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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Art in the Form of Food!

Six years ago, we signed up for a vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share with Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI. We get a box of fresh, in-season, local produce each week, May through February. Veteran CSA-ers often say it takes about three years to really get into the rhythm of the vegetable box. Through experience, we tend to agree. Our first year was a bit of a blissful struggle ~ we often would rack up a big grocery bill buying the extra ingredients for a recipe calling for bits and pieces of our CSA box ~ like 1/4 cup of asparagus or 1 beet or 1 cup spinach! Years two and three, we began to see that substituting one vegetable for another was beneficial and necessary. By year four, we were completely in the groove -- improvising, creating, and really just throwing veggies together to see how they worked with one another. Art in the form of food! Trial and error has been 100% helpful. Now, after six years, we feel confident that we utilize the box well, but we still continue to improve with each passing year.

One of our favorite ways to utilize a lot of veggies is by making pizza! Pizza is tasty at any time of the year, and any veggie pairs well with cheese, crust, and tomato or pesto sauce! Here are three we've made over the last few months.

Homemade Crust (adapted from Bob's Red Mill)
1 Tbs. Active Dry Yeast
3/4 c. warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/4 c. warm milk
2.5 c. flour
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, dissolve yeast in water and milk. Add oil and dry ingredients. Stir until dough becomes tough, then knead on lightly-floured board until smooth and elastic. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover bowl and let dough rise until doubled. Divide dough in half and form two 12 inch circles, using fingers or a rolling pin. Top with desired toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

We often pre-bake the crust in 450 degrees for ten minutes to make it crispier. All a matter of preference!

Pizza #1: Gold Beets and Goat Cheese

We used tomato sauce from last year's tomato harvest for this pizza. Then, rummaging through our fridge, we found 3 gold beets, a small package of goat cheese, numerous scallions and garlic scapes, and local Parmesan cheese (via our CSA cheese share!). We roasted the gold beets in the oven, and then threw on the veggies. After dolloping the pizza with goat cheese, we dusted the whole pizza with grated Parmesan cheese. Way yummier than we expected!

Check out those delicious gold beets!

Pizza #2: Goat Cheese, Greens, and Caramelized Onions

Harmony Valley frequently provides us with recipe ideas for what's in the box during any given week. A few weeks ago, they suggested making a pizza crust, spreading a package of goat cheese on it, and then topping it with a prepared saute mix (which is basically baby greens). We took this idea a step further by caramelizing some onions we had gotten in our box that week and adding walnuts. Delicious!

Pizza #3: Pesto and Seasonal Veggies
This pizza was more traditional than the other two. Our basil plants are flourishing, so pesto pizza seemed an obvious choice. Using the basil and garlic from our garden combined with the basil from our CSA box, we made five cups of pesto. We froze most, but spread a bit on a homemade pizza crust (see recipe above). On top, we put veggies that we had growing in the garden or given to us in the box: cherry tomatoes, zucchini, onions, and garlic. We topped it with summer cheddar cheese from Otter Creek Farms in Black Earth, WI.

This cheese is special in that the farm prides itself on its pastured cows. The cows, in effect, eat seasonally. Therefore, the farm offers a spring cheddar, a summer cheddar, and a fall cheddar. The farmers encourage consumers to take note of the subtle changes in flavor throughout the year as the herd's diet changes. Even more special (in the eyes of any animal-loving vegetarian) is that the farmer himself used to be a vegetarian. This tells me that consumers can trust that the cows are treated with respect. After all, happy cows come from Wisconsin!

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