Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Board the Enterprise

What's in your box? This week has something new: Enterprise apples. Why Enterprise? For those in the apple-breeding community, there's a secret tip-off: the letters pri tucked into the name Enterprise. PRI stands for the Purdue-Rutgers-Illinois apple breeding program, a horticultural research & development program started in 1945 between Purdue University, Rutgers University, and the University of Illinois-Urbana. To honor the work done at these schools, every new apple bred by the program is tagged by the letters "PRI" somewhere in the name. Other apples have included Prima, Priscilla, Williams Prize, and Pristine.

Enterprise is a particularly tasty late-season apple. It ripens late and goes boldly into cold storage after picking, turning even sweeter and developing more complex flavors after one to two months held just above freezing. First planted in 1982, it has an illustrious parentage combining Rome Beauty, Starking Delicious, McIntosh, and Golden Delicious. A lot of what makes Enterprise valuable, though, isn't visible to the average consumer.

Apples, like just about every commercially developed fruit, are susceptible to all kinds of fungal and bacterial diseases. These can be combated with potent chemical sprays and dusts during the course of the growing season, but a better route, especially for the organic grower, is to get to the root of the problem and breed disease-resistant varieties. Enterprise was bred to resist several common apple diseases, including powdery mildew, scab (which forms unslightly brown patches on the skin), and fireblight (which kills and blackens the tree's limbs). Organic growers are smart to plant these tougher, less susceptible types of trees, since starting out with a tougher tree means less trouble-shooting (and less chance of an orchard ravaged by disease) during the growing season. Tougher trees also mean less chemical interventions, even for non-organic growers. So when you bite into these beautiful apples, take a moment to thank those decades of tireless apple researchers!

Waldorf Salad
Created at New York City's famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1880s, Waldorf Salad is a sweet and crunchy addition to any summer picnic menu.

3 apples, cored and cubed
1 cup thinly sliced celery or cubed jicama
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes if dry
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar (if needed)
salt and pepper to taste
Romaine lettuce leaves, for serving.

Toss apples, celery, walnuts, and raisins together. In a separate bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice and sugar (if using). Toss dressing with apple mixture, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over Romaine lettuce leaves. If making ahead, omit nuts and mix in just before serving.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hit The Jackpot!

It may sound like a casino, but this week’s Golden Nugget is actually a juicy, seedless tangerine wrapped in a distinctive lumpy-bumpy skin. In our climate, the Golden Nugget ripens in late January or February but can hold on the tree with no loss of quality through April and May—making it a great “bridge” fruit between winter’s oranges and grapefruits and the not-yet-ripe cherries and apricots of early summer.

Developed at the University of California at Riverside in the mid-70s, the Golden Nugget is a hybrid mandarin variety, resulting from a cross of two tangerines, Wilking and Kincy. The fruit is tart when first ripe, but mellows to sweetness as the fruit hangs on the tree before being picked in the spring. It’s often described as “Pixie-like” for its resemblance to the tiny but popular Pixie mandarin.

Along with your Golden Nuggets, you’ll find blood oranges, ruby grapefruit, kiwis, minneola tangelos, and avocados. As always, your kiwis and avocado will ripen best at room temperature. Once they yield to gentle pressure, store them in the refrigerator. Citrus keeps best (and tastes most refreshing) when stored in the refrigerator. Try using this week’s selection of citrus to make some refreshing juices for cooling off with during this week’s heat wave. Try pouring a mix of blood orange and tangelo juice over chipped ice with a splash of sparkling water.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Rain and Oranges

Be careful what you ask for! No sooner were we talking about the balmy weather and wishing for rain than a storm moved in, giving us a wet and muddy week--much to the delight of our big farm pooch, Noches, who's never happier than when he's got lots of orchard mud to track everywhere. Luckily, the winds weren't too bad and the trees look even healthier for their spring bath.

