Category Archives: Sustainability

No creature left behind

For some reason today, I thought about Zlateh the Goat, a beautiful story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Of this book, including the story of Zlateh, the New York Times says, “beautiful stories for children, written by a master.” But they are not just for children. This is a powerful story of love and compassion and communication at the most profound level between species, different animals, human and goat.

Zlateh the Goat struggles with the challenges of reality as does another child’s story, “Carp in the Bathtub” by Barbara Cohen, a story in which two young children “learn some very grownup lessons when they try to save the fish their mother bought to make into gefilte fish” for the Passover Seder.  One writer calls the story “an early lesson in mortality and heartbreak.” The kidnapped fish ultimately ends up where it is destined to be, fulfilling its purpose on the Seder table. The children’s father teaches them a lesson about the purpose of each life on earth, and the youngsters receive a “real” pet, a cat, after Passover.

Many of us, myself included, experienced the lessons of both books consciously or unconsciously at some time in our lives. We learned that animals are living beings with souls and compassion and an ability to communicate — and we learned that in our culture, they have a purpose, which is to entertain us or to end up on our plates or in our clothing.

But as we get older and explore the realities of life and death on factory farms and question the messages of culture, some of us wonder: Can any creature possibly be born with its purpose to be systematically slaughtered after a short, constricted and unnatural life separated from its home, family, friends and natural habitat? The answer of “Carp in the Bathtub” isn’t sufficient for our world today just as the message of kashrut is only the beginning of an answer left for us to update for this moment in which we live.

One lesson the Torah teaches is that but for the grace of G-d and not our own merits, we too could be prey. Perhaps it’s time to remember and reimagine our place in creation along the lines of the first chapters of Genesis.

Simple is good…using those amazing greens — lots of them!

This summer, as I did last summer, I’m working on the farm for my CSA. I receive 3/4 bushel of beautiful, organically raised veggies for my efforts each and every week of the season. When I open my box each week, it’s like a gift. All those beautiful colors. My imagination starts to work overtime as I look forward to what I’ll make.

Gathering my ingredients and prepping the greens and onion…

Yet sometimes it’s challenging to use up those veggies, especially since Andy and I are just two.  On the other hand, after years feeding a family and friends, then operating a cafe, I never learned to make a small pot of food just for two…so I share. Or make lots of really simple things and graze my way through the day…like smoothies and soups and simple wraps or stir-fries. I add my scraps to a veggie waste bowl and throw it into my garden area, where it will enrich the soil for future veggies.

Prepping the Bok choy… As I did with the Asian greens, I start cutting at the stem end, cutting thin slices across the bunch until I get to the top of the greens. Then I separate the stem end since that will require a little more stir-fry time than the greens.

So I pretty much use my whole box every week and in the process find lots of interesting new things to make…and share. So it was all working nicely until…last week.  Here’s what happened:

Andy’s corporate office offers a wellness project.  It is an amazing benefit of working where he does, and there are a number of aspects to it, but the one I want to mention now is one they initiated this summer. They send home, with any employee who wants it, 3/4 bushel of produce every week for seven weeks. After the seven weeks, employees can continue to receive the boxes by paying half price for them.

All my greens and Bok choy prepped — and separated from the stem ends.

What an amazing project! I’m so impressed with this company for initiating this kind of effort. What better way is there to encourage vibrantly good health than to make certain that people have the opportunity to enjoy loads of fresh veggies and fruits?! Experience first-hand the wonderful variety of flavors and textures the earth offers us?

I believe that a 350 degree temp is when things brown. It’s a little hard to measure on a gas flame, so I used my electric induction burner this time, put in some extra virgin olive oil, then added the onions to saute. When they looked like this, I added in the stem ends of the Asian greens and Bok choy to stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Admittedly the program helps the company as well since healthier employees mean reduced insurance premiums, reduced absenteeism and other cost reductions. But there is nothing at all wrong with gifts that give in more directions than one. And I certainly want to see how this great program works and support it — and let Andy experience the pleasure and pride of bringing home the proverbial (vegan) bacon.

