Zucchini Straws

Our CSA boxes from Luckett Farms include zucchini for more than half the year. The new-things-to-do-with-zucchini struggle is real, but I haven’t lost a zucchini yet. Zucchini straws make a great crispy side or snack. Quick and simple. Works with yellow squash too!


Zucchini Straws

Ingredientszucchini straws

  • 3-4 zucchini, spiralized
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp oregano (OK to sub other herbs)
  • 1 tbsp flour or fine corn meal (optional)

Process

  • Preheat airfryer to 330º (if using oven, preheat to 400º).
  • Grind the garlic with the olive oil, oregano, and salt.
  • Toss the spiralized zucchini in the oil mixture, coating well.
  • If using, sprinkle with flour/meal and toss more.
  • Cook.
    • To airfry
      • Place about a third of the zucchini in the airfryer at a time (don’t overfill)
      • Cook in three minute intervals for 9-12 minutes, tossing every three minutes.
    • To bake
      • Spread zucchini “thinly” on a baking sheet.
      • Bake for 20 minutes, tossing after 10 minutes.
      • If necessary, bake another 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy!
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Snap Beans and Sausage

Not sure what to do with the abundance of snap beans or wax beans in your CSA box? How about beans and sausage?

Sweet Italian sausage is a great go-to meat for prepping vegetables. I use it with greens, cabbage, eggplant, and squash. This and last week, my Luckett Farms CSA box included snap and wax beans. Tonight I combined my big mess of beans with Italian sausage. This quick, one-pot dish can be served as a main entrée or a meaty side.


Snap Beans and Sausage

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 lbs loose Italian sausage 
  • a mess (about 2 lbs) of fresh snap and/or wax beans, remove stems and “strings” and snap to desired size
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 peppers (sweet and/or hot) chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil (OK to sub other fresh or dried herbs)
  • Season (salt/pepper) to taste.

Process

  • In large pan, brown sausage over med high heat, breaking it up as it browns. If you have excess oil from the sausage, drain. I use a lean sausage and didn’t need to drain oil.
  • Add onions, pepper, and garlic.
  • Sauté until onions are clear, about 5 minutes.
  • Add beans and herbs.
  • Mix and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until beans are tender (10-15 minutes).
  • Enjoy!
NOTES:
  • I say snap you say string; I say string you say green: they’re all the same bean.
  • I didn’t use any oil, because the sausage produced just enough. If needed, add olive oil to sauté the vegetables.
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Smothered Squash and Zucchini Spaghettis

What to do with all the summer squash and zucchini?

So many things!


Before our Luckett Farms CSA box arrived this week, Kacie, the farmer’s wife, gave a nod to the struggles of members using up the abundance of summer squash and zucchini (the struggle is real!). She wrote about her felicitous purchase of the “veggetti” a couple of years ago.

I decided to invest and looked up the device, only to realize: I already have one! Or something like it. A gift from our nephew and his wife, which I mistook for a German grater that, like the German language, I couldn’t figure out. I grabbed the biggest squash and tried the tool. I hadn’t quite thought that through, but it mostly worked wonderfully.

squash4

Chop the tails, too-fat tops, and other residuals and saute with the rest.

Now that understand my German spiralizer, I have ideas!

  • The usual spiralized squash/zucchini as a substitute for spaghetti noodles.
  • Spiralized squash/zucchini sauteed with sweet Italian sausage, onions, garlic, and peppers.
  • Spiralized squash/zucchini tossed in seasoned olive oil and airfried for a crispy side.

But for tonight I applied my Southern-style Smothered Squash process to the … squashghetti? … spaccini?

