Week 9: June 26, 2013

In this week’s box:

3 pounds of green beans

1/2 dozen eggs

3 pounds of potatoes

2 bunches of green onions

2 bunches of beets

2 bunches of swiss chard

14 ears of bicolor corn(white and yellow on the same cob)

1 head of broccoli

1/2 pint of raspberries

1 pint of blackberries

1 bag of tomatoes

Retail value of this week’s box: $46

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this season: $472

Emily’s notes:

vegOn a recent trip to the library, I stumbled upon a cookbook that I think would make a great reference in any CSA member’s kitchen. It’s called, “Eat More Vegetables” by Tricia Cornell, and was published in 2012. Cornell, who lives in Minnesota, is a longtime CSA member. She writes about how the weekly box of produce was overwhelming for her for the first few years of membership, and she even dreaded CSA pickup days at times because of the volume that came into her kitchen. But over the years she developed rhythms and devised dishes that made it all a lot more manageable and enjoyable for her entire family. There are some really creative recipes in here that look like a lot of fun. I think I might have to make an exception to my self-imposed ban on buying new cookbooks to add this one to the home library.

When I picked up this book, I was thinking about beets, which also appear in this week’s box. Cornell’s recipe for Beet and Goat Cheese Tart looked intriguing to me. I’m going to be entertaining guests this week, so I might give it a try. Here it is:

Beet and Goat Cheese Tart

Serves 8 as an appetizer

1 pound beets

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 egg

6 ounces goat cheese

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons honey (optional)

1 teaspoon dried sumac (This is a Middle-Eastern spice that Cornell says is optional, but adds a nice tartness.)

Wrap beets in foil and roast at 400 degrees until a knife slides easily all the way through (This took about an hour with the beets we got last week.). You want beets on the softer rather than firmer side for this recipe. Leave the oven on. Peel the beets under running water as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Slice them 1/4 inch thick.

Mix yogurt, egg and goat cheese. Place pastry on lightly floured or parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush very lightly with olive oil. Cover pastry with overlapping disks of beets, leaving about 1 inch around the edges. Spoon goat cheese mixture over the top, still leaving the edges clear. Drizzle with honey (I am thinking balsamic vinegar might be a good alternative here.) and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until edges are puffed and golden brown. Cool completely, then slice into 2-inch squares and serve.

If you’re looking for more beet ideas, the beet salad described in this post on the blog “Dinner: A Love Story” looks nice to me. I also might have to make this beet hummus that has been on my to-do list for years, but never seems to get made before I use my beets for something else. Like cake.

With onions, green beans and potatoes in this week’s box, you’re all set up to make a classic Southern side, green beans and new potatoes. This recipe from the blog Deep South Dish gives a good guide. I can smell the bacon now.

On a busy night, I sometimes like to roast my green beans. They don’t get as soggy, and the flavors of what you dress them in intensify a bit. The last time we got green beans, I roasted them after tossing them with a mix of sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and brown sugar, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. This recipe for parmesan roasted green beans from the blog Skinny Taste looks like something I’ll have to try with this batch.

And the first corn of the season is here! Last year I discovered that the best way to get corn on the table quickly on a weeknight was to toss it in the microwave, husk and all, and cook for about 3 minutes per ear (exact time will vary based on your microwave’s power). Remove it with a potholder (It’s hot!) and hack off the end that was attached to the stalk. Then you should be able to shake the cooked ear of corn straight onto your plate without having to deal with those pesky silks. It’s not quite as good as roasting corn in an oven (also with husks on) or grilling it, but it’s pretty good for a quick weeknight technique, which is what I need most of the time these days.

You could combine fresh corn taken off the cob with chopped tomates and onions from this week’s box for a quick fresh salsa. Toss the mixture with a little olive oil, lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro (if you like it). Dice some of the potatoes and serve them hash-brown style, and scramble a few of the eggs. Spoon your salsa over the potatoes and eggs and you have a really tasty dinner completely from your CSA box!

You can click the “Swiss Chard” tag at right to see all the recipes we’ve linked to for chard so far this year. I am thinking of using my pizza dough recipe to make a chard calzone this week. I’ll share the recipe if it turns out!