We hope you enjoyed the spring holiday weekend. At the farm, it's a quiet time, watching and waiting for the next few weeks as the first cherries begin ripening. We can't wait to start putting our own Frog Hollow Farm fruit into your boxes, but there's no hurrying Mother Nature. Look for the first boxes of cherries to arrive in about a month. Once the season starts, though, it will bring with it a steadily growing avalanche of fresh stone fruit, from cherries and apricots through peaches, plums, nectarines, and pluots.

Until, we'll be continuing on with a mix of juicy citrus, kiwi, avocados and the occasional sub-tropical treat like passion fruit or cherimoya from Southern California. This week's recipe is a fast, easy, and healthy fish-and-salsa dish, using a mix of citrus with cilantro and a bit of hot chile. You can also cut the fish into strips and serve it as a taco in warmed tortillas.

Red Snapper with Mexican Citrus Salsa

Adapted from Mark Bittman in the New York Times.
This vibrant citrus salsa makes a great pairing for simply cooked fish. Serve with sliced avocados alongside.

1 orange or tangelo
1 small grapefruit
1 lemon, preferably Meyer lemon
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 habanero or other chili, seeded and minced, or to taste
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons oil
4 red snapper fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each, preferably skin on

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut orange in half horizontally and cut out sections as you would a grapefruit, leaving the membranes behind; do this over a bowl to capture all its juice. Remove seeds and combine flesh and juice in bowl. Repeat with grapefruit and lemon. Stir in habanero and salt, adding cilantro just before serving.
Put oil in a nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. A minute later, add fish, skin side down; season top with salt. Cook until skin begins to crisp, 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer to oven. Cook another 3 or 4 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife meets little resistance when inserted into thickest part of fish. Serve fish with salsa, immediately.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Around the Farm

We're enjoying this balmy weather out on the farm, although we would like we would like a little more rain before the dry season sets in. But this mild, warm, and sunny weather is great for the trees as their tiny fruits begin to grow. Excessive wind, rain, or hail can damage the delicate young fruits at this stage, scarring their skins or even knocking them off the branches altogether. So we're hoping this mild weather continues, helping us towards another bumper crop this summer.

The fruit we all love is just one part of what can be used from the tree. At our cafe in San Francisco's Ferry Building, we keep a stash of dried peach leaves on hand to add whenever we make iced tea. The leaves add a delicious subtle fruitiness, and keep well dried or in the freezer. We decorate with eye-catching displays of flowering branches brought in from the orchard.

Smash an apricot pit with a hammer and you'll find a small, tender kernel inside. This kernel is used to give the distinctive bitter-almond flavor to baking extracts and liqueurs like Amaretto. While you shouldn't eat these kernels whole, you can drop a couple of kernels into a batch of apricot jam to give just a hint of almond flavor. Later in the season, as the trees are pruned back, we might load up the barbecue with fragrant, clean-burning apple or cherry wood. (Applewood-smoked bacon is a particular favorite in the Bay Area, and with good reason, since the smoke produced by applewood enhances rather than overwhelms the pork.)

Now is a great time to get ready to preserve some of your summer bounty. Lay in a stock of fresh canning jars (available at many supermarkets and most hardware stores) or get a few big boxes of heavy-duty plastic freezer bags. Whatever you can't eat at its peak can be canned or frozen for later use, when the luscious peaches of July are just a memory.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Orange & Passion Fruit Gelatin

Made with fruit juice and unflavored gelatin, this jiggly dessert has all the slippery fun of Jell-O, but it's actually good for you, without any added sugar or artificial colorings.

2 passion fruit
3/4 cup Bonterra organic muscat wine or other lightly sweet white dessert wine (white grape juice can be substituted)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange or tangelo juice
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin, such as Knox

Scoop the insides of the passion fruits into a small saucepan, and warm gently. Scoop into a strainer and push the pulp through in a bowl, leaving the seeds behind. Add muscat. Sprinkle on the gelatin. Let gelatin soften for several minutes.
Warm orange juice until just hot but not boiling. Pour into gelatin mixture and stir well until gelatin is dissolved. Pour into bowl and chill for four or five hours or overnight, until firm and set.

Adapted from Good Tempered Food by Tamasin Day-Lewis.
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