Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

End of Season Thoughts

If I had to guess, I would say this CSA season has challenged and changed you as a cook.  Every year there are twists and turns, gluts and shortages, and produce that is unfamiliar, which forces us CSA members to stretch our imaginations and skills as home chefs.  We have lots of successes, the inevitable misses, and learn so much along the way.

I personally have significantly changed as a chef through these four years as a CSA member.  In the past, I tended to be very dependent upon existing recipes, which were often complicated and required several extra items from the grocery store.  Part of the reason for this was that I did not fully trust my skills in the kitchen.  Particularly, I didn’t think I could be creative enough to make delicious and appealing meals my family would eat.

However as I experienced the particular challenges of CSA cooking, the first thing I started to do was to search for recipes using combinations of items found in a given week’s distribution. Later, as the years progressed, I realized that rarely do these same produce combinations come up again in subsequent distribution weeks. I needed to learn to be even more flexible.

Today I rarely look for recipes (even my own) when I get my produce home each week.  Instead, I work my meals around the items in the particular week’s distribution, relying on my basic knowledge of braising, steaming, roasting, sauteéing, grilling, etc., as well as what I have learned about the various produce items from the farm.

What I have discovered this year is that I really do love simply prepared food made mostly on the fly.  Further, looking back on my Simply Fresh recipes this year, I notice they are more often original and simply prepared than in years past.  I’m quite grateful to the farm for this as I feel it has ultimately made me a better cook.  I know I can always go back to recipes, for the pure pleasure it brings me, but it is nice to know I don’t have too.

I look forward to what more there is to learn from Holcomb Farm in the years to come.  I hope you feel the same.

Featured Item–Cooking Greens

I understand that we will be receiving a good amount of cooking greens this last week in the share (like kale, spinach, collards and arugula).  While this is great news, it also can be tricky because these greens tend to be the first things that spoil.  Therefore, it helps to have several ideas on hand of how to use them.

One idea is to have a “greens” day either on pick up day or shortly thereafter. For “Greens Day” I either have a meal planned around greens with a specific preparation in mind, or I blanch them to stretch out their use for 3 or 4 more days.  I wash, gather, and cut all cooking greens and/or leafy green tops of other vegetables, mixing them together if I only have small amounts of each (keep tender greens separate from hardier greens, however).

To blanch greens, boil salted water.  Add greens and cook just until wilted and tender, 30 seconds for tender greens like Swiss chard, or 3-5 minutes for kale or other tougher greens.  Place in ice water bath to stop cooking and to keep bright green color.  Drain well and refrigerate, or portion and freeze.

Blanched greens are great to have on hand to add to omelets, egg salad, stuffings (for squash or meat), pastas, casseroles, soups and stews, or to toss with vinaigrette and serve over some kind of noodle or grain.

Of course, if there are several of you in the family, use the opportunity to make a nice big batch of sautéed greens with a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. While this is my ultimate favorite way to eat greens, I often don’t have enough of them to feed everyone.  When I do it is a real treat.  Adding a bit of water or broth to the greens as they cook helps keep them from drying out and sticking to the pan.  Also, don’t be afraid to mix different kinds of greens in the same pan, just make sure to add hardier greens first (collards, cauliflower greens, Brussels sprout greens, kale etc…) and more tender greens last (spinach, chard, radish tops, turnip leaves, mustard greens, etc…).  If you want a little more pizzaz then just salt and pepper, try adding in other flavors such as lemon juice, red pepper flakes, wine, or spices.  See below for a tasty and easy Asian Greens Recipe.

Greens are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, so don’t let them spoil in your refrigerator….use them up quickly.

*********************************************************************

An Asian style saute is a great way to use up all the edible greens in the distribution, like Swiss chard, spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, and turnip and radish tops.  This is great as a side dish, or served over hot soba noodles.  I personally like to mix hearty greens with hearty greens, tender greens with other tender greens, but the ultimate mix is up to you.

Asian Style Mixed Greens                                                                              Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 8 cups chopped mixed greens, trimmed of tough stems

– 1 tablespoon peanut or oil of choice

-2 tablespoons water

– 1 tablespoon grated ginger

– 2 tablespoons  very finely minced green garlic  or 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari

– 1 tablespoon white wine

– 2 teaspoons white sugar

– 2 teaspoons sesame oil

METHOD:

Mix soy sauce, wine, sugar, and sesame oil in a small bowl.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a heavy 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and ginger and saute 2 minutes.  Add greens and water.  Cover with lid and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until greens are just tender.  Add small amounts of water if greens start to stick.  Remove lid, cook off any excess water, and then add soy mixture.  Cook for 2 minutes to allow liquid to evaporate slightly.

Notes: Tough stems will take longer to cook then the tender greens.  If you wish to use the tougher stalks of the greens, chop and sauté them first before adding in the leaves.

*********************************************************************

For some reason, the idea for this chili came to me when I got my first few green tomatoes of the season last week from the farm.  The green tomatoes give this white chili a nice acidity and tasty component, even though the tomatoes melt into the dish and practically seem to disappear.

Pork Chili with Green Tomatoes and Hominy                                    Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 Boneless pork loin roast, from sirloin end, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

– 4 teaspoons canola oil

– 2 small  onion, chopped

– 2 medium jalapeno, seeded and chopped

– 2 cups chopped carrots

– 4 cloves garlic, minced

– 2 teaspoons ground cumin

– 1 teaspoon ground coriander

– 2 teaspoons fresh minced oregano

– 1 4 ounce can mild green chiles

– 3 medium or large green tomatoes, chopped

– home-made or purchased chicken broth

– 1 28 ounce can white hominy, rinsed and drained

– 2 tablespoons fresh minced cilantro, for garnish

– shredded cabbage, for garnish

METHOD:

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add pork in batches and brown well, adding 1/2 teaspoon more oil with each batch and transferring browned pork to a bowl when finished.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add onion, jalapeño, carrots, garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent.  Add green chills and green tomatoes.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Add pork and enough broth to just cover pork and vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until pork is very tender.  Add hominy and cook for 10 minutes, or longer if you wish to cook off some liquid.  Stir in cilantro.  Serve in shallow bowls garnished with shredded cabbage.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *