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Elevating the Everyday: CSA Ingredients Transformed into Culinary Masterpieces

June 26, 2024

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Elevating the Everyday: CSA Ingredients Transformed into Culinary Masterpieces

Discovering the Magic of CSA Produce

I’ll never forget the day I joined my first community-supported agriculture (CSA) service. It was like stepping into a whimsical garden of delights, with baskets brimming with produce I had only ever dreamed of. Gone were the days of predictable supermarket aisles – instead, I found myself face-to-face with knobby celeriac, fuzzy-skinned kiwanos, and vibrant purple cauliflower. At first, I’ll admit, I was a bit intimidated. What on earth was I going to do with all these unfamiliar ingredients?

But then, something clicked. I dove headfirst into experimenting, letting my senses guide me. I roasted those oddly shaped roots until caramelized, blended the kiwanos into a tangy, tropical sorbet, and riced the cauliflower to create a creamy, savory puree. With each new discovery, my confidence grew, and I found myself embracing the thrill of the unexpected.

Thornapple CSA had opened up a whole new world of culinary possibilities, and I was hooked. No longer was I settling for the same old recipes – instead, I was elevating the everyday, transforming humble CSA gems into showstopping dishes that delighted the palate and nourished the soul.

Mastering the Art of Breakfast Soup

Friends, let me tell you something – breakfast soup is the new green smoothie. I know the concept may sound odd, but hear me out. Breakfast soup can be just about anything you want it to be: packed with greens, roasted veggies, potatoes, fresh herbs, noodles, meat, or eggs, and adapted to fit any flavor profile.

Soup may not be a typical breakfast in the States, but all over the world, different soups and stews are commonplace at the breakfast table. Whether it’s changua in Colombia, menudo in Mexico, miso in Japan, or congee in China, other cultures know that soup delivers essential nutrients and can make a wonderfully nourishing start to the day.

Soup is known to support digestion and boost energy levels, all while increasing your veggie and nutrient intake. It’s like the cold weather version of a green smoothie, and I am here for it. You may be thinking that having soup for breakfast may seem like a great idea in the fall and winter, but you can also enjoy soup for breakfast in the summer. If you don’t feel like hot soup in the summer months, you can try refreshing chilled soup recipes like gazpacho.

The key is to keep things simple and exciting by making a single serving of breakfast soup from pre-prepped or leftover ingredients you already have on hand in about 5-10 minutes. The base of a quick and easy breakfast soup is good-quality broth or stock. Then, I like to incorporate tons of aromatics, greens, and pre-cooked vegetables with leftover meat or a soft-boiled egg. The best part? You can mix and match whatever your favorites are – there are no rules!

Aromatics such as ginger, garlic, and turmeric provide flavor and nutrients, umami ingredients like tamari, miso, or fish sauce provide an instant flavor bomb, and pre-cooked or quick-cooking greens, veggies, meat, or eggs provide nourishment and calories. Fresh herbs, bean sprouts, or a squeeze of citrus add brightness.

In a small saucepan, start by sautéing 1-2 tablespoons of aromatics like fresh minced garlic, ginger, turmeric, peppers, onion, leeks, or shallots in a little olive oil until soft and fragrant. Next, pour in about 2 cups of the broth of your choice. You can make your own or buy a high-quality broth from your local or online grocery store. I like Bonafide Provisions, Thrive Market, or Nona Lim broths.

Add umami to your soup with mix-ins like tamari, chickpea miso, or fish sauce to provide depth and an instant flavor bomb. You can also add sambal chili paste, tomato paste, harissa, pesto, salsa verde, or ghee, butter, or coconut milk for a creamier soup. If your broth is on the richer side, add a splash of vinegar, lemon, or lime juice to bring some brightness and balance.

Add 4-5 ounces of pre-cooked protein or 1-2 soft-boiled eggs. I usually opt for leftover shredded beef or chicken and/or a soft-boiled egg in my breakfast soup, but you can do any variation of pre-cooked shredded or ground chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, pork, bison, or even bacon, sausage, or eggs for the ultimate breakfast vibe.

Before serving, add your greens, quick-cooking or leftover veggies, or legumes for filling nutrients, flavor, and texture. This is a great opportunity to use up those random greens leftover in your fridge. I typically use pre-chopped or shredded kale or cabbage for a quick add-in, but you can opt for spinach, collards, chard, arugula, or mustard greens. I also love adding colorful veggies like sautéed peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, or roasted bok choy, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, beets, or tomatoes. Pre-cooked or canned lentils, chickpeas, cannellini beans, or other legumes are also a wonderful addition to breakfast soup.

