To start things off, let me just say that 2013 was a pretty darn good year to be a member of one of the many CSAs in the Lawrence area.
Unlike the past two summers, which were so hot things couldn’t grow, this one was varied enough that nearly every crop seemed to thrive, or at least produce a little bit.
When you’re buying a weekly share from a farm or a collective of farms like the one I subscribe to, Rolling Prairie, that sort of variety is exactly what you’re looking for.
Because we had such great weather, this year we received everything from okra to tat soi to melons to mushrooms from our CSA at various parts in of the season, which started in late spring and roared through October.
Just as I did last year, I tried to find my favorite recipes of this season.
It was tough to pick, but I went for a top five (in no particular order) plus two bonus cookie recipes I threw in during the season just to shake things up. The recipes range from a delicious double squash dish to an eggplant lasagna that was a lot of work but totally worth it.
Honestly, though they are things I made during the spring, summer and fall of 2013, I'm pretty sure they could be satisfying year-round.
Bonus cookie recipes:
What was the recipe that became your favorite over the 2013 CSA season?
This past week was officially the last week of our CSA season. Though, because you’ll have to pry my fresh, local vegetables out of my cold, dead hands, it’s actually not the last week for us.
Rolling Prairie has a “late” bag and we’re signed up. Meaning, we’ll be getting veggies until Thanksgiving.
But, because I know most of you who come to this space for CSA cooking inspiration are finished, we’ll be moving on to your regularly scheduled program of recipes and cooking inspiration for the remainder of the fall, winter and part of spring. That is, after this blog and next week’s which will be a roundup of our favorite recipes from the 2013 CSA season.
So, how’d we use our “last” week of Rolling Prairie produce for 2013? We made a twist on something we’ve been making all summer: spaghetti squash topped with delicious sauteed items.
Last week we got eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale. The leeks and green onions were perfect for dressing our spaghetti squash, so we did that while snacking on cherry tomatoes.
The results were really, really tasty.
Green Onion and Leek Spaghetti Squash
1 spaghetti squash
2-3 green onions, chopped
2-3 leeks, chopped
1-2 bell peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon oil for the frying pan, plus a little to rub on the squash (we used coconut oil)
Marinara, as needed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve your spaghetti squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and rub a little oil on the cut side. Place cut side down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until the squash is soft and ready to be scraped into noodles with a fork.
Once the spaghetti squash has finished in the oven, heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan/skillet/wok.
Add green onions and leeks, stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peppers and stir until they’re heated through.
Split spaghetti squash into serving bowls, top with onion-leek-pepper mixture, marinara sauce and cheese, if using. Enjoy. Serves: 4.
Admittedly, there are no local ingredients in the recipe I’m sharing today. I just felt like for the week of Halloween we all needed a cookie break.
A seasonal cookie break.
If you still need a little something to have around the house or bring to a party at Halloween, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are the cookie to bring.
Admittedly, they’re not the healthy fare I usually share in this space. But I don’t feel totally guilty, because you do get some modicum of vitamin A when you eat them (how’s that for rationalization?). But, really, eat them because they are totally, amazingly delicious.
Honestly, these cookies are my secret weapon this time of year. The recipe makes a ton, everyone always loves them and they are appropriate for everything from Halloween to Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup shortening, margarine or butter
1-½ cups sugar (I often use half coconut sugar)
¼ cup regular or soy yogurt (vanilla, plain or maple)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper on two cookie sheets.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour through cinnamon (all dry ingredients). Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together your shortening/margarine/butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the yogurt and then stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.
Gradually stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. When all combined, add chocolate chips.
Drop by the teaspoonful onto parchment. Flatten a bit with clean fingers. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Yield 50 cookies.
So, what’d we get on our last week of Rolling Prairie for 2013? Eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale.
Last week, I hit the major personal parenting goal of getting the kiddo to eat salad. It was marvelous.
While I basked in the glow of that achievement for the rest of the following week, I also tried to recreate it. And I did. Multiple dinner times in a row.
Because, even though it finally got cold enough to turn on the heat, I really don’t want to believe summer’s over.
My strategy for this? Salads for everyone! All the time! Salad, salad and more salad.
I might be in denial.
So, anyway, my possible denial turned into a soup and salad night, using nearly all local ingredients.
We made our favorite butternut squash and apple soup using Rolling Prairie CSA squash and local apples from the Lawrence Farmers’ Market and then pieced together a delicious salad using delicate CSA salad greens plus local clover sprouts.
It was a delicious pairing, even if those lovely greens are about to go on hiatus.
Straight-Forward Seasonal Salad
Per each salad:
Two handfuls microgreens/baby salad mix
Several slices cucumber
Handful chopped carrots
Sprouts (to taste)
Balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Mix all the ingredients together and serve.
What’d we get this week? One giant sweet potato, cucumber, peppers, bok choy, salad mix, green beans, eggplant.
My kid really does eat amazingly well for a pre-K child. I’ve discussed many times that he does a pretty good job, even if he’s just like any other kid in that he’d take cookies over carrots any time.
That said, if there’s one thing I’ve barely ever gotten him to try, it’s salad.
I’m sure most parents have this problem. In fact, I’m pretty sure if I had a salad before age 13, it was probably just iceberg lettuce drowning in Dorothy Lynch. Totally healthy, of course.
So, I’m not one to expect a 4-year-old to eat salad. Even mine, who, like I said, does a really good job of eating his fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, I was quite surprised when the kiddo wanted to make salad as part of his dinner this week, we were all for it. His version of salad? Sliced CSA cucumbers, carrots and celery. Not a single leafy green in sight, but I’ll take it. His quote, while making sure I tried it: “Don’t put dressing on it, Mommy, it’s delicious.” And it was.
Meanwhile, we made our own Mommy/Daddy salad using more goodies we got from Rolling Prairie last week: Roasted sweet potatoes over CSA salad greens, topped with CSA roasted peppers, garlic olive oil and a bit of Landeria goat cheese.
What’d we get this week? Butternut squash, salad greens, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes and bell peppers
We’ve come to the time of year where winter squashes and tubers are sharing table space with tomatoes and cucumbers at local CSAs and the Lawrence Farmers' Market.
For instance, we got eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers last week from Rolling Prairie.
It seems totally odd, right? Even though these items share shelf space in the produce department of nearly every grocery store in America year-round.
Makes you think about our industrial food system a bit, eh?
And you know what? There’s nothing that says we can’t enjoy some of these summer-fall goodies in the same meal, or even in the same dish.
This week, I was so intent on achieving that goal that I made a salad that included not only roasted sweet potatoes but also tomatoes (yep) and delicate baby greens.Probably could’ve thrown some tat soi and cooked eggplant in there, too, if I’d had my wits about me.
Yes, it sounds strange, but if you find your kitchen full of these seemingly incompatible items, give this dish a try — if you can actually make the potatoes and not eat them all off the pan by themselves while waiting for them to cool enough not to wilt your lettuce.
Slightly Sweet Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 medium to large sweet potatoes, sliced into quarter-inch rounds, skin removed
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place sliced sweet potatoes on one to two cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper. Using a clean finger, rub a little coconut oil on the top side of each sweet potato slice. If you don’t use all the coconut oil, that’s OK.
Next, combine coconut sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle onto oiled potatoes.
Roast potatoes for 15 minutes. Flip. Roast for another 15 minutes or so until soft and browning.
Enjoy alone or on the salad below.
Mixed-Up Season Salad
Handful mixed salad greens
Handful cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ chopped avocado
5-6 roasted sweet potatoes (above) slices, halved and cooled
Throw all ingredients in a bowl. Cover with balsamic vinegar and olive oil or your favorite dressing. Enjoy.
What’d we get this week? Roasted peppers, salad greens, cooking greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peppers.
We’re almost to the end of the CSA season. Not totally there yet, but we probably have a month to go if we’re super lucky. So sad.
But we’re enjoying it while we can.
And we totally enjoyed this week’s Rolling Prairie CSA cooking experiment, which was basically an eggplant parmesan and cheese lasagna combined into one minus the noodles, minus the parmesan.
