berry patch farms + ina's zucchini vichyssoise

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”  -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

On Tuesday, Otis and his kindergarten class took their first field trip together, and since I’m all about outings and adventures I signed up to be one of the parent chaperones. The destination was BerryPatch Farms located in Brighton, Colorado, about 25 minutes from Denver…

We’re no strangers to this amazing organic farm. It’s where we pick cherries and raspberries every season. And in addition to “u-pick” options, the farm provides the most spectacular and unobstructed views of the Front Range. (You can see mountains for miles and miles and miles!) 

There are animals on the farm, including chickens, turkeys, goats and a donkey. Two porcine friends also call the farm home, one with the lamentable name “Bacon Bits” (but don’t worry, she won’t be eaten) and another named Heidi. The kids toured the farm by tractor, strung necklaces made of yarn, beads and clay, picked pumpkins, and watched a film about bees and the importance of these natural pollinators. The outing wrapped up with a picnic lunch, which for me meant pumpkin bread with chocolate chunks (delicious!). 

The field trip with Otis's class reminded me of the visit Theo and I took to the farm a few months back, around the second week of September when his school was closed for one of the many (many) Jewish holidays. We cut flowers, shopped at the farm stand and shortly thereafter Theo proclaimed, “Today I will pick berries and not boogers.” 

Speaking of picking (sorry), I scooped up tomatoes, herbs, zucchini and a variety of other fall squash. I sautéed the zucchini in olive oil for a simple side dish, but the vast majority of them went into Ina Garten’s Zucchini Vichyssoise, which I modified only slightly (recipe below). We made pots and pots of it and can’t wait for next summer/fall to make more.



** PS:  I chose not to share photos from Otis's class trip because he's in public school and I'm only beginning to acquaint myself with the families from our classroom. I thought it would be best (and wise) not to include images of children I don't know that well (and without parental consent). That said, Theo said he's fine with sharing :) 

Zucchini Vichyssoise
Modified only slightly from this Ina Garten recipe
Serves 5-6

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (to make it vegan, omit butter and add 1 extra tablespoon of e.v.o.o)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (4 to 6 large leeks)
4 cups chopped unpeeled white boiling potatoes (6-8 small)
2 large zucchini, chopped
1-1/2 quarts homemade vegetable stock or good quality store-bought (canned).
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream (to make it vegan, omit the cream)
Fresh chives or julienned zucchini, for garnish

Heat the butter and oil in a large stockpot, add the leeks, and sauté over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, zucchini, chicken stock, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and then process through a food mill fitted with the medium disc. Add the cream and season to taste. Serve either cold or hot, garnished with chopped chives and/or zucchini ribbons.

