CSA Winter Share Tips

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“What am I going to do with these millions of knobby root vegetables?” you may find yourself muttering as you schlepp 15 plus pounds of them home on CSA pickup nights. The truth is, there is so much to be done! When stored well, the vegetables keep for weeks and they’re versatile enough to be transformed into breakfast, lunch and dinner. All it takes is a little kitchen rearranging, a well-stocked pantry, a few key tools and some basic cooking techniques.

With the right conditions, a cool, dark corner of your kitchen for potatoes and winter squash and your refrigerator for the other veggies, you can keep the share fresh for weeks. It’s a good idea to take some time to create the space in advance before you get home on share nights, that way you won’t be scrambling. Clear out a lower cabinet or drawer in an area of your kitchen that isn’t likely to get warm and place a bin there to store potatoes and squash. No need to buy anything new, just salvage a cardboard box leftover from holiday shopping. Use the monthly opportunity to go through your fridge and discard items that are spoiled. If you can, clear out a crisper drawer completely to unpack and store carrots, turnips, beets and leeks.

In order to get the most use of your winter share, it’s a good idea to stock your kitchen with some pantry essentials so you can easily turn those hard spheres of roots into a delicious and healthy meals for your family, even on a weeknight and short on time. Make sure you have some cans or jars of chopped tomatoes & coconut milk to easily make soups and stews and to bulk up the soup into a hearty winter meal, have some small, dried lentils or split peas on hand which will cook at the same time that you’re simmering the winter veggies, even if you forget to soak them in advance. As always, stock your pantry with onions and a head or two of garlic and buy a nice size knob of fresh ginger for your crisper drawer. Make sure you have olive oil that’s not rancid (check the date and give it a sniff) — olive oil should be stored in a dark bottle and will keep for 12-18 months. If you eat cheese, buy a good quality (not pre-shredded) hard rind cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino since they’re great grated over the top of stews and work double duty as you can throw in the rind into your pot to flavor a batch of soup. Kosher salt and fresh peppercorns in a peppermill go a loooong way, if you’ve been using ground pepper until now, I suggest you upgrade. 

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So, what are you going to cook all this IN? Any good, heavy-bottomed pot will do and if you have an Instant Pot (or counter top pressure cooker of any brand), you can really cut cooking time down. Make sure you have a large, sharp knife to break down the hard veggies; if you’ve never had your knives sharpened, do it now before you have pounds of huge tubers on your cutting board! Industrial aluminum sheet pans are the best way to roast veggies in your oven. Get the largest one that can fit in your oven so that the veggies don’t crowd  and make sure you have parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet to line the pan. A sturdy U-shaped vegetable peeler will make quick work of the thick skin of the winter veggies, and a box grater (or shredding attachment for a food processor) will shred veggies to use in slaws, muffins or fritters. Finally, make sure you have a couple of large bowls to evenly toss chopped veggies with oil before roasting.

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In terms of how to turn the pounds of veggies into easy meals, I like to think in terms of techniques instead of actual recipes. There are a few methods that work well with almost anything on the root-vegetable spectrum from sweet potato to watermelon radish to rutabaga. 

Winter share veggies lend themselves to pureed soups, but you can also use them as a base for a chunky stew. For a smooth soup, start with any peeled and chopped root vegetables together with onion, garlic, salt & pepper in a pot, cover with water or stock and cook until the veggies soften up. Yes, you can add a can of coconut milk, fresh ginger and/or a spoonful of curry powder/paste, and yes you can add any dried (or fresh) herbs that you have on hand, but the process remains the same. Once the veggies are cooked through, puree in a blender, re-season with salt and pepper and voila: Winter Veggie CSA soup. This soup can be served warm or, since it freezes well throw a container of it in the freezer and you’ll have a chilled summer soup on hand for a balmy night next summer. To make a heartier stew, throw chopped veggies, a can of chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, any dried herb and a hand full or two of dried lentils into a pot with water to cover. Cook until everything is soft, throw in some washed and chopped kale or other green, top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and eat with a slice of crusty bread.

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For roasted vegetables, toss peeled and diced vegetables with oil, put on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper and roast at 400F until done. You can mix different vegetables together, just make sure they’re roughly the same size — they can be diced or sliced, if you haven’t yet, try roasting carrots whole.

