Last updated on February 9th, 2015
I’m missing my CSA fruit and vegetable share which came to a close last week. Every Thursday night since early June, I would trot up to Isham Park and pick up my hoard delivered by Hawthorne Valley Farm. I learned a heck of a lot about eating vegetables this summer. Here are some of the highlights:
- Rainbow or swiss chard.I had never seen this stuff before and swiss chard always intimidated me. It’s now one of my favorite veggies and can stand alone as a meal. Cut the stems out away from the leaves and then chop them in to 2 inch slices. Toss them in a warm pan with garlic and a good extra-virgin olive oil. Once they start to soften, throw in all the leaves and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Cover with toasted breadcrumbs (which I do in my toaster oven) and grated cheese and give it one more swirl of olive oil before serving. It’s so completely satisfying you won’t need anything else except dessert.
- Carrots. Whenever I think of carrots, I think of a sad little Ziploc bag of them brought in for lunch by someone initiating a diet. However, fresh picked organic carrots are a whole ‘notha thing. They smell and taste like church. There’s some some distinct smell and flavor that reminds me of incense at an Easter Vigil Mass in a Catholic church. They get even more complex when roasted. Just chop off the tops, peel them, and then roast them with olive oil, coarse salt, and your favorite herbs.
- Kale. This is another green that used to scare me. I also found that there are several kinds, some that have very curly, fibrous leaves, and others that have flat quilted leaves. I often sauteed kale with olive oil and anchovies and then mixed it in with pasta. I also made kale chips for the first time which are addictive. Lisa over at A Dinner Party has a great recipe for them.
- Eggplant. I’m convinced that Americans just don’t know how to cook eggplant and that’s why it has such an awful name. In Italian, an eggplant is melanzana. It sounds like a seductive Sicilian dance. In French, it’s the very regal aubergine. Isn’t that nicer than eggplant? So if you’re going to make eggplant, buy the smaller Italian or Japanese varieties, not those grocery store monsters that look like the love children of bowling balls and pins. The timid should try my twist on Pasta alla Norma—penne with basil, eggplant, and ricotta. After cubing up the eggplant, dip the pieces in beaten egg, dredge them in spelt flour, and lightly fry them. The eggplant then becomes a nice crunchy compliment to all that soft pasta, cheese, and tomato sauce. Spelt flour is very nutritious so you don’t have to feel guilt about the frying. (Not that you should anyway.)
- Leeks. Potage parmentier, or potato leek soup is the first recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking which I only know because of a classic Julie/Julia Project post. I also started using leeks as base for other less flavorful vegetables like cabbage. Throw chopped leeks, garlic, red pepper flakes, an anchovy, and olive oil (or butter) together in a pan and heat them until they really melt down to nearly nothing. Then throw in chopped white cabbage and chicken sausage, both of which can be pretty bland, and you’ll get a really savory winter stew which you can serve with polenta, sourdough bread, or homemade biscuits.
- Turnips. I tried, but I just don’t like ’em. I roasted them, I fried them, I covered them with cheese. Still yuck. I gave them to Casey who ultimately put them in her awesome chicken pot pie.
- Don’t forget about zucchini and eggs! I’ve had numerous personal emails from Good. Food. Stories. readers who have made this a regular part of their weekly lunch rotation. Of course, spring zucchini is the best, but it is available off-season in grocery stores and mixing it with eggs and cheese is probably your best option.
If you have the opportunity to join a CSA next year, I highly recommend it! First, your money and participation supports a local farm and organic farming in our area. Good and good. Second, it’s cheap! One fruit and vegetable share cost $660, which spread out over 20 weeks means $33 a week, split three ways (because one share is meant to feed 4 people), means I spent $11 a week for fresh-picked organic produce brought right to my neighborhood directly from the farm. Finally, the leftovers are often donated. Inwood’s went to the Love Kitchen, a community-run soup kitchen.