Week 11: July 16, 2014

In this week’s box:

2 pints blueberries

1 dozen eggs

2 dozen ears corn

1 flat peaches

2 bags tomatoes

1 bag cucumbers

1 bag yellow squash

1 bag zucchini

1 bouquet **OPTIONAL BONUS** pick-your-own sunflowers, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

4 half-pints **OPTIONAL BONUS** pick-your-own raspberries 8 a.m. until noon

4 half-pints **OPTIONAL BONUS** pick-your-own raspberries on July 20, noon until 3 p.m.

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $95

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $748.50

Emily’s notes

When I start to see tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, I always think of gazpacho. Summer in a bowl (or cup), gazpacho is one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make, and it’s perfect for these hot days, because there is absolutely no heat involved (unless you choose to add some hot peppers, which are nice). Let’s think of gazpacho this week not as one single recipe to be followed in exact detail, but as a concept that will allow you to use your summer vegetables with ease in your kitchen. Here are several ideas to work from:

– Traditional gazpacho – When I studied in southern Spain, people would drink this almost as a beverage at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s refreshing and a delicious way to consume vegetables. If you are trying to cook as much as possible with only things from your CSA box, I would place 4 tomatoes, 1 peeled cucumber, one of the smaller onions leftover from last week, if you have one (if not, add scallions, a garlic clove or red onion), salt, pepper, olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar to a food processor or blender (all the vegetables should be cut into chunks that this equipment can handle). Whir them all together and adjust for seasonings, then chill for a few hours before serving. I would consider adding fresh corn kernels and a dollop of sour cream when serving. Garden herbs including basil, chives and parsley also make a nice addition. Now, if you want a really nice recipe that really mimics the gazpacho I remember from Spain, try this one. The bread adds a nice thickness and body to the soup.

– Gazpacho with fruit – Don’t forget that peaches can be a great addition to savory dishes, including gazpacho. Try this recipe from Epicurious for Peach and Tomato Gazpacho.

– Deconstructed gazpacho – You could make endless summer salads by chopping tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer vegetables and throwing them in a bowl with olive oil, seasonings and maybe a little cheese. The New York Times offers this recipe for Tomato, Cucumber and Corn salad. I say who needs a recipe? If you have good vegetables on-hand, experiment with different combinations of no-cook side dishes like this. Squash and zucchini can be used raw if sliced thinly enough. Or grill them and mix with your raw ingredients for a hot-cold salad with great texture.

The August issue of Better Homes and Gardens has a great spread on recipes for corn, green beans and squash. A few that caught my eye (Note: Their website will ask you to enter your e-mail address and create a password to see these.):

Tomato-Topped Corn and Feta Casserole

Garlicky Zucchini Noodles

Peaches and blueberries are a great combination. Take the recipe I shared in this post last year for peach and blackberry crisp and sub in blueberries instead. Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream! When you’re slicing those peaches, it probably helps to know that this week’s peaches are clingstones, meaning the flesh clings to the pit inside. Clingstones ripen earlier than freestone peaches, which you can expect to see in the coming weeks. The fact that they are somewhat harder to separate from the pit and slice is all the more reason to eat them bite by bite standing over the sink!

Do you have great summer vegetable recipes you’d like to share with the group? E-mail me and let me know!

Week 8: June 25, 2014

In this week’s box:

3 half-pints raspberries

2 half-pints black raspberries

1 dozen eggs

1 bulb fennel with fronds

2 bags red new potatoes

2 bunches spring onions

2 bags green beans

2 heads cabbage

1 bag zucchini

1 bag yellow squash

**OPTIONAL BONUS** up to 4 half-pints pick-your-own raspberries, between 9 a.m. and noon, CSA members only.

Total retail value of goods distributed this week: $54.50

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this season: $529.50

Emily’s notes

With both green beans and potatoes in this week’s box, I highly recommend this recipe I shared last year for Southern-style green beans and new potatoes. It’s a good reminder that bacon makes everything better.

