Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vegetables every way, every week

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This summer our friends, Hannah and Daniel from Easy Yoke Farm asked if we would be their drop-off place for their CSA city members. In exchange they offered us a free box. So every Wednesday afternoon Hannah and baby Paul arrive with 26 boxes of just-picked vegetables.
Stacking the boxes on our front porch.
Our first box of the season.

Hot delivery day. Hannah gives Paul a drink of cool water.
 CSA is one of the innovative ways local and small farms have begun thriving and surviving. A member buys in at the beginning of the season, paying all at once for what in faith will come. Here the season runs from mid-May through early November. This assures the customer of a weekly delivery of all the freshest vegetables and it supports the farm with a steady, predictable income. Easy Yoke grows vegetables only, but some farms include other things like eggs, grains, or meat. I love that this helps small family farms survive in an agricultural climate that is now geared mainly for mega-industry.
This week: sweet onion, carrots, zucchini, patty pan squash, beets, new potatoes, cabbage, dill.
I had no idea how much we would look forward to Wednesday afternoons. Our box is like opening a gift from someone who you know has your number. It’s like Christmas every week when I open the it to see what in it this time. Even though some folks are obviously weary from a long day, everyone arriving for pick-up looks happy to walk up to our front porch. I know that some weeks there may be more of one thing than we can use or put up, but there are always neighbors who welcome the extra head of lettuce or bundle of chard.

This morning when I stopped by the Farmer’s Market to get eggs from Heartbeat Farm,  (Hannah’s sister Becca and Joe’s farm. They have adjoining acres and share equipment and space.)  Joe tapped me on the shoulder and handed me this. A blushing yellow heirloom tomato as big as a bocce ball and just as heavy.
Hierloom tomato - Heartbeet Farm

Friday, July 6, 2012

My cake is slipping

Lemon Curd Layer Cake. I forgot to the fresh lemon slices on top
 Today I finished making a lemon curd layer cake. I had promised a  celebration birthday cake for Anita and Marsena, but then life got complicated and I didn’t get around to it until this week. This recipe is complicated, too. For me, anyway. But if you do it step by step the resulting cake is memorable. Four days ago I made the required six cups of lemon curd which is so good you have to hide it from yourself. Using fresh farm eggs makes the curd bright as oxeye daisies. Yesterday I made the three cake layers. Today I whipped the cream, blended in some of the curd and topped each level with curd followed by cream frosting. The final layer is covered in cream frosting, the remaining curd is spread on the top and then rest of the whipped cream is piped around the edges. So beautiful.

Maybe because it was too hot in the house, or perhaps it is just me, but the cake is sitting in the refrigerator slipping its top. Oh, and another thing, my layers came out of the oven tall and beautiful and promptly fell. It will still taste marvelous.

Beloved, my projects, my life is never quite perfect.  

I’m posting the recipe in case anyone else is in love with lemon deserts. Just know – you really need to start this a day in advance because the curd needs to cool and the frosting needs to set up for 3-4 hours. From Bon Appetite magazine…

Lemon Curd Layer Cake

2 1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 c. fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks (save whites for cake)
¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter cut in pieces

¾ c. powdered sugar
2 c. whipping cream

1 ½ c. cake flour
1 ½ c. sugar
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
4 large egg yolks
¼ c vegetable oil
¼ c. orange juice
1 ½ tsp grated lemon peel
8 large egg whites
¼ tsp cram of tartar

Lemon slices, halved, patted dry. ( I forgot them!)

FOR LEMON CURD: Combine 2 1/3 c. sugar and cornstarch in heavy medium pan. Gradually whisk in fresh lemon juice. Whisk in eggs and yolks; add butter. Whisk over medium heat until curd thickens and boils, abut 12 min. Pour into container or jars, cover refrigerate. Can be made 1 week ahead.

FOR FROSTING: Beat powdered sugar and 1 ¼ c. curd in large bowl just until blended. Beat cream in separate bowl until firm peaks form. Fold cream into curd mixture in 3 additions. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

FOR CAKE: Oven 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 9 inch cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Whisk dry ingredients – flour, sugar, salt, b. powder. Add 4 yolks, oil, orange juice, lemon peel and ¾ c. curd. (Don’t beat it quite yet because you need to use mixer to beat egg whites.) In another large bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining cup of sugar, beating until stiff. Using same beaters, beat yolk mix until smooth. Fold whites into yolk mixture in three additions. Divide batter into the three pans. Bake about 25 min. or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 min. Turn onto racks, peel off parchment. Cool completely.

Spoon 1 c. frosting into pastry bag fitted with plain round tip. Refrigerate while you put the rest together. Place 1 layer on cake plate. Spread top with 1/3 c. curd and 1 c. frosting. Do same with the next. Top with third layer and spread remaining frosting over top and sides. Spread remaining curd on the top leaving a ¾ inch border around. Pipe little mounds of chilled bagged frosting around edge. Place lemon slices between mounds. Can be made a day ahead. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Birds need air conditioning too

Anita reaching for the nest
A purple finch has made a nest in a clay pot liner sitting up in the corner of our front porch. She lined it with wool from the small hanging bunches on our clothes line (placed there for that purpose) and laid six tiny pastel green eggs.
Purple finch nest
It seems that in the past few days rather than incubating, she is air-conditioning them as she crouches, her beak open, her wings slightly spread, fanning them in the shimmering heat. I wonder if they will make it.
Five minty-green little eggs, each no larger than my thumbnail
 We are making it. Everyday I’m thankful for conditioned air. Last week before the oncoming spread of red heat, Denis purchased a portable unit for the main floor which is minus cooled air. It invites me downstairs as opposed to sitting under the vent in my 2nd floor office. It makes the kitchen bearable. Yesterday, I even used the oven to make Boston baked beans.