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Your Questions Answered
Did you decide to take the plunge and join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program this year? Congratulations! You’re about to start getting weekly deliveries of super-seasonal, fresh-as-can-be vegetables and fruit directly from local farms. Along with the joys of CSA membership comes the challenge of keeping up with all that produce, some of it unfamiliar. (Kohlrabi? Wasn’t that a monster on "Star Trek"?)
But have no fear, we’re here to help! Throughout the growing season, our CSA coach, digital food editor Jennifer Anderson, will be answering your questions and giving tips on what to do with everything in your CSA box.
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Make a List, Check It TwiceMake a list of everything that comes in your CSA box, and keep it in a prominent place in the kitchen. Cross items off the list as you use them, so you'll never encounter mushy, forgotten cucumbers in the back of the fridge that got hidden behind a giant head of romaine and a bunch of beets. Do as chefs do and follow the FIFO rule: first in, first out (in other words, use up the oldest stuff first).
4 of 15Invest in a salad spinner now! If you're accustomed to using those handy bags of mixed baby greens, get ready for a change: Most of your CSA lettuce will come in whole heads, and it will probably have some good, honest farm-fresh dirt on it. A salad spinner is the absolute easiest way to get your lettuce clean, dry, and salad-ready. Get More Tips on Prepping Lettuce
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Take Your Tops Off
Carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, and other root vegetables fresh off the farm will often come with their greens still attached. Though this makes for a pretty picture, you actually should lop the tops off as soon as you get them, or the greens will leech moisture out of the vegetables, leaving you with floppy, shriveled specimens. Store the greens separately and use more delicate ones (carrot, radish) in pesto; saute sturdier varieties (beet, turnip), or chop any of them up and add to soups.
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Q: "What do I do with all this zucchini?""I get a lot of zucchini. What do I do with it?" asks Theresa Roth. "We’re not used to eating it."
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A: "The real question is, what CAN’T you do with zucchini?"
There are so many ways to prepare this summer crop that you’ll (almost) never get tired of it.
Start your day off right with Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins. Enjoy some easy Zucchini Quesadillas or a Grilled Ratatouille Muffaletta sandwich for lunch. Come dinnertime, dig in to Chicken and Squash Lasagna, savory Zucchini Tart with rich Parmesan-basil custard, or serve side dishes of Grilled Zucchini with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing or Stuffed Zucchini with Tomatoes and Mozzarella along with grilled sausages or burgers. Finally, delight in desserts such as Sweet Zucchini Cupcakes, Zucchini Nut Bread Cookie Sandwiches, or gluten-free Zucchini-Almond Cake.
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Q: "I've never cooked with fennel. Help!"
Andrea Gaither exclaims, "FENNEL? What do I even do with that?!?!"
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A: "Enjoy it raw in salads or roasted on pizza or in dip."
Fresh fennel bulb is mild and slightly sweet, with a hint of the licorice-like aroma of anise. Enjoy the juicy crunch of raw fennel in a Beet, Fennel, and Carrot Salad: Shred it along with beets and carrots as called for in the recipe, or substitute cabbage, zucchini, kohlrabi, or whatever else is in your CSA box.
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Q: "What do I do with all this lettuce?"Mary-Irene Marek asks, "Any ideas for lettuce beyond fresh salads? We've been getting two full heads as well as arugula every week. While we are total fans of salad and love the greens, it's easy to get salad burnout. Thanks!"
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A: "Turn up the heat!"
Don’t be afraid to cook your lettuces. Grilled Butter Lettuce with Creamy Dressing brings new meaning to summer salad with its tantalizingly charred edges. Or, turn a big pile of greens into a few manageable mouthfuls when you wilt them to make Summer Greens Bruschetta or Lettuce and Pea Soup with Croutons.
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Q: “What do I do with radishes and dandelion greens?”Reader Nicole Rumbaugh asks, "I received two varieties of radishes and also a bunch of dandelion greens in this last delivery. I don't want to just turn them into a salad. Is there anything else I can make with them?"
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A: "Make pickles, dips, and appetizers"
Pickled radishes make a fabulous addition to sandwiches or a cheese plate. Radishes also add a nice bite to creamy dips such as this one. Finally, you can do as the French do and simply enjoy fresh radishes with butter and salt.
Dandelion greens have a bitter edge to them, so they pair well with other big, bold flavors -- anything salty, sour, or sweet. This appetizer of dandelion greens, Medjool dates, pecans, and blue cheese wrapped in prosciutto is a powerhouse of flavor.
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