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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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What Richness are you Enjoying Today?

flowers

Written by: Lanette Anderson, Hidden Villa Horticulturalist

 

I've been musing on richness lately. Summer on a farm is a good time for that. Even in this year of drought, when our water is lean and we're only able to plant a fraction of our usual crops we still have so very much.

 It's only fairly recently that I've come to think of richness in a broader context. Growing up I always understood it strictly as a measure of monetary wealth. The term brought to mind gold, diamonds, expensive cars, shiny and polished things. I thought of richness as something to strive for, something that required scrimping, saving and luck. Of course that's still one interpretation, but I've found it can be so much more expansive than that. I feel a richness of fruit in the overflowing bowl of sweet peaches on my counter, a richness of color in the bright buckets of flowers from the field, a richness of time in a lazy summer afternoon spent reading and sipping lemonade.

These types of riches deepen and even grow as they're savored and enjoyed. Scrimping or squirreling away won't serve this wealth. In fact there's something about these types of richness that invites sharing. You are rich because you have a little (or a lot) more than you personally need or can use. The big golden bowl of peaches on my counter is too full for me to eat all alone, which is why I feel so wealthy in them and why I baked a peach cobbler for my family.

Likewise, Hidden Villa thrives in large part because of the generosity and sharing of our community members like you. That richness of time and support that you share is magnified as it's enjoyed by all who come here. I see it in the campers who've been here this summer sleeping under the stars and tending to the chickens, in the interns whose lives and career paths are forever changed from their educational experiences here and in all our visitors who value the peace and beauty of this place. The Duveneck's generous gift of preserving this land and sharing it with all of us has sent ripples of richness through countless lives, my own included. I'm so grateful to share our richness with you.
What richness are you enjoying today?

 

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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

Ripening in their delicate husks, tomatillos are hidden gems that provide a pop of flavor and color to many late summer dishes.   This week's recipe combines these flavorful fruits with our favorite smoky peppers to yield an easy yet hearty meal.  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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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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Grilled Summer Squash Cole Slaw

Many of us think of summer as an opportune time to prepare our food outdoors, firing up the grill and enjoying meals under warm, clear skies.  Some commonly seared vegetables, however, don't always have to be served hot-off-the-grill.  Let these grilled summer squash chill out in this refreshing and light cole slaw recipe from our very own CSA crew. 

You will need:

2 cups of thickly sliced summer squash
olive oil
1 head of cabbage, finely shredded
3 medium carrots, grated

½ cup of finely minced basil
1 clove garlic
¼ cup cider vinegar
3 T mayonnaise
3 T olive oil
½ t soy sauce
pinch of salt

Light the grill for medium heat.  Lightly baste the squash slices with olive oil, apply to the grill and lightly salt. Grill the squash until browned on each side and remove from heat. While the squash is cooling, prepare cabbage, basil, and carrots. Mince the garlic and in a bowl, combine with vinegar, oil, mayo, soy sauce and ½ t more salt.  Coarsely chop the grilled slices of squash and combine in a bowl with carrots, cabbage, basil and prepared dressing. Allow cole slaw to chill before serving for optimal flavor and enjoyment! 

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Pasta with Roasted Turnips and Sage Brown Butter

The 2013 CSA season has had a delicious first month! This week's box offers collard greens, turnips, spring onions, sage, summer squash and lettuce. Yearning for a scrumptious turnip recipe? Look no further and enjoy!

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CSA Recipe: Winter Squash Soup

Just in time for the rain! Here is a recipe for a winter squash soup using autumnal butternut squash and the last of the pepper harvest, which makes for a surprisingingly delicious partnership of flavors. 
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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 Recipe: Fuyu Persimmon Bundt Cake

We are very excited that the orchard we invested in planting 4 years ago are now literally bearing fruit in substantial quantities, allowing us to provide fruit to our CSA members in their weekly baskets. From cherries to peaches to persimmons and more, providing fruit to our CSA members allows them to have seasonal, delicious fruit in varietities suited for our local climate and environment. Enjoy this recipe using our Fuyu persimmons, which are squat and firm with a sweet and delicate cinnamon taste. 

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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 Recipe: Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

Kabocha is a Japanese variety of winter squash. Ours have finally cured in the field and are ready for harvest. When the kabochas arrive, it feels like fall is officially here. Prepare and enjoy kabochas as you would other winter squash, including in desserts like this recipe!
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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 Recipe: Stir Fried Eggplant and Cabbage in Spicy Peanut Sauce

With the final harvest of our eggplants and peppers that had ripened in the summer heat, and the budding heads of cabbage as cooler weather comes in, this stir fry marks a particular time in the changing seasons. Enjoy!

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