This far into the season, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog. Are the recipes useful? Do they fit your lifestyle? Are there vegetables that you need more ideas for? Please e-mail me here with your comments (I will specify that I am asking for comments about the blog itself. Questions about CSA pickup should be directed to the Sneads.)

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Week 8: June 19, 2013

In this week’s box:

sneads19

Total retail value of this week’s box: $41

Total retail value distributed so far this CSA season: $426

Emily’s notes:

First of all, welcome, berry season! These beauties sure are tasty, but be aware that raspberries are some of the most fragile berries, with the shortest shelf life, so carpe diem and heap them on ice cream or yogurt, or just pop them in your mouth, within a day or so. If you do want to save them (something that never becomes an issue in my house) place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet immediately after bringing them home and place them in the freezer. Once they’ve frozen, place them in a zip-top bag for storage.

A friend and fellow Snead’s CSA member recommended to me this recipe for Squash and Kohlrabi Empanadas last year. It would go well with this week’s box, and you could substitute kale, beet greens or kohlrabi greens for the spinach.

Speaking of kohlrabi, it was the featured vegetable this week on the blog Adventures of  a Yankee Kitchen Ninja. The blog’s weekly CSA rescue feature offers six ideas for using this vegetable. Find the post here.

Kale has become quite trendy as a superfood. It’s a dark leafy green that is packed with nutrients. I have grown kale in my backyard for the past two years, and have really grown to love it. In my house, we use it just about every day. I put it in smoothies with banana, yogurt, frozen fruits and other typical smoothie ingredients. I typically chop a handful of kale leaves to sprinkle on pizzas or in quesadillas when we make those. I love it in quiches, omelets and other egg dishes or in soups. And a big pot of stewed kale is also a favorite. I don’t use a recipe, but typically I start by heating either butter, oil or bacon in a Dutch oven. Then I add garlic and onions, and once those have cooked I add my kale, chopped and separated from the thick stems (which you could chop and saute with the onions). After the kale turns bright green, I add just enough water or chicken stock to halfway cover it and salt and pepper to taste (add some crushed red pepper if you like it, too). I cook this for a while, adding more liquid along the way if I think the greens need it. This is not the most exact of recipes, but to me this is a dish that can kind of sit on the stove until the rest of your dinner is ready.

If you want to get a bit more adventurous in your kale eating, I would recommend this recipe for BBQ kale chips from the local Doctor Yum Project. I am also a fan of using raw kale in what are called Massaged Kale Salad recipes.

The last time we got beets I decided that my favorite way to eat them is cooked (either roasted or boiled) and sliced on salads. But just in case you missed it, here is the recipe for chocolate beet cake that I concocted with our last bunch of beets.

You don’t have to get out the heavy canning equipment to make the most of pickling cucumbers. Here is a good post that explains the difference between various pickling methods, and offers a refrigerator pickle recipe for cucumbers.

Total value of CSA goods received so far: $385

As we put the final touches on the produce list for this coming week, here’s a look back at the retail value of last week’s box.

Total retail value of goods in box: $52.50

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $385.00

Happy eating! We’ll see you Wednesday, and check back later today or early Wednesday for details on this week’s box!

Week 7: June 12, 2013

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

2 pints sugar snap peas

2 quarts strawberries

1 bulb fennel

2 bunches Swiss chard

2 bunches of spring onions

1 bunch of dill

1 bunch of basil

3 pounds of string beans

1.5 pounds of red potatoes

1.5 pounds of white potatoes

1/2 pint of raspberries

1 head of Chinese cabbage

Emily’s notes:

Have you ever cooked fish in parchment, or en papillote, as the French say? This week’s box contains a lot of ingredients that would be well-suited to this easy and healthful cooking method.

Here is an easy step-by-step tutorial with pictures from Cooking Light on how to prep and fold the parchment packets, and below is a rough recipe for how to make the most of this week’s box in such a dish.

Fish and vegetables en papillote

4 salmon fillets (or other fish of choice)

Any combination of the following, depending on your preference:

3/4 pounds green beans, rinsed and trimmed

1/2 pound small red potatoes, sliced about 1/8 inch thick

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

10 fresh basil leaves and/or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

one lemon, sliced

4 teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained

salt and pepper to taste

4 teaspoons olive oil

drizzle of white wine (optional)

To ensure your vegetables cook all the way, you might want to blanch them first (fennel and potatoes 2 minutes, green beans one minute) in boiling water, then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. While they’re in their ice bath, arrange each fish fillet on one of your prepared parchment “heart” halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (If using potatoes, you might want to put the potatoes down first as a bed.)

