The best of the rest

The busy days and nights that accompany the holiday season caught up with me this year, and I’m a little behind with the updates on my fall boxes. As a result, I decided to do a post highlighting my favorites from the seven weeks that encompass the fall CSA.

There have been some interesting radishes in the fall boxes, such purple Bravo radishes, Grossberg radishes, and green meat radishes. The Thanksgiving-week box contained three large black orbs. They looked like large, extremely dirty beets, but they were black radishes. I sliced one open, and the bright white insides contrasted drastically with the dark exteriors.

Cornbread dressing, ready to be mixed and baked. Happy Thanksgiving!

Cornbread dressing, ready to be mixed and baked. Happy Thanksgiving!

I like to serve pickles with my Thanksgiving dinner. Their spicy, vinegar bite is a great counterpart to the rich flavors of dressing and gravy. So this year, I figured I could thinly slice the black radishes and turn them into quick pickles. They were delicious.

Sometimes it’s a bit faster to whip up a quick meal than wait for food to be delivered. I made a riff on Korean barbecue from the November 2014 issue of Bon Appétit. It was sweet and spicy and a great way to re-create takeout flavors in my home kitchen. I made miso-glazed turnips and Kung Pao Brussels sprouts to accompany it.

The fall boxes require creativity with squashes and roots. This butternut squash tart is an interesting thing to make. It’s a different way to think about squash—for dessert rather than dinner. I also like to make a mixed root vegetable mash with whatever strikes my fancy in the box—celery root, parsnips, potatoes, rutabaga.

The last box contained a sugar pie pumpkin. My neighbor took the one that came in the Thanksgiving-week box, so I was the lucky recipient of this one. I roasted it and pureed it and then froze the puree. I can’t decide if it soon will be pie or some other wintry pumpkin dessert.

In addition, the last box also contained potatoes, carrots and parsnips. I cut them all up and roasted them. It was a delicious side to my favorite smothered pork chop recipe, along with a beet salad, which, as these blogs have noted, is my default way to use beets.

That concludes 29 weeks of CSA shares. I miss the weekly box, but it gives me something to look forward to when the season starts again in June. I also enjoy the break from trying to plan the week’s dinners around the items in the box. This week I made lasagna, and I foresee many batches of stews and soups—comfort food for when the nights are so cold they frost my windows. And, if I miss my Nichols Farm veggies too much, I can take a trip to the Green City Market’s indoor winter location at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.

Finally, I typically don’t make food resolutions. But this year I decided to pick a couple of things I’d like to learn how to do and work toward accomplishing them in 2016. I’m going to learn how to make madeleines and congee, and I’m going to learn how to use all the features on my new espresso maker.

Thinking inside the farmbox: Easy sheet pans recipes and first fall box

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m splitting the fall share with one of my neighbors. I liked the every-other-week format Nichols Farm introduced this year. Although I didn’t get to sample everything they offer in their CSA (because some items only last a week), it was easier to use everything up. Because the fall CSA runs every week for seven weeks (through mid-December), I am happy to have someone who wants to share.

Chicagoans have been lucky this year. There have been many beautiful fall days. Still, it’s been chilly enough to crave comfort foods, including one of my favorites—oven fried chicken. I have two recipes that I rotate. I make this spicy oven fried chicken if I've planned ahead, and I riff on this recipe if I need a spur-of-the-moment dinner. I make the second recipe with bone-in chicken; I follow the instructions for breading it and bake it a little longer.

What better to go with oven-fried chicken than mashed potatoes? I made mashed potatoes and rutabaga, which, according to my toddler “smelled," but I thought it tasted delicious.

I brushed the carnival squash with a mustard glaze and baked it. It tasted like fall.

Try one of these easy recipes

I’m becoming a big fan of sheet-pan or one-pan recipes. Although they require the same prep as other types of meals (scrubbing, chopping, seasoning), everything just gets poured into a sheet pan or baking dish and placed into the oven. I don’t need to watch over pans on the stove, and can take some time to catch up on my to-do list while the house fills with the delicious smell of dinner cooking.

Here are a few of the recipes I’ve made recently. I think the shrimp one might be my favorite. It’s worth making just for the kimchi rice.

 Baked tilapia:

Roasted hot honey shrimp:

Baked snapper with harissa new potatoes and spring onions:


Thinking inside the farmbox: Root vegetable curry

This post features the last box of the summer CSA. The share has been filled with greens, followed by tomatoes and corn, and now roots and brassicas.

Usually, I don’t have a lot of trouble figuring out what to do with root vegetables. Beets are the only thing that stump me, but they’re always delicious roasted and combined with greens, nuts, and goat cheese.

One of my favorite dishes for roots is billed as a sweet potato curry. I, however, have used sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and this time, I added cauliflower. I make my pot of curry spicier than the recipe—sometimes with a finely diced habanero pepper or a splash of ghost chili hot sauce. 

Recently, I’ve prepared several recipes that instruct me to simply dump everything on sheet pans and slide the pans into the oven to cook. I like this method; it’s easy both for preparation and cleanup. This week’s sheet pan recipe was baked tilapia with tomatoes, olives, and potatoes. I put a few handfuls of Kalettes in with the tomato mixture, and they were a great addition.

I stuffed the carnival squash with a mixture of bulgur, chorizo, Manchego cheese, and parsley. Bulgur is wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and cracked into small pieces. It’s commonly found in tabouli.

Stuffed squash

Stuffed squash

What do you serve with chili (in addition the obligatory tortilla chips)? I often choose salad. This week, I made a green chili with ground pork and hominy. I roasted the assorted sweet peppers from the share, plus a few additional poblanos, and combined them with a queso anejo dressing for a great complementary side dish.

I also made good use of the baby kale. The first night, I mixed it up it with a mustard dressing to serve with the aforementioned stuffed squash. I had leftover dressing and kale, so I roasted a few golden beets and added goat cheese for the next night’s dinner.

The year has flown by so quickly. It’s time to reserve my turkey and start planning which Christmas cookies I’m going to make. Do you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe?

I’m splitting the weekly winter share with one of my neighbors, so veggies will continue to come until the end of the season in mid December.


Thinking inside the farmbox: Learning to love sweet potatoes

Growing up, I was a kid who wanted lox on my bagels and would eat almost anything my parents put in front of me. I didn’t like sweet potatoes, though. My brother and sister—who were much pickier eaters—would gobble them up while I picked at mine.

As an adult, I discovered sweet potatoes actually are quite tasty, and I make them often. One of my favorite recipes is for roasted sweet potato wedges and smoked chile cream. These potatoes are a delicious addition to a Thanksgiving plate.

Like apples, there are many varieties of sweet potatoes. Some have dark red skins, others are pink, and the inside colors range from deep orange to pale yellow.

Japanese sweet potatoes have red skin and a dry, white flesh. They are starchier than the typical orange sweet potato found in grocery stores and have more of a chestnut flavor. If you see some at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, give them a try. This recipe for roasted Japanese sweet potatoes and scallion miso butter is fantastic.

As the shares contain more root vegetables, I begin to move toward my tried-and-true cold-weather recipes. I used this week’s red kuri squash to make a slightly spicy soup. A warm bowl of soup and a salty grilled cheese is one of my favorite combinations when it's chilly outside.

There were a bunch of yellow and orange bell peppers, and I made a big batch of stuffed peppers. I like to set my stuffed peppers on top of mashed potatoes, which catch the drips of delicious tomato sauce that run over the side. There was a bunch of turnips in the box, so I added them to the potatoes. The resulting mash was the perfect companion for the peppers.

I also received a bunch of summer squash, which I used to make oven zucchini chips to accompany pulled pork sandwiches and kohlrabi slaw. There was a lot of squash, so I also made an easy zucchini salad. I roasted the zucchini and then dressed it with olive oil, lemon juice, red chili peppers, garlic, and mint.

Finally, I have a batch of habanero peppers that I’m trying to figure out how to use. Salsa? Homemade hot sauce? In addition, I have some parsnips. A few weeks ago, I tried a parsnip muffin from Spoke and Bird, a cafe just down the street from me. I might try to make something similar.


Thinking inside the farmbox: Bracing for summer’s end

Do you think Labor Day marks the end of summer? In my opinion, there still are plenty of days later in September and into October that are suitable for summerlike activities, such as picnics and playing outside. I often think of the end of regular-season baseball as the end of summer, but maybe that’s because my team (I’m a White Sox fan) hasn’t played deep into October in some time.

Fall is my favorite season. I wish it would hang around a little longer in Chicago. I like to get up on Sundays and see a clear blue sky, feel the crisp air, and smell the burgers and brats from the Bears tailgaters that descend upon my neighborhood on game days. Fall also brings Halloween, apple picking, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes.