And then I remembered this beautiful garlic that came in my CSA box this week. As a former associate used to say, you can never have too much garlic! These are big cloves, tho, so I just used one, smashed, peeled and minced it and threw it into the onion and stem mix in the pan.

So now I have a bushel and a half of veggies and fruits to figure out how to manage each week.  I must say that so far this week, I’m doing pretty well, although I didn’t get to some beautiful Asian green and Bok choy that were in his office box until a little too late to make them into a salad.

When lunch rolled around today and I went to get those greens for a salad, they didn’t look quite as perky as when I got them even though I stored them carefully when they came in — so here’s what I had for lunch instead: stir-fried garlic and onions and greens with some CSA-fresh tomatoes and delicious Field Roast (vegan) sausage.

The finished greens and onions! What I don’t eat for lunch will go into our rice and greens stir fry this evening. Check out my simple and delicious lunch in the featured picture with this post.

There were more than what I could eat, as usual, but that’s no problem! I knocked out two meals at once when I made those greens. I boxed up the extra and stuck them in the ‘fridge. Later today, closer to dinner, I’ll cook up a cup of brown Basmati rice, stir it and season it in a wok and add in those greens. Then even Andy, who doesn’t otherwise like greens, will eat them!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Two Models to Feed the World: IFS & Torah

“Much have I learned from my teachers, more from my colleagues, but most from my students.” – Rav Hanina ( Talmud: Taanit, 7a)

I finished teaching a class at McHenry County Community College this past week called “Conscious Choices: Thinking About Food.” I taught the class last year, but each year it’s different as our food situation evolves (or devolves) and my own knowledge base grows.

My formal coursework has been in religion and Bible. I have enjoyed taking and teaching many classes. Informally, I read widely about food, the environment, sustainability and agriculture, in particular animal agriculture. I maintain a Twitter feed primarily for the purpose of following trends and picking up leads to interesting reading. This year I also enjoyed an online class in “The Ethics of Eating” from Cornell University. I fed myself and my family and friends for 50 years, operated a large organic garden, worked in the food industry, and now I work (very part-time) on a farm.

Finally, though, what most encourages me to constantly reshape these classes is student input. An aha moment for a student is an aha moment for me. In the last series I taught, that aha moment was hearing Alex Hershaft, Holocaust survivor and animal activist, speak. This time it was a comment from Michael Pollan’s 2008 “An Open Letter to the Farmer in Chief,” “But if taking the animals off farms made a certain kind of economic sense, it made no ecological sense whatever: their waste, formerly regarded as a precious source of fertility on the farm, became a pollutant — factory farms are now one of America’s biggest sources of pollution.”

He continues, “As Wendell Berry has tartly observed, to take animals off farms and put them on feedlots is to take an elegant solution — animals replenishing the fertility that crops deplete — and neatly divide it into two problems: a fertility problem on the farm and a pollution problem on the feed lot. The former problem is remedied with fossil-fuel fertilizer; the latter is remedied not at all.”

There is a lot of talk these days about 2050 and the need to feed a predicted world population of 10 billion. How will we accomplish that? Are there enough land and water resources? How do we bring true food security to the “food insecure?” As our world continues to change, will we perhaps all become food insecure? Can our current path make us healthier and happier?

As the class evolved, I realized that I was teaching two models for “feeding the world.” The first model is the one offered up by our American culture: the Industrial Food System (or IFS). The second is what I will call the biblical model. Each of these models utilizes different strategies to produce food, and each produces different results.

What I understood as I taught this year is that not only is each of these models a “system” in every sense of the word, but like any good system, each has a purpose or mission that defines its objectives, strategies and results.

Michael Pollan introduces his Open Letter this way: “The food and agriculture policies you’ve inherited — designed to maximize production at all costs and relying on cheap energy to do so — are in shambles, and the need to address the problems they have caused is acute.”

