Saturday, October 08, 2011

Harvest

When we first moved to our part of northern California, we tried out being exhibitors at the local county fair. Both kids won some ribbons for craft entries and I eventually won at the fall Harvest Fair for an over the top Victorian gingerbread house. Although the kids loved the summer fair with its fun carnival rides and contests and lots of animals and fair food, Sweetie and I have always been fond to the Harvest Fair which has more of a focus on local products and local wines. There are still lots of crafts and cute animals and fair food but the crowds are smaller and the pace is more relaxed.


This year I was lucky enough to do something I've wanted to do for a long time...work the Harvest Fair. Although the long days and challenging cash register set-up were tiring, I had a great time. The people I worked with were old hands at doing the wine sales (yes, that's where I ended up...ringing up wine sales! Isn't that a hoot?) and they were generous with their knowledge and welcoming as co-workers. I felt very fortunate to have such a positive work experience and to meet them. When there were slow times we were able to chat a bit. Each one was a stellar human being and interesting, too. I hope I see them again....maybe next year I'll work the fair again.


Speaking of harvest, we have been harvesting lots of tomatoes. Due to the cool and rainy spring and early summer everything is late, but there is something very special about being inside on a cool, rainy October evening and eating ripe heirloom tomatoes

that were only picked a day or two before. That wonderful fresh tomato fragrance is still strong, the slices are juicy and succulent, especially with a sprinkle of good olive oil, another sprinkle of aged balsamic vinegar, and a dash of garlic salt and fresh pepper.


It's hard to beat and makes the waiting worthwhile.


Some of the plum type tomatoes were cooked and the skins and seeds removed to make a fresh tomato sauce. Although I neglected to take a photo (thought I had, but the memory is not as reliable as it once was), I can assure you that the baked pasta dish I made using that sauce was excellent. I'll share the recipe at the end of the post.


The other harvest that is going on right now is of seeds. I have let some of the French thin green beans go to seed and the seed pod to dry out.


Before the rains came this week I was able to bring in the dry pods and remove the beans...I felt a little like Jack in the fairy tale


...those few beans will sit in the freezer until about March, then I'll plant them for the spring and summer harvest of fresh, delicious tender green beans. This kind of bean produces all at once (over about a week and a half), so I do succession plantings to keep the beans coming so having a lot of beans (seeds) is a good thing.


I also harvested some sweet pea and morning glory seeds to plant early next spring. I've tried planting them now but the snails usually munch them right up during the winter. Come spring I have no seed and no seedlings. If I can figure out how, I'll also collect tomato seeds and dry them, then freeze them for next years' seedlings.


Sorry about the lack of photos, but I'm sure you've baked a penne pasta casserole before...and that's what it looked like. The flavors went really well together. Besides, who can hate melty cheese?


Spinach Chicken Pasta Bake with Three Cheeses

1/2 lb (dry) penne, cooked according to package directions and drained. (I used whole grain penne but any kind will do...you could use another type of pasta, too, if no penne is in your pantry)
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
5 oz (half a box) frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups tomato sauce, fresh if possible
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
salt and pepper to taste
three sticks string cheese (or about a cup grated mozzarella cheese)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Set aside.

In the pot that the penne was cooked in, mix together the cooked chicken, frozen spinach, tomato sauce, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil and salt and pepper. Add the cooked and drained penne and stir to combine. Put this mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Cut the string cheese into coins and place evenly over the pasta mixture (or scatter the grated mozzarella evenly over the casserole.)

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 -50 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted on top.
Serve while hot. A salad and some crusty bread is a nice addition to this dish.

Serves 6 -8.

5 comments :

tanita davis said...

Gorgeous tomatoes! One year we grew heirloom beans and tried Jacob's Cattle - that was a hoot. Taking them out of their pods, fresh or dry, was an experience in color.

The Gravenstein Fair is still my fave in Sebastopol - so, so many apple treats, and the North Bay in the autumn = beautiful.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

(groan) ...... those tomatoes ........ oooooooo .......... so wish I lived next door ;-)

Elle said...

Tanita, I love the Apple Fair, too but it has become huge and is held in a space where huge can be a problem, but the North Bay in autumn truly is beautiful. I've grown Jacob's Cattle beans, too. These were also spotted with white, but the Jacob's had more white...larger blotches. I found that I was too lazy to grow and harvest enough to really use for eating so switched to just harvesting seed beans for the next planting of beans to eat fresh.

Tanna, I wish you lived next door, too. There's a house across the street thats for sale...we could dig a tunnel under the street and visit each other's kitchen directly...or pipe over the fragrances of baking. :)

David T. Macknet said...

It'll certainly be interesting to see what you end up with in your next harvest of beans, as they're likely to have incorporated some stray genetics from other beans!

Also: I never get tired of seeing (and envying) your tomatoes!

Elizabeth said...

Those golden tomatoes are amazingly beautiful. It's a good thing I don't live next door. I'm not generally given to theft but I find myself imagining ways that I could oh so innocently exclaim over their sudden overnight disappearance "Those raccoons!! Aren't they clever?!", worrying all the while that there might be telltale golden tomato seeds lodged between my teeth.