CSA Panic

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Melina Hammer for NYT

As it was perfect, I bogarted Julia Moskin’s article title, “Raw Panic” from this week’s NYT Dining section for my blog post. In fact her subtitle, “Overwhelmed by summer’s bounty” exactly captures the weekly anxiety I feel when picking up the recyclable bag chock-full of farm-fresh veggies that is my CSA share.*

Reflecting on how I now feel about my CSA (overwhelmed…bordering on irritated) versus how I felt with my first CSA experience last summer (inspired) I scanned some old posts to understand what had changed. And laughed when I saw I’d used the term ‘overwhelmed’ in a post last summer too, CSA Inspired Roasted Kale.

Maybe next summer I shouldn’t do a CSA share.

But for now, I have to figure out how to use all this fresh produce.  And Julia Moskin’s Raw Panic article was fantastic because I learned a few valuable tricks:

  • “Remove any ties or rubber bands on vegetable bunches; the closer they are packed, the faster they will rot.
  • Trim off the leafy tops of vegetables like carrots and beets, but leave an inch of stem on to prevent them from drying out.
  • Don’t store any vegetables in airtight plastic bags: poke holes in the bags if necessary to keep air circulating.
  • Greens should be washed before storing in lots of water (not running water; fill the sink, swish the greens and let the dirt float away to the bottom).
  • Soft herbs like basil, and soft produce like berries and mushrooms shouldn’t be washed until just before they are used; the water will speed deterioration.
  • Vegetables and fruit should be stored separately because the ethylene emitted by ripening fruit can damage vegetables.
  • Some produce will continue to ripen if left out on the counter: stone fruit (not cherries), melons, mangoes, apples, pears, avocados and tomatoes. But some will not: bell peppers, grapes, citrus fruit and berries only deteriorate.
  • Bananas not only will ripen quickly, but their presence will speed the ripening of nearby fruits, so check the bowl often.”

Besides these tips – many of which were new to me – Ms. Moskin’s article had another fab suggestion: if you roast the veggies right away they become instant, healthy ingredients you can easily use (like tossing with pasta).  Here’s how:

“At her school, Purple Kale Kitchenworks, Ms. Welsh counsels her students to cook vegetables the day they come into the kitchen, peeling and roasting them separately in plain olive oil and salt. “If you mix them together, you’ll have a great side dish for one day, but it won’t be so appealing the second day, and on the third day you’ll hate it.”  Set the oven to 375, use large half-sheet pans and fill the racks of your oven to capacity.

Already-cooked vegetables are the key to a refrigerator filled with usable, tamed ingredients that can immediately be turned into other dishes: pasta sauces, pizza toppings and composed salads, to name just a few. Raw, they are just slouching toward rot; cooked, they are tools you can use.”

She doesn’t explain but it’s simple to roast veggies: just wash, dry, cut into bite-size pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast about 30 minutes at 375-400, more or less. (See my recipe page for more info.) And yes, it’s a bummer to turn the oven on in the summer. But it’s a small price to pay for enabling easier, healthier meals…and avoiding using your fridge as a composter.

There were also recipes in the NYT article, and I was inspired enough to try the ‘Sauteed Corn, Greens, Bacon and Scallion,” recipe. Though very tasty, I do NOT recommend this recipe because in my humble opinion, it had the following flaws.

First, the recipe’s author, Katie Workman, totally lied: the recipe time said 20 minutes but in fact it was at least 1 HOUR with all the mise-en-place preparation.  If you like to chop veggies, go for it – this is a great recipe for you.  For me, not so much.

Second, the recipe calls for 4 strips of bacon (I used lo-co turkey bacon), “cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips.” This was lame – if you cut the bacon first, it’s a huge pain to turn while cooking.  Don’t do it – just put in the strips and crumble later.

The Final ResultLast and most important, though this recipe was tasty, in my opinion it involves FAR too much chopping/prep work for a dish not substantial enough to be a main. Or if you do use it as a main, make sure you  have bread or something.  We (my husband and I – our son did not try it) liked it, but a plate full of basically shredded, sauteed veggies did not deliver much (any) plate-appeal, as evidenced by my photo here.

So, if you have a lot of veggies from your CSA or garden or farmer’s market and like to chop, by all means try this recipe and serve it with some nice bread.  But if you’re like me and want a 20 minute quick dish, this is not your best bet recipe-wise.

* CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, aka a farm-share – you pay upfront to get fresh veggies all spring and summer from a local farm.

 

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