I think I fall into that unusual category of people who are crazy about Brussels sprouts. You could put a giant bowl of them in front of me and every last one would be gone within minutes. I hear that this is not the norm, though. If you find yourself with some Brussels sprouts on your hands and aren’t quite sure what to do with them, here are a few tips to help you through the preparation process: Storage: If you’re in possession of a stalk or 2 of Brussels sprouts but know you won’t be cooking them for a little while, leave them on the stalk and refrigerate them. If space is an issue, trim them off the stalk and store them, uncovered, in a bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. The outer layer will shrivel, and you’ll need to peel it off and discard it before preparing the sprouts, but they will still be crisp and yummy! Sprouts keep in the fridge for several weeks, if handled properly. Preparation: Trim Brussels sprouts off stalk, and cut off stem flush at base of each sprout. Before going any further, soak Brussels sprouts in warm water for 10 minutes. This will release any dirt and little unwanted critters that might be lurking around the top layers. Once soaking is complete, drain and rinse as usual. Discard any withered layers and trim off damaged areas before cooking. If cooking Brussels sprouts whole, cut a small X in the top (not the stem side). This will help the sprouts to cook through more evenly. Alternatively, cut sprouts in half, or in quarters if larger, to allow for quicker cooking while still keeping the layers of the sprout intact. Recipe Inspiration: My favorite way to cook Brussels Sprouts is actually to shred them by slicing them thinly with a knife. I caramelize some minced Shallots in a skillet with Bacon Grease, add the shredded Sprouts, a splash of Apple Cider to round out the flavor, and Salt and Pepper to taste. Sauté until they’re just wilted and voila! Simple, flavorful, and delicious! *Image courtesy of: http://www.taylorfarms.com/products/classic-vegetables/brussels-sprouts/.
Leeks are often known as the “soup onion” because of their mildness. They provide a perfect for complement to the more complex flavors of many dishes, such as soups, quiches, and gratins, without being overpowering. If you’ve never prepared leeks before, we have a few suggestions to make the process fast and easy. Because leeks, by nature, are layered vegetables that grows in the ground, they tend to collect dirt and grit that needs to be removed before being consumed. Here are a few tips to get them squeaky clean and ready to be cooked: Begin by chopping off the darker green leaves of the leek. While these sections can be used to flavor stocks, they are too tough to eat. Set the white and pale green portions aside. If using a recipe that only calls for the leeks to be halved, slice them in half lengthwise and hold each half under cold running water. Use your fingers to move the layers around a bit, allowing the water to move through them and flush out any grit. If using a recipe that calls for chopped leeks, halve them lengthwise, and then slice them up. Dunk them in a large bowl of cold water and use your hands to agitate them in the water so that any grit is dislodged. Pour into a strainer or colander to drain, and then rinse once more under cold running water to flush out any last bits of grit. Cook according to your recipe of choice and enjoy! *Image courtesy of: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_clean_leeks/.
