Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 6, 2017: This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Amaranth Greens

What’s In The Box?
Purple Scallions: It’s been an excellent onion year so far.  Cross your fingers that the tops will continue to remain healthy in the field and the onions will keep growing and multiplying as well as these purple scallions have! 
Fennel: Please refer to last week’s newsletter and blog post about fennel.  You’ll find two delicious recipes plus suggestions for other ways to use this unique vegetable.    
Fresh Italian Garlic: This garlic was just harvested, so the layers of skin surrounding the cloves are still very fresh and will need to be pulled away to expose the fresh, juicy cloves inside.
Green Top Gold Beets: If you profess to not like beets, this may be the beet for you.  Golden beets are more mild in flavor and sweeter than red beets….and as always, eat the greens too!
Sugar Snap OR Snow Peas: We still have one more planting of peas coming…they’re blooming right now.  Don’t forget that all of our peas have edible pods.  All you have to do is remove the string that runs on top of the pea and is connected to the stem.  
Italian & Green Zucchini: Our first crop of zucchini is producing much better this week now that we have had some warm days! The Italian variety is lighter green with stripes and ribs.  It is more firm and best for grilling.
Green OR Silver Slicer Cucumbers: Another heat-loving crop that really stepped up production with the heat this week!  The silver slicer cucumbers have pale yellow skin, are a little smaller than the green cucumbers, and have a crisp texture with a fruity flavor.
Green Top Carrots: These are an older European “nantes” variety called “Mokum” that is known for being an early carrot with a sweet juicy flavor.  The greens are edible too!  Read on for suggestions about using the carrot tops!
Broccoli: The stems of broccoli are edible too.  Just peel away a thin outer layer of skin and you’ll find a tender, juicy core that is delicious raw or cooked.
Amaranth Greens: Don’t be fooled…this is a cooking green, but the leaves are mostly deep burgundy red in color and sometimes have a touch of dark green!  See this week’s vegetable feature below for more information about this cool vegetable!

Cooking with This Week's Box!

I recently picked up another cookbook entitled Six Seasons:  A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden.  In his book he divides the summer season  into three different sections, early summer, midsummer and late summer.  According to his system for seasonal distinction, we are still in early summer, as we transition from the tail end of spring into the first part of summer.  Salad mix is done until fall and it’s time to switch to summer cooking greens and salads made with vegetables other than lettuce!  There is quite a selection in this week’s box so cooking and eating is going to be very interesting this week!

Lets start with this week’s featured vegetable, Amaranth.  If you’re new to this green, take a moment to read the vegetable feature in this week’s newsletter or on our blog.  Our featured recipe this week is Spicy Amaranth Greens with Zucchini and Black-Eyed Peas.  This dish is tasty on its own, or you can serve it over grits, polenta or rice.  If you’re not into black-eyed peas, substitute another bean of your choosing or leave them out as well!

We’re going to have amaranth in the box again within the next few weeks and when we do, I want to use it to make a recipe for Amaranth Leaves Rotti, an Indian flat bread.  In this recipe they recommend serving the Rotti with a pickle, so I want to use the fennel this week to make the Indian Spiced Fennel Pickles mentioned in last week’s vegetable feature about fennel.  This recipe makes 2 quarts, so I might cut the recipe in half so I can use some of the fennel for another use.  I think the fennel pickles might go well with the rotti and some dal and you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  I admit I don’t have much experience cooking food from India, so if anyone has another suggestion for what to pair with the Rotti, please let me know.  Otherwise, I’m going to try my combo and we’ll see how it is!

The remainder of the fennel is going to be used to make the Fennel and Beet Salad with Honey LemonVinaigrette featured in our June 2007 newsletter.  This is a recipe I developed the first year I was at the farm because Richard convinced me that beets and fennel are a seasonal pairing and go together well.  I really hadn’t used fennel much before, but played around with it and came up with this salad which remains one of our annual favorites!  

