This weekend we spent 48 hours with 2300 other organic farmers at our favorite annual farming conference. It was just the breath of fresh air we needed to launch ourselves into what will certainly be the craziest eight months of our lives. I don’t know why I’m surprised. This annual conference always does a remarkable job of giving me everything I need.
But this year we were feeling a little low energy heading into our favorite weekend. We have been hitting it hard since we returned from vacation. Every year since we started our farm, we set incredibly ambitious goals and push ourselves to the absolute limit of our little business, but this year feels more substantial, more high pressure.
There are only so many off-season weeks to recruit CSA members, communicate with our chefs, build new collaborations and events, create better systems, plan for a pack shed build, hire employees, purchase (and learn to use) a tractor, reapply for organic certification, discuss growth plans with my family, and assess (and then reassess) our finances.
You would think the off-season would be our time to rest and recharge. And it is, in some ways. But it’s also never quite as restful as I expect it to be. Regardless of the length of our growing season, there is no doubt that vegetable farming is definitely a year-round gig.
And alongside the farm, we’re trying to figure out what our journey into expanding our family should look like which is going well now but hit some pretty heavy road bumps as my husband and I suddenly got catapulted into communicating about things we’ve communicated poorly about for the past decade. So expanding the farm, expanding the family, just small little things to focus on this February.
All of the momentum and movement and excitement to build, grow, improve, and flourish has been fueling us and we’re so excited for all that lies ahead, but that doesn’t mean we’re not also emotionally spent from all the deep thought and mentally spent hustling from one exciting business meeting to the next. The idea of spending nine hours in workshops learning how to improve our farm and mingling with literally thousands of people felt more overwhelming this year than ever before.
We were greeted with open arms by the most joyful, nurturing, and compassionate community. There were so many hugs, so many smiles, so many conversations of strength and persistence, of fear and courage. I can’t really find the words to accurately describe what this weekend meant to me but to Jonnah, Kriss, Steph, Jon, Kelly, Steve, Doug, Kristen, Katy, Mark, Chris, Cassie, Mike, Lisa, Danielle, Di, Della: you are my tribe, my mentors, my friends and thank you for always greeting me with everything I need. And thank you Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service for a strong and resounding theme of balance throughout this year’s workshops.
We are so excited to head into the 2018 season with the knowledge of how to grow better peppers, pack produce more profitably, enhance fungal connections between our soil and plants, make dynamic cover crop cocktails, and most important of all, practice real strategies of self care. Again no real surprise, my favorite workshop was all about learning to slow down and take care of ourselves.
I already know batch cooking Sundays will be a highlight of my week throughout the busy bustling growing season. They already are beginning to be, but during the farming season (when we forget to really thoughtfully and proactively nourish ourselves), these few hours in the kitchen will mean even more to me as I work to efficiently fuel our little team with the best food imaginable.
This recipe will no doubt be a batch cooking staple adapted slightly, and made again and again. Quiche has been one of my go-to’s for some time due to its ability to easily be scaled up and use literally any vegetable leftover in my fridge, but now I learned how to make it with way less butter and without any flour. A crust of potatoes makes it not only healthier but somehow also more comforting than a crust of pie. It reminds me of a hash-brown casserole from my youth but more refined. It also has the benefit of helping us get through the 100 pounds of storage potatoes we still have left in the basement.
This particular recipe is just one sample filling for a great big world of quiche you should have fun exploring. I adore the combination of pork sausage, colorful peppers, shittakes and scallions but if it were a different time of year, I’m sure I’d opt for green garlic or leeks instead of the scallions, oyster mushrooms for shittakes, chard for the pork sausage or asparagus for the peppers. I mean it when I say you can put anything in a quiche. The only thing you want to avoid are things with a lot of water (like tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini). Cook these things down first so they don’t mess with your egg mixture.
Have fun, make three or four at a time and put different combinations in each until you find your favorite. Or just make this one again and again if that’s more your style. I truly believe quiche is something you can never grow tired of.
From one egg-y morning to another,
POTATO CRUSTED WINTER QUICHE
Takes 1 hour, 20 minutes
Makes 2 9-inch quiche
Serves 6-8 or 4 very hungry husbands
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/16-inch
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
3 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound pork sausage
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound shittake mushrooms (or mushroom of your choice), cleaned and sliced
1 cup diced colored peppers
1 bunch scallions, sliced
3 cups whole milk
1 cup cheddar cheese (or favorite melty cheese)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place sliced potatoes in a large bowl with olive oil, 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and toss with a spatula until potatoes are well coated in oil and Parmesan evenly.
- Generous grease two 9-inch pie pans. Layer potatoes into baking dishes starting in the center and spiraling out until potatoes go up the sides and resemble a traditional crust (watch video above for guidance ⇑). If you cover both pans and still have potatoes left just add another layer. You can’t really have too many potatoes in my opinion. Feel free to use less if you’re counting carbs.
- Place crusts in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare your filling.
- Brown pork sausage in a large heavy skillet until well-browned and a bit crispy in places. Add a little butter or olive oil if things start sticking. I start mine at medium heat for 5 minutes and then amp up the heat to high for an additional 3-5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- Melt butter in the same pan you used to brown the sausage. Add shittakes and cook over medium-low heat for 5-8 minutes until they begin to soften. Add peppers along with an additional 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook 5-8 minutes longer until mushrooms are cooked through and peppers have softened. We freeze peppers during the growing season and throw them straight into the pan from the freezer here.
- Turn off the heat and add sausage back to pan alongside scallions. Stir to combine.
- In a medium bowl (or large glass 8-cup measuring cup if you have one), combine eggs, milk, remaining salt, remaining Parmesan and 1 cup cheddar. Whisk to combine.
- Remove par-baked crusts from oven, the edges should be beginning to dry out a bit. Divide sausage mixture between crusts followed by egg mixture.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes until eggs have puffed and center is set. The top and edges should just be golden brown.