I’m proud to note that I used five things from my CSA box: squash, zucchini, onion, bell pepper, and basil leaves.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 squash and zucchini, spiralized. NOTE: You will have some pieces that don’t spiralize for different reasons: the ends, the middle ribbons, too fat. Chop those and saute with the rest. If you don’t have a spiralizer, don’t fret. Slice and/or chop the squash and zucchini.
  • 1 med onion
  • 1 med bell pepper (use hot pepper if you prefer)
  • 3-4 cherry tomatoes (or any tomato in similar amount), diced
  • 4-5 leaves of fresh basil (OK to sub other fresh or dried herbs)
  • 1-2 tbsp honey (I use cowgirl “honey,” a byproduct of my cowboy pepper relish, because I like sweet heat.)
  • ¼ c wine

Process

  • Saute onion and pepper 2-3 minutes.
  • Add squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and basil.
  • Continue to cook on high/med high another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add basil, honey, and wine.
  • Stir and cook on high for 1-2 minutes.
  • Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).
  • EAT!
squash and zucchini

Drizzle with honey.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Tasty Turnip Fries

Turnip Fries

Turnips are a low cal root vegetable, rich in vitamin C. Make turnip fries for a healthier alternative to french fries.

CSA members are sure to receive turnips in their boxes. This is what we did with our this week.

turnip2

It’s simple: Toss the sliced turnips in seasoned olive oil and bake or air fry.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs turnips (4-5 med. turnips) cut into “french fry” sticks (about ¼ in thick)turnip
  • ½ c olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp herbs (I used fresh basil)
  • salt/pepper to taste (I used cayenne, no salt)

Instructions

  • Chop or grind garlic and seasonings and mix with olive oil.
  • Toss the turnip sticks in the olive oil. Make sure they’re well coated.
  • Cook.
    • To bake
      • Preheat oven to 450°.
      • Spread turnips sticks on a baking sheet in a single layer.
      • Bake 30 minutes. Toss/Stir after the first 15 minutes.
      • Turn oven to broil and broil fries an additional 3-4 minutes for crispier fries.
    • To air fry
      • Preheat airfryer to 390°.
      • Place turnip sticks in the basket (2-3 layers okay)
      • Airfry for 10 minutes, tossing after the first 5 minutes.
      • Fry an additional 1-2 minutes for crispier fries.

We love our Luckett Farms CSA. Do you belong to a CSA? How do you use up your CSA vegetables?  Follow me for more CSA recipes.
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

 

Feta Chicken with Squash and Zucchini

During the summer, CSA boxes are filled with squash and zucchini.

I don’t mind! Squash and zucchini are versatile and tasty.

This one-pot main dish might help you find something new to do with your next batch.

This is a process, not a written-in-stone recipe. Don’t run to the grocery to buy what you don’t have for this! Use a different cheese, a different herb. Heck! Use a thick pork chop if you don’t have chicken breasts!


Feta Chicken with Squash and Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (patted dry, lightly seasoned, lightly pounded, and slit open to create a cavity)
  • 1 c. feta cheese
  • 2-4 tbsp fresh chopped oregano and/or thyme
  • 1 tbsp grated onion OR 3 tbsp chopped green onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped sweet pepper (I used pimiento)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 zucchini and/or squash, sliced
  • ½ c. white wine
  • 1 tbsp honey

Process

  • Prepare the chicken breasts: pat dry, season (I used herbs, no salt), pound, and split.
  • Blend the cheese with the herbs, onion, and pepper.
  • Stuff the cheese mixture in the cavity of the chicken.
  • Heat oil in pan.
  • Brown stuffed chicken on both sides (2-3 minutes each side)
  • Add squash and zucchini, saute between the chicken for about 3 minutes.
  • Add wine and stir to dissolve brown bits.
  • Drizzle honey over chicken and vegetables.
  • Cover and lower heat.
  • Simmer chicken and vegetables for about 10 minutes.

Use the juices to make a gravy or as a broth to cook rice.

You can read a little about my CSA journey here: Luckett Farms.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Greens: Don’t Toss Them Out!

Toss those greens in a pot!!

I’m not just talking about the mustard and collard greens you might get from your CSA. You can also cook and eat that frock of greens on your CSA turnips, carrots, beets, and radishes.

