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April 16, 2011

Courtesy of Maya

CSA Bounty Dominic Armato

This is exciting stuff.

I've been meaning to do a CSA for years and years, and only finally just got around to it. And what better choice than Maya's Farm right in south Phoenix? I love this. I love the idea of getting a bushel of stuff every week to play with. It's beautiful, it's fresh, it'll force me to be creative, and to get to know some vegetables and herbs that I otherwise might never have picked up on my own.

We'll see if I can turn this into a fun regular thing. I post the week's haul, and while I reserve the right to cook whatever the heck I want, I'm open to suggestions. At the very least, I'll report back. If I can get my act together, maybe I'll even post a recipe. So here's what we've got:

  • Eggs
  • Baby Carrots
  • Beets
  • Radishes (a few varieties)
  • Spring Onions (two types -- one i'itoi, I think?)
  • Dill
  • Spigarello
  • Kale

What do you think? Beets and dill have me thinking borscht, but it's a small bunch of beets, so I'm not sure there's enough for anything other than a tiny batch. Which doesn't necessarily preclude the possibility. The rest is pretty darn flexible. I don't cook with radishes a lot, so I'm definitely looking for some good suggestions there.



Oh, I'm jealous. We are doing a CSA for the first time this year too but living in New England, we won't have anything for quite a while yet! I'm not the most adventurous cook and I'm hoping this will get us out of our rut. Looking forward to hearing how your cooking goes and ideas from others!

Oh, I love this! We've been with our CSA for three years now, and we really enjoy it. Like mar, though, we're in the midwest so a while before we get our first box!!

I don't have any creative suggestions, we love some glazed baby carrots, and baked kale chips at our house.

We, too, subscribe to Maya's CSA. We've been in CSAs for years in the midwest, so when we moved to Phoenix last August, finding a good farmer was a top priority. Because the portions are sometimes a little small for a family of five, I'll hold onto the sturdier root vegetables for a week or two until I have enough for a good side dish. Today I sauted the spigarello with the spring garlic and mixed it with orzo and parmesan - yummy! There have been a lot of radishes the past several months. I often cook them like turnips, either braised with a roast or saluted with a sweet glaze. The watermelon radishes are really beautiful.

I saute the radishes, not salute them. The auto-correct on my phone is crazy.

"Radishes who are about to die, we salute you!" Sorry, that was wrong.

Maybe pickle the baby carrots (or the beets?)

We've toyed with doing a CSA here in the DC area, but 1) can't find one we like that has pick up that isn't far away, and 2) we travel a lot, so its tricky to have a weekly allotment of veggies if we aren't here.

I got beets in my box earlier this year. They were pretty small with greens, so I wanted something to use everything. I found a beet risotto recipe on Epicurious that used the beets, the stems, and the greens, and it was fantastic. Give it a try!

Jealous. In MN, the first several weeks of CSA boxes are greens, greens, greens, and greens, with the occasional garlic scape to mix it up.

Braised radishes are easy and a crowd pleaser. Just cook them in low sodium chicken broth and butter until they are the desired texture. Then you can reduce the juices to make a syrupy red sauce. The radishes turn a beautiful pink. We also made pickled radishes recently to put on a salad. Very good.

"Radishes who are about to die, we salute you!" Sorry, that was wrong.

If that's wrong, I don't want to be right.

I know it's almost cliche now, but roasted kale chips are one of my favorite snacks.

What about making a custard using the eggs, pureed beets, & caramelized onions?

IG... beet custard... I like it... brainstorming along those lines.

Urg... annoyance... my ambition is being limited by my equipment.

So I want to do a beet and spring onion panna cotta, served in something glass so you don't lose that beautiful color. And I want it nice and cold. That part is easy. Cook it, blend it, strain it, chill it. Done and done.

Topping it is the hard part, because I need to introduce some texture, and I need (want) to incorporate the dill. I thought about toasted dill bread crumbs, and that would work if it were a warm or room temperature custard, but not for something cold. And I really want it to be cold (it was almost 100 here today). I think pickled radish is in. That's easy, and it'll lend some nice crunch. But I need more. I thought about topping it with a little salad of pickled radish, chopped dill and the beet greens. But I think salad + creamy isn't going to work. I think it needs to be a sharper textural contrast.

What I WANT to do is go all MG with this thing. I want a dill brittle that's nice and crisp when you bite, but melts into the panna cotta as you eat. Something I could make flat, shatter into shards and top it. But to do that, I think I need to start with a foam... something pretty dense and stable that could be spread thin, and then dehydrated. I think I could get the stabilizers from a friend, but I think I need a dehydrator, and I don't have one. Of course, in two months I'll *live* in a dehydrator, but that doesn't help me right now.

So I think the answer for this week is to keep it simple. Beet panna cotta, dill granita, pickled radish. And a little fresh dill for garnish. And someday I'll revisit it all sciencey-like.

What do you think?

Also, add sliced hard-boiled egg and maybe some minced spring onion tops (I'll only use the white portion for the panna cotta) to the garnishes. So, roasted beets and spring onions in the panna cotta, and on top: dill granita, pickled radish (little batons, I'm thinking), sliced hard-boiled egg, minced green onion tops and fresh dill.

I think that sounds like a winner.

And... uh... maybe something a little more rustic later in the week with what's left :-)

I was reading along, nodding mildly, as you described the panna cotta, and then when you mentioned the hard-boiled eggs I went YES! That's what it needs.

