Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer vegetable adventures

Back in the spring, Josh and I decided to sign up for a larger CSA share than we've had in past years. With the warm, sunny weather lately that I've documented extensively here, the crops are going crazy, and the CSA's box contents get better every week.

This week's box was heavy. It contained:

Cucumbers (lots)
Garlic scapes
Green beans
Green top red beets
Green zucchini
Purple kohlrabi
Romaine lettuce
Salad mix
Snap peas
Yellow summer squash

Our household is particularly enthusiastic about cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, scallions, snap peas and yellow summer squash, and I expect those vegetables to go fast.

This has already become known as Wish's Summer of Cucumbers. He thinks a chunk of cucumber, especially the end of one, is extra-fun because it functions like a ball but is edible. His face in the following photo is either DON'T TAKE MY CUCUMBER or PLEASE GIVE ME MORE CUCUMBER.

But besides seeing your favorite vegetables in the box, part of the fun of a CSA is figuring out what to do with new-to-you or strange-to-you vegetables. Each week, I've focused on trying a new trick or recipe, either on tried-and-true favorites or vegetables on which we haven't gotten hooked yet.

One week, we grilled zucchini and yellow squash for the first time. I loved the yellow squash, and the zucchini turned out okay.

Last week, I tried a watermelon salsa recipe I had clipped from a Food Network Magazine when we were in Colorado. I was short on mango but used watermelon, cucumber, jalapeno, red onion, basil and lime juice and zest. It was good served with chips, but it became infinitely better when I came home parched from a hot run and scarfed it like a salad.

That week I also used up cabbage with my first try at making cole slaw. I also used the food processor for the first time that my mom gave me and swore I would love. I was intimidated for a long time but can now confirm that it's an amazing machine. I tried a chipotle coleslaw recipe (with chipotles in adobo sauce) from the same issue of Food Network Magazine. We used most of the batch in pulled pork tacos, which was a good match for it.

This doesn't really have anything to do with CSA tips because we haven't gotten mint yet in a box, but if you do find yourself with extra mint, you should definitely make yourself a mint fizzy. If you've read Miles and Laurel in previous summers, you know that it's one of my favorite summer drinks: mint muddled in sugar, with club soda poured over it. Bonus points if it's in a mason jar.

One of the keys, I've found, is to address the box's contents right away. Cook a batch of something, cut up some veggies for snacks, bag everything up. Tonight (after the cucumbers) I turned my attention to a vegetable I'm not hooked on yet: beets. The farm provides a newsletter with tips about how to use each vegetable, and the beet paragraph noted that the author's favorite way to eat beets is roasted with sunflower oil, salt and fresh rosemary. Not only did I have those ingredients on hand, I had just been musing inwardly about how I loved any vegetable roasted in sea salt and oil (see: kale chips, another CSA-related experiment earlier in the summer). This could be just the ticket to learn how to love beets!

And you know what ? It was. Oh, my, beets are good when they're roasted with rosemary.

This week's project, I think, might be fennel, another vegetable that I haven't conquered (but not for any good reason). Any tips from you guys about fennel? Your help is much appreciated!


  1. Caramelize the fennel as you would an onion and then use as a pizza topping along with cheese. See:

    1. Oh my word, these look wonderful. I think "carmelize" is on par with "roast with sea salt and olive oil" for me in terms of magic cooking words. Thank you!!