If you’re not a fan of greens boiled with a ham hock, onions, and garlic, try cooking them with bulk sweet Italian sausage. This week our Luckett Farms CSA stash included turnips, carrots, and radishes. I cut off the greens that came with them and cooked them in a one-pot dish. Why would I do that? They are tasty and good for me! They are rich in protein and fiber. They’re also a natural source of vitamins A, B6, C, K, magnesium, and other nutrients., and generally more nutritive than the root that they top. Don’t believe me? Read the green bio!

Here’s something like a recipe you can use as a guideline, and it only takes about 45 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion: chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic: minced
  • 1 red bell pepper: chopped
  • 1 turnip: diced
  • 2 lbs loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 4-6 c. chopped greens: chopped (I used turnip greens, carrot tops, and radish leaves.)
  • 3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1.5 c. rice

Process:

ribs of the greens

Ribs of the greens

  1. One medium high to high heat, saute onion, garlic, pepper, turnip, and the ribs of the greens, until vegetables are tender. About 5 minutes.
  2. Add sausage. Break up the sausage as you brown it. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add greens, stirring to smother and wilt them in the sausage and vegetable mix. About 2 minutes.
  4. Add stock and bring to boil.
  5. Add rice. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer.
  6. Simmer 20 minutes (longer if using brown rice).

Serve as a main dish or a meaty side.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Part 1: A circle of thanksgiving

We stand in a circle holding hands, a tradition that evolved in my parents’ home from a combination two traditions, leftovers, if you will: grace before a meal and gratefuls during meals.

Boil these down for gumbo tomorrow.

Every link in our circle has suffered at least one wrench or break from another link in this circle. Yet, here we are. “First, we’ll take turns expressing what we’re grateful for . . . It can be anything,” to ease the younger links into the tradition.

“I’m thankful for this family . . . “

Gratitude has become a bandwagon for those anxious to reap the emotional, spiritual, as well as fiduciary benefits of thankfulness. Rewire your brain! Relieve stress. Improve sleep. Improve relationships. I ride that bandwagon. Gratitude helps me deal with leftovers of relationships, disasters, even meals.

What are we going to do with all of these potatoes?

In gratitude we push away shortcomings to focus on our strengths, we see beyond our losses to be joyful for our blessings, we displace grudges with forgiveness.

“I’m grateful for this time together . . .”

We acknowledge that, like all families, there have been unfortunate turns in our family. Ours comes back to this circle of thanksgiving, woven with the strength of our love for each other, the joy of the blessings we share, and the magic of forgiveness. And food.

Can we freeze the rest of the cranberry relish?

Thankfulness in many ways is magical. When divides —whether political, religious, social, or emotional— feel irreparably deep, gratitude for the leftover goodness mends, a circle of thankfulness bridges gaps between us.

“I’m grateful to be included in this family.”

We all have at least one thing in common, at least one thing we can be grateful for together.

How many pies?

I’m thankful for common ground.

“. . . and for the children, who are present and engaged.”

My dad closes the circle of gratitude with a prayer.

” . . . and for these blessings, we give thanks.”

We squeeze hands and chime in “Amen” before we dig in and begin creating . . . the leftovers.

Part 2: Leftovers

Stacks of dishes, naps on recliners, impossible puzzles, long walks through the fields, disappointing football games, and then the question.

What should I do with this?

For those of you who tuned in for leftover recipes, here are a few ideas.

Turkey Gumbo

In Louisiana, we often pull the okra and sausage out of the freezer and cook up a pot of turkey gumbo on Black Friday. Online recipes for exact ingredients and measurements are plentiful. This is the basic process.

  • Start with a stock.
    • Boil the bones alone or with some herbs (bay leaf, oregano, for example) and vegetable scraps (onion ends and skin, a head of garlic cut down the middle).
  • Make a roux.
    • About 1 cup each of flour and vegetable oil for a big pot of gumbo.
    • Slowly heat the flour in the pot until it becomes golden.
    • Add oil and whisk until it blends smoothly with the flour.
    • Continue to heat slowly until the roux is dark.
  • Add vegetables.
    • Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery (1-2 cups of each).
    • Once these are soft, follow with minced garlic (4-5 cloves).
  • Add the stock, leftover (and chopped) turkey, Andouille sausage medallions (Italian sausage will do), sliced okra (1-2 cups), and 2-4 tbsp of Worcester sauce (to taste).
  • Season (salt, cayenne, Tabasco, black pepper) to taste.
  • Bring the gumbo to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Serve with rice.