The farmers at Nichols Farm are taking advantage of the nice fall weather to plan for winter. They’re planting and working fields and harvesting storage crops. According to their weekly email, their harvest lasts for 8 months and the planting season lasts for 10 months.  

In two recent shares, I’ve received acorn squash, rutabaga, beets, and potatoes. Often when I receive a bounty of root vegetables, I choose to make stew. It’s a great way to use up CSA vegetables—especially root vegetables, which are easily substituted for each other.

I also received kohlrabi, which is available in the spring and fall. The fall plants are hardened by gradual exposure to cool weather, giving them the ability to tolerate light frost, which actually enhances their flavor.

After several years of CSA shares, I’ve discovered my favorite way to eat kohlrabi is in a slaw. I have tried roasting it, but personally, I prefer it raw. An apple and kohlrabi slaw was a perfect counterpart to roasted chicken, potatoes, and leeks—its vinegary crunchiness balanced the richer flavors of the chicken and potatoes.

And there was homemade pizza night, which is always a favorite. I’ve been making pizzas with my family since I was little, and I plan to keep the tradition going for many years to come. One of the pizzas had pepperoni, olives, and mini sweet peppers from the CSA. The other was an experiment. Sometimes I make up recipes and they work out. And sometimes they need work. I empathize with the contestants on shows like Top Chef who only have one chance to try a new concept or recipe and get it right.

I like pizzas that come with arugula or other greens on top. So I decided to try to take the flavors of a beet salad and make pizza. On top of the crust I spread pesto and then scattered roasted beets and goat cheese. Once it was baked, I put arugula that I had tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar. It was fine but nothing special.

My husband waits patiently for the share to contain spaghetti squash so I can make one of his favorite dinners—spaghetti squash with sausage. I was lucky this week, too. There also was broccoli, so I made one of my favorites—orecchiette with broccoli and sausage. Both were delicious.

There are going to be Japanese sweet potatoes in the next box. I’m excited. I liked them the last time I had them, and I have a recipe that I’ve been wanting to try.

Thinking inside the farmbox: Kalettes and okra

This week, my CSA share introduced me to a delicious new vegetable—the green, leafy Kalette. It’s a blend of Brussels sprouts and kale, bunched like sprouts and leafy like kale. The sprouts vary in size because of how they grow on the plant stalk. They can be sauteéd, roasted, or eaten raw. For recipe ideas:

I got good results roasting my Kalettes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. (I like my sprouts a little spicy.) The leafy parts of the sprouts got crispy—sort of like kale chips. I picked up another bag of them a week later because they turned out so well the first time. The second time I made them the same way, but I left them whole instead of cutting them in half. They turned out better, and it was less work.

Kalettes/Scott Knutson

Kalettes/Scott Knutson

There also was okra this week, much to my delight. I grew up in North Carolina and I’m a Southern girl at heart, despite my family’s Midwestern roots. Okra always reminds me of home. Personally, my favorite way to eat okra is stewed with tomatoes and spices, and this recipe was delicious.

My mom used to make homemade applesauce to serve with pork chops, and I think of her every time I make homemade applesauce . I don’t know why I don’t make it more often—it’s so easy. The best part about it is that it’s customizable. I don’t like my applesauce too sweet, and, although I usually put cinnamon in it, I often try other spice combinations.

The corn season is ending, and soon it will be time for squash and pumpkins. I took advantage of the bag of tomatoes and ears of corn to make a dry-rubbed flank steak with grilled corn salsa. Soon I’ll have to put away the grilling recipes and turn to the soups and stews.

Thinking inside the farmbox: Summer corn and fall apples

As the seasons begin to change, it's appropriate that the share contains vegetables, like sweet corn and crisp apples, that make me think of both summer and fall.

Mirai is a hybrid sweet corn well suited for the conditions in the Midwest. It’s sweet and tender—delicious both cooked and raw. I’m always excited to see a big pile of ears in the bottom of my CSA box. My favorite way to eat the Mirai sweet corn is grilled, but it also makes fantastic salads and sweet, juicy creamed corn. I used this batch in a fresh corn and tomato salad.

I had a cold that was causing soup cravings this week. As a result, I made both leek and potato soup and summer squash soup. The squash soup will be added to my small arsenal of recipes that I can turn to when I’m stumped about what to do with a pile of squash.

Like the Mirai sweet corn, the melons I’ve received in the CSA box outshine many other types of melons. The Sugar Cube melons are smaller than cantaloupe but look similar with orange flesh. They were sweet and firm, delicious straight out of the refrigerator.  

