Thursday, May 28, 2009

CSA - Week 3

I get my box every two weeks - so there is no week 2 here. Straight from week 1 to week 3. And boy is it another great mix of veggies! Here's what we picked up today: A garden herb pack (NINE real herb plants that I can add to my garden!! What a treat!), Green Garlic, Green Onion, Parsnips, Sunchokes, Spinach, Salad Mix, Spring Radish, Pea Vine, Rhubarb, Asparagus, Hon Tsai Tai.

Hon-what? Yeah, that's what I thought too! I Googled this one and found next to nothing on it, but did find out it's an Asian green. So I asked my co-worker who is from China if he's cooked this vegetable before and had any tips. Turns out he had! Here's what he said:

"I really love eating this vegetable. It's only available in certain places in China, but it's very popular in my home town! You're very lucky by asking me...Oh, here is how we cook it: add oil and some chopped fresh garlic if you like, then stir fry with some salt, add a little vinegar at the end. Hope this helps."

He couldn't believe I was getting it here in Minnesota! Don't I feel lucky now?!!

I also want to share this FABULOUS guide posted in my CSA's newsletter last week. I think I'm gonna have to print this one and post it in the kitchen somewhere. It's chock full of good advice for us first time CSA subscribers! Enjoy!

How to Approach an Unfamiliar Vegetable for the First Time
(Courtesy of the Harmony Valley Farm May 21, 2009 Newsletter)
1.Try it raw. Cut a piece off and taste it. Face your fear head-on and give it a try. Most veggies are at least edible raw, and many are quite tasty. (If any of our veggies are toxic in their raw state, we promise to warn you first.) This will give you an idea of what it tastes like, what its properties are, what flavors will complement it, and what you may want to use it for. You should try your veggies each week, since the flavor and texture will change based on the weather and the plant’s maturity. The recipe that worked so well for green garlic in its first week might not work as well two weeks later, as the plant has had more time to grow and the leaves may be quite a bit tougher.

2.Is this like any vegetable you are used to? Most veggies can be sorted roughly into the following categories: a)Garlicy or oniony b)Firm and crisp c)Firm and starchy d)Leafy and tender e)Leafy and firm/tough f)Veggies not otherwise specified

3.Cook or prepare your new veggie the way you would prepare a similar veggie. If you find a veggie that reminds you of a carrot in flavor and texture, how about using it in a dish in place of a carrot to see how it turns out? In general, here’s some simple rules of preparation for our veggie categories:
a)Many variations of onion and garlic and their relatives will show up in your box throughout the season, some with slightly different flavors. They can all be used in place of plain old garlic cloves or onions in your usual recipes; simply adjust the quantity to your liking. Strength or flavor will vary from one plant to the next, and from week to week, so be sure you are aware of the potency of your onion or garlic before using it in a recipe.
b)Firm, crisp and pleasant raw: think carrots, radishes, etc. Slice or grate and add to sandwiches or salads.
c)Firm and starchy: think potatoes, sunchokes, winter squash, etc. Moisture and slow cooking times are needed to break down starches. Try boiling, steaming, or slow roasti ng with plenty of oil.
d)Leafy and tender: salads! Some of the more strongly flavored greens you may wish to mix with milder ones. It depends on your taste.
e)Leafy and firm or tough: kales, chards, etc. Usually, remove the center rib if it is very tough, cut into bite-size pieces and steam or sauté. I also like many of the tougher greens raw, but they must be cut very small or you will spend a lot of your day chewing them.
f)Veggies not otherwise specified: okay, not everything fits neatly into five categories.

4.Get adventurous. Try a new recipe, or add your new veggie to an existing recipe. Toss it into your spaghetti sauce. Add it to your chili or chicken soup. Most times that I have used this approach, I have not been disappointed. Many times, I have been delighted.

5.Use available resources. Our website has a great archive of recipes for most of our produce, as well as previous years’ newsletters and veggie info sheets that give cooking tips. You should also try to get your hands on at least one good cookbook geared towards seasonal eating. I find that when I search “conventional” recipe sources, I end up finding lots of recipes calling for foods that are not in season at the same time and I must make lots of substitutions and adjustments. (Substitutions and adjustments are okay!) I think that willingness to try something unfamiliar and make substitutions to work with what you have are key to enjoying your CSA experience.

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