Alert: No Mediterranean share this week! Double Med shares next week!
It’s not every day that a politician stops by Bee Heaven Farm. But back in January, on a gray drizzly afternoon, Congressman Joe Garcia and some of his staff came to pay a visit with farmer Margie Pikarsky, one of his constituents.
“He’s making a real point of talking to farmers,” Margie told me. “Finding out what we do, what we need, what we want, and how to help.” She said he mentioned that he’s working on a series of visits with all the organic growers in Redland to get their input.
The visit made a favorable impression on farm intern Nicole Fiori. “I thought it was really refreshing to see that he got involved. It felt like he actually wanted to help us achieve our goals.”
And so Margie took the Congressman on a tour of her farm. They strolled around and stopped to smell aromatic allspice leaves, taste delicate pei tsai greens, and spoke about various topics impacting agriculture — NAFTA, immigration labor, and two insect borne diseases — laurel wilt and citrus greening — which are threatening to destroy Florida’s avocado and citrus crops.
Bee Heaven Farm CSA members have gotten beets a few times in their shares this season. There’s a pretty good chance those homely root vegetables are still hanging around somewhere in the back of your refrigerator. Now, don’t get me wrong! I love beets, and grew up eating them — boiled, roasted, pickled. But never in baked goods. Until now…
Beets were the original coloring agent used in some red velvet cake recipes back in the day. They are great for baking because they become sweet when roasted, and hold moisture. Plus, the earthy beet flavor combines beautifully with dark chocolate.
I found this recipe for beet brownies on a lovely food/farm blog, and tweaked it a bit (my changes are in italics). The original recipe calls for a topping of fresh blueberries, which sounds fabulous; but even plain and warm out of the oven, they are scrumptious. I’ve made this recipe several times, and each time the brownies get gobbled up in no time flat, and people beg me for more. Enjoy!
Red Velvet Brownies
• 1 cup of beet puree*
• 3.5 ounces (one bar) of good-quality chocolate (at least 70% dark)
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• pinch salt (about 1/8 tsp)
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 7 tablespoons butter, softened
• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 2 eggs, room temperature
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
* Note: Roast about 5 or 6 beets, then let them cool. Using gloves, remove skins, then puree in food processor. If you roast more than you need for the recipe, pureed beets are a delicious side dish dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
2. Melt chocolate over double-boiler. Set aside.
3. Whisk together flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.
4. Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is creamy. Add melted chocolate, beet puree, flour mixture, and walnuts. Mix well.
5. Pour batter into 9 x 13 baking pan lined with baking parchment and bake for 25-30 minutes.
6. Let cool and cut into triangles. Serve with fresh-picked blueberries and share with family.
One never knows what’s going to turn up in the barn on Friday, when it’s time to pack the CSA shares. Last week, it was zucchini and other squash from Worden Farm. Most were average sized, some maybe a bit on the small side. But, there were a few that Chris Worden slipped in to the order that were a bit larger — “as big as a baseball bat,” he warned Farmer Margie Pikarsky.
But Margie begged to differ. “This is a bowling pin,” she told me, holding up a yellow squash. “And these are clubs,” she added, holding up two giant green summer squash. They certainly looked like they had heft, and could hurt somebody’s noggin.
“It’s the size of your arm,” I pointed out. We put the vegetable side by side with Margie’s forearm, which normally appears sturdy and strong. But next to the giant green club, her forearm looked thin and frail. Now that is a monster of a vegetable!
But it didn’t stand a chance against the hungry farmer. Out came a big kitchen knife the size of a machete and whack hack smack the clubs were split in half. Their innards were carved out with a spoon to make boats, no, dugout canoes one could use to traverse the Everglades. Those insides were tossed into a bowl along with heirloom tomatoes, scallions, pepper jack cheese, crumbled organic corn chips, a few seasonings, and maybe a few other scraps that were lying around.
The stuffed zucchini baked in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. Out came these delicious marvels, one per person. And that was all you needed to fill you up for dinner. Yum!
Last Friday, the CSA share boxes were stuffed to capacity, both the family and small sizes.
As soon as I opened the flaps of the family share box, I saw its contents were packed solid, with each vegetable fitted carefully in its place, just like a puzzle. I knew I was going to have a problem remembering where everything went, after I was done arranging and photographing.
So I pulled out my smartphone and snapped pictures as I started to unload the contents. They were my map – and now I share them with you in the form of two short animations. Dive in!