Melissa Clark’s Tips for Using Your CSA Vegetables

Thursday, July 31, 2014

CSA share vegetables A CSA share means a lot of fresh, organic vegetables, but it can be hard to always know how to prepare them. (Julia Corcoran/WNYC)

If you get a CSA share, you might find yourself stumped, wondering how to cook vegetables like kohlrabi and bok choy and broccoli rabe. Leonard picked up his CSA bag this morning, and Melissa Clark is here to share her ideas for how to use the summer's fresh vegetables. She's a New York Times Dining Section columnist and cookbook writer, and her most recent cookbook is Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make.

Clark said that  what’s great about it community supported agriculture is that you’re buying directly from a farmer, and they bring the produce to you—or to your neighborhood, where you can pick it up. Getting a CSA share means you’re helping the farmer have enough money to plant the crops and harvest the crops, and to plant a variety of plants. If you’d like to find one, do an Internet search to find one close to you. In NYC, you can visit for information.

Melissa Clark opened up Leonard’s bag of CSA vegetables from Katchkie Farm and here’s what she found and her suggestions for what to do with it!

Swiss chard: Sautee it with garlic and olive oil and some pine nuts and mix it with pasta. Top it with parmesan cheese. Chop up the chard stems and grill them in a  grill basket a couple minutes on each side.

Broccoli: Steam it and make a Vietnamese-style sauce with fish sauce, ginger, lemon grass, olive oil.

Beet greens: Add them to the Swiss chard and sautee with garlic and olive oil (or put on pasta, as recommended above). You can eat the greens from beets,  radish, mustard greens—just taste the greens first. If they tastes good raw, use them raw (in a salad). Sauteeing the greens or blanching them will tone down any bitterness.

Cherry tomatoes: Are great salad tomatoes. If they’re big, cut them in half or in quarters. Take the perfect tomatoes and make salad, take any dinged up ones and make a sauce by simmer them in a pot until they cook down.

Parsley: Put it in a salad. Take the leaves off the stems, toss them with sliced radishes, and with feta, pecorino, or parmesan, some toasted pine nuts or almonds. Or you can use it to make pesto—add it to the basil leaves or even use it in place of basil.

Carrots: Peel them or not. Take a bite and if it’s bitter, peel the carrots. Otherwise just wash them.  Grate them into salad.

Onions with greens: Don’t throw out the greens! They’re like scallions. Peel the onions, slice them, and grill them with the greens. You can also chop up the greens (grilled or not) and use them in a dressing.

Corn: grill it. Peel back the greens, take silk out, wrap the corn back up, and put it on the grill. It steams nicely in the husk. Or you can shuck it entirely, throw naked cobs on the grill, and coat them after they’re cooked with butter and parmesan cheese, a little onion.  

Kale: To make kale chips: Wash kale. Dry it thoroughly—spin it in salad spinner, then lay it out on dish towels for a couple hours (or just dry it very well by hand). Toss it with oil and really rub the oil into leaves (you can use any oil). Sprinkle it amply with salt. Put it on one layer on baking sheets. Don’t overlap or pile up the leaves. Roast at 325 or 300 degrees and when they start looking ever so slightly brown (about 10 minutes), take them out of the oven. Store them in an air tight container. You can also try Dr. Drew Ramsey's recipe for kale chips.

Kohlrabi: a listener suggests treating it as like a potato and boil it, or steam it, then mash it with a little cream or olive oil. Uses it as a base for fish like sea bass. Another listener suggests trimming off outer rough skin, slicing it into planks, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, olive oil , and grill them. Melissa like to steam or roast it then purees it, or cut it into wedges and eat it raw.

Lettuce: You can cook it! Make a hot bacon vinaigrette and it’ll wilt the lettuce. Or take a little butter, a little chicken stock in a skillet pan, add lettuce and cook it until it wilts, about 2-3 minutes. Eat it topped with parmesan cheese.

Fennell: Is perfect for salads if you slice it really thin. Take the outer layer off, slice it with a mandolin, top with sea salt, lemon juice, olive oil.  You can also grill fennel--cut it into big chunks, still attached at the root.



Melissa Clark

Comments [26]

sjz from Huntington, NY

Jane - If Fresh Direct is selling it, it's not a CSA box. It may be a box of produce from a farm or farms, but it's not what a CSA is about. CSAs are a direct relationship between a farm (or farms) and a customer. Anything other than that is a 3rd party (or more) food distributor and not a CSA. Look up the definition on the USDA website.

Aug. 06 2014 05:22 AM
sjz from Huntington, NY

Michele - CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is like a co-op but it's not. Google if you want to find out more. A CSA bag/box is what some CSA shares come in. The CSA I belong to, Green Thumb CSA - Huntington, doesn't do pre-packed boxes/bags so it looks more like a farmers market. Go find one in your neck of the woods and visit!

Aug. 06 2014 05:08 AM
michele from Long Island

what is CSA & A CSA Bag?