We’re excited to be harvesting carrots again!  This week we are delivering the carrots with the green tops still attached to the root.  In the cookbook I mentioned earlier, McFadden likens cooking vegetables to the whole nose-to-tail movement with meat whereby the user is challenged and encouraged to use everything, leaf to root!  So, in the case of carrots and beets that still have their tops on, we’re challenged to find a use for the greens and the roots.  It’s actually like having two vegetables in one, so why throw away half the package?!  “Ok, great Andrea, but what am I supposed to do with these carrot tops?”  What else do we do with green things we’re not sure what to do with?  We make pesto of course!  At the Kitchn blog, there’s an article entitled “Not Just Rabbit Food:  5 Tasty Ways to Eat Carrot Tops.”  One of the recipes they link to is for a Grilled Cheese with Roasted Carrots andCarrot Top Pesto.  If you’re like Richard and appreciate meat, you could add some crispy pancetta or bacon to this sandwich, or I’m sure prosciutto would be tasty too.  If the grilled cheese sandwich concept isn’t grabbing your attention but you like the pesto idea, there’s another version of CarrotTop Pesto from one of our past newsletters. If you aren’t sold on pesto, then consider Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro and Carrot Green Chimichurri. Chimichurri is another great way to utilize carrot tops.

So we have a use for the carrot tops, but what about the beet greens?  Fried eggs are my go-to “quick and easy but still good for you” dinner item and they go great with a wide variety of vegetable combos.  So this week my vegetable-egg creation started with some sautéed onion and garlic.  Once the onion and garlic were softened, add the chopped beet greens to the pan along with a few splashes of red wine vinegar a few pinches of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Put a lid on the pan and let the greens wilt down.  Once they are wilted, allow them to simmer briefly until nearly all the liquid is evaporated.  Push the greens to the side of the pan and add some butter to the pan to fry your egg in.  Put the beet greens on your plate and add some crumbled feta cheese.  The egg goes on top of the beet greens and then you eat the whole mess with a few olives on the side and a piece of buttered toast.  So delicious! 

Golden Beets are so sweet and delicious that even people who don’t usually like beets often like them!  If you don’t use your beets in the fennel and beet salad I mentioned, then consider preparing them in a super-simple preparation such as this recipe for Roasted Golden Beets with Rosemary and Garlic. Sometimes the most simple preparations are the best!

Fennel Cucumber Salsa - photo from
Thank goodness it warmed up so we can actually feel like it’s summer and enjoy our zucchini and cucumbers!  How about a juicy burger on the grill (beef, turkey or veggie….your choice) served with Baked Parmesan Zucchini and a simple Chili-Cucumber Salad. If there are any cucumbers left over, they make a great snack with just a little salt or put them on toast with cream cheese and fresh herbs. You could also turn them into a salsa such as the one posted by one of our CSA members in our CSA Facebook Group.  It’s a recipe for Fennel-Cucumber Salsa to serve with fresh bread, tortillas, or with sautéed fish or chicken.  

Of course, we’ve nearly used up our onions and garlic by now, but we still have broccoli and sugar snap or snow peas remaining.  Lets turn these vegetables into a simple but delicious Beef, Broccoli and Snow Pea Stir-Fry.   You could throw a carrot or two into the mix for a little color if you like. 

Well, this week’s Cooking with the Box should give you at least 2-3 main entrées and 1 sandwich idea along with a few salad options and a few side dishes including a pickle to enjoy over the next few weeks.  Add a little protein to some of the salads and sides and you should be able to round out a pretty delicious week of eating out of your CSA box!  Of course, there will likely be some leftovers to enjoy in your lunch or repurpose into snacks or dinner for another night as well.
I hope you’ll stretch yourself a little this week and try something new….perhaps this will be the week you tackle those beet and carrot greens!  Let me know how your creations turn out, or post in our Facebook Group and inspire another member!—Chef Andrea

Featured Vegetable:  Amaranth Greens

 Amaranth is a stunning “green” that actually has dark, burgundy colored leaves.  It is an ancient plant that was part of the diets of Aztec civilizations in Mexico up to 7,000 years ago.  It was also an important staple food for the Incas of South America and the people of the Himalayan region of Asia.  In these ancient cultures, amaranth was also used medicinally and in cultural rituals.  It was held as a symbol of immortality and means “never –fading flower” in Greek.  Like many other vegetables, amaranth was a multi-use vegetable.  The seeds were used as a winter staple and the young leaves were eaten as a fresh vegetable.  There are about 60 different varieties of amaranth, some grown to harvest seeds, others for the leaves, and several ornamental species.  The variety of amaranth we grow is referred to as “Polish Amaranth”….and there’s a story to go with this name.

