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Hungry for Good Food & Connection

Written by Ali Abbors, Hidden Villa Journeyman

When are tomatoes tastiest? What is rhubarb season? Who grows my cucumbers? We are hungry, and not only for nutritious, affordable, ethically-grown foods. We crave connection to the natural rhythms and hardworking humans that bring these foods to our tables. When grocery store shelves are stocked year-round with fruits and vegetables from around the globe, it’s no surprise that we’ve lost track of the delicious details that reveal themselves when we eat by Mother Nature’s clock.  Eating with the seasons—whether through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a local farmers’ market, or our own home gardens—provides an intimate connection to nature’s rhythms and a deeper appreciation of the true value of our food.

As organic farmers, the Hidden Villa CSA crew is reminded every day of our connection to, and dependence upon, the cycles of nature. Even though we farmers know to expect them, we’re awed every year by the subtle signs that mark the changing light and the coming of a new season. As winter draws to a close, we celebrate the budding of the plum trees, knowing that the rest of our orchard will soon follow. We rejoice in the first transplanting of zinnias and sunflowers knowing that we will soon be surrounded by their beauty. We delight in the tiny tomato plants emerging in our greenhouse, our imagination drifting to summer fruit fresh from the vine.  

Seasonal eating and flower appreciation is a practice in enjoying the precious uniqueness of food and blooms in their proper place and time. It provides us with the joyful challenge of stretching our palates to accommodate what is growing here and now. It rewards us with an ever-changing menu to hold our interest. In a practical sense, eating with the seasons is also more flavorful because crops are harvested at the peak of ripeness, more affordable because prices are lowest at the height of each crop’s season, more nutritious because crops are more full of nutrients at the peak of freshness, and better for the environment because crops don’t need to travel across oceans or continents to get to your plate. Whether you’re a foodie philosopher or a culinary pragmatist, eating seasonally will repay your efforts with an undeniable richness of flavors and connections.

Hidden Villa’s CSA, which provides members with weekly shares of organic produce and flowers between May and November, makes it easy to explore the joys of seasonal eating. A preview of our diverse monthly offerings is available here. With a variety of plans, pricing, and flower bouquet add-ons, members can choose the option that best fits their family's needs. We even help you learn to enjoy new and unfamiliar vegetables with a collection of tried-and-true recipes! Our online registration system makes it easy to sign up, and donations enable us to offer CSA scholarships to families living on low incomes.

Whether you join our CSA, visit our booth at the Los Altos Farmers’ Market, or grow food in your own garden space, we wish you inspiring culinary experiences that deepen your connections to good food, natural rhythms, and each other.

Happy eating!

Ali Abbors
Journeyman Farmer

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Swiss Chard Stuffed Acorn Squash with Garlic Cream Sauce

Although there are only 5 ingredients in this simple dish, it sure packs a punch and allows the hearty flavor of the vegetables speak for themselves.  As a great cold weather green that is packed with vitamins and fiber, the sauteed chard is mellowed by the soft roasted squash and warm garlic cream sauce. Impress your guests with this simple dish that is full of flavor, texture and nourishment. 

Ingredients:

1 Acorn Squash
1 Bunch Swiss Chard
4 cloves Garlic
¾ Cup Milk
2 Oz Feta Cheese

 

1.  Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp.
2.  Place aquash cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 400°F, until fork tender and set aside.
3. 
Peel cloves of garlic and add to oven for 10 minutes alongside the squash.
4.  Remove garlic and in a small mixing bowl, puree with milk and feta cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste.  5.  Coarsely chop chard and sauté in a medium saucepan with olive oil over high heat until wilty (stems are okay to use, add 2 or 3 minutes before leaves).
6.  Place sauteed chard into hallowed out squash and drizzle with cream sauce.  Bake for another 10 minutes and serve hot out of the oven. 

classic baked acorn squash

Photo courtesy of simplyrecipes.com

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Warm and Hearty Ratatouille

Crisp fall evenings summon warm meals that satisfy our bellies and warm our souls. This hearty ratatouille dish is simple and easy to prepare, yet incorporates some of our favorite fall staples that will keep you and your family full and happy!

