Throw it in the Soup (salad or stir fry) Ideas for simple cooking approaches to a CSA Box

 

by and for Stoney Acres Farm

 

Over the past 4 years we have received many phone calls, visits and emails where CSA members say something along the lines of “sometimes I just do not know what to do with this…” Kale, cooking greens, beets, green peppers, cabbage, summer and winter squash all top the list of confusing items.  We always try to offer quick tips when we explain what is “In Your Box”, and we choose recipes around some of the more obscure veggies. Nevertheless, while the boxes are always exciting, dealing with the quantity, novelty, and diversity of some CSA boxes can add a bit of anxiety to the general anxiety of figuring out the answer to ‘What’s for dinner?’. But, NEVER FEAR! We have an answer for you… throw it in the soup. If the kohlrabi or radish greens are starting to wilt throw them in the soup.  If you always eat your winter squash mashed, consider throwing them in a salad or grating them into a stir fry. Our simplest cooking tips are to find a few good references books or websites but more importantly to find a few good techniques for preparation. We think salads, stir fries and soups offer the greatest promise for integrating new ingredients in with veggies you know and love.

Reference Materials

We plan on a newsletter discussing cookbooks in the near future but some of the best resources we have found are –

{C}-          How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

{C}-          Asparagus Through Zucchini from MACSAC-available at Downtown Grocery and Janke’s books.

{C}-          Epicurious.com (this site compiles a collection of cooking magazines from the 1980s through present and offers a search feature where you can search by ingredient(s))

Soups

Mark Bittman has a some simple advice for soups. If you don’t want to make stock, water is a fine broth for soup. If you have another premade option in your freezer that is fine, but the broth is basically a flavored base, usually with salt. You can replicate this flavoring with wine, extra veggies herbs, soy or other sauces or pastes (curry paste for example) by mixing them with water. For soups, as with stir fries cut things to be about the same size (preferably smaller) which allows things to cook at the same rate.

If you are stuck with extra vegetables or leftover veggies try a “cream of something or other”.  Rinse leftovers with boiling water, combine with stock and seasonings, puree and reheat mixing in cream, milk or yogurt. An immersion blender is great for pureeing soup right in the pot. Later, in the rooty part of the season, we love an “everything and barley soup”.  Add rice for body, and dairy for a bisque. Finally, the following is from Mark Bittman: How to Improvise a Soup

{C}1.       Start with a little fat and a lot of flavor. Cooking one or two aromatic vegetables, like garlic, ginger, onions or shallots, in a little olive oil or butter takes only a few minutes and gives a soup backbone.

{C}2.       Add Seasonings. Simple: salt,  pepper, bay leaf or as complex as spice blends or citrus zests. Add them at the end for the most impact and fragrance.

{C}3.       Stir in liquid. Stock, water, juice, wine, beer or whatever you think is a good compliment.

{C}4.       Add main ingredients from longest cooking time to shortest. Think carrots, mushrooms, then bok choy

{C}5.       Taste as you go along. Rethink your ingredients and adjust seasonings. Its only soup.  

Salads

In approximately ¾ of your boxes this season you will receive some sort of salad green. It’s simple enough to toss on some vinaigrette and munch away, but many other items from the box can be added to enhance your salad in all sorts of interesting ways. Add sliced tomatoes, raw or roasted peppers, chopped shallot, onion, scallion, leek or garlic, fruits or berries, or any chopped vegetable. Don’t be afraid to use or mix in more intensely flavored greens like arugula or radicchio. And cheese or crumbled bacon are old tricks.

Chef and writer Deborah Madison introduced us to the idea of a platter salad which we returned to several times last year. The basic gist is that one can take a diverse set of vegetables, steam or roast some of them, leave other raw, add a protein and/or carbohydrate and a simple dressing and … you have a meal. Tofu, lean cooked meats or seafood, eggs and cheese all offer good options for protein. Quinoa, bulgur wheat, rice, and noodles offer good options for carbs.

Black beans, brown rice, chopped raw radishes, grated baby turnips and carrots, steamed radish greens, feta cheese,  with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch or two of cumin is a salad we made this past week.

More elaborate salads with fresh greens serving as a bed for fresh beans, eggs, cherry tomatoes, roasted green peppers and zucchini with an Italian dressing or vinaigrette are one of our favorites for later in the summer.

Finally, if you dare to go down the rabbit hole, read one of my favorite food columns. Mark Bittman’s “101 Simple Salads for the Season”  These are fun, mostly easy and look beautiful.

Stir fry

Get your rice or other base going first, then cut up all the veggies — carrots, green beans, onions, broccoli and whatever else looks stir-friable in your produce box — which is usually almost everything. Again, the smaller you cut them the faster they will cook.

When you’ve finished your prep heat a large skillet over medium/high heat. Start with the oil, if you want  meat or tofu cut it thin and throw it in to the hot oil until it begins to brown.

Stir and cook for a minute and remove from pan. If it is just veggies, start with your alium (scallions, onion, garlic etc.). Give it about 15 seconds while kicking it around. Then add your other veggies denser to lighter (think carrot, beans, bok choy). Cook stirring frequently until the veggies are tender (apx. 7 min.)  If the combination looks dry add some stock. Finish with your soy sauce and sesame oil or any other stir fry sauce you might like. Remember , this isn’t rocket science, throw some veggies together, improvise and have fun!