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CSA Week 2: Top Chef, the home game
What’s this all about? Click here for the introduction.
Cooking from a CSA box is the home cook’s version of being a “Top Chef” contestant.
You know you have a week’s worth of meals to plan, but you’re not sure what you’ll be working with until you get your delivery. The mad scramble to figure out what’s going on the table the night you bring that box home begins the minute you get it in your hands.
Instead of Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio, your family sits at Judges’ Table. If your dish is a stinker, they won’t ask you to “pack your knives and go.” They’ll just mindlessly toss pieces of your dish over the side of the high chair while smiling and laughing at you (So get a dog.). Hopefully this habit will end sometime during the teen years.
Here’s this week’s box:
1 bunch pak choy (or bok choy)
2 bunches Swiss chard
4 white turnips
2 bunches radishes
2 quarts strawberries
4 pints sugar snap peas
1 $30 gift card to Blow Toad restaurant in Richmond
For me, this week was an instance where belonging to a CSA forced a new vegetable into my repertoire. I’d always read that bok choy, like other cabbages, had a lot to offer nutritionally, and I liked the looks of its unique texture–thick, crisp white stalks topped by dark leafy greens, with a contrast so stark the leaves almost look plastic. I just hadn’t seen fit to add it to my grocery cart.
A reader last week suggested that I check out the blog, “Adventures of the Kitchen Ninja.” The Vermont-based author offers a number of recipes, but also takes questions from CSA-ers wondering what to do with new items in their box. After reading through the suggestions (which I recommend), I decided to give their recipe for Vietnamese slow-cooker chicken with bok choy, a try. I had all the ingredients in my house, and anything that allows me to replace dinnertime-stove-stirring with naptime food prep is a winner in my book.
I served this over rice, and added some of the snap peas, washed and de-stringed, in the last few minutes of cooking. It was a nice combination of different flavors and textures. I recommend drizzling a little sesame oil over the final product once you’ve dished it out. I also enjoyed it as cold leftovers for lunch the next day.
The next night, I had my eyes on some of the chard. We had two mostly-used boxes of no-boil lasagna noodles hanging around the pantry, so I went for lasagna (recipe below). Lasagna, quiche, soup and pizza are a few of those go-to dishes that I’m thinking are going to form the backbone of my CSA cooking routine. They’re usually crowd-pleasers, often make enough to have leftovers and are great vehicles for just about any vegetable you want to get on the plate. Once you’ve made each of them a few times, you realize you don’t need recipes.
The snap peas and radishes in this week’s box made for some really nice salads, paired with the lettuce that has taken off in my garden. They also worked nicely in wraps with hummus and cheese at lunch time. Both add a distinct flavor and a welcome crunch. In fact, snap peas dipped in hummus are quickly becoming my new favorite snack.
If I hadn’t eaten all the radishes in salads and wraps, I thought about shredding them in the food processor and then whirring them up with some cream cheese, a handful of chives from my garden and a little salt and pepper for a sandwich spread. I’ll hold onto that idea in case I get radishes again this week.
As usual, the strawberries were no problem.
That left me with one bunch of chard and the turnips. I usually put turnips in very wintry dishes like stews and pot roasts, but it’s May, and I’m just not in the mood for that. When roasted, turnips are kind of like a more watery, less bulky potato. Their flavor is different from potatoes, and it shines through whatever seasonings you add to it a little more than potatoes would, but it’s still a nice starch.
On Sunday night, I decided to put the last bunch of chard to rest–along with some of the eggs–in another fritatta. I thought about my days studying in Spain and eating the ubiquitous Spanish tortilla over there–kind of like a thick omelet with sliced potatoes in it–and decided I’d try adding some roasted turnips to my egg dish, along with some diced, sharp cheddar cheese.
I thought the turnips were a decent potato sub, and I didn’t get any of those, “I’m so disappointed in you” looks from the judges, so it looks like I’ll be bringing my knives back for another week of cooking.
I’m just glad there are no Quickfire challenges in my house.
Thanks to all of you who have offered comments, tips and suggestions in response to this blog. I wanted to share one comment in particular from a Spotsylvania reader who is also a member of the Snead’s CSA. Here’s how she used her first share, along with a nice recipe link:
We also joined Snead’s Farm and split our share with another family. We ate all of the strawberries by Saturday and all we have left (it’s Monday) is one onion and some asparagus. The chard and onions I sautéed with some olive oil and butter. Then, I mixed it with a sauce of caramelized white onion, honey, mustard. We LOVED it! The rest of the onion and chard went into a lasagna that I found on Pintrest.
Here’s the link…
All of the eggs were cooked up for breakfast one morning ( we are a family of 6, 4 of which are hungry boys!). I love eating fresh and local and cannot wait until Wednesday!
This week’s recipe: Chard and sausage lasagna
1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz (more or less) ricotta cheese
about nine no-boil lasagna noodles
1/2 pound hot Itailan sausage
2 cloves garlic
parmesan cheese, to taste
shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Greese a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
Remove sausage from casing and saute over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove sausage from saute pan and set aside. Into those drippings, add the chopped onion, and cook until translucent. Add the chard in stages, and cook until wilted and the juices have evaporated. Lightly salt and pepper the chard with each addition.
Add garlic and cook another minute or so. Remove mixture from heat.
Spoon just enough of the tomatoes over the bottom of the baking dish to cover. Then reserve about the same amount of tomatoes to place atop the lasagna. Then add the rest of the tomatoes, plus the cooked sausage, to the chard mixture.
Taste your ricotta. If it’s bland, add salt, pepper and parmesan cheese to taste (Some fresh herbs, like basil, parsley and chives, would also be nice here, if you have them.).
Now you’re ready to assemble the lasagna. Place three noodles down over the sauce you spooned into the dish. Now add half the ricotta, then half the chard mixture, then another layer of noodles. Then the rest of the ricotta, the rest of the chard mixture and the final topping of noodles.
Spoon the reserved tomatoes over the noodles.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, add shredded mozzarella to top (if using) and bake another 10 minutes or so, until the mozzarella is melted and the whole dish is bubbly.
Note: If you are into crusty cheese, you could just add the mozzarella before you put it in the oven and leave the dish uncovered throughout the baking time. The cheese will turn black, but it’s good!