Ingredients: 

3Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves

1 handful parsley

2-3 eggplant cut into ½ inch pieces

2 pepper cut into thin slivers

4 tomatoes coarsely chopped

1tsp salt

pinch of black pepper

 

1.  Over medium-low heat, add the oil to a large skillet and saute the onion, garlic, and parsley, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.

2.  Add the eggplant, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until the eggplant has softened. Stir in pepper, tomatoes, and salt, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in a few grinds of pepper to taste.

3.  Serve warm over a bed of grains or enjoy in a bowl with a piece of fresh, crispy toast.

cuttingboard

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Tomatillo and Pepper Stew

We just can't get enough of those sweet and juicy tomatoes! Their versatility enables them to shine in any dish and incorporating this week's tomatillos will add a punch of color and flavor to this summer stew. Keep it vegetarian and serve with crispy toast or toss in cubed pork for some added gusto.

tomatillos

Ingredients:

1pt tomatillos
olive oil
pinch of salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 medium peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
6 oz grated cheddar cheese
Cubed pork (optional)

 

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Husk and dice tomatillos. On a baking sheet, toss with oil, chopped onion, and salt and place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until well cooked.
3.  Place tomatillos in a large saucepan and puree with an immersion blender until chunky.  Add seeded, chopped peppers.
4.  Stew until peppers become soft and add cooked pork if you like. Top stew with grated cheese and enjoy with crispy toast or tortilla chips!

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Summer Sungold Salad

Bring on the tomatoes! Hidden Villa's fields are bursting with these plump and juicy fruits that are packed with nutrition and flavor.  The intense summer heat has ripened them to their full potential and can be enjoyed best in this fresh summer salad.

tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 pint sungold tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup minced basil

1/4 cup thinly sliced sweet onion

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

pinch of salt

 

1. In a mixing bowl, prepare the onion by adding vinegar and salt and allow to stand while you make the rest of the salad.
2. Prepare tomatoes and basil and toss with onions.  Add salt to taste and toss together to combine ingredients.

Enjoy as a great side salad for any summer meal while soaking in rest of the season on your porch or patio!

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Fiesta Pan-Fried Peppers

SweetPeppers

Spice up dinner this week with this one-skillet medley that can liven up a plate of ordinary beans and rice.  The rich and smoky flavors from our anaheim and ancho peppers are released as they are pan fried and simmered with a variety of our summer tomatoes.  

Ingredients:

5-7 medium frying peppers, coarsely chopped (seeds and all)

olive oil

salt

1 large onion, finely chopped

5 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped

6 oz grated cheddar cheese

1.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 3 T olive oil and the peppers.
2.  Stir fry the peppers until slightly softened-8 minutes. Add onion and a pinch of salt to taste and continue stir frying another 8 minutes.
3.  Add tomatoes, salt to taste and continue stir frying another 8 minutes until peppers are fully softened, onions are caramelized  to a golden brown and the tomatoes are stewed.
4.  Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet and allow to simmer for 8 more minutes.
5.  Garnish with grated cheese and serve over top a bed of warm beans and rice!

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Field to Families-Experiencing Supportive Partnerships in Our Community

There is nothing quite like getting your hands into the soil and spending a warm summer morning volunteering with our CSA crew. After going over details of the morning’s tasks, myself and fellow volunteers were directed to rows of melons and tomatoes to begin clearing weeds and as we worked, we learned why this tedious task was so important to keeping our crops productive and healthy. Not only did I get to know the land that I was working on, but I also got to know the people that I was working with. As we continued to zig-zag down each row, I was able to learn a little bit more about our volunteers and what motivates them to come out to Hidden Villa. Whether an employee, volunteer, or visitor, many of us share a common interest to connect with the natural world and feel a sense of responsibility to take care of this space for future generations.

