The New Growing Season

I managed to dodge rain showers on Tuesday when I made the trip to Middle Earth Farm for the season’s first CSA pick up. The winding dirt road up to Richard Rosenburg’s 30-plus year-old farm was muddy but not impassable, and I don’t mind a little mud splatter on my old station wagon’s undercarriage.

You may remember that last fall my friend Nan gifted me the last few weeks of her Middle Earth Farm CSA when she moved from Amesbury into the city. This past February, Farmer Richard and crew took us on as part of the small group of the farm’s shareholders. For a person who loves fresh produce but can’t grow it to save her life, the burgeoning trend of community supported agriculture (CSA) suits. I pay the enrollment money at the end of the winter, money which provides the seed money (pun intended) for Richard’s crops, and every week between now and mid-October we will be able to put on the table meals made with just pulled, snipped, or picked vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as eggs and other local products such as cheese and honey. With a CSA I can be a part of the farm without taking part in the farming, a good arrangement all around. The earlier one signs up, the less one pays for the share, and if I have done the math correctly, my early bird bid allows us the luxury of fresh, organic, and sustainably-farmed produce at only $22.50 per week. The winter’s weekly grocery bills prove this is a bargain for our family.

Massachusetts can’t count on reliable sunshine and heat this early in the growing season, so the farm crew tried to temper expectations for the first share by calling it “a soft start.” Not in my books, I replied, and I countered: “A solid start.”

Thank you Middle Earth Farm. We have eaten well this week.

several pounds of dark green spinach

there’s so much spinach, I can’t get my hands around the bunch

pale celadon chard stems

ribbons cut from earthy chard leaves went into white bean and pastina soup

several omelets prepared courtesy of the farm’s hens

washed, sliced, eaten raw like radishes

the aromatics in the seasoning bundle

The generous seasoning bundle – garlic scapes, scallions, oregano, parsley – has been the most fun to work with. Although the scapes have only been chopped and covered with a layer of olive oil as preservative until I am able to make garlic scape-toasted almond pesto, we have tossed scallions into salad made with the heads of red leaf lettuce and sliced sweet turnips; have torn oregano leaves off woolly stems and tossed them into a lemon juice marinade for grilled chicken; have scattered chopped flat leaf parsley over the top of a finished dish of scampi and angel hair. Here’s the recipe, perfect for a weeknight fix or a romantic dinner for two.

Scampi and Angel Hair

  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (optional, if you don’t like heat)
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth (white wine is a fine substitute)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) butter
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 2 hands full of fresh parsley, leaves stripped from stems and roughly chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper for seasoning

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Place a heavy skillet on medium high heat and add the olive oil to the pan. Lightly salt and pepper the shrimp.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer. Do not crowd – cook them in 2 or 3 batches if necessary. Cook for about 2 minutes on one side to get a sear, then turn and cook for about a minute but not much more on the second side. Remove from the oil and set on a plate as you cook the rest of the shrimp in the same way.

When the shrimp is cooked, add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes to the oil remaining in the pan. The heat under the pan should remain at medium high. Stir until softened but not browned (up to 1 minute), and then add the vermouth. Turn the heat to high and cook while stirring for another minute or so. The vermouth will reduce slightly. Add the butter to the pan sauce and stir until melted. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Return the shrimp to the pan and remove the pan from the heat.

Salt the boiling water generously and cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions (usually 3 minutes for dried angel hair). Reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta. Toss this together with the shrimp mixture. If the shrimp and sauce needs more liquid to coat the pasta, add some of the pasta water, a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Add the parsley to the pan and toss again well.

Serve immediately.

©2012 Jane A. Ward