One of my favorite food blogs is The Kitchn because it consistently offers a great mix of accessible recipes and cooking hacks that make preparing food so much easier. On top of that, The Kitchn almost always tells you why instead of only telling you how so you understand the method behind the method. As kohlrabi has continued to stump many, I’ve turned to my trusty online resource, and, as always, it has not failed me. Below is an excerpt from a great article on various ways to prepare kohlrabi, that has me brimming with inspiration. To read the full piece, with links to additional recipes, click here. How Should I Eat Kohlrabi? Kohlrabi is found in a lot of Indian cooking, so it naturally does well with traditional Indian spices. Honestly, though, we feel that the mild flavor of kohlrabi gets lost if mixed with too many other vegetables or seasonings, so we tend toward simple preparations where the kohlrabi can take center stage: Raw When raw, kohlrabi is slightly crunchy and mildly spicy, like radishes mixed with turnip. You can toss them in a salad, make a slaw out of grated kohlrabi, or eat them on their own with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. In Soup While kohlrabi can be thrown into a basic chunky vegetable soup, we particularly like it in a creamy, pureed soup with mild spices so that sweet kohlrabi flavor can really shine through. Kohlrabi can also be added to recipes for Cream of Potato, Cream of Broccoli, and even Cream of Mushroom soup! In Fritters This is a great way to get kids to eat their kohlrabi! Shred it and mix with an egg and a few tablespoons of flour or breadcrumbs. Heat oil or butter in a flat skillet, drop on small mounds, and flatten slightly with the back of your spatula. Turn after a few minutes, and serve when both sides are crispy. Roasted Like most other vegetables, when roasted in the oven, the outside of the kohlrabi caramelizes, and the flavor sweetens and mellows. We like to toss it with other roasted veggies like eggplant and potatoes for a hearty side dish. Steamed This is kind of a cheat-suggestion because kohlrabi can be used in literally anything once steamed. We throw steamed kohlrabi into frittatas, stir-fries, and pasta dishes. We also like to puree it with a little cream and simple spices. There are even recipes for stuffing steamed kohlrabi into empanadas and calzones! *Image courtesy of http://www.thekitchn.com/what-is-kohlrabi-45055.
By this point in the CSA season, if the Fennel Bulb hasn’t already crossed your path, it’s about to, and there are a few things you should know as you delve into this delicious new territory: Fennel bulbs have a pronounced anise flavor, which is more potent when eaten raw and more mellow when cooked. To prepare a Fennel Bulb, remove the remaining parts of any stalks (which can be reserved for soups or vegetable stocks), quarter, and peel off any wilted outer layers. Cut the hard core out of the very bottom center, and you’re ready to go! To consume Fennel Bulbs raw, slice very thinly and serve mixed in with salad greens. (A mandoline is helpful here.) To consume cooked Fennel Bulbs, boil or steam a head for up to 20 minutes, or roast in wedges for 40-50 minutes.
Every year, around August, the squash starts to grow faster than we can eat it, and we have to get creative with our preparations. The solution? Squash noodles! Spiralized Squash “Pasta” If you’ve been thinking about getting a spiralizer, it’s a really a great tool for using up all that Squash you get in your CSA boxes. You can turn the Squash into veggie PASTA! Add some fresh veggies or sauteed veggies, plus some tomatoes (fresh or in sauce form), and you’ve got yourself some really awesome pasta. *Image courtesy of: http://www.twirlybites.com/spiralize/spiralized-zucchini/.
Hey, Everyone! Bob Cat here – Main Street Farms’ co-owner, farm manager, and lead educator. When my good friend Allan asked me to come help him start Main Street Farms 5 years ago, my main incentive to come aboard was…THE FOOD. I had little farm experience back then, but I had been eating my whole life and cooking almost just as long. Coming from an Italian background, I learned at an early age the value of good food made from real, natural ingredients. I couldn’t have dessert until I finished my veggies, so I quickly learned to love veggies. I have been dating a vegan for almost 2 years now, so my love of veggies (and ability to grow them in abundance) has really come in handy. Still, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the veggies. It’s important to keep it simple. Every item that comes in your CSA box can easily be broken down into 2 categories: SALAD or STIR FRY. Ask yourself: “Do I feel like cooking tonight?” If yes, fire up the wok (or large frying pan), sauté some veggies, add your protein of choice, and make some rice or noodles. Not in the mood to cook? Start chopping whatever is available, toss it on top of some lettuce, and you’ve got a salad! Speaking of proteins, I love meat as much as the next person, but there are a lot of other options out there if you are getting tired of always deciding between beef, chicken, pork, lamb, or fish. Try substituting some tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, falafel, or other protein/meat substitute. Throughout this week, I’ll be sharing some simple meal ideas that are common in my rotation: greens and beans, hummus and veggie wraps, taco salad, fresh rolls, curried lentils, spiralized squash “pasta,” chili, nachos, sushi, falafel, pita pizza, and cucumber-tomato salad. Expect rough outlines of how I make these dishes – I’m not much of a recipe follower; I just follow my stomach, so I apologize if I’m not very specific with quantities. Most of these are made vegetarian but can easily be made with your meat of choice. Hope you enjoy!
