CSA Challenge #1

May 20, 2014 § 2 Comments

As I understand it, when you’re a grown-up, you find yourself thinking things like:

I should totally do a CSA! I should support a local farmer or farming group! I should eat things that are in-season! I should do  this because it will make me better appreciate my community and my local climate! It will make my consumption more environmentally friendly and lessen my burden on the earth! I should do this because fresh things are delicious! And because I was only MOSTLY grossed out that time I found a dead, but perfectly preserved praying mantis in my leafy greens!

But when you give it more thought and realize that you’re actually only a half-grown-up, you decide that you probably can’t actually handle a weekly CSA share on your own and decide to split your CSA share with the upstairs neighbors.  When you re-think this and realize that even a divided every-week share seems like an AWFULLY big commitment, you decided that it’s probably an EVEN BETTER idea to go halvesis on an every-other-week arrangement.

In your half-grown fantasy land, where you’re getting AWFULLY comfortable, you justify this to yourself by thinking of all of the Thursday pick-ups that you otherwise would have missed on accounta other important things like hanging out, happy hour or — yes — even work.  But now you’ve reduced the chance of that happening by half, which is certainly progress of one sort or another.  And on some level, you recognize that taking home even a quarter-box full of vegetables per week is still in and of itself a whole lotta work.  besides.  you’re willing to admit it.  you’re one of those people that has trouble committing to an evening’s dinner, much less a full week’s menu.  you’ve never actually planned a menu a full week in advance.  Not even ONCE.  You’ve been to the grocery store EVERY DAY THIS WEEK.

but if there’s one thing 11 years of public schooling gave me (other than a working knowledge of several things I won’t mention because my mother reads this blog), it’s enough lessons in self-esteem to outweigh even the eight years of catholic school that preceded it.

and you know what THAT is?  just about enough self-esteem to know that I am going to WIN this CSA, even if it means shoving half-wilty vegetables in my mouth on day 8 of their refrigeration.

and so, without further ado, our first half-assed bi-monthly and then divided even-after-that CSA of the season:

Ramps
Overwintered Parsnips
White Sunchokes
Sorrel
Rhubarb
Chives
Overwintered Spinach
Nettles

What follows is the tale of how I won CSA #1  (exempting the part where my camera failed to preserve ANY photos, though many were taken.  as usual, many thanks to all of the photographers electing not to sue me for using their (credited!) photos here for illustrative purposes).

(1) NETTLES.

Nettles are difficult little fellers.  There is a reason they show up in your CSA box pre-bagged, as they’ll sting the hell out of your hands, slow-burn sliver-style.  Pro tip:  The sting goes away once they’re heated.  In the interim, use that bag (or a pair of gloves) to your advantage.

nettle pesto

Nettle Pesto

the stuff:

1 large bunch of nettles (approximately 3/4-1lb)
5 cloves garlic, smooshed
juice from 1 lemon
2 1/2 c. evoo
1 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted
kosher salt
pepper
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
grated Parmesan, approximately 1c.

the how-to:

1. toast pine nuts over low heat on the stove, stirring constantly. pine nuts are expensive. don’t burn them. also consider buying them at trader joe’s, where they are considerably LESS expensive. in a pinch, you can sub in another nut: almonds, pistachios or yes, even pecans.

2. add 1T kosher salt to a pot of water and bring to a boil over med-high heat. add nettles to boiling water and stir until bright green, approximately 2-3 minutes. drain and rinse with water to cool. try to remove as much water as you can by squeezing the nettles.

3. add garlic, lemon juice, a sprinkle of s&p to a food processor, add nettles and process until it looks like… pesto. slowly add evoo in a steady stream.

(photo credit)

(2) RAMPS.

These little guys stand up just great on their own, and don’t need a lot of fuss. I sauteed them and served them alongside scrambled eggs (topped with CSA CHIVES) for breakfast.

ramps

Sautéed Ramps.

the stuff:
a bunch of ramps
1T butter
s&p

the how-to:
1. heat a pan over medium-high and add the butter.
2. chop the roots off of the ramps and discard. cut each ramp into four pieces: the white bulb, the red stalk, and leaves in halves.
3. sautee the bulb in the butter for approximately 1 minute, add the red stalks for another minute, and then add the greens and cook for another two minutes.
4. sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

(photo credit)

(3) SORREL

This is a new one to me.  Also known as ‘dock,’ its a fairly sweet, lemony herb that sprouts early in the year.  I can’t tell you much, except it’s really good in this:
scallops
Scallops with Sorrel Butter (this recipe also involves chives, and was served with spinach salad.  what’s up 3-for-1.  also, kudos to you, CSA.  I don’t know how you overwintered that spinach, and I didn’t even know that was a thing, but well done, sirs. well done).

(4) RHUBARB.

There are all sorts of nifty things you can do with le rhubarb.  Sadly, the roots I planted in my own garden won’t be fit for harvest for another year still (but shout out to you anyway, early bloomers!), and we didn’t get much in the CSA this month.  Still, waste not want that and all that.  Plus, excuse for dessert, right?

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:

strawberry

the stuff:

2c rhubarb, chopped
2c strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1/4 c. honey
1/8 c. water
juice of 1/2 lemon

the how-to:
1. mix ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat.  simmer for 30-45 minutes.
2. stir occasionally to prevent from burning.  reduce until fairly gelatinous.
3.  serve immediately (on ice cream! or crème fraiche! or pound cake! or pound cake with ice cream and crème fraiche! note that while i can say those fancy french words, it is, in fact, pictured above with vanilla ice cream and Ready Whip, because I am classy like that), or cool and reheat as needed.

(5) SUNCHOKES AND PARSNIPS

sunchokes! aka, jerusalem artichokes, sunroot or (my personal favorite) topinambour, are the root of a sunflower and have a sort of mandrake vibe going on. i trust we’re all familiar with parsnips.

Roasted Veggies:

i added the parsnips and sunchokes into my weekly batch of roasted veggies. I usually make a big batch on the weekend and then bring it to work for lunch throughout the week. it’s a great way to use up veggies that you have too many of, or those veggies that are on their way out.  Is it a cheat? Maybe.  But an effective and useful one.

besides, it seems like roasting seems to be the thing everyone’s doing with sunchokes anyway.

the stuff:

the remnants of your veggie drawer. in this case, also your parsnips and sunchokes. and an onion (or shallots, or whatever), and probably some garlic.

the remnants of your fresh herbs.  if none, see #5.

the how-to:

1. preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. slice things in quarter inch slices, and lay atop a cookie sheet or metal pan.  liberally drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper
3. bake for 30 plus minutes, shifting about occasionally, until all vegies are tender through.
4.  remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs from your fridge.  Half-wilty is good here, too, since this is your clean-out dish.
5.  no fresh herbs?  at step #2 sprinkle in some dried ones.  Herbs de Provence, Parsley, Basil, Oregano, etc.

 

CSA box #1: conquered.

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