Our neighborhood farmers market, the Little Italy Mercato, has been going strong for over a year now, tempting me every Saturday morning with just-harvested fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, cheeses, jams and even sea salts. Even though I don’t quite make it to the Mercato every weekend, I’ve tried quite a few new fruits and vegetables since the market began – pineapple guavas, rainbow chard, cherimoyas, several eggplant varieties, green garlic and Kalamansi limes to name a few. In the spirit of continuing to explore new flavors and add more veggies to our lives, Chuck and I recently joined the CSA program from Suzie’s Farm, one of the Mercato vendors.
Every other week we’ll get a box of 8-15 items, depending on what’s ready for harvest at the farm. Our first box contained potatoes, strawberries, summer squash, broccoli, radishes, chard, micro-basil, red lettuce, wild arugula, chard, and a gigantic bunch of dill. That’s a lot of veggies!
Our first CSA box was definitely a success – for $25 we got enough vegetables for five nights of dinners for two people, three lunches plus some snacks for me, plus three nights of strawberry desserts, and we tried several new recipes and preparations. The Suzie’s Farm blog helpfully tells us what to expect in our CSA box, and local blogger Stacy at Little Blue Hen is also a CSA member and blogs about her box and great recipe ideas as well, so we had an idea of the items and amounts that we’d be receiving and planned a week’s worth of meals around them.
We also picked up a few supplementary items at the Mercato:
Mini-tomatoes for my lunch salads, European-style butter to go with the radishes, and habanero jelly because Chuck wanted some. Did I mention that the cats really really liked our CSA box and everything else we brought home from the farmers market? They wanted to sniff everything! And Zeph liked chewing (and then spitting up, unfortunately) the ends of the Arugula. It was quite an enrichment activity for them.
(Really, I didn’t mean for all of the CSA pictures to include Zephyr, he just wouldn’t leave them alone.)
As we put the veggies away, I did some sampling of the strawberries, basil, and dill. The bunch of dill that we got was big, and the freshness made me start dreaming of things to do with dill – I felt like everything we made should use some, since we had much! In the end that didn’t quite happen, but we found quite a few good ways to use it.
I mixed up some butter and chopped dill, to be enjoyed with some of the radishes.
And then I made what I’m calling a modified “Green Goddess” dressing, despite its tenuous resemblance to the original: mayonnaise, sour cream, dill, caraway seeds and vinegar, which I used in my lunch salads with the lettuce, arugula, basil, tomatoes, and some blue cheese. This dressing was SO good, I could eat it on just about everything! The caraway and dill flavors worked really well together.
I also made a batch of quick radish pickles by boiling some dill in a vinegar-water mixture and then simmering with sliced radishes. I used cider vinegar, but I think plain white or white-wine vinegar might have worked slightly better. I’d never actually cooked radishes before, and I wasn’t that fond of the smell as I was simmering them, but after a day in the refrigerator the pickles tasted OK. They’re my first-ever pickles and not a complete disaster, so I’ll try some again sometime!
When I think of dill, I also think of salmon, and so I tried a new-to-me salmon preparation on Saturday evening: salmon en papillote, or salmon cooked in parchment. I spread some butter on the parchment, then added salmon (seasoned with salt and pepper), dill, and lemon slices:
I then sealed and tented the parchment, placed on a baking sheet and baked for about 12 minutes, while Chuck sauteed the squash with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
We used our potatoes and chard in an Indian-style Aloo Sag spin-off – I sauteed onions, garlic and ginger, added turmeric, saffron and two sliced serrano chiles (although one would have been plenty!), then added the potatoes and covered until they were tender, and added coarsely chopped chard and sauteed until tender. We served this with chicken cooked in Penzeys Balti Seasoning and fried queso fresco (left over from chicken tacos and standing in for paneer).
After two nights of our Indian-style dinner, Chuck made a beef and broccoli stir fry that lasted for two more nights – it was the first time in years that I’ve eaten broccoli voluntarily, and I was quite happy with the results – the broccoli was tender and mild, and soaked up the delicious stir-fry sauce. I still won’t be eating supermarket broccoli, but I’ll happily eat the stuff from Suzie’s Farm!
Chuck also made a strawberry dessert from our Nick Stellino cookbook: strawberries marinated in spiced rum (Nick Stellino’s version used marsala), served with a honey-sweetened vanilla-scented mascarpone/ricotta cheese mixture and topped with shaved chocolate. This preparation really let the flavor and natural sweetness of the strawberries shine!
We get the next box is on May 29th (a week late because we’ll be in LA watching the Tour of California next weekend), and I can’t wait to see what goodies we get next!