• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

    Hello fellow CSA members!  I will be writing periodically for the winter share this year.  I hope you find it useful and entertaining.  Please feel free to comment at the end of the post with any suggestions/feedback.  May you stay warm, healthy, and well fed this season!

    One week without my summer CSA share and my vegetable consumption spirals to almost zero.  So happy to pick up my first allotment of the winter share this Saturday.  Like you, I had no idea what to expect and am now seeking ways to use it all.  My first goal is to cook up the vast quantities of beet greens we received, as they don’t tend to keep for long.  My typical stand-by uses for beet greens are breakfast frittatas, sautéed beets and greens (see recipe below), and smoothies.  I’m not too worried yet about the radishes, turnips, carrots and cabbages as they tend to have a longer shelf life, but I am nevertheless including recipes for parsnips (see below) that also use potatoes, since we received both in this week’s distribution.  If you feel so inspired, won’t you share with us your favorite way of preparing beet greens, parsnips, or any other of the wonderful items we received this week?

    Looking for a different way to use turnips?  I saw an interesting recipe in Hartford Courant this past Thursday that I hope to try soon.  It is called Turn Up Tart.  Here is the link to the original publication (click here for recipe).  Need another recipe for parsnips and potatoes? Try my very own Winter CSA Irish Stout Stew recipe (see below).

    Featured Item—Shuko Pac Choi

    This week’s featured vegetable is a fun one for me. A few years back, I was one of those people that ran from anything that ended in choi. But I could not be a bigger fan of this special vegetable than I am now. Pac choi, also known as Bok Choy, is a part of the cabbage family. It is also known as Chinese cabbage, and amazingly, hails from the same vegetable species as the turnip. It has whitish green stalks protruding from a base and ending in delicate green leaves. The entire plant is edible, which is a good thing, because it is delicious, with a taste halfway between celery and cabbage, but much more delicate than that.

    This month we are fortunate to try a pac choi variety called Shuko Choi. It is a baby pac choi known for its mild mustardy yet sweet flavor. Baby pac choi is not simply an immature pac choi but is actually fully grown when harvested. Many find the baby choi to be more tender and sweet, yet irresistibly crisp compared to large choi varieties that can sometimes get tough stems.

    Pac choi can be enjoyed whole, or with leaves/stalks separated. To clean a whole pac choi, rinse under cold water, bending leaves back gently to expose center to water without breaking them from stem (which holds them together). If using pac choi in cut pieces, separate leaves from end and rinse well, then cut (or cut and place in salad spinner to rinse and then spin dry).

    Choose unblemished pac choi with firm stalks and crisp leaves. Avoid any that are slimy or limp. Pac choi is best stored, unwashed, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

    Younger or inner leaves of Pac Choi are more tender than outer or older (large) leaves. Thus the inner or younger leaves are wonderful raw, while the older or outer leaves may be best cooked.

    As a traditional Asian vegetable, pac choi stars in any stir-fry. It is also great in stir-fried rice dishes, which offer a more complete meal.

    However, there are many more ways than stir-fry to enjoy this special vegetable. Both the stalks and the leaves are great added to salads, as long as the pac choi is young or otherwise tender. In one cookbook, I found a recipe for a sliced pac choi and fruit salad (apples, grapes and mandarin oranges) with a poppy seed dressing…sounds like a great new way to try the vegetable

    Moving in to the cooked arena, both the stems and the leaves are wonderful added at the end of cooking in soups/stews. However, the stalks and leaves will require different cooking rates. You want to cook the stalks just until they are tender (usually a couple of minutes) and the leaves just until they are wilted, about 30 seconds, in simmering liquid. For baby choi, I don’t find it necessary to cook the stems and leaves separately as both tend to cook so quickly. See recipe below for a warming soup recipe that uses shuko choi.

    Try braising pac choi whole in your favorite broth, wine, or wine/broth combo. I recently braised whole pac choi in a simmering vegetable broth for 2 minutes, or until the stalks were crisp tender. The result was surprisingly delicious for such minimal preparation. You can also braise pac choi in sake and then reduce the resultant braising liquid to make a sauce. Braised pac choi is great alone or served alongside roasted fish or chicken. You can also steam whole or separated pac choi like you would any other vegetable, tossing it with your favorite vinaigrette or sauce afterwards.

    My favorite ways to cook pac choi are as simple and delicious as braising. One great method is roasting or broiling. If the pac choi is fairly young and small, you can do it whole. For larger choi you might want to consider halving or even quartering it. Brush or drizzle well with your preferred cooking oil and roast/broil just until the stalks are crisp tender (don’t get too close to the heat source as the leaves are quite tender and burn easily).

    Recently, I discovered the joy of grilled pac choi. It can be tricky to grill this vegetable, depending upon the idiosyncrasies of your grill. For our gas grill, which tends to run uneven and hot, I do the following: Wash and then pat dry whole young pac choi. Brush the stalks and leaves well with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill until hot. Turn down burners to low (or if your grill runs unusually hot, you may want to consider putting the back and front burners on low while the middle burner is turned off). Grill, turning frequently (like every 2 minutes), until the leaves are crisp and browned at the edges (but not black), and stalks are tender (about 10 minutes total).

