News and blog
Aloha Vegetable Groupies!
Here we are in week number nine! Finally we are seeing the abundant shares we normally see at the end of July. Which is not too far behind schedule seeing as it’s just the first week of August. We’re all very excited for the color this brings. There’s sweet corn, wonderfully colorful peppers, variegated heirloom tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons with yellow flesh, and the purpliest eggplant!
Eggplants are so named because of their shape and because the original varieties had white skins, thus quite resembling goose eggs. The British call them aubergine though, due to the purple varietals. There are still white eggplant out there, as well as multihued purple-and-white heirloom varieties, which we frequently see in shares. These have stems whose ends curl up like a little hat and when the fruit has added mutant nodules which make nose-like appendages, they resemble none other than the author, Oscar Wilde. True story.
Eggplant can be a tricky fruit. Not everyone likes it, but mostly because they don’t know how to cook it to their liking. There’s a way though, I promise. Sometimes using small amounts of one often does the trick – like adding eggplant in with summer squash in stir fries. Sometimes I like to add small amounts of all the veggies we get in shares into breakfast egg dishes: omelets, quiche, or breakfast burritos. Surprisingly, I never once liked baba ganoush until I made the stuff myself for a party (just to deal with excess eggplant!). With fresh roast eggplant (and lots of garlic), the goop was amazing! My husband has taken to making a quick trick ratatouille to feed us all rapidly and well – sautéed squash, onion, garlic, corn, and eggplant stirred with tomatoes and tomato sauce, seasoning (salt, pepper, oregano, basil, whatever you like), and served alone, or atop rice, pasta, quinoa, or couscous.
The best thing to do, however, is to invest the time to make eggplant Parmesan. My friend Anthony has the best recipe for it, via his mother, and I managed to twist his arm into letting me share it with all of you. Of course, by “twist his arm,” I mean that I asked if it was okay. See all the lengthy involved details at the end of this letter. In the meantime, check out the amazing things in this week’s shares!
sweet corn x4
sweet corn x6
bell pepper x2
Anthony’s Mom's Top Secret Eggplant Parmesan
(Kind of like a Recipe, but less precise)
WARNING I do a lot of eyeballing amounts, especially in the breading mix. I tend to buy (or make sure I have on hand) more of everything than I'm supposed to need in case of overflow. The cheese, in particular, is estimated high here; I start with two packages of each, make sure things are well coated, and have some left over. There's also variability by taste: I go heavy on the cheese, other people like more sauce. I also end up with breaded and fried eggplant that doesn't go into the finished product that I use later for other things (sandwiches with mozzarella, tomato, and greens, or sliced in salads, mostly).
* 2 medium-large eggplants
* 4 cups-ish breadcrumbs, plain
* 1.5 tubs grated Parmesan
* 2 -16 oz. packages mozzarella
* Black pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, to taste
* Extra Virgin Olive Oil (lots; don't ask me)
* 5 eggs
* 3 jars tomato sauce
About sauce: When picking a tomato sauce, look for something not too watery and relatively smooth. You also want to get something without much "stuff" in it (so probably not a "Garden Veggie" type sauce), and with a relatively basic flavor (no Arabiata or Vodka sauces). I usually use Tomato Basil or Marinara and am very happy with it.
* large knife
* 9x13" oven-safe pan
* vegetable peeler (optional)
* coarse grater (optional)
* large frying pan (optionally two, to save time)
* large plate, preferably with some depth, like a pasta plate
* small bowl
* ladle (optional)
* aluminum foil
* paper towels (optional)
Making this recipe goes in two parts: slice, bread, and fry the eggplant slices, then assemble and bake the finished dish. I've written them below as distinct stages, but you can overlap them to save yourself a lot of time. I usually get about half way through the first stage and then start the second, picking the better-looking results from the first stage to go into the second (since I often burn a few slices), but I have taken them directly from the frying pan, patted them off with a paper towel, and deposited them directly in Stage 2. I preheat the oven about half way through the first stage, too. To save time in a different way, you can do the first stage, refrigerate the results, and do the second stage some time later. It isn't quite 100% as good this way, but you have to try to notice, and it can be quite convenient.
1. Put your olive oil in your frying pan and turn it on medium to medium-low heat. Use enough oil to get about ¼" coverage. If you have a second large frying pan available, you might consider using it as well; it'll speed the process up.
