Our first CSA pickup, supplemented with bread and jam due to the fact that May isn't a huge harvest month in Ohio! (Photo by Donna.)

We joined a CSA this year to see how it compares with simply shopping at the North Union Farmer’s Market.  A friend suggested I write about how I use what find in our bag.  When Donna dropped our daughter off at a friend’s, the friend’s dad appeared and asked, “How are you going to cook your kale?”  He too was part of the CSA.  Donna recounted that he intend to saute it, which reinforced the notion that this could use some writing about.  Kale is not tender, needs lots of cooking.

The morning we returned with our organic booty, there was delicious toast, raspberry jam, strawberries and poached eggs.  The garlic scapes I intend to saute tonight and serve with stir-fried broccoli.  The hot house tomato is gone but there’s still some red leaf lettuce for salad.  A big head of escarole will go into soup tomorrow (andouille and escarole, if i have time I’ll put some white beans in there as well), using the chicken stock made from last night’s roast chicken carcass.  Roasting a chicken and baking potatoes is one of those great weekday meals, for me at least, because it cooks itself, you can leave the kitchen for an hour.  While the chicken rests, I boil some green beans, that’s it.  Because we had kale, as well, and because I’d been sent some excellent cured belly from mangalista pigs from Mosefund farm, I added this to last night’s menu as well.  I started rendered the fat on the stove top, stuffed the kale in, and popped it in the oven along with everything else to finish cooking.  Perfect.

Kale with Pancetta

6 ounces pancetta, diced or sliced

2 pounds kale, stems removed, cleaned

salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

Tabasco to taste

Cook the pancetta over medium low heat until enough fat has rendered to saute the kale in.  Turn the heat to medium and add the kale.  Cook and turn the kale till it’s begun to wilt. Add a three fingered pinch of salt, cover it, and put it in a hot oven (350 degrees if you’re just cooking kale).  After 15 minutes or so, toss and turn the kale to ensure it’s cooking evenly.  After thirty minutes, remove it from the oven, season it with plenty of black pepper, the honey and lots of Tabasco.

Serves 4

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51 Wonderful responses to “CSA, Week 1: Braised Kale with Pancetta”

  • Zube

    I have a hard time with scapes. Only have tried them a couple of times but it just doesn’t seem to be correct. Do they soften up much or stay crunchy? Perhaps I have just had ones that matured too much?

    • GG Mora

      If scapes are harvested too late, they’ll be tough and fibrous and not very pleasant. Harvested early (the ideal time to harvest is just when they’ve completed their first loop), their texture is much like asparagus: they can be allowed to retain a little crunch, or they can be cooked into submission.

      I grow a lot of garlic (almost 200 heads this year), so when scaping time comes, I have piles and piles of them. I like to slick a big bunch with oil – olive oil works fine, but nut oils (I like hazelnut) add some interest – season well with salt and pepper and toss the whole pile on the grill. I turn them from time to time with a pair of tongs, and let them cook until they’re caramelized in spots and little soft. So good.

    • David Z

      Have you ever tried pickling them, my brother grows garlic and at our Memorial Day picnic he brought a jar of pickled garlic scapes. They were outstanding!

  • Wendy (The Local Cook)

    I’m so excited to see that you’re blogging about your CSA experience! It will be fun to get a “real chef”s perspective. Our CSA starts this week too.

  • rockandroller

    My favorite way to do kale is kale “chips.” Chop the leaves into large potato-chip sized pieces and dry very well after rinsing, . Place face down on a cookie sheet and preheat to 400. Brush the kale with olive oil, salt and pepper; add a spice if you want, I like them plain. Bake at 400 til very crispy/just shy of burnt, about 10 mins. Pieces with a lot of center rib can take a few minutes longer. Eat like potato chips, without the guilt!

    • carri

      I tried kale chips for the first time last summer, they are amazing. You’ll never look at kale the same way again.

    • Mel

      If you want to get fancy, you can make a “cheese” paste in blender or food processor with:
      Cashews, red pepper, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, a dash of soy sauce, pink sea salt and purified water if needed to thin the mixture. You can add cayenne or paprika for some heat if you like.
      Coat the kale with the mix. I imagine you can bake as usual, but I usually use a dehydrator. Awesome and totally addicting.

  • Toast

    My wife and I joined a CSA last week and we’re very excited about it. Can’t wait to open that bag every week and find out what we’ve got to work with. The tipping point was when they told us that, in addition to produce, they throw in other interesting items – cheeses, jams, etc. – from local producers. I just hope they throw in the occasional bottle of wine from their vineyard too.