    The grill gives pac choi an unmistakable and irresistible smoked flavor that is great on its own, and is even more awesome with grilled meats. I love finishing grilled pac choi with a sprinkle of Parmesan, or drizzling it lightly with toasted sesame oil and sprinkling it with sesame seeds (YUM!!!).

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    Thai Coconut Soup is one of my favorite cold weather meals, especially when I am feeling under the weather.  The technique is rather simple so I thought I would write this up as a formula rather than a recipe per se so you can decide just how much you would like to make, how spicy you want it, and how veggie driven you want the soup.  This soup is delicious even without the chicken.  However, I do not recommend leaving out the fish sauce, as it gives the finished soup that authentic taste that is quintessentially Thai.

    Build Your Own Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

    INGREDIENTS:

    – Homemade or purchased chicken or vegetable broth

    – grated fresh ginger

    – clove garlic, crushed

    – Thai red curry paste (like Thai Kitchen brand found in most supermarkets)

    – carrots, thinly sliced

    – Shiitake mushrooms, sliced

    – boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced

    – Shuko pac choi or other choi, stalks and leaves sliced

    -light or regular coconut milk

    – green onions, sliced

    – Asian fish sauce

    – freshly squeezed lime juice

    –shredded cabbage (optional) for garnish.

    METHOD:

    Heat broth to a simmer. Add ginger, garlic, and curry paste to taste. Start with 1 teaspoon of curry paste and add as needed (it is often quite spicy, depending upon the brand). Add carrots. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until carrots are almost tender. Add shiitake mushrooms and cook an additional 3-5 minutes until they are tender.

    Do not allow mixture to get to a rolling boil. While at a simmer, add chicken pieces and stir frequently until chicken is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add choi stalks and leaves as well as green onion. Cook for 3 minutes. Add coconut milk to taste (usually 1 can or less). Bring up to a simmer but be careful not to boil the soup. Turn off heat and add fish sauce (usually about 1-2 tablespoons) and lime juice (usually about 1/2 lime) to taste. Serve in bowls topped with shredded cabbage (optional).

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    Parsnip Potato Soup with Mushroom Pancetta Hash              Serves 4        

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped parsnips, about 4-5

    – 3 peeled medium potatoes, chopped

    – 5 cloves garlic, peeled

    – 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

    – 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided

    – 1 teaspoon salt, (if using salt free home-made broth)

    – 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

    – 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

    – 1/4 cup fat free or regular half and half, or more to thin soup

    Mushroom Hash

    – 2 teaspoons olive oil

    – 1 1/2 ounces Lean Pancetta, chopped into 1/4″ pieces

    – 8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, chopped into 1/4″ pieces

    – peeled parsnip , cored if necessary, cut into 1/4″ pieces

    – 2 cloves garlic

    – 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

    METHOD:

    1. In a medium pot, place potatoes, 1 1/2 cups chopped parsnips, and 5 garlic cloves. Pour enough broth to just cover vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth.
    2. Pour soup back into rinsed pot. Add vinegar and half and half and heat just until hot throughout. If soup is too thick, thin with broth or half and half. Also add salt if necessary.
    3. Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium size skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until it has rendered its fat and is crisp. If a lot of fat is left in the pan, spoon some out to keep the total to about 2 teaspoons. Add mushrooms, chopped parsnip, garlic, and 1 teaspoon thyme to pancetta. Saute on medium heat until parsnips are tender, the mushrooms have released their liquid, and the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.
    4. Ladle hot soup into shallow bowls. Add about 1/4 cup hash in middle of soup and serve.

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    Simple Sauteed Beets and Beet Greens                                       Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 bunch beets, plus 2 cups added greens of your choice (if desired)

    – 2 teaspoons olive oil

    – 2 cloves garlic, minced

    – 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

    – freshly ground black pepper

    – 1 tablespoons white wine

    – 1 tablespoons water

    METHOD:

    1. Separate beet roots from leaves. Peel beet roots and cut in half. Thinly slice each half into half moons.
    2. Wash beet greens well and cut away stems. Coarsely chop greens.
    3. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat (if using a regular pan, use more oil). Add sliced beets and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a couple of turns of black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beets are crisp tender and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for one minute. Add wine, water, greens, 1/4 teaspoon salt and few turns of black pepper. Mix thoroughly. Cover with lid and cook, stirring a couple of times, until greens are tender, about 5 minutes (if greens start sticking to the pan, add a tablespoon or more of water and recover).

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    This stew is a favorite of ours.  It is adapted from Martha Stewart.  I added in carrots and parsnips to maximize this months CSA distribution.