2. In your large plate, dump as much of the breadcrumbs as will reasonably fit and still leave you a little room to work. If it's not all of them, don't worry: you can add as you go.
3. Add a bunch of the grated Parmesan. I probably use ¼ container if using all the breadcrumbs. Add in black pepper, oregano, and basil to taste.
4. Crack your eggs into your bowl and beat well.
5. Lop off the top of your eggplant, near the stem, peel the remainder, and slice it into thin (~⅛") slices. Take each slice, dip it in the beaten egg well enough to coat it entirely, remove it and allow it to drip for a few seconds, then place it in the breadcrumb mixture and coat well. I lay it down, press some breadcrumbs on the slice, flip it, and repeat*.
6. Fry each slice for ~3-5 minutes per side. They should be golden brown by this point. If they're cooking too fast, turn down your heat, or the breadcrumbs will burn before the eggplant is as cooked as you want.
7. Remove the eggplant from the oil and place on a paper towel (probably on a plate or cutting board to minimize mess).
8. Finished product can be used directly in Stage 2, or stored in the fridge with fresh paper towels separating slices.
*This can be a mess. I try to line up my stack of sliced, unbreaded eggplant, my egg, my breadcrumbs, and my frying pan, and use my left hand to grab unbreaded slices, stick them in the egg, and drop them in the breadcrumbs, then use my right hand to toss the breadcrumbs around and drop the breaded slice into the oil. This way only one hand gets eggy and you can use your spatula or adjust heat without making quite as much of a mess.
**Stage 2** Preheat oven to 375°F
1. Pour a bit of the tomato sauce (about a ladle's worth) into the bottom of the 9x13" pan. Not a ton, but enough to coat the bottom.
2. Spread eggplant slices in a non-overlapping layer. Try to use different sized slices to fill in gaps, but don't worry when some remain.
3. Spread enough of the grated Parmesan on top to well cover things. Not so much that you can't see the eggplant, but well covered.
4. Grate your mozzarella on top. You can pre-grate and sprinkle, or (if you don't have a coarse grater handy) slice the mozzarella very thin and put the dots scattered around the layer, or dice it with your knife and do the same.
5. More tomato sauce on top, usually about 2 ladles worth. Spread it around so that things are well covered, replacing any cheese displaced in the process. Gently press down to squeeze things together and increase the final density of the dish.
6. Do steps 2-4 over again for more eggplant-Parmesan-mozzarella-sauce layers. You should be able to get at least 3 layers, 4 if you sliced the eggplant thin enough, until you're just below the top of the pan.
7. Finish with a layer of tomato sauce and ample Parmesan.
8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
9. Remove the aluminum foil, bake for another 15 minutes.
10. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes to set a bit. Serve and enjoy!
You can combine any leftover breadcrumbs and eggs to make breadballs (like meatballs, but bread). Dump a bit of the breadcrumbs at a time into the egg and stir it around. Stop adding breadcrumbs when the mixture is still moist, but not wet. Fry in the same oil you've been using, turning occasionally, until golden brown on each side.
Peace and veggies,
Anna Kiss Mauser-Martinez
JOIN US THIS SEASON!
Sign up for shares at one of these sign-up events to reserve your first week's share:
Thursday, May 29, Clark-Metro Fresh Stop 3-6 pm
Saturday, May 31, E. 200th Stroll, Euclid 10 am - 2 pm
Tuesday, June 3, Coventry Fresh Stop 5-7 pm
Tuesday, June 3, Euclid Fresh Stop 5:30-7:30 pm
Thursday, June 5, Ohio City Fresh Stop 4:30-6:30 pm
Thursday, June 5, LEAF Night Lakewood Fresh Stop 5:30 - 8 pm
Friday, June 6, City Hall Fresh Stop (Willard Park Free Stamp) 11 am
Calling all Friends, Colleagues, Biologists, Naturalists, Specialists, Horticulturists, Environmental Scientists, Citizen Scientists, Permaculturists and other interested folks!
The New Agrarian Center (http://gotthenac.org/) and Green Triangle (www.greentri.org) are hosting a BioBlitz at George Jones Farm in Oberlin, Ohio on Saturday April 27, 2013 from sunrise (6:30 a.m.) to sunset (8:30 p.m.) and WE NEED YOUR HELP AND PARTICIPATION!