A Sugar Cube melon

A Sugar Cube melon

I received another batch of my favorite shishito peppers. I usually grill and then season them with soy sauce, sesame seeds and bonito flakes (if I have some in the cupboard). At restaurants, I usually order shishitos if I see them on the menu. I’ve eaten them with many different toppings, but I like them best topped with smoky and salty flavors.

According to the farmers at Nichols Farm, they grow more than 240 variety of apples. The farm's website notes that the first trees in the orchard were planted in 1978, and the farmers point out, "Since then we have been planting trees every year. Every year there are new and old varieties planted, each with their own story and characteristics. Some are great and some are terrible. We value them all for their own uniqueness."

This week, I received the crisp, sweet Pristine apples. According to Nichols Farm, it is a newer apple variety developed by the Purdue University; Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; and the University of Illinois’ cooperative program. It is a descendent of the Camuzat apple.

To read more about apples, visit

Thinking inside the farmbox: The last week for peas

I like shelling fresh peas. Like crochet, knitting, or the task of pitting cherries mentioned in last week’s blog, the repetitive motion of popping open the pods and extracting the green orbs inside helps clear my head.

This was the last week for peas. As the season moves on, I find that although I’m a little disappointed something is ending, I'm excited for the good things ahead—in this case, there soon will be tomatoes and sweet corn.

I prepared the peas simply: a quick blanch and some olive oil, lemon, juice, mint, salt, and pepper. And then I served them on top of baguette slices that were drizzled with olive oil, toasted and smeared with burrata. Yum.

The box contained a new item this week—something I had never eaten before. It was Tah Tsai, which is a spinach mustard green. It looked a bit like baby bok choy but with dark green leaves. I stir fried it with garlic, sprinkling on sesame seeds once it finished cooking. I also made garlic, ginger yellow beans and grilled shrimp for a tasty meal that was full of vegetables.

The fruit portion of the share consisted of apples and black currants. The last time I received black currants, I was a bit stumped. I used them to make a sauce for pork tenderloin. This time, I  wanted to try to use them in a dessert. After brainstorming a bit, I decided to riff on an apple turnover recipe and include the black currants.

The result was a pleasantly purple apple filling folded inside flaky puff pastry. I ate them for dessert the same evening I made them, and then the next morning they looked so good, I had another for breakfast as well.

Tune in next week for my annual batch of refrigerator pickles and some interesting information about the Melrose pepper.

Rock and roll recap

The weather didn’t cooperate with my PR plans. Temperatures during the race exceeded 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity was more than 70 percent. At 5:30 a.m., the air already was thick and sticky. Despite the conditions, I tried to remain positive about the race ahead as I walked down Michigan Avenue to the start corrals in Grant Park.

When I arrived, approximately a half-hour before the race start, I checked my bag, jumped in the corral and started to stretch—already warm from my mile walk.

I get antsy in the corral. I try to keep calm and not waste energy, but I’m ready to run. Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston Marathon champion, was leading a pace group. The race organizers gave him the microphone shortly before the start so he could wish the group of runners well. I wish I could have been part of the 90-minute group he paced. Running with Meb would be an amazing experience.

Finally, it was time to go. The first 5k went  well—I was passing the mile markers close to my selected 9:09 pace, and I was feeling pretty good. Then halfway through mile 4, I started to feel kind of funny. I immediately knew the warm temperature and high humidity were beginning to take a toll. I told myself to slow down or I’d be in trouble.

I’ve never made a conscious decision to back off my goal. Instead, if I can’t hold my planned pace, a foot or knee starts hurting, or I just don’t feel right, I fight it, get frustrated and expend more energy in anger than in actual running.

However, on that particular day, I let it go. I truly didn’t care about the time. I ran because its fun. I trained for this race, and I wanted to finish it. I like the course and listening to the music on the streets of Chicago.

I ran because I’d be able to give my husband and daughter high fives at miles 7 and 12.5. I ran for the icy sponge between miles 10 and 11 and for the cold chocolate milk and Popsicles at the end. I didn’t come close to a PR, but it was a great day nevertheless.


Breaking two hours in the half marathon is within my reach. July 19th wasn’t my day, but some day in the future will be. For now, I have a new goal. I want to run a fast 5k. I don’t think I’ll get down to the 19 minutes and change that I ran in high school, but I’d be ecstatic with something sub-24 minutes.

