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.