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And finally, shredding breaks down root vegetables to make slaws, to muffins or fritters. I like to use shredded carrots to make a cumin-y carrot slaw. It’s pungent with a hearty dose of garlic, fresh lemon juice and toasted whole cumin seed. Root vegetables are hearty, and these slaws keep for a few days in the fridge without wilting. For muffins and fritters, you can substitute any shredded root vegetable for zucchini in any muffin or fritter recipe. We make a large batch of muffins for the freezer every few weeks for an easy breakfast on busy weekday mornings. 

So next share pickup night, don’t despair! If you store the veggies well, you’ll have weeks to create a huge variety of vegetable-forward meals. What’s your favorite way to cook the winter vegetables? Any other tips to share?

This article was written as my volunteer requirement for my winter Golden Earthworm Organic Farm CSA, Forest Hills CSA and will also run on their site. My usual CSA didn’t meet our minimum for a winter CSA, but I’m lucky to have 2 Golden Earthworm options locally!

2018 Golden Earthworm Harvest Fest & Cooking Demo

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Every October the farm that grows our CSA’s veggies, Golden Earthworm Organic Farm, opens their gates to CSA members for a day of field tours, cooking & farm demonstrations, games and playing. One of the many reasons I love our CSA is because I feel a closeness to not only where the food is grown, but to who is growing the food. That we can visit the farm, which is a bit under 2 hours away on the North Fork of Long Island, and say thank you in person to farmer Matt and his wife Maggie makes the veggies taste that much sweeter. For the past 8 years, I’ve been humbled to be asked to lead a cooking demonstration at their Harvest Fest.  This year I made an Instant Pot lentil soup with tons of Golden Earthworm veggies (a great soup to use during winter CSA season!) and a creamy sesame kale salad. The added bonus is that I got to hold the demo in a converted barn (this years demo was standing room only!) and was only one of the fun events in the midst of a beautiful, bustling fall day that includes hay rides, face painting, farm tours and delicious food and treats. Thank you Golden Earthworm for including me in this amazing day!

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Creamy Sesame Kale Salad

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This delicious, hearty salad is sturdy enough that you can make it in advance and it will keep in the fridge for a few days. Feel free to use any type of kale or even collard greens. Play around with the ratios to make the tahini more garlicky or lemony. If you happen to have preserved lemon, throw some in!

  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed, washed, dried and chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 Lemon (organic if possible) zest and juice
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • Water as needed
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a large bowl whisk together the tahini, lemon zest and juice, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, olive oil, salt and 1 T water. Whisk until smooth, adding more water by the tablespoon until you get the right consistency.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the sesame seeds, taking care to keep tossing them so they don’t burn. Once they start to pop, remove from heat to a plate.
  3. Transfer kale to a large mixing bowl and add tahini mixture and ¾ of the sesame seeds. I find this salad mixes easiest with my (clean!) hands — mix well until the sauce coats all the kale. Taste and season with salt and/or more lemon juice or zest. Serve in a bowl garnished with the remainder of the sesame seeds.

8 Minute Instant Pot Lentil Soup

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If you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker and haven’t yet mastered how to work it or what it can do, this soup is for you! Lentils (even unsoaked lentils) cook up well in the Instant Pot in under 10 minutes, and this soup is a great way to use up many of the CSA share’s veggies creating a healthy, hearty soup. The trick is to cut all the veggies into medium-small uniform-sized pieces so everything cooks (but doesn’t overcook!) in the 8 minutes under pressure. Play around with the seasonings if you want more or less curry flavor, or leave it out completely – it’ll still be delicious!

  • 2 cups small dry lentils, rinsed and soaking while you chop the rest of the ingredients
  • 2 Leeks or onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes, washed and chopped
  • (Any other veggie like kohlrabi, radish, turnip, etc)
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • (If you’d like some heat, feel free to add a poblano/spicy pepper or red pepper flakes)
  • Other spices like cumin seed, turmeric, etc can be added to taste
  • Salt, pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Water
  1. Set Instant Pot to sauté function and when hot, add olive oil and onions/leeks, sautéeing until translucent. Then add garlic, carrots and celery (and other all veggies except sweet potatoes) and continue sautéeing, tossing with a spoon so the garlic doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add curry powder, toasting for 20 seconds. Add drained lentils, sweet potato and add water water to cover by 2 inches.
  3. Cover, switch release valve to pressure, and set to cook on high for 8 minutes. After naturally releasing steam for 3-5 minutes, manually release the steam and taste the lentils. If they’re not done, cover and set to pressure for 0-1 more minutes.
  4. Reseason with salt and pepper before serving and top with chopped cilantro or parsley.

