Monday, July 26, 2010

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. What is it?




By signing up to participate in a CSA, you are signing up for a share of what a farmer or group of farmers produce(s) during the growing season. Usually, this means that you will receive a box or basket of produce each week for a prescribed period. All the food in the box will be fresh (picked that day or within a few days before) and local (and usually organic or chemical free as well).

The contents of the box vary by the CSA and the season. For example, here in Pittsburgh with the Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, I received boxes filled mostly with lettuces, eggs, cheese, and stores from root cellars and greenhouses early in the season. This week, lettuces are still abundant but are mixed in with goodies like blueberries and peppers. When my next box comes, I’m hoping for sweet corn.

Often, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit the farm and see where products are grown. One of my greatest childhood memories is wandering the farm of “our farmer” from the CSA my mom signed us up for each summer. He had painted his mailbox in a tie-dye pattern, had a daughter about my age, and was always eager to show off his rows of lettuces, blueberry patch, and greenhouses.

And, as you’ve seen based on my previous posts and recipes, a CSA will challenge your eating habits. Salads are a constant, but in addition I experiment with soup, stir-fry, bread, and any number of other dishes based on being given so many vegetables – including at least one each week that I’ve never heard or at least never cooked with. It’s probably too late in the season to sign up for a CSA this year, but keep them in mind for next year and share your recipes and new experiences.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini...

Zucchini almost grows faster than weeds at this time of year. Once it gets going, it can be one of the most prolific plants in the garden. For the third week in a row I’ve been presented with one of these beautiful green members of the cucumber/melon family in my CSA box. This week it wasn’t even on the list of items planned for the box, it just showed up between the cucumber and the green beans. So, today is the day to start tackling all the zucchini in my fridge. Luckily, zucchini tend to keep well.

My first thought for zucchini was zucchini bread – when I’ve got too much of a fruit or vegetable I tend to figure out how best to put it in a baked good for a little variety. I whipped up a batch of Sweet Zucchini Bread from the 75th Anniversary edition of the Joy of Cooking. But afterward, I still had about half a cup of shredded zucchini left over…so I made a variation of my Dad’s Ugly Scramble:

Ugly Zucchini for 1

Small pat of butter
½ cup zucchini, grated or sliced thin
1 tsp. chopped garlic scapes (or a little fresh garlic)
1 egg, beaten

Melt butter in medium skillet. Add garlic scapes and zucchini. Saute until zucchini is translucent. Add egg and cook for about a minute while stirring. When egg is cooked through, the dish is ready. Add a little salt if desired and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Variations on Carrot Greens

Greens, greens, greens! For the third week in a row, I have baby carrots and abundant carrot greens in my CSA box. But what to do with them? It's getting a little too hot for the Tuscan Carrot Top Soup I posted a few weeks ago, so I've discovered a couple new and delicious carrot top recipes!

Carrot Top Pesto

My recipe is based on the Carrot Top and Toasted Walnut Pesto posted at ShowFood Chef, but modified to fit the contents of my CSA box.

1 bunch carrot greens, rinsed and chopped
1 large clove garlic
1 green onion chopped
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup mixed herbs, chopped (oregano, sage, and basil are a good mix)
1/4 cup Allegheny Asiago-style cheese, grated
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic, green onion, and carrot greens in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until greens are wilted (2-3 minutes). Allow to cool slightly. Add walnuts, herbs, cheese, and wilted greens mixture to blender with a little salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil. Blend until desired consistency is reached, adding remaining 1/4 of olive oil as necessary.

Serving suggestions:
Warm on toasted Italian bread
As a dip for raw veggies
Over pasta with chicken

Carrot and Beet Green Soup

I adapted this from the Chilled Lettuce Soup recipe I posted a few weeks ago. At this point in the summer, we're getting fewer salad greens, but still have plenty of carrot and beet greens to eat.

1 bunch carrot greens, rinsed and chopped
1 bunch baby carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bunch beet greens, rinsed and chopped
1 small beet, peeled and chopped
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1/8 cup fresh herbs (I used mostly chives, but also a bit of thyme, basil, and parsely that I had on hand)
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2-3 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil carrots and beet until tender. Remove from water, set aside.
2. Blanche carrot and beet greens (in same water as beet and carrots) and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in small skillet and saute shallots until translucent. Add half the herbs, a dash of salt and pepper, and the white wine. Simmer for 2 minutes then add the chicken stock and the rest of the herbs. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Combine in blender: lettuce, onion and herb mixture, carrots, beet, yogurt, and milk. Blend until desired consistency is reached. If you've been blending for awhile and the soup is still too thick try adding water one tablespoon at a time. You shouldn't need more than 3 tablespoons. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Optional: Top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and pepper at serving time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tuscan Carrot Top Soup

Carrot Top Soup - It’s green, but it tastes like carrots. Who knew? I was certainly surprised when the leafy soup made of greens and rice tasted like it should be bright orange. Carrot tops are in season right now, at least in southwestern, PA, so try making a batch of this soup before it gets too hot outside!

Tuscan Carrot Top Soup

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups carrot tops/greens, chopped (if the carrots on the bottom are good and you don’t have another use for them, throw them in, too, but start with 2 cups of greens)
½ cup short grain rice (this is the traditional way, sometimes I also make it with ¾ cup of pasta, which is also yummy)
½ sweet onion
2 small cloves of garlic
2 ½ cups of chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup of water
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a soup pot. Sauté onion and garlic (and carrot roots if you’re using them) until onions are translucent. Add water and broth, bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta and boil until grains are tender. Add carrot tops and cook an additional 5-7 minutes. Season to taste. Serve with parmigiano and crusty bread, if desired.