We have been cooking so much since we joined a CSA. (We’ve actually switched, since I made that post, from Brooklyn Supported Agriculture to Farm to People. We were having a hard time rehoming our unwanted items, and if we threw away one more turnip my boyfriend was going to have a meltdown. Farm to People gives more granular control while still forcing you out of your comfort zone by limiting the amount of meddling you can do. As with BSA, we’ve been pleased with the quality.) Here’s a rundown of things we have made, with the relevant CSA ingredients highlighted! And, in a few cases, things we failed utterly at.
Napa cabbage. I did not think I cared for cabbage, but on the recommendation of several friends, I dubiously made Deb’s cabbage & farro soup, and guys. Guys. This soup is so fucking good. Weirdly, it tastes nothing like any of its ingredients; it is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It tastes savory and rib-stickety and wonderful. And the longer it sat, the better it got. I don’t know that it makes sense as a spring dish, but I highly recommend putting this in your back pocket for when you want food to start sticking to your ribs again. Just make sure to follow the directions exactly – they are, honestly, too weird to monkey around with. The only changes I made were increasing the amount of garlic by a little and the amount of thyme by quite a lot.
Greens, all the greens. Kale and chard and mustard greens. (Also celery and carrots, but they were not the point.) We reached a point a few weeks ago where we literally had more greens than we knew what to do with. Rather than just doing seventeen variations on greens-and-pasta and beans-and-greens, we decided to try something totally new. I sorted through a bunch of greens-forward recipes by my favorite bloggers and ultimately settled on this, by Deb (of course). She labels it a “chard and white bean soup,” but really it’s just a template for vegetable soup, and I freestyled a great deal based on the contents of my fridge. I more or less doubled the recipe, as I had probably around 2 pounds of greens; used significantly more garlic than is called for; whatever beans were in the closet (I think we had pink and pinto); half a can of tomatoes; a ton more herbs; added farro; et cetera. I think all told I used 8 cups of vegetable broth, including the times I had to add broth after cooking to keep the soup from creeping closer and closer to cassoulet, which I think is what it truly wants to be.
And how was it, you ask? …. Fine. It was fine. We didn’t hate it. We ate all of it. We tried garnishing with garlic toasts and fried egg, as suggested, and found they added nothing at all, so we just ate it on its own. We won’t be adding it to the rotation, but it’s a good way to dispose of a lot of random soup vegetables.
Sweet potatoes. I’m a picky bitch about sweet potatoes. I firmly believe they do not belong in savory preparations, but I don’t want to eat them gussied up with brown sugar and marshmallows either. Mostly I want to eat them the way I grew up eating them: whole, roasted, on the sides of various meats. But we don’t eat a lot of food that lends itself to a side of large roasted root vegetables, so we decided to go off the map entirely and put them into baked goods. This went …. medium.
We made the sweet potato pie from Allison Kave’s First Prize Pies, with King Arthur Bakery’s No-Roll Pie Crust. The pie itself was good – Kave’s recipes are reliably tasty, though also reliably fussy as hell – but I always want my sweet potato baked goods to taste like sweet potatoes, not pumpkin/sweet potato pie spice, so I plan to do a lot of monkeying around with sweet potato pie in the future. As for the pie crust, it tasted …. medium … and was, in my partner’s opinion, more of a pain in the ass than a classic rolled-out crust. A good experiment, but not one we intend to repeat.
Next up, I recently unearthed my old recipe bookmarks and have been reviewing them, so I had a bunch of random ideas at my fingertips. We tried a recipe I’d saved a million years ago for sweet potato scones, but honestly, the less said about these the better. They looked like blobs of batter that had solidified and didn’t taste much better. My mom thought they were decent and wound up taking them all home (I guess since she hadn’t anticipated how good they might be, she couldn’t taste the sadness). We think the recipe was probably too wet? In any case, they were an unqualified fiasco.
Finally, we modified Deb’s pumpkin bread recipe with a 1:1 sub for sweet potato, and that was an unqualified victory. Truly just unreasonably delicious. We brought it to my partner’s parents for Orthodox Easter, and at one point I noticed one of the guests quietly sitting in the corner just absolutely mowing through it. Best of all, it actually tasted like sweet potato! I will definitely be making this again (and again, and again).
Chives. Chives are one of those things that I never have on hand, so when they came in our CSA, I had no idea what to do with them other than make a whole meal in order to use them as a garnish. Fortunately Deb continued to have my back with a chived up version of the same buttermilk biscuits I’ve been making since God knows when. Those biscuits are fantastic and taste just as good when you make them wrong, like I used to, as when you make them right, like I do now (using cold butter and incorporating it like you do for pie crust). The addition of chives is actually pretty bold, and very delicious. My only tip would be to really watch them in the oven and make sure you don’t overbake, because then you fry the chives and they don’t taste chivey at all.
