meal planning

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