Sunday, June 28, 2009

the family & the farm

For two-thirds of the year,
much of our family activities
revolve around our local CSA
. Farm work, farm camp,
produce pickups, preparing
the food, eating the food, and
freezing and putting up food
for the other third of the year.

Thanks to the new mobile
greenhouse and root cellar,
the growing season has been
extended, and we're getting ever closer to having local food available year round. Check out the sunflower already twice as tall as a person inside the new greenhouse!

Three varieties of peas are
grown at the farm: snap peas,
snow peas, and shelling peas.
In addition, a fourth kind is
grown that is specifically bred
for its foliage, not its legumes.
These pea "shoots" or "tendrils"
are harvested when young and
tender for use in salads and
other dishes. In previous seasons I've turned to our CSA's newsletter and recipe collection, online recipes, and Gourmet's Fresh cookbook. But this year I've been doing my own thing. I also asked a few friends what they usually do with their pea shoots. One of my neighbors said she makes them like her mother did, sauteing them in olive oil, garlic, and a little white wine. The trick with quick preparations like this is to use only the most tender segments of the plant, otherwise you will end up with tough chewy bits.

I decided to expand this idea to make a pea shoots risotto, which also allows for use of some of the slightly tougher section of the plant due to its longer cooking time. If you want to get picky, separate the tougher and more tender parts, adding the tougher sections early in the cooking process, and saving the tender bites for the last few minutes or even as a garnish.

Pea Shoot Risotto

3 T. olive oil
1 T. margarine
1 onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
3 1/2 - 4 cups warm vegetable
broth/stock and/or water
1 tsp. salt
12 stems pea shoot/tendrils, roughly chopped or torn
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 T. fresh flat parsley, chopped (optional)
2 T. nutritional yeast (optional)
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated soy parmesan (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and saute onion until soft, 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and margarine, cook for another 3-5 minutes. Do not brown.
Add rice and 2 cups broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add salt and tough sections of pea shoots. Stir almost constantly, adding more broth or water as necessary to keep rice from sticking to bottom of pan. This process takes about 40-50 minutes. Add nutritional yeast about half way through. Add herbs and remaining pea shoots near the end.
After you've used 3 1/2 cups
of the broth/water, add the
wine. When rice is tender, stir
in soy parmesan (if using). Add
more liquid if necessary.

Serve hot. Stir in a little more
liquid if there are leftovers.
Or add thick leftovers to a bento!

One thing to remember, your primary flavouring agent is your broth. Buy or make one you really like the taste of. I used 1 cup vegetable broth, 1 cup water from soaking sun-dried tomatoes, and 2 cups water.

The kids are usually included
in food purchasing/picking and
preparation. Choose an age
appropriate task for each child's
ability and interest.
Maia is learning to use the
salad spinner. This has been a
favourite of all the kids at an
early age. It's lots of fun.

Even the kids' computer games
reinforce menu planning and

At the farmer's market, Nate
eagerly tries a sample of
fresh kettle corn.

Maia was happy to sit in the
grass and try some farmer's
market purchases too...along
with the very local clover

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