Posts tagged with Local Produce
Man, it's hot out. And you know what that means in terms of CSA pickups? THE GOOD SUMMER STUFF is coming. You know what I mean: tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, melon, basil. All those items that are expensive on their own, but totally affordable in a CSA format. YUM.
But, while we're waiting, there's some majorly good stuff going on all ready. What we got last week from Rolling Prairie is a perfect example: Asian cabbage, Swiss chard, carrots, potatoes, black raspberries and summer squash.
All I can say is YUM.
And, as you can see, the boy liked the results too. He totally stole the juice I made out of apples, CSA Swiss chard and these beautiful CSA carrots:
But that was fine, because we had plenty more. One night we made a strange and mixed-up dinner that was totally amazing, featuring a version of the Asian salad I mentioned a few weeks back. This one was basically the same thing, except instead of peppers and sesame seeds, we threw in two small avocados (chopped) and about two-thirds cup of kimchi. So good.
Then, on the side of that dinner, we made roasted potatoes, using the cute little new potatoes we got in our bag. The hubby and his adorable little helper put a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder over them and roasted them in the oven at 450 until they were brown and crunchy. They didn't have the same flavor profile as the salad, but we ate them together just fine. Terrific.
The black raspberries were eaten out of hand for breakfast, while the summer squash made it into fajitas. We used the homemade fajita mix I mentioned last summer, doubling the recipe to include all of the summer squash (sliced but not peeled) plus a few peppers and two sweet yellow onions we got at the Lawrence Farmer's Market. We topped them with avocado and salsa and they were divine. The picture doesn't do them justice.
What'd we get this week? Potatoes, collards(?), eggs, broccoli, basil and summer squash.
Those of you who are subscribed to a CSA have probably had a few weeks of pickups by now. You're probably getting in the routine of having an influx of fresh, local vegetables and products at the same time each week.
I hope this means it's getting easier for you.
I know when I signed up for my first CSA share a few years ago, I had a little bit of panic with every pickup until about mid-July. By nature I'm a planner, and the idea of getting a random assortment of food each week and not knowing what it would be until I got there, just totally freaked me out.
Honestly, I do much better at the grocery store or the farmers' market, where I have a chance to really choose what I'm going to take home.
But, I love the idea of the CSA. How it forces you into trying new things. How it assures our local farmers are going to get paid. And how it puts my money where my mouth is in regards to not only supporting local businesses, but also healthy eating. I expound about salads and stir-fries a lot on this blog, but like most everyone else, I would much rather order pizza than try to figure out how to use kohlrabi before it shrivels and dies in my fridge.
So, my blog this week is dedicated to those of you who are still freaking out about what you're picking up each week.
It's a hard adjustment from going from the "once a week BIG shop" type of person to getting a load of produce in the middle of the week and having very little say in what ends up going home with you. That's enough to cause panic no matter your personality.
Therefore, I thought I'd share my favorite ways to deal with "daunting" CSA pickups. Because we all have those weeks. And if you've hit your stride, no problem at all? Hopefully you'll find a few resources here, too.
Five methods to avoid CSA panic (or waste)
The big dinner: This is probably the easiest way to ensure you'll use all your CSA veggies. The idea? Make a single meal that utilizes all the ingredients you picked up for the week.
If your CSA provides you with a choice of items (mine does — we usually have a choice between two or three greens, or maybe you can have either eggs or mushrooms, for example), then simply pick things that might go together pretty well. Like, say, snow peas, carrots and bok choy. Make a stir-fry out of that and then make a salad, side dish or dessert incorporating the rest of your items.
If you don't have a choice or none of your items seem to go together, don't worry. Take them home and check out what you have in your fridge, then go through your favorite cookbooks. I highly recommend checking out Nancy O'Connor's "Rolling Prairie Cookbook" for great ideas for foods you're bound to get in your CSA bags.
Pick a main dish that uses at least two of your ingredients and then put together the sides. Make it for dinner the next night, so you're not feeling rushed on pickup night. That way you also have time to buy any stray ingredients to make sure your "big dinner" is a success.
The semi-plan: If you're a regular meal planner, take heart, you can plan a bit. It can be tricky, but most of the time, you can gauge what you might get in your CSA by going to the Saturday Lawrence Farmers' Market in the days ahead of your pickup. If there are items that are prevalent on many of the farmers' tables, chances are they'll be among the items in the next week's CSA pickup. You can also check forms like this one to see what is normally in season in our area.