That same week, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Mountain View Community Services Agency, whom we partner with to provide about 25% of our produce to their Food and Nutrition Center, which is then distributed to over 4,800 low-income residents. I was excited to see first-hand how this figure makes an impact on the community. As I was led back to the Food and Nutrition Center’s distribution area, I instantly recognized our bright yellow bins full of cucumber, kale, squash, fennel and fresh basil. While walking through the different food stations, I was told that members loved coming on produce day because they have never tasted vegetables as good as the ones that come from Hidden Villa. In addition to donated produce, the Food and Nutrition Center also makes sure that the shelves are stocked with staple items such as rice, beans, bread and pasta to offer a balanced diet and easy preparation.

I couldn’t wait to throw on an apron and help out in any way that I could. Stationed at the check-out area, I made sure that baskets were full of the number of items each member was allowed to have and offered any assistance if they had questions about the produce. Not a single person passed through the check-out without a smile on their face and as I smiled back, I could not only see the impact that this partnership has in supporting the local community, but I could feel it. Spending time in the field with our CSA crew and volunteering with the CSA of Mountain View’s Food Bank gave me a great sense of appreciation for the amount of work that many folks contribute toward improving the lives of fellow community members.  

We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.- Orison Swett Marden

kale and squash

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Finger Lickin' Green Bean Fries


This week's CSA basket features crisp and crunchy green beans and this recipe provides a twist on this often pickled produce.  Swap out ordinary french fries for this healthy finger-food that can stand alone as an appetizer or as a savory side with grilled chicken, fish or other summer vegetables...no fork required! 

Ingredients

1 large bunch of green beans, rinsed

1 cup balsamic vinegar

Olive oil and salt to coat

Soy sauce (optional)

1. Heat one cup of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan, reduce until it is syrupy.

2. In a large mixing bowl, toss green beans with oil and salt.

3. Spread the beans in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 425 degrees. After 10 minutes, drizzle balsamic syrup over the beans and add soy sauce, if desired. Return beans to oven and roast until they are blistered and brown in spots.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Greenbeans

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Sweet and Tangy Shaved Fennel Salad

 

 

 

Fennel is widely cultivated for its aromatic seeds, flowers and bulb that closely resembles a sweet anise flavor, though not quite as strong.  It is light and crunchy and can be integrated into soup, roasted, sauteed or even served raw.  This recipe incorporates the crunch and sweetness of raw fennel with the fresh tang of lemon and serves as a great as a side dish to any meal.     

 

 

Ingredients:

1 fennel bulb, shaved paper thin with a mandoline or meat slicer

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves

1  Tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley

2   Tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese

In a large mixing bowl, gently toss all of the ingredients together and serve immediately or chill before serving to allow flavors to blend.

 

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CSA Newsletter: Week of November 12, 2012

Being the journeyman farmer at Hidden Villa, managing the CSA, and running the farmers market stand has been an incredibly valuable experience for me. I have learned far more about small farm management and nonprofit management in the past nine months than I could have imagined. I honestly feel that I now have the skills and knowledge to successfully manage a small farm.

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Bryden Johnston
Hi Carol, Thanks so much for getting in touch! Our CSA box features a butternut squash today. Many Hidden Villa staff actually u... Read More
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:46
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CSA Newsletter: Week of November 5, 2012

This morning I participated in our weekly intern class, this being the second installment of Swine (pig) Management. To start the class we opened with a narrative by Wendell Barry. In this passage the author speaks of the joy that he finds in farming, and the satisfaction and fulfillment a farming job can provide. The passage concludes with Wendell and his 5 year-old granddaughter sitting atop a wagon. Though it was at the end of a hard day’s work, she looks to him and says, “Isn’t this fun Wendell?”.

