Cooking Through Our CSA Box – Kitchen Experiments

Adam and I signed up for a CSA at one of our local farms for this summer, to get a half-share (i.e. a cardboard box full) of farm-fresh veggies and greens each week. There isn’t a single vegetable (that we know of) that we don’t both love, so we figured it was a great way to incorporate even more vegetables into our diet, and to support a local farm.

That being said, as I’ve heard is often the way with a CSA, we’ve gotten some veggies I’ve never cooked with or even eaten before. Always up for a challenge and loving an excuse to test out new recipes, I’ve faced the challenge head-on and with enthusiasm. I’ve also been excited to incorporate some veggies we ARE familiar with in new and exciting ways.

So I figured I’d share some successes with the interwebs, knowing that some other people may also think, “What on EARTH do I do with kohlrabi?!?”

 

Bok Choy

Cashew-Chicken3

I followed this recipe for cashew chicken with bok choy from Foodess to a tee, and it was sublime. We’re not eating a ton of rice on our wedding diet, so I served it over Rice Select Royal Blend instead, which is a super-tasty and healthful mix of brown rice, black lentils, flaxseed, and whole wheat pearl couscous.

 

Kohlrabi

kohlrabi-1

Inspired by a few recipes I saw using kohlrabi in a slaw, including this one from Martha Stewart and this one I found on Pinterest from Feasting at Home, I did my own take on a slaw. I used pretty much equal parts (eyeballed) of peeled and julienned kohlrabi, Golden Delicious apple, and cucumber, tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, fresh mint, and a pinch of salt. Let it sit for about five minutes before serving. Delicious! Have already made it twice since starting our CSA! (Also, the second time I made it we didn’t have cucumbers but were drowning in radishes, and those made a very different but equally tasty substitution!)

 

Beets

photo (5)

Until last week, neither Adam or I knew if we even liked beets. Now we LOVE them. Two weeks in a row I’ve simply roasted them inspired by an Ina Garten recipe I found using olive oil, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. I then tossed them with crumbled goat cheese, the first week eating them just like that, as a side. The second time I made beets I put the beets and goat cheese on top of some fresh lettuces we’d gotten from the farm, and topped it with a salmon cake from the fish guy at the grocery store for a hearty and healthy salad.

 

Dandelion Greens

I’m always up for trying new greens, and when in doubt, my go-to way to eat leafy greens is in a variation on my favorite pasta dish. I cook up quinoa pasta, lately spaghetti (regular old delicious pasta is also not on the wedding diet!), and while that’s cooking I saute some chicken sausage (sun-dried tomato and basil is my favorite) and a couple of veggies (pretty much any yummy combo can work – one of my favorites is asparagus and mushroom or bell pepper). When everything is cooked I toss it together with some reserved pasta water, feta, and baby spinach. The hot pasta and veggies wilt the spinach beautifully. I tried this method on some dandelion greens we got from the farm, but instead of wilting them in after having read online that they can be kind of woody, I sauteed them with the chicken sausage and veggies. So good!

 

Cabbage

d346e5f6-63e9-4f32-ac9c-e2d7620b2239

This was actually tonight’s experiment! I’d never really ventured beyond corned beef with cabbage, but after some internet searches decided to try some stuffed cabbage rolls. Again, Adam is trying not to eat rice, but I stumbled upon this recipe for “skinny” cabbage rolls with turkey and quinoa. The only tweak I would make is, being someone who always buys low-sodium stock, the recipe needed a pinch of salt. But that’s easily remedied! And it’s really, really good – Adam’s already asked me to make it again if we get more cabbage.

Stay tuned for more veggie experiments!

Wishful (Spring) Thinking

I’ve loved to cook for years.  I distinctly remember discovering that I liked being in a kitchen in my Home Economics class in Middle School.  I will forever be indebted to Mrs. Dobos for introducing me to scones and teaching me how to make pie.  But there were stretches of years where I lived alone and wasn’t dating anyone seriously, and let’s face it – cooking for one isn’t fun.  You either put tons of time and effort into producing very little food, or you end up eating the same thing for a week straight.  I love leftovers, but to a point.

Enter Adam.  Ever since we started dating last year, and especially since he moved in last September, I’ve been cooking almost every day. And I love it.  I love having the time to cook.  I love having someone to cook for.  I love trying new recipes.  I love that we both eat everything and that he’s open to any and every culinary experiment and adventure.

Last weekend we were both feeling a dash of spring fever, and wanted to spend our Sunday evening cooking a spring-like meal together, and so we decided to consult our resources – my bookshelf overflowing with beautiful cookbooks full of glossy images of mouthwatering food, and, predictably, Pinterest.  We quickly decided we wanted an appetizer and a pasta, both featuring green-tasting things, but nothing that would take over an hour to prepare.

The first thing we hit on was a recipe for Green Beans with Charred Onions, from Mario Batali’s Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking.

The photograph screamed seasonal deliciousness, and the recipe seemed simple but ultimately satisfying.  I then remembered a recipe I’d pinned recently for pasta tossed in a creamy avocado-spinach-basil pesto that just coats each noodle in green avocado goodness.  (I heart avocado.)  We thought we had a winning combo.

And we did.  Both dishes were super-simple to prepare, and both turned out amazingly flavorful and tasting of Spring.  Exactly what we were going for.

Green Beans with Charred Onions (adapted from Mario Batali, Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking)

Kosher salt
1 pound young green beans or haricots verts
2 medium sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (we thought this was too much onion – eyeball it to your liking)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt.  Add the beans and blanch until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water; drain well.

Halve the onions lengthwise and trim off the ends.  Cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide slices.

Heat a dry 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until very hot.  Add the onions and saute until charred in spots but still crunchy, 4 to 6 minutes.  During the last minute or so, add the beans, stirring and tossing to warm them through.  Transfer the beans and onions to a large bowl.

Whisk the balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and oil together in a small bowl.  Pour over the beans and onions, tossing to coat.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour, before serving.

Sprinkle the beans with sea salt and serve.

Creamy Avocado Pasta (adapted from Blissful Eats with Tina Jeffers)

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted
1/2 a lime
3 garlic cloves
1/2 a jalapeno pepper
handful of fresh basil
handful of baby spinach
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
handful to half a bag of baby spinach
basil leaves to garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still al dente, 9 -11 minutes.  Drain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.  Put the handful-to-half-bag of spinach in the bottom of a serving bowl, place the spaghetti on top, and toss for a few minutes to wilt the spinach.

While the pasta is cooking make the avocado sauce.  Scoop out the flesh from the avocado and place in a food processor.  Zest the lime and add along with the lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, basil, handful of spinach, salt and pepper.  Drizzle in oil and blend until smooth.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss everything together, adding a little cooking water to loosen the sauce as needed (I used about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup).  Top with the grated Parmesan and basil and serve.

You’re welcome!