The CSA Challenge, Part I

12 Nov

That is my giant tabby Helios in the background of this picture about to gnaw on some spinach.  He’s inspecting the half bushel of vegetables I earned by working for a half day at Johnson’s Backyard Garden just south of Austin.  I volunteered with my friend Lindy, and we spent five hours spraying clean boxes of bok choy, weighing and bagging green beans for the farmers market, washing and wiping off butternut squashes, and packing CSA boxes.  It was a great way to spend a Friday (yes, I took off time from work to do this…) and in exchange for my effort I received a CSA share, filled with a variety of beautiful organic vegetables.  The concept of my next few posts will be the following:

What on earth do you do with all those veggies?  For me, the question is also, how do I eat all these vegetables before they go bad?  I cook only for myself and always have to be aware of how much food I’m buying at once so I don’t over buy and end up with some sad-looking cilantro.  The CSA box challenges me on both the quantity aspect, as well as the unknown vegetable aspect.  Actually, the only vegetable I had never cooked with before is the kohlrabi.  However, I know that many people just don’t know what to do with kale, spinach, cabbage, 2 lbs of green beans, and the list goes on.  So, I’m photographing and writing down recipes to show what I did with my cornucopia of vegetables.  First up, the dinosaur kale, kohlrabi greens (I’ve left the purple bulbs for another dish, another day), lavender bell pepper, hot Anaheim pepper, cucumbers, radishes, and green onions.

Dinosaur kale (aka lacinato kale):

Kohlrabi greens:

Peppers (all the peppers are together here, but I just used one of the red and the purple bell):



And, finally, green onions:

I made two separate dishes using these particular vegetables.  Soup is one good way to use the kale, since the sturdy leaves hold up to the heat.  I made a soup that is by no means the most attractive looking soup I’ve ever made, but it was tasty and filling.  I had a few lentils and some millet lying around, and beyond that I used an onion and some sweet potatoes I needed to use up.  Simple soup, and made a nice dinner several nights this week.

Recipe #1:  Kale-Sweet Potato Soup with Lentils and Millet


1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped

2 T olive oil

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks

2/3 cup brown lentils

1/2 cup millet

2-3 cubes vegetable bouillon (I used Rapunzel brand)

5 or 6 cups water

1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bunch dinosaur kale, leaves torn from the stalks, washed, and chopped


Wash, peel, and chop all your vegetables.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot suitable for making soup (i.e., a deep pot), and saute the onion for about 5 minutes.  Add the sweet potato, stir, and cook for a few minutes.  Add the lentils, millet, bouillon cubes, and water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, lower heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.  Then, uncover and add the chopped kale and salt.  Stir to evenly distribute the kale, and allow to simmer about 5 minutes to cook the kale.  Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

Recipe #2:  Raw Kohlrabi Greens Salad


Greens from one bunch of kohlrabi (in my case, greens from two roots), washed and chopped (best to do this in a salad spinner–you don’t want wet greens)

4 or 5 radishes, thinly sliced

3 green onions, washed and chopped (including white and green parts)

1 Anaheim pepper, seeds removed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 lavender bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cucumber, chopped (I didn’t peel mine because it’s organic and not waxed!)

Handful chopped walnuts

Handful golden raisins

2 T extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one lemon

1/2 tsp sea salt

A few twists of freshly ground black pepper


Place the washed and chopped kohlrabi greens in a large salad-worthy bowl.  Toss in the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.  Massage the greens for about one minute, until softened.  Add the remaining vegetables, raisins, and nuts.  Add the pepper.  Toss, taste, and add more salt if necessary.  You may also add more lemon juice if you like, or some red wine or white wine vinegar.

Much more to come!  Stay tuned for dishes using eggplant, green beans, peppers, cabbage, kohlrabi, and all the rest.


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