After a nearly two year hiatus, I’m surprised to write that we’re once again CSA members. I’ve had varying experiences with previous CSAs. I recognize that the CSA system provides farmers an income and an audience in an otherwise quiet period (in the case of Winter CSAs), and provides an injection of capital that can free farms, even a bit, from the unpredictability of nature (in the case of Spring and Summer CSAs).
But from my standpoint as a consumer, the benefits of a CSA have skewed more to this (worthwhile) injection of stability than to helping members’ cooking and kitchen creativity. With previous CSAs, I’d find myself presented with boxes of ingredients that seemed like they were on their last possible week of storage before going rotten, or a selection of produce that didn’t adequately make a meal. I longed for a CSA that felt more like an equal exchange between farmers and members.
In Portland, the farmers’ markets dwindle to just one market over the Winter – a reduced, though still excellent, Saturday market. We knew that we needed an additional day of farmers’ market produce to supplement our weekday meals. We found a perfect match in Mudjoy Farm. After a summer spent gleaning from Harry and Jim at the King Farmers’ Market, and an earlier summer visit to Mudjoy Farm to learn more about the operation and Harry’s background, I eagerly signed up for their first Winter CSA.
This CSA has been a treat from its inception: it feels like we’re attending a farmer’s market built just for us. Harry arranges his produce as he did at the King Market, with labels and baskets, only this time, his tables are in a friend’s backyard in North Portland. Instead of picking produce from bins heaped to the point of overflowing, he fills his containers with just the right amount of food to create visually-enticing displays.
Each week before the CSA pick-up, Harry posts a preview of upcoming produce in our share. He frequently adds a story to the list of items, explaining why he’s growing a particular variety, his reaction to it, his favorite way to cook it, or a tried and true recipe from a favorite cookbook or fellow CSA member. Many of the recipes incorporate multiple items from the CSA share, meaning that I’ve yet to take home our weekly bag of produce only to find myself creatively stifled . Harry provides quantities that are ideal for cooking complete recipes and the produce share contains a pleasing mix of winter standards (carrots and beets), along with the food that Mudjoy Farm is becoming known for: flavorful heirloom varieties of vegetables, like Spigariello and Versa di Verona Cabbage.
This past week, though we brought home excellent garlic, onions, potatoes, and winter squash, the food that leapt out above all the others was our bunch of Red Ace beets.
Roasting these beets resulted in a color that can be best described as “neon crimson". The rich color mesmerized me, especially as the bowl caught different angles of the quickly setting afternoon sunlight.
We prepared the beets two ways, a simple roast-and-slice, and then these pancakes, which I made twice last week. As I’ve written, I’m slowly working my way through all of the different flour sections of Good to the Grain. My first batch of these pancakes also coincided with my first time baking with quinoa flour.
I hadn’t expected to make a second batch, but the rich color and sweet, earthy flavor of these savory pancakes demanded a repeat visit. Luckily, I still had two Mudjoy beets to use!
Quinoa Beet PancakesRecipe Source: Good from the Grain
Makes 16 pancakes
- 3 medium red beets
- 1/2 cup quinoa flour
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the beets in a glass/metal baking dish with about 1/2 cup water in the bottom. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for an hour, until quite tender. Cool, peel, and puree the beets in a food processor or blender until smooth. You will need 1/2 cup of the beet puree (you can freeze the rest).
- Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, integrating any bits that are left in the sifter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, melted butter, egg, and 1/2 cup of beet puree until smooth. Using a spatula, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently combine. The batter should be the consistency of lightly whipped cream and crimson in color.
- Although the batter is best if used immediately, you can keep it out for an hour on the counter or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerating, thin the batter with milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Heat a cast-iron pan or griddle until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter (the key to crisp, buttery edges). Dollop 1/4 cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2-3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side, flip it over and cook until golden brown, 4-5 minutes in total. Wipe the pan with a cloth and start your next batch.
- Serve the pancakes hot, with maple syrup. Enjoy!