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Friday, July 5, 2013

CSA 2013, Week One

We go to the local Farmer's Market most Saturdays, and while occasionally I try to branch out and try something new, usually I stick with the foods I'm familiar with. I love vegetables and eat/prepare a good lot of them, but there are still some that I've never known what to do with. Having two little ones has made it hard to experiment in the kitchen, but now that Belalu is at the point of being able to play with her brother and/or entertain herself when I'm in the kitchen, I've gotten adventurous again.

We joined a CSA this year and receive a half share of produce every week. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The members pay for their share up front and then pick up a box of goodies once a week throughout the growing season. In our area, that's about 18-20 weeks long. Lousy, wet weather has postponed the start of the summer harvest this year, so our CSA started just last week. I'm excited about it because I will receive veggies I've never tried; we are supporting a local farm; it's all organic and locally produced; and I will have a better sense of the natural growing cycle of veggies. I've been trying to eat seasonally, but to my embarrassment, I don't even know when many fruits and veggies are in season! We are so used to buying whatever we want when we want it, that I've lost all sense of nature's true cycles. Getting fruits and veggies in season means that they are more flavorful, more nutritious (they don't have to travel around the world to get to me), and more sustainable. I also love knowing who is growing my veggies- I see them every week at the farmer's market and can ask for suggestions about what to do with the produce they grow for us. They also have a blog where they share what's going on at the farm that week, and provide recipes and suggestions for preparation for the veggies they harvest.

I've been relying on a couple of cookbooks to help me with recipe ideas, too. In May I attended a dinner at the local bookstore that featured the book Minnesota's Bounty (MB). The author, Beth Dooley, and photographer, Mette Nielsen, were in attendance, and I got to sit across from them at the dinner table. I love this book, because Beth wrote it as a field guide to the farmer's market. It is arranged by item, so if I want to know what to do with pea shoots, I go to the veggie section, "Peas," and there I can see what they look like, when they are in season, how to store them, and several ideas on how to prepare them. She has at least a couple of super-easy ideas, not even recipes really, for each item and then a couple of recipes that involve more ingredients. For example, for peas, there's a simple pea and mint saute suggestion, and then a snap pea and radish salad recipe, among other things. As you can see, the other ingredients are seasonally in tune with the featured veggie, so they are likely to be found at the market at the same time. I also consult Vegetable Harvest (VH) quite a bit, though it's based on French markets, so doesn't always coincide with what we have here.

This spring/summer in my culinary adventures I have discovered green garlic, garlic scapes, ramps, and pea shoots. I also finally found a way to eat kale (this is huge). All super delicious. I can't believe I've never had all these spring treats in my life before! (The ramps and the green garlic I found at the local Co-op, the others are from the CSA). I'm going to keep track of what we get each week and which recipes I really like so I have a record for next year. So, after that long introduction, here's what veggies are happening in my kitchen these days.

For Week One, we received Red Russian kale, arugula, spinach, garlic scapes, oregano, mint, chives, radishes. I used everything within the week except the scapes and the oregano. MB has a recipe for sauted scapes and I was hoping I would get more this week to have plenty to saute. I did, so I'll be trying that out and will post the results in Week Two's round-up. The oregano I'm not sure yet what I'll do with it. It's holding up so far in the fridge, but I need to figure out what to do with it soon. I've only used it as a dry herb before.

Arugula is my favorite green and can only be found once in a while in the stores here. I've been growing it in my garden this year, and it's been doing well. The batch from the CSA got mixed with the kale. Honestly, I've tried a few times to like kale and I just couldn't unless it was in a stew or soup. Smoothies, kale chips, saute... I just didn't care for it. So, when I decided to try it raw in a salad, I threw my favorite green in with my least favorite and magic happened. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe for kale salad with honey mustard dressing, goat cheese, craisins, and pecans, and we loved it.  Score!

For the spinach, chives, and radishes I used a recipe from VH. It called for couscous, but I was out, so I subbed bulgar wheat instead. The chives went in a creamy chive dressing that mixed in with the bulgar and spinach that had been shredded and then I threw in some chopped radishes- I forget if that was part of the recipe or I just added them for interest.

The mint was used for mojitos, my favorite drink, and perfect for summer.

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