But if the IFS mission of maximizing production at all costs has failed, so has the biblical mission of expanding the realm of ethical consciousness. This mission has failed not so much because of a problem in the message but more from the dismissive attitude of a secular world toward sacred texts and wise teachers in human history.

We are not the first generation to sit on the edge of catastrophe, yet we reject ancient teachings before we even take time to know what they are. Their wisdom barely enters our consciousness as we struggle with problems that threaten our continued existence on the planet.

Yet just as there may be things of value to glean from the Industrial Food System before we reform it or throw it out, there are things of value to take from the Torah and other ancient teachings.

When I began my Torah Ecology project, my intention was to focus on food, animal rights and the environment. In this first year of my project, my interest isn’t so much on specifics like what people ate but more on what it meant to them — or at least what it was supposed to have meant to them according to the “Author”/authors of the Torah. Understanding this takes me on some thought journeys that seem far afield, but ultimately each week of close study contributes something to my ability to get inside the biblical worldview.

When I redesign the class for next year, I will organize it very specifically around these two models, the IFS and the biblical model, maximum production vs. maximum ethical consciousness. How does each of these models relate to human health, other species on the planet and the planet itself? What does each model say about our relationship to other species and to the planet? Specifically, what does each model say about animal agriculture, agricultural workers, health, waste and human consciousness?

One thing I know about our current food culture is that it encourages a total disconnect from the sources of our food. That disconnect in turn generates distortions in our relationship to transcendence, our environment, other human beings, other creatures, even our own bodies. Working in the fields planting and harvesting, sharing the fields with other animals and cooking with real food break down that disconnect, restoring satisfying, beneficial and meaningful relationships. The biblical model expresses that understanding of interconnectedness.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

It’s no use boiling your cabbage twice…Irish Proverb

So let’s just boil the cabbage once or even not at all! Oh, those beautiful cabbages, the red one, the green one. The humble cabbage turns out to be one of my favorite veggies. I make red cabbage slaw, green cabbage slaw, potato and cabbage soup with fresh dill, cabbage steaks with mustard sauce…and tonight I’m making stuffed cabbage rolls. This is an easy recipe as well as delicious. I use this filling in other stuffed veggies as well — grape leaves, summer squash, peppers. It has happened on occasion that the filling never made it into the veggies, but tonight I’m determined.

STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS

Ingredients 

  • Cabbage, one head
  • Brown Basmati rice, 3 cups cooked
  • Mushrooms, sliced and pan roasted, 1 lb.
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Za’atar, 1-1/2 tsp. (Za’atar is a Middle Eastern mix of herbs, available in bags at Butera, Garden Fresh and online – substitute with thyme and oregano to taste)
  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Tomato juice
  • Lemons, juice of 1-2

Directions

  1. Cook 1 cup of dried brown Basmati rice (which will make 3 cups cooked)
  2. Pan roast the sliced mushrooms until the liquid cooks off.
  3. Put the rice, mushrooms, 1⁄4 cup of olive oil, seasonings and lemon juice to taste in the processor, and pulse a
    few times.
  4. The mixture should be gravelly and cohesive.

To prepare the cabbage:

  1. Bring water in a large pot to simmer.
  2. Cut the core out of the cabbage and place the whole head in the simmering pot for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Take the head of cabbage out, remove outer leaves carefully and set aside to use.
  4. Place the remaining head of cabbage back in the pot for a couple of minutes, and again take out and remove leaves. Repeat this process until you have removed all the good-sized leaves.
  5. Chop the remaining cabbage to add to the bottom of your cooking casserole.

To make up the rolls:

  1. You can shave away some of the thick rib to make the cabbage leaves easier to roll.
  2. Place 2-3 Tb of the filling across the base of each leaf, and roll from the stem end up tucking in the
    edges along the way.
  3. Place in casserole with seams down.
  4. Add tomato juice to almost cover the rolls.
  5. Squeeze lemon over the rolls
  6. Cover withfoil, and bake 350°F for 45 minutes.
  7. Garnish with a bit of parsley.

