Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

 

Cooking and Recipes
In general, I think the best way to use the produce you get is to step outside your box and try at least one new recipe for every share you get.  I always use the old noggin for most of my recipes but when I have a bit of extra time I like to turn to the professionals. Having a couple great cookbooks can really make a difference. Deborah Madison’s “Vegetable Literacy” and “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” books are great and I really like Diane Morgan’s “Roots” cookbook. Both of these have a ton of great ideas for common and odd vegetables.  And not being afraid to substitute some vegetables for others can really free up what you can make. Say a recipe calls for onions and you only have leeks. Go for it. Or it calls for shallots and you’ve only got leeks,who cares, go for it. Parsnips rather than potatoes. Collards or mustard greens instead of kale, whoa!
And another tip is to have all your spices handy. Buy all the spices you need for Indian food or Thai food and organize them so it’s easy to grab when you want to make a dish. Nothing’s worse than not having all your spices and then getting defeated and deciding not to make something because of it. Be flexible, creative and have fun.  That’s my four cents anyway. If you have any favorite cookbooks you’d like to share, email me and I’ll add them to the list for next year.
Vegetable Storage
The great thing about winter crops is that they will keep for awhile. Roots, winter squash, potatoes will keep for months, while greens will keep for a week to a month depending on the crop and storage conditions.  So, you have time to work with what you get.  Not the same pressure like you would from a summer CSA.  That’s one thing I really like about winter crops. They’re flexible if you are. A friend of mine, Josh Volk from Our Table farm, says, “In general, refrigerators dry out food, causing greens to wilt and fruit and roots to get rubbery.  The cold is good, but keep the humidity high with damp cloth wraps inside plastic bags or containers.  A little water is fine — too much water will cause mildew and mold with extended storage.” I agree wholeheartedly.
Another options if your fridge is full is to keep them outside. Yep, keep your vegetables outside in a rubbermaid in a shady spot and only bring them  in if it’s going to freeze at night.  This can save you tons of space in your fridge and during the winter months the vegetables that you would normally keep in your fridge keep almost just as well out of doors.
Roots- Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Parsnips, Radishes, ect–  I usually keep these in plastic bags in the fridge or outside in a rubbermaid. They will keep for months if you follow the advice above.
Winter Squash-  I usually just keep them out on a shelf in the house. They like 65 degrees and humidity, generally.  So just regular house conditions fare well.  I try to keep them away from areas where the heat fluctuates like wood stoves and drafty windows.
Potatoes-  Keep these in the dark. The skin will turn green if not kept in the dark. The green skin can be poisonous or cause a slight stomach ache if you were  to eat a ton of it.  So peel or cut off the green areas if they arise.  If you’re in a pinch and can’t find a dark place, you can keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag and they will sweeten up.  The starches will turn to sugar.  This is good and bad as it can cause them to burn more quickly because of the sugars.
Kale, Collards, Cabbage-  Plastic bag in the fridge.  Wash your cabbages.  Pat them dry and put them in a bag.  Check on them every couple weeks and see how they are doing if you’re storing them for a spell.
Chicories- Escarole, Endive, Radicchio-  The more you dry these out, the longer they will last.  A dry cloth in the bag can help balance out the moisture if there’s too much.   You can make them last a month or two if you treat them right. But, really you should eat them up soon cause they’re sooooo delicious. A friend of ours likes to take the leaves off and dry them and put them back in a dry plastic bag. She says this technique helps them keep for a long time.
Onions, Shallots and Garlic-  Same as winter squash.
Popcorn- Same as winter squash.
Sweet Potatoes- Same as winter squash.