WHAT: A BioBlitz is a unique, fun way to document as many species as possible that utilize a particular property. People of various skill levels and sets (formally trained scientists and the general public) come together to observe and record what species of plants and animals (i.e. the local biodiversity) are located at the Farm. Although the goal is serious, the atmosphere is relaxed and enjoyable - an excuse to explore a new property and spend the day celebrating nature!
WHERE: George Jones Farm (GJF) is located at 44333 State Route 511, just east of Oberlin, Ohio. Since 2001, GJF has been managed and protected through a collaboration between the New Agrarian Center and Oberlin College. The site (70 acres in total) has many diverse habitats including: farmland in production, wetlands, ponds, woodlands, vernal ponds and old fields. Also located on-site are many examples of natural building, greenhouses and even Oberlin College's research ponds!
WHY: Knowing what biodiversity exists at the George Jones Farm provides baseline data that can help track the success of management initiatives in the future. Even more exciting is the chance to document rare species and uncommon habitats! This information can help guide future activities at the Farm, as well as help secure funding for special projects.
WHO: YOU, experts and the general public commit to joining our team for the day (or at least a part of the day). Spread the word far and wide and invite your friends! The more the merrier when it comes to a BioBlitz!
WHEN: April 27, 2013 from sunrise to sunset (and anywhere in between!)
HOW: You'll pick your favorite field of study and start searching with other folks that are interested in the same thing! Here are the areas we are looking for volunteers to help out with, but if you another interest, just let us know and we can try to accommodate you. Or choose as many as you like!
WHAT TO BRING: Hiking boots; waterproof boots; appropriate clothes for the weather; sunscreen; bug spray; water bottle; binoculars; field guides; any special equipment you might need to find your target species (i.e. nets for insects or fish); digital camera to record cool stuff
WHAT WE WILL HAVE FOR YOU: A hearty THANK YOU, of course! We will provide groups in each area of study with maps, clipboards, pens and extra field guides to borrow (if available). There is a composting toilet on-site for potty breaks. We will have snacks and drinks available to you throughout the day and will build some campfires to warm up next to or to throw some food onto if you desire.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NEXT: Please RSVP by APRIL 21, 2013 to email@example.com (Lara is a board member of Green Triangle) with your name, institution (if applicable), area of interest (what do you want to search for at the Farm), number of people coming with you, and your estimated time of arrival. we are looking forward to hearing from you soon!
QUESTIONS?: Email Lara at firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions to George Jones Farm can be found at http://gotthenac.org/directions-to-the-farm
An Interview with new Executive Director, Nick Swetye
By Kara DePaul
The days are certainly getting longer now. Farmers are planting seeds and some early crops are in the ground. While we wait patiently for the bounty of goods in our City Fresh shares, the promise of a new season is in the changing of the air. And with that, The New Agrarian Center would like to share some of its own exciting changes.
We are pleased to announce Nick Swetye has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the NAC. After serving as Coordinator of City Fresh Cuyahoga since 2009, Nick moves into this role with renewed vision and energy to continue supporting the NAC’s mission to promote healthy and sustainable local food systems. With the help and support of all of you who help make City Fresh and George Jones Farm a success, the stage is set for Nick to lead the NAC to new heights.
New Executive Director, Nick Swetye
"Sometimes, I have to remind myself to dance a little."
Nick, what do we have to look forward to this year at City Fresh and George Jones Farm?
City Fresh is always an adventure. When we get that first share order from the farms, and the Fresh Stops come alive, and we see people that we maybe haven’t seen since last October, there is, I always feel, a kind of reaffirmation. Of our community. Of our work. And as the weeks go on, and we get into the mid season shares, it’s the colors. I love the colors. And I love being able to eat raw food and know that the enzymes and the living soil are becoming part of me. I live for that. At the George Jones Farm, we have a new Farm Director in Brad Charles Melzer. Brad is a fantastic teacher with international experience in both organic vegetable and fruit production as well as aquaculture. With Brad at the farm, permaculture takes front and center stage, so we have a series of wetland projects, forest management projects, and polyculture production projects that we will be unveiling as the season unfolds.
What changes or improvements do you hope to make?
City Fresh and GJ Farm are coming off of a difficult year and I don’t think there is shame in admitting that. I know all farmers and everyone working in food is experiencing the same thing. It’s a tough business with very thin margins and a lot of risk. Its doubly thin and extra risky for City Fresh. Our week-to-week ordering system is a bear in terms of accounting. And our limited income share option costs us more than $45,000 a year in lost revenues. Of course, those two things are what makes City Fresh, so there’s no compromising that. We work hard and it’s an honor to make an impact. For the GJ Farm, in Oberlin, we’re happy to have just completed a new business model and we’re having a lot of success building new bridges in the community and with the college. Seeds are sprouting, and not just metaphorically.