This week we’ll receive kohlrabi again. I’ve tried it now stuffed and as a low carb “potato” salad — and I’ve pickled it. I think my favorite way to eat it is just sliced and used to dip into delicious Middle Eastern spreads like hummus or Muhammara. The bok choy made its way into a delicious stir fry my son made for us — and a soup with soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles. If you make a double batch of the mushroom and rice filling, you’ll be able to stuff the summer squash with them as well. Middle Easterners use an apple corer to hollow out the middle of the squash lengthwise, which makes a very pretty dish. Save up your garlic scapes for more of that pesto recipe I gave you a couple of weeks back. Use lots of basil with it and some summer greens. Speaking of greens, we’re still enjoying our summer chard omelets, and we can’t get enough of those greens like kale and kohlrabi greens — even cabbage and sometimes bok choy — in our morning smoothies. What a wonderful way to start the day!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Eat your pesto spread on bread or saucing up a cabbage head…

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA Newsletter, 7/5/2017

I’m excited to know that we have garlic scapes coming through again this week along with Bok Choi, kale, cabbage and Swiss chard, all favorites among my family and friends.

My son makes a dynamite chard omelet for us all every Sunday as part of our traditional shared meal (and why not — he grew up on them!). Last week I made garlic scape pesto, and it was so good I’m looking forward to trying it again this week to slather on homemade bread or mix into pasta.

Bok choi I like to chop roughly, keeping the stems separate from the leaves. I stir fry the stems with loads of onions, green onions if I have them, thin-sliced regular onions otherwise. I add in the leaves for a moment and season. It’s a delicious part of lunch for me. Alternatively I add carrots Julienne to the stir fry and cook up brown Basmati rice to add to the mix with Asian seasoning. The peas coming in this week will also make a nice addition to that stir fry or to salads.

Here’s a delightful kale salad with a light, slightly sweet, slightly salty flavor. This recipe is from Israeli Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, and Palestinian Chef Sami Tamimi, co-owners of stellar restaurants in London and co-authors of some beautiful cookbooks.

Kale Salad with the spelt challot I cook at the shul on Fridays, see what I can come up with to add to Shabbat dinner or kiddush on Shabbat morning…

KALE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped into ribbons or shreds (about 8 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated (about ½ cup)
  • 1 crisp apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup sliced raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons pitted oil-cured olives (about 9 olives), halved
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

Note: Instead of steps 1 and 2, especially if I am short of time, I make a dressing of the olive oil, juice of the lemon and seasonings, drizzle it over the kale and toss in.

1. In a medium bowl, combine kale and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Using your hands, massage kale until olive oil coats the leaves and they begin to wilt, about 1 minute.

2. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, cumin and turmeric. If you like these seasonings, you can add more, but begin with the recommended amounts. Add mixture to kale and continue to massage the leaves until well combined.

3. Add carrot, apple, raisins, almonds, olives, and toss until just combined. Season with salt and pepper. Let the salad rest for 10 minutes, then serve.

GARLIC SCAPE PESTO

Great to spread on bread, and in thinking up a title, it occurred to me it could make a great “sauce” for cabbage steaks.

Ingredients

  • Any sweeter flavor leaves, 2 very big handfuls (I use spinach when available — this week I used kohlrabi greens
  • Basil leaves, 1 very big handful (I tried it without the basil since I shared it with someone who doesn’t like basil, and it was good, though I prefer it with basil)
  • Pine nuts, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic scapes, woody stems and all, 6
  • Salt, 1 tsp.
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon, juice of one small (about 1/8 cup)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup

Instructions

  1. Cut up the scapes and process them briefly in a food processor.
  2. Add all leaves and pulse until even and granular.
  3. Add everything else and pulse, then blend, to uniform texture — but do leave texture.
  4. When plated, top Middle Eastern style with a little additional extra virgin olive oil for garnish.
A few root veggies and some kohlrabi, washed and ready to cut up for dipping in hummus and muhammara. I’ll take a platter to a July 4 party…

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

From the farm. Love seeing all those beautiful greens coming in:

Saving The Planet: Eat Your Greens, But Don’t Forget Those Roots

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA Newsletter, 6/21/2017.