With spring onions and cabbage, I will definitely be making this recipe for cabbage salad with ramen noodles. It works just as well with regular cabbage as with the Napa cabbage called for in the recipe. I find it’s best to use a food processor to shred the cabbage if you have one.

What to do with fennel? You could slice it very thinly and toss it with thinly sliced apples and some of the chopped greens from the spring onions, along with a vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar, some walnuts and blue cheese for a cool summer salad. I would also finely chop some of the green fronds from atop the fennel bulb to add to this. Some folks don’t like raw fennel, though, and in that case, I would just toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic and throw it on the grill or into a 450-degree oven to roast until tender. It becomes sweeter and a bit less licorice-tasting when cooked.

Looking for a new way to serve zucchini and squash? I always love the way the Bavarian Chef in downtown Fredericksburg treats these vegetables. Try mixing green and yellow squash in this recipe from The Kitchn for Potato, Squash and Zucchini Gratin with Goat Cheese. I am always hesitant about gratins, because so many recipes seem to call for enough cream to cancel out all the virtue of the vegetables, but I like that this one is much lighter, and very easy to pull together with this week’s box!

I would also recommend substituting 1-2 shredded yellow squash for the carrots called for in this recipe for Healthy Morning Muffins from Martha Stewart. Please share your favorite summer squash and zucchini recipes if you have them!

 

Week 6: June 11, 2014

In this week’s box:

2 heads cabbage

2 heads broccoli

2 bags yellow squash

1 bag zucchini

2 bags string beans

2 pints blueberries

1 dozen eggs

7 pints snow peas

6 pints sugar snap peas

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $68

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $417

Emily’s notes:

Welcome to summer! The season itself is still a couple weeks off, but this box has summer written all over it. Enjoy the sugar snaps this week, because this is probably the last we will see of them until next spring. As for snow peas, they’re great in stir-fries. You can find more ideas for snow peas in this post from last year’s CSA blog. I also used snow peas earlier this season in a Thai-style salmon recipe I found in Dinner: A Love Story, one of the few cookbooks I have left in my collection after years of trying to winnow it down. This recipe is versatile, and could use a handful or two of any of the vegetables in this week’s box. For squash, I would probably cut them into matchsticks to use them here. Here’s my very slightly adapted version:

Thai-ish Salmon

recipe from Dinner: A Love Story

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 salmon fillets of just under 1 pound each

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemongrass (the white part of the stalk), which you can find in the fresh herbs section at Wegmans and other local stores

1 tablespoon chopped scallions (white and green parts)

2/3 cup light coconut milk

juice of one lime

1.5 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

handful cilantro, chopped

handful basil, chopped

1 good handful snow peas, de-stringed

1 good handful broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil.

Place salmon in skillet flesh-side down and cook 3 or 4 minutes, until browned. Set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add lemongrass and scallions, stir for 1 minute. Add coconut milk, lime juice and curry paste. Whisk together and let simmer about 3 minutes.

Add salmon back in, skin side down, nestling into the sauce. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add cilantro, basil, snow peas and broccoli.

Simmer another 7-8 minutes. Serve with jasmine rice, more cilantro, scallions and lime wedges.

For a cozy weekend meal, try pairing stuffed cabbage with green beans cooked with bacon. For stuffed cabbage, I’ve had this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa on my to-do list for a while. As for the green beans, I’d start by chopping some raw bacon into small bits and cooking it in a Dutch oven. Remove the bacon when it’s crisp and then put your prepped green beans in the pot. Give them a quick saute in the hot bacon fat, then add water or chicken stock just to cover. Put the lid on and cook until the green beans are the texture you like them, adding more stock if necessary. Serve with the cooked bacon added back in. I’d go easy on the salt with these, because bacon adds a lot of salt, but some red pepper flakes added in with the beans would be nice.

A couple of quick salad ideas that will use some of these vegetables raw. Use your vegetable peeler to slice long, thin slices of zucchini or yellow squash. Place them in a bowl and douse with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some pecorino cheese chunks just before serving. Similarly, finely chop green beans, snow peas or sugar snap peas to give them a different texture. Toss with the same ingredients as above and serve nice and cold.

 

 

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.

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.