Next, layer fennel, green beans, then capers, herbs and a lemon slice or two for each packet. Drizzle each package with olive oil and white wine, if using, before sealing.

Place packets on a sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Maybe saute some Swiss chard with a chopped spring onion to eat as a side dish.

When I see potatoes and dill, I immediately think of this potato salad recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I’ve made it too many times to count, it’s always a winner. Even though I think red onions add a great heat to this salad, you could definitely use the spring onions in this week’s box instead.

Speaking of Ina, she also wrote this recipe for Potato-Fennel gratin that would also be good with this week’s box. I am confident you could get away with using just one fennel bulb here, and the spring onions you’re getting this week instead of a yellow onion, as the recipe calls for (I usually use my spring onions in the same manner I would use mature onions, so it’s one less thing I have to buy during CSA season.).

If you’re looking for a new way to use Swiss chard, give this recipe for Swiss Chard Spanakopita a go. I did something similar with beet greens last year. It worked well as a freeze-ahead meal, also.

With Chinese cabbage, a recipe that has always been a hit in our house is this one for a salad that includes ramen noodles and a cider vinegar dressing. This is excellent for pot lucks.

It’s a real treat to have strawberries and raspberries in the same box. Celebrate by buying some premium vanilla ice cream and spooning on the fruit!

Week 6: June 5, 2013

In this week’s box:

sneadsboard

Total retail value of this box: $58.50

Total value of goods received so far this season: $332.50

Emily’s notes:

Summer is really starting to show up in this week’s box. Summer squash and cucumbers meet up with early spring favorites like snow peas, radishes and strawberries.

This week brings a wealth of snow peas, edible-pod peas that are especially common in stir-fries. No matter how you cook them, though, whether steaming, boiling or stir-frying, you only need to cook them for about 3 minutes, until bright green. Here is a recipe shared a few years back by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman for a very simple snow pea preparation. It is credited to Peter Chang, who recently opened a restaurant in Fredericksburg’s Central Park.

Here are a few other ideas for snow peas:

– I like this recipe for a sesame-dressed snow pea salad. However, I think you could get away without the green onions (I don’t usually like to buy vegetables outside my CSA share if I can help it.). I also think you could make this without blanching the snow peas. For something different, try cutting them lengthwise into thin strips instead of on the diagonal.

This recipe for Zucchini and Snow-Pea Salad will use two items from this week’s box.

– Last year, I made a pesto pasta dish with snow peas and zucchini that I really enjoyed. I didn’t write down a formal recipe, but here are my notes on how it came together:

I sauteed some pancetta (or bacon), then added sliced zucchini to that pan with all the delicious fat that had rendered. As my pasta neared the end of its hot bath (in a separate pot of water), I dunked the snow peas in for a little more than a minute. I used a metal-mesh sieve to do this so that I could easily retrieve them. I dumped them straight into the bacon-and-zucchini saute, then added the drained pasta a minute or so later. While the mixture was hot, I stirred in some feta and parmesan cheese, plus the kohlrabi pesto I’d tucked away the week before (I would use between a half cup and a cup of pesto, depending on how much pasta and vegetables you are cooking. It can be any kind of pesto, store-bought or homemade.)

– And here is a simple lemon-scented saute I made to serve with steak last year:

I dunked them in boiling water for about two minutes, drained them, and then, while they were still steaming, I dumped them all into a bowl with a pat of butter, a clove of minced garlic and some lemon zest. I tossed, then topped the whole thing off with salt and a squeeze more of lemon juice. Even my toddler ate these.

With this quantity of peas, I’ll bring up the possibility of freezing them. I will say from experience that freezing vegetables can be a bit of a trial-and-error process. I followed directions for freezing green beans very closely last year, only to end up with waterlogged beans. The general process for a vegetable like snow peas is as follows:

– Plunge peas into boiling water for 2 minutes (or steam them for the same amount of time).

