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Week 17 CSA – 11th September 2017

Ezra (or possibly his brother Nate…) and his (their) Dad in Italy.
Hi << Test First Name >>,

For the next few weeks, we’re going to take some time to introduce you to all of us, one at a time, painstakingly. We’ll talk about our memories of food and farming, some choice recipes, and by the end of it you’ll hopefully know a lot more about who we are, how we met, and how Winding Stair Farm came to be. We’ll start off with Ezra this week, who grew up in Ashe County, NC, by the state lines of Virginia and Tennessee. If you’ve talked with Ezra at the Franklin Farmers Market, you’ll know that he loves the details of varieties of vegetables and the nuance of their differences, and here you’ll get a look into why!

We hope that you enjoy this glimpse, and look forward to hearing your stories, too.

– Ezra, Michelle Stacy and Greg

(p.s. Please “like” and share our Facebook and Instagram pages with your friends and family, and remember to tag us in your posts @WindingStairFarm!)

Looking towards the Peak from Ezra’s childhood home, with spring just starting.

Creston, Ashe County

At our childhood home in Ashe County, North Carolina, we were set into an open mountain slope looking straight across at the Peak and Tennessee behind. Summers were mild and winters were cold and snowy, but the house was very much a home and always comfortable. Lots of friends farmed and there was usually a vegetable garden, and we were part of a co-op, so there was usually good and interesting food, almost always cooked on the huge wood cook stove. Our heat and cooking (and for a bit, the water heater) was all done by wood at that point, and if I ever complained much about that I don’t remember actually disliking it.
Sometimes in summer I’d sit at the big table and watch Momma (or “Jennifer”, to others) cooking. In my head, breezes blew the branches and the spotty shade from the leaves filtered through every window in the house. Most of the windows anyway, besides the ones that were always in the shadow of the mountains. I’d sit and read, or babble, and she’d cook and hum and respond.
Flour would filter up from the bread that she was kneading, and every particle in the afternoon light was visible and looked like you could touch it and it would be soft. It was quiet and occasionally you’d hear a fly, or she would point at me and laugh because I was too small and couldn’t see over the top of the stove, but she would hand me a wooden spoon to play with and it was good.
Her cooking was always comforting and often had stories. There were trips before my birth and when I was little to Carrara, Italy, for Dad (“Isaac”…) to learn the nuances of sculpting and quarrying marble, and Momma really loves that food. I grew up eating “peasant food”, the basis of all good food, and didn’t know it but loved it. The ingredients have to be good or the dish won’t be, because everything is relatively simple. Summer was lots of pasta salads and bread and winter was good soups and pasta e fagiole (which I go into later on).
In my memory, Dad’s cooking was usually accompanied by talking about homework, or writing or reading, or playing some cards. Really, I remember it as a time to talk to him while he was taking on what must have been the exhausting daily task of encouraging a young curiosity.
The dishes were usually simple unless I requested we make something weird. Pastas, rice and beans, lentil soups, and even more bread. Dad is good at bread. It was pretty worldly, with nori seaweed and miso and whatnot, but always subdued and very simple. I learned to taste things that get overlooked, and to make every ingredient count.

Pasta e fagioli with some of our favorite dried beans, Tuvaglieddas, in the upper right. Tuvaglieddas, from beanmaster Domenico Belisarios in Basilicata in southern Italy, are meaty and buttery and are great for this.

Pasta e Fagioli

There’s a whole slew of so-called regional dishes, the Old World versions of which are my favorites. They’re widely used recipes, usually based on a common climate, national culture, etc., but have many variations from spot to spot. This variation within a culture has given rise to some iconic and beloved foods and drinks – Champagne, Hatch green chilis, Ashe County pimentos, North Carolina barbecue – are all variations on a product that can only happen where they happen. And these are all better than the other options (sorry…).

Pasta e fagioli (it just means “pasta and beans”) doesn’t have many requirements. It’s really nothing more than a pasta and bean soup, with some variations using pancetta to flavor the broth, or different beans, or having a little more spice, or mashing the beans to be more stew-like or adding great olive oil to make a slicker and thinner broth.