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CSA Newsletter: Week of October 29, 2012

As members of our farm share at Hidden Villa, you are actively choosing to support a small farm and have a direct connection to where your food is coming from. And we thank you for that! That decision, whether it is for the freshness and quality of your produce, the opportunity to foster understanding within your family of where food comes from, or the practice of eating with the changing of the seasons, fosters a personal connection to, and understanding of, sustainable food practices. The framework for the CSA program that we offer here at Hidden Villa has become popular not only in California, but throughout the United States as more people are beginning to value the importance of sustainable agricultural production and find the most transparent ways to support food production they believe in. Yet not all of our food choices can be so easily traced to its source. As consumers, we have become tasked with educating ourselves on where food found at the supermarket is coming from, and how it was grown.

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CSA Newsletter: Week of October 22, 2012

Olive season is coming. Hidden Villa has a 1/2 acre olive grove and many other olive trees lining our road and around the property.  The original trees were planted by missionaries in the 1880's and they were harvested and pressed for oil intermittently by the Duvenecks.  The grove had gone largely untended and overgrown until about ten years ago when we topped the trees in a long term project to reclaim the orchard's productivity.  Thanks to several recent years of diligent pruning the trees are once again producing substantial crops.

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CSA Newsletter: Week of October 15, 2012

We finished harvesting and boxing up the last of our potatoes on Friday. At Hidden Villa we using a digging bar on the back of a tractor to turn up the potatoes and then we easily dig through the already loosened soil by hand and pick up potatoes. It is still a lot of work to harvest 800 row feet of potatoes, especially since it was a dishearteningly light yield of around 500 pounds.

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CSA Recipe: Chile Apple Salsa

Enjoy this zesty autumn salsa, sweet with apples and spiced with peppers. Perfect for a fall picnic! 
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CSA Newsletter: Week of October 8, 2012

"I cannot endure to waste anything

so precious as autumnal

sunshine by staying in the house."

- Nathaniel Hawthorne
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CSA Recipe: Creek House Lasagna

Every Monday night us three Hidden Villa interns who live in the quaint Creek House on site make dinner together, primarily using ingrediently from the farm. From New York Times Cooking section recipes for pork wontons to chicken pot pie made with Hidden Villa  veggies, chicken and Cleo milk, we've gotten very ambitious lately, putting meals we want to cook on a white board two weeks ahead of time.This lasagna was one of those amazing meals. It was fun to make together as a group effort, and the results were to die for!
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CSA Newsletter: Week of October 1, 2012

It is October already! I can hardly believe it, especially because it has been so hot these last couple of days. It was hot enough yesterday that we braved the now algae encrusted swimming pool for a quick dip and cool down. The atypical heat and newly erected pumpkin patch in the education garden are telling signs that summer has passed and fall has truly arrived. The season is winding down which means that we are looking into the winter, making plans for work projects and talking about how to get the fields ready for a much needed break. As a year-long intern, I am also starting to think about final skills I would like to acquire, and I am developing plans for my post-Hidden Villa career.

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CSA Newsletter: Week of September 24, 2012

This Saturday marked the Autumnal equinox and the first day of fall, and also marked the beginning of my fourth week as a CSA intern at Hidden Villa. This first month has been an exhilarating introduction to the farms’ systems, and these weeks have gone by fast. I arrived in early September, when the summer heat was still brilliant, and the sun would not set until after eight o’clock. My large collection of wool hats, blankets, and socks were out of place in the warm evening air. While the seasonal transition from summer to fall can be easily overlooked in California, with Indian summers fluidly stretching into October, the first day of fall is cause for celebration. The fall harvest celebrates a change in pace, and a time to commemorate the bounty of the harvest and prepare for the onset of winter.

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CSA Newsletter: Week of September 10, 2012

On Monday evening we had our fourth annual heirloom tomato tasting with great success. Every year our tomato tasting has been bigger and fancier. This year we had two hundred people RSVP, though maybe only half of those showed up, and we had live music starting around five o’clock. Out of the ten heirloom varieties that we had available for the tasting the top three chosen in order of popularity were: Japanese Black Trifele, Striped German, and Vorlon. For the farm crew these results are a good reinforcement to continue and expand production of these varieties next year because these three varieties continually rank well during the tomato tasting.

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