Use this recon and plan your meals as you normally would any other time of year. But be flexible, if you don't get what you planned on, you can always grab stray ingredients at the store, or use a dish you thought you'd choose down the road.
The "pick away": This is just as it sounds: chipping away at what you get in your bag, just a little at a time. For example, cucumbers and carrots make great snacks for work, snap peas are fun for kids to eat, berries make a good breakfast and so on.
If you just try to include CSA ingredients in one meal per day during the week, your crisper will be cleared out in no time.
The swap: You might have a friend who is also part of your CSA and has completely different tastebuds than you do. If that's the case and you really find some things inedible (the aforementioned kohlrabi, or, if you're my husband, beets) see if your friend might be up for swapping goodies. You can get together post-pickup and trade each other for the items you know you'll have no trouble eating in a double serving. That way, you get more of what you want, and nothing goes to waste.
The save for later: A few blogs ago, I mentioned that because of travel and social commitments, we didn't have time to work through our weekly share. I felt like a bit of a failure (I am blogging, of course, about how to use the food ... not how to let it sit in your fridge), but I was buoyed by the fact that because of the fresh-picked nature of CSA goodies, they have a much longer fridge life than most store-bought fruits and veggies.
When the farmer picks your food just hours before it ends up at your house, that means you cut out all the travel and shelf time these same items see at the grocery store. Thus, if you just can't get through this week's goods for whatever reason, don't stress.
Just make sure they're properly stored (in plastic, unwashed, in your crisper) and save your veggies for later. Or hard-boil your eggs. Freeze your berries or herbs. You really don't have to "use it or lose it" as long as you think about what you can do.
Last week, we received black raspberries, carrots, radishes, eggs and snap peas. We used the "pick away" method. The kiddo had the raspberries the second we got home (as you can see, above), the carrots, radishes and snap peas made it into random salads that weren't exactly ground-breaking and the eggs got hard-boiled and eaten for breakfast.
So, even though we didn't get a single night for a big homemade meal this past week, we were able to get through those goodies, plus items we picked up at the store and the Lawrence Farmers' Market.
This week? We got Asian cabbage, Swiss chard, carrots, potatoes, black raspberries and summer squash.
I have mentioned many times in this space that during the spring and summer months, I do not like to turn on my oven.
This isn't just because I'm trying to save on my electric bill (though it does save on air-conditioning dollars), but rather because in the summer I just happen to crave things that aren't cooked. I don't know if it's because of the heat, the water in raw fruits and vegetables or simply that some random switch flips in my brain and that's just what I want. All I know is, if it's above 70 degrees, chances are I won't cook.
But there are some things we get in our Rolling Prairie CSA bag that I tend to assume I'll cook, no matter what. And last week, there were a couple of items that fit that bill. Our total haul included: beets, napa cabbage, snap peas, eggs, green onions and purslane. Now, obviously, we're going to cook the eggs (raw egg, ewwww), and everything else on that list could go either way.
The beets and purslane we juiced. The snap peas and green onions we had on salads. But the real surprising thing I didn't cook was the Napa cabbage.
Usually, Napa cabbage is stir-fry material for me. Considering I also got stir-fry perfect snap peas and green onions, it's kind of weird that we didn't do that. But also considering the west side of my house isn't shaded and gets a total nuclear beatdown from the sun just about the time I get home, we thought we'd try something different.
So, I sliced the cabbage thin, threw in some of our CSA green onions, plus some other yummy ingredients and created a salad that will definitely be making the rounds. It requires a bit more chopping and mixing than last week's salad, but trust me, it is incredibly worth it and totally refreshing. Plus, it makes a TON and stores well to take for lunch the next day.
Napa Cabbage Salad with Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette
1 Napa cabbage, chopped
2 orange, red or yellow bell peppers, chopped and seeded
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 green onions, green parts only, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I used one 1 tablespoon each black and tan)
Snap peas, shelled and raw
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons nama shoyu (or tamari, or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Put all salad ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Put the dressed salad into the fridge and let chill for 20 minutes. Enjoy! Serves 4-8.
What'd we get this week? Black raspberries (already eaten by the kiddo), carrots, radishes, eggs and snap peas.
