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Overwhelmed by CSA... need ideas!

Hey all,

I love my CSA, but I am completely, utterly overwhelmed. And we keep getting the same things, I only know so many ways to use a cuke. Any ideas, below please find the share:

Sweet Corn, Green Peppers, (way too much) Basil, Heirloom Tomatoes, Cukes (again), Zucchini (again), Fennel, Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes and Red Cabbage. From market: Cilantro, Tomatillos, Baby Bok Choy.

Pantry is well stocked!


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  1. note: I am all kinds of pesto-ed, salsa verde-ed and cole slawed OUT. (Also of note, I find raw tomatoes horrifying, I know... tragedy.)

    1. Zucchini relish could take care of the zukes and peppers. If you can, you don't even have to eat them anytime soon.

      You can also chop the peppers and freeze them. Use when you need some chopped peppers for a stew in the winter. You can also freeze the corn kernels.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nofunlatte

        Pesto freezes well and is nice to pull out on a (some) cold winter day(s). That's what I've been telling myself as I use my CSA bunch of basil to make and freeze a weekly batch of pesto. Also, last year I made and froze tomato-pepper-basil soup (made up a recipe), which was great on a few cold days last winter. I used up some of the cukes in a cucumber-watermelon-mint salad to take to my book group this week, took the same thing to a barbecue a few weeks ago...it's refreshing, delicious and effortless beyond the peeling and chopping. How lucky we are to be faced with the challenges of bounty.

        1. re: janeh

          I agree, but the OP is "pesto-ed out." However, janeh, I've made a few pesto batches myself and my basil plant is ready to be plucked for yet another batch. Your soup sounds interesting--was this done on-the-fly or did you write down your recipe? If the latter, please post!

          Agree on how grateful we should be to have such plenty.

          1. re: nofunlatte

            Unfortunately, the soup was made on the fly....knowing myself, I probably sauteed some onions and garlic, added the other veggies, maybe added some kind of broth, then pureed. Sort of gazpacho without the cucumbers, which I'll try again soon. I got the "pesto-ed out" and I'm there too - I figure that by the time the fresh basil is long gone, the pesto in the freezer might have some allure!

      2. Fennel makes a great pasta sauce with some mild Italian sausage (out of casing), sage, shallots, and tomato. I wouldn't have put the combination together myself, but it's awesome: http://culinspiration.wordpress.com/2...

        Baby bok choy is great just simply stir-fried with some garlic and drizzled with your favorite sauce, such as oyster sauce. Try it in a stir fry with shrimp, perhaps: http://www.rachaelraymag.com/Recipes/...

        Tomatoes? I'd cook them down into a whole mess of sauce and freeze. How about homemade ketchup? http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/2000s/...

        Tomatillos: use those in chili or stew: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        Basil and cilantro are good in chimichurri. Try Emeril's recipe, subbing cilantro for the oregano: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...

        Cherry tomatoes are good on shish kebabs. I also think you have a lot of the makings for ratatouille.

        Sweet corn: grilled corn salad, corn chowder, addition to cornbread

        Green peppers: fajitas, stir-fry, stuffed peppers

        Cukes: awesome in this mango, jicama, and cucumber salad, which also uses cilantro: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...

        And if you get really stuck, mail me a box :) I love fresh produce.

        1. Red cabbage: This is great, easy to make, uses a whole head, and with brown rice makes a meal:

          Corn: I just discovered Mexican grilled corn, and i could eat nothing but that for dinner. This is a stellar recipe. Green can parmesan is an acceptable substitute for the grated Cotijja.

          For surplus heirloom tomatoes, toss them with olive oil and roast very slowly in a low over - 200 or 250 for a long time. (Sorry, don't have a recipe.) They freeze, and it's so rewarding to be able to pull them out of the oven in the middle of winter. They're great for pizzas, among other things.


          1. This time of year, we just drag out our grill and grill everything we can.

            These recipes us a heroic amount of vegetables:

            Soups, hot or cold: works for corn, tomatoes, cucumbers
            Sauerkraut (for your cabbage)
            Sun dried tomatoes
            Zucchini, bread, of course, or slice it super thin into ribbons and make a pasta of sorts. http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searc.... We just blanch and shred it and put freeze it in 2 cup portions to add to chili and stews etc in winter.
            Here are some ideas for too much basil: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/lo...
            Larb is a great thing to do with too much cilantro: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
            Vietnamese spring rolls are a great way to use cilantro and basil:
            Ratatouille http://healthyrecipes.wikia.com/wiki/...

            I have a slow cooker recipe from Rick Bayless that I like that uses tomatillos. I'll link that in a second. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7236...

            Good luck!


            1. And this is why I am not a member of a CSA! If you have any freezer space, you might consider starting to "put up" the items that you are totally tired off.

              Cucumbers don't freeze well, but make lovely pickles. The two Alton Brown pickle recipes on foodnetwork.com are pretty good. If you like true dill pickles, check out a recent post on blog.ruhlman.com. 3% pickle brine. Symon also has a nice recipe out there on the web. His brine gives a wonderful pickle without vinegar.