Heirloom tomato harvest is in full swing on the farm, and with the bounty that surrounds us, some tips are in order! Before getting into all of that, though, let’s talk about what makes these tomatoes just so special: They are a variety that is many generations old! If you plant their seeds, the same variety will consistently grow (unlike the hybrid tomatoes at the grocery store, which yield unpredictable results). They are naturally more disease-resistant than commercial tomatoes, but they have a shorter shelf life. Due to this somewhat fragile nature, we keep ours growing in our greenhouses, where they are safe and cozy. They lack the genetic mutation that makes conventional tomatoes perfectly round and red but, in exchange, can produce more natural sugars within the fruit, making them much more flavorful. Their many colors signify the presence of phytochemicals (disease-fighting, immune-boosting super substances) that are classified into the carotenoids (red, orange, purple), flavonoids (orange, yellow) and glucosinolates (greens), meaning they are saturated with nutrients that fight cancer and inflammation and act as pro-provitamins! Now, on to the tips! Don’t be alarmed by how heirloom tomatoes look. They are often multi-colored, crazily shaped, and enormous, but they are perfect for eating! Never refrigerate your tomatoes. It will actually make them mealy. Store them on your counter at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. We pick our tomatoes only when they’re perfectly ripe and ready to eat on the very same day we pack them into on your CSA shares or bring them to the market. This ensures that you get the freshest, most optimal produce possible. These lovely, ripe tomatoes should be gobbled up within a few days of receiving them. If you find yourself with too many tomatoes on your hands, they freeze wonderfully. Simply blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, peel off the thin skin, and core. Freeze whole or diced, depending on your preference. Make sure to leave about an inch of head space in the container or bag in which you pack them, as they will expand while freezing.
Still trying to figure out bok choy? The World’s Healthiest Foods has some great suggestions! Follow the link for more information on bok choy’s nutritional qualities and health benefits. Storing Bok Choy To store, place bok choy in a plastic storage bag removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Keeping bok choy cold will keep it fresh and help it retain its vitamin C content. Put the whole head in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator. Bok choy will keep for about 1 week if properly stored. Tips for Preparing Bok Choy Unlike some of the other cruciferous vegetables, you can consume virtually all parts of bok choy without much trimming or worrying about problematic textures or cooking times. Chop leaf portion into 1/8″ slices and the stems into 1/2″ lengths for quick and even cooking. To get the most health benefits from bok choy, let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit can further enhance its beneficial phytonutrient concentration.
When I was a child, I used to play in my mom’s herb garden in the backyard, pinching the leaves and rubbing them between my fingers, sniffing them gleefully. Even though I had no idea how to use them, the smells were heavenly. I loved them all, but sage was always my favorite, with its soft green hue and big velvety leaves concealing a powerful aroma. Sage is from the mint family, but in flavor, it’s more like rosemary, with a hint of pepper. It pairs wonderfully with rich foods, which is why we use it liberally in all our Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing dinners. But sage isn’t only for special occasions. Chop it up and sprinkle it over potatoes roasted in the oven. Season grilled chicken or pan-seared pork chops with it. Toss it in with freshly cooked pasta. The trick is to use just enough of the herb to complement your dish. Too much and it will hog the spotlight. In a great little article called “Sage – Off the Beaten Aisle,” J.M. Hirsch, food editor at the Associated Press, offers a variety of ways to incorporate sage into meals, based on common cuisines throughout Europe. Hopefully, his ideas will inspire you to be more adventurous with sage! *Photo courtesy of: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266480.php