I’m going to train for that goal and run the Carrera de los Muertos/Race of the Dead on Halloween. For prep, I’ll get to do a lot of fast, fun interval and tempo work and still head out for a long run on the weekend.

Do you have a race mantra? What’s your strategy for remaining positive when conditions are less than ideal?

Thinking inside the farmbox: Cherry pie and celtuce

Two words: tart cherries! I haven’t made a cherry dessert from scratch before. In fact, I usually don’t make them at all. I'm not a fan of the canned filling, and, well, pitting cherries seemed difficult.

As it turns out, I was wrong about the difficulty of removing all those little pits. I don’t have a cherry pitter, which I discovered is not a problem. You can use all sorts of common items, among them a chopstick, a paperclip, and a hairpin.

I opted for the hairpin, and it worked nicely—I just had to keep remembering to twist it after pushing it into the middle of the fruit. My pie turned out pretty. I was impressed because it also was my first attempt at a lattice crust. More importantly, however, it was delicious warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Every week, the farmers at Nichols Farm email a list of items that potentially could appear in the CSA. When unloading this week’s box, I found a surprise—a large stem with leaves on the top. I had no idea what it was. I’m guessing many of my fellow CSA recipients didn’t either because the next morning I received a email telling me the mystery vegetable was celtuce.

Celtuce is also referred to as stem lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, or Chinese lettuce and is grown primarily for its thick stem, which is crisp and mildly flavored. The stem had a very thick, tough exterior. I began to remove it with a vegetable peeler, which was difficult, so I opted to peel it with a knife. I stir fried it with some garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. I would agree that it’s pretty mild; I mostly tasted the garlic with a hint of celery.

Sometimes, along with the list of items, the weekly email also will contain suggestions for how to prepare the vegetables. Several times the farmer has suggested that napa cabbage makes the best Asian slaw, and I usually end up preparing something else with it. This week, I decided to take him up on the idea, and he was right. The huge head of cabbage made a delicious Asian-inspired slaw with peanut dressing.

One of my favorite pasta dishes is orecchiette with broccoli and sausage. I used this week’s broccoli to make it. I recently learned that when making a garlic and oil sauce for pasta, the key is to stir in the pasta water and cheese and keep stirring (and stirring some more) until it becomes creamy.

That wasn't the only pasta dish on the menu this week. I read about pesto recipes that don’t contain basil in the July 2015 issue of Bon Appétit. Apparently delicious pesto can be made with myriad types of greens, cheeses, and nuts. I chose kale and peanuts. I used some of it as a sauce for linguine, and I have several more small containers in my freezer for the future.

The box also contained beets and fennel. Along with onions and oranges, they became a tasty salad.

The box also contained beets and fennel. Along with onions and oranges, they became a tasty salad.

Lauren's Three Favorite Treadmill Workouts

I think the treadmill is boring. Raise your hand if you agree. I hop on, armed with my headphones and playlists, hoping something mildly interesting is on the attached television, and I still find myself watching the clock click away the seconds.

Click, click, click. Is the workout over yet?

Click, click, click. Is the workout over yet?

However, I’ve discovered the right workout can make the treadmill—dare I say it—fun. Here are three of my favorites that can be modified to accommodate a variety of skill levels and paces.

Ladder-style: This one doesn’t require a lot of thinking, and it can be adjusted for a longer set of time. For a 35-minute workout, start out at a moderate pace for the first five minutes. Then systematically crank through five minutes at half marathon pace (or if you don’t know your half marathon pace, just speed the treadmill up a couple of clicks), five minutes at 10-K pace, five minutes at 5-K pace, five minutes at 10-K pace, 5 minutes at half marathon pace, all the way back to five minutes moderate.

Speed play: For me, it’s easier for fartleks to be true speed play when running outside, e.g., I’ll sprint to that tree, that lamppost, that rock, then jog a little while, then run to the next tree or rock. On the treadmill, I try to alternate 60 seconds of fast running with a couple of minutes of jogging, then 90 seconds of uphill, with a couple of minutes of jogging, repeat. It’s a little more structured than outdoor speed play, but it helps the time fly by.

Intervals: My personal favorites are 800s, but depending on your training plan, you can tailor an interval session to help you work on foot speed (fast quarter miles are great for this) or holding a pace over longer distances, such as three sets of 10 minutes at half marathon pace with 5 minute recoveries in between.

