That's the interesting thing about produce and the way most people eat today. Since grocery stores carry a variety of items from a variety of locations many families never realize that strawberries have an actual season and aren't grown year round in your community. The same with summer squash, mangoes, and the list goes on. While it is certainly wonderful to be able to get our favorite items year round, I have found it equally wonderful to learn to enjoy the season of the produce and eat as much locally grown fresh items as possible. It leaves less of a carbon footprint, and is healthier and more often than not less expensive, than the other options. So with all of that, our CSA started this week. And what a joy it was to see such an abundance of greens (red leaf, green leaf, spinach, arugula, flat leaf parsley,radish greens, and a variety of herbs). Additionally in this weeks share was the first pick of strawberries grown at the farm, candy onions, scallions, radishes, vine ripened tomatoes, fresh cut asparagus, and leeks.
One of the joys and challenges of not knowing each week until pick up day (for us that's a Tuesday afternoon) what will be in our share that week is finding recipes to use up all of the items, or knowing which will keep if I freeze them or jar them. This early in the season the box is filled with primarily greens as that is what grows best in early spring in New Jersey. So our meals focus more on salads of varying kinds.
Last night since I already had dinner planned prior to picking up our share, the only addition to our dinner was some fresh asparagus from the box. My favorite way to enjoy asparagus that is fresh is simply to steam it and use a little bit of herbed butter on it. I always keep herbed butter in my refrigerator as it has a variety of uses and keeps for a long time. It's also super easy to make your own herbed butter using whatever herbs you enjoy most. In this case my herbed butter was a garlic and parsley butter. However, you can also roast your asparagus, or stir fry your asparagus, or even steam it and use it in a salad the next day. It's a very versatile vegetable even though it does have a strong flavor and some would say its an acquired taste to enjoy it (my girls would definitely say that - as they aren't fans of asparagus! That just leaves more of this wonderful vegetable for Himself and I to enjoy)
Tonight's dinner, and most of the dinners this week however, will focus on making greens the main thing on the plate. tonight will be a pan seared scallops over wilted spinach with fresh orange and garlic dressing. Since that alone won't be enough of a meal for Himself, I will also bake some fresh bread to go with that salad.
The greens will only last about 4 to 5 days at the most, so we always try and use those first from our box. If you get any type of lettuce or other greens from a farm be sure to clean the leaves extra well as generally they are only surface rinsed before the farmer gives/sells them to you. So there is a lot of grit and grime left behind. I find that I use my salad spinner more in the months of May, June, and July than any other months of the year as that seems to be the months when we receive the most greens in our share. The candy onions,radishes, and scallions will stay up to a month if you store them in a paper bag and keep in a cool place (or in the vegetable crisper). We cook with a fair amount of onions, especially sweet ones such as candy onions, quite often. When I am not cooking with them, I tend to sauté them and freeze the sautéed items to save at a later time to use in soup stock, or other recipes that may call for onion as a starting point. It's a great way to put up the items for later use. I sauté them and either put them into ice cube trays with a little bit of water so that they can freeze into cubes, or I freeze them in a freezer bag (I love my food saver appliance). Both ways are great at saving items in a fresh state and locking in all that yummy flavor goodness.
Each week of the CSA I am going to be posting about what is in our share and provide some recipes, tips, and other information about the various items. I hope you enjoy these installments. With that I leave you with a few tips and recipes this week. I would love any feedback, or comments you wish to share about experiences you have with your gardens, CSAs, farms, vegetables, or any recipes you wish to share. I look forward to this exchange.
How to care for Cilantro:
- Snip the bottoms off of the stems
- make sure the leaves are completely dry and do not rinse them until you are about to use them (as they stay fresh longer unwashed)
- fill a jar or water glass partially with water and place the stem ends of the herbs in the water in the jar
- Cilantro loves cool temperatures and should be stored in the refrigerator. Cover the leaves with plastic in the refrigerator.
- Change the water every 2 to 3 days. The herbs should last up to 10 days this way.
Cilantro Chicken Salad
- 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (this is a great way to use that left over chicken from a prior meal)
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaf
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- salt, to taste
- In a large bowl, combine chopped cooked chicken, onion, celery, almonds, and cilantro
- In a separate bowl, whisk together mayo, sugar, soy sauce, pepper, and salt (if needed)
- Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss well to evenly mix
- Chill before serving
- Serve over a bed of mixed greens, or on a hearty roll such as multi grain, brown bread, or potato roll.