Thursday, March 26, 2015

Veggie Box: Mid-March 2015

Last December, V signed us up for a produce box. This is the concept known as CSA or community supported agriculture, where we pay a local farm to supply us with vegetables for a certain amount of time- in our case, a box of fresh veggies every two weeks from mid-March to mid-November of this year. With a CSA subscription, you never quite know what veggies are going to land up in your kitchen. Most people end up discovering some veggies that they've never used before.

Our family has always enjoyed vegetables but I didn't know at the time that come March, we would be eating more produce than ever. Our first delivery came last week- vegetables dropped off in a box packed with ice packs at our back door- and it was as exciting as opening a birthday present.

Being Spring and all, the box was loaded with greens and more greens. We got 9 types of vegetables and here's how I used them.



1. Turnips: Right off the bat, this is a vegetable that I'm not too familiar with- I have eaten it a few times, of course, but don't really remember cooking with it. 

That evening, it was rainy and cool and I was in the mood for something warm and comforting, so I looked up some recipes for mashed turnips. Same concept as mashed potatoes, only turnips have a slightly different texture (they are more watery) and a different taste, and way fewer carbs than potatoes. 

For the mashed turnips, I simply peeled and cubed the turnips, boiled them until fork-tender, then pureed with an immersion blender (a masher did not do the trick- it left them too lumpy), and seasoned with cream and butter, salt and pepper. The result was unexpectedly delicious! 

2. Swiss chard: To go with the mashed turnips, I made a quick Swiss chard egg curry; it also used up a half-cup of coconut milk that I had in the fridge. This combination made for a wonderful supper.

3. Cabbage: With the head of cabbage, I made my favorite simple Marathi kobichi bhaji or stir-fried cabbage- with a tempering of curry leaves and mustard seeds and a seasoning of cumin and coriander powder. 

4. Collard greens: We had a St. Patty's day potluck at work and I need something green to contribute. The big bunch of collard greens was shredded into ribbons, sautéed and made into a creamy collard greens dip. I made the dip in a mini slow cooker and served it with tortilla chips. 

5. Lettuce: The day we got the produce box, I immediately tore the lettuce into bite size pieces, washed and dried it in a salad spinner, and stored it in the fridge nestled in paper towels in a plastic box. For me, that's the way to get delicate salad greens to stay crisp and fresh for a few days. 

We used the lettuce for a big taco salad. I started by making a stir fry of onions, peppers, pinto beans and mock quorn chicken, with tomato puree, oregano, cumin and chili powder. Then we spooned the mixture on a bed of crisp lettuce and topped it with a creamy avocado dressing and a few crushed tortilla chips. 

6. Spinach: The small bunch of spinach got chopped up and added to chana masala

7. Sugar snap peas: This is another vegetable that I don't cook with on a regular basis. I sliced the sugar snap peas on the diagonal and used them in a Chinese-style stir fry with tofu and mushrooms

8. Mustard greens: I made a Marathi style bhaji with mustard greens and eggplant- this might have been the first time I used eggplant and greens together in this way but it certainly won't be the last! The results were fantastic. Here's a short cut recipe:
  • Temper oil with mustard seeds, turmeric, asafetida and curry leaves.
  • Add ribbons of mustard greens (washed and stalks trimmed off). 
  • Add cubes of eggplant.
  • Add salt, cumin coriander powder, your favorite masala (I used koli masala) and crushed peanuts. (The crushed peanuts add wonderful taste, richness and texture and really make this dish come together).
  • Add a bit of water, cover and let the veggies steam, stirring occasionally until tender. 
  • Add a touch of jaggery.
  • Garnish with plenty of cilantro. 

9. Fennel: This was yet another vegetable that's relatively new to me, and to be honest I am not a fan of the fennel taste in a vegetable, although I like fennel seeds in some dishes. But I wanted to use it up. It went into a fridge-cleaning pulao of sorts- I sautéed together sliced onions, sliced fennel, kidney beans and a handful of cooked rice with some spices. It worked and was more than edible- it was quite tasty and used up all the odds and ends in the fridge to produce a quick dinner. 