If you are interested in sustainable agriculture, and your CSA membership says you are, you probably know that those veggies are a lot easier on the environment and our water resources than animal agriculture — so much so that Frances Moore Lappe suggested in 1972 in Diet for a Small Planet that we would be better served to eat the grains we grow for animals than to feed them to animals and eat the animals.

So I’m always excited to bring home my box of CSA veggies! It is one contribution I make to taking care of this beautiful earth. As with last week, we’ll see a lot of greens, wonderful greens, a sure sign that it’s early in the season, and we have many luxurious, fresh vegetable-filled weeks to go. So I want to say a word about greens, but I want to focus this week on turnips and radishes, root veggies which we are also enjoying now.

GREENS. Today was a banner day for me. This morning I enjoyed a kale, spinach, soy milk, seeds, fruit and ice cube “Greenie” for breakfast, a delicious way to start the day.

For lunch, I enjoyed the rest of my greens from last week, two lettuces, one red and one green, some mizuna, tokyo bekana, and kale, topped with red onion, radishes and walnut pieces and dressed with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Be sure to mince the stems and throw them into your salad along with the broken walnuts. Any little bits of veggie waste can go into compost.

ROOT VEGGIES & THE ENVIRONMENT.

Cooked white beans, roasted turnips, chopped & sauteed turnip greens, olive oil, white Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

I just learned this week that of all the veggies, root veggies are some of the easiest on environmental resources. Last week we received two kinds of turnips, white Hakurei turnips and red turnips. I cut mine up, coated them with extra virgin olive oil and roasted them, chopped and briefly sauteed the turnip greens with olive oil, garlic and seasonings, then mixed both with cooked white beans. With the addition of a little more olive oil, white Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, I had a lovely dish to eat warm or cold (as a salad).

RADISHES are also great roasted. They’re delicious as an unusual side dish or make a colorful addition to a roasted veggie platter.

One of my favorite things to do with turnips is to pickle them, Middle Eastern style.  Beets thrown into the pickling mixture give the beets their pink color, which deepens with more beets or longer pickling.  On the occasion pictured here from last summer, I enjoyed my pickled turnips with scrambled  tofu and greens — and beautiful tomatoes included in my box. Next time I make beet pickles, I’m going to try it without the vinegar, let them ferment to get that tangy flavor, which results in a denser population of probiotics.

PICKLED TURNIPS
Make a brine of 4 cups water, 1 cup vinegar and 3 TB kosher salt. Set aside. Wash a wide mouth glass jar. Prepare your pickling veggies, in this case turnips, by washing and cutting (peeling for older or larger turnips). Add sliced garlic if desired. Pack the veggies into the jar, and pour brine over the veggies until the jar is filled, stirring the brine as you work to be certain it stays evenly mixed. you may need a small dish held down by something with weight to keep the turnips under water. If you put your pickles directly into the refrigerator, it will take a couple of weeks for them to pickle. Alternatively, let them pickle on your kitchen counter for 2-5 days, and move to the refrigerator when they taste as you would like.

I love these spring and summer veggies!

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

5 Ways to Use This Week’s CSA Veggies

Prepared for Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA. Visit them on Facebook.

This week we’ll enjoy a wonderful variety of spring greens, mostly Asian and from the mustard family, including Mizuna, Tokyo Bekana, Hon Tsai Tai and Tatsoi as well as the more familiar spinach. We’ll also receive radishes, Hakurai, red stem turnip…and maybe some chives.

Greens, spinach, radishes and carrot with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, salt.

