Posts tagged CSA

So Many Greens, So Little Time

Every two weeks, I grab a handful of plastic bags from the cupboard and stroll a few blocks over to my CSA pick-up spot. Immediately upon arrival I survey the bounty of vegetables I’m about to receive. The best weeks offer a large variety: perhaps a few zucchini, a head of lettuce, maybe some tomatoes, corn, string beans, or peppers. Usually I can barely contain my excitement as I start to fill my bags with produce, eagerly looking forward to the dishes I will cook that week.

But this year’s unpredictable weather has lead to an abundance of greens from my CSA. Arugula, spinach, bok choy, lettuce, kale, chard, you name it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against leafy vegetables. But receiving multiple bags of greens at once, all of which need to be eaten quickly before they wilt, presents a daunting challenge, especially when you hate wasting food like I do.

Last Saturday’s pick-up was one of those oh-my-goodness-how-will-I-finish-these-greens moments. When I arrived home and examined my haul on the kitchen table, I was faced with overflowing bags of bok choy, arugula, and chard, not to mention a huge head of romaine lettuce. How on earth were Jim and I going to eat all of these greens before they spoiled in a few days?

shrimp

1. Bok Choy, Brussels Sprouts, and Shrimp Stir-Fry
We didn’t waste any time. On Saturday night we whipped up a quick stir-fry using the bok choy, some week-old brussels sprouts leaves from the farmers’ market, and shrimp. Jim created a light sauce using sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and we also seasoned the dish with fresh garlic and ginger. The slightly sweet sauce perfectly complemented both the meaty shrimp and the crisp, healthy greens. For a very off-the-cuff sort of meal, we were pleasantly surprised by its success.

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2. Arugula Spanakopita
When I took my massive bunch of arugula out of the fridge on Sunday, it was already starting to wilt. Fortunately we had already planned to use these peppery greens in some spanakopita appetizers for the Sunday football games. In our version of this Greek snack, we replaced its traditional spinach-based filling with arugula. After some slicing and folding of filo dough, these bite-size, flaky triangles of ricotta, feta, and chopped arugula were quickly assembled on Sunday morning, and devoured just as quickly a few hours later.

chard

3. Italian-Style Swiss Chard
As a finale to our weekend of greens, on Sunday night after the football games I blanched and sautéed the swiss chard as a side dish to some lovely braised short ribs my sister and her husband prepared for us. Lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, the chard was a fresh, simple side dish to accompany the rich beef ribs.

So that was our weekend marathon of greens. I think we did a pretty admirable job with them, don’t you? We’re still working our way through that head of romaine lettuce, eating salads as quickly as we can. I’m optimistic that we’ll make it to the finish line without wasting any food, just in time for our next CSA challenge.

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What a Difference a Year Makes: The Carroll Gardens Farmers’ Market

I know it might seem crazy to write about food with all this election madness going on, but I can’t help it. I just got back from voting, I’m too jittery to sit still, and I can’t bring myself to watch any election coverage just yet. So, in an effort to calm myself down while hoping for the best, I thought I’d write a post about a subject I’ve had on my mind for the past few months: my local farmers’ market.

As some of you already know, last year Carroll Gardens finally got its own farmers’ market. Starting in July 2007, a few tables of vegetables and fruit lined a short stretch of Carroll Street between Court and Smith Streets every Sunday through last November. While I lamented the lack of cheese, meat, and fish vendors, I remained optimistic for these changes in the future. I figured that once the market became more established, perhaps we would see more vendors on the block.

Well, it pays to think positively, because our little market has expanded quite a bit in just one year. Now when I make my weekly visit to Carroll Street, I bring two bags and indulge in a variety of local food products.

Similar to my shopping pattern from last year, I begin by stocking up on fruit from Fishkill Farms. While over the summer I focused on fresh plums and peaches, in October I scooped up apples and pears. My next move is usually towards the piles of fresh greens and other vegetables from Alex Farm as I supplement my CSA shipment with whatever other produce I might need for the week. Jim seems to prefer the vegetables from W. Rogowski Farm, so in the end we actually wind up supporting several stands at the market. I can’t forget my weekly chocolate croissant from Amy’s Bread, although sometimes I try to be healthy and buy a loaf of whole-grain bread as well.