We actually purchased the seed for this year’s crop from Wild Garden Seeds (WGS), which is kind of funny because Richard is the one who actually gave them the seed originally!  Some of you may have heard this story already, but for those of you who don’t know it the story goes like this.  One day Richard was driving to town and saw a beautiful red amaranth plant growing in a garden along the way.  He stopped and asked the people who lived there about this plant.  They said their Aunt May brought the seed with her from Poland and they were happy to share it with Richard. So Richard collected some seed and started growing it, mostly as a baby green to mix into his gourmet salad mix. It didn’t do so well as a salad mix ingredient, but in later years we found success growing it as a mid-summer bunching green used for cooking.  Since we aren’t in the business of seed production, Richard passed the seed onto Frank Morton at WGS and he has been maintaining this variety of amaranth.   Thanks Frank! 

Amaranth greens have become an important part of our seasonal diet because of their ability to grow in the heat of the summer when other greens, spinach and lettuce do not thrive.  Amaranth is able to adapt to variable conditions with little impact from weather or disease.  It is able to survive in extreme heat or drought conditions because it is able to convert twice the amount of solar energy using the same amount of water as most other plants. 

While I’ve never sent a sample to the lab to test nutrient levels, I think we can add amaranth greens to our list of HVF “super-foods.”  The leaves of this plant are high in calcium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin C, carotene, iron, B vitamins, and trace elements including zinc and manganese.  Compared to spinach, amaranth leaves have three times more vitamin C, calcium and niacin!  Of course we know vegetables that have rich colors like the magenta leaves of amaranth are also packed with important phytonutrients and antioxidants. 

Ok, enough of the history and science of this vegetable.  Lets get serious and figure out how to use it!  Amaranth is similar in flavor to spinach, except better!  You can prepare it similarly to spinach or other cooking greens.  While amaranth may be eaten raw, the more mature leaves and stems are best when cooked.  The stems and leaves are both edible, however the stems might need a little longer cooking time so it’s best to separate the leaves from the stem.   Amaranth greens may be steamed, sautéed, added to soups, stews, wilted and stir-fried.  Amaranth pairs well with so many other summer crops including onions, fresh garlic, zucchini, peppers, corn, green beans, basil, oregano and tomatoes. 
Amaranth is thought to have originated in Central and/or South America, but has made its way around the globe.  It can be found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, which means there are many options for finding ways to use this vegetable.  Season it with cumin, coriander, oregano and serve it with black beans for more of a Mexican approach.  Stir-fry it with garlic, onion, ginger and a drizzle of sesame oil for more of a Chinese influence.  Mix it with pasta, tomatoes, oregano, basil and Parmesan for an Italian flair, or take it in more in the direction of Indian cuisine by choosing curry spices & lentils.  When I was first introduced to amaranth ten years ago, you could hardly find any recipes in cookbooks or on the internet.  That has changed a lot and now I’m confident you will be able to find at least one way to prepare amaranth that will become your “favorite” way to enjoy this vegetable.  We have some tasty recipes from previous newsletters available on our website as well.  We hope you enjoy this lovely green, for its aesthetics, nutrition, history and flavor! 

Spicy Amaranth with Zucchini & Black-eyed Peas 

By Andrea Yoder
Yield:  4 Servings

1 bunch amaranth greens, washed
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger 
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely chopped onion (If using an onion         with green tops, save the tops)
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cloves 
¼ tsp ground cardamom 
⅛ tsp cayenne (optional)
2 cups zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 can (15 oz) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1-2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp lime juice 
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup finely chopped onion tops, optional (if using scallions or another onion with green tops)

  1. First, prepare the amaranth greens.  Wash the greens in a sink of water.  Shake to remove most of the excess water.  Separate the leaves from the stems.  Finely chop the stems and set aside.  Roughly chop the leaves and set aside. 
  2. Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the ginger, garlic and onion.  Saute for 2-3 minutes or until you can smell the ginger, garlic and onion and the vegetables are softened.  
  3. Add the spices and 1 tsp salt to the pan.  Stir to combine.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the zucchini and amaranth stems.  Stir to combine and then saute for 7-10 minutes or until the zucchini starts to get tender, but is not fully cooked.  
  4. Add the black-eyed peas and stir to combine.  Add the amaranth leaves to the pan and cover.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the greens to wilt down for about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the cover and add the lime juice.  Stir to combine the greens with the bean mixture.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more lime juice and/or salt.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green onion tops if you are using them.
  6. You can serve this on its own or over creamy polenta, grits or cooked rice. 

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