CSA Vegetables, Recovery & a Delicious Slaw

With my gorgeous winter share from 47th Ave Farm. Photo credit Shawn Linehan Photography

Enjoy and love your vegetables! We’re told to eat our vegetables, all the time. We tell our children to eat their vegetables. But I think we sometimes forget the sheer pleasure and goodness of in-season vegetables, year-round. And yes, good health, is a big bonus!

 

It has been a tough winter for bugs of all sorts. Most everyone I know has battled several rounds of colds, flus, and other unpleasantries. Our little family of three has been practically unscathed. It has also been a big winter for vegetables. I’ve had the pleasure (and responsibility:) of two, full Winter CSA Shares (I’m guessing that’s 20lbs/week). I don’t have any proof that it’s all the black Spanish radishes, daikon, celeriac, leeks, turnips, kale, collards, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squashes of all shapes and sizes, and loads of onions, carrots and garlic, but I’d put money on my remarkable health and vitality these days having something to do with this pleasure and plethora of vegetables.

 

I’m just over a year out from a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy that laid waste to my immune system. However, when these gorgeous, nutrient dense, vegetables show up every week and the sheer volume allows you to eat as many vegetables as you possibly can, my immune system seemed to rebuild with gusto. I know I am very fortunate to have access to this bounty and everyone should be so lucky!

 

Most of us will hopefully not experience a health crisis of these proportions but we are all susceptible to stress and illness at every turn and what we choose and have access to eat, will make an impact. CSAs are one way of insuring a regular supply of truly seasonal produce. There’s something about this regularity that slowly builds habits that sustain and nourish not only our bodies but a better understanding of our communities, our soil, the people who cultivate it and share the fruits of their labor with us. I have never been more in love with the CSA model and more convinced that it is an antidote to so much of what ails us.

 

There’s still plenty of time to subscribe to a CSA and you’ll get access to all the recipes I’ve developed cooking my way through CSA shares for more than a decade in the form of the Seasonal Recipe Collection if you subscribe to one of these farms! But no matter what farm, just give it a shot, especially if you don’t travel much. Being home to enjoy all the bounty is one of the keys to CSA success.

 

Happy spring!

 

47th Ave Farm  — Minto Island Growers — Love Farm Organics — Full Cellar Farm — Mud Creek Farm  — Laughing Crow Organics — Hill Family Farm — Farmer Joe’s Gardens — Olsen Communities CSA — Cully Neighborhood Farm — Full Plate Farm — Coyote Family Farm — Abundant Field Farm — Sweetland Farm — Backyard Gardens — Legacy Acres Farm — Tanager Farm — In Good Heart Farm — Sweet Digz Farm — Lewis Educational Agricultural Center (L.E.A.F) 

 

Radish & Carrot Slaw w/ Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This is gorgeous, bright, tart and crunchy from the seeds. It’s delicious as a salad as well as on toast with hummus or avocado or cheese or egg, in some form. It will enliven most anything, really.

 

Serves 4

 

2 medium carrots, grated on large holes of a box grater
1 1/2 – 2 cups grated radish, of most any kind: Watermelon, Black Spanish, Ostergruss or common little red ones
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley or a combination
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
1/2 serrano chile (optional), minced or a few pinches red pepper flakes
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (toast in a 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes until turning golden and a bit puffed or in a dry skillet over medium-low heat)
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning with more vinegar, salt, pepper to suit your taste. Enjoy fairly soon if you want to enjoy the full crunch!

Frittata

It’s like a pizza but eggy! That’s how my five-year-old (as of yesterday five-year-old!) said to his teacher this morning when asked what his favorite food at his birthday party had been. I beg to differ on the likeness to pizza but it is one of my favorite dishes. I teach it regularly in vastly different incarnations but have never written about it here.

Frittata with kale, chili flakes and nutmeg

It’s a bit like pizza in that you can adapt it endlessly and it hails from the same country but that’s about it. There’s no yeast dough to make and let rise and there’s no floury mess to clean up. Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza but don’t find myself making it when I have a hungry crowd to feed and only 20 minutes in which to prepare something.

A frittata can be as simple as the one in one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies — Big Night — as in just egg and salt. The eggs are lightly beaten, seasoned and then cooked in a skillet until firm. When I experienced them being in made in Italy they were usually flipped part way through, usually with the assistance of a little crust of bread that served as the heat absorbing extension of your hand when managing the flipping maneuver.  I’ve long since adopted the finishing-in-the-broiler method instead of flipping but if you’re lacking excitement in your cooking routines by all means, flip away! As a matter of fact my broiler quit working in class once a long time ago and I found myself needing to flip a 12-egg frittata in a huge cast iron skillet so if you’re lacking a broiler, you’ll get your practice in any case.

