CSA 2018 – Week 19: Fractals in Fall

Hi folks,

This week’s box is home to a very special guest—Romanesco. This unique fractaled beauty is a very direct view into the ways in which plant growth is defined by mathematical laws. Fractals are infinite patterns that repeat at multiple scales. Staring in at the florets of a romanesco you can get lost in the same way as you can with computer-generated fractal images.

Once upon a time I was fairly obsessed with fractals. I played around with geometry any time that I had a pen, constructing logarithmic spirals that obeyed the same laws of the Fibonnacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13…) that cells and leaves and branches must obey as plants grow. The arrangement of leaves on a stem, of stems on a branch, and of branches on a full plant is known botanically as phyllotaxy. These arrangements allow for leaves and branches to occupy their own space and maximize sunlight exposure without shading one another. Modern engineers even copy this organization to create hip highrises with balconies that each have privacy and a nice view. All plants obey these laws of nature, but certain plants such as romanesco are simply good at flaunting it. Just a little piece of farming that is often never seen.

Best, Laura Bennett

Table of Box Contents

  • Romanesco—This is probably the coolest vegetable you’ll ever see. Its fractal structure looks like it was digitally created with the Mandelbrot set when in fact it is just a product of nature. Its texture is quite like cauliflower but with a nuttier flavor. Cut the spears off stem by stem to maintain their perfect fractal shape.
  • Buttercup Squash—Buttercup squash is moist like a sweet meat squash with a Kabocha-like chestnut flavor. The blue stem end is known as a turban and makes this squash very nice for stuffing with a lid.
  • Watermelon Radish—We started growing this radish a few years ago and it has been a farm favorite ever since. It is a large radish that is pale green on the outside with a pink burst center. The flavor varies throughout the season, but they can range from mild to quite spicy depending on the weather. Their texture however is consistently crisp and refreshing.
  • Savoy Cabbage—When a leaf is said to be savoyed, it means that it’s rumply, like lacinato kale, which has savoy cabbage genes in its history. These rumples allow for many nooks and crannies to be filled with soups and sauces, making for a particularly delicious cabbage experience and textural delight.
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Cilantro
  • Bunched Carrots
  • Nicola Potatoes
  • Pepper Surprise
  • Dried Sweet Onions
  • Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Tomato

Recipes

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Vegetarian Stuffed Buttercup Squash

Adapted from https://all-thats-jas.com/buttercup-squash.html 

Ingredients

  • 1 Buttercup Squash, about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup Quinoa
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 8 oz Crimini (Baby Bella) Mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 large leaves of Kale, stem removed and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp White Wine or Water
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Cranberries
  • 1/4 cup Raw Almonds
  • 2 stems fresh Parsley, finely chopped
  • 2-3 oz feta cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut a hole on top of the squash, shaping a lid by inserting your knife on an angle. Discard seeds and loose fibers. Rub the inside with some oil. Set aside.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  3. Place quinoa in a saucepan and cover with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat immediately and let gently simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 10 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and kale until soft, 3-5 minutes.

  5. Add the wine, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook for about 5 more minutes. When the liquid is almost evaporated, add cranberries, almonds, and parsley. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the flavors.

  6. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cooked quinoa. Add the crumbled feta cheese and toss to combine. Fill the buttercup squash with the quinoa stuffing.

  7. Place the squash on a baking sheet. Replace the lid on top and bake for about an hour, depending on the oven and on the size and type of the squash. Check the squash flesh with a knife from time to time and stir around the stuffing with a spoon.

  8. The squash is ready when skin is browned and bubbly and the flesh is soft. Garnish with parsley and feta.

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Buttermilk Bagna Cauda

Adapted from https://food52.com/recipes/5108-buttermilk-bagna-cauda 

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves Garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 3 tbsp Butter, unsalted
  • 4 Anchovy Fillets
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 pinch Salt, more if needed
  • 2 tbsp Buttermilk
  • Fresh and lightly blanched vegetables, like asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli, small carrots, etc., at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Drop the garlic and thyme into a small saucepan, add the butter and melt over low heat. Simmer the garlic (pulling the pan off the heat if the butter ever bubbles actively) until it's softened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Add the anchovies and mash with a wooden spoon to dissolve them. Stir in the olive oil and let heat through. Season with salt -- taste as you go! (LB addition—I also stir in extra olive oil and spicy pepper flakes)

  3. Whisk in the buttermilk. Serve with a platter of vegetables. Kalamata olive bread is also traditionally served with this dish.