Thinking Inside the Box

The arrival of our CSA boxes is greeted like a bit of a special occasion in our nest. Sure, we get one every couple weeks from now until nearly the end of the year, but there's something wonderful about seeing what kind of wonderful the farm has put together and delivered. What's even more fun, for me, is planning a couple of weeks of meals so that we're just using up the last of the offerings of one box as a new one is delivered. It makes meals more creative and gives us all something to look forward to when mealtime rolls around. Even our youngster often asks, "Are there any farm things in dinner?" More often than not, the answer is yes.

The first box of the season is particularly fun. A mixture of stored and overwintered items alongside the earliest produce of the season gives us a lot to work with … if you think inside the box. By that, I mean I let the offerings of the box help plan my meals. For instance, our first box included a variety of dark, leafy greens, chives, ramps, and black radishes. Adding more veggies for color and texture, some shredded chicken, and a fantastic dressing (that just happened to be both dairy and gluten free) resulted in a main dish chopped salad that I'm sure to make again this season:

The wonderful thing about the recipe below is that you can absolutely tweak it. A lot. In fact, later this growing season, we're sure to have carrots, peppers, edamame, garlic, and ginger arriving in our box. We might opt to keep those items and tweak the type of radish, greens, and chive/ramp/onion options in the dish. The shredded chicken will likely be leftovers from the grill or maybe even something from our smoker. The dressing might stay the same or take on a Tex-Mex theme. When fresh produce from the farm is steering you, the sky is the limit!

You may notice that the dressing in this salad packs a bit of heat. Don't worry too much. You can always reduce the amounts and build some back in, to taste. And remember that items like honey and peanut butter will cut the spice level in the dressing. Also, there is a lot of different veggies along with chicken in the salad, so you might find yourself surprised at how well a dressing with a bit of kick to it holds up to all of that. Still, if you really don't like the heat, it can be omitted. That said, I'd recommend you opt to use olive oil instead of chili oil and use at least a little sriracha or your favorite hot sauce to create a flavor blend with the other ingredients in the dressing. You'll thank me for it!

Thai Chicken Salad

For the salad:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 3 sweet mini-peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small black radish (or other radish variety), peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame
  • 1 cup dark, leafy greens, finely chopped (I used 1/2 cup fresh sorrel and 1/2 cup fresh spinach)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped chives
  • 1/3 cup ramps (or green onions), sliced
  • 1/2-1 cup peanuts, salted
For the dressing:
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp. granulated garlic)
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger)
  • 2 T. soy sauce (choose GF, if desired)
  • 2 T. rice vinegar
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 2 tsp-2 T. sriracha
  • 1 T. chili oil (or olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2-4 T. water

To make the salad, mix together all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl, except the peanuts. Chill the salad until ready to eat.

To make the dressing, place all of the dressing ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times until it is all combined. Add enough water to create a pourable consistency.

Toss the dressing with the salad, add the peanuts, toss to coat, and serve.

  • Yields:
  • 4 main dish servings
  • Preparation Time:
  • 20 minutes