Thursday, June 3, 2010
CSA: May 2010
My family joined an organic CSA this year. I had been looking into doing this anyway, but I don't like doing things all by myself, especially when they involve waking up early and driving long distances weekly and having to cook more food than I can eat without really knowing what it will be until I get it. So since my family has been going organic and trying to eat more healthy foods (thanks to my influence, although I haven't been able to blockade the house from Oreos and such) I talked to my mom about it and she signed us up. She wasn't (and still isn't) quite as excited about it as I am, and probably isn't pleased with the flood of emails I am sending her every time the farm updates its website showing what is available this week, or the fact that I try to confirm our departure time (8:30AM, right? right? will you be ready?) every time we speak. But we have had a good time so far, especially with the pick-your-own strawberries :)
I thought it might be nice, and probably helpful to us or someone else later on, if I document what we've been getting in our share and how we used it. I figure I'll keep it to a monthly update so as not to bore you TOO much.
- 1 quart strawberries (PYO)
- a handful of mint
- 1/2 lb arugula
Week 2 (5/20/2010)
- 1 pint strawberries (PYO)
- a few sprigs of mint, thyme, oregano, catnip
- a bunch of chives with purple flowers :) (see photo)
- 1 lb arugula
- 6 heads (!) green leaf lettuce
Week 3 (5/27/2010)
- 1/2 lb arugula
- 2 lbs spinach
- 6 heads of lettuce (2 green, 4 red)
- a few sprigs of mint and rosemary
- a bunch of chives
- 2 quarts strawberries (PYO)
- 1 pint snap peas (PYO)
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 bunch radishes
- 2 heads of bok choy
The strawberries have been eaten out of hand. There haven't been enough so far to frustrate us into doing anything else with them. Jersey strawberries are notably different from the giant monster California strawberries in the supermarket in that they are vine-ripened by the sun. How can you tell? That white core in the middle of your supermarket strawberries shouldn't be there. You should have a red berry all the way through. Those berries are picked white in California or Florida and shipped over to you, ripening in the truck on the way and sitting in the back of the store if they're not ripe enough. Just another reason to choose local foods whenever possible. Now that I've said my piece, I am hoping the strawberries will be around for another few weeks in copious amounts so that I can try my hand at canning in a hot water bath to preserve some of these delicious treats for the winter.
I happen to love arugula and its peppery flavor so I was THRILLED when I saw it in the farm stand. In the beginning of the season, there usually isn't much down there, and you mostly go for the PYO stuff. I was so excited to see something down there! I first reached for one of my favorite recipes, Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa, which is meant to be served over arugula. The recipe makes quite a bit and I was able to eat this several times over the next few days. This was awesome because I got to really taste the arugula - it was the BEST arugula I have ever had, hands down. What a difference it makes to eat fresh greens the very day they were picked. The following week I made an arugula pesto using a recipe from my mom's new Cooking Light book (one of my new favorites) which is organized by season. By week 3 I was getting sick of it, since apparently I'm the only one who wants to eat arugula. I ended up making another pesto from a neat book I got as a gift called New Flavors for Vegetables. It's a Williams-Sonoma book. It's meant for a recipe where you saute little yellow pear tomatoes and toss them with the pesto and feta cheese, but I just stuck it in the freezer (tomatoes aren't here yet). I did taste a bit and it was delicious - I liked it better than the first pesto I made. (You can read more about my arugula pesto in my post about it - when I get to posting it!)
The herbs are such a departure from those sold in the supermarket and even in our local farm markets. It is amazing what a difference it makes! The thyme was used in another recipe from the above mentioned Cooking Light book, a chicken breast stuffed with caramelized scallions, thyme and goat cheese with a delicious pan sauce poured over top. The chives were served at the same meal, in another dish from the same book, sprinkled atop balsamic roasted spring vegetables. The mint was used in mojitos, a zucchini fritatta, and cucumber and mint tea sandwiches for Mom's reading group. The oregano was substituted for dried in our Four-Cheese Baked Penne (from Ellie Krieger's So Easy). And of course Chipotle got the catnip :)
What do you do with 6 heads of lettuce? Eat a LOT of salad. Luckily, with 7 people down the shore we were able to finish off a big bowl of it. I made a delicious balsamic vinaigrette from Clean Food, where I replaced the agave nectar with dijon mustard and emulsified it in a blender. My little sister loved it so much she actually took home the tiny bit that was left over. The great thing about freshly picked lettuce such as this is that it keeps longer than the lettuce you see in the store, so we weren't rushing to finish it and even after a few days it still looked much fresher than the storebought lettuce I had gotten a few days earlier (before I knew we would soon be swimming in greens). By the second week of lettuce, I was doing mental calculations about how much we would each have to eat to get rid of all this lettuce by the next week - as a family, we would have to eat a head per day. One woman in the farm stand said she was eating lettuce for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I am glad we didn't take it quite that far.
I made a wrap on lavash bread using some of the lettuce, a few leaves of spinach, feta, roasted red peppers, and hummus. It was pretty yummy. The greens tasted really fresh. I used only 3 or 4 leaves of the spinach, though. Luckily, 2 lbs of spinach may sound like a lot, but it cooks down substantially! We had it cooked with garlic and olive oil with steak and potatoes.
I made the bok choy according to a recipe from New Flavors for Vegetables. The recipe has you sautee the bok choy with sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and tosses it with toasted sesame seeds. It was too spicy, so next time I would use less for sure, but I might make it again. It would be nice with a drizzle of sesame oil to finish as well.
Snap peas were much more fun to pick than strawberries! Less leaves, less bugs, easier to reach. We used them in one of our current favorite recipes for a Pork and Mango Stir Fry from So Easy. (Someone has posted the recipe here.)
There were two types of radishes available - regular red ones and French breakfast - and we selected the more interesting bunch. The week before, we had purchased regular radishes for a roasted baby spring vegetable recipe from the seasonal Cooking Light book, so we tried it again with these. They were a bit more bitter. I would probably choose the regular type next time. None of us like raw radishes, but they are yummy when roasted.
We forgot about our little bunch of kale -- we were only reminded by two new bunches from the first June pickup. We plan to use the older bunch to make kale chips.