For as much as I slacked off using my CSA goodies last week, I totally made up for it this week.
And I didn't spend every weeknight slaving over the stove or anything, to do it. I mean, who has time to do that? I don't. Plus, it's 90 degrees out, so who wants to slave over a stove anyway? Yeah, exactly nobody.
Instead, the hubby and I had a "free" (as in no commitments) night for once, and decided to cook in tandem. He made a stir-fry in the same mold as this one, while I checked out what salad ingredients we had in our crisper and on our counter and set about making what I could with what we had.
The resulting dinner was totally amazing, filling and full of leftovers. Both of us got about halfway through our portions and couldn't eat another bite. (The kiddo wasn't interested in any aspect of the meal ... oh well, more for us.)
When we packed up our leftovers and peered in the fridge, there was a TON more room. We'd finished nearly everything we'd gotten from Rolling Prairie (green onions, kale, mushrooms, salad mix, head lettuce and snap peas) and several items we'd picked up at the Lawrence Farmers' Market or the grocery store over the weekend.
It was a great feeling, especially because we felt like we were starting at a handicap at the beginning of the week with extra veggies leftover from the week before.
Plus, the salad I created was pretty good, and took like no time to put together. We're definitely making this one again.
No-Dressing Spring Salad
4 cups spring mix, baby spinach or arugula
1/2 to 1 cup sauerkraut or kimchi
1 avocado, chopped
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 to 4 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, rice, red wine, etc.), to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Put lettuce in a bowl and pour the avocado chunks on top. Using clean hands, massage the avocado into the lettuce. Top with the tomatoes and sauerkraut or kimchi. Top with vinegar of choice and salt and pepper to taste. Eat immediately. Serves 2 to 4.
So, what'd we get this week? Beets, Napa cabbage, snap peas, eggs, green onions and purslane.
Last week, we were on vacation and missed our regular CSA pickup. That said, we were lucky enough to have a sweet friend pick up our goods for us and save them until we could get them. When we finally got our CSA bag on Tuesday night, what we found in our bag was a great selection of items we’d normally pick out for ourselves, given the choice, including: salad mix, head lettuce, Swiss chard, asparagus, spinach and spring onions.
That CSA pickup was a great way to restock our post-vacation fridge in one fail swoop. However, because of how late we got back on Tuesday, plus our busy weeknight schedule, we were hardly home to cook at all this week. Thus, we had a few leftover items that we couldn’t use until Monday night (as in the night we picked up this week’s CSA goods).
But — and this is just one reason to love local food — because our CSA food didn’t travel very far, it was picked right before our friend went to go get our bag for that week. Thus, it didn’t spend precious time being shipped on a truck or plane before it landed on grocery store shelves. That, my friends, buys the purchaser time to let those veggies sit in the fridge if need be. Normal (shipped) veggies wouldn’t have lasted a week in the fridge like that, especially the delicate greens.
So, this Monday, we were able to steam asparagus and make these great potato pancakes from the Rolling Prairie Cookbook that we discovered last season, using week-old veggies plus all the green onions we received this week (the hubby LOVES his green onions).
As for the stuff we actually managed to use during the week? Well, honestly, when I don’t cook, the easiest way to use the items in our bag is for me to get out the blender and the juicer. Yes, I know this isn’t for everyone and many of you are probably annoyed that I resort to this method so often. But, really, those two kitchen appliances take care of a lot of greens that don’t become salad — keeping them from going to waste. Plus, green smoothies and juice are pretty much the ONLY way I can get my son to eat leafy greens. He’s not an unusual toddler — he’s not going to eat kale salad with mommy. The veggies he likes to eat are the “stand alone” types like carrots, peas, green beans, etc.
So, because I know he’ll eat/drink it, I make a lot of smoothies and juice. As you can see from the pic at the top of this post, that’s pretty effective (that was my drink and he wanted to “share” … but ended up drinking two-thirds of it). So, though I know the idea of drinking your greens is probably weird to many of you, I highly recommend at least trying it.
Often, we make green smoothies, and we did plenty of those this week with the spinach, lettuce and salad greens this past week.
But the recipe I wanted to share this week is a juice. Now, if you don’t have a juicer, you could still make it as a smoothie, just as long as your blender has some “oomf” to it. All you need to do is chop up the ingredients really small. Then, start with 1 to 2 cups water and the greens and blend those up before adding the other ingredients. This will hopefully keep your blender from seizing on you.
