Greens, greens everywhere — or at least in my CSA box

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Last week our CSA box was full almost entirely of greens. We had a sizable bag each of arugula, spinach, bitter greens, and baby lettuces. According to the newsletter, we had narrowly missed getting bok choi as well.

I like salad, and I especially like it right now, when I'm constantly being mugged by holiday cookies and See's candy and all the seasonal temptations. But this was a lot of greens for two people, and the CSA e-mail list was full of panic-stricken cries for help.

I decided to start with my least favorite: the bitter mix of dandelion, escarole, and frisée. Busy with Operation Beef, I haven't done much in the way of grocery shopping lately, yet we had enough odds and ends around to assemble a simple pasta: I pulled out pappardelle (flat, wide noodles) from Phoenix Pastificio's stand at the Berkeley farmers market, two fennel sausages from Fatted Calf, leftover Morell's ciabatta for bread crumbs, and the greens.

bittergreenspasta2.jpgSetting a pot of water to boil for the pasta, I sautéed the garlic in a generous amount of olive oil (or EVOO, as I hear some people call it) with a few chili flakes, then sliced up the sausages into small chunks and threw them in too to cook. I washed and spun the greens, then set them aside while I sautéed the bread crumbs in butter until golden and crispy. I meant to just toss the greens in the pan with the garlic and sausage mixture, but got distracted and ended up wilting them entirely, which was fine too. The pasta needed only 3 minutes to cook. Once it was done, I stirred the simple sauce (extended with a bit of pasta water) together with the pasta, and then topped the bowls with the bread crumbs.

It's not very photogenic, but it was tasty. There was just enough salty, fatty, and spicy elements to mute the greens' bitterness without overwhelming their flavor entirely. A good dish for the chilly winter nights we've been having.

Most importantly, one bag o'greens down, only three to go.

The next night, we made a spinach salad (that I forgot to photograph). We cut Fatted Calf bacon into chunks and fried them up, then poured off a little of the fat and the rest — along with the bacon — over the spinach to wilt it and mix with the dressing. The Potato Non Grata soft-boiled two eggs, his new specialty, and I mandolined some red onion and cut up a sweet apple to balance the fatty deliciousness of the bacon and egg. For the dressing, I used olive oil (less than usual because of the bacon grease) and some huckleberry vinegar from Oregon. Mmmm, this was an easy way to eat a whole bag of spinach!

arugulahamsalad.jpgThe peppery arugula was a bit of a challenge. I suppose I should have mixed some of it with the bitter greens, and maybe some in the spinach salad, rather than attempting to use it up all at once. Fortunately a few days after the spinach, we were ready for more salad.

I sliced some ham from a yummy little heirloom petit jambon we got from Fatted Calf a while ago, an apple, grated some jack cheese and mandolined some onion and radishes. The Potato toasted some slivered almonds, as I always get distracted and burn them.

For the dressing, I used three parts olive oil to one part white wine vinegar, and then added a teaspoon of this killer habañero-mango jam that we got at the Phoenix farmers market over Thanksgiving. The spicy-sweetness of the dressing married well with the salty ham and the peppery arugula, and once again we were pleasantly surprised at how easily we managed to down a whole bag of greens.

The remaining young lettuces were no problem. They kept well in an open plastic bag with a paper towel laid across the mouth — I shook them up and replaced the towel every few days — for a week until we had them as a simple green salad with beets, red onion, and tarragon.

I never would have gone to the supermarket and brought home four bags of greens, but that's what I've enjoyed the most about the experience of Community Supported Agriculture: being forced to eat outside my comfort zone. Every box is a challenge, but each time we've managed to use the contents up almost entirely, which gives me such a great sense of accomplishment — something that I've never gotten from a grocery store trip.

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