Don’t waste your CSA share: Sensible tips & satisfying recipes (Part I)

Originally published in Buffalo Spree magazine, May 2013

Consumers’ growing appetite for fresh, local, and seasonal food has helped make community supported agriculture (CSA) increasingly popular. Tens of thousands of families have joined the CSA movement, according to LocalHarvest, an organic and local food website that maintains a public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources. The CSA model allows farmers to sell shares—typically a box or bag of vegetables each week throughout the farming season—directly to consumers, who pay for the season upfront. LocalHarvest has over 4,000 CSA farms listed in its database, with eighteen in the WNY area. Despite the popularity of the CSA, many members worry about waste if they’re unable to finish the produce before it goes bad. To combat this concern, several area CSA farms offer different share sizes, ranging from individual to family, so look into your options before selecting one. Another concern is that CSAs often offer unfamiliar vegetables, and members aren’t sure what to do them. To that end, many CSA farms offer recipes to inspire use of the weekly bounty. To help even further, we’ve compiled a list of the vegetables you can expect each month, as well as a few recipes to complement the seasonal offerings. From quick and easy dishes to a couple more challenging (and rewarding) undertakings, you’ll be armed with everything you need to enjoy a CSA share this year.

May

Lettuce, radishes, swiss chard, rapini, spinach, rhubarb, asparagus
Embrace the bounty of greens that spring brings. Use lettuce and radishes to make raw salads, and sauté chard, rapini, and spinach for simple and satisfying sides. Try a basic combination of garlic, red pepper, and stock to add flavor. For a sweet and sour treat, make a crisp with rhubarb.
Use lettuce and greens within a few days for the best flavor; leave them unwashed and stored loosely in a plastic bag for about one week. Radishes and rhubarb remain fresh for one to two weeks with proper storage. For radishes with greens attached, trim the roots and tops off, and then place them unwashed in a plastic bag or glass container in your crisper; wash just before using. Radish greens should be removed and placed in a separate plastic bag; do not wash until use. Store rhubarb in a loose plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Rhubarb freezes very well with a simple process. Wash rhubarb and dry; cut into one-inch pieces. Pack into freezer proof containers or plastic bags. Store in the freezer for up to one year. Trim asparagus one inch from the bottom using a chef’s knife and place upright in a container or glass with an inch of water to keep the stalks moist. For optimum results, cover loosely with a plastic bag and store in refrigerator until use.

Swiss chard

Spicy sautéed Swiss chard
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch lengths, leaves cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Salt

Coat a large frying pan lightly with olive oil and add garlic and crushed red pepper. Bring heat to medium-high. When the garlic starts to turn golden brown, remove it from the pan and discard. Add Swiss chard stems and stock and cook until stock has mostly evaporated. Add Swiss chard leaves and sauté until wilted. Season with salt.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb crisp
5 cups rhubarb, chopped
½ cup honey
6 tablespoons butter
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¾ cup rolled oats
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg
1 dash of ground cloves

In a large bowl, mix rhubarb and honey together; place in an 8”x8” ungreased pan. Using a food processor, a pastry blender, or your hands, mix butter and flour; add all remaining ingredients and pulse or mix until combined. Sprinkle mixture over rhubarb. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes, until golden. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

June

Beets, scallions, lettuce, arugula
With restaurants of nearly all persuasions featuring beet salads lately, beets have risen in popularity once again. For beet lovers, it’s a welcome revival, and for those who aren’t convinced they are worth the hype, try a dish that features roasted beets, such as this recipe.
Store raw, unpeeled beets in the refrigerator for as long as two weeks; for best results, place in a plastic bag. Remove and store unwashed beet greens in a separate plastic bag; use within two days. Consider canning or pickling beets as well. You may store scallions in your refrigerator in a glass jar with an inch of water at the bottom or inside a plastic bag or container in your crisper. If your arugula has roots, wrap the stems in a moistened paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the crisper; keep loose leaves in a plastic bag. Arugula will last just two to three days, so use it as soon as possible.

Beets

Roasted beets with chèvre and pistachios
20 small beets
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 thyme sprig
6 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces fresh chèvre
1 cup microgreens

In a roasting pan, toss beets with garlic, thyme, and 2 tablespoons of canola oil; season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes, or until tender. Allow beets to cool, then peel and quarter the beets. Set aside in a bowl.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the pistachios with 1/2 tablespoon of canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk the vinegar with the olive oil and the remaining 1/4 cup of canola oil. Toss the beets with the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a platter.
Crumble the chèvre on top; sprinkle with the pistachios and microgreens.

