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Celebrating Local Flavors: Mouthwatering CSA-Centric Dishes

June 26, 2024

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Celebrating Local Flavors: Mouthwatering CSA-Centric Dishes

Unlocking the Bounty of the Harvest

The bounty that comes from my CSA box is continually astounding to me. This past Saturday, we were treated to a bundle of one of my favorite Asian vegetables – Vigna sesquipedalis, also known as Chinese yard-long beans. These beans are the same thing as a dried pea that is known in the US as black-eyed peas or crowder peas, but they are nothing like the black-eyed peas I grew up with.

What is particularly odd about that is the immature green pods, which are served as yard-long beans, do not have a sweet flavor at all. In fact, they have a distinctive starchy flavor and an interesting tender-crisp texture – almost like regular green beans that have been blanched. They are often likened to green beans, but I don’t think they are much alike at all; green beans are much sweeter and have a greener, more grassy flavor. Yard-long beans seem to have a starchy, proteiny flavor more like a dried bean, but in a fresh bean form.

These beans are particularly full of vitamins and nutrients; they are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, folate, protein, complex carbohydrates, and a small amount of iron. They are low in calories and, because they lack the strings that green beans have, they are simpler to prepare – simply snip or cut off the ends and then cut into 2″ lengths to prepare them to stir-fry.

Crafting a Mouthwatering CSA-Inspired Dish

With my daughter Morganna’s first day of school just behind us, I told her I would make her whatever she liked for supper as a celebration. She begged me to make a stir-fry, something that I haven’t done as much of recently because as I slow down and my energy wanes, my ability to efficiently do so much kitchen prep is lowered. But for my girl, of course I will make a stir-fry.

We had the long beans, so I knew I had to use those, and we had pressed tofu and tender boneless pork loin chops. I had fresh green chiles and a sweet bell pepper that I thought would add a note of sugar to the dish, as well as providing a contrasting color to the deep, velvety green of the beans. For seasoning, Morganna asked for fermented black beans, so I added sweet onions, garlic, and ginger, and I limited the condiments to light soy sauce, Shao hsing wine, and sesame oil. The last flavor note I added were three rehydrated black mushrooms, whose umami fragrance really brought a strong element of the savory to the dish.

Here’s the recipe I put together:

Stir-Fried Yard-Long Beans with Pork and Pressed Tofu

– 3/4 pound lean pork loin chop, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/4″ wide by 1″ long by 1/4″ thick slices
– 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine
– 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
– 2 tablespoons cornstarch
– 3-4 tablespoons peanut oil
– 1 small yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
– 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, lightly crushed
– 1 green jalapeño, cut into thin slivers
– 1/2 chunk fresh ginger, peeled and shredded into very thin slivers
– 3 large cloves garlic, cut into thin shreds
– 3 black mushrooms, rehydrated, stemmed and cut into 1/8″ thick slices
– 1/2 pound pressed tofu, cut into similar sized slices as pork
– 1 tablespoon Shao hsing wine
– 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
– 3/4 pound Chinese yard-long beans, ends trimmed and cut on the bias into 2 1/2″ lengths
– 1/2 small red sweet bell pepper, cut into very thin 2″ long slices
– 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Mix meat and first amounts of wine and soy sauce together and toss with cornstarch until liquids thicken and are clinging to the meat. Set aside to marinate for twenty minutes, preferably while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2. Heat wok until it is smoking. Add peanut oil and allow to heat for another thirty seconds or until oil ripples and shimmers.
3. Add onion, black beans, jalapeño, and ginger and stir-fry for about a minute or until very fragrant. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir-fry for another minute.
4. Add meat, reserving any marinade that is not clinging to the meat. Spread meat into a single layer onto the bottom of the wok and allow to sit undisturbed to brown for about a minute or so. Add tofu to wok. Stir-fry until most of the pink is gone from the meat.
5. Deglaze wok where marinade has clung to the sides and bottom and browned with wine and tofu, stir rapidly to scrape up marinade bits. Add beans and stir-fry for another minute to minute and a half or until meat is done.
6. Add bell pepper, stir-fry thirty seconds, then remove from heat and drizzle in sesame oil, stirring well to combine. Turn out into a heated platter and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

The combination of mouth-watering smoky meat, crisp-tender beans, and umami-rich mushrooms made for a truly satisfying and flavorful dish. Morganna devoured it, as did I. This recipe is a prime example of how the bounty from a CSA box can inspire a truly delicious and memorable meal.

Exploring the Versatility of CSA Produce

The versatility of CSA produce really shines through in recipes like this. Yard-long beans, also known as asparagus beans, are a staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines, but they are not as widely known or used in Western kitchens. When you have access to a diverse array of seasonal produce through a CSA, it opens up a world of culinary possibilities.