I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs that happened to use thinly cut eggplant as the noodles in a lasagna. It also included mushrooms and a sneaky bit of cauliflower in a way that I thought might entice the kiddo.
It took some work (I made it on a weekend night), but it was totally worth it and we had enough leftovers for two more dinners. Plus, not only did it use our CSA eggplant, but it used our CSA garlic from a few weeks ago and an onion and our mushrooms (plus more that we bought to make it work) from this week.
Thus, this one has all the markings of a new family favorite. The kiddo even tried a bite. Yay for small victories.
Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagna (from Detoxinista.com)
For the “noodles”:
1 large eggplant A splash of balsamic vinegar
For the “cauliflower ricotta”:
1 head cauliflower, or about 4-5 cups of florets
1/2 cup soft goat cheese (chevre)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
For the mushroom “meat”:
1 teaspoon butter or coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
half of an onion, chopped
1 pound assorted mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
A jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Goat mozzarella, shredded (we just used more chevre because we couldn’t find this)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then, like traditional lasagna, we must first prepare all of the layers.
For the noodles:
Using a mandolin, slice the eggplant lengthwise into thin strips. You may peel it first, if you like, but I took the easy route and left the skin on. Place the eggplant slices in a dish, and toss with a bit of balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice). Set aside to let marinate.
For the cauliflower ricotta:
Pulse the raw cauliflower florets in a food processor to make “rice.” Then steam, strain and squeeze out the excess moisture, leaving the cooked rice fairly dry. Transfer the strained cauliflower rice to a mixing bowl, and add in the two beaten eggs, goat cheese, oregano, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well, and set aside.
For the mushroom “meat” layer:
In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter or coconut oil and saute the garlic and chopped onions for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.
While the onions and garlic are cooking away, gently pulse the mushrooms in a food processor, until a “ground beef” like texture is achieved.
Add the ground mushrooms to the sauteed onions and garlic, and season with ground cumin, salt and pepper. Saute until tender. The mushrooms will release some moisture, so be sure to strain well after cooking, and set aside.
Begin by adding a thin layer of marinara sauce to the bottom of your glass dish — this will prevent sticking.
Next, layer on the eggplant slices, followed by half of the cauliflower ricotta, followed by half of the mushroom meat, a drizzle of marinara sauce and a bit of shredded goat mozzarella.
Repeat the layers, then top it all off with a final layer of eggplant slices, topped with more marinara and shredded goat mozzarella.
Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.
The finished lasagna should be firm, with a crispy layer of cheese on top!
Slice and serve hot! Serves 8.
What’d we get this week? More eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, tat soi, lettuce mix and peppers.
Er, so this column is called “Eat Your Vegetables,” but, I have a confession: There are a few vegetables that I’d rather not eat.
Oh, the scandal.
But I do try. And that’s part of the beauty of joining a CSA like Rolling Prairie: You have to try because you come home with a bunch of veggies, whether you like them or not.
Last week we got: Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens. And I bet you know exactly which veggie in that lineup isn’t a regular in my house.
I know plenty of people who love it. Heck, my parents live in the South and I see it around all the time when I go down there. But I didn’t grow up eating it (in Kansas) and have never really sought it out as an adult. Sometimes it’s in Indian food, and I’ll eat that, but make it at home? Not really my cup of tea.
But the great thing about having a CSA, besides fresh veggies every week, is that usually you don’t get to pick and choose, and sometimes have to just bite the bullet and try something you’d rather not have.
So, the hubby and I looked for a way to cook the okra as something we’d appreciate. The recipe we settled on used up not only our okra but a bunch of our CSA tomatoes and CSA garlic. Triple bonus!
It was really tasty, though we had to halve the recipe because we didn’t have enough okra. Still, it was something I’d definitely try again if okra ends up in my crisper.
Okra Stew with Tomatoes (“How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and cut into thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound okra, trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
4 cups chopped tomato (we used fresh but canned works too)
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (optional)
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep skillet or large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and turning golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Add the remaining oil to the pot and stir in the okra. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown a little, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring once or twice. Return the onion to the pot and add the tomato, along with a cup of water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles gently. Cook, stirring every once in a while, until the okra is very tender and the sauce has thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir in the oregano if you like, then taste and adjust the seasoning and serve, garnished with parsley.
