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FLS reporter Katie Thisdell serves up news on local food finds, tales from home cooks and inspiration to help you have fun in your own kitchen.

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Introducing…The Front Burner CSA Club

Does the idea of joining a community-supported agriculture (or CSA) program for your family’s produce appeal to you, but you’re not sure how hard it would be to go pick up, then plan meals around, all that produce every week of the growing season?

I had always been in that boat, but when my husband suggested last fall that we give the CSA at Snead’s Farm a try (as we wandered through Snead’s pumpkin patch with our toddler), I figured now was the time.

As we begin the CSA season, I’m bringing a new feature to this blog. The Front Burner CSA Club is intended as a place for folks participating in the various CSAs in our area to share recipes and other ideas for using the seasonal bounty that comes in each week’s box. It’s also a good place for those on the fence about joining a CSA to get a peek at what it entails before making a decision about whether to join one next year.

I’ll post here each Monday about the previous week’s box, how we’re using it and any other notes or tips from readers about this and other CSAs in the area. I’ll try to share a few recipes each week. If you are a member of a local CSA, please participate by leaving tips, recipes and notes about your own box in the comments, or e-mail them to me, and I might share them the next week.

It’s my hope that this will allow everyone to get new ideas on how to use local, seasonal produce.

Before we get started, here are a few resources:

Here is a list from LocalHarvest.com of CSAs in our area. It’s probably not comprehensive, because new ones pop up every year, but it’s a good starting point.

Here is a post from earlier this year about choosing a CSA for your family.

That’s our first box of CSA produce from Snead’s Farm. We picked it up last Wednesday. Snead’s is about 10 miles from my house, and we chose to join this CSA because we knew Emmett Snead and had always enjoyed going to his farm for things like pumpkin-picking and his asparagus festival. We got a discount for joining by Nov. 1, and shortly after we made that decision, we learned we were expecting our second child in late June. So we’ll be learning how a weekly trip to pick up farm produce fits into life with a toddler and a newborn.

In our first box:

2 bunches spring onions

2 bunches swiss chard

4 pounds asparagus

4 quarts strawberries

1 dozen eggs

1 $30 gift card to Fresca, a vegetarian deli in Richmond (luckily we are headed down there soon and can use this)

I’d done a basic grocery shop on Monday, but I’d held off on most of our meal planning until I got the box. When I got home Wednesday, I decided dinner that night would be a frittata with chard and asparagus, in which I also used one of the onions (see recipe below). I served it over lettuce from my garden.

I’m not much of a gardener, but I try to grow some edibles every year. This year, since I knew most of our vegetables would come from Snead’s, I decided to focus on growing enough lettuce to keep me from having to buy it. So far, so good.

The next night, we had hamburgers with roasted asparagus on the side (Toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Sprinkle with parmesan. Roast at 425 for 10 min or so.) I caramelized a couple of the onions (with their greens) and served some of them on top of the burgers, and held the rest aside for pizza later in the week.

As for the strawberries (or “TAH-bays,” as my daughter calls them), the three of us somehow polished off four quarts in three days. I was thinking we’d need to make a sauce or something to use them up before they went bad, but apparently we were up to the task.

They were a popular breakfast item in yogurt and on cereal, and we finished most meals with them. They were also a good excuse to make a quick pound cake (I used this recipe because it was fast and I had the ingredients, but I didn’t love it.) for strawberry shortcakes. I thought about macerating some in sugar in the fridge, but these berries were so ripe they really didn’t need any added sugar.

In between the dinners, I’ve been using some of the green stuff in lunches. On Friday, I chopped a few stalks of asparagus into very small pieces, tossed them in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and parmesan, then threw that mix into a wrap with hummus, salad greens, some of the caramelized onions from the fridge and a little cheese.

Saturday was pizza night, and I found that the caramelized onions, plus half a bunch of asparagus chopped into bite-sized pieces, went well with some Italian sausage atop our pie.

Sundays have always been a “use up what’s in the fridge” day in our house, and this week was no different. I made a soup from most of the remaining vegetables, along with a few other odd items laying about. Soup is a great meal for these kind of nights, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to follow a recipe.

I started by sauteeing two of the remaining onions (with their greens). When they got good and broken down, I threw in the second bunch of chard, which I had washed and chopped finely. At each vegetable addition, I added salt and pepper. After the chard cooked down, I added a little garlic, then the rest of the asparagus, chopped into almost pea-sized pieces. I poured in a carton of chicken broth and what remained of a can of crushed tomatoes that had gone on the previous night’s pizza. At the end, I dumped in a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed) along with two links of the sausage leftover from the night before (chopped).

That leaves me with leftover soup, one onion and a half dozen eggs. That should serve us nicely until we return to Snead’s on Wednesday.

How have you been enjoying your CSA box this week? Which one did you join and why? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments section.

Recipe for this week:

Frittata with chard, asparagus and spring onion

Ingredients:

5 eggs

3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 spring onion, with greens, chopped

one bunch Swiss chard, chopped (I cut off the dry ends of the stems, but I don’t see the need to separate the stems from the leaves, though they are tougher.)

1 pound asparagus, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 garlic clove, minced

Ahead of time (I did this during my daughter’s nap): Roast the asparagus at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and any other preferred seasonings. It won’t have a lot of cooking time in the frittata.

To make the frittata:

Preheat your oven’s broiler.

Whisk the eggs, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Sautee the onion until translucent and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes.

Add the chard in three batches, sprinkling each new addition with a little salt before it wilts. Cook greens until all liquid has evaporated. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add roasted asparagus to the skillet, and try to get all the veggies evenly spread throughout the pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the eggs. Stir to even everything out. Cover (A piece of foil will do if your skillet has no lid.) and cook the eggs until they’ve set on the bottom, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Move the skillet to the broiler and cook until eggs are set in the center, about one minute.

Serve immediately over salad greens.

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