Beyond the yard-long beans, our CSA box has introduced us to a wide variety of other vegetables and fruits that we may not have sought out on our own. Things like purple potatoes, watermelon radishes, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh figs have all made appearances, sparking my creativity in the kitchen. I love the challenge of figuring out how to showcase these unique ingredients in delicious and unexpected ways.

One of my go-to methods is to lean into the natural flavors and textures of the produce, as I did with the yard-long beans in the stir-fry. I let the beans shine, pairing them with complementary flavors like the savory pork, umami-rich mushrooms, and bright bell peppers. This allows the true essence of the CSA bounty to shine through.

In addition to developing recipes that highlight individual ingredients, I also enjoy finding ways to combine multiple CSA finds into harmonious dishes. For example, I might roast a medley of different colored beets and carrots, toss them with a tangy vinaigrette, and serve it alongside grilled halibut or a hearty grain salad. The vibrant colors and variety of flavors and textures make for a truly memorable and satisfying meal.

Embracing the Mystery Box Mentality

One of the most exciting aspects of a CSA subscription is the element of surprise. You never quite know what you’re going to find in your weekly box, which can be both thrilling and daunting for a home cook. But I’ve learned to embrace the mystery box mentality, treating it as a fun challenge rather than a burden.

When I open up my CSA box and discover something unexpected, like those yard-long beans, I immediately start brainstorming ways to prepare it. I’ll turn to my favorite resources, like blogs and recipe websites, to research the ingredient and find inspiration. I love learning about the history, nutritional properties, and traditional uses of the produce, as it helps me develop a deeper appreciation for it.

From there, I’ll experiment with different flavor combinations and cooking methods, always striving to bring out the best in the ingredients. Sometimes the results are an unmitigated success, like the stir-fried yard-long beans. Other times, I might miss the mark, as the reviewer did with the dishes at The Little Beet. But even those “failures” provide valuable lessons that inform my future culinary adventures.

Embracing the unpredictability of a CSA box has made me a more versatile and confident cook. I’m constantly challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone and explore new ingredients and flavor profiles. And it’s all thanks to the amazing bounty that arrives on my doorstep each week from my local CSA.

Celebrating the Seasons through CSA-Inspired Cooking

One of the true joys of being a CSA member is the opportunity to experience the seasonal rhythms of the land. As the calendar progresses, the contents of my weekly box transform, reflecting the natural cycles of growth and harvest. This connection to the seasons is something I deeply cherish, and it informs my approach to cooking.

During the height of summer, when the box is brimming with juicy tomatoes, fragrant basil, and crisp cucumbers, I’ll build my meals around those bright, garden-fresh flavors. A simple caprese salad or a vibrant gazpacho become the perfect canvas to showcase the season’s bounty. As autumn approaches and the leafy greens and root vegetables start to predominate, I’ll shift gears, roasting beets and Brussels sprouts, or simmering hearty stews and braises.

Cooking with the seasons isn’t just about using the freshest ingredients; it’s about tapping into the emotional resonance of the time of year. When I sit down to a plate of yard-long bean stir-fry in the early fall, I’m not just enjoying a delicious meal – I’m celebrating the transition from summer to autumn, the waning of the warm days and the onset of a more introspective time of year. The flavors, aromas, and textures of the dish evoke a sense of coziness and comfort, perfectly in sync with the changing of the seasons.

This connection to the land and the calendar is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a CSA member. It inspires me to be more mindful and present in my cooking, to let the ingredients guide me rather than dictating a rigid plan. And it allows me to truly savor the unique character of each season, to appreciate the rhythm of the natural world and how it ebbs and flows throughout the year.


As I contemplate the abundance that comes from my CSA box, I am continually amazed and inspired. The produce I receive not only nourishes my body, but it also feeds my creativity and my connection to the land. Dishes like the stir-fried yard-long beans with pork and tofu are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mouthwatering possibilities that arise from embracing the CSA lifestyle.

By celebrating the local flavors and seasonal rhythms of my CSA box, I’ve become a more adventurous, versatile, and fulfilling cook. I relish the challenge of unlocking the hidden potential of unique ingredients, and I delight in the way these dishes can evoke a sense of place and time. Whether I’m crafting a simple salad or an elaborate multi-course meal, the CSA bounty is the foundation upon which I build my culinary creations.

So, if you’re not already a CSA member, I urge you to consider taking the plunge. The adventure that awaits, filled with unexpected delights and opportunities for growth, is truly unparalleled. And who knows – maybe one day, you’ll be stir-frying your own batch of yard-long beans, reveling in the flavors of the season and the connection to the land that a CSA can provide.

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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