Jul. 31 2014 03:15 PM
Cathy from Brooklyn

I've made kale chips in the oven and in the microwave, and the microwave wins hands down for both results and ease of use! Just make sure that the kale is really, really dry, cut it into 2-inch pieces, toss with oil and kosher salt, put on a plate with no pieces overlapping, and zap until crisp (3-4 minutes). You will probably have to repeat process unless you are using a very small amount of kale. If the heat and humidity gets to your finished chips in spite of the air-tight container they are stored in, you can just re-zap the chips for a very short time. Unlike the oven method, the microwave allows you to keep an eye on the kale chips so that they come out optimally between crispy and charred to a cinder. The microwave recipe is from Cook's Illustrated.

Jul. 31 2014 03:05 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Shave fennel as thinly as possible, toss with radicchio, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper!

Jul. 31 2014 12:40 PM
Sally Bauer Cohen from East Brunswick, N.J.

I had an abundance of lettuce in the first weeks of my East Brunswick, N.J CSA at Giamarese Farm & Orchards. Their weekly email newsletter led me to a delicious lettuce, frozen peas & fennel soup. Saute the fennel & shallots in butter, add lettuce( or any greens) & cook until wilted. Mix in peas, broth water & fennel seeds. Cook 5-6 min. Put in a blender -or 2 min. in a Vitamix - and enjoy a lovely soup.

Jul. 31 2014 12:38 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Susan - You and he/she are right! Broccoli rabe has nothing to do with the broccoli family.

Jul. 31 2014 12:38 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I never peel carrots--just cut out the "bad" spots. I don't peel any vegetables or fruits unless the skin is inedible.

Hey, what about rutabaga? It's been one of my favorites since I discovered you could get it w/out wax all over it. I even use it thinly sliced or grated in salads.

Jul. 31 2014 12:38 PM

While listening II'm making gazpacho!
Speaking of lettuce, why has lettuce become so expensive?

Jul. 31 2014 12:37 PM
Tom from UWS

Leonard, lettuce is great to add to you blender for summer soups. Adds bright color, (don't blend with reds and blues) and bright flavor, too.

Jul. 31 2014 12:35 PM
Susan from nyc

A farmer at the farmer's market once told me that broccoli rabi is in the MUSTARD family.

Jul. 31 2014 12:35 PM

Re the hot corn question, I use potato peeling gloves I use for making puree to shuck (never say peel with reference to corn) hot corn after grilling or microwaving. (Microwaving preserves freshness and nutritional components.)

Also, may I sound off about people who open corn at the Greenmarket to assess its freshness or whether the kernels are full? This is not necessary. For freshness, look at the silk. If it is pale green or yellow, cool and soft to the touch, you've got a fresh ear of corn. Similarly, simply palpate the silk end of the ear. That way you can detect whether the kernels are fully developed or not.

I'm from the corn state. I ought to know!

Jul. 31 2014 12:34 PM
Jane from Brooklyn

Fresh Direct now offers CSA boxes

Jul. 31 2014 12:32 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Lily - My grandmother would do sorrel soup, but I like cutting it into ribbons and after sauteeing sliced mushrooms, minced garlic and some thyme, throwing it in, just to wilt. I fold that into omelettes or bake it into a quiche with gruyere cheese. You'll find it gives a lemony lift to this melange.

It's also nice in a salad!

Jul. 31 2014 12:32 PM
Ted from Manhattan

Kholrabi Raw! Sliced in hummus or
Kolrabi slaw - juilliene it, slice radish, a little grated carrot or some cabbage with a lime, cumin, olive oil, mustard dressing.

Jul. 31 2014 12:29 PM

For Sophie, yes, buy a good stove-top grill such as Swiss Diamond. Beautiful results.

Jul. 31 2014 12:28 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Good lord--is this one chirping about the kohlrabi Melissa Clark's overcaffeinated lost sister? Isn't one enough?

Jul. 31 2014 12:28 PM
matthew from manhattan

I heard Christopher Kimball saying to use the microwave for kale chips. I haven't don it as I do not have a microwave but sounds like it might work well as microwaves do aggregate job drying out you food

Jul. 31 2014 12:27 PM
Ilana from manhattan

We got Pursalane one week. What on earth do you do with that? I know it's a supposed super food, but I did not like it raw in salads. Any other suggestions?

Jul. 31 2014 12:26 PM
John Wise from Brooklyn

what is a CSA box?????

Jul. 31 2014 12:21 PM
lily from ny

how to eat/prepare sorrel.

Jul. 31 2014 12:20 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Leonard and Melissa: Please let me know when lunch is ready. You're making me hungry.

Jul. 31 2014 12:20 PM

This is NYC. Not everyone has an outdoor space for grilling. Alternative prep suggestions?

Jul. 31 2014 12:19 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ foodaggro from Brooklyn: That represents a paradox...

Jul. 31 2014 12:15 PM

Leonard, try microwaving your broccoli with some soy sauce and water instead of the butter and lemon juice. Also very nice and easy.

Jul. 31 2014 12:10 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Let me know when this segment is over so I can turn the radio back on.

Jul. 31 2014 12:08 PM

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