This weekend I made two frittate for my son’s birthday party: one with finely chopped, kale, onion, chili flakes and a bit of nutmeg and one with diced potatoes, sausage and fresh oregano. They really are the easiest, most portable and nourishing item to make for a party. They are delicious at room temperature and you don’t need a fork or even a plate. With the addition of meat and potatoes they are even heartier and they are the perfect foil for bits and pieces of vegetables that may be in the bottom of your crisper. Some of my favorites include lots of herbs either alone or in combination–parsley, basil, chives, thyme, tarragon, etc. And this time of year the hearty, leafy greens or leeks (with thyme and goat cheese) are my standby’s.

The birthday party frittate from this weekend: kale, chili flake and nutmeg, and sausage and potato.

Leftover wedges of a frittata make a wonderful sandwich filling paired with a little arugula, a few slices of onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. If you have leftover spaghetti or other pasta (sauced or unsauced) you can chop it up a bit and saute it briefly in a skillet and pour the egg over the pasta for a perfect second incarnation. So you get the point, if you have little time and a few eggs on hand, dinner is just a matter of minutes away.

Frittata with Greens

This is one of my quickest, go-to dinners for a busy day. The options are literally infinite as to what to include. In this version you can use a lot of greens and just have the egg hold it all together or you can use less greenery and have it be more eggy—it’s really up to your taste. This is wonderful the next day in sandwiches or as a snack. It’s just as good at room temperature as it is hot.

1 bunch greens (chard, kale, collards, etc.)
1 -2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 eggs (or whatever you have on hand or want to use)
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (or to taste)
1-2 ounces grated hard cheese or your choice or feta or goat cheese (optional)
Salt, pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or well-seasoned cast iron pan. Rinse the greens and remove any tough stems. If you’re using chard, remove the stem and chop finely and sauté for a few minutes before you add the greens. Cut the greens into thin ribbons (easier to handle that way and cook down more quickly). Add greens and a few pinches of salt to the pan and sauté over med-high heat until they’re tender. You may need to add a splash of water to keep them from burning and sticking. And the length of time will depend on the kind and variety of green. Most cook in about 10 minutes or less. Set your oven to broil.

Lightly whisk the eggs until they’re just broken up—no need to get them frothy or really well mixed. Add a few generous pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper, the chili flakes, and the nutmeg (if using). Pour eggs over the greens and tilt the pan to evenly distribute the eggs. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the eggs, if using. Cover and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. When the eggs begin to set and the sides are getting firm take the pan off the heat and set under the broiler until the eggs are cooked and slightly puffed and golden. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting and serving. It will come out of the pan much more easily that way. Serve with a slice of bread and salad. Variations: Add bacon, sausage, leftover pasta, most any other veggie (sautéed leeks or onions, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, spinach, diced carrot, zucchini . . .)

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. I’ve posted some new classes, including another Eat Better Series later in the spring, a class on everyday savory and sweet baking, one on techniques and tricks and more!

Winter greens become pesto

I have been making this version of pesto for  a year or more now and I’ve been teaching it  in my winter cooking classes and it’s usually a favorite. I originally started making it because my then, 2 year-old loved basil pesto but once basil was out of season and he had become a pickier eater I started making this version with greens of all kinds (beet greens, chard, spinach, etc.) I made it this past weekend for my son’s birthday party. I mixed it with some fresh goat cheese and spread it on toasted bread. People were eating it by the spoonful out of the bowl in the kitchen before I could even get it on the bread.

And then when I went to the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market on Sunday, the greens were back!  The hard freeze we had in early/mid December really did in the leafy greens this winter. The last few weeks, however, have been so mild that the greens are showing up in the market again.

I loaded up on collards, lacinato and Red Russian kale, rapini, bok choy and spinach. And all were beautiful! So if you have greens in your fridge, by all means try this recipe. Use whatever nuts you have on hand. Walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts or all delicious in this and if you have pine nuts, by all means use them.

And if you’re going to mix it with goat cheese like I did you can skip the hard cheese in the pesto and reduce the oil. Buon Appetito!

This is a very adaptable recipe. I use the pesto as a sandwich spread (and on grilled cheese sandwiches), on quesadillas, as a dressing for pasta or for rice salads. You could spread it on fish or meat before grilling or baking. You can mix it with goat cheese for a lovely little crostini. You can thin it down with a little water or more oil for a salad dressing for hearty green salads for roasted vegetables.

The quantity of ingredients can be adapted to your taste and what you have on hand. This pesto keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days and freezes well so feel free to make a bigger batch if you have everything on hand.

2 medium-sized bunches of greens (chard, kale, beet greens, spinach etc.)

1-2 cloves garlic

1- handfuls of hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pine nuts

2 oz of hard, aged cheese such as parmesan or Asiago stella

¼ – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt, pepper

Wash and stem greens (if stems are tough). If using beet greens or spinach keep the stems. Bring a large pat of salted water to a boil. Add greens and cook for a 2- 3 minutes. Drain, let cool and squeeze out all the water with your hands. Place cheese and nuts in food processor and process until finely chopped, add greens and garlic and salt & pepper, process until well integrated. Drizzle in the oil and periodically check for consistency and flavor. Do not over process. If not using immediately store in a sealable container in the fridge with a little more olive oil poured over the top.