The trainers at my gym always have their clients walking backward and shuffling sideways on the treadmills. I’ve heard this is a great activity for challenging your muscles, but I’m so afraid I’m going to fall. I plan to try it, though, after I’m done with this half marathon training plan. I don’t want to sustain an injury this close to the race because I’m fooling around with something new. Maybe I’ll even work up to walking backwards uphill.

Give me some more workouts to try! What’s your favorite way to stay entertained on the treadmill?

Thinking inside the farmbox: Lettuce leaves and shelling peas

Sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out what to do with the vegetables and fruit that come in my CSA. Other times, it’s easy. The second share contained two large containers of strawberries and a big bunch of rhubarb. Clearly these two go together like peanut butter and jelly. I sliced them up, mixed them together with a little sugar, and sprinkled crumbly, buttery oats on top before baking. Easy, summery, and delicious.

This year, I plan to do a little more research about the different types of vegetables I’m receiving.  Several years of CSA shares have taught me that all potatoes aren’t even close to the same—some are better for roasting and others are better boiled and then slathered in herb butter.

As a result of the first research project, I learned Salanova lettuce is a leaf lettuce that grows in head form. According to Winslow, Maine-based Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a privately held, employee-owned seed producer, Salanova lettuce is "a new innovation in salad mix" that’s harvested as mature heads. It’s structure releases individual leaves with one cut, giving Salanova the benefits of leaf lettuce, but it’s easier to harvest.

While picking up the ingredients to make a green garlic, tomato, and arugula pasta (both the green garlic and the arugula were in the box), I spied some figs in the grocery store. They looked so good, I decided to use the lettuce for a salad with figs and prosciutto, which accompanied the pasta.


Sometimes the CSA share requires its recipient to be more hands-on with his or her food—such as when there are spring peas. Shelling them adds a half-hour onto prep, but the fresh-tasting results are worth the extra work. My favorite thing to cook with spring peas is risotto, and this batch of a spring peas went into a risotto with speck.

Finally, a recipe for stuffed red peppers caught my eye. It was in the August 2015 edition of Cuisine at Home, which recently showed up in my mailbox. The peppers were stuffed with a quinoa and black bean mixture. I added chopped chard from the CSA, and they were delicious.

The South Loop farmer’s market started on Thursday, June 25th, and we walked down the street to check it out. I picked up a jar of delicious local Chicago honey from West Side Bee Boyz and a loaf of multigrain bread from Pleasant House Bakery. I stood at my kitchen counter munching on the bread as a pre-dinner snack the same night, and the next day, I put smoked salmon and cream cheese on toasted slices. It was so good that I ate it for breakfast and lunch two days in a row.

Next week: tart cherries and my first attempt at baking a cherry pie from scratch.


Thinking inside the farmbox: 2015 season

It’s June, and this year's CSA started at the beginning of the month. I decided to subscribe to a half share this time, which means I’ll be receiving produce every other week. Although this choice means I'm going to miss out on some items that appear only a couple of times in the share, I think it’ll be more manageable, and I can always swing by the farmer’s market to pick up a few extra items.

This year, the full and half shares include both fruit and vegetables, and the first box contained strawberries. I could eat an entire bowl of these sweet berries stirred into yogurt and topped with granola, but I restrained myself and, instead, made a strawberry cream cheese pie to share with the rest of the household.

On the savory side, I decided to re-create a recipe I made a few weeks ago. The original was for snapper with potatoes and onions. All components were smothered in harissa and baked. I substituted chicken for the fish and simultaneously roasted some asparagus in a separate pan with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

There are so many different types of hot sauces and chili pastes to try. I love hot sauces, and I’ve sampled a lot of them—from ghost chili to poblano. I’ve even made my own pineapple habanero hot sauce. My whole house smelled like vinegar for days, but the result was worth it.

It’s difficult to pick a spicy favorite, but for me, harissa is near the top. Harissa can contain a mixture of roasted red peppers; serrano peppers; other hot chili peppers; spices and herbs, such as garlic, coriander, caraway; and oil.

I realized as I was writing this post that apparently this week, my cooking method of choice was to slice vegetables and proteins and slide them into the oven on baking sheets. I received pak choi in the share, and I roasted the leaves on one pan and placed a layer of shrimp coated with a mixture of soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes, vegetable oil, and salt on another. While those were cooking in the oven, I made some sesame kale on the stove top. Once everything finished, I loaded big bowls with rice, kale, pak choi, and shrimp. It was easy and really tasty. I’ll make it again.

Are you subscribing to a CSA this year? Or have you visited your local farmer’s market? What did you pick up or receive in your box?