How to process the first CSA share of the year

Stunningly beautiful and vibrant Swiss chard, the first of the season.

Local-food enthusiasts all over New England are toting home their first CSA share of the season this week. (CSA is short for “community-supported agriculture,” where you can buy a share of a farm’s produce, provided weekly during the season.) The first take of the season here in Eastern Massachusetts was impressive: very large, so much so that deciding what to do with the produce once it’s home might be a little overwhelming.

Here are some tips garnered from growers and friends on what to do with the produce available to us this very moment.

Swiss chard: The stems are tougher than the leaves, so give the stems a little more time to cook. Slice them, sauté for a minute or two in a mix of olive oil and butter, and then add the leaves. Season with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar if you like. I prefer Pastene’s Balsamic Cream condiment for a nice finish.

Turnips and radishes: The leaves of both of these vegetables are perfectly edible but they can take up a lot of space in your refrigerator. Remove the leaves from the roots and keep the roots cool in the fridge. Use the leaves as soon as possible.

Lettuce: Separate the leaves, wash them, spin dry in a salad spinner, then lay them in a single layer on a kitchen towel. You may need more than one. Roll up the towel, tucking the leaves inside, and wrap the roll(s) in a plastic bag for storage in your refrigerator. Just pull out however much you need for that day’s salad!

Spinach: My favorite preparation for spinach starts by sautéing an onion or two leeks (white and light green parts) in butter and olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the fresh spinach and cook. It will “melt” quickly and fit easily in your sauté pan. Season again with salt and pepper. At this point, add some golden raisins to the pan, if you like; they will plump up from the heat. Stir in crème fraîche, then grate a little nutmeg on top. For an extra flourish, toast pine nuts and sprinkle them on as garnish.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.


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