The Hungry Engineer

CSA Box Number 1

14 Jan 2010

We’ve decided to try a CSA membership for a while to see if it helps us eat more fruits and vegetables. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a system whereby individuals pre-pay for a share of a given farm’s bounty. The farm has a bumper crop, the CSA members get extra large shares. The farm suffers an unexpected hard freeze, members wind up with less. Through Johnson’s Backyard Garden (who is currently accepting new CSA members, by the way), we’ve opted for an every-other week ration of vegetables. The following is sort of a note-to-self on what produce we’ve received, what recipes we prepared (or preservation methods we employed), and what we didn’t manage to use in time.

Box Contents:green garlic

1 ½ lb new potatoes
small roma tomato
small sack of hot chiles
a couple sweet peppers
two 6-oz bunches of greens (wasn’t sure what these were – maybe broccoli rabe that just hadn’t formed beyond greens – not sure)
small head cauliflower
small head broccoli
2 small heads of lettuce – one oak leaf, one butterhead, I think
small bunch green garlic
big bunch of fresh dill
about a pound of baby carrots (weighed after bushy green tops were removed)

I used some of the new potatoes and baby carrots to form a roasting bed for a bone-in turkey breast I had dry-brined and roasted. The potatoes were halved and the carrots were stemmed and thoroughly washed but not peeled.

I diced up the sweet peppers and tomato and threw in with one morning’s chorizo and eggs. They added a bit of fruitiness to an otherwise fairly heavy dish.

The rest of the new potatoes, I halved and tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted. When they had just come out of the oven, I tossed them with some of the dill, freshly chopped, and a bit of butter.

I used some of the dill to make dill pickles. I bought a handful of pickling cucumbers and quartered them lengthwise so they’d make nice spears. Then I heated a cup and a half of water, a cup and a half of white vinegar and three tablespoons of kosher salt to boiling. In each of two pint jars, I placed a wad of dill, a half-clove of garlic, and about a half teaspoon of pickling spice. Then I split the cucumber spears between the jars and topped with more dill. I filled them nearly to the brim with the boiling vinegar mixture, closed them up, and refrigerated them. After 24 hours, they can be eaten. (Note: if you’re going to store pickles longterm, proper sterilization and canning procedures should be followed.)

The two heads of lettuce made one very nice midday salad for the two of us.

With the two bunches of greens, I use a tried and true favorite – braised greens with chickpeas. It made enough for us to have the greens as a side vegetable twice.

I prepared the broccoli in my standard way. I cut the head of broccoli into florets, and then tossed the florets in olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper, and either a bit of chopped garlic or garlic powder. The florets were laid in a single layer in a metal baking pan and baked at 425-degrees (F) till the broccoli was tender and just browning a bit at the edges.

The cauliflower preparation wound up being a bastardization of an old Gourmet recipe. I cut the cauliflower into florets and tossed them with some olive oil and salt. Then they were roasted at 450 degrees (F) till they were crisp-tender and just beginning to brown. While they roasted, I whisked together two tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice (though you should start with a half tablespoon and add more to taste), ½ tablespoon capers, and a dash or two each of salt and pepper, all of this in a bowl large enough to hold the cauliflower. When the cauliflower came out of the oven, I immediately tossed it with the lemon-caper vinaigrette.

The green garlic was added to a recipe I make all the time for southern style shrimp. I added my entire bunch of green garlic instead of the regular garlic the recipe calls for.

I dried the chiles, which appeared to mostly be serranos, in the oven and the ground them into a powder. Have you oven-dried chiles before? It’s very easy (though time consuming). I placed a small cooling rack on a cookie sheet. After thoroughly washing and drying the chiles, I stemmed them and sliced them in half lengthwise. Then I laid them out on the cooling rack and moved the whole rig to the oven. My oven’s lowest setting is 170-degrees (F), and what I’d read seemed to indicate the chiles should be dried at a cooler temperature (140-150), so I propped the oven door slightly open with a fat oven mitt. My chiles were fairly tiny, so it only took maybe 4-5 hours for them to dry crisp. After they cooled, I chucked them into an old Krups electric coffee grinder and reduced them to powdery goodness which I plan to use like any other chile pepper I keep around the house.

Last but not least, I had the remainder of the baby carrots to prepare (I had about three quarters of a pound left). Yet again, I looked to an old Gourmet recipe for guidance (though I’m sorry to tell you, I’ve not been able to find it on or I trimmed the stems and curly tails from the carrots and split any that were larger than about a half inch in diameter in half lengthwise. I heated a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat till it shimmered and then laid the carrots out, cut sides down (when relevant). I pressed down on the carrots to maintain good contact between the cut surfaces and the pan and let them cook like this till they started to caramelize. Once they were sufficiently cooked on the first side, I added a chopped clove of garlic and about a half teaspoon of dried thyme as well as a bit of salt and pepper and stirred the mixture to distribute. Then I dumped in about a half cup of chicken broth and snapped a lid on the pan. After about a minute of hissing and steaming, I reduced the heat to medium and let the carrots cook for a few minutes. When they were soft enough, I removed the lid and cooked away the rest of the liquid, tossed them with maybe a tablespoon of butter and served. My husband, who dislikes cooked carrots, pronounced them “lovely.” The one thing I’d change in this preparation is to use fresh thyme instead of dried.

I did have a bit of waste, and hopefully I’ll get better at this as vegetable boxes show up. I didn’t manage to use all the dill (there was a lot of it, though honestly, some of it still appears to be usable). And a few of the chiles had gone bad before it occurred to me to dry them for storage.

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