All in all, this first veggie box was a grand success- in that we managed to eat up every last bit of the vegetables before they wilted away, and I discovered some new-to-me veggies and creative ways to use familiar veggies. Let's see what next week's box brings. I'm betting there will be more greens! 

40 comments:

  1. Lovely post Nupur – mouth watering dishes indeed :)
    Since I grew up in Delhi, Aii used to cook a lot of Delhi vegies such as Shalgam, tinda and naval kol ( knol khol aka kohlrabi)
    All very yummy vegies. This is how Aii used to cook them ( posted in her memory)
    You are very clever so I have not given any quantities - Very simply put
    Normal phodni ( oil, mohori, hing, halad, chillies deseeded and shredded ginger)
    You may add tomatoes if you wish to the above
    Add diced turnip/tinda/knol khol and stir to coat.
    Add some water and cook until vegies are soft.
    Then add dhane-jire powder, a pinch of amchur and chopped coriander leaves, salt to taste and if you like a pinch of sugar.
    Stir well and serve with poli

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    1. Thanks for the recipe- I'm excited to try making turnip bhaji! Sounds delicious.

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    2. mohori is mustard seeds.

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  2. Nupur,
    Read this feeling very jealous :-)! Here in New England we are still waiting for the snow to go away and a CSA box would be a dream. kobichi bhaji sounds so good. We are eating a lot of Cabbage, onions and carrots these days and I'm always looking for a way to prepare. Love your posts.
    Thank you
    Bobbi

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    1. Bobbi- It has been a long long winter, hasn't it? Hope you get beautiful weather and fresh produce soon. Cabbage and carrots are available here year-round and are the cheapest veggies usually, I cook with them a LOT! It helps that they last for weeks in the crisper too.

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  3. You did great with your first produce box, kudos to you for using it up in so many different ways! I have been contemplating getting a CSA box. While some important aspects like local, fresh produce and direct support to the farmer are truly tempting I really love choosing my own produce...I mean picking out from a huge heap...I really love selecting every little thing from a lime to a bunch of greens. The sight, smell and color of really good produce gives me a great high. So while I love surprises I am not sure I would like to give up on my weekly ritual of getting my own produce since it is so rewarding, maybe committing to a smaller share/box would be a solution. Thanks for sharing ways in which we can enjoy seasonal produce, it is going to be so useful for all of us. I am already looking forward to your next veggie box post.

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- Thanks! We signed up for a half share (a box every two weeks) and so between boxes, I certainly have to go and pick out veggies and buy them. And anyway, I'd have to go to the store for the basics like onions, garlic, cilantro, bell peppers and lemons anyway. So it actually is a nice medium having someone choose all your veggies and choosing all your own. I know for sure that through the CSA, I'll start cooking with veggies new to me, and another thing is that it is "forcing" me to cook and eat lots more greens which is something I've wanted to do.

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  4. Nupur:
    After using the mustard greens for bhaji we use the stalks also. Mustard stalks are sought after in Goa for adding to classic dish "khatkhatey" which is made with a mix of small quantities of specific vegetables, toor daal and some beans or vataney to add flavor and texture. We also add the mustard stalks to toor daal similar to white radish, shevaga shenga added to everyday daal preparation called "dalicho ros" in Konkani and amti in Marathi. Nothing goes to waste !!

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    1. Thanks for the great tip- I'll be glad to use up the stalks in dal instead of composting them!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your box. I made a dry bhaji out of snap peas with potatoes onions tomatoes ( chopped into medium size pieces) with salt coriander-cumin powder, turmeric, green chillies and a pinch of garam masala. You could add one of your homemade spice mix. Went well with chapatti, dal and rice. I appreciate you sharing with us how you use the various greens and look forward to your recipes .

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    1. The snap peas bhaji sounds wonderful- if they don't show up in the next box, I'll have to buy some at the store and try your recipe! Thanks for sharing it.

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  6. Love fennel so much! I think dinner tonight is going to be fennel-celery-asparagus soup.

