Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

It is with mouth-watering anticipation that I greet you after this long and hard winter in a new series of Simply Fresh.“Simply Fresh” is a weekly newsletter for Holcomb Farm CSA members designed to inform, instruct, and inspire the healthful, flavorful, and efficient utilization of your CSA produce.It is written by Julie Wern, Holcomb CSA member and food enthusiast.The newsletter offers weekly tips and recipes on featured produce that include storage and preparation instructions, cooking ideas, and helpful tips.The newsletter also provides general advice and cooking suggestions based upon my own CSA, catering, and life experience.

This year we are pleased to offer the newsletter through a new blog, which will facilitate not only easier access to past newsletters and recipes, but will allow for a “search” capacity using key words (such as Kohlrabi). You can opt to receive the newsletter and other CSA communications by signing up for email updates on the blog

The blog format will also include a new opportunity for members to “share” recipes, tips, and information under the “comments” section.To do this, click on the icon at the end of the blog that reads, “comments” and it will bring you to a field that will allow you to publish your responses.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

In last year’s “Simply Fresh”, I shared information, cooking tips, and recipes for vegetables that may be new to you such as kohlrabi, harukei salad turnips, sunshine squash, delicata squash, and lacinato kale. I also featured many beloved favorites such as tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant, offering fresh ideas and recipes.Further, I compiled a resource list of books and websites that offer extensive information on and ideas for using your CSA produce.To access past newsletters or the resource list go to the CSA website (, click on “current news and crops”.You can then choose either “2010 newsletters”, or “Resources for Preparing, Cooking and Storing CSA Produce”.

As a new member to Holcomb Farm’s CSA last year, I had a steep learning curve.I discovered with absolute joy that I loved to participate in the pick-your-own produce offered at the farm. Further, as my family began to truly eat locally and with the seasons we found many of our beliefs about food and meals to be completely challenged.

However, I sadly regret to admit that this winter found me sliding back to old patterns.Instead of eating a wide variety of vegetables, we went back to our “tired four” (broccoli, green beans, frozen peas, and spinach).A food lover and fairly accomplished cook, I tended to put my creative efforts into the protein of the meal while the vegetables became just an afterthought, cooked quickly with a minimum of preparation and attention (usually, just thrown in a steamer).

It is very interesting to me that with all the variety of produce in the supermarkets over the winter, I found myself eating a narrow and less healthful diet.However, during last year’s CSA growing season, my family enjoyed a large array of vegetables in many different preparations, from simply prepared to elaborately gourmet, even though we technically had less vegetables to “choose” from.I wonder if any of you other members out there experienced a similar phenomenon this winter.

Alas, it is with great excitement that I begin my second season at Holcomb Farm.I am excited to recommit to a seasonal, varied, healthful, and fun exploration of the world of vegetables.But mostly, I am just excited to learn, as I suspect I still have much yet to discover through the farm.I invite you to join me in this exciting exploration, and to offer your insights, comments, suggestions and recipes along the way (again, you can do this through the “comments” section of the blog).

General Tips—Pantry Items

One thing I discovered last year is that the more varied and interesting my pantry (or staple) ingredients, the more varied and interesting my vegetable culinary adventures.Further, I found it a bummer to bring home such bountiful and gorgeous produce only to realize that in order to prepare it I needed to make yet another trip to the grocery store.Thus, as we begin a new season at the farm, I thought it might be helpful to suggest some pantry ingredients to have on hand throughout the season.My thinking is that having a full and varied pantry facilitates quick, creative, flavorful, and exciting use of the CSA bounty.

However, the pantry suggestions below are likely biased by my own preferences and ideas of what is healthful and flavorful eating.My family is not vegetarian or vegan, although we incorporate many guidelines into our diet that we believe promote overall health. Thus you will find a preference for things like whole grains, low fat dairy products and foods, and lean proteins.

My family also tends to like highly flavored foods with international touches, so my pantry list tends to have an international bent.Consequently it includes many of the kinds of ingredients that you will find in the recipes I offer in the newsletters.

Given all these issues, I encourage you not to consider this list a “must have” shopping guide but rather a jumping off point.The idea is to get you thinking about your own preferences and the kinds of pantry items that best suit your own family.And while you are at it, perhaps you might consider adding a few new items you haven’t used before and try some interesting new recipes from “Simply Fresh”.

In the interest of space, I have chosen not to include the more obvious staples such as flour, sugar etc..While some of the items listed below might seem obscure, they can be found in most supermarkets and, certainly, in stores like health or whole foods markets.

Condiments—condiments offer a quick and flavorful way to liven up otherwise simply prepared foods.There is a whole world of flavorful condiments outside of ketchup.

  • Hoisin Sauce, oyster sauce and/or black bean sauce
  • Chile-garlic sauce (sambal oelek)
  • Vietnamese fish sauce
  • Dijon mustard
  • Yellow (mild) miso paste
  • Pitted kalamata olives or oil cured olives
  • Green olives
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Capers
  • Anchovy paste

Oils/vinegars/wines—great for sautés, stir fries, braising, vinaigrettes, and finishing dishes

  • Good quality olive oil
  • Canola oil or other light flavored oil with a good smoke point
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sesame oil—keep in refrigerator to increase shelf life
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • White wine and red wine vinegars
  • Cider vinegar
  • White and red cooking wines
  • Sherry cooking wine
  • Mirin, Sake and/or Chinese rice wine (can usually sub with white or sherry wine)

Spices—think bbq rubs, roasting, and generally making everything more exciting

  • Cayenne
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Curry powder
  • Onion powder and/or salt
  • Garlic powder and/or salt
  • Chinese 5-spice powder
  • Paprika
  • Spanish smoked paprika
  • Chile flakes
  • Dried oregano, dill, thyme, rosemary, sage
  • Cumin, coriander, fennel, and poppy seeds
  • Kosher, Sea salt and/or fleur de sel
  • Fresh peppercorns in a peppermill

Produce—a necessary base for any good dish

  • Onions—refrigerate to increase shelf life and reduce “tearing” while cutting
  • Garlic
  • Shallots—refrigerate to increase shelf life
  • Fresh ginger—peel then store airtight in freezer for quick, easy grating at any time
  • Lemons and limes
  • Fresh oranges or prepared orange juice

Grains/pasta/beans—to serve with, alongside, or atop vegetables for added substance and interest.Many a vegetable dish can be made into a meal by simply adding these items.

  • Rice, udon, and/or soba noodles
  • Spaghetti, linguine and/or tubular pasta of choice
  • Whole wheat or regular cous cous
  • Brown rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Quinoa, barley and/or Bulgur
  • Canned black, cannellini and/or pinto beans (use dried when possible)
  • Canned garbanzo beans (use dried when possible)


  • Sesame seeds
  • Panko bread crumbs (regular or whole wheat)
  • Whole wheat or regular bread crumbs
  • Low sodium chicken, beef and/or vegetable broth (canned or home-made)
  • Unsalted butter
  • Tomato paste
  • Light or regular coconut milk
  • Peanut butter or preferred nut butters
  • Nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, & pistachios) (freeze to increase shelf life)
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Mayonnaise of choice (we use light)

Again, this is not a “must have” or even an exhaustive list.It is simply a springboard for thought and action.Hopefully, many of you will find it useful in some way.

Until Next Time…

I hope to see you all at the farm in the coming weeks.In next week’s edition of “Simply Fresh”, look for the first featured item of the season, Pac Choi.

If you wish to comment on this post, click on the word “comments” at the end of the post.

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