The Sharing Ends.

The last CSA box was delivered on Saturday. It was a bittersweet day.

For those not "in the know", CSA stands for Community Supported (or Shared) Agriculture. CSA members own "shares" in a local farm and their primary benefit is receiving boxes of fresh produce all summer long. And by fresh, I'm talking "just harvested yesterday" fresh. Every box is a surprise, unless you're really in tune with the harvesting season. After five years of being a CSA member, I've learned some basic truths about when stuff gets harvested (leafy greens in the spring, for example) but I'm still pretty clueless when it comes to guessing what might show up from week to week.

Awesome graphic courtesy of Saffire Farms CSA in Ottawa
Both the CSA's I've been with are great about providing newsletters with each box that identifies what's in there and what to do with the stuff. This is especially helpful if you've never eaten a kohlrabi or beet or parsnip. Having been raised in a New England household with Italian heritage, I'd never even SEEN a beet before I moved to the midwest. And I've still only eaten turnips once - the first time I got them in my CSA box* and decided I'd give them a try. Of course, we ate figs and squid growing up so, there you go.

The reason the last box is bittersweet is that, when you're one person and you eat meat, it's kind of hard to plow through so much produce before the next box shows up. I love supporting my local, organic farm by buying a share every year. I love the weekly surprise and the subsequent recipe hunt. I love the flavor of really, lovely fresh produce. But, holy cow, is my refrigerator full! And, really, how is one supposed to eat 10 lbs of carrots anyway?

The last box is usually all winter squash and root vegetables. This is good for me because these are items I know how to cook and they have a long shelf life. I'm also awash in apples because, you know, it's that season.

So, in honor of my last CSA box of 2010 and in honor of the abundance of fall produce, I'd like to share a couple of my all-time favorite recipes that use some of these items. I hope you enjoy them.

Buon Appetito!

- Alex

*Yes, I still get turnips in every fall box. No, I do not eat them (or the rutabagas.) I never developed a taste for them nor did I find recipes that felt easy and natural enough to add to my repertoire. Instead I pawn them off on unsuspecting people (like my son's girlfriend who'll try cooking anything) or the midwestern neighbors who grew up eating the them.

Winter Casserole

This is one of my all-time favorites. It's filling and comforting and perfect for cold weather.

One medium sized apple for each person that the casserole is feeding
Roasted sweet potatoes, cubed into good-sized chunks
Sweet Italian Sausage (I do not recommend using hot sausage as the flavor fights with the other ingredients)
Prepared stuffing mix (I like Pepperidge Farms Cubed Herb Stuffing - it holds up best)

You want to adjust the amount of ingredients based on the number of people you're serving so that's why there are no quantities on anything. Wing it. If you end up with too much of something, no big deal. If you short someone a serving...well, you'll know for next time.

1. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and roast in a 400 degree oven until they're soft. Cool until they can be handled then remove the skin and cube. This can be done a day ahead and it actually makes it easier to cube if the whole, cooked potatoes have been in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Remove the casing from the sausages and then cut them to make small "meatballs." You may have to shape them a bit by hand. Brown the meatballs (I use the broiler) but do not cook through. You're going to be cooking them again in the casserole and you don't want them turning to rubber.
3. Moisten the stuffing with water or broth and a little butter. Mound that in the middle of a large casserole dish.

4. Core the apples, leaving the bottom intact. In other words, don't cut all the way through the apple. You want a well in the middle. Scrape out all the seeds and seed casings. Fill the wells with cinnamon sugar. Place the apples in the casserole dish around the stuffing.
5. Put the browned sausage balls in the casserole dish between the apples.
6. Top the entire thing with the cubed sweet potatoes.

Cover and cook in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour - or until the apples are soft (test with a fork). Different apples cook at different rates. Really crispy ones like Honey Gold take longer. Softer varieties like Macintosh take less time.

Remove from oven and let sit for about 15 minutes. The apples are like molten lava and can really burn a mouth so be very careful when serving.

Roasted Beet Salad

Beets are something I learned to eat later in life. My first-ever beet was homemade and pickled and I loved it. Now I'm a big fan of roasted beets - both hot and cold. This is my favorite cold recipe.

Beets (I prefer golden because you can handle them without making your sink look like you just knifed someone to death. If you're going to use red, please wear rubber gloves or your hands are going to be purple.)
Mixed salad greens (Whatever you like. I prefer something with field greens because the "bitter" of the greens offsets the sweet of the beets.)
Blue or Gorgonzola cheese
Walnuts (candied if you can get your hands on some)
A light vinaigrette dressing (I usually make my own with olive oil & champagne vinegar)

1. Roast the beets by piercing them with a fork, wrapping in tin foil (place the packet on a cookie sheet because they will bleed and drip stuff inside your oven), and cooking in a 400 degree oven until tender.
2. Allow the beets to cool and then skin them (the skin should peel right off).
3. Cube the beets into bite-sized pieces
4. Toss the beets with salad greens, walnuts, and blue cheese crumbles
5. Blend some blue cheese into your vinaigrette dressing (making it creamy) and dress the salad


  1. Be sure to place a goodly supply of your root vegetables into the cellar where they'll sustain you over the long winter until the first dandelions of spring appear.

  2. Canning! I've just gotten interested in canning (i.e., I have some supplies and some ideas, but haven't actually done it yet), and I'm having visions of canning my CSA surplus next year, and having lovely summer veggies all through the winter.

  3. @kat: I have a friend with a huge garden. She "puts up" veggies in a lot of different ways - canning, blanching and freezing, etc. It's really cool and, to your point, she has great veggies nearly all winter. Last year she ate the last of the garden in late February.