Kitchen Focus

Back in April, I spent some time discussing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and how I'd be spending the growing season getting a box of fresh produce every week. I thought this might be a good month to check back in, share a typical week's selection (called a share) and explain how I used and enjoyed it. If you are thinking about joining a CSA, this is a great way to get at least a little taste of what you might expect.

CSAs vary widely and what is offered from week to week is changing regularly. Some farms deliver produce that's been cleaned and is nearly dirt-free. Others have you working a bit more to get your produce table-ready. Some farms offer fruit as well as vegetables ... some even offer eggs or other farm products in addition to fresh produce for an additional fee. Most offer a variety of options, too. You can opt for half-shares, regular shares and even double shares. Some offer highly-sought fruits and vegetables for a premium and some have storage shares that include a wide variety of root vegetables and winter squash.

For the purpose of example, I chose a week in late June to highlight a share. Each week's share fairly fills a box that measures 20 inches by 14 inches by 12 inches. Most weeks, the boxes are filled to the brim with produce, but there are times it gets lighter, especially if the weather's been bad or there is a break in the harvesting season. However, most farms are very good at planning their harvests well enough that there's an abundance of produce week after week all season long. Early in June, we had a lot of flooding and wet weather in our area, so the regularly abundant spinach was damaged, but our box for a week in late June included the following:

  • Arugula
  • Cucumber
  • Green Pepper
  • Kohlrabi
  • Purple Scallions
  • Red Lettuce
  • Ruby Beets
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Strawberries
  • White Onion
  • Young Garlic
  • Yellow Squash

Usually, upon retrieving my box and bringing it back home, I go through it and wrap anything that needs wrapping before storing it away in the refrigerator or on the counter. On weeks when we get strawberries or snap peas, it's not uncommon to have some missing before the share makes it home. Our pick-up is less than a mile from our house, so we often walk to get it. It's a great excuse to walk the dog and we usually take a few bags from home to transfer our goodies to for easier carrying.

In this particular week, we enjoyed two different salads featuring lots of goodies. Since they do a great job of showcasing how you can enjoy a CSA share, I will present both of them here. You can serve them in a lot of different ways, but I'm including suggestions that mirror the way they were served at my home.

Taste of Summer Salad

This bright salad combines the sweetness of blueberries and sugar snap peas with the bite of arugula and purple scallions. It holds up well with many grilled entrees, including pork tenderloin, which is how I served it.
  • 2 c. arugula -- coarsely chopped
  • 2 c. red lettuce -- coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 sliced cucumber -- halved
  • 1/2 c. chopped sugar snap peas -- ends removed
  • 1/4 c. sliced purple scallion
  • 1/2 small kohlrabi -- julienned
  • 1 c. fresh blueberries 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the first 8 ingredients (arugula through feta cheese) in a large bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients and toss with the rest of the salad. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 side servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Roasted Beet and Garlic Salad

This incredibly savory salad makes a wonderful bed for a spicy sautéed salmon fillet.
  • 1 large or 2 medium beets -- trimmed, cleaned and cut into wedges
  • 1/2 white onion -- sliced into wedges
  • 1 head young garlic -- top sliced off
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • 2 c. arugula -- coarsely chopped
  • 2 c. red lettuce -- coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the beets, onion and garlic in a shallow, ovenproof dish. Drizzle generously with oil and roast until tender, 30-40 minutes. Cool.

Separate the greens evenly among two salad plates. Slice and arrange the beets and onion over the greens. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

Squeeze the roasted cloves of garlic into the bowl of a food processor along with the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Process until smooth and drizzle over the salads. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 2 main course servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour