June 2, 2008

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.

No, I wasn't in Bali last week, opening my day spa. I wish!

For most of last week, I was at my parent's house, helping out with my Mom, who is in the very final, heart-breaking stage of Alzheimer's. My sister came from San Francisco, and we spent a very good time with my Dad at his favorite Mexican food dive. (Jenny F - "El Charro"!) We also cleaned out the kitchen and pantry, getting rid of jelly jars from the 70's, eight million coffee cups (mostly painted gifts from the all the grand kids), and generally trying to be useful in a hopeless situation. We are very blessed that she can stay in their home, with 3 excellent rotating care-givers and Hospice. I found a telling letter from my Mom to her Aunt - she is relating her...um...anxiousness...about her daughter's (me) propensity for not being...er...responsible. I think this was when I was planning to leave college, go off to some third world country with some hare-brained scheme, and generally being an ass. But, of course, she always sent me off on my wild tangents with gritted teeth support (and a check for $100), no matter what. No one else has quite understood me so unconditionally as my Mom. And no one else in my life restrained from saying "I told you so" like my Mom. She knew I was wrong and ridiculous, but she always told me to "do what you want, you'll never know otherwise".

Anyway, I'm just not in the mood for creative cooking. Or blogging. So I thought I'd post the wonderful email I got from Shanti, who runs Whipstone Farm, where I get my weekly dose of CSA nirvana. She sends an email every Monday, before pick-up on Tuesday. You might find it informative and inspiring. I sure the hell didn't know about turnip tops, did you? Just reading this makes me feel chipper! And like a farmer! I also found out that my great-great-great grandfather grew all the hay for the horses at Army forts in Northern Arizona during the conflict with the Apaches in the late 1800's. That must have been some scary ass agriculture! And I think it's a big, bad deal when I find a tomato slug.

"Well, it has been a busy week, and the future holds more of the same! We are finally transplanting all the warm crops out and hopefully this finicky weather doesn't decide to turn cold again. We had a small crew of volunteers yesterday (about 5) and with a full day, hopefully by the end of today we should have all the peppers (and maybe the eggplants) set in the ground, with the tomatoes, tomatillos and melons to follow in the next few days. Cucumbers and summer squash (seeded about 1 1/2 weeks ago) are already poking their little leaves out of the ground.
Following is the list of veggies in your CSA bag this week:

Japanese salad turnips


Beets (Red or golden)

Head lettuce

Swiss chard


Dried chiles (Chile de arbol)


Some thoughts on the vegetables: The turnips will have awesome tops this week. They are great raw in your salad or sauteed and put in with your cooked turnips. But remember to remove your tops from your roots before your store them in the fridge (this goes for the beets and radishes too). The radishes: we have a few different types out there, some red, some pink, and then the easter eggs. Easter egg radishes are a mixture of red, purple, pink and white and for some reason I just love the analogy in the name. The radishes are getting a little spicier. Radishes are best in taste and texture in the spring, and as the weather gets warmer they get spicier. Some people love them this way, though. We will still have radishes on and off for the next month, but by July, it is just too hot. Some other ideas for eating radishes. Sliced thin on buttered bread (these radish sandwhiches are dainty and almost fit for a tea party - maybe the kids will go for them). Or, slice radishes, cucumbers, maybe avocado or tomatoes and add some olive oil, vinegar and salt, they make a good base for a non-lettuce salad. The chiles you will be getting are dried from last season, they are small red peppers that store great. They are called nippon taka or chile de arbol peppers (you will see little bags of these in the mexican section of the grocery store under this name). They are spicy, but not too spicy (the really spicy ones will be showing up later in the summer). I use these peppers all winter in salsa. I just take a can of tomato sauce, add a few cloves of garlic, about 3-10 chiles depending on your heat preference, and a little water and blend it up. Place the salsa in a bowl and add chopped green onions and cilantro (which you are getting this week too). It isn't the same as salsa with fresh tomatoes but it tastes pretty good. The lettuce: we call all lettuce that isn't cut baby stuff "head lettuce". Some people refer to iceberg as head lettuce and get confused by our terminology. But we don't grow that tasteless iceberg junk, so when you see head lettuce on the list, it could mean any number of different kinds of lettuce that are full grown and all connected at the base. This week there will be green romaine and red and green summer crisp (also called bativian) to choose from. You will be seeing all of these varieties often this summer as they do especially well in the Arizona heat. Many other varieties of lettuce just can't handle the heat at all; they get bitter and they bolt too fast. Everyone knows romaine makes great Caesars salad. The summer crisp also has a very crunchy rib to it, which I personally like a lot. They make great lettuce wraps. Just cook up a little stir fry, put a hefty spoonful into a lettuce leaf and wrap it like a little burrito. Make a dipping sauce with things like soy, miso, or whatever. It is a really fun dish.That's it for now. Remember your bags and don't forget we have Rebecca Routson's eggs for sale. (I will be elaborating on the benefit of these eggs next week!)"

I'll post tomorrow about the stupid apple pie I'm making for my husband's birthday today. Not a nice frosted, cute cake, but a pie. What is it about these damn pies??? I can't make a pie to save my life, but that's all anyone ever wants from me. Pie!



Bellini Valli said...

I have found an alternative to the CSA box here from a company called Urban Harvest. Yay:D

Prudy said...

Those vegetables sound lovely! Good luck with the plain old apple pie.

toontz said...

I am so sorry about your mom. I am sending you good thoughts (can you hear them?) and my prayers. Growing up we always had pie for birthdays. Now my children request them, and my husband is just bewildered by this, as you are. My youngest just had a small birthday party with eight of her friends. She requested apple pie and peach pie. I went ahead and made a batch of cupcakes with pink icing (homemade) and sprinkles (just in case her friends wanted cake). I ended up sending the cupcakes home with them the next day. Every single one of those girls wanted pie!

Emiline said...

I want a CSA box!

Your family always wants pies from you - you're right! You MUST be a better pie-baker than you think.

I'm sorry about your mom. I wish there was something I could do to help. I feel for your family.

Dhanggit said...

you've got gorgeous stuff on that CSA box, wish i had something like that too :-)

i know i how it feels when someone you really love is suffering..hang on and continue believing in miracle :-) one advise too take advantage of this moment you have now to shower them with lots of love and encouragement. My prayers are with you and your family Catherine. Cant wait to see that apple pie post :-)

Lisa said...

Sending you and your family prayers. I can't make a pie either. Only if I use Pillsbury crust :) Your vegetables sound great.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I am so sorry to hear about your mom, Catherine. I think you need a long quiet vacation in Bali! The way you described your relationship with your mom, is exactly like my relationship with my mom. My mom was very ill several years ago, and so I can relate to how you must be feeling. There is just so much going on. Take good care of yourself. I am sending a big hug your way!

Catherine Wilkinson said...

I know you did! That's so awesome...such great variety! I'm sure you'll have tremendous vegetable experiments to write about!

ah, the pie! Turned out pretty dang good!

thank you so much. you're right! pie is great, i'm just cranky!

thanks, babycakes. Say, how is your Mom doing? Is she all better?

you are the sweetest! I still want to baby-sit for you!

oh, pillsbury rocks!!! thank you for prayers...it means a lot.

yeah, our Moms must have been SAINTS!!! And I'll get to Bali, and have the day spa all ready for you and your sweet husband...i'll give you a 2 for 1 massage!

Heather said...

well, I knew about turnip tops because they're commonly cooked in the South with vinegar and bacon. However, your CSA still apparently kicks much ass and I wish that I could get that veg!

(Good vibes to ma, from me.)

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"The Dish" by Catherine Wilkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.