CSA 2009, Weeks Five + Six.

If this past month was any indication of what the summer has in store for me, I’m doomed.  No, I don’t mean Boston’s wonky June weather; I mean my inability to get around to using my CSA vegetables as soon as possible because I’ve been too damn busy. First a chunk of my family arrives in town, insisting on taking us out for multiple meals and monopolizing my time; then Marcella comes to visit for a week of shopping, rainstorms and restaurant explorations.  When’s a girl supposed to find time to put her produce to use during all of that?

CSA 5So, as with weeks two and three of my CSA, I’m combining weeks five and six into one post.  I did manage to take a photograph of week five’s haul, as I normally do, but I’ve decided the time has come yet again for me to instead snap shots of items on their own.  The boxes’ contents haven’t yet gotten so huge that they can’t all squish together into the frame, but I’ve gotten so eager to get everything out and washed and sorted that I honestly forget most of the time, and then have to toss the vegetables back together at the last minute for their line-up, which leaves me feeling stressed for neglecting to remember in the first place.

Here’s the list of five and six’s harvest:

  • Baby beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots (both weeks)
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Garlic scapes
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Napa cabbage
  • New potatoes
  • Red giant mustard greens
  • Salad mix with arugula
  • Scallions
  • Summer squash

CSA 6These lovely little potatoes were part of week six’s booty; it’s never a challenge to figure out what to do with a potato, isn’t it?  You can jazz up a mash by turning it into colcannon, bake thin slices of potato onto a cheesy pizza, comfort yourself with a bowl of soup.  Then, of course, here’s countless frittatas to make and frites to fry, and there’s nothing easier than sticking a foil-wrapped one into the oven to bake. The potato is really an incredibly versatile ingredient.

Warm Potato Salad with(out) Crème FraîcheLast night, I decided to boil the potatoes and make a warm salad to go alongside the lamb chops I was planning to broil for our dinner.  These little guys were so tender and delicate that some of their skins had rubbed off when I washed them clean of dirt and grit, so I knew that I could just toss them as is into a pot of water to boil.

Like I said, the potato — charming and lovable as it is — is easy.  Almost no thought at all is required when it comes to preparing a few.  The rest of my vegetables were another story.

Frozen vegetable stockI found myself wondering, Would it be chickening out a bit to turn most of what I received into stock, rather than figuring out what to do with my highly-intimidating kohlrabi? After debating with my self for a good while, I convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with throwing some of my more complicated produce into my stockpot with several cups of water, some seasoning and some herbs.  (For a more detailed and specific recipe, look at this.)  You always need vegetable stock, I reasoned, not to mention store-bought is basically salted vegetable-esque water…  which is why I now have something like eighteen cups of stock in Ziploc bags stacked in my fridge.

Maybe it was cheating, making stock.  Then again, it’ll be a while before my flavorful frozen supply runs out, so I’m happy.

Warm Potato Salad with(out) Crème Fraîche, from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice  Waters
Makes six portions

1 ½ pounds new potatoes (Alice says to use Bintje)
2 shallots
¾ cup cream (I used milk; it was what I had on hand)
salt and pepper
½ cup crème fraîche (which I omitted, since I didn’t have any on hand, and replaced with Greek yogurt, which is far healthier anyway)
sherry vinegar

  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender; drain.  When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into ¼-inch slices.
  2. Peel and dice the shallots fine, and put them in a small pan with the cream.  Season with salt and pepper and warm gently; the trick here is to slowly soften the shallots without reducing the cream.  When the shallots have softened, then take them off the heat and stir in the crème fraîche.
  3. When you are ready to serve the salad, put the potatoes in the cream mixture, add a splash or two of sherry vinegar to taste, and warm again gently.  Correct the seasoning and serve garnished with freshly ground black pepper.

CSA 2008, Week Seven.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.”

All right, so maybe that’s a smidge dramatic or odd, but what can I say — sometimes I like a bit of odd drama. The truth of the matter is that our weekly CSA box has gotten to be so big, that the time has come to take photographs of single items up close and personal. This week’s box had the following bona fide pile of incredible vegetables:

  • Beets
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Japanese eggplant
  • Parsely
  • Pepper
  • Tomato
  • Turnips
  • Salad mix
  • Scallions
  • Spicy salad mix (primarily of arugula and mizuna)

Here’s a picture of my gorgeous little turnips, some of which were barely the size of my thumbnail. This photograph came about when I was soaking these in a bowl in the sink; I was about to give each one a nice scrubbing and then dock their spindly tapered tails like a breeder with so many puppies, when I decided to take the shot. I thought the light was just so nice. Afterwards, I used a tried-and-true recipe that I’ve come to really enjoy, but with a few herb substitutions and the juice of one lemon. Both versions I thought were delicious, so if you’re going to try it out, I really urge you to think about adding lemon if you’ve got a liking for citrus the way I do.

Later in the week, I roasted the beets to toss in a salad with goat cheese, toasted walnuts, strawberries and a quick balsamic vinaigrette. I hadn’t ever used beets before, though for years I had read about using the juice as a dye for things such as paper and Easter eggs. I got the proof as to the permanence of their juice as I peeled and cubed the beets; not only were my hands stained, but so was my T-shirt. Luckily it was one I’ve never been overly fond of, but now it appears as though I have memento of my first foray into beet cookery.

Roasted Beets and Salads, adapted from Alice Waters‘s Chez Panisse Vegetables

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the tops of the beets, leaving about half an inch of stem; wash the beets thoroughly and put them in a baking pan with a splash of water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for forty-five minutes to an hour, until they can be easily pierced through with a sharp knife. Uncover and allow to cool.
  2. Peel the beets and cut off their tops and bottom tails. (This is where you will inevitably stain your hands.) Cut the beets into halves or quarters, depending on their size; sprinkle generously with vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of sugar if the beets are at all bitter. Do not add any oil until the beets have sat for at least half an hour and have had a chance to absorb the flavor of the vinegar. Adjust the seasoning.

Prepared this way, the beets are ready to join other ingredients into a salad. The following are some suggestions for combinations:

  • Beets, sherry vinegar, orange zest, tarragon and crushed garlic.
  • Beets, sherry or balsamic vinegar, blood orange segments and mâche.
  • Beets, balsamic vinegar, shallots and toasted walnuts.