Most of these greens have a slightly peppery flavor. Hon Tsai Tai, somewhat similar to broccoli raab, is a bit more mild and delicious from stem to flower. Tokyo Bekana, closer to lettuce, is a little sweeter and crunchy. Tatsoi has pale lime green leaves in rosettes. The mixture makes beautiful salads, and I always like to make a simple one as soon as I get home with my Box. Spring radishes are a perfect addition. I dress these salads simply with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

But salads are only the beginning of what you can do with those flavorful greens! Here are five other ways to use your greens:

  1. Soba Salads or Entrees. Soba is a buckwheat Japanese noodle available packaged in many grocery stores. Prepare according to directions. Saute minced garlic and fresh ginger root in extra virgin olive oil. Add radishes and even turnips Julienne to the saute if desired. Add the greens and wilt. Turn off the heat. Add a little of salt or soy sauce to taste. Stir into the Soba noodles, or just top them off with a crown of sautéed greens. Serve warm or cold (for a salad).
  2. Patties. Make your favorite veggie patty. I like the Middle Eastern way (falafel), in which the beans are not pre-cooked, just soaked overnight. Try this: 1/2 lb. dried chickpeas rinsed and soaked in a covered container overnight, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 Spanish onion in chunks, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. hot paprika and 3-6 oz. mixed greens, chopped. Using a food processor, place the garlic in first, then the chunked onion, the chickpeas, the seasonings and rough chopped greens. Place everything except beans in bowl, and pulse about 10 times, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Then run for about 30 seconds. Scrape down, add the beans, and run another 30 seconds or more, scraping sides periodically, or until you have a uniform gravelly mixture that holds together. If you plan to fry, form the mixture into (falafel) balls. If you plan to saute or bake, form into small patties (I use a 3/4 oz. candy scoop). Deep-frying, the balls will take 3-1/2 minutes. If you saute, you might need to experiment a little. The patties should be browned on the outside and soft but not raw inside. Enjoy with pita, Middle Eastern chopped salad and tahini dressing.
  3. Soups. I’m a soup-lover, in the summer too. Ramen soup is very easy. I use three items that I always keep on hand in my home: 1) Costco has a great Millet and Brown Rice Ramen from Lotus Foods, 2) I order Mori-Nu Silken Tofu Organic Firm by the case from Amazon, which can remain unrefrigerated until opened (I just open one 12.3 oz. package from the case at a time), and 3) quality Miso. Make a delicious Miso broth, and when the broth boils, drop loads of roughly chopped Asian (or other) greens. Finally, drop in a square of Ramen for a moment or two until you can pull it apart. For a more substantial dish and a protein boost, add a few squares of Tofu. The chives would work nicely with this soup as a garnish and for added flavor.
  4. Omelets, Frittatas, Quiches, “Shakshouka.” Those of you who get eggs with your Meal Box remember to enhance all your favorite egg dishes with greens and chives! You’re probably familiar with omelets, frittatas and quiches, but Shakshouka might be new to you. Traditional Shakshouka, made with tomatoes and peppers, originated in North Africa. When the rich and aromatic tomato and pepper sauce is hot, the eggs are cracked into it, poached briefly in a covered pan, then served. In this version, saute some garlic in extra virgin olive oil, add the greens, salt, pepper or other seasonings to taste, and when you have a hot, saucy mixture, add the eggs for poaching covered.
  5. Pizza! Make or buy a whole wheat pizza crust — or use 6″ whole wheat pitas. Pre-heat the oven to high heat (unless you’re fortunate enough to have a small pizza oven). Oil the top of the crust. Add briefly braised and wilted greens to the crust, then thinly sliced onions and halved grape or cherry tomatoes, some pine nuts if you have them, seasonings (oregano, salt, crushed red pepper). Bake until the edges of the pizza crust begin to brown a little. Enjoy!

Next week I’ll write about turnips and radishes, spectacular veggies we take for granted. For now, save those turnip greens to use with other greens in your soups and egg dishes, or just to use as a (sautéed and seasoned) bed for roasted turnips.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

The right day to be in the fields

It was Shavuot today, the Feast of Weeks. Shavuot marked the height of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest in ancient Israel. Today is also the day I heard the first announcement that Trump decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

It was the right day to be in the fields, with the wind, the clouds, the sunshine, and with my hands pushing new plants into the earth, anticipating the beginning of our harvest in two short weeks.