Dressing BallsThanksgiving-2

If you end up with extra dressing or stuffing, make dressing croquettes.

  • Work a beaten egg into a bowl of about 3 cups of dressing.
  • Form balls (slightly bigger than a golf ball).
  • Optional: Fill the balls with cranberry relish or any compatible leftover.
    • Poke a hole.
    • Fill.
    • Reclose.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes:
    • To fry, roll in a little flour then deep fry.
    • To bake, place on cooking sheets and bake at 400º.
    • To air fry, place balls in Airfryer and cook at 330º.

Sweet Potato Chips

Leftover baked sweet potatoes?

  • Slice the cooked sweet potatoes about ¼ inch thin.
  • Season to taste (salt and cayenne or cinnamon and brown sugar).
  • Cook.
    • 300º for 10 minutes in Airfryer.
    • Deep fry for 2-3 minutes.
    • 400º for 10-15 minutes in the oven.

I was the last to leave my parents’, which means my mom filled my car with the leftovers she didn’t want. As I repurposed the turkey, dressing, potatoes, and relish, I reminisced about the week our family spent together. I’m grateful for that leftover lagniappe.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

A Pepper Apology

Five reasons I shouldn’t have a pepper garden and Five reasons I do

The inception of my pepper obsession escapes me. Peppers went from Yes, jalapeños on my burger! to Yum! Let’s makes some more pepper jelly! to How many pepper varieties can I grow this year?

Growing peppers is fascinating, yet equally frustrating. My modest pepper garden has an extravagant history of false starts, flustered efforts, and full fails.


I know at least five reasons I should not have a pepper garden.

1. Shysters

These were sold to me as Ají Amarillo. I’ll allow that “ají” in Spanish is almost like saying pepper, but please. These mature to red, not yellow.

Ají Amarillo, they said. I’ll allow that “ají” in Spanish is almost as specific as saying “pepper” in English, but please. These mature to red, not yellow.

My pepper ventures begin with a bubble of excitement, selecting and purchasing pepper seeds online, imagining what those seeds will become. That bubble swells with the successful seedling, the plant, the flowers, the peppers . . . And Pop! Wait! This isn’t . . . What kind of pepper is this? I want a refund! But the line is disconnected and emails go into cyberwasteland. Shysters!

These were sold to me as ghost. Um, no! But I fell in love with them and I'm trying to find the right seeds.

The seeds for these were sold to me as ghost. Um, no! The worst part is I fell in love with them, but I’m not sure what they are and they didn’t reseed.

2. Broken promises

Some plants keep their promises. Peppers, like the seedy seed vendors, are often renegers. My pepper seed success rate stands at about 20%, and that´s probably an exaggeration. The low performance rate is only part of the treachery. Sometimes the plant that produces a fabulously perfect pepper —Yes! That’s the seed I ordered!— exhales its last puff of oxygen days after its one and only pepper. Heroic efforts fail to perk up the limp leaves of these one-pepper wonders. I never trust a pepper plant.

3. Critters

Critters did it

Many mornings I find evidence of wild parties and drunken endeavors. Or maybe it was an opossum.

Critters burrow, critters nibble, and sometimes critters crush the plant. As infuriating as these delinquencies can be, the most annoying critter habit of all involves my carefully placed plant labels. Why do they move my plant labels? Are they playing toss the plastic? Having pretend sword battles? My plants and my pseudo-scientific efforts to track and positively identify them often fall victim to the shenanigans of nocturnal critters. Note to self: must map the garden plot.

4. Insects

A leaf-footed nymph

A leaf-footed nymph

The beginning of any season is bliss. The beds are fresh, and that order-day bubble of excitement billows with hope. The seedlings will mature, the seeds will produce what the label says they should, the newspaper and mulch will control the weeds . . . But one bright morning, Pop! The stink bug convention is in full swing! Before long, my garden becomes a playground for stink bug babies, tiny other-worldly nymphs with creepy red bodies. I battle other insect invasions, but stink bugs are the most aggressive. I only use organic pesticides, so short of grabbing the leaf-footed bugs and crushing them against my thighs, there is no instant termination. I dust them with diatomaceous earth, coat them with neem oil solutions, shoo them away, and pray my dreams aren’t infested with them.

I've eked out a few peppers from this plant, but it has been unhappy since seedlinghood.

I’ve eked out a few peppers from this plant, but it has been unhappy since seedlinghood.

5. Peppers

Peppers are bratty, lazy children. No, not yet! I’m tired! I’ll germinate tomorrow. Too much water! I need more water! Additionally, the peppers that manage to survive the critters and insects are prone to almost any disease, bacteria, or fungus that gambols through the garden. My inchoate gardening skills are part of the problem, but a PhD in peppers could not sufficiently school me on the essentials and afflictions of my pepper plants.

The list of frustrations goes on. Even success can be frustrating because the yield is never just right. Too few to follow the recipe or too many to use before the peppers surrender to mush.

Why am I still pampering pepper plants? Five possible reasons:

1. Challenges

Pepper concoctions

I spy candied scotch bonnet, pickled pimento pepper, pickled pizza pepper, pickled planet pepper, chocolate ghost jelly, angry ginger (scotch bonnet) jelly, and candied jalapeños.

I love a challenge. This one goes beyond negotiating my way around seed shysters, nocturnal critters, and alien insects. This challenge has culinary and intellectual branches. What  can I make with this pepper? How can I showcase this pepper’s attributes without killing a friend? The more I learn about peppers —from names and types of plants to different canning and storing methods—, the more I know I don’t know. I’m sure that even my last pepper plant will teach me something, a lesson in survival, a story of surrender, an anecdote about its indigenous history, or maybe a simple moment of grace as I accept the firm, perfect pepper my plant offers.

Harvesting work castings

Harvesting worm castings

2. Grounding

Gardening, especially cultivating peppers, takes me out of my head and into the dirt. Many gardening acts feel holy: harvesting compost and worm castings, organizing seed trays, mixing organic elements. The garden is my quiet room, where I sow and weed thoughts, pamper ideas, and whisper affirmations. I find myself in the failures and bounty of the plants, especially my pepper plants.

Ascent peppers are similar to Tabasco peppers in their look and growth patterns. The name is descriptive, yet unfortunate. No one ever understands on first try. Scent peppers? No, ascent peppers. Cent peppers? No ascent. Sent? Writes down the name.

Ascent peppers are easily confused with Tabasco peppers. No one understands the name on first try. Scent peppers? No, ascent peppers. Cent peppers? No AH-scent. Sent? Writes down the name.

3. Excitement

Baby moruga

This baby moruga scorpion looks innocent enough, but it is a member of the pepper family that is being touted as the hottest in the world.

Discovery, exploration, and, of course, heat. Each year I discover new varietals we must try and explore recipes and techniques. What are we having for dinner? I still can’t answer, Peppers! But peppers are the exciting compliment, brightening a dish with bold flavors and color. Elation escalates with rising Scoville ratings. Even people who can’t tolerate hot peppers are fascinated by heat. They will watch with anticipation as a friend bites into a spicy morsel and dance with excitement when the friend´s eyes tear up from the heat. Like many pepper addicts, I’m on a quest to grow the hottest varieties available. My mission, however,  is divergent. I aim to tame. I dance with excitement when I harness the hottest devils and chaperon them into palatable jellies, sauces, and relishes. 

