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What to cook with your sweet pepper bonanza

Liz Whitehurst


by Owl's Nest Market CSA member Denise Graveline

Those colorful cartons of sweet peppers at the Owl's Nest Farm stand at Petworth Community Market, or in your CSA share, look tempting--but may have you stumped about how to use them. The good news: There are many preparations to work sweet peppers into your menu.

And you can expect an entirely different flavor from these peppers, says New York Times food writer Martha Rose Shulman in Cook a Peck of Peppers: "They’re piled high at mine, all different colors, mostly sweet ones but hotter chiles as well. They are a treat, and if you’re used to supermarket peppers, the intensity of the farmers’ market peppers will be a revelation. Supermarket peppers are pretty, yes, but they’re fleshy and dull. Those firm, thin-fleshed peppers my local farmers grow are intensely sweet if they’re red, orange or yellow, and wonderfully grassy if they’re green. When you roast them, they sweeten even more..."

Now's the time to stock up so you can try these recipes this month, or preserve the peppers for use later in the winter.

For now:

For later:

  • Pickle: Your sandwiches, cheese tray, or snack plate will thank you if you pickle some peppers now for use later on. This recipe for whole pickled snacking peppers is a simple fridge pickling recipe--no canning or hot water processing--and you can use it with whole peppers (tops cut off), strips, or rings. I'm using the smallest of the sweet peppers to pickle whole, and the larger ones get cut into strips.
  • Roast: The peppers can be cored and left whole or cut into strips before roasting, can be stored with a coating of olive oil in the fridge. Great for pizza or pasta toppings, sandwiches, flatbreads.
  • Freeze: You don't need to blanch peppers in hot water before you freeze them. Follow these simple instructions for "tray freezing" to preserve your peppers, which won't have the snap and crispness of fresh ones, but will still be great in stews, soups, omelets, and other recipes.

Don't forget: You can prep dishes like peperonata and freeze them in airtight jars for use later in the winter.

Summer to winter: The case for a full CSA share for a single person

Liz Whitehurst

by Market CSA member Denise Graveline

I'm single and live alone, but I've been buying a full CSA (community supported agriculture) share from Owl's Nest Farm for a couple of years now. A long time ago, the first time I tried a CSA share, I joked I'd have to eat vegetables for breakfast (and I do, sometimes). And in the past, I've split a full share with a neighbor to make it manageable. But now, I take the long view: A full share lets me enjoy the fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs in the summer, while the CSA is active...and I can freeze, preserve, or put up about half of each haul so I can do the same thing in the winter.

Right now, based on what I've put away, I can anticipate cold winter months with these treasures:

  • eggplant
  • cherry and heirloom tomatoes
  • beans, yellow, green, and purple
  • golden and red beets, and beet greens
  • all kinds of greens: radish greens, kale, Swiss chard
  • yellow and green summer squash (aka zucchini)
  • new potatoes
  • green garlic and fully developed garlic
  • scallions
  • blueberries
  • sweet potatoes
  • cucumbers
  • peppers - spicy and not

I actually invested in a stand-alone freezer to make this investment last even longer. Greens, squash, and beans can be blanched, dried, and frozen; blueberries can be rinsed and frozen; and even raw tomatoes can be frozen for use in later soups, stews, and braises. Other ingredients, like eggplant, get cooked into a sauce with farm tomatoes and basil, and frozen in quart jars or in zipped freezer bags; if you get the air out of the bag, you can lay these bags of sauce flat in the freezer to save space.

I try to freeze these items in ways that make them easy to thaw and use later, so squash gets chopped, blanched, dried, and laid out on a baking sheet to freeze before it's put into freezer bags. Greens get blanched, dried, and laid between sheets of paper towels. Blueberries get rinsed and frozen first on a baking sheet, so they don't turn into one big frozen clump, and so I can open the bag and just take out what I need later. Beets get roasted and peeled; the greens are blanched and frozen as the other greens are.

Of course, some things don't lend themselves to freezing, so I also pickle cucumbers and jalapenos, make scallion oil, and garlic oil and garlic vinegar to flavor all sorts of dishes. In the spring, I took the green and white parts of the green garlic and made an incredible "pesto" out of it, and that's been put into small containers and frozen. Basil gets made into pesto, and whole herbs also get frozen for later use--either whole, or chopped and in ice cube trays with a little water or oil.

If you don't have a large freezer, it helps to reduce your vegetables to purees and freeze them flat in freezer bags, or to preserve them in jars and a hot-water bath. Local Washington-area chef Cathy Barrow's website is loaded with tips on how to preserve your CSA haul.

