Saturday, November 22, 2008

CSA year 2, week 1

Just as CSAs most everywhere else in North America are winding down, Miami's are starting up again. This is my second year subscribing and I'm looking forward to the challenge of finding interesting and tasty ways to use the weekly vegetable onslaught.

According to the e-mail Bee Heaven farm sent out a few days ago, they and the five other South Florida farms participating (six contributed to this first week's share. There may be more; I haven't checked.), are distributing 450 shares. If the other drop-off spots have roughly equal full- and half-shares like mine did, that's more like 675 subscribers.

Most likely that includes a great many first-timers as, judging from all of the complaining I've seen on-line, every year includes a lot of last-timers too. There are a lot of vegetables to use each week and it is difficult to find an appealing way to use zucchini the fifth week in a row, but, maybe I'm weird, but I find that part of the appeal. I'm forced out of my culinary ruts and into exploring new techniques and cuisines. But then cooking's my primary hobby; I could see someone who just wants some decent vegetables with dinner feeling differently.

I hope my blog is of some use to those folks. I blogged my way through last year's subscription and plan to do so again. I've built up a catalog of recipes to try with these fruits and vegetables you've never seen before and plenty of examples of failure to warn you what to avoid. I'd quite like to get more feedback on what you're doing with your shares this year--maybe even some guest posts if you've got something particularly interesting to share and don't feel like starting up your own blog to do it. I'd be particularly interested in hearing from people who grill or bake desserts. I don't do either and I think I'm probably missing out on. This CSA seemed short on the community part last year and it would be nice if we could do some more this time around.

Well, that's enough preamble. Let's see what I got in my half-share and my first thoughts on what I might do with them.

Starting from the lower left in my tableau of greenery, there's mizuna. I had some trouble with mizuna last year and I can definitely tell you that stir frying in not the way to go as they wilt right away and you end up with a bowl full of stems. I think mizuna is in the borderland between greens and herbs where parsley and scallions live so I'm going to try using it the same way as a substantial aromatic in salad or stuffed in a fish or a last minute addition to a stew or the like.

Behind that is a head of lettuce of some sort--honestly, I can't tell the difference. This year I'm making an effort to wash and prepare my lettuce right away. My interest in eating it so low that I need to make my barriers at mealtime as low as possible. I've also been gathering recipes for cooking slightly wilted lettuce and I want to keep exploring varieties of lettuce soup which is much better than it sounds. The best method for preparing lettuce is to fill your largest bowl with cold water, tear the lettuce into serving-sized pieces and drop them in. Stir and toss for a little while and then wait was the turbulence calms and the sand settles to the bottom. Carefully remove the lettuce, let it drain a bit and then spin it dry. Store in plastic bags with all of the air pressed or sucked out, ideally layered in paper towels and at least with a sheet or two tossed in.

Next is the lemongrass. Rather too much of it, really, as most recipes call for only one stalk. It does store pretty well just tossed in the back of the refrigerator, though, so I don't have to cook Thai all week. Cooking Thai is no hardship, though, as it's generally not too hard and gives very tasty results.

The dill and the Kirby cucumbers are an obvious pairing and I'm not going to fight it. There are few other ways to use substantial amounts of dill, anyway. It's nice to see the Kirbys as we didn't get any cukes suitable for pickling last year (at least none clearly labeled as such) and my experiments in that direction did not end well. My preferred recipe is Emeril's garlic dills--probably the only Emeril recipe I like.

The Monroe avocado is too watery for most California cuisine applications that assume you're using more intensely-flavored Hasses. I want to find more Caribbean ways to use them this time around, but for this first one I'll probably just make guacamole.

The turnips and greens I separated right away--the greens going into the fridge, the turnips into the pantry. If I didn't, one would wilt to keep the other fresh, which one doing which depending on how I stored them. The turnip tops are lovely in a simple pasta sauce that I haven't made in a while or just sautéed as a side dish or base for presenting a chunk of some protein. The turnips themselves are best roasted. Or it's about time for me to make another batch of chicken stock; I might use them in that.

The baby (actually more like adolescent from the looks of it) bok choy is good either stir fried or steamed. I've got a good bit of leftover rice accumulated so it'll probably go into a fried rice.

Finally, the green beans. Plenty of choices there. I've been curious about those Midwestern-style casseroles that use them. I've never had one of those so maybe I'll try it; it is seasonally appropriate after all.

We get to ease into things this year with two weeks to use this first share. Things will be getting a bit more intense later on, particularly as we don't get any optional weeks off this go around. But for now I'm ready to get started. Keep tuned to see what I actually end up cooking. I'll only give individual posts for new and interesting recipes and maybe I'll do an end of week wrap-up. I'm not sure about that yet. And again, please let me know any ideas you've got; I could use the help, too.


kat said...

I agree with you figuring out how to use everything is part of the fun. We have 4 deliveries left for the year (which is a lot but we went extended season). I'll certainly miss it until May

Anonymous said...

If you like Thai cooking try this site
It's got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along.

Shmalzy said...

Looking forward to tuning in for your CSA recipes the rest of the season ( I have a full share subscription from Redlands) - you've got some delicious ideas!