The coveted and feared ghost (bhut jolokia ) pepper

The coveted and feared ghost (bhut jolokia) pepper

4. Beauty

Peppers are art —my garden canvas, my kitchen palette, my pepper gallery. The pepper laden limbs, a basket full of ripe peppers, jars of pickled peppers, the goat cheese log draped in bright pepper jelly. Beautiful art. Although they will never be the reliable what’s-for-dinner vegetable, peppers are a splendid extravagance, the aesthetic bounty I harvest and share with friends and colleagues.

A pepper harvest

Pepper harvest

5. Peppers

Peppers are my garden children, unpredictable attention seekers. Watch me dance! Watch me shine! Listen to my story! Did you know I can . . . ? The peppers that survive my 80%-plus failure rate are worth the frustrations and stink-bug nightmares. I shamelessly show them off to anyone who gives me a moment. I parade my pepper jellies at parties, share pepper photos, fill gift boxes with pepper delicacies. I love peppers. No apologies.

My first chocolate success: the chocolate ghost pepper

My first chocolate success: the chocolate ghost pepper


Notes and tips for my fellow pepper enthusiasts

Not all seed vendors are trustworthy. So far, these are vendors I do trust: Territorial, ChilePlants, and Peaceful Valley.

This is a list of some of the positively identified peppers that I’ve successfully cultivated. The list of failed attempts is longer.

alma paprika, ancho, ascent, banana, various bells, Bulgarian carrot, Caribbean (or maybe Bolivian?) red, cayenne, cayenne thick, chocolate ghost, fireball, habanero, ghost, jalapeño, NuMex Jo Parker, moruga scorpion, moruga scorpion yellow, pizza, planet, purple jalapeño, scotch bonnet, Serrano, sheepnose pimento, sweet chinese giant, Tabasco, Trinidad scorpion

If you harvest seeds for the next season, clean, dry, and store them in sealed bags or containers in the freezer.

Pre-soaking seeds in solutions of saltpetre or citric acid can help overcome stubborn germination.

Start the seeds in seed trays or hydroponic systems.

Start early! I start making seed trays in late January and early February, but many of my pepper plants don´t start performing until late summer or fall. They can be painfully sluggish.

If you live in a warm climate, many of your peppers can winter over. Pamper them through the cold months, and protect them from the occasional freeze.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

My CSA Adventure: The First Five Weeks

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

I joined one for the first time this year. My excitement was met with:

  • But you already have a garden!
  • Your mom has a garden!
  • You frequent the farmers’ market!
  • Why!?

CSA Week 4That didn’t stop me. I’m finishing up my fifth week of waxed boxes and so far the only vegetable that escaped me was a cucumber. At week five, I have just two regrets: that slimy cucumber and week 3 (out of town and missed my box).

For general information and history about CSAs, visit Local Harvest.

This post is about my CSA experience, the content of my waxed boxes, and how I used it.

My CSA is Luckett Farms. I found out about them through friends who were already participating in the program. When I knocked on the garden gate, the CSA was in mid-season and not taking any new members. While I waited to join the next season, I read about the program and decided which box size best suited our empty nest.

Luckett Farms offers three share sizes: Senior, Average, and Abundant. I chose Average Share.

  • But you already have a garden!
  • Your mom has a garden!
  • You frequent the farmers’ market!
  • Why!?

Disregarding the possibility that I was biting off more than we could chew, I chose Average Share. I’m a little greedy. I wanted at least one of each thing. I had a couple of habits in my favor: I cook almost every day and I can and dehydrate produce at least once a month, sometimes weekly. If push came to shove, I could shove what we couldn’t consume, can, or dehydrate into our upright freezer. (Note: These are important strategies for CSA members).

My first pick-up day finally arrived. My friend, another veggie aficionada, went with me to claim my first box.

“That’s it?” my friend moaned. She rapped on the door of the home (maybe they can explain). No one answered. She peaked into several boxes as I retrieved my notes from the car.

“Yep. That’s it. That’s the right size.” We were both a little disappointed.

When I returned home, I decided to document my CSA venture because I knew the question was coming: “Did we save money by doing this?”

CSA Box 2

Week 2 of the CSA: the box almost doubled in size, and included locally grown rice!

