Becoming a CSA Member and truly aligning yourself with Texas seasonality is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes effort, and some practice, to easily incorporate your huge bag of fresh produce into your weekly meals. If you find yourself sometimes overwhelmed at the sheer bounty, insert some inspiring quote about how daily practice will help build your culinarian muscle memory, making what once felt hard into something that is now second-nature. One way to grease the wheel is to do some simple meal prep. If you’re unsure of what or how to prep, just think of the prepared-veggie section in most HEB grocery stores: the series of shelves with peeled garlic, chopped and peeled butternut squash, and recently at my Fredericksburg HEB, a cellophane coated tray of posole-fixings - a quartered cabbage, onions, radishes, cilantro and a jalapeno. These shelves of barely-prepped veggies exist for a reason- they’re convenient and save time! And, on a long day that feels tragically short given the fact that it gets dark at 6 pm, ready-to-rumble veggies just simplify the dinner process. You don’t need to know what exactly you’re going to cook for the week in order to do some of this prep. In fact, I encourage you to prep this way precisely if you don’t know what you’re going to cook.
If possible, I recommend trying to prep your Vrdnt veggies as soon as you plop that big bag of fresh produce on your countertop. This way, you’re not having to pull it all back out when the prep bug hits, an inefficiently that might be enough to deter the process altogether. When you first unite with your veggie share, there is an excitement about the vegetables hiding within that big bag, no? Farmer Santa Claus delivering verdant surprises. Capitalize on this feeling of delight for these prep-moments, and reserve your future kitchen-energy for just the cooking-bit. Truly, just 10-20 minutes of upfront prep will free up some space for kitchen creativity… and made-in-minute meals, the two of which go hand in hand.
Here are just a few ideas, by vegetable-type, of what the prep could look like:
Dark leafy greens:
Free these leaves of their twist-tie corset, and chop these babies up. Destem, if you’d like, and store the stems in a separate container, or just give the leaves and stems a rough chop all in one. Store in a big bag or tupperware.
Farmer Becky herself told me that in an effort to eat more of her own produce, she usually chops a few bunches of kale or collards at the beginning of the week which she then throws in morning eggs or evening stew. Open up your big tupperware of chopped kale and grab handfuls here and there, like good popcorn, when you need to add something green to your plate. When there are just a few cups left in your tupperware, massage the greens with some olive oil, salt, and lemon juice for a simple salad to top beans, or get mixed with crunchy cabbage, peanuts, and a sesame miso dressing.
You can also go a step further and just sauté your leafy greens. Over the weekend I made some veggie enchiladas that were stuffed with finely chopped and sauteed kale and zucchini. I seriously overshot the amount of filling I needed, but I’m not mad about the unsightly yet operable ziplock of ready to go kale and zuk in my fridge. I’m thinking I’ll mix it with eggs [insert quick writing break; photo below], maybe make some savory muffins, or stir it in a pot just at the very end. I have other leftover enchilada filling, like shredded chicken, and I’m just a can of navy beans away from tonight’s lemony-soup. Sauteed greens freeze wonderfully for a few months. And while we're on the subject, I'm a big fan of freezing caramelized fennel, sauteed leeks, and chopped and blanched peppers.
I recently had the mandolin out shaving some cabbage for a spring-roll filling. After just a quarter of the cabbage was shredded, I had more than I needed for the spring rolls, but I didn’t stop there. I didn’t have a plan for the rest of the cabbage, but my countertop (and floor, let’s be real) was already littered with cabbage shreds, and I was already going to need to wash the mandolin. An already-dirty cutting board or knife is often the only inspiration I need to just chop a few more veggies… especially if you’ve got some time to kill while something else is simmering. But back to the cabbage… I shred and shred, and like magic the once dense globe was suddenly an impressive heap future coleslaw. Or maybe a posole topping. Or maybe a tangy salad, dotted with herbs and sesame seeds. This shredded cabbage patiently sat in a tupperware in my fridge for about three days before I finally attended to its potential.
Radishes can be chopped - maybe in small matchsticks, or sliced thin with a mandolin (be careful), and then stored in a glass tupperware of water + lemon juice or vinegar. Stored like this, they will retain their moisture, and won’t shrivel up like a dried leaf. Thank you to my friend Mackenzie who showed me this simple trick years ago. Now, your radish haul is fit to confetti every plate you make for the next week.
At the very least, make sure you properly store your roots by detaching them from their greens, if relevant. The next level of root prep is to wash and scrub the roots and dice them up. Want to go a step further? Go ahead and just roast a large sheet pan of diced root vegetables. If they don’t all get eaten immediately (I like to plop some mayo directly on the sheet pan and mix with sriracha and citrus juice for a quick dipping sauce), they can be stored and then eaten as a snack or an already-edible component to a meal. In this instance, it feels more limiting to sing the accolades of roasted vegetables, because the possibilities of what you can use a roasted carrot for, por ejemplo, are unbounded.
Roots, another direction:
Instead of roasting your roots, you can also simply prep them for some raw dishes. I love to use my box grater or mandolin for this kinda prep. Grated beets or kohlrabi can be made into any slaw, or fritter, at a moment's notice, and thin carrot coins are a welcome crunch to any salad, stir fry, or taco. I feel like the zoodle hype has officially died down, but I’m still on team abc-oodle and will occasionally use my small handheld spiralizer when I simply want a different building block to work with. I don’t own a Japanese peeler, but am interested in the tiny handheld versions that are made to peel away small julienned strips of root veggies.
Maybe one of the best ways to set yourself up for salad success is to prep some dressings. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see our two favorite salad dressing recipes. An additional idea: prep another salad component that can transform a big bowl of lettuce into something truly craveable. Maybe you make a big batch of homemade croutons, or a nut and seed-heavy salad topping. Or, boil and peel some jammy eggs.
Applying this approach to prep should go beyond vegetables in your kitchen. Cooking 4 cups of rice takes the same effort as cooking 1 cup of rice, and having this already cooked grain in your fridge - a “nextover” as some call it - is an awesome way to foster ease in the kitchen. I’m thinking about buying this cookbook which came out a few years ago, and focuses on eating this way. If you’re curious to bolster your prep-skills, it comes highly recommended. Also, now, as always, is a plug for one of my favorite food books: The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. Cheers to a year of more cooking with “economy and grace”, as Adler puts it. Happy prep time! Thanks for reading.