Tuesday, February 4, 2014

CSA Weeks 1 through 11 (a/k/a "What Happened to the CSA Posts?")

This is now my third year doing a CSA with Little River Market Garden, and while the quality of the products keeps getting better and better, the frequency of my posting on them has precipitously declined. I managed only two posts all of last season, and here we are halfway through this season, and not a single report yet.

Part of the reason, honestly, is that in our home cooking we mostly sacrifice creativity for simplicity, if not expediency. And while a simple salad or some braised greens may make for good eating, I'm not convinced it makes for exciting reading. Still, it's one of the small highlights of every weekend to pick up my bag of vegetables from Farmer Muriel every Saturday. So here is a glimpse of what I've been doing with it.

Shaved kohlrabi and turnip salad. I think kohlrabi is a vastly underappreciated vegetable. It's got a satisfying snap to its texture and a flavor that reminds of broccoli, but sweeter and less farty. So I was excited to see kohlrabi at Muriel's stand this Saturday,[1] and then even more excited to see a recipe using it from Ignacio Mattos of New York's Estela in the latest edition of Bon Appétit. In fact, it's a dish I had at the restaurant just last month.

This winter salad combines thin-sliced root vegetables (the magazine recipe uses kohlrabi; when I had it at the restaurant, it was with turnip - I used both) and apples, dressed simply with lemon juice, zest, and vinegar, together with fresh mint, nuts (the recipe called for hazelnuts but I had none and used marcona almonds instead) and cheese (I subbed parmesan for the funkier fossa cheese Mattos uses). It's deceptively simple, pretty, and incredibly satisfying: the crunch of the root vegetables, the refreshing tartness of the apples and lemon, the umami from the cheese and nuts, a bright grace note of fresh mint.

Spicy beans and wilted greens. This recipe, with some adaptations, was from last month's Bon Appétit,[2] and brings a motherload of umami via anchovies and parmesan rinds cooked with the beans. We used every green we had in the fridge, which included kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens and kohlrabi greens. Some variation on this theme - greens, beans or a grain, and top it with an egg - is a regular dinner staple in our house.[3]

Backyard tomatoes with burrata, spring onions and arugula. OK, the only thing here that actually came from my weekly CSA share was the onion (and maybe the arugula) - but the tomatoes were from seedlings I bought from Little River at the start of the season. That still counts. I've got about a half-dozen tomato plants going, and the first to bear fruit were the Sungold (a small orange-hued cherry tomato packed with flavor) and the Indigo Rose (almost black-skinned with a bright red interior and a round, sweet flavor). I added one larger grocery store heirloom tomato to bulk this up some. The mint green goddess dressing was inspired by the one served at Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette's "Toro Pizzeria" dinner at Harry's Pizzeria last month.

(continued ...)

Carrots with carrot green pesto, mustard greens and purslane. I love these rainbow carrots, which I used a few different ways. Some were rubbed with spices and olive oil and roasted, others just thinly slivered, and the greens went into a pesto (with macadamia nuts, basil and manchego cheese, if memory serves). Some mustard greens, purslane, basil and slivered radishes, lightly dressed in olive oil, rounded out the plate, plus some pumpkin and sunflower seeds for some crunch.

Crostini with julienned watermelon radishes, radish green pesto, home-made ricotta and chervil. I can't recall if I used the Michael's Genuine Food ricotta recipe or the one from Ideas in Food's Maximum Flavor cookbook. The pesto was improvised with some combination of blanched radish greens, herbs, pine nuts, and olive oil. Aside from the gorgeous color, those watermelon radishes have a good peppery kick that was a nice contrast to the creamy ricotta.

Little River Market Garden
Saturdays 10am - 2pm at the:
Upper East Side Farmers Market
Biscayne Boulevard between 64th & 66th Street

[1] Muriel has started doing the Saturday pick-ups at the Upper East Side Farmers' Market on Biscayne Boulevard and 64th Street, and usually has several other items for sale in addition to the CSA shares, plus fresh eggs and bread from Zak the Baker. So even if you're not a CSA subscriber you can still get your veg on.

[2] It is not a coincidence that I have two Bon Appétit references here. I ignored this magazine for years, seeing it as a fuddy-duddy publication geared to Middle America housewives. But I recently got a subscription and have found it to be a great read, nice to look at, and a useful tool. This past month had pieces by a couple of my favorite food writers - Adam Sachs and Pete Meehan - a half-dozen recipes from Ignacio Mattos, and a bunch of other good stuff.

[3] Instead of "Put a Bird on It," the dinnertime motto in our house is usually "Put an Egg on It."

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