If you do have a juicer, this one is quick, easy and uses all these fruits and veggies, including our CSA Swiss chard:
Yep, all those things become simply this:
Springtime Swiss Miss Juice
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch celery, trimmed
1 lemon or lime, peeled (or you can squeeze the juice in to finish)
Run all through a juicer.
What’d we get this week? The aforementioned green onions, kale, mushrooms, salad mix, head lettuce and snap peas.
OK, so call it a sophomore slump, but our second full week of CSA veggies, was much more of a challenge than the first week.
It wasn't that we weren't motivated, it was that we were going out of town.
You know the drill: try in vain to finish everything in your fridge before you go and inevitably eat out a bunch because your brain is already on vacation and you just don't want to deal with it. Yeah, that happens in my house, too.
But before we get to that, to refresh, the items we received in our CSA bag from Rolling Prairie were: Swiss chard, mint, pink beets, head lettuce, green onions, mixed salad greens, mint and a dozen eggs.
They were all great items, and from the get-go we were totally behind in using them. First of all, we ended up going out with friends on Monday night (the night we pick up our CSA share), which put not only a hole in our weekly eating pattern, but also meant I was too wiped by the time we got home to make myself lunch out of the yumminess.
So, the veggies sat until Tuesday. The trip out of town started on Friday, and Wednesday and Thursday are usually busy with activities, so Tuesday was the bull's eye. It was our chance to not only make up for lack of immediate usage on Monday, but also to serve up as many veggies as possible before going down the rabbit hole of "Gah, why do I have to cook anything? We're going on vacation!" nonsense.
On Tuesday nights, I run a bunch of hills around the KU campus with a handful of other crazy people, but, luckily, my hubby had gotten the "use it or lose it" memo, and when I got home, not only had he and the kiddo made homemade hummus with our CSA green onions (NOM), but he'd also chopped up both the baby bok choy I'd picked up at the Lawrence Farmers' Market and the Swiss chard we'd gotten from the CSA for a yummy stir-fry (at the top of the blog). Throw in some day-old Wheatfield's bread we needed to use up and we called in dinner (those recipes are at the bottom of this blog, and they are superb, separate or together).
After dinner, I did my part, making an unusual, and slightly gross combination of green juice that also helped to clean out my crisper, taking care of some CSA beet greens, CSA mint, cucumber, celery, spinach, apples and lemons. I thought it would taste like a mojito with the mint and citrus. It did not.
Later, on Thursday night, I used the actual beets in a much tastier juice (CSA and Farmers' Market beets, apples, lemons, cucumbers and the entire head of CSA lettuce), but that still left a few things in the fridge before we took off. Thus, we hard-boiled our eggs, and they seemed to last OK for when we got back. We also saved some salad greens and mint, both of which I'm hoping to use in a non-gross juice concoction later today.
What did we get this week in our CSA? I have no idea at all, as I won't see the contents until tonight (a sweet friend picked up our share for us). But I'll be sure to fill you in next week on how we used the goodies. Until then, try the hummus and stir-fry recipes. They really do make the most of what's available right now and are super duper easy.
Bok Choy and Swiss Chard with Red Onions and Sesame Seeds
1 pound baby boy choy
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Slice off the base of the bok choy and chard. Slice what remains into large chunks. Place the greens in a large bowl to get all the dirt out of the folds (even if you washed them already, they might still be sandy). Drain and towel off any excess water; set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet. Add the onions and stir-fry for five or six minutes. Remove the onions and set aside on a plate. Add a bit more oil if necessary and sauté the ginger for a few seconds. Add the bok choy and chard and stir to coat with oil and ginger. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the leaves start to wilt. Add the mirin and soy sauce, stir briefly, and cover the pan. Steam for 2 minutes, then remove the id. Stir for 30 seconds and take the pan off the heat. to serve, top the stir-fry with the onions and sesame seeds. Serves 4.
Curried Green Onion Hummus (from "Appetite for Reduction" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, liquid reserved
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup chopped green onions
When you open the can of chickpeas, pour about 3 tablespoons of the liquid into a cup and set aside. Drain the rest of the liquid and rinse the chickpeas. Pulse them in a food processor along with the garlic until no whole chickpeas are left. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and puree for a bit. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid, the salt, the paprika (if using) and curry. Blend until very smooth, adding the last tablespoon of liquid if needed. Pulse in the green onions until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Taste for salt and lemon juice. You can serve immediately, but I like to let it chill for at least an hour.
