This summer, my roommate and I decided to bring our friendship to the next level by sharing vegetables. That is, by going halfsies on a local CSA share, because nothing screams summer fun like the wild world of the plant kingdom!
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, creates a direct connection between consumers and local farmers by allowing people to purchase “shares” of that farm’s crops. Oftentimes, participants pay in full at the beginning of the growing season in exchange for weekly deliveries of veggies. For farmers, this guarantees advanced cash flow to pay for equipment and necessary prep; for customers, it translates to fresh, trusted produce and exposure to products outside the realm of Key Foods. For me, it meant figuring out how to incorporate eight pounds of vegetables a week into my sugar-centric diet.
Whether you, too, have enough greens to rival the weight of a small child or just need to use up that wilting head of lettuce in your crisper, here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Do the Prep Work
Make sure you stock up on supplementary products that will pair with pretty much any produce you receive from your CSA or purchase from the farmer’s market, such as olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley are another staple component to create a hearty meal out of your veggies.
I’ve spent the last 25 years avoiding salad, so even I was surprised that having homemade salad dressing on hand-made me crave the so-called rabbit food. I pair delicate vinaigrettes with more fragile greens, while saving heartier dressings, such as Caesar, for more sturdy lettuce varieties. Repeat after me: I am a Green Goddess.
2. Make Workhorses
Do more with less by creating versatile recipes that can multitask better than you after your seventh cup of coffee. Pesto is a great way to use spinach and whatever herbs you have on hand, and tastes just as delicious slathered on chicken or pasta as it does on toast, topped with a fried egg.
What is better than butter, you ask? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Conveniently, compound butters are another useful way of utilizing an abundance of herbs: slather cilantro lime butter on cobs of sweet corn, serve shrimp sautéed in garlic butter, or dip your bounty of fresh radishes in chive-studded, creamy deliciousness.
3. Drink Up
Oh green smoothies, you sneaky things, you. Consume multiple servings of vegetables with nary a chew by blending them into a delicious, vitamin rich and fiber-filled beverage. I like to add bananas for creaminess and berries for a sweet touch, but if you can go full-throttle vegetable, more power to you, sister! Bonus: frozen greens create a thicker, pleasantly icy texture and, when stockpiled, can last you well into the fall months.
While you’re at it, keep your hydration game on point by freezing various herb and fruit combinations in your ice-cube tray. Raspberries & lemon verbena and strawberries & basil are just two pretty pairs to get you started. Once frozen, pop a few cubes into your water bottle for a flavor boost all day long.
4. Get Pickling
After our third week in a row of staring down a humongous bunch of swiss chard, I was fairly certain I’d rather gouge my eyes out with it than eat another bite. After second thought, I opted to quick pickle their stems instead. Eat ‘em like carrot sticks, or, better yet, call them celery’s fashionable older sister and serve them in a Bloody Mary the next time you have the girls over for brunch. Speaking of Bloodies. . .
5. Booze Infuse
Take it a step further by infusing your alcohol. Fancy a cucumber gin fizz, beet mojito, or tarragon vodka soda? Let your spirit/flavor pairing sit for a few days in a cool, dark place and voila! You are the town’s newest mixologist. If patience isn’t your strongest virtue, you could always follow the lead of NYC’s The Wayland, which makes a fantastic kale margarita by mixing kale juice, ginger, lime, and blanco tequila. Just be sure to booze responsibly, ladies.
6. When All Else Fails, Relax
You’ve treated your body well all week by feeding it fresh, antioxidant and vitamin-packed superfoods. Keep up the pampering by transforming any leftover produce into a soothing face mask: Avocados for hydration, cucumbers to reduce swelling, carrots for their acne-fighting powers. Whatever ails you, there’s a veg for that! Go ahead and top it all off with a pint of your favorite Ben & Jerry’s. . . just be sure to save some for me.
Cassie Sciortino is a pastry cook in NYC whose job both pays the rent and justifies her personal tagline of No Donut Left Behind. A cardiac surgeon’s dream, she spends her downtime eating her feelings, writing all about it at www.aninfinitevariety.com, and answers the question “What’s wrong?” with “This is just my face” at least three times a week. She likes you too much to suggest you follow her on Twitter.