Get crazy with your garnish, paying special attention to flavor and texture. I love to add extra fat and crunch in this last step – more greens, broccoli sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, pea shoots, microgreens, scallions, and fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, tarragon, parsley, or mint add a great nutritional punch and a ton of fresh flavor and texture. Add extra fat and creaminess with olive oil, sesame oil, avocado, crumbled feta or cotija cheese, fresh grated parmesan, yogurt, or sour cream. For a little crunch and fiber, add some pine nuts, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds. Want next-level crunch and flavor? Add homemade croutons, crispy prosciutto or bacon, parmesan crisps, tortilla chips, fresh sauerkraut, or pickled veggies. Season it up top with flavored or smoked salt, tajin, gomasio, or furikake to add a nice finishing flavor.

Breakfast soup is the ultimate in comfort and nourishment, and I can’t wait for you to try it!

Mastering the Art of Bone Broth

A great bone broth is a home chef’s secret weapon. There’s a reason that every restaurant makes it daily, and why every home cook should keep a few quarts in the freezer. Keeping broth on hand means access to instant flavor for any dish. Add meat, veggies, and noodles, and you have an instantly satisfying soup. Drink it straight from a mug with fresh grated garlic and ginger for a bit of nourishment. Use it as a cooking liquid for grains or legumes or as a flavorful base for sauces, soups, and braises.

Taking the time to create a great base of flavor is actually the ultimate shortcut, and sometimes it doesn’t take that long at all – especially when you use a pressure cooker. Below, I’ll walk you through both a stovetop and Instant Pot pressure cooker method, as well as common mistakes you may be making. I prefer the Instant Pot method for ease and speed, but either method produces a rich, flavorful broth that can be used for a myriad of applications.

One of the keys to making a great bone broth is not hanging on to your kitchen scraps. Every professional chef out there has a freezer full of root ends of onions, scallion butts, leafy tops and root ends of celery, and herb stems stowed away. Not only is this a great way to reduce food waste, but it’s an opportunity to impart flavor with something you would have otherwise tossed out or composted. I recommend keeping a large freezer bag (I like these half-gallon size reusable Stasher bags) on hand for adding some choice vegetable scraps to throughout the week for a flavorful weekend broth.

Another common mistake is skipping the blanching step. If you’ve ever had a bone broth that tastes a bit funky, this is likely the culprit. Before roasting and simmering your bones, cover them with cold water, bring to a boil, and let them cook at an aggressive simmer for about 20 minutes before draining and roasting. If you are using the Instant Pot method, you can do this using the sauté setting.

While roasting your bones isn’t a required step in putting together a simple broth, it will most certainly give your broth a richer, more long-cooked flavor. Roasting the bones browns and caramelizes them, lending tons of flavor.

Another common mistake is adding too much stuff to your broth. A good broth doesn’t need a bunch of add-ins. I recommend a few aromatics like fresh herbs, herb stems, onion ends, garlic, black peppercorns, and plenty of sea salt. Pro tip: keep the carrots out unless you want a sweeter broth. Keep the flavor focused and concentrated, and it will allow your broth to fit a myriad of applications.

The final mistake is letting the finished broth cool slowly. In professional kitchens, broth chilling is serious business. Letting your broth cool slowly means the potential for harmful bacteria to grow. Once you’ve strained out the bones and other bits, transfer your broth to a shallow and wide container where it will lose heat more rapidly. You can even add a few cups of ice to speed up the process – don’t worry about the ice diluting the broth, it’s so intensely flavored that the ice won’t drastically impact the flavor.

Now that you know how to avoid these common mistakes, let’s get to it!

Instant Pot Balsamic Roast Beef: A Twist on a Classic

I have a serious foodie confession to make – I loathe pot roast. Like, really, really hate it. Like most Americans, I grew up eating pot roast almost weekly, and while my mom is an incredible cook, I could not get myself to like it. The vegetables were soft, the meat was dry and stringy, and the gravy tasted more sweet than savory.

My husband, however, puts pot roast on his short list of childhood favorites, alongside boxed scalloped potatoes (cue face palm). After about three years of marriage, my husband asked me why I never made pot roast – after all, I was a budding chef, and it’s such a classic dish. My explanation? I REALLY HATE IT. I had eaten too many mushy carrots and endured far too many servings of dry meat. I know a lot of folks swear that you can’t screw up pot roast, but I promise you really can.

