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Monday, July 16, 2012

5 Dinner Ideas Using Fresh Farmers' Market or CSA Veggies

If you've been reading this blog, you probably know that I'm a fan of community-supported agriculture. This is the first year we've joined one, and I'm definitely hooked on my CSA share. I'll admit I was a bit hesitant at first, but hopeful as well. What in the world would I do with bok choy, kohlrabi, and Swiss chard? As it turns out, there are lots of delicious ways to prepare them.

The past few weeks have felt a bit like a Food Network challenge: take the items in the CSA share, plus pantry items and make one or two weeks' worth of meals. Don't forget about accounting for different tastes, providing variety in protein sources, and making sure the kids will at least try it. Challenge accepted.

My last CSA pick-up from Mud Creek Farms provided us with:

  • shelling peas
  • kohlrabi
  • napa cabbage
  • green cabbage
  • scallions
  • Swiss chard
  • white turnips (Hakurei turnips, to be exact)
  • garlic chives
  • lettuce
I almost left my kohlrabi behind. It looks a bit alien-like, a green bulb with some stems sticking out all over.
Thank goodness they had cut one up for skeptics to sample. Of course it can be cooked, but it's delicious raw. It's crunchy, with the texture of a raw potato and a bit of a broccoli-taste to it. If you've never tried one, all you have to do is cut away the outer green skin, slice and serve. I think it would be amazing with a fresh spinach dip!

5 Dinner Ideas with In-Season, Fresh Veggies

With any of these recipes, feel free to substitute the protein source (tofu, tempeh, seitan, chicken, pork, fish, etc.) and to substitute the vegetables with whatever you have on hand, and the amount you have on hand. Go crazy!

1. Sesame Carrots & Cabbage (from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven) with marinated tofu and brown rice

  • Marinate cubed tofu OR chicken OR any other protein source in a mixture of 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. After marinating at least one hour in the fridge, sauté in wok or skillet, turning frequently, until cooked through.
  • Start simmering (or microwaving) the brown rice.
  • In a wok or skillet, sauté chopped carrots in 2 teaspoons sesame oil for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons rice vinegar; cover and cook 5 more minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons honey and 2 teaspoons tahini (or any other nut butter or seed butter); cover & cook 5 minutes. 
  • While carrots are starting to cook, heat a second wok or skillet with vegetable oil; sauté chopped onion for 10 minutes, then add chopped cabbage. Stir fry 5 minutes, until cabbage wilts but is still crunchy. Stir in a few tablespoons each of sesame seeds and minced garlic chives.
  • To serve spoon rice on each plate and top with cabbage, then carrots, then tofu OR chicken. For my picky eater, I served each of these items in a separate section of a divided plate instead of piled on top. The leftovers are also yummy cold the next day.
2. Swiss Chard & Tomatoes with Italian Sausage and Baked Risotto with Mushrooms

  • Preheat oven to 375 F. In a casserole dish combine 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice and 32 ounces of vegetable broth. Cover and bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. For the final 15, you may wish to add 1 cup of water if the liquid has all been absorbed already. Meanwhile, sauté some sliced mushrooms to stir into the finished risotto.
  • In a skillet, cook one package Italian sausage, sliced (Tofurky makes delicious vegetarian Italian sausages). Set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet. Add chopped garlic chives, scallions, chopped tomatoes, and chick peas (rinsed & drained). When heated through, add Swiss chard (rinsed and chopped) and cover to steam for 2 minutes. Stir and continue to cook & cover until chard is wilted. Optional: if you like things cheesy, you could add a small container of part-skim ricotta to the chard mixture.
  • To serve, spoon some risotto on each plate; top with chard mixture and sausage slices. For picky eaters, try some risotto and some of the chard mixture in separate piles. Top with Parmesan cheese.
3. Tarragon Tempeh (or Chicken), Kohlrabi & Peas with Tarragon, and Quinoa

