CSA Anxiety Disorder

My friend Joanna suffers from a new psychiatric disorder.  It hasn’t yet appeared in the psychiatric bible, the DSM, but as soon as she started talked about it, I knew I suffered from it also.

It's not pretty. On top of CSA anxiety disorder, I suffer from refrigerator management deficit disorder
The disorder is CSA anxiety disorder (or CSAAD, as I call it), and its symptoms appear cyclically.  Like the day before a CSA pick up.  The anxiety centers around the refrigerator, which is often filled with vegetables, vegetables from the CSA that haven’t been prepared and consumed by the time the next CSA pickup rolls around.  

The anxiety can be heightened by guilt, especially if you are prone to guilt due to a certain religious or ethnic background (you know who you are).  

In the New York Times on Wednesday, July 18, Julia Moskin wrote about vegetable anxiety, which apparently goes beyond CSA members and extends into the general farmers’ market shopping population.   She writes that even though everybody knows they should be eating more vegetables, and many are buying gorgeous fresh vegetables from the market, meal planning still centers around the meat, with vegetables as the afterthought.

Obviously, you need to reverse that kind of thinking and start your meal planning around the vegetables.  

A CSA share

Joanna has found that a huge stir-fry of greens does much to decrease the anxiety.  And it will, a big bag of greens cooks down to almost nothing.  Season with soy sauce and garlic, and serve it over rice with some tofu.  Even better, master a few stir-fry sauces and your family will never again ask for Chinese take-out when your refrigerator has all you need.  Or cook up some Italian sausage, sauté a mound of vegetables, and serve it over pasta, with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  (If you cut all the vegetables to the same size and sauté or stir-fry the vegetables one type at time, you will get better results.)

When I wrote Serving Up the Harvest, I included several “master recipes” that can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand.  You can make quiches, crepes, stir-fries, lo mein, vegetable soups, and sautés by following the basic recipe and using whatever vegetables you have on hand.  The recipe  below is one of my favorites.    

It is far, far better to start cooking with more vegetables than to give up your CSA. After all, where would you get your beautiful flowers?

The best part of my week is picking my bouquet.

Sautéed Vegetable Medley with Fresh HerbsServes 4
A side dish of sautéed vegetables, much like restaurants serve, is welcome with almost every meal.  The trick is to blanch the vegetables first, then finish in the sauté pan.  The vegetables are most attractive when they are all cut to the same size and shape. All of the vegetables are optional – use whatever combination of vegetables you have on hand.

1 medium zucchini or other summer squash, julienned  (optional)2 teaspoons salt (optional)2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil1 shallot or 2 garlic cloves, minced1 green, red, or yellow bell pepper or 1 small fennel bulb, cut into strips (optional)1 cup green shelled peas, snap peas, snow peas, or corn kernels (optional)1-2 cups blanched julienned asparagus, broccoli stems, carrots, celery root, snap beans (optional)Salt and freshly ground black pepper2 tablespoons finely chopped or torn fresh herbs (basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, summer savory, tarragon, thyme)

1.  If you are using zucchini or summer squash, toss with the salt in a colander and set aside to drain for 30 minutes.  Wrap in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry.
2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot or garlic and sauté until fragrant and very slightly colored, about 1 minute. 
3.  Add any uncooked vegetables (bell pepper, fennel, peas, snap peas, snow peas, and/or corn) and sauté until slightly softened, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the remaining blanched vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery root, and/or snap beans) and continue to sauté until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.  
4. Season generously with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with the herbs.  Sauté for 1 minute longer.  Serve hot.

Zucchini Season is Here!

At first the summer squash trickle in.  A nice 6-inch zucchini here, a 3-inch pattypan there.  Then all of a sudden, a monster.  Such is the way of the summer squash.

The squash is bigger than my 12-inch chef's knife.
At my CSA pickup this week, we were entitled to six items in the summer squash/cucumber bin.  There were squash of several varieties:  zucchini (of course) in both yellow and gold colors and long and round shapes, a light-skinned Mid-East type, some yellow squash (both straight-neck and crooked), Pattypan (look like flying saucers), and Zephyr (yellow with light green ends).  I went straight for the golden and green straight zucchini, because they are the most versatile, lending themselves to easy slicing, julienning, and cutting into spheres. I skip the round zucchini since they are only good for stuffing, while the straight zucchini can work fine for stuffing and everything else.  Another time I’ll try the Mid-eastern type to see if the flavor varies.  

You’d think with the season just beginning, there wouldn’t be any overgrown summer squash, but, of course, there were a few.  Even at a farm, where the gardening is anything but haphazard and careless, those pesky squash can get out of control easily.  One rainstorm and there you have it: a monster.  It doesn’t help that a healthy plant is big and leafy, fully capable of playing hide and seek, til the squash is overgrown.  The plant just wants to produce seeds. 

Naturally, there was unlimited access to the overgrown squash.  You’d think that after years of growing my own zucchini baseball bats, I’d have had enough.  But no, I happen to have a full repertoire of recipes that deal with overgrown zucchini, and I was hankering to make the Zucchini Cheese Squares that I made for Serving Up the Harvest.

The squash I used was an overgrown Zephyr, so the dish lacked the green flecks that usually dominate the color.  The eggs I used were free-range guinea fowl eggs, so the color is a bit more golden than usual.  Also, for the cheddar, I substituted a mix of Grafton cheddar, Crawford Farm’s Vermont Ayr, and provolone cheese – what I had on hand.

The Zucchini Cheese Squares is ready for the oven.

