Wondering what to do with your early-summer CSA box?

garlic scapes
CC BY 2.0 Tim Sackton

All those greens can seem daunting, but not if you think outside the box! Here are some recipe ideas.

For the past seven years I have subscribed to the same CSA (community supported agriculture) share. It comes from a family-owned organic farm that feeds around 350 households weekly from June to early November. Each week we get a box of vegetables that are fresh from the field, vibrantly colored, nutritionally dense, and absolutely delicious.

After all these years I have a good sense of what I'll get at any given point in the summer, but there's still a surprise element to the share that I love. Perhaps it's a new crop, or an abundance of something I'm not used to eating, that has to be incorporated into my family's diet for a week to ensure it does not go to waste. It's an ongoing creative challenge.

I want to talk about some of the vegetables I'm using these days because if you have a CSA share or a vegetable garden of your own, you might also be looking for inspiration as to how to use them all up. The unavoidable theme at this time of year is greens -- a welcome change from the salad-less days of winter. Here's what my family is eating these days.

Kale:

Kale is a 'free choice' item at CSA pickup, meaning people can take as much as they think they'll eat in a week. Usually that translates to a lot for me, since I figure I'll use it if I have it. I've also just discovered kale caesar salad in a new cookbook by America's Test Kitchen called Nutritious Delicious. (Yes, I realize I'm a few years behind the whole kale salad trend.) I love the recommended method for soaking kale leaves in hot water for 10 minutes before making the salad; it softens it just enough to make it easier to eat.

Garlic scapes:

A fleeting early-summer treat, garlic scapes are the curly snake-like green tops of the garlic plants that must be cut off in order for them to develop bulbs later. The scapes have a garlicky flavor, though it's less pronounced than the bulbs. I used to make garlic scape pesto, but now I'm hooked on chimichurri, using half parsley or cilantro and half roughly chopped garlic scapes. I blend it with olive oil, some freshly squeezed lemon, a spoonful of wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes. The result is a zingy, refreshing sauce that goes wonderfully with everything, from grilled veggies and meats to eggs, potato salad, and soup.

Broccoli:

I'm always happy to take home broccoli, as it's one of those workhorse veggies that adapts to any recipe. It holds its own in a Thai green coconut curry, can be spiced and roasted for vegetarian tacos, or turned into a creamy soup, which is one of my favorite ways of getting a satisfying meal on the table in record time. I have a great recipe for cream of broccoli (or cauliflower) soup that is dead-simple: sauté two onions, add two heads of broccoli and 6 cups of stock, simmer till soft, then blend. Meanwhile, make a roux with 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream. Whisk roux into soup and season. The roux makes it thicker and creamier than most recipes. At this time of year I finish the individual bowls with a spoonful of garlic scape chimichurri.

CSA share pickup© K Martinko -- A happy kid shares his bike chariot with the CSA box.

Baby turnips:

These look like white radishes, tiny little globes of sweet crunchiness. Peeling them can be a hassle, since they're so small, but the skins are a bit chewy. Slice them thinly and add to potato or chopped veggie salad; they're almost like a cucumber. You can eat them raw, dipped in hummus or a bit of salt.

Endive:

Last week I got two enormous heads of sugarloaf endive, something I'm not very familiar with. It has a slightly bitter taste but great crunch, so I've been mixing it into other salad greens and creamy dressings. The CSA farmer told us in a newsletter that it's excellent grilled, braised, and roasted. How do you like to eat endive?

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