This is a guest post from Joanna Rodriguez of Plus Other Good Stuff.
Community Supported Agriculture is a wonderful thing.
You pay a farmer at the beginning of the season and receive a share of whatever they grow that year. It’s a great way to help out farmers (they get paid whether it’s a the crops are bountiful or scarce that season) and to develop relationships with the people who grow your food and with the other members of your CSA. These are often organic farms, so you are supporting sustainable agriculture, too.
But part of the deal is that you get what you get. Whether it’s beets or kale or arugula or kohlrabi or rutabaga, sometimes you get a whole lot of something you don’t really love or don’t have much experience with. In my conversations with other CSA members, I hear this common refrain: “What do I do with all these greens?”
By greens, they usually mean kale, Swiss chard, spinach, beet greens, mustard greens, bok choy, broccoli rabe, or arugula, to name a few. Sometimes first-time CSA-ers haven’t even heard of half of these, let alone eaten them.
The standard American diet isn’t too big on leafy green vegetables; many of us grew up being forced to finish our soggy spinach before we could leave the table. So how do you use up all those greens before they rot in your crisper drawer?
And how do you do it without feeling like you are punishing yourself? Here are a few ways to use greens that will please even those who are just warming up to the idea of leafy green things on their dinner plates.
1. Make Macaroni and Cheese
Just about any greens will do for this; Swiss chard, kale, and spinach are our favorites.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Cook up some brown rice pasta (it’s a bit easier to digest than whole wheat), and throw in some washed and chopped greens in the last few minutes of cooking (only a minute or so for spinach).
- Drain them together in a colander, and return them to the pot.
- Add several tablespoons of pastured butter (Kerrygold Butter from Trader Joe’s is the best price I’ve found, if you’re lucky enough to live near one), a good splash of raw whole milk or cream, and a couple handfuls of shredded cheese.
- Stir (over low heat, if you want) until it’s all melty and delicious.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and you’re done! (Go here for a more detailed version of this easy recipe, with a few ideas for variations.)
Note: This method also works for any pasta dish; just throw some greens in at the end of the pasta’s cooking time, and top with your favorite sauce.
Another note: I realize that this is not the most nutrient-dense way to cook greens. Steaming and sautéing are best. But I think that eating boiled greens is better than eating no greens. If you have a stock pot with a steamer that sits on top of it, that is a great option that solves the problem. Of course, you could steam the greens separately, but then you’re dirtying more dishes.
2. Make a Frittata
This one is great not only for leafy greens, but also just about any other vegetable you need to use up (maybe not beets…unless you want pink eggs). Try it with potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots…the list goes on! It’s also a great way to work veggies into your breakfast (or lunch or dinner).
Here’s how to do it:
- Chop up a few cups of vegetables – maybe a cup per person. (Remember that greens cook down, so add more of those than you think you can.)
- Heat some coconut oil or butter in a cast iron skillet.
- Add your veggies and sauté them, starting with the ones that take the longest to cook (like carrots and potatoes).
- Add the greens last, and cook until tender.
- Add salt and pepper to taste as you go.
- While the veggies cook, beat some eggs (2 or so per person) with a splash of milk.
- Shred some cheese.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Go outside and cut some fresh herbs, if you have any (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, dill, and parsley are all good here).
- Add the eggs and the herbs (washed, stems removed, and leaves chopped) to the pan and stir for a minute to begin cooking the eggs.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top (or stir it in if you prefer), and then place the pan under the broiler to finish cooking.
- Wait for it to completely set and for the cheese melt (melted cheese is very important).
- Remove from the broiler, let cool for a couple minutes, and cut into slices.
For a slightly more time-consuming, but really delicious way to incorporate veggies into your eggs, see my recipe for Quiche with Sourdough Crust.
3. Make a Whole Grain Salad
The options are endless here. If you’re feeling bold, make up your own variation using the following tips. If you want a little more guidance, try the recipes listed at the bottom.
All you need is:
–A few cups of cooked whole grains like brown rice, wheat or spelt berries, millet, or quinoa (preferably soaked for best nutrient absorption).
–Some sautéed greens (Just heat some butter, coconut oil, or bacon grease in a cast iron skillet, add some onion and/or garlic and cook until soft, and add some chopped greens and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally.)
