Sunday, June 02, 2013

CSA iron chef: two recipes created out of necessity

This week's very green CSA share, clockwise from bag: baby arugula, cilantro, dill, butter lettuce, scallions, green garlic, spinach and collard greens. 
I enjoy being a part of Community-Supported Agriculture [CSA] because supporting local, and in my case, organic farming instead of big agri, is always a good thing. But I must admit, I also love the "sport" of using up a CSA share. It's like being on "Iron Chef": the secret ingredients are revealed, then you need to use them up or preserve them before they spoil and/or it's time to pick up your next share. The clock is ticking, just like on TV!

Like most people, I am a creature of habit and tend to cook with the same veggies week after week. My my CSA share shakes me out of my rut, forces me to be resourceful and to get reacquainted with my favorite cookbooks. I find mega-bunches of fresh herbs the most challenging to use up: What's a girl to do with a giant bouquet of cilantro, for example? I made the Citrus Cilantro Dressing from Viva Vegan by Terry Hope Romero. It's one of my all-time favorites. Then knowing there was no way in hell I could use the rest up of the gargantuan cilantro bunch before it turned slimy, I chopped it up and froze it in ice-cube trays.

It was the same story with a mammoth, very ethereal bunch of dill. It made a pretty arrangement in a jar, but it was meant to be eaten...

So I made the Fresh-Dill Basmati Rice with Chard and Chickpeas from Veganomicon with a few adjustments. I didn't have chard so I substituted my gorgeous bunch of CSA spinach. I also used brown jasmine rice instead of basmati because it's what I happened to have on hand. This recipe is delicious – reminds me of a kicked-up version of Dolmades filling. I am certain I never would have tried it had the dill not been imposed on me, but I bookmarked this to make again. There's something to be said for stepping out of your comfort zone.

Green garlic – immature garlic before the bulb forms
Speaking of which, this week, I got a bunch of green garlic, which I had never before even heard of. It's basically immature garlic – before the signature bulbs form. It looks a lot like scallions, but tastes much milder. I decided to cook it slowly along with my collards, and the result was fantastically harmonious.

Slow-Cooked Collards with Green Garlic and Scallions

slow-cooked collards with green garlic and scallions

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups of a combination of green garlic and scallions, sliced 1/8-1/4 inch thick
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, about 9 large leaves, destalked and cut into slivers
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
Serves 4

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add red pepper, if using, and saute for a few seconds. Add garlic and scallions, sprinkle with salt, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and bright green. Add collards, stir to coat, then add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for an hour or until cooked to taste [Collards are one of the few veggies that I enjoy very well done!]

Island-style Sweet Potatoes

    island-inspired sweet potatoes

    To me, sweet potatoes scream Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, I received a large batch in my last CSA share and was wracking my brain on how to make them taste less autumnal. I thought back to all of my trips to the Caribbean, where sweet potatoes grow year round, and this inspired me to add some coconut oil, coconut flakes and a tiny pinch of cinnamon. VoilĂ ! Summery sweet potatoes. Amazingly, these little orange wonders taste divine served atop the collards.
    • 1 T coconut oil
    • 3 T agave nectar
    • Salt, to taste
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 3 T unsweetened coconut flakes [or substitute unsweetened shredded coconut]
    • 2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds [about 3 small]
    Serves 2

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    In a small bowl, mix the oil, agave nectar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the sweet potatoes and coconut. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until soft.

    Use coconut flakes if you can get them for more concentrated hit of tropical creaminess

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    Andrea said...

    I love the idea of thinking like an iron chef contestant when confronted with a CSA share. If I were one of the judges, you would have won! Our Wisconsin CSA always used to give us huge amounts of garlic scapes in the spring, and now I wish I had some. I'd make the rice paper packets we had in Thailand.

    Joann Lakes said...

    I really miss my CSA membership. Sadly I moved to the lower FL Keys and this is not an agricultural area. It's hard to plant anything in coral stone. I use to live on the west coast of FL and we had a great CSA that allowed its members to go directly to the farm and pick out your baskets. Way cool. The season in SW FL ran from Nov until the 1st of May.

    Joey said...

    Looks like you definitely turned your CSA challenge into some lovely dishes.

    GlutenFreeHappyTummy said...

    those island sweet potatoes look magnificent! yum!

    Carrie™ said...

    There are CSA's available around here, but because our work schedules are so erratic, I pretty much have to shop right before I'm going to cook or else things will sit in the fridge and go bad. It's so frustrating. I see your weekly bounty and am so envious!

    Kelly @ Vegan Iowan said...

    I LOVE our CSA membership - and I completely agree with you that developing recipes can become almost a sport! I just made a quinoa salad with mint, radishes and snow peas, and it was delicious. Who'd've thought?