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Joining a Community Supported Agriculture: The Farm Tour
I’ve been back in Portland, Oregon, for almost two years now and decided that this summer was the time to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
CSAs are very popular in the Portland area and gaining popularity in other parts of the country, as well. Basically, you invest in a family farm and they provide you a weekly farm basket during the summer growing season. It is a great way to support local growers who practice sustainable farming.
I had heard horror stories – some from chefs! – about the amount of produce you receive each week. They couldn’t keep up with the onslaught of weekly veggies. With this in mind, I asked a friend to share a half-basket with me, so I basically bought a quarter CSA share. We’ll see how that works. Maybe next year I’ll be brave enough to buy my own CSA share.
Our CSA, Sun Gold Farms (http://sungoldfarm.com/index.html) , is a small, sustainable, fifth generation family farm in rural Oregon, less than 25 miles from Portland. Their harvest box program runs from June 15 through October 12. You can pick up your harvest box at a number of locations; I elected to pick up mine at the Portland Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
In the beginning of June, Sun Gold Farms invites CSA participants to a Farm Day so we can see what the farm looks like and meet the growers. We could also buy a half-flat of strawberries at the farm, which I did.
Sun Gold Farms is huge, or maybe it just looks that way to me. On my visit, I saw acres and acres of fields with all the vegetables that I am now expecting in my harvest basket. I saw rows upon rows of cabbage, leeks; all kinds of tomatoes – slicing, heirloom, cherry – sugar snap peas, eggplant. My mind is racing with all the veggies I’ll be getting and all the food I’ll be making.
But for now, I’m all about the strawberries. I bought half a flat and the car smelled of strawberries all the way home. I couldn’t wait to make something special with these really fresh, Oregon-grown strawberries.
I wanted to make a dessert – of course – and had some puff pastry in the freezer. I decided to make a strawberry napoleon with mascarpone/heavy cream filling.
My husband – ever the eater – suggested I make a fruit salsa with some of the berries. So I reworked one of my Mexican recipes to include the strawberries.
The recipes follow.
Next week, I’m off to the Portland Farmer’s Market. I don’t pick up my first harvest box for a couple of weeks, but I want to see what’s fresh at the market.
Mango, Pineapple, Strawberry and Chipotle Salsa
I first made this recipe, minus the strawberries, in Mexico. Oregon strawberries are not overly sweet or overly large so you may need to use more or less depending on size. Cut the fruits so that they are all roughly the same size. Be careful with the chipotles, they can be really hot. Although I prefer the chipotles for their smoky flavor, you can substitute Serrano chiles. This is really great with grilled fish or meats.
2 mangoes, diced
2 cups pineapple, diced
½ pint strawberries, quartered
½ cup green onion, minced
2-3 chile chipotles in adobados, or to taste
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, to taste
juice of 1-2 limes
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
In a medium-sized bowl, combine fruits with the green onion. Remove seeds and veins from chipotles and mince. Add to fruit mixture along with the brown sugar and chopped cilantro. Add salt and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasonings.
You can easily double this recipe if you’re having a crowd. You make the pastry squares early in the day; bake slightly if they become soft. You can also make the cream filling earlier, as well as the strawberries, and then assemble everything just before serving. This would be good, of course, with any berry that is season.
½ package frozen puff pastry, thawed
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups strawberries, sliced
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
Using the fold as a guideline, cut the puff pastry into 3 long strips. Then cut each strip crosswise to form a square. You should have 9 squares. Place the squares on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside to cool.
In the meantime, using a hand mixer or electric mixer, beat the cheese, cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract together until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, mix the strawberries with the granulated sugar.
When the pastry is cooled, slice each square into two so you have a matching top and bottom. You should have 18 squares now. To assemble: Spoon the cream filling into a cooled pastry square. Top with strawberries and a sprinkling of almonds. Top with another square; add the cream filling, then the strawberries and almonds. Top with a “hat” of pastry. Serve.