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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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CSA Week 4: Snow peas and summer’s first squash

This week's CSA box

CSA Week 4 – box contents:

half-dozen eggs

6 pints snow peas

1 bag yellow squash

1 bag zucchini

2 pounds asparagus

1 bunch Swiss chard

1 Napa cabbage

$25 gift card to the Sunken Well Tavern

Six pints of snow peas.

That stuck out in this week’s CSA box, among summer’s first zucchini and yellow squash, more chard, eggs, asparagus and Napa cabbage and a $25 gift card to Fredericksburg’s Sunken Well Tavern (for the night when I don’t cook).

I’d enjoyed last week’s load of snow peas in a stir-fry, but I don’t always want Asian flavors, and there’s only so much stir-fry a family can eat.

So this week’s challenge was to find new ways to use these flat, crunchy, edible-pod peas that are a hallmark of spring.

You don’t find a lot of recipes for raw snow peas. Most call for at least blanching them a little to soften them. But one night I was in a hurry to get a salad on the table with some homemade pizza, and I had an idea. I often cut raw green beans into small pieces for salads–I like the way using them raw preserves their crunch and all their nutrients. Why not try the same thing with snow peas?

I snipped off the ends and removed the strings from enough snow peas to make a salad for two. Then I stacked them up and cut them cross-wise into small “slices.” I tossed all of this with olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper and a few crumbles of feta cheese. The result was a Mediterranean-style simple salad that actually tasted great spooned on top of oven-hot pizza. To mix things up, you could add some kalamata olives, red onions, hard-boiled eggs or a more complex vinaigrette.

Raw snow peas have a nice crunch, but it’s true that just a brief dip in some boiling water helps bring out their natural flavor, and gives them a pleasing texture. So a few nights later, I incorporated some more of my snow-pea stash in a pasta dish.

I sauteed some pancetta, 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, 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.

On Memorial Day, we had steak on the menu. This was an opportunity for some more traditional side dishes, and I think I liked this snow pea treatment the best. 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.

The other side I made that night addressed the other major challenge I found in this week’s CSA box: My husband is no fan of

Steak with lemon-butter snow peas, squash casserole

yellow squash. He’ll eat zucchini, but not the yellow stuff. I respect this–after all, I have a life-long aversion to butter beans–but I still thought I could get a few squash slices in his belly with a little help from my friends butter, cheese and eggs.

So I made a traditional Southern-style squash casserole. Any time you can serve a dish that is mostly fat and Ritz crackers and still count it as a vegetable, it’s going to make people happy. I don’t think my husband is going to be raving over yellow squash any time soon, but he did declare my dish to have “enough casserole to drown out the squash.”

I’m marking that down as a win.

The rest of the box went pretty easily this week. Zucchini were sauteed and tucked into various other dishes (I’ll save the zucchini lasagna and zucchini bread for when the really big ones start coming in later on.). The chard and eggs made another frittata. Asparagus went into the egg dish and on pizza. The Napa cabbage made another salad, this one with crunchy Ramen noodles mixed in.

We’re headed back out tomorrow to pick up another box from our Snead’s Farm CSA share. With May almost over, we’re starting to see the heavy greens of spring give way to the larger variety of produce that summer brings. I can’t wait to see what warm-weather delights make their debut in our lineup this week.

This week’s recipe: Southern Squash Casserole

adapted from AllRecipes.com

serves 8

Ingredients:

4 cups sliced yellow squash

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.

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