Every year right around March I find my brain starting to hum with a million ambitious ideas for the summer. Having spent the entire winter cooped up, deprived of sun, fresh air, and fresh produce, I sign up for the first CSA I deem worthy. Some time right around July or August, after weeks – no, MONTHS – of slaving over various vegetables and cursing to myself about the amount of time and effort I spend prepping and devising ways to use up the mountains of produce I pick up every week, I tell my husband, “Next year, remind me not to sign up for a CSA.” And he then reminds me that I tell him that every year.
I guess if I were home alone with nothing to do but think of food all day long and dream up recipes (oh what a lovely dream that would be), it would be perfectly lovely and idyllic to get a batch of produce every week and whip up gourmet dishes for myself. But in reality, summer is spent working, schlepping the kids around to activities and play dates, camping and traveling (and planning for all that camping and traveling), and generally trying to maintain everyone’s sanity until crazy September arrives.
But somehow, this past weekend, I was spurred by a potluck to get back into a cooking frenzy, and my food brain started working overtime. And in the process of making about 4 different recipes a day for 4 days straight, I got to rediscover how much my 4-year old loves to help in the kitchen. There she was, right alongside me, rinsing, tearing leaves off stems, chopping (albeit with a butter knife), sampling, scooping, stirring, peering into the oven and over pot edges.
That’s a summer well-spent.
Here are some of the veggies we had in our CSA share last week that awaited preparation:
– Beets with greens attached
– Yellow squash
– Carrots with tops attached
And here is a sampling of the dishes I made from them. The soybeans I had procured to make fresh soymilk for the afore-mentioned potluck – another story for another week. Hang tight for that one.
Disclaimer: This day of meals takes a LOT of preparation and planning. I am listing all the pre-planning recipes first, so you can get these done and spend the actual day of meals with all ingredients ready to go.
– 100 g organic dry soybeans
– 1 liter filtered water
– A Vitamix
– A nut milk bag
1. Soak the beans in a large bowl with enough water to cover and then some, overnight.
2. The next morning, rinse the beans and drain.
3. Fill your Vitamix blender container with 1 L filtered water and the soaked beans.
4. Blend very well. It should look creamy and white.
5. Pour into your nut milk bag over a large bowl, tighten the bag, and squeeze like you’re milking a cow.
6. Ladle off the foam and use this part to make a nice soy cappuccino. It’ll likely require some sweetener and possibly a dash of vanilla.
7. Store the soymilk in a mason jar, and the okara (residual soy “paste”) in an airtight container in the fridge.
Pluck beet roots off greens. Rinse beets and wrap each individually tightly in foil. Place in a baking dish and roast at 400 degrees for about 40-50 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork (unwrap the largest one just slightly and test). Unwrap the foil and peel skins, then trim stems and tails off. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds, cool slightly, then mix with some apple cider vinegar. Store in refrigerator.
Beet green chips: Very labor-intensive, but worth the effort. Make sure you follow each step closely. This is the technique for any type of woody leaf – and it makes for a versatile crisp.
Rinse beet greens. Toss any leaf that appears yellowed or old. Dry each leaf individually with a tea towel and pluck stem off, or tear leaf off larger stems. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Dot the leaves and/or oil your hands with avocado oil, then individually oil each leaf, taking care to only just coat each leaf rather than saturating it. Place in a single layer on the parchment paper, then sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 250-350 degrees until the leaves feel crisp and dry.
Lemon tahini sauce
Whisk together 1/4 cup tahini, 2 T lemon juice, 1 tsp honey, garlic powder, and salt to taste, using enough hot water to dilute to a drizzle-able consistency.
Grilled Summer Squash – Rinse and slice summer squash into vertical slices, 1/4 inch thick. Toss in olive oil and salt/pepper. Grill the summer squash on a grill On low-medium heat until tender. Cool, then store in air-tight container in fridge.
Beet Tzatziki sauce
Grate a large beet. Mix 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, some chopped fresh dill, small amount lemon juice, 1 clove pressed garlic, and salt/pepper to taste. Fold in the grated beets. Store in air-tight container in fridge.
(recipe inspired by Kara Lydon)
Carrot Top Filling
Rinse the carrot tops in a basin of water several times, until all sediment is removed. Toss the tops that are yellowed or shriveled. Dry thoroughly in tea towels. In a food processor, blend about 1/2 cup sunflower seeds or other nut of choice with 1-2 cloves garlic until roughly incorporated. In batches if needed, add carrot tops and pulse to mix. With blender still running, add just enough oil (avocado or olive) until the mixture becomes a paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in air-tight container in fridge.
If you run the food processor in pulses, you can coarsely pulse the mixture to more of a pesto rather than a paste, to mix with pasta or spread on sandwiches, or dollop over sautéed veggies or meats.
And now for the Day…
Okara Carrot Muffins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Silicone muffin cups into a muffin pan.
– 1/2 to 1 cup okara
– 1/2 cup soymilk
– 1/2 to 1/3 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
– 1/3 cup applesauce
– 1 1/2 cup grated carrots (slice carrots away from tops)
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1 tsp ginger paste
– 1 1/2 cup flour
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 1 packet Via (optional)
– 1/2 cup raisins and/or walnuts (optional but strongly recommended)
Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dry into wet and stir just enough to incorporate. Fold raisins/walnuts in. Spoon into cups, heaping up to use up all batter. Bake for about 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
Enjoy warm, with a cup of coffee or tea.
Beets and greens salad
Assemble beet slices on a plate. Drizzle lemon tahini sauce on top, then crumble the beet green crisps over the salad. Sprinkle with sesame or hemp seeds and some dulce flakes.
Grilled Summer Squash and Smoked Gouda on Rye
Toast slices of smoked Gouda on sourdough rye in a toaster oven. Top with warm grilled summer squash and drizzle with aged syrupy balsamic vinegar (Napa Valley Naturals Grand Reserve is my go-to). Bon appetit!
Carrots and Beet Tzatziki Sauce
Rinse carrots. Trim stem portion. Dip the carrots into the sauce for a tasty appetizer.
Carrot top ravioli
Start a large pot of water to boil. Place several wonton wrappers in a single layer on a lightly floured board or baking sheet. Place small amount of the carrot top pesto paste in the center. Wet the edges of each wonton wrapper and seal with another wrapper on top of each. Boil until just translucent in salted boiling water.
Plate the raviolis, drizzle with small amount high-quality EVOO, and grate fresh Parmigiana on top.
Warm sweet soymilk
Warm up the fresh soymilk with sugar in a small saucepan. Enjoy with some toasted muffins from breakfast.