Shimon bar Yochai taught, “if you are holding a sapling in your hand, and someone says that the Messiah has drawn near, first plant the sapling, and then go and greet the Messiah.” (Avot d’Rebbe Natan 31b)

I imagine the same is true when the President of the United States announces his intention to destroy the planet and many lives on it for his own benefit.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Those seeds a couple of weeks ago…

…are now tomato plants, summer squash and more ready to go into the ground.

How My CSA Box Keeps My Family Healthy

After 45 years as an off-and-on vegetarian (20 of them strictly vegetarian) including 7 years of owning and operating a vegetarian cafe, I decided four years ago to explore an entirely plant-based diet. This makes Farmer Bob’s CSA “Meal Boxes” (as I like to call them) perfect as the source of my meals, but what about the rest of my family?

For my nutritional advice, I follow drfuhrman.com. Dr. Fuhrman is a “board-certified family physician with over 25 years experience
in nutritional medicine…and an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing…” I like his nutrition recommendations between they are common sense and easy to understand and follow, graphically presented and based on wide-ranging reviews of medical literature.

Dr. Fuhrman is the originator of the Nutritarian Diet, based on Nutrient Density, the maximum nutrition for the calories. His ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) scores put greens right at the top of the list as the most nutrient dense food we can eat. His Food Pyramid recommends whole plant foods for 90% of our daily diet. Based on these recommendations, I am confident that Farmer Bob’s Meal Boxes with the addition of some dried beans, grains, nuts and seeds, satisfy the bulk of my family’s nutritional needs.

As I eagerly wait for our first box, I’m thinking of what I want to make for my family during that week. The box will surely contain lots of beautiful young greens, including butterhead lettuce, kale, spinach, chard and bok choi. I’ll bet we also receive some radishes, which I enjoyed in salads and many a stir fry last year. Be sure to see my article in our last newsletter for information on managing and using those greens and a recipe for a Bok Choi and Radish Stir Fry.

This week I’ll share a few ideas for Kohlrabi, which we’ll see in our Meal Boxes in the early weeks of the season.

KOHLRABI SLICES FOR DIPPING
Last year we were invited to a local get-together at the peak of kohlrabi season. I made this hummus dipping tray with kohlrabi slices instead of pita, which worked very nicely. I regularly make several Middle Eastern style “salads” or dips, which I’ll share in this series as time goes on, including Hummus, Muhammara (walnuts, pomegranate molasses and red bell peppers) and Babaganoush (eggplant) and Matboukha (a Moroccan “salsa”).

Hummus with radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini & red bell peppers.

STUFFED KOHLRABI
Remove the stems from 3-4 kohlrabi and fully peel away the tough outer layers of them. Set aside the greens.

Using a coring tool, insert into the center of the peeled kohlrabi, but do not pierce through to the base. You will probably not be able to remove the plug. Insert again, slightly out more toward the edge, again careful not to pierce the base. Continue this process, circling around the original central plug. Then, using a small serrated knife, remove the plugs and scrape a little to make the central cavity fairly smooth. Reserve what you remove from the kohlrabi.

Oil and salt the kohlrabi inside and out. Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven, place the kohlrabi cavity side down and saute until slightly browned. Turn the kohlrabi over onto its base, turn down the heat, add a little water (2-4 TB), put the lid on the Dutch oven, turn down the flame, and cook until the kohlrabi is as tender as possible (it remains fairly firm), checking the water occasionally. Set aside until ready to assemble.

 

KOHLRABI FILLING

Ingredients

  • Kohlrabi – inside pulp of 3-4 kohlrabi
  • Bok choy – stems, petite diced; greens, chopped 1/4″ pieces
  • Brown Basmati rice, 1 cup dried
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Oregano, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon Juice, 1/2 squeezed

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice until done.
  2. Chop the kohlrabi pulp, and add to a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, and saute.
  3. Add the Bok Chop stems, petite diced, and saute briefly.
  4. Add the rice to a food processor, then the sauteed ingredients and seasonings.
  5. Pulse several times until the mixture is evenly mixed and chopped and looks like coarse grains.
  6. Add seasoning to taste (salt, a little hot paprika if desired)
  7. Use this mixture to fill the reserved kohlrabi.
  8. Add marinara to a dish, and place the stuffed kohlrabi on top of it. Add a little more marinara to the top, and a few garlic scapes for garnish.