There's an aspect of delayed gratification going on here, but mainly, this approach to my full share from Owl's Nest Farm CSA means that I have almost zero food waste from my share. Preserving some of each week's share means I can get to "crisper zero" most weeks, a good motivation to head to the market for more. I even blanch, chop, and freeze (or use right away) stems, and I use all of the greens from share radishes, turnips, beets, and more.

I'm having fun thinking about winter days with summer produce, preserved at the peak of its flavor and freshness...while still enjoying half of it fresh, now. My wallet likes it, too. A full share at 2016 prices, divided by 365 days--the full span of time I can use it, thanks to preserving and freezing--means I spend a little over $1.80 a day on these lovely vegetables, fruit, and herbs. And I get more value, since the farm tops up my payment by 8 percent. How do you beat that?

24 ways with harukei turnips

Liz Whitehurst

by Market CSA member Denise Graveline

I used to love Mark Bittman's "summer express" recipes, where he'd write 101 easy, 10-minutes or less recipes you could make in summer. But what I loved most were how short they were. Hardly a recipe at all, making them seem even easier.

I want to apply that standard to recipes for harukei turnips, the vegetable that is perhaps most misunderstood on the Owl's Nest CSA farmers market stand. These are the bunches of clean, white, small turnips--usually stacked next to the radishes--with their green tops attached. If you don't like turnips, you have probably skipped right by them.

If so, you are missing out on a non-turnip-y turnip. Harukei are Japanese in origin, which suggests some different preparations than you might have been considering. The taste is almost sweet and crisp, mild in flavor, like a radish without all the sass and bite, so you can lean either sweet or savory and still do well. The greens also are edible, making it a 2-for-1 vegetable bargain. And it's versatile: You can mash, boil, braise, roast, saute, or eat it raw. Finally, it lasts a long time under refrigeration.

I don't quite have 101 short recipes for using harukei, but here are 24 of them. Don't leave these versatile veg on the farm stand!

  • Slice thin and use in place of chips with your favorite dip. I love guacamole, but when I have guests who don't go for spicy, this avocado-basil dip works great.
  • Use a trifecta of CSA products and stir-fry them with spring onions, green garlic, and tofu.
  • Play up the harukei's sweet side in a salad of arugula, harukei, strawberries, and more.
  • Make a mash: Boil the harukei, mash them with garlic, salt, pepper, butter, and fresh dill.
  • Glaze them in a little butter, sugar, and salt.
  • Saute them with their greens (blanch the greens first) in a little olive oil, with a grind of black pepper and some salt. This dish then can be a side dish or main; a pizza topping; or a fancy salad course.
  • Do that same saute, but include some cannelini beans or tofu for a protein boost.
  • Do the above salad (no. 6) but over polenta, or chop the roasted turnips smaller and fill a baked potato with them.
  • Put a slice in your fancy cocktail, in lieu of an olive in a gin martini. By the time you finish your drink, you can eat the quick-pickled harukei.
  • Pan-roast them with a glaze of honey, cayenne, salt, and pepper. This stands on its own, and could also make an amazing omelet filling.
  • Go to their Japanese roots: Cut in matchsticks along with Asian pear. Squeeze of lime. Maybe a drizzle of honey. Easy salad. (Can a Japanese root go to its roots?)
  • Toss with stale bread, tomatoes, and asparagus in a panzanella, or bread salad.
  • More Asian influence: Roast them with miso.
  • Make a couscous salad: Roast the turnip bulbs with red chili flakes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Saute the greens. Chop some red onion and cook Israeli couscous, mix them with the greens, and top with the turnips. A quick dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper is all your need.
  • Pickle them, so you have some beyond the summer.
  • Your crudite board, duh. They will hold up beautifully in hot weather, staying nice and crisp.
  • Roast them in some oil, salt, and pepper, then coat with a pesto of your choice.
  • Stir-fry with shrimp and chili flakes. Add a squeeze of lime juice at the end.
  • Glaze them in maple syrup and serve with soba noodles and shitake mushrooms. Watch a video of this recipe here.
  • Chop or slice and toss in a green salad, or use in place of celery in a mayonnaise-based tuna, egg, or chicken salad.
  • Put the greens in a cacio e pepe pasta, and make a salad of the turnips with pears.
  • Toss in oil, salt, pepper, and grill them. They'll hold up on their own or on skewers.
  • Stir fry with the chopped greens in a ginger-soy glaze.
  • Boil turnip chunks with potatoes; saute the greens with scallions. Make a turnip-potato mash and top with the greens.