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Sesame Tahini Cookies

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A few weeks ago I made killer tahini cookies; these are not them. This is what happened: When I made the cookies a few weeks ago, I didn’t print out or bookmark the recipe, so when I wanted to make them again, I looked through my browser history & searched all sorts of keyword combinations, but didn’t come up with the ones I was looking for. But, I did find this recipe which while it wasn’t what I was looking for, looked good enough to try. So I did; this is them. It was only when these cookies were in the oven that I realized what happened: The first cookies were HALVA cookies, and I was searching under tahini — d’oh! These are those cookies, which I am definitely going to make again STAT.

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Tahini Cookies adapted from Bon Appetite (via Mamaleh’s)

The recipe used butter, but since I’m serving these after a Rosh Hashanah (meat) meal, I adapted by using Earth Balance vegan butter.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted (vegan or regular) butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey (can sub maple syrup if you don’t eat honey)
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

PREPARATION

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in tahini, then add dry ingredients in 2 batches, beating after each addition until fully combined. Dough will be slightly sticky.

Place sesame seeds in a small bowl. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough (about 1 oz.) and roll into balls. Dip tops of balls in sesame seeds, pressing to adhere, and place, sesame side up, on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2″ apart. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until golden brown, 13–15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets (cookies will firm as they cool).

After cooled, these can be frozen in a tin/container for up to a few months.

Tahini Carrots

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This is a side that I serve often yet never gets old. I always have carrots on hand, whether from our CSA box, the local Greenmarket or the supermarket since carrots stay fresh in the crisper drawer for weeks. I consider them a pantry staple! I do lots of things with carrots, including this shredded Moroccan carrot salad (which I posted in 2011 and is missing some pics now that I look at it again!) and this amazing hot or cold carrot soup, but this tahini carrot dish has become one of my recent favorites.

If the carrots are farm fresh, I don’t even peel them and instead give them a good scrubbing. The rainbow ones I used Friday we picked up at a roadside farm stand in Guilford Vermont, and I scrubbed some and peeled others since I also used some grocery store carrots.

Scrub (or peel) the carrots then roast them in a 350F with a thin brushing of oil, sprinkled with salt and sesame seeds until they’re nice and brown, around 30 minutes. While they’re roasting, make the tahini sauce. I looooove tahini, especially when it’s extra lemon-y and garlic-y, but on this particular day I was out of lemon (how does that even happen in my house?!) so I reached for an orange instead and it was surprisingly tasty, as orange and carrots are such a complementary combo. The tahini sauce is super simple: tahini paste, orange zest, orange juice, fresh garlic, salt and a little olive oil and water to smooth out to the consistency you prefer. When the carrots are out of the oven, top with some more sesame seeds, drizzle with tahini sauce and sprinkle on some fresh mint. Here is another version I made a few weeks ago with thin carrots that I didn’t cut in half.  Think this is a combo you’ll try?

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Sesame Green Beans

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You know those addictive sweet, sesame Chinese restaurant “dried green beans”? Well, these are them but better, not fried and so, so easy.

This season’s Golden Earthworm CSA has delivered week after week of tender, organic green beans. Honestly, I’ve mostly been snacking on them raw but last week we received 2 bags of them and I decided to branch out and try my hand at re-creating those addictive, Chinese green beans at home. Well, let me tell you they were so easy and the final result was very true to the beans I was craving.

Sesame Green Beans

  • Green beans, washed and trimmed
  • Freshly grated ginger
  • Minced garlic
  • Tamari
  • Mirin
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds
  • EVOO
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Toss green beans with EVOO and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan; season with salt. Roast.
  3. Meanwhile, mix ginger, garlic, tamari, mirin, sesame oil. I used about 1T grated ginger, 2 small garlic cloves, 1T tamari, 2t mirin and 1t sesame oil, but you may want it less gingery or sweeter (up mirin for sweetness).
  4. When green beans are bright green and slightly wrinkled, pull the pan out and toss the green beans in the bowl with the sesame mixture. Place green beans back on the sheet pan, sprinkle with sesame seeds and roast for another 10 minutes or until they look caramelized.
  5. Try not to eat them all at once.

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