I love to make a kale pesto (steam the kale first), with toasted almonds, roasted garlic, a bit of chile oil and parmesan cheese. Mix it up with quinoa; stir in some sliced avocado. Yum.

...plus olive oil, salt, pepper, of course.

Paula, that sounds brilliant.

I suppose this might be an opportune time for me to admit that I have never, in ten years of serious cooking and 6 years of less serious cooking, ever managed to make a decent custard. Which, in turn, might partly explain why I love them so much, and thought of it in the first place.
Anyway, depending on the beets, I think you might need some acid - maybe a drizzle of sweet balsamic to finish?

I like the idea of the dill granita - additional savory is definitely the way to go - but my only concern is that the crystals wouldn't hold up. I think I know what you're going for with 'crisp, but melts', but my gut tells me that the granita might be too much melty and not enough crispy. Then again, as I said, I have a LOT of trouble with textures on my desserts, so take it with a grain of salt.

Don't laugh, but when I first suggested the custard, I was thinking of garnishing with something like rice krispies (I was just trying to describe Graham Elliot to my brother). Maybe toasted rosemary? I'm thinking of this almost in terms of a savory bread pudding.

Darn it. Now I'm inspired to attempt an almond panna cotta (sort of a more refined version of the almond jello you get in Chinese restaurants). But, again - I suck at custards.

IG... re: acid, lemon juice in the panna cotta is the plan. Also, I probably should have mentioned that I'm going totally savory.

I briefly considered a bit of saba, partly because it's burning a hole in my cupboard and partly because I'm making a concerted effort not to top everything with balsamic (it's become too easy for everybody). But I don't think it needs either if there's some lemon in the panna cotta itself.

Just going to have to see if the granita holds up. Like I say, it's not what I want to do. But it's the best I can think of that doesn't involve a call to Dow and purchasing a dehydrator.

I'm a CSA lover too, and we've participated in a great one for about six years (http://www.harmonyvalleyfarm.com). We get a vegetable share, and split a fruit share & a cheese share with another household, and get a twice monthly coffee share.
We're just two weeks away now from the first box! I think we're going to do a chicken and an egg CSA this year too, from a different farm. I wish I could afford the beef & pork ones, but those get to be pretty substantial.

One advantage of our farm is they have a wonderful ACH program so they can take your share payment and spread it over monthly withdrawals directly from our bank. Which means we may not get any veggies in February, March and April (season goes May-Jan), but we're not paying $1000 up front all at once either!

Sometimes I'm racing to keep up so I wind up eating a lot of my CSA raw, or simply sauteed. I'm guessing I won't be much help for your recipes I'm afraid! The dialogue would always go like this:

"Hey Jon, what should we do with the vegetables in our CSA?"

"uh, wash any dirt off and eat em?"

I'm making a concerted effort not to top everything with balsamic

Heheheheh. I think that's our food backgrounds speaking - I'm still in the process of discovering for myself just how many things taste better when drizzled with balsamic (answer so far: pretty much everything), and making a conscious effort not to use chilli oil on everything.

Nothing against balsamic. It's a glorious substance (the real stuff, anyway). I just feel like it's become a cook's crutch that's horribly overused and I'm trying to do my part to reverse that trend. Ditto bacon. (But you can pry my guanciale from my cold, dead, pork-smeared hands.)

The battle of everything is better with Chile Oil or Rooster Sauce versus everything is better with Balsamic would be a great one.

@IG, I love custard as well. Try Keller's recipe for a proper French quiche. Its essentially a giant custard and the hardest part about it isn't the custard part (that's actually easy at that size), the hardest part is not having the dough leak.

MNCharm, where do you CSA? We get more than greens from HVF! I can't WAIT for the first ramps of the season, the first sunchokes, the overwintered sweet potatoes, and yes, please, the greens! I need to flush winter the hell out of my system and nothing says "flush" like grrrrreeeeens.

@Anon Man - is that the recipe from the Bouchon cookbook? Yeah, I suck at that, too. I've succeeded at a lot (well, ok, three) of the other recipes, but my quiche was really gummy.

@George, yeah, that's the one. Sorry that it didn't work out for you. I do all my quiches that way now and haven't had a bad one, even though it takes like 4 hours to make a quiche that way. I'm also a crème brulee fanatic and have certainly scrambled (literally) those a few times with the smaller volume not reacting well to the heat.

Jon, Hog's Back Farm. I'm exaggerating somewhat -- it isn't 100% greens, it just feels that way -- and I have no complaints overall, the quality of the food is excellent.
And my fiber intake is high anyway. :)

Ramps are one of the better early season treats, as are the scapes (pesto with bite, mmm) -- no sunchokes or sweet potatoes, though.

@mncharm - Oh cool! We have friends who did Hog's Back. Way back when we were starting, we couldn't afford anything other than the monthly payments and either I overlooked Hog's Back, or HVF was one of the only ones set up for ACH.

So we've stuck with them out of convenience/awesomeness. The awesomeness would be the aforementioned sunchokes in May, for example. They raise a very diverse crop for their CSA and when other people are getting a trickle of stuff, we're getting huge piles of crazy shit I've never heard like salad burnet, of or challenging-to-grow-in-Viroqua-things like celery and more amaranth, spigariello and yukina savoy than I know what to do with.

Well? How did it go?

I was wondering how this went. I love the idea of a CSA, but it's not practical for me right now. I didn't have any additional suggestions this time around and I have absolutely no experience with with MG - except for consumption :). However, I have lots of experience with oodles of veggies from my own gardens of the past. I just wanted to say that I like this topic and I hope that you continue with it.

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