This week's CSA challenge was mostly about using summer staples (corn, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers), though we did find a few treats (peaches, okra), and a couple surprises (winter squash?!) in our box from Grow Alabama

Elsewhere in the country, CSA members are getting armfuls of beets, which seem to be one of those love-it-or-fear-it vegetables that dazzle some cooks and petrify others. Is it the color? The texture? Who knows. So we wanted to spotlight a creative use of this ingredient from a fellow CSA member. We found just the inspiration we needed in this stunning creation of Borscht with Dill Pollen and Shoestring Potatoes from Passion4Eating. Gorgeous!

Here are a few other highlights from the Cooking Away My CSA Google Group started by Heather Lalley of Flour Girl:

If you're a CSA member, we hope you'll join us! Now here's what Team Peas made this week:

Ann, senior food editor, mom of twins: corn, yellow squash, spaghetti squash

This week’s theme is QUICK. I’ve been crazy-crazy busy, so I stuck close to some tried-and-true recipes. Though I adore our Caramel Corn Ice Cream and originally planned to make that, I just didn’t have time for it. So I made the equally awesome Creamed Corn with Bacon and Leeks (above). I pulled this together in a flash on a night when I got home late, alongside some grilled chicken and sliced tomatoes. The kids and hubs loved it, especially the bacon. One thing I remember from making this before—my food processor doesn’t have a great seal, so I pureed the corn and milk in a blender. (I’ve had it spew out of the processor before. Starchy corn all in your hair? Not fun!)

One of my stand-bys for yellow squash is Yellow Squash Ribbons with Red Onion and Parmesan (right). Make it once, and you won’t need the recipe any more—it’s that easy (and so quick!). Plus, it's really pretty. Instead of Parmesan, I topped with “bumpy cheese” (that’s what my kids call feta) tossed with mint. My friend Lauren was over for dinner when we had this. She’d never had squash prepared this way and was excited to go home and make it for her family.

I had the best intentions to make Spaghetti Squash Gratins with Chunky Tomato Sauce, but I fell short there, too. Instead, I roasted the squash, scraped out the spaghetti strands (the boys LOVED watching that), and tossed them with salt, pepper, grated lemon rind, and browned butter. Seriously, is there anything that ISN’T better with browned butter?

On my next turn, I hope to have more time to play and experiment with my CSA goodies. But at least this time, my family still ate some great food on a tight schedule.


Jason, editorial assistant and culinary student: eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes

In an effort to eat more sustainably, I've been trying to cut back on meat consumption, especially when cooking at home. Except for bacon. I love bacon too much to give it up. With a dozen fresh, local eggs at my disposal, a frittata seemed an obvious choice for a vegetarian dinner (well, "vegetarian" in that bacon isn't the main ingredient). Mini Bacon and Potato Frittatas caught my eye, but I made a few modifications: I added my CSA tomatoes and fresh basil from my garden, baked it in a Pyrex dish instead of muffin tins, and topped with some local goat cheese from Bulger Creek Farm. It was wonderful: fresh-tasting, healthy, and filling all by itself for dinner. I think this will be a frequent creation at my house.

Since the frittata calls for some egg whites, I had egg yolks left over. Waste not, want not; I whipped up a batch of Aioli. I've had a disastrous experience attempting homemade mayonnaise in the past involving an unstable Kitchenaid falling on the floor, spilling oil everywhere, and putting a nice gouge in my floor, but this recipe was super-easy. It took about 30 seconds, didn't break, and was delicious the next day on BLTs with the tomato I had left.

The small cucumbers screamed pickles. Not wanting to copy the Easy Refrigerator Pickles Susan made last week, I went with Dill Pickle Spears from our sister magazine Sunset. Their texture was nice and crisp and they tasted pretty good, if a bit sweet (next time I'd cut the sugar in half), but steeping the pickling spice in the vinegar mixture as the recipe calls for turned the liquid an ugly brown color that made the pickles themselves brown too. On the upside, I've got three more cans of pickles that are good for two years: Sunset's Canning Instructions are versatile and simple to follow.


CJ, administrative coordinator: peaches, acorn squash, butternut squash, okra

For my second go at CSA cooking, I searched for a complete meal that I could proudly serve to friends.

Here's the menu I chose:

I began with the polenta because it had the longest bake time. I used shredded cheddar rather than slicing a block into cubes. (Melted cheese is melted cheese,right?) This dish browned beautifully. However, I thought it tasted rather blah, though it did have an interesting texture. Next time I would add some onion and roasted red pepper.

Next, I prepped the squash and the macaroon-baked peaches. These both called for baking times of 30-35 minutes. I skipped the cayenne pepper in the squash. The mint smelled wonderful as I cut it. Grating zest from an orange became a hit-or-miss proposition. I seemed to get as much on the counter top as in the dish I was using. I'll be seeking technique lessons from one of our test-kitchen experts before "zesting"again. Shifting to the macaroons and dates for the dessert peaches, I chopped dates and crumbled cookies. Of course, I tasted. I love coconut! I chose to use orange juice rather than lemon juice. Then, I stuffed the peaches and both dishes were ready for the oven.

Last, I began preparing the marinade for the pork chops. By this time, I was feeling the heat of the kitchen, so I upped the bourbon slightly.I prepared a grill skillet and put the pork chops topped with peaches upon it.The result was knock-your-socks-off delicious. Finishing the meal with the macaroon-baked peaches put a smile on everyone's face, which reaffirmed my choices. Ahhhh, such a nice feeling.


Cindy, associate editor, healthy living: eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, pole beans

It ain't pretty--it's my dinner.

I hope that old song won't mind if I spin its title to describe this week's foray into my share of the CSA box. After a long weekend of overindulgence at the lake with friends, I knew I needed a dish that was filling and nutritious for as few calories as possible. Enter Eggplant, Potato, and Chickpea Casserole.

I'm a sucker for any dish that contains the word "casserole," but this recipe appeared to lack the signature cheesy gooeyness that makes me proud to call the casserole my friend. I was skeptical--especially when I saw it emerge from the oven looking less than closeup-ready.

You know what? I didn't even miss the dairy factor (really!). I swapped the red or yellow bell pepper called for in the recipe for one of its more homey sisters, the green bell pepper from this week's CSA. I even learned a new trick: throwing freshly broiled peppers in a plastic bag so it's easier to remove the skins. It really works! I skipped the optional lemon, but I think it would've been a nice addition. The huge serving size--2 cups for 324 calories; yes, please!--means I'll have light and tasty leftovers for tomorrow's lunch (and dinner!). I'm going to try it wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Maybe this wasn't the smartest dish to make in the August heat (that oven stays hot for a long time), but it has me looking forward to the comfy flavors of fall.

I was also planning to make Haricots Verts with Browned Garlic with the beans in my share, but decided to wait for tomorrow night when the hungry husband is back in town.