CSA Newsletter – Week 15
The Brassica Family Tree
Ever wonder what the heck is up with kohlrabi?? It’s this weird looking purple or green thing; people eat it I guess; but what is it exactly? To get to the bottom of this, it’s time to get to know the Brassica Family, one of the most prominent families of vegetables in the Northwest – especially in the fall.
If you can imagine the world thousands of years ago when humans were just starting to cultivate their own food, imagine one ancient brassica ancestor. From that plant, humans selected for different traits over the years. Breeding for larger flowers led to broccoli, cauliflower, and Romanesco; selecting for larger and more flavorful roots led to turnips, horseradish, radishes, and rutabagas; breeding for better leaves led to collard greens, arugula, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna, and countless kales; flower buds got bigger and bigger until they became brussels sprouts and cabbages, and more recently kalettes; breeding for larger seeds led to canola, mustard seeds, and meadowfoam. And finally, when you breed for a larger and sweeter stem, you get kohlrabi, a wonderfully weird vegetable that sits right on top of the soil as it grows.
Isn’t it crazy to think that humans created all of these different vegetables that we have available to us today? Even sweet corn used to just be grass. I tend to get lost in thought about it every time I eat kohlrabi, romanesco, or other such funky cousins of the Brassica family tree. As the season progresses into fall, see if you can pick out the Brassicas as they debut in your CSA box.
-Laura Bennett, email@example.com
Table of Box Contents
- Kohlrabi—Shave the skin off with a knife before eating. Dip spears into hummus, grate into a slaw, fry and dip into aioli (week 5 recipe), or slice thinly and sprinkle with salt and lemon and eat as is.
- Sweet Italian Peppers
- Nicola Potatoes—These potatoes are as buttery as can be, perfect for hash browns, mashed potatoes, and roasted with other veggies in the oven.
- Red Cabbage—One cabbage can go a long way! Try using some to make a jar of kraut; I have a friend who makes purple kraut regularly and his kids call it Dragon Food (see week 8 recipe).
- Fennel—Fennel is like a licorice-flavored dill, whose mild fronds are great as garnish, in stock, or in a salad. The bulb is the main attraction, often shaved thinly and served raw with steak or pork.
- Bunched Carrots—With this rain it is officially sweater-wearing and stock-making season! Whenever you’ve got a pot of veggie or chicken stock going, make sure to throw in your carrot tops for a nice fresh flavor.
- Shallot—Shallots are a cross between onions and garlic, which is why they often look like they’re trying to clove up a bit. Their flavor is also much more potent than a normal onion, you may need to tag out with a friend if you’re chopping for too long.
- Chard—let raw leaves soak in vinegar before serving in a salad; this removes the mouth-drying, oxalic nature and allows you to taste the full chard flavor.
- Sweet Onion
- Red Onion—Nice acidic flavor, perfect raw on salads and sandwiches.
- Sweet Corn
- Jalapeño—End of season jalapeños are the hottest, beware!
Grilled Corn with Alla Diavola Butter and Parmesan Cheese
“Not quite a recipe, this dish is a reminder that when you have a fridge stocked with good condiments, such as my alla diavola butter, great meals are minutes away. The Italians have a few dishes they refer to as alla diavola, which means “devil style”—in other words, spicy as hell. In this butter, I bring together layers of not just heat but all kinds of good chile and pepper flavors. You can adjust up or down, depending on how intense you like your heat.”
- Sweet corn, husked
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Alla Diavola Butter
- 1/2 lb butter, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 1 Tbsp dried chile flakes
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup finely chopped seeded jalapeno
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce of choice
Alla Diavola Butter
Fold all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and pile into whatever container you want to serve or save it in. chill the butter for at least 1 hour to firm up and to let the flavors marry and permeate the butter.
A neat option is to spoon the butter in a line onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper and roll it into a neat cylinder. Wrap that up well in plastic or pop into a freezer bag and freeze until ready to use it or slice some.
Heat a grill to medium-high.
Arrange the corn—un-oiled—on the grill and cook for only a couple minutes, turning so that all sides get exposed to the heat. You just want to warm the exterior and maybe give it a kiss of smoke and flame, but you want the interior of the kernels to stay juicy and almost raw.
Arrange the corn on a platter and slather with the butter, turning the ears so they get entirely coated. Shower with grated pecorino and eat right away.
Roasted Fennel with Apples, Taleggio Cheese, and Almonds
“I created this dish by accident. I was making dinner and realized I didn’t have enough fennel for the dish I had planned to make. But I had apples, and so in they went. It has been a go-to recipe ever since. That’s what good cooking is about: adapting, trusting your instincts, and being willing to fail."
- olive oil
- 1/2 pound fennel sausage (or Italian)
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1/2 tsp dried chile flakes
- 2 fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise into eighths
- 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 6 ounces Taleggio cheese, torn into bits (or whatever cheese you fancy!)
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp butter
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tsp olive oil, then add the sausage. Cook until it’s no longer pink, about 5 minutes, breaking it up into pieces about the size of popcorn. Scoop it out of the pan and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, add 1 tbsp oil and the smashed garlic, and cook slowly to toast the garlic so it’s very soft, fragrant, and nicely golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chile flakes and toast for another few seconds, then add the sliced fennel. Pour 1/3 cup water into the pan and cover it, adjusting the heat so the fennel steams and simmers. Check the fennel every few minutes, adding more water as it evaporates.
Continue cooking like this until the fennel is getting tender but not super soft, about 10 minutes. If there’s any remaining water when the fennel is cooked, increase the heat to evaporate it quickly.
Return the sausage to the pan and add the apples, almonds, thyme, and half the Taleggio. Toss and then season generously with salt and pepper.
Pile this into a 2-3 quart baking dish, top with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs, and dot with the butter. Bake until the ingredients are hot and all the way through the cheese is melting and starting to sizzle, 30-35 minutes.
Let the casserole rest for about 5 minutes and serve hot.