  • In a small pot, mix 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Meanwhile cut one package of tempeh into 4 triangles or rectangles (or use chicken cutlets). Prepare two shallow bowls: one with 1 tablespoon olive oil/1 tablespoon honey/1 tablespoon milk or soymilk/1 teaspoon Dijon mustard; the second with 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs/ 1/2 cup crushed nuts or seeds/ 2 teaspoons dried tarragon. Heat olive oil in a skillet then dredge tempeh pieces (or chicken) first in liquid, then in crumbs and add to pan. Cook until heated through, a few minutes on each side.
  • While tempeh (or chicken) is cooking, heat another skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When butter has melted, add chopped kohlrabi, shelled peas, chopped garlic chives, and shredded carrots. Cook for about 5-8 minutes.
  • Serve each item next to each other, or pile it all together. For picky eaters, let them dip the tempeh or chicken in ketchup (or other favorite dipping sauce). You could even stir a little honey (for children over 1 year) or agave syrup into your kid's serving of quinoa to make it a bit sweet.
4. Mexican Lasagna and Turnips with Chipotle Butter
This recipe is great for using up leftovers and freezer items you might have on hand. Or make this one night, and use the rest of the beans, salsa, and cheese to make nachos over the weekend.

  • Preheat oven to 350 F and spritz a pie plate with olive oil. Place one tortilla on bottom and keep two more tortillas handy.
  • Heat a skillet with olive oil, and add frozen pepper & onion stir-fry mix and frozen corn. 
  • In a microwavable bowl, mix half a can of refried beans with half a can of black beans (rinsed and drained), and half a jar of salsa. Heat in microwave for one minute, stirring halfway through.
  • Grate about one cup - or more, if you like - of cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, or a mixture of anything in the fridge); set aside. Dice one tomato; set aside. If you like jalapeños, slice a fresh one or open a can of sliced jalapeños & drain; set aside.
  • In prepared pie plate, spoon half of the bean mixture on top of the tortilla and spread with a spoon. Top with half of the veggies and one-third of the cheese. Layer a tortilla on top, then beans, veggies, and cheese. Top with final tortilla and remaining cheese. Add sliced jalapeños, if desired (we put them on half in our house). Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with diced tomatoes. Use pizza cutter to slice and cake server to serve.
  • While "lasagna" is baking, trim and chop turnips. Heat chipotle butter in a skillet. If you don't have Wegmans near you, mix butter with honey, lime juice, and chipotle chili powder. Stir in turnips, cover and cook 10 minutes, until tender. Serve alongside each slice of lasagna.
5. Asian Chik'n & Pasta

  • Cook one package of pasta according to directions on box (whole wheat or enriched pasta is great here; any shape will do). Set some plain pasta aside for picky eaters.
  • In a skillet, cook one package of chik'n strips or tenders - try Quorn Chik'n Tenders or Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips or Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders (or real chicken). Set aside & scoop out some for picky eaters.
  • In a second skillet, heat olive oil and add chopped veggies; we used Napa cabbage, carrots, scallions, red pepper, and asparagus. Stir-fry until cooked but still crisp; set some cooked veggies aside for picky eaters.
  • In a small microwavable bowl, heat 1/4 cup of peanut butter for 20 seconds. Add: 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Whisk until smooth.
  • Once pasta is drained, combine the drained pasta, cooked chik'n, veggies, and peanut sauce. Stir until completely combined, and serve. Top with chopped peanuts or additional sesame seeds, if desired. Picky eaters can enjoy their foods separately and without sauce.
  • Orange segments are a nice way to end this meal! Also, leftovers are delicious cold for lunch the next day.

I hope you enjoy these recipes - - or that they inspire you to get a little culinarily creative too! If you need some more inspiration, please check out my earlier post with recipes inspired by a previous CSA bounty.

Do you belong to a CSA or frequent a farmers' market? If so, Post a Comment and let us know what was in your basket this week. Happy cooking, and as always, thanks for reading.

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