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Archive for November, 2011

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For several years running I’ve been one of many people fortunate to be invited to celebrate in the barn at Bee Heaven Farm. It’s an extra special dinner because almost everything is local or organic, and many people at table are farmers who grew some of the food. Thanks to them, we had an amazing feast.

A long table was set up in the barn, where 25 people had their holiday dinner.

This Thanksgiving, 25 people attended. They filled a long table set up by Tim, this season’s intern, which was decorated with centerpieces designed by apprentice Marsha and Rachel, farmer Margie Pikarsky’s daughter.

Weber sniffed all the delicious aromas of turkey, green beans and other tasty things, while Nick waits for Margie to bring the last dish.

An enormous amount of food was prepared by Margie in the farm house kitchen. The tradition is to load all the dishes into the back of the farm’s golf cart and bring them to the barn. (It’s a lot easier and faster than carrying it all by hand.)

Let’s eat! Rachel filled her plate.

And 25 people made a lot of food disappear. We devoured three turkeys — two organic and one conventional. Two of those were smoked by Robert Barnum over Australian pine wood (and if you throw enough money at him, he’ll smoke something for you too). One organic turkey was split in half and oven roasted by Margie Pikasky. I’ve never seen a bird cooked that way, but it was quite good, flavored with Tuscan seasoning. We also had a Smithfield ham with a honey mustard glaze.

Farmer Margie carving an organic turkey that she roasted split in half. Behind her, Steve Green is sampling something.

A beautiful salad garnished with edible flowers (wild petunia and clitoria — no I’m not making up that name, go look it up) was artfully arranged by Rachel.  Yes, the flowers are edible!

Rachel’s beautiful salad creation, garnished with wild petunia (light purple flowers) and clitoria (dark purple flowers). Yes, the flowers are edible!

Other sides included: local green beans (grown by Dan Howard of Homestead Organic Farms) and local pearl onions (grown by Margie) in a balsamic-wine reduction sauce; sweet potatoes roasted and mashed with coconut milk; savory cookies, and beet and yogurt cheese tarts baked by Sadie; two kinds of cranberries; Hani Khouri’s fiery harissa, and a lively caponata made by lychee grower Steven Green.

Turkey and ham in the foreground, beet mini tarts, cranberry relish and chutney, caponata (topped with parsley), avocado salad, flowery salad and savory cookies.

Also on the table were: local bok choy, baba ghanoush, mustard greens; and carrot soup made by farm apprentice Marsha. Sadie also made stuffing with her mom Karen who came down from Pittsburgh. Last season’s farm intern Weber stopped by early to chop and stir the super-local guacamole made with Murray Bass’s avocados.

Nick (left, in hat) and Rachel (right, wearing black) celebrated their birthdays with pie.

For dessert, farmer Nick’s father Mickey, a retired pastry chef, made several pies — key lime, an amazing sour orange, and the traditional pumpkin, all topped with smooth and rich homemade whipped cream. We also drank about 8 or 10 bottles of wine. After all that food and drink, it was all one could do to waddle to bed and sleep for a long time.

This season’s hard-working apprentices Marsha and Tim enjoy the bounty.

Thanksgiving Day has passed, and I hope it’s a happy memory for you too. Other holiday feasts are coming up. Don’t forget to stop by your grower-supported farmers market to pick up your holiday goodies, and don’t forget to say thanks to your local farmers for all their hard work growing healthy and nourishing food. Without them, you won’t be eating. Anything. Any day. As Margie put it, no farms, no food.

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The skin of a mature luffa just peels right off.

The other morning, Sadie the farm manager was peeling the skin off a long, green, slightly lobed vegetable that looked like a cross between a cucumber and a pumpkin. Underneath the skin was a tangled mass of fibers, and it didn’t look edible at all. “You can try to eat it, but you won’t get very far,” farmer Margie commented. I was looking at a freshly picked mature luffa (or loofah). Sadie shook and squeezed out large, pumpkin-like seeds lurking inside channels that ran the length of the luffa. They will be dried and saved for planting later.

Luffa vine climbed from the wire fence (background) up into an avocado tree.

Loofahs are a member of the squash family, and grow on a long, slender vine that will take over any fence or support you give it. The gourd itself grows to about two feet in length. When they are small, they feel spongy when you squeeze them, and are said to be edible. As they grow, they feel quite heavy and solid. The older they get, the more fibrous they become.

Sadie checks the big loofahs every day as she passes by. “Then one day, magically they feel light, and that’s the time to harvest,” she explained. (You could wait until their skin starts to dry out and turn brown, but you run the risk of the whole thing starting to rot on the vine.)

Peeled luffas soak in the deep sink. They are weighed down with a concrete block.

Inside is a “vegetably slimy flesh on the fibers,” Sadie explained, and the only way to get it off is to let it soak. Peeled luffas sit covered in water for a couple of days, held down with a weight to keep them from floating to the top. The slimy flesh ferments off (and I suggest you do this in a well ventilated place because they stink). Then the fibrous luffa is rinsed, soaked in a mild beach solution (also weighted down), rinsed, and air dried.

The end result is a long, pale mass of tangled fibers that’s the vegetable equivalent of a scouring pad. Ones with coarser fibers work well to scrub a non-stick skillet or barbecue grill, and the ones with thinner, softer fibers are great for the bath. Rise your luffa thoroughly after use and let it air dry. It will last a long time.

Look for whole, dried luffas at the Bee Heaven Farm tent, at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market, starting on Sunday, Nov. 20th. 

Nick Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm with organic luffas

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Hungry critter

Hungry muncher in the bunch of dill.

Anybody have an idea what kind of caterpillar this is? It showed up in the bunch of dill that I was arranging when I came to photograph this week’s share. Despite the attention from my camera’s giant glass eye, the hungry caterpillar kept on munching. I put it on a plant outside the barn. Keep your eyes open because there could be more lurking. Margie said she spotted another caterpillar and picked off another one in a different bunch of dill.

I also heard a cricket chirping in my share box! Haven’t found it yet, and not sure where it is. Always an adventure with farm food!

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CSA share: week 1

CSA share: week 1

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Lebanese Feast

Friday November 18th
7:30 pm
Private Residence
in Coral Gables, FL

Ahlan wa sahlan. You come as family and leave with ease.

Conjure smells and tastes of old Beirut with a mouth-watering family style meal paired with great wines at a private home, all cooked with love from friend and Redland goat herder and cheese-maker, Hani Khouri.

Read about all the deliciousness in store for you in this Miami New Times article.

Menu is posted online.

Order tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/207329

Exact location will be sent to guests after tickets are purchased. All proceeds to benefit Slow Food Miami Edible School Gardens.

For more information, call Renée at 888-580-4480 or  email at president@slowfoodmiami.org.

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