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CSA Week 6: Cooking against the clock

In this week’s box:

1 bunch Swiss chard

2 pounds green beans

2 bunches onions

1 bag cucumbers

4 pounds red and white potato

1bag squash

1 bag zucchini

6 eggs

1.5 pints raspberries

2 pints sugar snap peas

Deadlines are a big motivator in the newspaper business. I used to think the most effective way to make me stop procrastinating was to have my story slated for tomorrow’s paper.

Then I started having babies.

When you know that at any moment a process could begin that will leave you sleep-deprived, mildly incoherent and pretty much attached to another very needy human being for the foreseeable future, you tend to get your ducks in a row.

That probably explains how I cooked through more than half of this week’s CSA box in two days this week.

When I went to the farm to pick it up–just a little over two weeks from my due date with my second baby–Emmett Snead told me the weather had been in a “holding pattern,” so there wasn’t much new to offer, but he’d tried to work in as much “yummy” stuff as he could with what was ready for harvest.

It’s true there weren’t a lot of newcomers this week, but there was still great variety, and now that I’ve seen a lot of these vegetables several weeks in a row I don’t have to think so hard about how to use them.

I knew I’d be making dinner for a friend who just had a baby of her own later in the week, and since I had planned for soup, I was happy to see Swiss chard in the lineup.

I make soup all the time and I rarely use a recipe, but since this one was for someone else’s dinner table, I thought I’d search around for a well-put-together dish, instead of making her one of my Sunday-night clean-out-the-fridge numbers.

After examining several soup recipes that included chard, beans and sausage, I decided to give this recipe from the blog, “Full Fork Ahead” for chard, sausage and white bean soup a try. Who can argue with two kinds of pork in a soup packed with healthy greens and beans? It turned out nicely, with strong flavors and the right amount of heat from the sausage and red pepper.

I made the soup the day after I went to the farm. But that wasn’t all I made. I woke up at 5:15 that morning convinced that my baby’s arrival was imminent, and with a strong urge to make lasagna. I’d bookmarked this recipe for portobello and summer squash lasagna a while ago, in anticipation of more zucchini and squash in my box.

I put the lasagna in a foil pan, thinking I might need to freeze it if we ended up making a surprise trip to the hospital. My hunch turned out to be wrong (I’m still pregnant as I write this) and we ate it that night, but boy, was that some good lasagna. If you’re looking for recipes to use up your own zucchini or squash supply this summer, definitely give this one a try.

The lasagna left us with a few extra yellow squash. I shredded them that same morning and made this recipe for blueberry zucchini bread. This quickbread and its many variations are the No. 1 way to get squash-haters to ingest squash.

Other elements of the box were pretty easy to put to good use this week. The raspberries are really getting good. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when you buy them fresh-picked instead of shipped cross-country at the supermarket. They truly have the flavor of the field. There’s something amid their sweetness and tartness that tastes fresh and green. We have to work hard not to eat all of these too quickly.

I’m also enjoying the fresh potatoes. They’ve weaned us off of Ore Ida tater tots on burger nights, and they’ve got a fresher, less mealy texture than the older spuds I’d been buying. We usually eat them chopped and roasted or cooked as hash browns, but I know they’d make a great potato salad.

And the spring onions have been another nice surprise. I don’t buy bulk onions as much at the grocery store, and I just chop one of these up, greens and all, for recipes that call for onion. They lend a slightly sweeter, more complex flavor than plain yellow onions, and they’re great when caramelized in the skillet.

We’ve eaten most of the cucumbers in a pretty simple preparation that makes a nice side for any dish, but especially hot ones. I peel them and remove the seeds, cut them into quarters lengthwise and chop. I toss the pieces with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, some grated onion and feta cheese. It’s refreshing and my toddler will eat it.

And after so many weeks of snap peas and other members of the bean family, I have lots of options in my mental memory bank for cooking these up as tasty sides at the last minute. One of my favorites from this week: boiling green beans for about 6 minutes, then dumping them in a skillet with bacon and onion, finishing off with some red wine vinegar and a little bit of sugar.

This column may be taking a little hiaitus in the next week or so, as we prepare to welcome a new baby. I’ll be back before too long, after the dust settles and we get into a new kitchen routine. Until then, please share what you’re cooking as we head into the peak of summer vegetable season!


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