What I’ve learned over the years is that there is a right way to cook pot roast. You’ve got to use the right roast and make sure you brown it. Use wine or balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, and please, I beg you, don’t cook the vegetables for too long.

Cue my Instant Pot Balsamic Roast Beef – although this isn’t a true pot roast recipe, I created it on my quest to do pot roast right, and it’s since become a staple in our household during the fall and winter months. It all started when I made a perfect roast in my Dutch oven and deglazed the pan with balsamic vinegar and coconut aminos. The result was a tangy, deeply savory gravy that left us licking the pan after dinner and wondering where our leftovers for the next day had gone.

This is the perfect Sunday night meal that you don’t have to babysit for hours in the oven. It’s ready in just 90 minutes in the Instant Pot and renders an incredible gravy full of flavor. Serve it with roasted vegetables, roasted radicchio and onions, and my Velvety Celery Root Puree.

Remember, the kind of roast you use matters. Use a collagen-rich chuck roast with some fat on it, bone-in if you can. Do not use a lean roast like bottom or top round – this will produce a dry, stringy roast. My favorite is a 7-bone roast – it’s not always easy to find, but it doesn’t hurt to ask your butcher.

If your pot roast isn’t tender enough after 90 minutes and after the pressure drops naturally, cook it for another 10-15 minutes under high pressure or until a fork pierces the meat easily. Chuck roast is a forgiving cut, and it actually gets more tender with additional cooking time.

Reducing the liquid into a sauce takes a little extra time, but it’s well worth it. Plus, you can make the gravy right in the Instant Pot, which saves you from cleaning yet another dish. This roast beef freezes well, but make sure to include some of the cooking liquid or gravy with the meat when storing.

Gluten-Free Carrot Cake: A Moist, Fudgy Delight

Listen up, friends – I am here to tell you that you don’t have to settle for mediocre gluten-free cake. Here’s the real real: I understand that pretty much every blogger out there with a chocolate cake recipe says that theirs is the best ever, and you know what? They probably believe it to be true. But I’m just arrogant enough to tell you they’re wrong. This is it – THIS is the most delicious, fudgy, moist gluten-free chocolate cake out there.

Now, anyone else in a LOVE-LOVE relationship with cake? I like mine full of flavor and definitely not overly sweet. My love affair with cake started early. Growing up, my mom would make elaborate cakes for my brother and me on our birthdays. In fact, the night before my 3rd birthday party, I got caught sitting on the kitchen counter, nearly diving head-first into my birthday cake – hands and face covered in frosting. My mom recalls snapping a few photos before bursting out laughing and saying aloud, “I can’t blame you!”

Over the years, my love for cake has only grown stronger. While others may have stories of growing up in the kitchen at their mom’s hip, learning how to bake cakes and cookies, that was a rare occurrence in my home. Although my mom was and still is a very talented baker, she spent most of my childhood working 2-3 jobs to support our family, which didn’t leave much time for baking. Plus, I was preoccupied with ballet and getting perfect grades so I could get out of our tiny town one day.

What I did pick up from my sweet mama was independence and a kick-ass work ethic, which landed me my first restaurant job at the age of 14 in a cute little bakery and cafe. By 15, I was making croissants, baking cakes, and playing barista. I spent my weekends and summers there throughout high school and fell in love with the process.

I know putting together a layer cake can feel a little daunting, but don’t worry, friend. This recipe is simple and so very doable. Some notes for the baker before you get started:

Mise en place – a French term for “everything in its place” – is not just for the pros. As a home cook, mise en place is about having everything you need before you start cooking, and it allows you to focus on the task at hand. Take a moment to organize and measure all your ingredients and gather your tools in advance. When it comes to baking and frosting a cake, it’s all about that mise en place. An offset spatula, parchment paper, and a nice serrated knife are well worth the investment.

Chill your cake layers for at least 2 hours before frosting. Do not attempt to spread frosting onto cake layers that are even remotely warm. Without fail, it will make a mess of your cake and leave you frustrated. Better yet, chill your cake layers overnight in the fridge.

If you love baking or at least cake-making like me, consider buying a rotating cake turntable on a pedestal. It’s not essential, but it helps you get that smooth finish quickly and easily. A simple cake carrier will help you transport your cake to any shindig. I can’t tell you how many times I regretted not having a carrier.

This Fudgy Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake has four soft and flavorful vanilla-scented cake layers with an extra moist crumb, slathered in the most luscious chocolate buttercream. And guess what? It’s completely drama-free – no fussy folding, weird ingredient swaps, or syrup-basting to keep the layers moist. Yesss, David Rose, I’m

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