KOHLRABI SALAD
Last year, a friend of mine told me he loved the kohlrabi salad he grew up with, much like potato salad. I used my regular dill potato salad recipe (with lots of fresh dill) and substituted kohlrabi for the petite diced potatoes, and it was good! You can use your own favorite potato salad recipe and substitute kohlrabi — and I’d love to hear how it comes out. Or check out this Lebanese version, replacing the potatoes with kohlrabi:

  • 2 lb. kohlrabi, peeled, diced and simmered with turmeric until done)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1-2 tsp. turmeric (added to the kohlrabi cooking water)
  • 1/4 tsp. hot paprika
  • 2-4 TB chopped dill
  • 1-2 green onions chopped
  • 1 large dill pickle, chopped (I prefer Middle Eastern dills or cucumbers in brine, available through Garden Fresh Market in Buffalo Grove or Amazon, but Claussen dills work pretty well)
  • 1-2 TB lemon juice, to taste
  • 2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil

Oh, and those kohlrabi greens? Add them to your greens for the week and use in stir fries, smoothies, wraps and more! And the little stems you cut away when you peel the kohlrabi – save them as well. You can cut them up to saute whenever you use onion. It adds texture and flavor.

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CSA Greens: Bok Choi & Radish Stir Fry

We will soon enjoy lots of spring greens in our boxes, and that’s great, because I LOVE greens and missed Bob’s beautiful assortment over the winter. Here’s what I do with them (other than the salad I make first thing when I get home from the farm).

The best way I found to manage my greens in the cafe was to immediately remove all ties and rubber bands, wrap them in a slightly moist towel and put them into the refrigerator. Of course if the greens arrive already moist, there is no need to dampen the towel. I use microfiber towels that I can get in big batches at Home Depot. Even the more sensitive greens keep well this way for several days, often as long as a week. I check the towel periodically to make certain it stays very slightly moist.

As soon as I can get to it, I cut up all the sturdier greens (I prefer Middle Eastern-style salads, where the greens are cut into small pieces). I put the cut greens into a salad spinner, fill it with cold water, swish around, lift the basket to drain the greens, empty the base of the spinner, and return the basket with greens for spinning to dry. If the greens have more dirt particles attached than usual, I may run them through twice.

Then I transfer the greens to a clean microfiber towel to wrap and store in the ‘fridge except for the portion I want to use right away. The stored greens are there, ready for use in various salads … and as they begin to get older, they’re a great addition to a stir-fry.
Speaking of stir-fry, here’s a Bok Choi and Radish Stir-Fry I made last season. Quantities will vary depending on what we get:

BOK CHOI AND RADISH STIR-FRY
Ingredients

  • Garlic, minced
  • *Onion, petite diced
  • Salad radishes, Julienne
  • Bok choi stems, Julienne
  • Bok choi greens, “diced”
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce

Instructions

1. Wash and cut all the veggies
2. Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a wok and throw in a little minced garlic
3. Add the onions, sautéing until soft.
4. Add the remaining “hard” veggies, reserving any greens.
5. When the veggies start to brown a bit, add a little salt and soy sauce, stir and cover if needed to steam the veggies for a couple of minutes.
6. Uncover and add the greens, stir together and sauté briefly until the greens are wilted
7. Add salt to taste and/or a bit of soy sauce, and serve.

*Note about cutting onion: let the onion work for you! I cut off the two ends and cut the onion in half, then remove the brown skin. I put half of the onion cut-side down, then slice it at whatever width I want for the dish, keeping the onion together. Then I turn it one-quarter and slice again, perpendicular to the last cuts. This will give you whatever size dice you choose.