Peak season vegetable report from Chef Alfonso

PerryDaily.com
by Alfonso Contrisciani
8/18/14
 

With a break in rain and a few cool nights most folks recouped from the tomato blight. Our yields in the raised bed plot suffered with first course harvest with our indeterminate varieties. Last week’s 3.5 inches of rain helped our dry fields but woke up the dreaded fungus. Very important to be preventative with fungicides, and my favorite is Serenade.

It’s an organic compound and works wonders. I gave our tomato plants a shot of Serenade on Wednesday night. Our chemical-free vegetables coming out of the fields at the Cooperrider farm are of the best quality. I am forbidden to use the word “organic” because of the field’s conventional past. Our greenhouses and raised plots are organic but not certified as of yet.

If I see another cucumber or zucchini this year, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown! What a year for those vegetables; the heavy rainfall and heat in the spring and early summer gave us a bountiful supply.

I have plenty of Dutch flathead cabbage for sale along with eggplants, and many varieties of peppers. A good friend gave me 12 fennel plants in May. I must say, they were one of the finest vegetables I picked this year. I ordered 2 cups of fennel from [the] Athens area for my recent farm-to-table dinner “Bounty on The Bricks.” The fennel I purchased could not come close to what we grew in Thornville in our raised beds.

I am keeping a daily log on this growing season and recording dates, feeding and spraying applications and harvest dates. Also critical are harvest amounts with current market pricing. To be successful, I am convinced that specialty crops, such as patty pan squash, Marzoni peppers, fennel, garlic, jumbo candy onions, parsley, lemon thyme, garlic chives and various other specialty items, are essential.

My recent presentation titled “Bridging the Gap between Chef and Farmer” is based on farmers growing what chefs want and need. Also, from a farmer’s perspective, do I want to grow zucchini for 40 cents per pound in return or fennel for $4 per pound? Do the math.

  • Canning and Preserving

I am designing and building a canning and preserving workshop to be taught at Hocking College in the near future. We just purchased $5,000 worth of commercial pressure cookers, home canning supplies along with a dehydrator, pH meters, thermometers etc. I think it’s essential to take a few steps back and rekindle our family heritage and culture in relationship to food. Did you know you could easily feed a family of five year round from a 25’ x 25’ garden? The use of vertical trellises and planting with the inch by inch format. I spent some time in major food processing plants while in California. I developed 12 pasteurized sauces and 2 FZ proteins for a major manufacturing company. At that time I fell in love with food canning and the value added world.

I am looking forward to sharing my research with the folks of Central Ohio. For all you home canners, please feel free to contact me at my Hocking College office with any questions or comments. I will spend more time on this topic in September prior to first frost.

  • Bounty on the Bricks

Bounty on The bricks was a great success this past Saturday in Athens. We served 372 folks a four course meal along with three passed appetizers including 100 homestyle made-from-scratch country pies all made with locally grown and raised products within 30 miles of Athens. OK, I lied: the zucchini came from Deer Valley Farms along with the plum tomatoes and fresh herbs. But everything else was within 30 miles. I am happy to report we raised $75,000 for the Athens foundation which will use the funds for our local food pantries. Thanks to all who supported these venues and the volunteers who worked endless hours.

Thanks to Hocking College and our wonderful staff and administration, The Athens Foundation, Cheryl Sylvester, Susan Urano and Cindy Hayes. And finally, thanks to the city of Athens, Ohio.

  • Future Event

Sept. 7, I will be cooking at Val Jorgensen’s organic farm in Westerville, Ohio. The proceeds from “The Farmers’ Table” event will support OEFFA, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, of which I’m an active member and greatly support. Hope to see you there. If you need tickets, please contact me.

  • The Blue Barn at Deer Valley Farms

My phone rang at 2:50 in the morning last week. It was Dylan Cooperrider; Olivia, a registered Berk from the Shipley farm in Mt. Vernon, was having piglets. I arrived at the farm at 3:10 and the second was just born. In total, she had two males and seven gilts. Dylan knows his pigs; he has a barn full of sows and gilts behind Olivia. Olivia’s first born was the largest boar. We named him Alfonso. I have 50 # full-blooded Topline Yorkshire boar named Oliver at the farm, also.

I am building a pig barn with a farrowing room at Oliver farms this fall. I will raise show pigs and breeding stock for our soon to come Oliver farms all natural non GMO pork line. Olivette, our second registered Berk, is due on Sept 3.

  • Oliver Farms

I am currently gearing up for sauce and condiment production at the end of this month. I am going to share for the first time my eggplant caponata recipe. This sauce is multipurpose for a salad served cold or warm, a pasta sauce or a condiment on a sandwich. Please enjoy. Until next article, cook with your heart and soul! Alfonso.

  • Eggplant Caponata

1 1/2 Each eggplants, peeled and cut in to med. dice
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Pound Italian sausage, loose, Perry County Blue Ribbon Brand
1 Each red onion, diced very fine.
1 1/2 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1 Teaspoon ginger, peeled and freshly minced
3 Teaspoons capers, chopped fine
1 1/2 Cups tomato, concasse
1 Cup orange juice
3 Teaspoons curry powder
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Cup water
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoons fresh rosemary, de-stemmed and chopped
2 Tablespoons scallions, chopped

  1. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. In large skillet heat up oil and saute eggplant on all sides until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove eggplant from pan and drain on paper towels.
  2. Reheat pan and add sausage and cook over medium heat until golden brown and cook until done. Drain grease from sausage and discard. Chop sausage roughly when cool.
  3. Reheat pan and add olive oil, saute garlic and onions until translucent add reserve sausage, eggplant, raisins, ginger, capers, tomatoes, orange juice, curry powder, pepper flakes, honey and water and the remaining salt and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Pull from heat and stir in all fresh herbs.
  5. Cool and store in refrigerator covered until needed. Or serve hot over pasta, or place in mason jars and put in canner and seal for the winter months. Enjoy!