    Winter CSA Irish Stout Stew                               Serves 6

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 tablespoon Light olive oil or oil of choice
    – 1 large onion, chopped
    – 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
    – 3 cloves garlic, minced
    – 2 pounds beef or bison stew meat
    – 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    – 3 cups beef broth
    – 8 ounces Guiness beet
    – 4-5 large carrots, halved and sliced
    – 3 large parsnips, or 5 small (peeled and chopped into 1/2″ pieces)
    – 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
    – 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
    – 1 cup frozen peas , defrosted

    METHOD:

    Preheat oven to 350℉.

    Heat oil in a large heavy duty dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste darkens, about 1-2 minutes.

    Place stew meat in a resealable plastic baggie with flour and salt. Toss well. Turn out in to pan with veggies and tomato paste. Add broth and beer and stir well. Bring up to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add parsnips, potatoes, and rosemary and stir well to combine. Cover pot and place in oven. Bake, stirring at least every half hour until meat is very tender. Check frequently. If stew becomes too thick, add more broth. Cook time will vary by cut and size of meat, but count on at least 1 – 1/2 hours. Remove stew from oven and stir in peas. Serve.

    Preheat oven to 350℉.

    Heat oil in a large heavy duty dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste darkens, about 1-2 minutes.

    Place stew meat in a resealable plastic baggie with flour and salt. Toss well. Turn out in to pan with veggies and tomato paste. Add broth and beer and stir well. Bring up to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add parsnips, potatoes, and rosemary and stir well to combine. Cover pot and place in oven. Bake, stirring at least every half hour until meat is very tender. Check frequently. If stew becomes too thick, add more broth. Cook time will vary by cut and size of meat, but count on at least 1 – 1/2 hours. Remove stew from oven and stir in peas. Serve.

     

7 Responsesso far.

  1. Jill Ford says:

    My hubby made the most delicious dinner last night. He sauteed a variety of greens from Saturday’s vegetable haul (including kale, and other greens that I couldn’t identfy.) They were cooked along with some onion, garlic, and a touch of apple cider. We enjoyed a yummy organic burger atop these greens. BUT, the best part of the meal were all the root vegetables I roasted. We’ve not get enough inventory to eat fresh for the rest of this week. There’s a happy dance happening at our house. Thank you, farmers, for all your life-giving work.

  2. Dan says:

    Tomato paste is in the stew method, but not the ingredients. Quantity please? Here’s my guess: 2 Tablespoons. Also, I found it interesting you start the veggies first, then add the meat, while in many recipes I have followed, you brown the meat, pull it out, then use the fond for the veggies, deglaze, then return meat to the pot. Just curious if the results are different? It seems easier than the technique I describe. Thanks for sharing! -Dan

  3. Dan says:

    Whoops, garlic is missing, too…

  4. Julie says:

    Dan, thanks for pointing out these omissions. I corrected the original. To answer your question, you are right that this recipe changes up the order of things which is one reason I was attracted to it in the first place. It is much simpler. I’ve made it this way many times and it always works out well. Now, if you have the time and want to brown the meat, deglaze etc.., I’m sure you will coax even more flavor out of the stew. But I do find it plenty rich without those steps.

  5. Julie says:

    Jill, sounds like you enjoying some delicious CSA meals! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Karen Dzenko says:

    I used my beet greens for this “vegetable pie” recipe from Marc Bittman’s cookbook. I also used some onions that I had stored from our share, and used greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. Easy, and tasty. Kale, swiss chard, or even cabbage can be used as the featured green in this recipe.

    kale or chard pie

    Serves 4 to 6. From “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” by Mark Bittman.

    • 2 tbsp. butter, plus more as needed • About 8 large kale or chard leaves, thinly sliced • 1 medium onion, sliced • Salt and freshly ground black pepper • 1/4 c. chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, thyme, chervil and chives • 3 hard-cooked eggs and 3 uncooked eggs • 1 c. whole-milk yogurt or sour cream • 3 tbsp. mayonnaise • 1/2 tsp. baking powder • 1 1/4 c. flour

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the butter in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. A minute later, add the kale and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are quite tender, about 10 minutes; do not brown. Remove from the heat, add the herbs, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Shell and coarsely chop the 3 hard-cooked eggs. Add to the cooked kale mixture and let cool while you make the batter. Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and 3 uncooked eggs. Add the baking powder and flour and mix until smooth. Lightly butter a 9- by 12-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. [Yes, Bittman asks for this size, but a 9- by 13-inch would also work.] Spread half the batter over the bottom, then top with the kale filling; smear the remaining batter over the kale, using your fingers or a rubber spatula to make sure there are no gaps in what will form the pie’s top crust. Bake for 45 minutes; it will be shiny and golden brown. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into as many squares or rectangles as you like. Eat warm or at room temperature.

    Variation:

    Replace the kale with 1 medium head of Savoy or white cabbage and the mixed herbs with 2/3 cup snipped fresh dill.

  7. Julie Wern says:

    Karen, thanks so much for sharing your recipe! Sounds delish!