Using up the CSA Haul- Week of 5/20

There are a bunch of things I like about our CSA, but my favorite thing is that it ensures we’re eating local, seasonal fruits and vegetables more often. Although I’ve been a regular at the neighborhood farmer’s market for years, I tend to plan my week’s meals and then pick up the produce, which means I don’t always buy what’s in season– if I am not expecting it I don’t buy it because I don’t know how I’m going to use it and I don’t want to waste it.  And I am not one of those people who can just go out with no list and come home with a week’s worth of produce- I am a planner and not a huge improviser in the kitchen.

So the CSA deliveries are fantastic- they arrive on Thursday, which gives me time to plan the next week’s menu and then get whatever fill-ins I need at the market (usually seasonal fruit for snacks) or grocery store.  Since joining a year ago, I have become an expert at using every last thing that is delivered (which is probably not a huge bragging right since I live in Southern California, so it’s not like I have to endure a winter of turnips).

A few things that help:

  • my CSA lets you select items you don’t want. We have a lemon tree and orange trees so I never want citrus. You can also preview the upcoming delivery, so if you are totally burnt out on fennel you can remove it from the list when you see it’s in the box yet again. (Sometimes this backfires because you don’t know what the substitute will be- the week we had 2 lbs of bok choy was particularly vexing- but again, you’re never stuck with a box full of turnips.)
  • I keep a Pinterest board  devoted to the topic. One year in, it is super helpful (and interesting) to see what I thought I could use gypsy peppers for last year. (This year I am making pepper vinegar.)
  • I have a good repertoire of vegetarian/mostly vegetarian cookbooks to turn to. Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook is my current favorite, but Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers and Vegetable Soups are indispensable. I also like Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, especially for what I consider vegetarian recipes for non-vegetarians- it’s very accessible, and the book’s organization by season makes it easier to plan seasonally.

So here is what was in this week’s box, and what I did with it:

-3 avocados- ate for lunch, either on a grilled cheese sandwich (with caramelized onions) or just sliced on an Ak-Mak cracker with salt.

-2 onions- used in pasta and risotto (see below) and the sandwich (above)

-2 pints strawberries- roasted and turned into ice cream, eaten for breakfast.

-1 head leaf lettuce- a salad from the Food Matters cookbook. (Lettuce is a challenge for me because I am not always a green salad person, but the Food Matters cookbook has some good ones. I picked up a tomato and two slices of prosciutto for this one and then used leftover feta and cantaloupe in place of the peaches and watermelon, and some chives and basil from my garden for the dressing. It was fantastic.)

Fruity Chef Salad with Mixed Herb Dressing

-4 zucchini- Lemony Zucchini Risotto, also from the Food Matters cookbook. I do have two zucchini left and was going to make zucchini bread but may just use them in place of the mushrooms in this recipe for lunch.

-red potatoes- potato leek gratin which gets bonus points for using up the end pieces of bread. I picked up two pork chops to go alongside this- which was a major indulgence at $12/pork chop.

At these prices we can probably have a full piece pork or beef once a month– which is probably fine, healthwise and environmentally. (A pork chop, at about 8 oz, is almost three servings of red meat. So from this menu, one pork chop and one slice of prosciutto= 4 servings of red meat for the week, or just over half a serving a day. The most recent Nutrition Action Healthletter had a big cover story on six reasons to eat less red meat- recommending going as low as 2 servings a week- so I’ll skipping the red meat altogether the next two weeks. (Because I plan on having some barbeque and maybe a burger when I am in Fort Worth the next week. If you’re going to eat it, make it count!)

-green beans- Spicy-sweet green beans, which I served with pan-fried tofu. I used some of the onion in place of shallot here, too.(I am on a big Bittman kick if you can’t tell.)

-fennel- Pasta with Caramelized Fennel and Onion. I added cream to this and it is hands down my favorite fennel recipe of all time.

-Fuji apples- snacks.

No vegetable left behind this week– phew! But again, not too hard to do with what we got in our box. Next week is a non-delivery week, so to keep the grocery bill down I’ll try to use pantry staples (lentils, rice) leftovers from the freezer (soup, beans) and maybe roast a chicken one night.

Does your CSA box bring out your inner Iron Chef? Are you a planner or an improviser in the kitchen? How efficiently do you use your produce?


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy S. on May 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks for the zucchini risotto recipe. I just bought 4 zucchini yesterday at Farmers market and still have lemons from your tree. With bulk short grain brown rice I can make this recipe zero waste!


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