              Slow, oven roast the tomatoes and freeze them. Or make some tomato sauces frozen in one meal containers. For now, consider gazpacho type soups. I can eat two tomatoes at a meal if it is made into a soup. Gazpacho also uses up a bunch of your basil, and if you like green peppers, you can add those too.

              I really hate green peppers, but I understand that roasting them gives better flavor and you can freeze or pickles them after they are done.

              I only buy zucchini at market and I am already tired of them! Julienne some the long way, salt to reduce, grate some onion and make 'crab cakes' with the veggies instead of crab. Or, slice thinly and bake with onions, tomatoes and garlic.

              Tomatillos I buy by the bushel this time of year. I make a Bayless Roasted Onion and Tomatillo salsa verde which freezes really well! Heck, just roast the tomatillos, freeze them in a zip lock and pull them out during the depths of winter.

              Any herb can be pureed with oil and stored in the freezer.

              Good luck!

              1. One of my favorite farms, Mariquita, has great recipes on their website. Their page on basil recipes might kill a couple of birds with one stone

                I'll skip the pesto recipes. There are recipes for
                - ROASTED-GARLIC BASIL SAUCE (it includes a zucchini)
                - Basil Ice Cream (adapted from a Chowhound recipe). Basil ice cream is great
                - Real Basil Cheesecake
                - Zucchini with Basil and Pecorino Romano Cheese
                - ROTI W/ BLACK BEANS AND BASIL
                - A Simple TOMATO AND BASIL SAUCE (cherry tomatoes can be used)
                - Onions in Basil Cream
                - SMASHED POTATOES WITH PESTO (if you need an idea for your pesto)
                - BASIL BEER BREAD

                They also have lots of recipes for all the other veggies you mentioned.

                Red cabbage keeps weeks, especially fresh from the farm. However the farm has a chili recipe that not only uses red cabbage but tomatoes and bell peppers ... actually even without the cabbage, chili is a good way to use up peppers and tomatoes.

                1. Roasting green peppers do bring out their sweetness, I made a batch this week then peeled & was going to store them but found myself using them on homemade pizza and in a baked pasta dish. You can freeze them and/or can in jars with some olive oil for later.

                  I've mentioned on several threads that I canned some jars of chow-chow with my abundance of zucchini a few weeks ago. Essentially, it's a relish that typically uses cabbage but I subbed zukes and added onions, carrots, garlic, etc. It's pickled in a vinegar & sugar base and is excellent on burgers, hot dogs, sausages, chicken, pork and whatever else you can think of. You can do the same thing for a fresh veggie salad if you're not wanting to preserve the veggies. Your bok choy & some of those bell peppers can be added to the mixture. If you're into pickles, try making zucchini pickles with dill.

                  As far as corn goes, you can make savory corn cakes (almost like small pancakes) that you could top with chicken & a cream sauce that contains those tomatillos (roast them with some garlic & onion) and puree. Delish! Seafood or roasted pork would also work well in this dish.

                  Speaking of tomatillos, they freeze well. I grew a bumper crop last summer that I'm still eating in an attempt to make room for this year's crop. I'm into canning & experimenting alot this year so I made some mango & roasted tomatillo sauce that I simmered with cider vinegar, sugar and a hot green chili then jarred it for the winter. I'll be smearing it on a chicken or similar to roast or maybe spreading it on some bacon or ham steaks before cooking in the oven for breakfast.

                  Cilantro can be dried if you have a dehydrator. I make some of my own soup and spice mixes from fresh veggies & herbs which I dry. Later in the winter, I'll be able to whip up a sauce or simmer up a pot of soup with some broth and my dried goodies. You can do this with corn, green peppers, basil, and fennel. If no dehydrator, you can oven dry on a very low oven overnight.

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      Community Supported Agriculture. You pay up front for a farm share, which helps small farmers avoid having to take loans for seeds etc. In return you get a share of veg each week. It kind of turns your kitchen into a mystery box challenge ala Chopped.

                      @ OP - Pickling is a great intro to canning, and even if you don't hot water process they last for a long time (months) in the fridge. I've made many different cuke versions as well as zucchini bread and butter slices. If you don't want can surplus tomatoes you can also freeze them. If you freeze the whole (peel on) when you pull some out run them under hot tap water and slip of the skin. I have also frozen bags of grated tomatoes - I use it just like puree but up the cooking to evaporate of the extra water. The quick way is useful when you're up to your eyes in veg. Good luck!

                      1. re: corneygirl

                        Ok. I never heard of them but I was raised under a rock.

                        I would think this problem would be pretty common. It is the same problem every home gardener gets. What do you do with a bushel of whatever that all ripened at once.

                        There are only a few answers.

                        Going together with a few friends to buy a share. Maybe 3-4 of u can handle the excess.

                        Pickling and canning, not something I am terribly interested in but it is experiencing a comeback.

                        Advertising the excess on Craigslist.

