Thursday, June 13, 2013

3 Foolproof CSA Dinners

I joined my first CSA this summer—and I couldn't be more excited about it. Each week, I wait in unabashed anticipation for Wednesday to arrive, when I claim my picked-yesterday, local batch of vivacious veggies from Local Roots NYC.
The CSA does introduce quite the cook's dilemma though (and extreme vegetable anxiety, may I add.) Without pesticides and preservatives, the produce may only last a few days—and you are not at liberty to choose what you get. It is very likely then that you end up with the following scene in your kitchen: countertop sprawled with fresh vegetables, knife in hand—and a totally perplexed mind-blank of where to go from there. Sure, you've cooked with a bunch of these vegetables before—but all together, the assortment seems totally random. So what can dishes can you conjure up that utilize ALL of these vegetables?

Which leads me to introduce 3 foolproof CSA dinners: Vegetable Stir-fry, Loaded Spaghetti, and Chimichurri Sauce. These dishes are simple and easy—I'm sure you've made variations of them before—but triumph because they require mostly pantry items to create, and receive basically every vegetable into their dish with open arms.

Follow these steps to decide which dish most suits your weekly CSA:

1. Dark leafy greens: Swiss chard, kale, broccoli rabe, spinach
These nutrient-packed, emerald bunches wilt easily upon touching heat, thus making them the perfect addition to a tossed, chock-full ingredient pasta. Requiring a simple sauté of olive oil, garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper for optimal flavors; the delicate leaves sit nicely against a chewy, al dente pasta in this Loaded Spaghetti simmered in white wine and herbs. Cook your bulb (onions, scallions, shallots, etc.) first—and add the greens last-minute to prevent too much cooking down, allowing them to retain substance.

2. Tomatoes and summer squash
Add to the Loaded Spaghetti. These vegetables have a natural sweetness that accompany a floral, fruity white wine sauce seamlessly—plus provide great contrast to your earthier, leafy greens.

3. Carrots, scallions, onions, snap peas
Make a Vegetable Stir-fry. These vegetables are typically found in Asian cooking, and are denser than the dark leafy greens—thus excellent choices for high heat, flash-sautéing. The sugar from the flavorful soy-based sauce will lightly caramelize the veggies for a melt-in-your-mouth effect, and a touch of ginger adds a refreshing spicy bite.

4. Excessive parsley and/or cilantro
Usually touting the biggest bunch of them all, I used to struggle with how to utilize these herbs in large batches—I normally cook with them in small quantities as garnish. Then I discovered Chimichurri Sauce. This garlicky sauce from Argentina is peppery, vinegary, and herb-fresh all at once—creating a real pop of flavor in every bite. A perfect accompaniment to steak, chicken, fish, or tofu, chimichurri requires large amounts of blended parsley or cilantro to make: plus is freezer-friendly to store for next time.
Loaded Spaghetti
Serves 2

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons dried or fresh oregano
2 teaspoons dried or fresh thyme
1/3 cup white wine
Bulb vegetables (onion, scallions, or shallots)
Dark leafy greens (kale, swiss chard, spinach, broccoli rabe, etc.)
1 large fistful off whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine (about ½ lb)
Optional protein: chicken, shrimp, sausage, cannellini beans
Optional garnishes: chopped parsley, shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent browning.
3. Add bulb vegetables to skillet and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add any other vegetables (but not dark leafy greens) and cook for 1 more minute.
4. Stir in oregano, thyme, and white wine into the skillet. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until half the liquid has evaporated.
5. Add dark leafy greens to the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then transfer al dente pasta (and optional protein) into the skillet too. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring frequently.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Vegetable Stir-fry
Serves 2

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Mirin, sherry, or cooking wine
¼ teaspoon peanut or sesame oil
1 teaspoons chili garlic paste
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
Vegetables (onion, scallion, carrots, snap peas, etc.)
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
1 cup cooked brown rice
Optional proteins: chicken, tofu
Optional garnishes: fresh diced scallion, cilantro, crushed honey-roasted peanuts

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil (canola or olive oil) in a large skillet over high heat. Add in vegetables and half the sauce, flash-sauté for 2 minutes.  Add optional protein and rest of sauce and cornstarch (optional), stirring frequently, and continue to cook over high heat until vegetables begin to brown and some liquid has evaporated.
3. Serve over brown rice. Garnish with diced scallion, cilantro, and crushed peanuts, if desired.

Chimichurri Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley*
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup (packed) fresh cilantro*
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or oregano
1/2 teaspoon
¼ teaspoon pepper

*Parsley and cilantro can be used interchangeably.

Blend ingredients in a food processor until pureed. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature with grilled or marinated steak, chicken, fish, or tofu.

CSA Dinner #1:
Whole-wheat spaghetti with chicken sausage,
broccoli rabe, shallots, peas, and carrots
CSA Dinner #2:
Stir-fry with sautéed chicken, swiss chard,
scallions, carrots, and cilantro 

What are you favorite dishes to make with your CSA box?

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