Squash It! Ollin Farm and Lots of Seasonal (Squash) Fare

Producing real food is very hard work. And producing food on a scale that is larger than what you can get from a small garden in your backyard, well, that is a tremendous undertaking. 
Now I've never personally worked on a farm, but I did try to grow strawberries on my fire escape in Brooklyn one time...and let me tell you, it did not go well. I watered that strawberry plant and I made sure the soil had nutrients. I loved that plant and I gave her my all. In return for my efforts, my plant produced ONE pitiful looking strawberry. I had been dreaming of strawberry salads and fresh fruit smoothies. I don't know what I was thinking. That summer my dill and basil didn't fare much better. And that marked the end of my urban growing experience.
A bit of of time passed, and I found a new confidence. I'd done some reading, dog-eared some pages of Martha Stewart Living, and followed a handful of gardening blogs religiously. I planted two tomato plants, basil, cilantro, rosemary, mint and Italian parsley. 
My expectations were modest. 
It's been a few months since my initial planting. The tomato plants are growing, by there's nary a tomato in sight. The basil looks depressed and the cilantro is dead. The good news is my mint, rosemary and parsley are thriving. But it's not exactly what I would call season's bounty. I never even got to planting vegetables like spinach, chard, or squash. Farmers, you have my respect! 
Farming is seriously hard work. I found out all about it when I went to the Ollin Farm for their Squash Festival last weekend. The farm is in Longmont, Colorardo-- not too far from Boulder. It's in a really beautiful part of the country. (I first heard of the farm through this post on Boulder Locavore.)
Ollin Farm seems like a product of love. It is run by a husband-and-wife team, along with their children (and I believe a few other family members and some workers too). Kena is originally from Mexico City and her husband Mark is from Colorado. While they didn't have backgrounds in agriculture or farming, 5 years of hard work and lots of education have paid off- they have one of the nicest farms I've been to.
There was so much gorgeous looking produce at the festival. There were heirloom squashes, Ronde de Nice, Pattypans, zucchinis, summer squashes, herbs, beets and greens. Back to Basics Kitchen had a demonstration table that was full of delicious dishes-- all containing the ingredient of the day, squash! 
Thank you Ollin Farm for a great day. You've inspired me to try my hand (again) at small-time farming next summer...
{Recipes follow.} 
I don't know why I always refer to sheep as female. At any rate, this is Victor....
The Back to Basics Kitchen demonstration table. The Pesto Zucchini Noodles were delicious. They gave out recipe cards, but I misplaced mine. Sad face. 
Unfortunately for me, the visit to the chicken coop coincided with Otis's nap time and a slight meltdown ensued. He was positively certain that the chickens wanted to "eat him up." And there was crying. I tried to comfort him, but things started to go downhill...with a quickness! Theo, oblivious to the meltdown, was desperately trying to chase the poultry. 
These eggs were plucked right out of the hen house. It got me thinking...if we stay in Colorado, should we get chickens? I'm not sure what Omar (our elderly Rott) would think of that situation- it's chaotic enough around our parts. I'm not sure my husband would be on board either...but maybe?! 
Water drip technology is an efficient way to irrigate the crops. 
I picked up some deliciously amazing squash. Thank you Ollin Farm for a great day. 
See you for the Tomato Festival!
* * *
Zucchini and Potato Soup (Courtesy of Anna Thomas's Love Soup)
{In contrast to the soups I usually make, which have a very intense flavor, this soup is relatively mild -- but it is creamy (though creamless) and satisfying. You really need to adjust the salt and pepper here. That is key. Add a drizzle of olive oil and some crumbled feta before serving. Wanna really jazz it up? Add some sauteed zucchini blossoms. Next time I may add a pinch of cayenne or paprika.}
Serves 6-8
2 1/4 lbs. zucchini
2 large yellow onions
7 oz. Yukon Gold Potato
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
3 1/2 cups basic light vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/4 chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
Optional Garnishes: fruity green olive oil, crumbled feta or queso fresco, sauteed zucchini blossoms
Wash and trim the zucchini, halve them lengthwise if they are thick, and slice them or cut them into 1-inch dice. Peel and coarsely chop the onions. Scrub and finely dice the potatoes.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt, and sauté the onions over medium heat, stirring often, until they are soft and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of water, the vegetable broth, the potatoes, and a teaspoon of salt in a large soup pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the zucchini and simmer another 10 minutes.
When the onions are ready, add them to the soup pot, along with the chopped basil and parsley. Grind in an ample amount of black pepper and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Taste, and add a pinch more salt or a little more lemon juice if needed.
The soup can be pureed, either in a blender or with an immersion blender. Be careful not to over process, as potatoes tend to become gummy when over-worked. Whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add some crumbled feta or queso fresco. Maybe some pan-fried zucchini blossoms? Enjoy! 

Other seasonal, squash recipes that I've posted:
Gina DePalma's Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze.
Elise of Simply Recipes' Mücver Patties
Love & Olive Oil's Zucchini Basil Soup (from Epicurious)

Recipes from the blogosphere that I'm making this week:
Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean and Goat Enchiladas from Sprouted Kitchen
Pattypan Squash Stuffed with Corn from Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times
Stuffed Ronde de Nice from Megan Bucholz for Edible Front Range
Pan-fried Zucchini Blossoms with Ricotta and Garden Herbs from Food & Style

Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze

A week before Otis was born my husband and I ate our last supper out, that is as a couple without children. We knew things were going to change in a big way. So we thought long and hard about where we should go for this big (and very special) celebration. We already had the good fortune of dining at Per Se on my 30th birthday (that's a story for another time, but holy cow!) and we'd been to some of the city's best restaurants including Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernandin and Del Posto. Babbo was a place we'd always wanted to go to but never did, until the week before our first son arrived. Getting reservations was no picnic, but we got it done. We ate course after course and each plate was more delicious than the one preceding it. I was really glad to be wearing loose maternity garb, if you know what I mean. Babbo was a truly wonderful dining experience.
When I saw this recipe for Zucchini Olive-Oil cake posted on David Lebovitz's website, I made a mental note that I just had to make it -- due in large part to the fact that the original recipe came from Gina DePalma, the James Beard Award winning pastry chef who worked at Chanterelle, Gramery (under Claudia Fleming) and who currently makes the sweets at Babbo
Though the traditional zucchini season has ended and summer is a distant memory, I was reminded of this cake when I discovered it on The Moveable Feasts. Amy, the author of the aforementioned blog, left a comment on one of my posts and I had some free time (the kids were sleeping) so I started to scroll through some of Amy's entries (her blog is terrific). And there it was...that recipe...the one for Zucchini Olive-Oil Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze. Amy had seen it on Lottie + Doof, who had also adapted the original De Palma recipe from Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. The cake was once again on my radar.
The recipe is homey, and much more comfort-foody than the traditional pastry/dessert fare at Babbo.  But don't let that fool you; it is no less delicious. The zucchini, walnuts, and olive-oil are fantastic together. And don't get me started on the crunchy lemon glaze... 
This is, hands down, my favorite zucchini bread/cake. Enjoy and happy baking! 
* * *
Some notes: The original recipe uses a bundt pan, which certainly has a more sophisticated look than cake loaf pans-- but I used 2 loaf pans because that's what I have and it worked perfectly.