July

Cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, kohlrabi, tomatillos, summer squash
If you’re tired of salads featuring lettuce and greens by this time, we won’t blame you. Fortunately, tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans offer new options for summer salads. For those who love to dunk crusty bread into tomato salad, the first recipe is for you. If you haven’t had a chilled soup beyond gazpacho, you are in serious danger of missing out on a spectrum of exciting summer meal options. Try the bright, creamy, and spicy soup here to get started.
Store tomatoes at room temperature in a glass bowl, preferably in a single layer and with room to breathe (don’t pack them in close to one another). Use within a couple days for best results. Consider canning tomatoes as well. Store your cucumbers at room temperature to keep them fresh longest. Even if you have been refrigerating them for years, give it a go. If you must refrigerate your cucumbers, limit it to three days and store them on the top shelf, as it is the warmest part of the refrigerator. Store unwashed green beans in the refrigerator for several days in a plastic bag or container. Freeze green beans easily in large plastic freezer bags. To store kohlrabi, snip off the leaves and trim the stems from the leaves. Store the leaves and bulbous stem in separate plastic bags. Both will keep for up to a week if stored properly in your crisper drawer. To store it longer, wrap the kohlrabi in a moist towel. Store tomatillos in a dry and ventilated area without removing their husks; they will last for about two months. To freeze them, wash, dry, and place on a cookie sheet or in a muffin tin. Once frozen, place tomatillos in a plastic bag for use up to one year. Store unwashed summer squash in a plastic bag and refrigerate.

Cucumbers

Chilled cucumber and avocado soup
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into
1/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 avocados, pitted and peeled
¾ cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 minced small jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
1/3 cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 ½ cups ice water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

In a blender, combine half the cucumber and half the avocado with the yogurt, lime juice, jalapeño, scallions, half the cilantro, ¾ cup of the water, salt, and pepper. Puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Cut remaining avocado into 1/4-inch cubes. Stir avocado and remaining cucumber into soup. Thin with remaining ice water until soup reaches desired consistency. Season again with salt and pepper. Chill about 1 hour.
Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with remaining cilantro.

Tomatoes

Panzanella salad
1/2 pound day-old crusty bread, cut into 1-inch pieces (5 cups)
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into
1-inch pieces
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place bread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and toast for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, vinegar, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Add toasted bread and basil and toss to combine. Let sit 20 to 30 minutes to allow bread to soak up liquid.

August

Corn, eggplant, carrots, onions, peppers, zucchini
The color and abundance of this month is enviable. You have a plethora of raw goodies to nosh on, as well as vegetables that transform in flavor, depending on their preparation and pairings, such as corn and eggplant. From frying to grilling, you can enjoy corn and eggplant in quite different, but both delicious ways. Meanwhile, the farms keep churning out zucchini and they appear in your bag week after week. Once you’ve exhausted all savory options, try a dessert featuring zucchini.
Store corn in the refrigerator with its husk on, uncovered; it will remain fresh for about two days. Keep eggplant in a cool spot outside of the refrigerator. It will remain fresh for only a few days, so use as soon as possible. Keep carrots in the refrigerator for a month or more by removing greens. Do not wash, but allow them to dry completely before storing—about one day outside of the refrigerator should do. You may also store carrots in water in your refrigerator, but they must be consumed more quickly. Onions can be stored in a cool, dry place in a variety of breathable spaces, including in the legs of pantyhose (you read that right), in a basket, or paper bag. Store peppers in a plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator and use within five days. Store unwashed zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper for five days.

Corn

Corn fritters
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (2–3 ears)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, combine corn, scallions, egg yolks, and melted butter. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the corn mixture. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks with a mixer. Gently fold the whites into the corn batter.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. In batches, drop the fritters by mounded 1/4 cups into the oil, about four at a time. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with sour cream or chipotle mayonnaise, if desired.

Eggplant

Baba ganoush
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 glove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons tahini
Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grill eggplant over a gas grill for 12–15 minutes; use metal tongs to rotate regularly, until the skin is charred and the flesh is soft. (You may also score the eggplant with a knife, place on a cookie sheet lined with foil, and bake until soft inside, about 45 minutes. Turn every 15 minutes.)
Allow eggplant to cool slightly. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Drain in a colander for at least an hour to get rid of as much water as possible. Drain off the liquid, and scoop pulp into a food processor. Process eggplant until smooth and transfer to a medium bowl.
On a cutting board, work garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt together with the flat side of a knife, until it forms a paste. Add the garlic-salt mixture to the eggplant. Stir in the parsley, mint, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and additional salt to taste. Serve with toasted pita and crudite.

Zucchini

Zucchini cupcakes
3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Make well in center.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together oil, eggs and vanilla extract; pour into dry ingredients in well. Stir to combine using a wooden spoon, if available, or other large mixing spoon. Batter will be thick. Add zucchini and stir.
Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake papers with batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Rotate pan after 10 minutes to ensure even baking. Let cool before frosting.

Cream cheese frosting
¼ cup butter at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using a hand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together for about three minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar and combine. Add vanilla and stir to blend into frosting.

About Nina

Nina lives in Buffalo, NY. An adventurous home cook, she loves to eat, cook, bake & enjoy life. She writes/blogs about food, tweets adventures & other passions.

16. August 2013 by Nina
Categories: Buffalo Food Features, Desserts, Recipes, Weeknight Meals | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 comment

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