One of the blessings of living in such a culturally and culinarily diverse place is that fresh fruits and veggies can be found with relative ease. California is home to some of the most sought-after produce, which is shipped all over the world. The reason I started this blog was to document all the mouth watering ways local resources can be used, without having to step much further outside of my hometown to find memorable ingredients.
The biggest trend in cooking right now is “farm to table,” which essential translates into cutting out the middleman and eating locally grown foods to further connect communities to their land and their meals. One movement to ensure to become a member of a local CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are known for sourcing local seasonal fruits, veggies, and nuts and shipping directly out to members for a modest cost. For about 30 bucks, I get this huge box that usually contains an range of leafy greens, root veggies, vine veggies, berries, fruits, and other things that might be in-season that week. Depending on the size of your CSA, you can choose themes to get more of the things you enjoy cooking with such as “All Fruit” or “No Cooking Needed” or “All Veggies.” Joining a CSA is great for the local farmers, who don’t end up losing profits by having to sell to large buyers like Safeway or Whole Foods, and so they pass that savings onto you. Totally worth it if you’re trying to turn over a healthier leaf, no pun intended.
One notable downside/challenge of joining a CSA is that even though you get to choose your theme if you’re lucky, you don’t get to individually choose your box contents. Which means you often get veggies or fruits that you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself in the grocery store. One such challenge for me this month: 3 large red Beets, 1 Acorn Squash, 1 bunch of Carrots, 1 large bunch of Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) Kale, and 1 bunch of Radishes. I tried giving them away but no one would take them! So I thought to myself: Be a big girl. Find a way to make these things delicious. Expand your palette.
Know what you do with veggies that you don’t enjoy? Bake them! Sautée them with garlic! Liquify them! My biggest problem with this basket was the Beets. I mean, Beets? Red, staining, tastes-like-earthy-dirt Beets? YUCK. Every time that I’ve tried to give them a try in other preparations or in restaurants, they were cold, slimy, and tasted like I was eating a plant bed. I knew there had to be a way to make them digestible. Luckily, I have Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) on my side. I had forgotten that I had seen a show where she roasts them and then hits them with fruity acidity of orange juice right before serving to cut some of that earthy taste, ingenious!
- 3 red Beets, scrubbed and peeled, chopped into bite sized quarters
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced (or any fresh herbs you have, sage and basil work great here, too.)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t worry about overseasoning here.)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1 large orange
NOTE: Keep the beet greens at the top for a nutrient-rich easy stewing or sauteing green. It’s insane the amount of Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid that you get from a red Beet, which can also be found in the greens so don’t waste them! Serious gift from nature.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. (If you can’t peel them entirely, don’t sweat it. As long as they’re scrubbed thoroughly, you’re fine if some of the outer skin gets left on.) Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths.)
Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, (I always cover my cookie sheets with tin foil for easy cleanup.) fresh herbs, sea salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with the orange juice. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and serve warm.
(And now here is where we reuse those valuable Beet greens!)
Sauteed Lacinato Kale and Beet Greens
(Generally, this technique can work for any greens you have around, including swiss chard and thicker types of spinach.)
- 1 bunch of Kale, cleaned and separated from the stalk
- 1 bunch of Beet greens, cleaned and separated from the stalk
- Olive Oil (about 5 tablespoons, plus extra for cooking as needed)
- Sea Salt
- Garlic Cloves (four or five, just smashed)
- 1 fresh lemon
Taking a deep pan or dutch oven, heat up your olive oil on medium heat with the garlic cloves. (Stir often to prevent your garlic from burning.) After about a minute or two, just after the oil becomes fragrant, add your leafy greens, ripping them into halves. Toss the leaves gently in the hot oil (don’t be frightened if the oil is making popping sounds, that is just the water in the leaves being cooked down.) Wilting the leaves evenly, squeeze half of a fresh lemon into the pan, hitting it with some of the sea salt and pepper. Give the leaves one last toss, transfer to a platter and hit it with the juice of the other half of the lemon. Serve warm.
Roasted Carrots and Radish Halves
- 1 bunch of fresh Carrots, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
- 1 bunch of Radishes, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
- Sea Salt
- Fresh herbs (any that you have around is fine)
- Dried Oregano (Just a sprinkle.)
- Smoked Paprika (Just a sprinkle and totally optional. Use what ya’ got.)
Heat up your oven to 400 degrees. Take a shallow cookie sheet (it is better if it has a lip on it to prevent any oil spillage in your oven.) line it with tin foil, sprinkle the bottom with olive oil. Rough chop your veggies into halves and place them on the cookie sheet, drizzling more olive oil on top, sprinkling your fresh herbs, sea salt, pepper, and smoked paprika here. Toss the veggies until fully coated and roast for about 15 – 20 minutes until done, tossing them about halfway through. Sprinkle them with just a bit more salt and serve warm.
This is a great way to prep the veggies for eating later in the week, they keep for a while in the fridge and are easy to microwave to heat up. I’m glad to say that I no longer hate beets!
I hope this fall, you discover some new ways not to hate some seasonal ingredients, too.
Thanks and happy eats,