    (Our CSA: Rosedale Vineyards, Simsbury, CT – http://www.rosedale1920.com/)

  • Bob

    My wife and I use a CSA for vegetables/fruit (Farm Fresh To You, serving both the SF Bay Area and Los Angeles) that provides a nice mix. Deliveries are flexible – meaning you’re not pinned to a delivery every week.

    • Mel

      Love FFTY! They’re not only flexible, but super nice and their produce is terrific.

  • Hungry Mike

    Coincidentally, my meal last night included Collards with Guanciale, created on a hunch that it had to be a good combo. I was right. A little minced onion in it, plus a splash of vinegar. The guanciale was home cured, from the Charcuterie recipe of course, and I’ve been using it as an excuse to add pork to just about everything I cook.

  • DMT

    We got chard in our CSA box. Would also recommend some pepper vinegar for both kale and chard – provides a nice flavor note.

  • kaszeta

    Ain’t nothing green and leafy than can’t be made yummy by simmering it with some bacon or bacon-like substance. :)

  • Jenna

    Got any tips for collard greens? My CSA collard harvest is going strong, and I’m out of ideas.

    • Mantonat

      Ruhlman’s kale procedure would work equally well with collard greens.

      I usually prepare mine with some sort of pork fat, onion, and a little lemon juice. Sometimes I sautee some fresh tomato in with the onions before I add the greens. The tomato falls apart and makes a light, acidic sauce to balance the collard.

        • Mantonat

          I should mention that the collard cooking is usually done by my wife. She lived in Zimbabwe for Peace Corps in the late 90s and learned some of the traditional meals from the region. One of the staple dishes was a type of cornmeal porridge served with collard greens as I described (only they used vegetable oil because pork was a luxury). At home we make polenta with ours and sometimes use home grown mustard greens instead of collards.

  • Carol Peterman

    I just braised some Mangalitsa cheeks and they were fantastic. I have a nice piece of fat back that is on its way to lardo too. My first attempt at lardo, doesn’t really seem like much could go wrong. I fell like I’m already ahead of the game starting with Mangalitsa fat. This is the second mention of garlic scapes I have seen today. Now I’m officially craving them.

  • Nancy

    I want to speak up for raw kale (dino/lacinato variety). Trim the stems, chiffonade and toss with a lemon (meyer if you have them) garlicky vinaigrette and a generous amount of grated pecorino romano. Right before serving, toss with toasted panko. Prior to adding the panko, you can refrigerate it for hours and leftovers are just fine the next day. Ach – I could eat this every day!

  • Chad

    a good fennel spiked sausage with the kale in soup is pretty tasty

  • Georgia Pellegrini

    I may be strange, but I don’t mind kale a little al dente. It tastes like I’m getting more of the nutrients out of it. I do love it with bacon and pancetta and sausage and all the rest of it though.

  • maybelles mom

    my husband and I are debating if we should go farmers market or CSA. Two years ago we did CSA but bought many impulse buys at the market. This resulted in waste of money and food. Last year CSA and curbed the impulse buying but felt we missed out on interesting different foods. This year, we are doing CSA and growing a lot more (if they grow.) be interested to see how it goes.

  • Matthew

    There’s something about that picture – its tones and composition – that reminds me of cookbooks from the 1960s.

  • Kendall, now a vegetable lover

    I love my CSA because I’m often not in the produce shopping mood on weekend mornings when most farmers’ markets occur. And when I do go to the farmers’ market, I often buy far less than I need for the week because I get overwhelmed by the selection and because I’d rather err on the side of running out of food than having something go bad.

    The CSA has made be become a true lover of vegetables. Because I get so many in my box, I tend to use vegetables as the star of the dish rather than just something on the side. Though I still love meat and eat it regularly, I swear I can attribute a lot of my weight loss to increased vegetable eating.

    The food is also delivered straight to my door 52 weeks a year, so I really can’t say enough good things about my service. I have yet to do a price comparison with the farmers’ market, but $30 pretty much takes care of all my groceries for the week.

    Sometimes I feel like people think the CSA/farmers’ market is an either/or thing, but I think both have value for different types of people and can co-exist. I still go to the farmers’ market semi-regularly.

  • Kendall

    As for kale, one way to serve it is to roast potatoes with garlic and parmesan and add them to a bowl of chopped kale and lemon-tahini dressing.

  • Tamidon

    I use our kale in place of spinach in saag curry. Also, i freeze loads to make saag in the winter

  • Laura

    Kale chips are obscenely good…I always mash a bit of garlic up with olive oil and salt in a mortar and pestle and then toss the kale with it and bake. Delicious.