But in addition to all of the wonderful produce and baked goods, we can now peruse products from various local meat, fish, dairy, and cheese vendors. About a month ago, Jim and I bought grass-fed, spicy Angus sausages from Grazin’ Angus Acres for the first time. We broiled them, sliced them up, and cooked them on top of one of our homemade pizzas. Raised without antibiotics or hormones, this beef was happily enjoyed with less guilt than usual. Grazin’ Acres’s sausages were so earthy and full-flavored that Jim and I went back for one of their grass-fed chickens a few weeks later.

I’ve yet to buy fish from Seatuck Fish Company, or pasture-raised eggs from Fishkill Farms, but both are on my list. Once in a while I’ll pick up some goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, and a few weeks ago local honey was for sale. There are so many options, I find it’s impossible to try them all at once.

On another note, I’ve also enjoyed seeing how our farmers’ market has increased its role in the community. Every Sunday the lines seem to stretch longer and longer at each stand. A few months ago a chef from the soon-to-open restaurant Buttermilk Channel prepared a fresh vegetable pickle for the market’s shoppers. On this past Sunday, piles of mussels from Seatuck Fish Company were being prepared at one of the stands, encouraging people to linger and enjoy the day with each other.

So as you can see, our little farmers’ market has grown quite a bit in a year. I may not have tried the wares from every stand, but it’s not a problem; I have something new to look forward to every week. I just hope I can get through the rest of election day…

The Carroll Gardens Farmers Market, located on Carroll Street between Smith and Court. It runs on Sundays from July through November.

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Cooking from the CSA: Swiss Chard

A few weeks ago the New York Times printed a list of the eleven best foods you aren’t eating. I hate lists like this, as they always make me feel guilty about whatever I’m doing wrong or not doing at all. Anyway, a quick scan down this lengthy manifesto confirmed that the Times was right: Few of the cited items make a consistent appearance in my kitchen. But as if sensing my personal shame, my CSA came to the rescue on Saturday by providing me with a beautiful, floppy-leafed, pink-ribbed bunch of Swiss chard (#3 on that darn list).

Like most greens, chard is full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. I don’t have anything against cooking with it, but when left to my own devices I always seem to reach for a big bunch of broccoli rabe instead. Luckily, being a member of a CSA forces me to experiment with different vegetables and be more creative with my cooking. Not all of the recipes I try are winners, but on Sunday night I discovered Jack Bishop’s recipe for chard leaves stuffed with lemon rice.

The recipe is quite simple, resulting in a more Italian interpretation of stuffed Greek grape leaves. Chard leaves act as sweet wraps for the lemony and creamy rice, while fried sage adds an herby, crumbly crunch. The chard, although boiled briefly before rolling, retains its elasticity and flavor against the explosively sunny rice. Confronted with these packets of summer goodness, I became an immediate convert to the charm of chard.

So I can check Swiss chard off that list and assuage my guilt, because this versatile green will certainly pop up on my table often. I also wonder what else I can stuff into its leaves; perhaps a mixture of rice and lentils, or rice and crumbled sausage. Any other ideas? Let me know while I deal with the other 10 foods I haven’t been eating.

Recipe for Chard Leaves Stuffed with Lemon Rice (adapted from Jack Bishop’s April 5, 2000 recipe in the New York Times and his 2004 cookbook, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen)

  • 8 large chard leaves, washed thoroughly and with the stems cut off at the bottom
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • juice squeezed from half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 16 sage leaves

Add chard leaves to a large pot of salted, boiling water. Briefly cook the chard for about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, carefully transfer leaves to a clean kitchen towel. Lay leaves flat and blot dry with paper towels. Let them cool completely.

Cook the rice in the same boiling water you used for the chard. This will take about 15 minutes. Whisk the egg yolk, cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a bowl. 

When rice is cooked drain and then return it to the pot. Thoroughly stir in the egg mixture. Add 1 tablespoon butter, cover the pot, and set it aside for 1 minute. Stir. Cool the rice for 10 minutes.

Place a small amount of rice mixture at the widest end of the chard leaf (this will be at the bottom end of the leaf, where the stem was originally attached). You will have to use your judgment on how much rice you can fit into each leaf, as the size of each leaf will be different. Do not try and overstuff the leaf. Roll the chard leaf over and around the rice, tucking in the sides as you roll them.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and sauté until browned. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the chard packets to the pan, seam side down, and sauté until lightly browned, turning them once. This will take about 4 minutes. Transfer the stuffed chard leaves to a serving platter and garnish with the sage leaves. Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish. Enjoy!

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