Cooking Out of the Box
Having a share in a CSA or receiving a weekly box from a produce delivery company lets you tap in to your imagination. We asked four local chefs what they would do with a typical box containing Swiss chard, beets, onions, spring garlic, carrots, turnips and spinach.
Michael Stebner, chef at True Food Kitchen, offers the following guidelines for using what’s in your weekly delivery:
• Stick to the basics.
• Fresh, seasonal produce doesn’t need much help to taste great. The worst thing you can do is to overdo it.
• Keep the natural flavors. Don’t use heavy fats or sweeteners as culinary crutches.
• Pure and simple cooking is what CSAs are about.
Chef Gwen Walters, freelance food writer and cookbook author, has suggestions for each of the ingredients:
• Onions—Caramelize (or grill) for a variety of uses (pizza topping, omelet stuffing, tart filling).
• Swiss chard—Delicious simply sautéed... maybe with a little of the spring garlic. Or use it with the caramelized onions for a pizza topping (with Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough, of course... or just use a whole-wheat tortilla, toasted first, then spread the chard and onions and cheese).
• Spring garlic—Pickle with a little vinegar and use as a garnish.
• Spinach—Use fresh as salad greens, or as lettuce on sandwiches, or as filling for omelets, tarts and spanakopita, or sauté the spinach as a side dish.
• Beets—Roast with olive oil, salt and pepper... eat hot, or chill, cube and use in salads.
• Turnips—Give to neighbor... I hate them.
• Carrots—Grate for salad with raisins, onions, a little mayo, maybe, or slice on the bias and steam. Glaze with a little orange marmalade or that fabulous Terra Verde Farms Meyer Lemon Marmalade from the farmers’ market.
Michelle Dudash, chef and dietitian, suggests roasted beets, feta cheese, and spinach salad.
Chef Dudash would also use as many of the ingredients as she could to make a creamy vegetable soup. She says “soups are a wonderful way to use the other ingredients: Sweat the onion, spring garlic and Swiss chard over low heat so that they do not brown. Add stock, salt, pepper. Finish with little cream or lowfat liquid creamer. Simmer. Purée. Great hot or chilled.”
Candy Lesher, director of Cooking Studio AZ, is inspired by the ingredients:
• With the onion, I love roasting them in their own skins (wrapped in foil or in a covered baking dish) until very soft; then I use the super-viscous meat from the inside to replace most of the oil in my reduced-calorie pesto that I put on spaghetti squash. I use roasted garlic in that pesto because fresh is too strong with the additional onion flavor.
• For the chard, I love to blanch it only momentarily then quickly sauté it in a little walnut oil and give it a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of fleur de sel to brighten it up. Yum!
• Spring garlic is fabulous in so many ways... Finely chopped and mixed into Neufchatel, it makes a great spread for sandwiches. Warmed with 50-50 butter and olive oil, it’s a great drizzle over pasta. Puréed with classic lemon and oil combinations, it makes a scrumptious salad dressing.
• Spinach is my favorite to mound in the bottom of a bowl and sprinkle with a fresh grating of Parmesan, Asiago or Romano cheese; then I ladle hot, fresh broth over the top and a quick spritz of lemon for a fabulous first course. (That spring garlic is good tossed in here too). Very satisfying and very healthy; the spinach is perfectly cooked this way.
• Beets, I love to simply scrub, wrap in foil and bake until tender. The skin practically slides off, I slice them and serve them on my salads or make a quick modified caprese salad with tomato, sliced beet (yellow is especially nice), mozzarella or thin slice of feta and a drizzle of olive oil. Wow, is that good!
• Turnips are lovely roasted to caramelize their natural sugars, then mashed with a touch of either garlic or fresh ginger and sea salt.
• Carrots are sooo good done classically: sliced diagonally 1/3-inch, given a quick 2-minute blanch, then finished in a pan with fresh-grated ginger and honey along with a tad of butter or light oil and sea salt.