How can we, as volunteers, shareholders or growers help you?
I have found that there is incredible power in invitation. If you can’t afford to do the simple things, like make a donation to the share fund or pay for the full season up front, then the best way to help is to invite your friends, family, or colleagues into our story. Ask them if they want to come to the Fresh Stop and see what it’s all about. Pass out some fliers. If you have a few hours in the evenings free, consider joining our army of volunteers that manage the Fresh Stops. We are always looking for new, friendly faces.
What excites you the most about working with the NAC?
For more than 10 years, we’ve been pushing the envelope, working to connect the local foods movement to social justice. It’s not just about supporting the local foods revolution, or ensuring that our farmers who grow in ways that are good for the earth are able to make a living. It’s about doing all those things while also giving people the choice to live healthier lives through fresh food regardless of their income or place of residence. Combine that with the education and experimentation we have going on at the George Jones Farm, and… well, to me that’s pretty exciting.
Will we still see you at Fresh Stops?
Yes. For sure. We run a lean operation at City Fresh. There are just two of us full-time to help coordinate 100 volunteers, 20 farmers, and serve 600 families a week. My new role as Executive Director adds some paperwork, but more importantly I think it gives me the ability I need to better engage this passionate network and turn the best ideas and strategies into realities.
Can you share your vision of how you would like to move the NAC, City Fresh and George Jones Farm forward in the coming years?
To me, the vision question is about throwing away limitations for a moment. So if I’m dreaming, I imagine a future where everyone in northeast Ohio eats locally during the growing season. City Fresh is an entry point for those new to eating locally and continues to be a vital resource in neighborhoods without access to fresh produce. Every single shareholder uses all of their produce in their share every single week, because they’ve learned three or four simple ways to prepare anything in the kitchen and because they are not afraid to experiment. Rural and urban farmers are looked to as heroes in their communities, and people interested in the profession who are ready to move beyond gardening and into farming turn to the George Jones Farm for their masterclass and land lab. The NAC acts as an incubator for new social justice-related local food projects who need support and access to resources and capital. We are a year ahead of our finances and the whole network knows exactly what and how they can contribute.
Here’s to the coming of spring, fresh changes, new faces and all the savory flavors that local food has to sustain us!
Welcome to the 2012 growing season!
At the George Jones Farm, our greenhouse is bursting with seedlings ready to go in the ground. This summer City Fresh shareholders be enjoying a variety of kale grown by our intern apprentices who are learning natural farming from Jones Farm Manager, Evelyn Bryant.
City Fresh is gearing up for an excellent season. Nick Swetye has lined up some great Fresh Stop locations with amazing volunteers in Cuyahoga County. Gina Makris has new Fresh Stops in Lorain county with even more amazing volunteers and thanks to the sponsorship of a Congressional Earmark by our wonderful congresswoman, Marcy Kaptur, we have expanded into Erie County. Lauren Berlekamp & Laura Jean Heishman are our Erie County team and Roger Himmelright will be driving produce from our Amish farmers into the city. This year we have a distribution building on the Miller farm where our local driver, Terry Rood, will bring produce to be sorted for Fresh Stops so that Roger can just pick it up and go! This should streamline our process and help to make us more efficent as we grow our program.
You can order and pay for your City Fresh share on-line and we will be sending you an email to remind you of your CSA pick up when you do. Also, we have a great recipe section so you can search for a recipe for everything in your weekly share bag. If you have a favorite recipe, please email it to us. We would love to share it with everyone (and give you credit as well.)
Our staff will be blogging throughout the season. Each week we will have a new blog entry for you. But, we also would love to hear from you. Please email us any questions, suggestions and even photos! We will put your photos on the site for everyone to enjoy.
Thank you for all of your support of this healthy, sustainable & equitable local food system! City Fresh has grown from 233 share bags in our first summer to 13,000 in 2011. All thanks to shareholders telling their friends. We have a great group of people who are working hard to make this a great summer and it is shaping up to be just that. Thanks for helping to make this program a big success, and please...tell a friend!
Sandy Kish Jordan
The New Agrarian Center