I pulled out my scale and measured. This first box had eight items of fresh produce weighing a total of 6 pounds and 9.11 ounces. Luckett Farms promises at least eight items. They had delivered that, plus honey, a packet of seasonings, and a couple of recipes. I spoke with a friend who had participated in the CSA. She reassured me that the content of the boxes would vary from week to week not only in selection, but in abundance. (Note: The Local Harvest’s tips is an important read for potential CSA members.)

I took heart. I had already concluded that, even though my first “harvest” was less than I had expected, it was worth the $25 dollars. Based on my friend’s experience, I could expect more abundant harvests in future boxes.

I continued to weigh and document my harvests, except week 3 (dang it!), which, according to the newsletter, included mixed greens, scalloped or patty pan squash, and red beans.

What did I find in the boxes I did collect? Here it is in a nutshell box. To my delight, the number of items and total weight increased each week.

CSA-table-week-1-5-A

Except for one badly bruised tomato in week 4, and stings” on a squash, the produce was beautiful and fresh. We consumed (or stored) all but the one cucumber that turned on me.

This is what we did with our super-fresh vegetables.

CSA-table-week-1-5-applicat

We started out with loads of okra. When I have more than I can use, I typically dehydrate it, then grind it to use as a thickener for soups. Because my dehydrator bit the dust on week 1, I discovered grilled okra. This recipe from Southern Living includes a dipping sauce.

We enjoyed zucchini and squash (also plentiful) grilled, smothered, stir-fried, and in soups and salads. Some recipes I applied:

Cowboy candy and syrup

Cowboy candy and cowgirl syrup

Week 5 has been the most impressive box so far. The most celebrated members of this box were the corn and eggplant. We boiled and ate the corn straight. So sweet! The huge eggplant was perfect! I read five or six eggplant lasagna recipes, then made my own version of mostly this recipe, adding ground turkey and substituting mozzarella and Asiago cheese for the typical ricotta/egg mixture.

My friends get a giggle when I tell them there are peppers in my box. My thing is peppers. Pepper jellies, pepper sauces, pepper relishes, dehydrated peppers, roasted peppers, and it goes on. So what did I do with those jalapeños in my box when I already had a few in the fridge, and many still growing in the garden? I rounded up all my jalapeños and made my own version of Cowboy Candy or candied jalapeños. I have a jar full of leftover jalapeño syrup, which will be great for grill glazing or for that interesting oomph in a dish.

I still have a little time to cook up my sweet potatoes (although they will keep quite a while) and scalloped squash before I pick up box 6.

Am I pleased so far with my venture? You betcha! As I collect weeks 6 through 14, I’ll continue to document the harvests, and maybe I’ll follow-up with more recipes. If you’re considering joining a CSA,  I hope this information helps. Keep in mind, CSA models vary, so study up before you sign up.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Southern-style Smothered Squash

Smothered squash is one of my favorite sides.

Whether you just picked up some squash or zucchini from the market or your CSA box was overflowing with these versatile vegetables, a Southern-style smothered squash (or zucchini) recipe might just do the trick.


Smothered Squash (or Zucchini)

Ingredients

  • 6-8 squash and/or zucchini
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions
  • 1-2 peppers (bell or red)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ c wine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • butter (optional)
  • Seasonings (salt, pepper)

Instructions

1. Prepare the vegetables

  • Slice the squash/zucchini into ¼-inch slices medallions.
  • Slice the onion into half-round slivers
  • Chop or slice the peppers

2. Saute the squash/zucchini, onions, and peppers in 1 tbsp olive oil until tender (about 5 minutes).

3. Add honey and wine. For a richer flavor, add 1-2 tbsp butter. Turn the heat up and reduce (about 5 minutes).

4. Season to taste. If you like heat, cayenne is great condiment for this dish.

Add-ons and Substitutions

  • Eggplant works nicely instead of or in addition to the squash/zucchini.
  • If you don’t have honey, use brown sugar or agave.
  • Add dried or fresh oregano or basil.
Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.