While happily applying themselves to dinner, my family commented that the title doesn’t do the dish justice.  They got no argument from me—but no one came up with a better name.  The dish could be called a spoonbread, but most spoonbreads are made with cornmeal and the texture is usually softer.  The flour and baking powder rule it out of the frittata category.  The eggs aren’t separated, so it isn’t a soufflé.  We pondered the problem until it disappeared.  

Literally.  Not a crumb was left.  Let me know if you come up with a better name.

Dinner was Zucchini Cheese Squares, green salad dressed with Ripton House Dressing (see below), plus pickled golden beets, and cantaloupe. If the beets had been purple, the colors of dinner would have been perfect.

Zucchini Cheese Squares

Serves 6 to 8 

Zucchini Cheese Squares

My kids love these “zucchini pillows.”  The texture is softer than a bread and denser than a soufflé, with just the trace of crunch from the onions.  It makes a great side dish, especially on a picnic, where the squares can be eaten out of hand.  You can use overgrown zucchini here.
3 cups grated zucchini

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 onion, diced

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or lemon pepper

1/2 cup canola oil

3 large eggs, beaten

1.  Combine the zucchini and salt in a colander and toss to mix.  Set aside to drain for 30 minutes.  Squeeze out the excess water. 

2.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter a 7- by 11-inch or 9-inch round baking dish.

3.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder.  Add the zucchini, cheese, thyme, and pepper.  Mix well with a fork, breaking up any clumps of zucchini.  In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs.  Pour into the zucchini mixture and mix well.  Spread evenly in the baking dish.

4.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden.

5.  Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from Serving Up the Harvest.  © 2007, 2009 Andrea Chesman.

Planning Around a CSA Pick-Up

CSA bouquetThe best part of my week?  Wandering down rows of flowers at Elmer Farm when I pick up my CSA share.  Flowers and herbs, cut as needed, are part of this CSA, and I really value it – especially on a dreary day like today.  My bouquet contains snapdragons, a stem of safflower (Carthamus), black-eye susan, amaranth, cleome, painted tongue (Salpiglossis), ageratum, and strawflowers.   


But let me not shortchange the beautiful veggies. I brought home enough mesclun salad mix for three salads, a head of frisee, one kohlrabi, a handful of purple-top turnips with their greens, a bunch of golden beets, two heads of red butter lettuce, and one fennel bulb.  Let the meal planning begin.


Still life with veggiesLast weeks’ tuna and white bean salad served on a bed of greens featured a shaved fennel bulb, and that was pretty wonderful.  I could repeat that, but maybe I’ll make a risotto with fennel and golden beets.  I’ll put the butter lettuce to use in Vietnamese spring rolls with shrimp, cellophane noodles and lots of fresh herbs.  The frisee will be wilted in bacon fat and used to bed down decadent supper of poached duck eggs and crisp bacon.

We love turnip greens and beet greens, so those will be lightly wilted and served one night or another.  That leaves only the turnips.


When I wrote Serving Up the Harvest 2007 I had not yet discovered the joys of turnips.  I found my way to turnips via roasting them and I expect I’ll roast the tunips and the kohlrabi.  Come to think of it, roasted beets, kohlrabi, and turnips on a bed of frisee, dressed with my Ripton House Dressing (see post June 22, 2012) would make a fine dinner.  Poached eggs – hen or duck – would not go amiss here.


So many choices.  So little time.


My First CSA Pick-Up

My first CSA pick-up today – a whole new level of food fun – and it beats shopping any day. 

I decided to join a CSA because I write about food, and I wanted to experience what it is like to come home with a big box of vegetables, not necessarily of my choosing.

Of course, what I picked up was put in my own canvas bags—no boxes.  And, I had a fair amount of choice among the offerings.  Still, since my usual meal planning begins with knowing what is ready to harvest from my own garden or making a list for buying at a store, the CSA share turns my head around.  I have to start with the veggies, then figure out the meals.  

Turns out, the vegetables immediately told me what I’d be cooking this week.

CSA still life
I knew that salad greens were pretty much inevitable this time of year, so I planned ahead and bought a steak to grill.  Sure enough, each share included a hefty helping of a beautiful mesclun mix. I dumped half of my bag in a big bowl.  Dinner was begun. 

I sliced half of a bunch of beautiful, white Harukei turnips into the salad as well.  (The remaining half was put away, with the greens bagged separately.  No question I will cook the greens; they are simply delicious.) Surprise!  There were zucchini in this week’s share, so those tasty morsels were quartered lengthwise, slicked with olive oil, and grilled after the steak, while the meat was resting.  Dinner was a lightly dressed salad topped with steak and grilled zucchini.  Perfect.

Tomorrow, I’ll be stir-frying those emerald Asian greens, along with the turnip greens – that’s a no brainer.  They are crying out for a swift swish through the wok, with garlic, chili paste, and soy.  The Boston lettuce I picked up (there was a choice of five items, including three different lettuces, the Asian greens, napa cabbage, and the turnips) will definitely be used as a wrap.  I am thinking I will stir-fry ground pork and finely chopped napa cabbage seasoned with Asian fish sauce, cilantro, garlic, and chiles.  The mixture will be wrapped in Boston lettuce and served with some Thai dipping sauces.  The dried black beans (another pleasant surprise) will be turned into a chili and served with salad.  There’s probably enough greens for salad throughout the week. 

This is going to be fun.  Here’s my house salad dressing; it’s a simple, balanced vinaigrette that doesn’t draw attention to itself. I figure I am going to be making this often.

Balsamic Maple Vinaigrette
Makes about ½ cup
1 garlic clove or small shallot, minced1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar1 teaspoon pure maple syrup½ teaspoon soy sauce3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a half-pint canning jar.  Cover and shake to blend.  
©2012 Andrea Chesman