Re: Grating the Zucchini. I grated about 3 medium zucchinis by using the finer side of a standard box grater. This yielded about 3 cups. Then I used a cheesecloth to drain some of the liquid out of the zucchini.
Before you get scared by the large amount of sugar, remember this is for 2 loaves, not one. I saw an adaptation that replaced the cup of olive oil for 1/4 cup olive oil and 3/4 applesauce. I haven't tried this modification and likely won't as I love olive oil, but if you do, let me know how it turns out.

Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze (Adapted from Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano, via The Moveable Feasts, via Lottie + Doof)
1 cup walnut pieces
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (sounds like a lot, but you want it all)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 – 3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 small zucchini)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease two loaf pans (or a 10-inch bundt) and dust them with flour.
Place the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are golden brown and aromatic, 12-14 minutes. Cool completely and then finely chop them.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl and set aside . In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and olive oil together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the zucchini and walnuts on low speed until they are completely incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cakes for 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the cakes comes out clean and the cakes have begun to pull away from the sides of the pans.
While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until the glaze is completely smooth.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully invert them onto a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the glaze over the entire surface of the warm cake, using all of the glaze; it will adhere to the cake and set as the cake cools. Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry.

Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

I made this Chocolate & Zucchini Cake about a month ago but with all the chaos surrounding the move West, I never got to posting it. So here it is...better late than never.
* * * 
I'd been thinking about making this kind of cake ever since my friend Jenni brought some zucchini bread over to our place following Lil' Theo's birth.  I searched for a recipe and decided to go with one that was posted on Chocolate & Zucchini- the French food blog. 
I had gotten some zucchini squash from our CSA, and I had flour, cocoa powder and light brown sugar in the cupboard.  I had eggs and butter too-- and some left over bittersweet chocolate (the good stuff) which was purchased when I was making (my favorite) Marlow & Sons Chocolate Caramel Tart.  Basically, I didn't have to buy anything in order to make this recipe.  And that's very helpful when you have a full and, I'll call it, a lively house! 
My friend Yana  stopped by, so I gave her slice. She suggested making some unsweetened whip cream to serve on the side. Duly noted.  
I would definitely sprinkle it with some confectioner's sugar. Sometimes I think that powdering a dessert with confectioner's sugar is superfluous and adds nothing to a cake.  But in this particular case, it is wonderful and works well. My only criticism of this recipe is that the zucchini flavor isn't more prominent. I guess I'll have to be happy just knowing that there are some veggies mixed into the chocolate cake. Bon appetit
 Chocolate & Zucchini Cake (Courtesy of Chocolate & Zucchini)
Serves 12
240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
60 grams (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
180 grams (1 scant cup) light brown sugar
115 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, or 1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules or 2 tablespoons strong cooled coffee -- this is just to deepen the chocolate flavor, you won't taste it in the finished product
3 large eggs
350 grams (2 cups) unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini
160 grams (1 cup) good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
Confectioner's sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 25-cm (10-inch) round springform pan or a 22-cm (8 1/2-inch) square pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much.
Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.
Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and unclasp the sides of the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar or a chocolate glaze if desired.

Summer Squash Soup with Thai Red Curry and Tofu Croutons

This is our second year in a CSA and I've learned that you sink or swim with the farmers. If there's a blight on a particular fruit or vegetable (like tomatoes, for example), then you're out of luck. But on the other hand, if there's an abundance of something, you get to reap the benefits. And that's what has been happening with yellow summer squash; we've got tons of it.
I turned to this recipe from Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Every Day which my friend Charlotta (of Swedish Chokladbollar fame) made for one of our play date lunches. I loved it. There's creaminess from the coconut milk, heat from the Thai curry paste (I used 2 tablespoons instead of one) and it made good use of some of our CSA bounty. 
Hope you like it as much as we did. Enjoy!
SUMMER SQUASH SOUP with Thai Red Curry and Tofu Croutons 
Serves 6
8 oz. Extra Firm Tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste (original recipe uses 1 tablespoon)

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for tofu croutons

3 large shallots, chopped

1.5 pounds yellow squash (about 3-4 depending on size) cut half then cut into 3/4" chunks (I wasn't too precise since I decided to make this soup smooth by pureeing it.)

12 oz potatoes, unpeeled and diced into cubes (3-4 medium size potatoes)

3 cloves garlic, chopped (original recipe had 4 cloves)

1 cups lightly flavored vegetable broth
1 cup of water

1 14 oz can coconut milk (I've used regular and light)

1. Season the tofu with a pinch of salt, toss with a small amount of oil, and cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat for about 5-8 minutes (tossing gently once or twice), until browned on both sides. Set aside.

2. Mash the curry paste into the oil until the paste is well incorporated. Heat the paste in a large heavy pot until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the shallots and a dash of salt and sauté until the shallots are tender, another couple of minutes.

3. Stir in the squash and potatoes and cook until squash begins to get tender, a few minutes. Stir in the garlic, then add the broth & coconut milk. Bring just to a boil, then lower heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Taste and adjust salt or curry paste if needed. Serve each bowl topped with tofu croutons and some loosely chopped fresh basil.