  • Mel

    Kale is my favorite veggie, and you really don’t have to cook it at all. Here’s worlds the simplest salad, and my lunch today:
    Take a head of kale and strip the leaves off the stems (by running your thumb & index finger along the stem). Tear into smaller pieces in a big bowl.
    Juice a good sized lemon and massage into the kale using your hands for a few minutes. (You can add a pinch of sea salt along with the lemon if you like, both help break the kale down)
    Peel an avocado, toss the pit, and massage the avocado into the kale.
    Sprinkle some pepitas on top (I use these raw, sprouted, sea salt ones from GoRaw). And voila!
    You can add anything else you like to this. Grape tomatoes, whatever.
    Seriously simple, tasty, quick, and nutritious.

  • Jason Sandeman

    I love your adventure! I am curious if there are any CSA groups here in Quebec. I don’t have a lot of time to frequent the market outside of what I do for work, so it would be interesting to see what I would be able to get. Kale can be a bit finicky to work with, but anything with pancetta can’t be far from the mark in my books!

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  • Devon

    Kale is like a CSA staple, and people really do need help figuring it out. Thanks for the insight.

  • berkeley

    Kale for me is easy & always turns out tender like this (& my kids love it!): wash and chop . Heat big saute pan, add oil & garlic… throw all the kale in still wetish and cover for a bit. Stir frequently & add small amounts of water as needed, will wilt down and turn bright green in 5-7 minutes or so, depending on how much is in the pan. Add a little more olive oil and basalmic vinegar at the end and mix. ummmmm.

  • JimD

    My part of town, East Nashville, has a wonderful farmers market every Wednesday evening. All of the farmers are organic and the selection is wonderful. We even have a local cheese maker and a local dairy that come and sell their products. It is like a build your own CSA basket!
    Last night we got young potatoes, sugar snap peas, spring onions, Kirby cucumbers and scapes. Tonight I will make a compound butter with the scapes and some basil to season under the skin of a chicken to roast. Steam the potatoes and serve them with a little butter and a dollop of greek yoghurt and saute the sugar snap peas with olive oil and red pepper. The cucumbers will be mixed with the spring onions in a vinaigrette for a salad!
    I can’t wait to cook dinner. This is such a great time of the year for cooks.

  • Lou Doench

    THis sounds like a great way to treat the abundance of swiss chard in my garden.

  • Karen Downie Makley

    So far, how does the CSA program compare to weekly visits to the Farmers’ Market?

    Cleaned and pureed raw with honey, lemon or other juices, and/or sweet root vegetables, greens make one heck of a power-vitamin smoothie.

  • Jackie

    I used to work at a gourmet natural foods market, and one of the chefs there would make a kale slaw that was fantastic. It was basically like cole slaw, but replacing the cabbage with kale. I don’t know the exact recipe, but it was named best salad by the NJ munchmobile back in like 2004 or so.

    • Hugh

      In storing these greens, we wash them and wrap them in paper towels and leave in the refrig. They seem to last longer.

  • Nancy

    Kale is kind of a standing joke at our house, although loyal long-time CSA members tell me it is the one thing they could probably not live without! I can only dream of such dedication to kale… In the meantime, my family of 5 devours these wraps made of kale — here’s the link if you are interested… http://likemotherlikedaughters.com/2010/05/i-cant-believe-its-kale-wraps/

    Good luck with your CSA experience. It is somehow freeing to have your meals already picked out for you each week!

  • Andrew

    I just quick saute it in a tiny bit of garlic infused olive oil and toss it with equal parts tahini and lemon juice. The crunch of the kale and the tartness of the dressing just screams summer to me.

  • Hugh

    Thanks for writing about the Geauga Family Farms program. We also joined this year and it really makes eating fun and healthy. Yesterday, we visited one of the farms to buy fresh chickens. What a great experience.

    We cooked the kale like spinach in baby virgin olive oil, and added lemon juice. It actually had more and better flavor than spinach.

  • Jenna

    Just thought I would drop in to say that I bought your book for my Dad for Fathers day (though I hope he reads it quickly so I can sneak a peak). I also bought him the The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and of Crust and Crumb.

    I have been dying to buy some Mangalitsa pigs to raise ( maybe breed and keep as well), but haven’t had a lot of luck. I contacted the guy that runs the Woolly Pigs website, but he didn’t seem interested in selling live ones. Can’t really blame him there. Sigh I ended up buying myself a beautiful Jersey milk cow instead and maybe I will get pigs next year. Now that I have 3 gal of milk a day, my cheesemaking has been kicked to overdrive. I have a bunch of great stuff for sausage making and I hope my Dad finishes your book soon!

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