Monday, August 15, 2011

Summertime Cooking

We've been getting a CSA share this summer and splitting it with my sister-in-law and her family. I haven't decided that we'll do it again next year. I find it stressful getting a huge box full of fresh produce and then needing to figure out what to do with it. I am realizing that I usually plan meals ahead, but with the CSA stuff, you have to work with what you get, and now every Saturday morning I find myself staring at things like chard, kale, leeks, potatoes, cucumbers, beets, and fava beans, and feeling slightly hysterical! It's a lot of work, all that washing, grating, and slicing, not to mention searching online for recipes to prepare things in a way that makes it palatable to picky eaters. (My husband insists he is not picky, but oh, he is. He thinks he's not picky because he is very fond of certain vegetables and will eat those vegetables in great quantities, but there are really so many he won't eat, and our CSA has been very loaded with the stuff he dislikes.)

That said, despite the stress and work, I do admit it's been tasty to eat things so fresh and in season!

We've been getting a lot of cucumbers in our share (a no-eat veg for my hubby). My mom makes a delicious cucumber salad, but she makes it up on the spot without a recipe, so I've been left to develop my own version, and based on watching my mom make hers, here is what I've come up with:

Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 tsp sugar (I tried to make it without sugar, but I think it's better with sugar)

Place the sliced cucumber in a bowl and sprinkle lightly with the Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Salt. Whisk together the red wine vinegar, the olive oil, the sugar, and 1/2 tsp of Krazy Mixed Up Salt. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers. (You won't use all of the dressing, so save the leftovers for future use. It doesn't need to be refrigerated!) Put the cucumber salad in the fridge for at least an hour. The longer it sits, the better it tastes.

If this is too salty for your preference, don't salt the cucumbers before you dress them.

I also made a cabbage/beet salad, because I needed to do something with the CSA cabbage and beets (both no-eat foods for the hubby). I found the recipe below after a lengthy session with Google, but I didn't bookmark it, nor did I print it (I just scribbled it down), and now I cannot find it again! If anyone recognizes it and knows the original source, please let me know so credit can be given where it is due. This is the kind of salad that tastes better with age, so make it a day ahead if you can.

2 raw beets, peeled and shredded (use your food processor for shredding, otherwise you will have a huge stained mess on your hands)
1/2 head of cabbage, shredded (I used one small head of cabbage)
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 c raisins
1 apple, diced
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c oil (I used canola)
1/4 c water

Combine the beets, cabbage, carrots, raisins, and apple in a bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, and water, and pour over the vegetables. Toss to coat.

We also got potatoes and leeks this week, so my husband suggested Potato Leek soup. (Hey, something he'd eat!) I found this recipe and made it on Sunday. It was a very decent basic soup. The only change I made was to use only 1 tsp of salt instead of 1 T, and it was just fine. I had one quart of potatoes from the CSA (I believe they were Yukon Gold), and the leeks I had were pretty small, so I did use three of them; three large leeks would have been way too much. I used my immersion blender right in the crockpot, rather than pouring the soup into a blender. I served the soup with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. It seems like this recipe would be a good hearty base for a creamy soup if you wanted to add meat or other vegetables to it after blending.

And, finally, what to do with all that zucchini? I grow my own zucchini, so my sister-in-law has been keeping all of the CSA zucchini, but I still have plenty from my own garden. Here are links to some zucchini recipes I've posted before:

And here is a new one I tried for Banana Zucchini Bread. I omitted the pecans, and instead of 1 cup of oil, I used 2/3 cup applesauce and 1/3 cup oil. I stirred one cup of chocolate chips into one of the loaves, and that was pretty good, though a little intense. I think I'd add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips per loaf next time.

My kitchen is such a mess. I wish there were a way to use it and keep it spotless at the same time.


Tricia said...

Do you get the email newsletter? If you belong to the CSA that I used to, they send out a newsletter on Tuesday with a projected harvest. I would use that for planning meals. It worked better for planning purposes when I had Saturday pickup (because I could think for extra days), but I liked Wednesday pickup so much better for many reasons.

I made a zucchini tian tonight, seriously riffing on a recipe I heard on The Splendid Table over the weekend (it's available on the website, here: )
Very versatile! I only had half a zuke, so i added chard and tomatoes and roasted red peppers that I had in the freezer. I've got way too many eggs on hand right now, so I used 3 eggs instead of 2 and I subbed for the gruyere as well. About the only thing that stayed the same was 1/2 cup arborio rice :^)

Sorry you aren't enjoying the CSA experience. It is quite a change to have the box shape your menu, rather than menu planning dictate your shopping!

Tricia said...

p.s. I don't have much luck searching online for recipes, but I've invested in a few mostly-vegetable cookbooks in the past 10 years. I can easily flip to the chapter/section for the veggie in question and get some ideas. My favorite (as my blog attests to!) is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian - not everything is exotic, but nearly everything is tasty. From Asparagus to Zucchini has tips on simple preparations as well as full recipes (it was compiled by a CSA, iirc). Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop is somewhere in between.

Kathy said...

We don't have a CSA, but we do have an organic produce delivery service. It's family run, and what's in the box is what she's able to get from her suppliers each week. I've had the same issue with trying to decide what to do with it all. I stopped ordering when I realized that though it's organic, very little of it is local. Often the produce comes from Chile, Mexico, and California. I decided I'd rather search for local produce AND get what we'll eat.

besomom said...

Tricia, we do get an email newsletter, but it's still hard to plan because quantities aren't specified, and when we have to divide it with another family, that can impact things, too. I do have that From Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook, and the newsletter always comes with cooking tips and a recipe or two, so I do use multiple sources. I'll have to find a copy of the World Vegetarian book; thanks for the recommendation.

My biggest difficulty with this is WHAT we've been getting. It's been very heavy on leafy greens and beets (which no one here besides me wants to eat), and things like garlic, leeks, and onions. Things that we like, such as green beans, asparagus, strawberries, broccoli, and potatoes have been doled out in small amounts.

That tian sounds delicious, I will have to give it a go! I have all those ingredients on hand.

Tricia said...

10 years later, I still don't like beets :^) Or kale! I have a running joke about the kale with my current farmer - she ribs me about it if she sees me at pickup.

Green beans are just coming into abundance at Capella. Seems early for broccoli. Asparagus tends to peak before CSA season, and you'll probably be getting more potatoes in the coming months. I usually end up with potatoes that I can use for months after the end of the season.

Matthew isn't as keen on cooking greens as I am. There are some preparations he'll gladly eat, but others he quietly leaves on his plate after taking a few bites. I had a spring share this past year, stuff Jennifer grew in her new hoop house, and it was primarily leafy greens. I finally just started sauteeing them and eating them for my lunch!