–Other cooked or raw vegetables, for example:
- sautéed mushrooms
- lightly steamed broccoli
- cooked sweet potato or squash cubes
- chopped onion, bell pepper, or tomato
- shredded carrots or beets
Other optional add-ins:
- Cooked legumes like lentils, white beans, or chickpeas
- Fresh herbs from the garden or spices from your spice rack
- Shredded or cubed cheese
- Hard boiled eggs
- Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, or cherries (these help balance out any perceived bitterness from the greens)
- chopped crispy nuts
Cook your grains if they aren’t already cooked. Sauté your greens. Chop and prepare all your veggies. Whisk together your vinaigrette (or shake to combine in a jar with screw top). Combine everything in a large bowl and pour the dressing over the top. Stir, taste, and adjust your seasonings. That’s it!
If you add protein in the form of beans, eggs, and/or cheese, a salad like this can easily be a light summer dinner. I think these salads are best at room temperature or slightly warm from the just-cooked greens. But the leftovers are great straight from the fridge for lunch the next day!
Here are some recipes to try:
- Brown Rice Salad with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas
- Quinoa Salad with Maple Vinaigrette (this one doesn’t call for greens, but use the recipe as a base and add some sautéed greens to it!)
4. Drink them in a Smoothie
Some people throw raw greens into their smoothies, but since raw greens contain goitrogens and oxalates (see here for why that’s a problem) which are neutralized by cooking, I prefer to do this instead:
- Remove the tough stems from a bunch of greens.
- Steam them for a couple minutes until they wilt.
- Put into the blender with a splash of water, and blend ‘em up. Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray.
- Once they’re frozen, place in a freezer bag or container.
- Then when you go to make a smoothie, throw in a cube or two!
- Yes, it will turn your smoothie green, but no, you won’t really taste it. And you’re adding all sorts of great nutrition!
Here’s Katie’s recipe for green smoothies.
5. Get creative!
Guess what? You can add greens to recipes that don’t call for greens!
I’m sure that you have many recipes in your regular rotation that could have a few leaves of kale snuck in. You’ve already learned how to add them to any pasta dish (see macaroni & cheese, above). But try chopping them up and adding to soups, rice, stir fries, or casseroles (you may want to steam/sauté them first so they are nice and tender).
Sneak some sautéed Swiss chard into quesadillas or burritos. Throw some spinach (no need to cook first) into your lasagna. You could even use the green ice cube idea above to have them ready to throw into anything that will be simmering on the stove for a bit.
If you have other ideas for how to sneak greens into meals, leave them in the comments below!
Bonus Tips: Using up Lettuce
The previous tips applied to greens that are generally eaten cooked (or at least should be). But what about lettuce?
If you happen to get lettuce out your ears from your CSA one week, how can you eat it all before it goes bad? My biggest excuse for not eating more salad is that I’m already in a hurry cooking dinner and don’t want to take the time to wash the lettuce and make salad dressing. So follow these tips to have a salad at your fingertips anytime!
Lettuce tip #1: Wash it right away.
As soon as you get home from your CSA pick-up, get out your salad spinner. Wash all the lettuce and spin it dry. Put it in a container (I have a few saved from store-bought organic salad greens) with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Now it’s ready to go whenever you want salad with your meal!
Lettuce tip #2: Have some homemade salad dressing waiting for you in the fridge.
When you are in the kitchen doing something else anyway, whip up an easy vinaigrette. Put it in the fridge and use it over the course of the next week or so. This also helps you avoid the industrial oils and HFCS in store-bought dressings! Here is my recipe for an easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
Lettuce tip #3: Stir fry it!
Is your lettuce starting to wilt but not quite “gone bad” yet? When it’s past its prime and you no longer want to eat it in a salad, make stir fry for dinner and throw some lettuce into the mix. Add it towards the end; you only need to cook it for a couple minutes.
How do you use up all your CSA veggies? What’s your favorite way to eat greens?
Joanna Rodriguez is a wife, mother, homemaker, and dancer. She loves yellow butter from cows that eat grass. So much so that her husband often remarks that the butter on her toast looks like a slab of cheese. In between changing diapers and conquering the dishes, she takes time to craft delicious and nourishing meals for her friends and family. For her, real food is about taking care of the gifts we’ve been given, and sharing what we have with those around us.
She writes about real food and shares her recipes at Plus Other Good Stuff.
Thank you so much, Joanna! I’m loving these fabulous guest posters giving me a little break while we settle in with the in-laws. I’ll be back tomorrow and next day, as long as the Internet will talk to me.