One CSA week down, roughly 25 to go, and hopefully all as successful as the past week. We used everything we received in our first week from Rolling Prairie, no composting necessary! In fact, for once, we didn't seem to have enough to eat. (Enter an expensive, yet satisfying, trip to the Lawrence Farmers' Market on Saturday to replenish the crisper).
To refresh, last Monday we received: spinach, salad greens, green onions, Swiss chard, mushrooms and mushroom paté.
The baby salad greens went into the salad at the top of this post (that's the greens, topped with kimchi, tofu, beets, green onions and vinaigrette). The spinach and Swiss chard made it into juice and smoothies.
The mushroom paté went into the freezer for a later date (We tend to freeze any spreads we get from our CSA, whether it be pate or pesto, for when we need it in a pinch), while the mushrooms were used immediately in a halved version of yummy mushroom marinara.
This marinara recipe is super quick and easy and seems even more satisfying than the kind you can get in a jar. I know I didn't crush the tomatoes myself or anything, but somehow, the hubby and I felt pretty proud to make this ourselves. Maybe it's because we basically lived off pasta and canned red sauce in college and back then we never would've dreamed of making it ourselves (Yeah, we were poor and kind of lazy).
We're definitely going to make this one again!
Mushroom Marinara (From "Appetite for Reduction" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (24-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 ounces finely chopped mushrooms
Preheat a 2 quart pot over medium-low heat. Sauté the mushrooms in the oil. Add garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the thyme, oregano, and pepper, and sauté for a minute more, adding a splash of water if necessary. Add the tomatoes and salt, and stir everything together. Cover the pot, leaving a little gap for steam to escape, and cook for 10 minutes. Taste for salt and seasoning and serve.
In our CSA bag this week: Swiss chard, mint, beets, head lettuce, green onions, mixed salad greens, mint and a dozen eggs.
Finally. FINALLY. CSA season is upon us!
My first CSA pick up of the season was Monday, which, in my head, pretty much signals the beginning of warm weather, deck sitting and copious amounts of local, seasonal produce. Yes, I know I'm being a little dramatic for it being barely May, but it's hard not to get excited, because, well, I hate winter. And even after the mildest winter of my life (besides the years I lived in South Florida), I'm still thrilled that it will basically be getting warmer from here on out for months on end.
For the past few years, I've documented how my little family of three uses up our CSA (community supported agriculture — this means we get a share of farm goods each week in a "subscription") share each week. I started blogging about our usage after hearing from many people that they'd given up on their CSA shares or become discouraged because they couldn't prepare everything before it yellowed and died in their produce crisper, wading in that weird condensation that puddles as the veggies die.
And, truthfully, I also started blogging about how we use our veggies to make sure we'd use them.
That's right, though I write weekly about my love of vegetables and fruits, I have been known to let some produce wither and die in my crisper, too, only to be laid to rest on the compost pile. It happens to all of us, even people like me who need kale to be its own food group.
And, thus, if it's difficult for me, it's difficult for probably anybody. Especially when you're not exactly sure what you're going to get each week (Meal planning? What's that?). And no matter what CSA you've signed up for (or if you're following along at the Farmers' Market), this year is poised to be extra crazy. Because of the unseasonably warm weather and little rain, local farmers have had traditional early spring crops like spinach and kale bolt on them or die after wintering-over. Thus, these first few weeks might be a little hectic and abnormal no matter what CSA you've signed up for or how seasoned or new you are to this whole subscription veggies thing.
So, as we navigate the first week of the season (for me — if your CSA has yet to start, take this post and this week's share as an example of what you'll get later), I thought I'd look back on some of the best recipes we made in early spring the past few years. That way, no matter what your CSA has in store for you this week or in the next few, you have a good suggested starting point.
Bok Choy with Chickpeas and Cashews (from a late-season post, but applicable to early season veggies)
I'll check back in this space next week with a run down and recipes from how we used our goodies this week, which included (as you can see above): mushrooms, mushroom paté, green onions, Swiss chard, salad mix, spinach.
And, now, a question: Have you joined a CSA? If so, what are you looking forward to each week?