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  7. Your box looks absolutely awesome! I got 4 bulbs of fennel from the farmers market last weekend..I love it. My favorite way to use it is in salad form..sliced thin with goat cheese and toasted bread. I am planning to roast fennel for dinner tonight along with a bunch of asparagus. The turnip puree looks interesting. I will try it out if I happen to find turnips in the weekend's market. I have roasted turnips before and thought they were ok...Did not like the taste so much. Also, I love snap peas. A quick stir fry with lots of sesame seeds and a touch of honey at the end is my favorite way to cook them.
    Good luck with your CSA. I cannot resist and have to say this: Life is a box of vegetables...you never know which ones you will get. lol

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    1. Neha- Life is indeed a box of vegetables! And to be completely honest, I'll take veggies over a box of chocolates any day :)

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  8. The box looks interesting...i also have had a csa box and that did result in our family eating a lot of veggies we would have never tried otherwise. how did u make ur egg curry with swiss chard ? Really enjoying the the new turn the blog has taken coz i am also trying to eat healthier and loose weight. way to go ...
    roshni

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    1. Roshni- For the swiss chard egg curry, I sauteed onions until brown, added ginger, garlic, tomato puree, chard cut into thin ribbons, turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala, coconut milk, simmered for 5 minutes, then stirred in boiled eggs.

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  9. Hi Nupur,

    What a fun post. Loved reading it and I am certain I would enjoy every one of the dishes you made with the CSA box!

    One day, I hope to return to my old self and have fun with loads of vegetables. Until then I am thoroughly enjoying your series.

    Regards,
    SN

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  10. I've always been discouraged by the unfamiliar veggies thing--I'm the sort of person who'd push the strange item to the back of the refrigerator and then feel horribly guilty on discovering it a week later. If there was a fruit-only CSA offered in my city, I'd be all over it!

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    1. Well, if you know that about yourself, then it is probably best to not set yourself for wasting food by getting a CSA. On the other hand, unfamiliar veggies will never become new favorites until you give them a try. But there's always the option of trying an unfamiliar vegetable from the Farmers' Market every now and then.

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  11. This is a great idea. I'm going to look for something similar in our area. Do we get any choice of what kind of veggies we can choose?

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    1. Manasi- with our particular CSA, we get a selection of seasonal vegetables but don't get to choose them. But some CSAs and similar options do let you choose so it just depends on what's on offer in your area. Spring is when most CSAs start so this is a good time to look for one!!

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  12. I signed up for a CSA a few years ago before I had a vegetable garden. Here are some ideas for how to use up some new veggies:

    - Try substituting half the onion by fennel. Celery also works in place of onion - sliced thin, as do chard stems.
    - Any green - pretty much - can be boiled, spiced and made into a saag-paneer - some like kale and collard need spinach tone down the "ugrapana"(this is one word I cannot translate into English ever!). You can substitute the paneer with boiled chana as well - more protein.
    - Use any root vegetable - especially the lightly colored ones -the way you do potatoes - boil and cook into "dosa bhaji" or slice thin and make "kachrya"
    - Any lettuce that is in danger of wilting can be sauteed into scrambled eggs.
    - I also made patal bhaji with cauliflower leaves and a particularly strong smelling green that I don't even know what it was. I treated it like "alu" leaves.
    - the weirdest combination I made was chard and plantain cooked in the spirit of palak-batata!

    I loved the challenge of eating new veggies! enjoy the box

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    1. Vishakha- how kind of you to note down all these terrific ideas- can't wait to try them! Thank you!

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  13. Nupur:

    Awesome that you've tamed your CSA box and its sweet tyranny of unknown veggies haha.

    Considering how proud we Indians tend to be of our vegetarianism, it always amuses people when Indians typically balk at eating large salads with loads of ,say, lettuce. But the Indian approach to greens is rooted in Ayurvedic principles which treat greens with a lot of respect haha, so to speak. Greens with their insoluble fibre are considered very heavy on the digestion( a vata inducing food in Ayurvedic parlance) and hence are always eaten cooked well, mashed/pureed and always with a ghee/oil based tempering of digestive spices. Also they're typically eaten for the mid-day meal "when the sun is at the highest point in the sky" corresponding to when digestion is considered strongest. Growing up in our very traditional tambram household, we always heard "no greens at night" as its hard for the tummy.