Mustard greens. Sort of. This recipe for po’ boys honestly deserves its own post. It is … so, okay, I’m a good cook, right? I’m an enthusiastic cook and a good cook. My partner is better. Specifically – though this isn’t the only way he’s better than me – he’s more creative and more confident in his ability to innovate, at least for definitions of “innovate” that include “never seen before in our specific kitchen.” I say this so you understand what I’m saying when I say that these po’ boys are the best thing he’s ever made. They’re unreal. They’re unimaginable. The shrimp are perfect right off the grill and inconceivable drenched in homemade remoulade. The first time my partner made these, he served them on pretzel rolls, which are one of his signature foods and typically the star in whatever meal they occur. These po’ boys are so good that the pretzel rolls didn’t even matter. We could have eaten them on grocery store sandwich bread and they’d have been perfect. The second time he made them, he made baguettes, as is the classic po’ boy bread, and that was perfectly wonderful as well.
Anyway the first time we made them we put mustard greens on them instead of lettuce, because we had mustard greens, and that was tasty. This entry is definitely about mustard greens.
Tomatillos. This was our household’s first attempt at for-real Mexican food, and the plan had been to make straight-up salsa verde, but I guess we were feeling creative or something, because we tried a salsa-verde-sauce chicken entree instead. It was … fine? Certainly it wasn’t bad. I do think it suffered from the absence of cilantro (my partner is one of those tragic souls who think cilantro tastes like soap), and the ratios were a bit messed up because he accidentally used double the amount of tomatillos the recipe called for. Anyway, it tasted fine, we have a ton of sauce left over that we’re going to put on various things, and I blame none of this on the tomatillos. But next time I want salsa verde, I’m just going to make salsa verde.
Brussels sprouts. So, this is just a frittata. But it wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own to put brussels sprouts in a frittata, and I give the recipe credit for that. Also, since I have a pretty solid brussels sprouts recipe that I cook pretty regularly, I appreciated the nudge in a new direction. Finally, this is an extremely solid basic frittata recipe. Frittata is one of those things you don’t think you need a recipe for until you make it according to someone’s specific directions and realize it’s actually a lot better than the way you’ve been doing it.
Apple and carrot. Morning glory muffins! Who doesn’t love morning glory muffins, I ask? Fools, that’s who.
Fried chicken. Okay, spoiler alert, this did not actually come in our CSA. Shocking, I know. But in the process of editing my recipe bookmarks that I mentioned above, I ran across this epic Serious Eats fried chicken recipe and we decided to give it a whirl. We weren’t nearly as hyper-precise as the Serious Eats crew, of course. We don’t own a meat thermometer; the incorporation of brine into flour batter struck me as too precious by half; and we did not cool and re-fry after baking, as we wanted to eat the same night as we made the chicken. But it was still fun to try, and a great opportunity to learn some shit. Namely: brining is good, y’all. A four-hour brine in spiced buttermilk noticeably, and wonderfully, improved the tenderness and juiciness of the finished product. I’ve since begun working on how to incorporate brining into what’s become my standard fried chicken recipe, because it really levels the chicken up, not to mention the spice in the brine flavors the chicken more deeply. There are some quirks for sure – the batter seems to retain more grease when the chicken is brined, which makes no sense but is happening – but I’m committed to the project!
And finally: rhubarb. My love of rhubarb is no secret, so as soon as this extremely pretty upside-down cake came across my insta, I knew I had to make it. I was pretty skeptical as it came together and when I saw the finished product – I was concerned the upside-down topping had not set properly and was going to make the cake soggy – but it’s actually extremely nice, and not soggy at all. We subbed a half cup of cornmeal for a half cup of flour, drawing on this outstandingly delicious cake, and while the flavor isn’t as much of a punch as it is in the cherry cornmeal cake – there’s so much other flavor in this cake, as it is a spice cake – it’s a nice touch you can do if you want.
There’s been other stuff too – tons of salad, an improvised ramp & fiddlehead risotto (my partner is a wizard), asparagus with ramp dressing thanks to our CSA’s recipe cards, my classic fajitas including the most delicious bell peppers I’ve ever tasted and camouflaging some oyster mushrooms which, spoiler, we both still hate. There’s going to be more (this looks like a delicious way to use up some scallions, subbing goat cheese for blue cheese because one of those things is delicious and one tastes like mold). I will endeavor to keep reporting back and documenting our adventures.