Monday, September 7, 2009

Strategies and tips for using CSA produce

It's week 14 of my 20 week Stoney Plains CSA . When I get my bag at the market, I wonder what's in this fabulous grab bag of produce for the week. I slip out the information sheet and gaze at the contents listed: butter lettuce, shelling peas, snow peas, arugula, turnips, corn, carrots, Tsoi-Tism ( a green for salads) and fresh black beans still in the pods. (These are the cream colored beans at the bottom of the photo.) Hidden in their pods, these black beans are a market treasure found in late summer or early autumn. They're so much better than their dried cousins. Each week I look at everything as a dinner possibility and use the list to decide what else I might need to purchase at the market because my purchases rarely spill over to grocery store purchases.

At home, I quickly size up what needs to be eaten first and the turnips looked like my first choice. These underrated greens are similar to collards and kale with medicinal qualities, but the flavor is mild with only a hint of bitterness.

Turnip Greens Soup is something I invented one day when I had that "right now" craving for food.

  • Use all the turnip greens--wash, chop and steam
  • Puree these with lemon juice, a dash of agave nectar, a pinch of salt and Mama Lil's peppers.
  • For a creamy touch, add a drizzle of hazelnut butter from Holmquist Orchards. You can also use almond butter and I usually have some. My favorite comes from Massa Organics an organic family farm in California

The next day, I made a pizza with onions from Willie Greens Organic Farm ( and the big bunch of arugula.

Onion-Arugula Pizza. (Have I mentioned I'm a lazy cook most of the time?) Here is all I did:

  • Use prepared pizza crust, I found a frozen, cornmeal crust at PCC Natural Markets.Peel, slice and saute the onions in olive oil over medium to low heat until soft.
  • Add Mama Lil's peppers (also found at PCC Natural Markets, Whole Foods or other food specialty stores), a couple cloves of garlic (pressed or minced)and finally the entire bunch of arugula.
  • Cook this until it becomes soft. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the vegetables and this was it. Finally garnish with a grated smoky Gouda cheese from Appel Farms ( Or use your own favorite cheese for garnish. If you don't use cheese, sprinkle with a little sea salt.

The following evening it was black beans and corn for a salad, made from a recipe I'd adapted from my book Local Vegetarian Cooking.

Black Bean and Corn Salad provides endless fodder for adaptions. Don't forget, fresh black beans only need to be removed from the pods and cooked. Unlike their dried cousins, they don't require soaking.

  • First, steam 2 cups fresh black beans until tender (if you don't have fresh black beans use about 1 1/2 cups canned or dried, soaked and cooked).
  • While these steam, combine in a blender: 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or sugar, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 3 cloves garlic (pressed), 1 jalapeno, minced (remove seeds if you don't like the heat)
  • Scrape corn from 2 or 3 medium to large cobs (preferably picked fresh that day). My recipe in the book also uses 1 cup couscous and 1 cup boiling water. This will obviously make the salad go farther. If you want to include this, just pour the boiling water over the couscous and wait five minutes.
  • Finally add 1/3 cup sliced green onions, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, salsa (your favorite) to taste and salt (also optional)

This salad can be enjoyed with warm corn tortillas or chilled and used the next day as a burrito filling.

The shelling peas were an afternoon snack but what about the lettuce, Tsoi-Tism turnips, snow peas and carrots? Always use tender greens early in the week because they may not make it the entire week. Get other salad ingredients at the market such as cucumbers and tomatoes to go with the lettuce. Slice the turnips and carrots and saute them with the snow peas. You can combine these with rice or use them as a side dish.

I must say, this time of year, it's much easier to use up everything in my CSA box because of the wide diversity. It's much more challenging in the spring with the deluge of greens and I suspect cooking may challenge me near the end in the fall as well.

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