    That said, while I do like salads my current favourite way to get ahead of my wilting lettuce is to juice it. My typical 16 oz juice for example would have a large bunch of lettuce , 2 apples, 2 carrots , knob of fresh ginger and a knob of fresh turmeric root.

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    1. Thanks for this insightful comment, Janani! I wonder if some of why Indians are not used to eating big raw salad greens is because lettuce and other tender greens don't grow in hot climates and in pre-refrigeration times, would have been virtually impossible to bring to market to sell. So we're just unfamiliar with them.

      The huge variety of greens that do thrive in India seem to be the sturdy ones that benefit from cooking and mashing as with Tamil masiyal or Punjabi saag and of course countless other regional dishes.

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  14. Sounds like you have done well - I don't know I would have been so blase about this wealth of greens - glad the CSA box is making a great contribution to your meals

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    1. Johanna- I can't believe I'm eating so many greens- and enjoying them very much!

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  15. You did so well with all the greens. The bounty of greens is definitely a challenge for me with our CSA box. A bag of turnips has been in my crisper drawer for a couple of weeks. Thanks for all the ideas. I also chop the greens into fine ribbons and freeze them if I'm not able to use them that week. I then add a handful to stuff here and there, pasta sauce, dal, egg scramble, random sabzis, no one notices they're there. I can't get over how fresh the CSA lettuce tastes compared to the grocery store one. My kids also devour the spinach from our CSA box made into a simple sabzi, tastes so sweet.

    -Anu

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    1. Anu- I got turnips again this week and think I will make oven-baked turnip fries or something. I sauteed some turnip greens, then froze them to use later in a saag- let's see how well they stand up to freezing. You are so right that CSA lettuce tastes amazing.

      Freezing ribbons of raw greens is an excellent idea! Will do that.

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  16. Hi Nupur. I am an ardent and religious reader of your blog but never commented.Your post about the CSA Program has inspired so much that I immediately signed for one near my area. In Jersey, the first CSA box is not delivered until end of May. Hopefully, I will be committed to use every vegetable creatively as it has to be made Indian way for my husband to atleast try some of the Veggies :)
    Also, I had a question. Does Lila eat all these veggies that you are making? I have a very fussy eating toddler who is going to be 2 soon. I still have to cook for her separately..Sigh

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment :) It is wonderful to hear from readers. And how fun that you signed up for a CSA box, hope you enjoy it. Any veggie can cooked in Indian ways, and you'll have fun experimenting.

      Lila does love her veggies- she eats most of them. I didn't go anything special to foster her love for veggies. But I will say that I never cook separately for her. She eats what we eat, ever since she was less than a year old. She gets to choose whether she wants to eat, and how much. But her plate has the same things that are on our plate.

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  17. hello Nupur,
    What an awesome post and loved the way you used up veggies from the CSA box. I need help with one of your recipe - how did you make the chard and egg curry? I've never cooked with eggs; but want to try this curry. Diabetes runs in my husband's family and I'm learning to use eggs. If you can please let me know how you made the curry, I'd like to give it a try.

    Thanks for the help
    Meena

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    1. Meena- check comment #17 above, I've already described that recipe in response to a request by someone else.

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    2. Thanks Nupur. I'm trying this tonight :-)

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    3. Tried it; loved it. Simple and yumm...thanks :-)

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  18. Hi Nupur loving the ideas- I've read through all the comments and responses- and I would love the recipe for the collard greens dip please? We don't get Collard greens in the UK- but spring greens seem abundant:) thanks in advance- Lavanya

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    1. Lavanya- I made up the dip off the top of my head- don't have quantities or anything but here's the general method. Saute greens with garlic in some oil (with a dash of salt) until they are wilted and tender. In a mini slow cooker bowl, stir together cooked greens, cubes of cream cheese, a bit of mayo and sour cream, parmesan cheese, pepper and paprika to taste. Cook until creamy.

      If you don't have a slow cooker, the last step could be done in the oven in a baking dish.

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  19. I am not a huge fan of fennel. (Its very popular in Italy.) Though in the last couple years I use to make some amazing vegetable broth and I do like it sautéed with onions and then later adding in tomato.

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