What’d we get this week from Rolling Prairie? Slicing and grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, eggplant, onions and peppers.
If you've followed this column for a long time, you know that salad is always my default. It's my best friend at dinner and lunch, and my old stand-by when I have no idea what to make.
And even though I'm tight with the little green bowl of awesome, I'm well aware that I'm not in the majority. Homemade salads can seem like work. So many ingredients to have. So many things to chop. So much ... green.
I actually used to think the same thing. As in: If I didn't get my ingredients from a salad bar, I'd be chopping and prepping until my stomach pulled rank on me and sent me straight for the easy button (aka a sandwich, crackers, chocolate chips, etc.). Plus, I didn't really think it was a salad without certain things on hand, like store-bought dressing or tomatoes or (when I ate it) cheese.
But, over time, I've come to love the "kitchen sink" qualities of the dish. Really, once you figure out what you like in your salads, you can pretty much throw together one you'll enjoy without any planning (or thought) at all. Eventually, it becomes quicker than making anything else, and so satisfying that it's worth the wait if you have to do a bit of chopping.
This week's salad is a perfect example. It was totally thrown together at the last minute to go along with some leftover fajitas, but it was delicious, healthy and used up some of our delicious bounty from our Rolling Prairie CSA share.
Quick and Seasonal Side Salad
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, chopped (from our CSA)
1 carrot, chopped
10 garlic-stuffed olives, chopped
1/4 cup almonds
Olive oil and lemon juice, drizzled on to taste
Divide all ingredients among two bowls. Enjoy. Serves 2.
What’d we get in our Rolling Prairie CSA this week? Two types of tomatoes, butternut squash, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, garlic and greens.
It has come to my attention that maybe a few of my readers are afraid of the big F-A-T word when it comes to eating.
I’ve mentioned this before and I’m going to say it again: I, too, was once scared of F-A-T making me F-A-T.
But, as part of my growth in understanding food as fuel and how our bodies work, I’ve also come to love that big, scary macronutrient.
So, let’s get this out there: Not all fat is bad.
Not in the slightest.
There is a reason an avocado is all monounsaturated (aka heart-healthy) fat. There’s a reason nuts and seeds are full of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. There’s a reason the fat in coconut oil happens to be medium-chain saturated fat, which the body loves to burn for energy.
We are meant to eat fat.
Real, naturally occurring F-A-T.
What we’re not meant to eat are the fake, processed foods completely devoid of their original, natural fats. Or “foods” created in such away that they are more chemicals than technical food. This is not food, even if it’s “low-fat.”
I’ll repeat: This is not food.
I could get on my soap box and go on and on about this. But I’ve only got so much space, so just believe me when I say: Do your research.
Know how food as fuel is supposed to work.
And then stop buying denatured crap. Buy real stuff.
Focus on real food.
Do not focus on numbers and percentages and labels — if you really want to avoid the Standard American Diet (aka the SAD diet) don’t buy food with labels at all.
End soap box rant.
So, in light of this discussion, I’m going to share a recipe made with REAL food, that’s full of GOOD FAT.
It combines our Rolling Prairie CSA cherry tomatoes with fresh spinach, ripe raspberries, avocado, hemp seed and a simple drizzle of olive oil and white balsamic with a squeeze of lemon.
Healthy, real and most definitely not SAD.
Creamy and Sweet Summer Salad
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 6-ounce container of raspberries
1 tablespoon hemp seed, divided
1-2 avocado, divided
Good-quality olive oil (I used Extra Virgin's garlic-infused olive oil)
White balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
Line the bottom of two salad bowls with baby spinach. Top with 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes and half a container of raspberries. Place 1/2 tablespoon of hemp seed in each bowl, along with 1/4 of a whole avocado. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, a splash of balsamic and finish with a bit of lemon juice. Enjoy. Serves 2.
What’d we get this week? The motherload of: slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, hot peppers, bok choy, edamame, cantaloupe.