Friday, October 9, 2009

Adventures in CSA: Week 16 + Week 17

CSA Pickup 2 Sept. 27
(This photo was taken at the Week 16 CSA pickup, where I completed my volunteer hours for this season.)

I've got a disclaimer to get out of the way before we talk about the past two weeks of CSA vegetable eating. I'm going through one of those "lazy phases" in which I don't cook multi-step, complicated meals every night. I've been doing a lot more napping than blogging, a lot more internet surfing than recipe browsing, and a lot more baking for a special event (see here!) than cooking for my own family.

CSA: Week 16
(Even my photography got a little lazy.)

While we've still been putting our produce to good use, the following rundown might seem a bit run-of-the-mill. Stir fries and salads feature heavily. I've also allowed some favorite recipes to turn up as "repeats." I hope you can forgive me this sluggishness. Chances are it's only temporary, but also I think that I'd rather seem honest and human by sharing my perfectly-edible-but-less-than-spectacular dishes than let vegetables go bad while I work up the energy to (try to) wow you again.

Week 16's loot:
1lb carrots
3 corn (a caterpillar infestation means that approx. 1/2 of each ear of corn is usable, so this is actually an ear and a half of edible corn kernels)
2lbs potatoes
1 bok choi
1 lettuce
1 baby watermelon

Week 17's portion (which we retrieved just 4 days later, due to a scheduling conflict at the pickup location):
1 celery
2 corn (adjusted for caterpillars: 1 ear)
1/2 lb beans
1 lb collard greens
1/2 lb carrot (very muddy and stubby, but tasty)
1 lettuce
1 lb potato

I hope you don't conclude from my disclaimer that we haven't been eating delicious dishes. They're just more simple and familiar than in some past weeks. I have been quite happy to ingest the following:

Collard Greens

1. Collard Greens Two Ways. Due to some recipe confusion, Dan prepared the collard greens twice on the same night, using recipes in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. The first batch was "Brazilian style," but with garlic. The second go-round saw us eating "Double Garlic" collard greens (Dish #3 in Week 8), but without garlic. Both ways were delicious. It didn't matter that neither one was made to Bittman's specifications.

Crash-hot potatoes

2. Crash-Hot Potatoes Two Ways. Here's another repeated recipe, repeated doubly these two weeks! By this I mean we have made these before (a number of times, actually), but recently made and ate them twice more, using potatoes from both weeks' CSA shares. The first time, they were sprinkled with herbes de Provence and parsley, then served with the chicken pie described below (#3). The second time (pictured above), Dan made them with bacon salt. They were superb both nights.

Dinner with Molly and David

3. Oh My! Chicken Pie! This recipe (yet another repeat) used up the second half of our CSA chicken, as well as carrots and corn from week 16. Molly and David, our guests at dinner that night, brought a nice apple-y salad to serve alongside. I had the idea to put a teaspoon of herbes de Provence in the pie crust dough. Boy, am I glad I did.

Mini Melon #2

4. Mini Melon. This melon was sweeter and more perfumed than the last one we received. We shared it with David and Molly for dessert, after dishes #2 and #3. I had the remainder with lunch at work the next day.

Stir Fry Forever

5. Major Stir Fry. Hello, classic preparation for times when there are many vegetables on hand! This time, bok choy (leaves and stems) and carrots from the CSA joined mushrooms, scallions, chicken, and flax seed. We served this over brown rice. Soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and peanut oil all went into the mix, too. Have I mentioned how much I love to stir fry?

Salad remnants

(I forgot to photograph this until it was nearly completely eaten. Please take my word for it; this salad was a beautiful thing.)

6. Sashimi Tuna Salad. Rachel, Hero, and Stephanie joined me for this meal (and highlights from Singin' In the Rain after dinner). Steph picked up some delicious sesame-encrusted tuna from Wild Edibles in Grand Central. To this, I added celery, lettuce, and carrots, as well as non-CSA cucumber and tomato.

This meal was truly a group effort. Baby H. helped spin and tear the lettuce. Rachel provided lemonade and a loaf of bread from the neighborhood Napoli bakery, which we ate with butter and gusto. Rachel also made a simple salad dressing from lemon, oil, red onion, and the carrot ginger dip that came with the tuna.

They made for a swell evening, that company and this food combined.

(photo by Dan)

7. Shopsin's African Green Curry Soup. With a lot of green vegetables left, Dan suggested we try making this soup recipe from Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. In the book, Kenny admits that there's not much that's "African" about this soup. He just liked the idea of a green soup, and peanut butter felt African enough to him to suggest the name.

This soup calls for four cups of green vegetables. We chose CSA green beans, lettuce, and celery, along with supplemental cucumber, green pepper, and peas.


To make this soup, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a heavy pan set over high heat. Then, add the 4 cups of green vegetables and cook until they begin to get soft. Pour in 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth, then add 1/4 cup peanut butter (we used crunchy, though the recipe calls for creamy) and 1 T. Thai green curry paste. Stir to dissolve. Heat through and season with salt and pepper.

All of Shopsin's soup recipes are made very quickly, which makes a lot of sense if one is cooking to order in a restaurant, but I think the flavors would have deepened and melded better if it had simmered longer. The vegetables and broth seemed a little disconnected, though the flavors were good. If I were making this soup a second time (and I might), I would also add more Thai green curry paste. I would like to taste it a bit spicier.

Salad Day

8. Cherry and Celery Leaf Salad. This salad utilized CSA lettuce, celery leaves, and was supposed to use the corn (but we forgot). We also included green pepper, dried cherries, and pecans. I dressed it all with olive oil and rice vinegar.
Sidebar: Concerning Celery Leaves:
Two CSA members and I had the following emailed exchange about what to do with the celery leaves in this week's share. It seemed a shame to throw them away.

MN: Any ideas about what to do with a lot of celery greens? One book said to dry them in a low oven and they would keep forever. then what?

Me: Here are some suggestions for you from the good people at Serious Eats. Also, I have read it is a good substitute for cilantro -- especially if you don't like the taste of cilantro (which may be genetic, I'm told).

JO: Once you have dried or frozen the celery leaves, they become like dried parsley and a mild seasoning in soups and stews, veggie patties or meat loaf, etc. -- especially in winter months or if nothing fresh on hand.
Illuminating, no?


Anyway, that's it for these two weeks. I'll toss the forgotten corn kernels into soup or salad for lunch tomorrow. Just five weeks remain in my spring/summer CSA adventure, and I am currently waiting to find out if enough shareholders will sign on to make a winter CSA adventure possible. Here's hoping!

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