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I belong to a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) and get a basket of assorted vegetables every week. I have very little cooking experience, and if I search the ingredients online I get a ton of recipes that have only 1 or 2 of the ingredients I need to use. So far what I've been doing is putting most of the stuff together and making a stir fry (perhaps adding onions and mushrooms as a friend recently suggested) with spices. Results have been mixed (no pun intended!). Another idea I've tried is soup, but I'm not as comfortable with that as of yet.

Any general strategies (not necessarily recipes) besides just "stir fry"? I'd prefer to be able to use all of it with a minimum number of recipes (preferably just 1 or 2)

Here are 2 examples of baskets I've gotten.

example from Oct:

Arugula 
Beans
Beets 
Carrots
Rainbow Chard 
Garlic
Kale  
Kohlrabi 
Okra
Parsley
Peppers
Radishes 
Tomatoes
Winter Squash (Butternut or Delicata) 

example from Aug:

Fennel
Tomatoes
Summer Squash
Okra
Onions 
Black Radishes or Purple Turnips
Peppers
Chard
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This is way too open-ended a question to be of much use here. I suggest you visit www.supercook.com and plug your ingredients into the search engine. –  daniel Oct 8 '10 at 1:21
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I would suggest that you ask individual questions about the more unusual vegetables. We have a [culinary-uses] tag that's been used for some exotic ingredients, like kohlrabi, although it wouldn't be appropriate to ask the same thing about onions. As it is, I am converting this to Community Wiki as it is looking for a list of things as opposed to a single correct answer. The community may also vote to close, because as roux mentions, it is still a very open-ended question due to the large number of ingredients and the answers you receive are liable to be a little on the random side. –  Aaronut Oct 8 '10 at 3:25
    
It is a fairly open-ended question, but it does tie in to "meal planning," which is challenging even when you pick your own produce (let alone when it's delivered!). This can still be useful and relevant for those who are starting to use Farmer's Markets and cook with seasonal produce. –  Jenn Oct 8 '10 at 21:23

6 Answers 6

I find I'm just eating more vegetable dishes with each meal. For example, last night I had roast lamb. I roasted the first potatoes from the CSA and they were fantastic. But I also roasted a small cauliflower (cut into pieces) and I sauteed some small white turnips and onion, because I'm getting about 5 turnips a week and need to use them up, and I'm getting a small cauliflower a week too. A few nights ago I grilled steaks and in addition to mashed potatoes, I sauteed green beans and garlic and made a salad. In pre-CSA days it would have been one other vegetable, tops. But now I find I can't let a meal go by without adding a vegetable dish or two to it. My top 3 techniques are soup, roasting, and sauteeing. It's not really about technique though. It's about keeping that giant pile of vegetables in mind and adding something to each lunch and each dinner.

This really is a feature of the CSA approach - making me eat more vegetables. I'm not really making new meals, but the ones I'm in the habit of making are getting enhanced.

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so one big problem with CSA style produce VS your friendly neighborhood supermarket is that A. you don't know what you'll get and B. what you do get will be seasonal. what if you want tomatoes in the winter? I'd suggest you look into two things
1. dehydration
get yourself a dehydrator and start making apple chips, fruit leathers, sun dried tomatoes, and lots more. this is a great way to make the most of your CSA boxen. dehydrate a bunch of fresh made tomatoe sauce in the summer, put it in a baggie in the freezer, pull it out mid-winter and it'll still taste amazing.
2. preserving and canning
learn how to make your own relishes, pickles and preserves. nothing adds zest to a winter meal like home-made preserves and relishes prepared from last summer's produce. it's more time intensive than dehydrating is, but very satisfying and worth the effort. it's also works better with greens than dehydrating does.

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Hard vegetables (carrots, beats, turnips, radishes) can be thrown in a stew. Along with the tomatoes for the sauce, and the beans as a protein. You can use some of the garlic, onion, peppers, and parsley for flavoring as well. (You'll want some other stuff to, like beef for example. And other herbs & spices).

That used a fair number of them.

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There is often a need with a CSA box to use up the last of the previous box when the new box arrives. Making soup is a great strategy for doing this. Almost any combination of vegetables works well in a soup, and leftover soup stretches the lifetime of the vegetables and can also be frozen with good results.

You can suit the type of soup to the combination of vegetables you have on hand, which is something I like about a CSA: it pushes me to try out new recipes. Okra and tomatoes? Gumbo. Or Indian curry soup. Chard, parsley, and squash? Tortilla soup. Etc.

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Excellent comment...just about anything can go into soup! –  Jenn Oct 8 '10 at 21:20

I'm going to assume that your deliveries are only once a week, so it's not like you have to try to use everything in one meal. Look at it in parts -- I'd first think about pairing each of the items together, and think if they'd work well together.

So, just looking at October ... we won't count garlic or parsley, as they go with just about everything:

  • Arugula -> salads, so carrots, peppers, radishes and tomatoes
  • Beans -> go really good with dark greens ... cook in olive oil with garlic 'til they get creamy and mash easily, wilt some chopped up chard or kale in with it, then spread on toasted bread.
  • Beets -> not sure on pairings. with a salad, maybe? I'm a fan of borsht, though, but not everyone is.
  • Kohlrabi ... I've never cooked with, but is supposedly like brocolli ... so slice up, saute with garlic (and crushed red pepper flake, if you have some and like heat), add to pasta w/ jullienned bell pepper.
  • Okra ... curry, with tomatoes.
  • Winter squash ... roasted with garlic, carrots and peppers.

... and I've managed to hit everything (other than parsley) at least once ... but like I said, you can sprinkle some on just about anything.

Obviously, there will be more than one serving of a given vegetable at a time, so you might have to come up with a few uses of some items so you don't get sick of it ... but if you do at least two items per night (or try for two items per dish, and 2 dishes per night), you'll easily get through it. Don't try for a recipe or even a meal that uses every last item; that's just unrealistic.

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Have you tried roasting the vegetables? For example, from your October basket, cutting up beets, carrots, and squash and then roasting at 400F until tender. Nestle in some bone-in chicken breasts, roast a pork tenderloin in the oven along with the vegetables, or another protein of your choice.

You could also stuff the peppers with ground beef or lamb along with sauteed garlic, parsley, kale, diced tomatoes, etc. Then roast the peppers for 10-15 minutes in the oven.

I'm not sure these count as strategies, but I'm hoping this helps.

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Mmm ... stuffed peppers : cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/588/… –  Joe Oct 8 '10 at 0:42

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