Momma remembers asking people at every market in Italy what they put in theirs, and picking up some of these tricks I learned from her. Above all, beans, pasta, and seasonal additions. But this is the version I grew up with, watching it made in Creston, with a couple tweaks I’ve made myself (call it the Franklin variation…):

1 pound beans (Northern beans, or another white type bean, shellies or dried is best)
1/2 pound pasta (cut styles are better than spaghettis here, I like farfalle)
1 bunch chopped cutting celery (if you use ours) or 2 stalks from the store
2 sliced carrots
1/2 sliced onion
A bunch of parsley
3 cloves diced garlic
1 diced hot pepper
3 cups chopped tomato
Olive oil
Some water or broth
Available seasonal herbs and greens (this time of year, sage, rosemary, Swiss chard especially)

First, cook your beans. My favorite is to do dried beans in a pressure cooker and drain the liquid, but hold onto it for a later step. While they’re hot, also take a big handful of the beans and mash them and set aside.
Then, in a large pot on medium-low heat, add a couple glugs of olive oil, heat until it shimmers, and add the garlic and onion. As you add the last slice of onion, stick a whole clove into it (clove as in the spice, not a garlic clove). Stir them occasionally until they are translucent but not soft.
At this point, add the celery stalks (hold onto the greens until later), carrots, hot pepper, and tomato. Let it all cook for a moment and warm up. Once the aromatics of everything are released and it smells awesome, add enough water, broth or stock to cover everything and 2-3 inches higher (I like to add the bean water here, and then water or bone broth to finish), and let it come to a boil.
Once it boils, drop in the pasta and let it cook until al dente. Then, add the cooked beans and the handful of smashed beans, give it all a good stir, add your herbs and celery/chard/other greens and let it simmer until it’s to your liking.
Top with a small mountain of parmesan, some olive oil if you like, salt and pepper, and have with some ciabatta or other bread full of holes.

The best thing about this dish is that it can teach you how ingredients act. If you like the tomatoes cooked down almost to a sauce (I like them with some chunks left), maybe roast them before putting them in, or let the step where they’re added last longer to soften them further. Like the crisp rawness of onion in a soup? Add some of the onion near the end, and if your tomatoes are acidic enough you’ll see how a red onion maintains more of its anthocyanins and color while cooking if it’s acidic. Maybe you like a tablespoon of honey, or a capful of apple cider vinegar. I like to go with whatever sugar/acidity balance the particular tomato mix brings, but use the opportunity to experiment with balancing sweet and acidity.

Enjoy! I always have.

Thanks for reading!
-Ezra

This Week’s Harvest

‘Rehza’, ‘Craig’s Grande’ Jalapeno, ‘Biquinho’, ‘Anaheim’ or ‘Buena Mulata’ Hot Peppers (Capsicum spp.)
Mixed Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
‘Ragged Jack’, ‘Scarlet’ and ‘Blue Scotch’ Kale (Brassica olaracea)
‘Speckled Trout’ Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Cutting Celery (Apium graveolens)
‘Oda’ Sweet Peppers (Capsicum spp.)
‘Chiogga’ and ‘Detroit Red’ Beets (Beta vulgaris)

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

May 23 – October 9

Franklin Pick-Up: Saturday mornings at the Franklin Farmer’s Market
Highlands Pick-Up: Monday between 12pm and 1pm at Founder’s Park
Keep it out of the landfill
We strive to keep our footprint as small as possible, and we’d love your help:
  • Bring a bag with you each week
  • Save egg cartons and zip loc bags (we’ll even take egg cartons from your friends)
  • If you don’t compost then you can help us feed our chickens. Keep in your fridge until the next CSA pick up: kale/collard ribs, lettuce hearts, herb stems, egg shells (but please, no onions or garlic)
Sharing recipes
Did you use ingredients from your CSA to make a particularly delicious meal? Send us a photograph and the recipe, and we’ll share it with other CSA members.

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