 1 1/2 cups dried, peeled favas
  • 2 Tbs veg oil
  • 2/3 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped tomatoes, canned, fresh or frozen
  • 10 cups hot water
  • 10 sprigs chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste

To serve:

  • 6 Tbs fruity olive oil
  • 2 pasilla chiles, fried and crumbled

Rinse the beans, drain and fry them in veg oil in a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high with garlic and onions til onions are translucent.  Add tomatoes and turn heat to high, stirring constantly until almost all the liquid has evaporated.  Add hot water, cilantro and salt and let soup simmer until the beans are mushy and disintegrating, 2-3 1/2 hours.

Fry your chiles in a bit of oil in a medium-high skillet, turning them to brown (not blacken) all sides.  Remove them from heat and let cool.  Crumble or snip with kitchen scissors over bowls of soup and drizzle olive oil over each bowl.  If you have some fresh mint and/or dill on hand, these also go nicely with the flavors in this soup.  Chop finely and add to hot soup before serving.

*** Allergic reaction to fava beans — rare, but serious — if you have never eaten fava beans, and are of Mediterranean descent, you should check out this article and know what symptoms to look for. ***

Coming soon at theravenousscavenger.com:  Egyptian falafel made with dried fava beans.

 

Posted in Neighborhood Farms, Recipes, Veggie Subscriptions (CSA) | Leave a comment

I have heard many people say over the years that the one hard thing about getting a CSA or growing their own garden is figuring out what to do with all those veggies.  Are you in this situation?  Maybe you are just getting to know your way around the kitchen.  Or maybe you are like me.  I love to cook and have a pretty broad selection of recipes up my sleeve, but I have been known to get in a deep, dark, boring rut wherein I have no idea what to make for yet another dinner.

Enter:  Cooking Classes!  Learn a new trick.  Get acquainted with a mystifying vegetable.  Try a well-known vegetable in a new get-up.  Find kitchen inspiration.

Kitchen Inspiration via Color

The Leadership Committee of Orchard Gardens Community Garden has dreamed up an exciting series of cooking classes and we think it will be a great place to jump out of your cooking rut.  The classes are taught by Rachele, a recent graduate of the Culinary Arts program of Missoula College.  She is a natural teacher and she knows her stuff.

It’s a four part series, with each class addressing a different course of a meal (like a really, really slow progressive meal).  The courses are as follows:  Soup-Salad-Entree-Dessert

I know there will be some kale in the soup, fennel in the salad, homemade pasta in the entree and berries in the dessert.  Each class will involve both demonstration and hands-on learning.  You will be introduced to the kitchen techniques of a professional, such as proper knife handling.  And you’ll get to sample.  Yum.  Take them all or pick and choose.

Here’s the details: Seasonal Cooking in Four Courses

  • Wednesdays, July 23, 30, August 6 and 13
  • 5:30-7pm
  • $20 per class
  • Orchard Gardens Community Barn, 210 N. Grove Street, Missoula
  • RSVP or Questions:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Posted in Community Garden News, Events, Orchard Gardens Neighborhood Farm, Veggie Subscriptions (CSA) | Leave a comment