– Remove from hot water into ice water for 2 minutes to stop the cooking.

– Drain and dry on paper towels. Dry them quickly, because you want to freeze them as soon after cooking as possible.

– Place directly into freezer bags, or lay the peas on a cookie sheet to freeze individually, and then place the frozen peas into bags (This method will ensure your peas don’t stick together quite as much.)

I would recommend doing this with a small amount of the peas and using them soon to see if it works for you. This discussion on the Gardenweb forum highlights how the process of blanching and freezing can take some fine-tuning.

Summer squash are extremely versatile vegetables, and zucchini and yellow squash can usually be used interchangeably in any recipes that call for them. Last year, one of my favorite uses of squash was this recipe for summer squash and portobello lasagna. Something about browning the squash before layering it in the casserole really made this flavorful.

With farm-fresh eggs, you also can’t beat a good Southern squash casserole. Here’s a recipe I used last year, though everyone likes theirs a little different:

Southern Squash Casserole

adapted from AllRecipes.com

serves 8

Ingredients:

4 cups sliced yellow squash (or zucchini)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

one sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cups milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Saute squash and onion in a hot skillet with some olive oil. You want to get it hot enough to brown them a little bit to bring out flavor. After a few minutes, add about 3/4 cups water and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, until squash is tender. Drain and place mixture in a large bowl to cool.

In another bowl, mix the cracker crumbs and shredded cheese. Stir half of this mixture into the cooled squash mixture. In a small bowl, mix the eggs, milk, white pepper, cayenne and mustard powder. Add the egg mixture to the squash. Stir in the melted butter and salt.

Spread mixture in a 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cracker crumbs.

Bake about 25 minutes, until set.

A lot of people make jokes about turnips, but they can be quite tasty. You can often use them in the same way you would use potatoes, with the added bonus that turnips have fewer calories. Here are a few ideas I’m eyeing for this week:

If you’re looking for new takes on familiar vegetables, remember that sometimes you can reinvent things just by chopping them differently. With this week’s box, I would consider chopping sugar snap peas, cucumbers and radishes all into similar-sized small pieces and mixing them together in a bowl. Dress with salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and maybe some feta cheese, and you’ve got a cold salad that would also be good mixed with a cold cooked grain or small pasta.

Enjoy this beautiful box and all its variety! I’ll try to check back in later on this week with some more ideas.

Snead’s Farm CSA total produce value so far: $274

People join CSAs for a lot of reasons. Supporting local agriculture, ensuring access to fresh and high-quality produce, exposing kids to lessons about where their food comes from and eating seasonally are a few of them. But just like everything else, it should be a good value. So, using retail prices for the items included in your box each week, we’ve added up the value of the weekly boxes, and will track this value through the summer. We’ll let you know when Snead’s Farm CSA members “break even” on their investment for the season. Here’s a look at the retail value of past weeks’ boxes:

5/1/2013
1 dozen eggs – $5
1 20$ gift card –  $20
5 pounds asparagus –  $20
4 pounds sweet potatoes – $3
2 bunches of swiss chard – $6
2 bunches of onions – $3
2 bunches of radishes – $4
total  – $61

5/8/2013
1/2 dozen eggs – $2.50
1 30$ gift card – $30
5 pounds of asparagus – $20
4 quarts of strawberries – $20
2 cucumbers – $2
$74.50

5/15/2013
1/2 dozen eggs – $2.5
4 quarts of strawberries – $20
1 head green lettuce – $2
1 head red lettuce – $2
2 heads romaine – $4
1 bunch of onions $1.5
1 bunch of swiss chard – $3
2 bunches of bok choy  – $4
$39

5/22/2013
1/2 dozen eggs – $2.5
2 swiss chard  $6
2 head green lettuce  $4
4 kohlrabi $4
2 cucumbers $2
4 garlic scapes $4
2 pounds asparagus $10
2 pints sugar peas $5
2 quarts strawberries $10
$47.50

5/29/2013
1 dozen eggs $5
10 pints sugar snap peas $25
2 quarts of strawberries $10
2 bunches of beets $6
2 whole garlic plants $6
$52

That brings the total value of produce you’ve picked up so far to $274. We’ll keep a running total and let you know when you break even on your share.