Cooking from My CSA: Collard Greens

As I briefly mentioned in my last post (otherwise known as the first post in months), I joined the Harvest Moon Farm CSA this year. For those of you not in the know – Mom, I’m talking to you – a CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Essentially, before the growing season even starts, you pay for a share in a farm’s crop, which for me comes to half a box of produce each week from mid-June until November. It’s uber convenient as the box gets delivered to my office building every Wednesday afternoon, and then I go to the farmers’ market on Saturday to supplement with produce that wasn’t in the box.

My weekly take is half a box because I’m splitting a share with a friend, who last week started a fire by microwaving fennel. That’s another story, but the point is that I might have to take the rest of the fennel this year even though I don’t like it because she just can’t be trusted.

I’ve been having fun experimenting with my CSA box and seeing what I can make out of it each week. Really, I’m enjoying the challenge of 1) using everything in my box, and 2) trying new veggies/new ways to prepare them. Often times I wind up focusing on just a few of the vegetables, then find myself with the rest starting to wilt on Monday night. This leads to a lot of last minute roasted veggie or stir-fry dishes that I take to work with quinoa. It’s good, but lacking a little creativity.

A few nights ago I focused on the collard greens, something I don’t eat often. I buy a lot of chard and kale, but usually stay away from the collards. Not sure why exactly, but I think maybe it’s because I had the impression it’s tougher than the other varieties.

That night I prepared the collard greens with delicious multi-colored carrots I’d picked up at the market along with bacon, garlic and lemon juice. That was pretty much it – super simple, very fresh and filling, and a great way to really taste and enjoy the collard greens. I was surprised to discover that they were more mild tasting than the others, which can sometimes be slightly bitter. I’m definitely a collard greens convert – bring ‘em on!

Here’s what I did, it’s really more of a guide than a straight-up recipe:

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Garlic Scapes Abound: Parisienne Gnocchi with Garlic Scape Pesto

Parisienne Gnocchi with Garlic Scape Almond Pesto

Parisienne Gnocchi with Garlic Scape Pesto

About six months ago I began compiling a list of recipes I wanted to make that I thought the blog readers (as in YOU) would enjoy. Some I’d made before, some were inspired by dishes I’d tried in restaurants, and some were simply recipes I’d come across in magazines.

This recipe for Parisienne gnocchi was at the top of the list. I had only made it once before in culinary school but it stuck with me because of how simple it was to prepare and how great and versatile the flavors were.

Parisienne gnocchi: boil water and butter Parisienne gnocchi: mix in flour Parisienne gnocchi: pâte à choux dough

Parisienne gnocchi: blend in eggs Parisienne gnocchi: add herbs and cheese Parisienne gnocchi: blend all ingredients

I remember being surprised when I first read the recipe years ago. “This isn’t gnocchi,” was my reaction, seeing as it wasn’t made from potatoes like traditional Italian gnocchi is. I later learned that Parisienne gnocchi is made from a pâte à choux dough, similar to one used in profiteroles or cream puffs, and yields light and fluffy dumplings that are just delicious.

Today I finally got the courage to tackle my shelf of overstuffed  binders leftover from my culinary schools days and found the recipe. I didn’t change it aside from substituting minced garlic scapes and basil for tarragon and chives, but basically you can use any combination of fresh herbs (I’m thinking rosemary and mint next time).

Parisienne gnocchi: pipe gnocchi into simmering water Parisienne gnocchi: drain gnocchi Parisienne gnocchi: dry

Parisienne gnocchi: saute with mushrooms Parisienne gnocchi: deglaze with cooking liquid Parisienne gnocchi: mix in pesto

In case you’re not familiar with them, garlic scapes are green curly stalks that grow from the garlic bulb. Farmer’s cut them off so that the garlic bulbs can continue to grow and become plump. They’re only available for a short time in the Spring and have a strong garlic flavor that isn’t as potent as the bulbs.

This really is a terrific recipe. I served it with Dorie Greenspan’s Garlic Scape and Almond Pesto (I’d bought a big bag of garlic scapes at the farmer’s market), but feel free to use any type of light sauce (i.e. white wine, butter, etc.). However, I really liked the gnocchi with the pesto, especially because I used garlic scapes in both. The garlic flavor of Dorie’s pesto was strong but not harsh, and it helped to thin out the pesto with equal parts gnocchi cooking liquid.

Garlic Scapes Parisienne gnocchi: minced garlic scapes Basil plant

Garlic scape pesto: blend dry ingredients Garlic scape pesto: process all ingredients Garlic Scape Pesto

And the best part is most of the work can be done in advance, making Parisienne Gnocchi with Garlic Scape Pesto ideal for entertaining! The gnocchi even freezes well.

Here are the recipes:

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Exploring Green Garlic: Pasta & Soup Recipes

Trimmed green garlic

Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of produce available at the indoor farmer’s market yesterday. I had gone in hopes of finding ramps, but instead discovered green garlic.

One of the first crops of the year, I was thrilled to get my hands on this leafy garlic stalk that looks like a cross between a scallion and a baby leek with the root still attached. In reality, the flavor is all garlic but is a bit more subtle and sweet than traditional garlic cloves. To use green garlic, remove the beard (the roots), trim the tough green tops (about 1 inch), and peel away any slimy pieces around the stalk.

Green garlic whole

But what to cook with this treasure? It’s true that green garlic can be used any place you’d use garlic cloves, but I wanted to make something that would highlight the unique flavor of this seasonal delight.

Minced green garlic

I considered a lot of options (garlic chicken, spinach-green garlic soup, salad, etc.), but in the end I decided it was silly to limit myself to just one green garlic dish, so I made two: pasta with green garlic, bacon and Spring vegetables and green garlic and potato soup, a twist on the classic potato-leek soup (or vichyssoise if served cold).

Pasta with Green Garlic, Bacon & Spring Vegetables

The pasta dish is basically a pan sauce with bacon, green garlic, mushrooms and spinach, and can be made in the time it takes to cook the noodles. At the end stir in parmesan cheese and a bit of the cooking liquid, and you’ve got yourself an amazingly fragrant and filling meal. Also, you can use any type of bite-sized pasta, in this instance I chose miniature farfalle.

Green garlic and potato soup

The green garlic and potato soup is just as simple to prepare although it takes a bit longer. But it’s worth the wait for the soup’s thick, creamy texture.

In both recipes the green garlic flavor is subtle yet prominent in that it doesn’t overwhelm the palate, but you definitely know it’s there.

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