Two Weeks of Summer Salads and Such

This summer is the first I’ve done a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from a local farm, Foxtail Farm. Two thirds of the way through summer and I’m feeling burnt out on veg. Some of this is circumstantial: my 3 and 5yo boys will eat little of what arrives in our weekly box except carrots. Some of it is seasonal: summer is high growing season, so there’s a use-it-or-lose-it aspect for the increasing volume of fresh produce. Finally, though, it hits me in my week spots of anxiety and compulsion–I feel anxious about having to use up the veg, and compelled to use them in creative ways, which generally involved a lot of cooking or prep.

I’m not sure what the solution is. No CSA next year? Go down to a quarter share from a half weekly, or alternate weekly half shares with another family? Stop trying to be creative and just steam things in great batches? I love cooking in season with fresh local produce, supporting local farmers, and to a point I love the challenge of cooking what shows up, but I need to find a way that’s less exhausting to me. Fortunately, though, the prep pays off; most of what we make is quite tasty.

A trio of salads from last week, looking pale and rather yucky, hence the small photo. Trust me, they were delicious, and beautiful to look at when fresh:

salad trio

The red salad top left is from Mark Bittman’s 101 Salads for the Season, salad #1 tomato and watermelon with feta in a

Basil Vinaigrette from Cook’s Country:

3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped fresh basil
1 shallot , peeled
1 clove garlic clove , peeled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1. Heat 1/4 cup oil with 1 cup basil in medium saucepan over medium heat until basil turns bright green and small bubbles appear, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat and steep 5 minutes.

2. Process shallot, garlic, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and mustard in blender until garlic and shallot are finely chopped, about 15 seconds. With blender running, slowly add remaining oil and steeped basil oil and continue to process until dressing is smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds. Pack remaining basil into blender and process until dressing is smooth, about 15 seconds. (Dressing can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days.)

At bottom is salad #39, corn, Yucatan-style sauteed in a skillet, then tossed with lime juice, feta, quartered cherry tomatoes, and cayenne.

On the right is corn again, this time with quinoa (the recipe calls for farro, I’ve also used pearled barley to good effect) with goat cheese and green beans. This recipe, from Epicurious, is delicious. My friend LH made it for our book group, and I’ve made it twice since.

Chicken, Green Bean, Corn, and Farro Salad
with Goat Cheese Bon Appétit | August 2009

Farro is a nutty-flavored grain that’s popular in Tuscany. It’s not as heavy as some other whole grains, but it’s still packed with protein, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. Here, it’s the base for a satisfying summer salad. Yield: Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup semi-pearled farro* or spelt berries

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast halves
12 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from 2 to 3 ears of corn)
3 green onions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)

Cook farro in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain; cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Cool, then cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes. Cook green beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water to cool; drain. Transfer beans to kitchen towel; pat dry.

Mix farro, chicken, and green beans in large bowl; add corn and green onions.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, marjoram, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in small bowl. Press with back of spoon to release flavor. Whisk in vinegar, shallot, and mustard. Pour over salad in bowl; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Salad can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Divide chilled or room-temperature salad among plates. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

* Available at specialty foods stores, natural foods stores, and Italian markets.

Something else the boys wouldn’t eat was zucchini bread, recipe from Cook’s Country:

zuke bread

Zucchini Bread

Cut large zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon before shredding.

Makes one 9-inch loaf or 4 mini loaves
1 pound zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Shred zucchini on large holes of box grater, then place in clean dish towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you’re able. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in large bowl. Whisk sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and butter in bowl until combined.

3. Gently fold yogurt mixture and zucchini into flour mixture using spatula until just combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

4. Bake until golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool at least 1 hour. (Bread can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for 3 days.)

To sweeten the deal for the boys (and me) I made

Zesty Apricot Cream Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
1/3 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

With rubber spatula, combine cream cheese, apricot jam, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon zest in bowl until smooth.

The spatula left things unattractively lumpy, though it still tasted great. I’d use a food processor next time. And still, the boys refused this.

I used the rest of the basil vinaigrette with potatoes and a pickling cucumber, the latter was a great addition to the salad:

potato salad with basic vinaigrette and cuke

And then this is about a quarter share (I gave half of my half to a friend) from last Thursday, which felt much more manageable:

quarter share CSA

Corn, dill, zuke, onion, chard, carrots, green beans, cukes (hiding) and potatoes.

With it I made the corn and green bean salad from above, a chard frittata with dill, cucumbers in a dill yogurt sauce (that I served alongside poached Alaskan salmon), and one of my all time favorite potato recipes:

Roasted Potato Slices with Lime and Chili

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Yield: Serves 2
two 1/2-pound russet (baking) potatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Peel potatoes and halve lengthwise. Cut potatoes crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and on a baking sheet toss with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Bake potatoes in one layer in middle of oven, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, or until golden.

In a bowl stir together mayonnaise, lime juice, and chili powder. Add warm potatoes and combine well.

I recommend dividing the potatoes up before eating. Serious struggles have occurred when my husband G. Grod and I have tried to share the bowl. And we’re always disappointed at the end, in spite of having just devoured a whole pound of potatoes between us.

5 Responses to “Two Weeks of Summer Salads and Such”

  1. gretchen Says:

    All of these recipes sound delicious, especially the potatoes — I have those ingredients at home and could pull that off tonight, which is also a plus factor. I can’t believe your boys refused the zucchini bread, especially when it looks so delicious! Ah well. Thanks for the recipes!

  2. Amy Says:

    Does your CSA have an option to get a box every other week? That’s what I do, and it works well, especially when you get past the early greens that don’t keep as well. Just yesterday I finished the box I got a week ago last Saturday, and I’m very ready for my new box this weekend.

  3. PikaPikaChick Says:

    How about freezing or canning your extras?

  4. Kate Says:

    That quarter share looks more like my half share, so you might just be getting an insane amount of vegetables for what you signed up for.

    I will say this, however, with the caveat that I also hate wasting food and put a lot of pressure on myself to make creative things with the food. Whenever I’m looking at a half full bin that is just NOT going to make it into a dinner that week, I remind myself of the purpose of a CSA–to help make the farm sustainable. They already have my money, and they are using it to keep a family farm up and running. A benefit of that is I get whatever vegetables they grow, but my money was partly a donation to the farm. For me it helps take some of the guilt and pressure off a bit. Not much, but enough. But maybe that’s just rationalizing.

  5. Jennifer Says:

    I prefer the farmers market to CSAs. You buy the vegetables you want; it’s less expensive; and, you are still supporting local farmers. I love taking my kids to the farmers market and talking to them about what looks good, what we liked the previous week. And, they have favorite vendors to visit…the bison guy and honey man and the jerky lady. BTW, looks like you’re making some fantastic dishes!