In the few years I’ve been writing the Food Farm newsletter, this spring one has usually been especially fun to write. I like noting the melting snow, the running streams, the singing birds, new greens. Now though, I am just focused on willing the weather to hurry up and get warm so I can sit outside and talk with my family without shivering. So that we all can.
The uncertainty of life is being exemplified right now, loud and clear. Intellectually, of course, I know that life is uncertain. Death and taxes and all that. But the magnitude of this cross-(insert all boundaries here) crisis and its still-unclear, unseeable conclusion has shaken me.
My feelings have been yo-yo-ing a lot this past month. I’ve been angry (my personal go to), sad, restful, indignant, needy, munchy, introspective, the opposite of introspective, blessed feeling, stressed feeling and most of the other ones except confident.
My thoughts, similarly, go round and round: I wonder about the lasting impact economically, socially. I think I should stop listening to MPR. I think I should never stop listening to MPR. I wonder if this will change the way my generation is treating the planet. I wonder if my generation can change.
In my own discombobulation, it’s hard to feel like I have much to offer you in a newsletter.
I can only say we are connected. We’re so wonderfully connected.
Of course we know that on some level day to day, but now the necessity of our separation makes it so…real, but unreachable. We’ve been together in stores, and on sidewalks and at funerals and concerts and on the beach and on airplanes and in meetings. I’ve driven past you with my windows down, I’ve handed you a shopping list you dropped. I’ve bent down to check on your kid who fell of her bike. I’ve breathed in the air you’ve breathed out. I’ve touched the food you’ve eaten from the farm for years, at planting, weeding, and harvest, and I’ll do it again this summer.
It feels amazing to be back on the farm after weeks of cocooning with my little family. Replacing those mixed-up thoughts and feelings with good, solid work that is for a purpose. Thinking of all of you, most of whom I’ve never met, gaining sustenance from what I’m doing helps get out of my head and chill out. The separation we’re participating in is abnormal, temporary, and a reminder of the power in human closeness, from necessary care to those everyday moments.
There’s no telling exactly what the coming weeks and months will bring. Some of us will get sick. Perhaps a lot of us. All of us will miss friends and family and walking down a sidewalk without side-stepping each other.
I wish you all well in this time.
For the masked farm crew,
In your share this month:
Beets – Carrots – Onions – Parsnips – Fingerling, Russet, and Baby Yellow Potatoes – Rutabaga – Spinach, Greens Mix and Thyme!
I’m trying to include recipes that are either flexible, or use a lot of staples that I hope you all have!
Carrot Cake Bread
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (scant)
2 cups finely grated carrots
1/4 cup raisins (optional soaked in brandy or rum)
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Place the canola oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously until smooth and combined.
- Add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the bowl. Continue whisking until the mixture is just combined. Do not over-mix.
- Fold in the grated carrots, raisins and walnuts and then pour the batter into the loaf pan.
- Bake the bread for 55-65 minutes on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Check to see that bread is done. Remove from oven or add time as needed.
- Allow the bread to rest in the pan for 10 minutes and then release the bread from the pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
Vegetable Pancakes +sauce
I have found this recipe to be very flexible. You could use parsnips, beets or rutabaga easily, just keep the ratio of veggies to flour and egg about the same and shred everything finely.
1/2 small head cabbage, very thinly sliced (1 pound or 5 to 6 cups shreds) which will be easiest on a mandoline if you have one
4 medium carrots, peeled into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
Canola, safflower or peanut oil for frying
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (note: this is not vegetarian)
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rice cooking wine or sake
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey (use 2 if you like a sweeter sauce)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Make the pancakes: Toss cabbage, carrot, onions and salt together in a large bowl. Toss mixture with flour so it coats all of the vegetables. Stir in the eggs. Heat a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with oil and heat that too.
To make a large pancake, add 1/4 of the vegetable mixture to the skillet, pressing it out into a 1/2- to 3/4-inch pancake. Gently press the pancake down flat. Cook until the edges beging to brown, about 3 minutes. 30 seconds to 1 minute later, flip the pancake with a large spatula. (If this is terrifying, you can first slide the pancake onto a plate, and, using potholders, reverse it back into the hot skillet.) Cook on the other side until the edges brown, and then again up to a minute more (you can peek to make sure the color is right underneath).
To make small pancakes, you can use tongs but I seriously find using my fingers and grabbing little piles, letting a little batter drip back into the bowl, and depositing them in piles on the skillet easier, to form 3 to 4 pancakes. Press down gently with a spatula to they flatten slightly, but no need to spread them much. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the edges brown. Flip the pancakes and cook them again until brown underneath.
Regardless of pancake size, you can keep them warm on a tray in the oven at 200 to 250 degrees until needed.
If desired, make okonomiyaki sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until smooth and thick.
Serve pancakes with sauce and any of the other fixings listed above, from Japanese mayo to scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
Do ahead: Extra pancakes will keep in the fridge for a couple days, or can be spread on a tray in the freezer until frozen, then combined in a freezer bag to be stored until needed. Reheat on a baking sheet in a hot oven until crisp again.