                        Giving the excess to a food bank or soup kitchen. That would be a very noble gesture and may give u a tax break. In fact, I would think that would be a wonderful way for someone who could afford it to give back to the community, help the poor and still not worry about what someone was doing with their money. It can't easily be redirected. It has to be used to feed people.

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          Hank, these are great ideas. I especially like the idea of giving any extra to a food bank/pantry or soup kitchen. I don't belong to a CSA for various reasons, one of which is the excess (another is that summers are more flexible for me, so I try to get a lot of cooking in and I don't want to be limited by the CSA produce). My friends aren't nearly as into cooking as I am, so splitting the share is unlikely to happen, but next year I may consider joining one and donating the extra.

                          1. re: nofunlatte

                            Before jumping in with gusto, you should check that a food bank or soup kitchen will want your random 6 squash, or 4 cucumbers. It might be simpler to talk with a government social worker in your area [or your house of worship if you have one] and 'adopt' a family for the summer. Then you could split your share and still help someone who isn't as fortunate as you are.

                            1. re: smtucker

                              Excellent idea--of course I would have called the food bank first. But this "adopt a family" idea is a great one. I wonder if one of the local social help organizations is doing this.

                              1. re: nofunlatte

                                I know you're not in Iowa but we have an organization here that does exactly that.

                                Here is a link: http://www.localfoodsconnection.org/

                                They might know of a similar organization in your part of the world.

                              2. re: smtucker

                                I wouldn't think it would be much of a food bank or soup kitchen if they couldn't accept small quantities. With large quantities, they could adjust their menu. But yes I would check it out first.

                                That being said, if I found a food bank or soup kitchen that was that selective, I would never give them anything and suggest my friends do the same.

                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  I don't know if I would be so harsh on these agencies. Some food banks are selective for regulatory reasons or for reasons having to do with limitations in their ability to store, package and distribute food. I'd rather the agency turn away food they can't use, than accept it just to put on a good face, then throw it out. I've volunteered in a soup kitchen and regularly deliver excess food from local businesses to a local food bank. The regulations and guidelines these organizations have to follow are astonishing. I know of a local Bakers Square that stopped donating pies because patrons of the food bank complained that the varieties of pie that they donated didn't meet their dietary needs for one reason or another (I can't recall what the specific issue was). It caused such an uproar that Bakers Square said, "Forget it. We'll just throw it all out, rather than deal with the backlash." And now they do. Now I don't think Baker's Square is the world's best restaurant or anything, but I bet a slice of Baker's Square pie might be a nice treat on occasion for someone who doesn't get a lot of treats in life. I'm really sad that they now throw their pie out because of a disgruntled few. Anyway, it's a very complex set of regulatory and social rules they have to follow, as well as working within their own very real practical limitations.


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Interesting anecdote. BTW, kudos to you for your soup kitchen volunteering!

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Solidly with TDQ here.

                                      The food banks and soup kitchens where I've worked focus on serving the people in need and sometimes that means people with excess kale get miffed because they bring their generous donation way past too late for it to be incorporated into anything.

                                      Where I've been, it's been tremendously helpful (and welcome) when people call ahead offering to cook a particular soup or dish for the day. Of course each organization is different.

                                      To get back to the real topic, I'm a big fan of roasting veggies and making them into salad, or a frittata or just snacking on them. On your list, my favs for roasting/grilling would be:

                                      Sweet Corn, Heirloom Tomatoes, Zucchini, Fennel

                                      I'd probably add the Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes and herbs uncooked. YUM!

                                      1. re: miss louella

                                        I have to say, I'm not a huge raw tomato fan, either, but my neighbor grew some Sun Golds this year that were out of this world. Sweet and fragrant and just generally awesome. I'm considering sneaking over his fence next time there's a full moon.

                        2. We had this a few weeks ago, from Epi: a salad featuring raw zucchini and snow peas in sort of an asian-ish dressing. I had to overcome some initial qualms about the raw zuke, but it was actually quite good, and lovely to look at. Lovelier than this (rather dark) picture makes it seem.


                          1. You guys are incredible! This is an ABUNDANCE OF IDEAS. For the record, from the past three shares, I now have 5 jars of dill pickles.

                            Loving the idea of corn chowder and gazpacho (which I've never made) -- oddly, I've also never made tomato sauce from fresh, so perhaps I'll give that a whirl.

                            Thanks for all the ideas! This will be a delicious week. And if you have any more, send em along!


                            1. One more idea: stir fries. An easy way to use several veggies at a time.

                              We joined a CSA for the first time this year. It's great, but I'll admit that it has been a learning experience. The typical way that I think most people shop is to decide on what dishes they want to make, then buy the items they need in the quantities needed to make them. With a CSA, the process is reversed. You get different kinds of produce in quantities that the farmer has chosen to give you and then have to figure out what you are going to do with them. Like the OP, we've sometimes felt a little overwhelmed and occasionally we haven't been successful in using up something before it started to go bad.

                              Our CSA offers half as well as full shares. (Some do and some don't.) Since we are just two people, we opted for a half share. That has sometimes led to the opposite problem from the one the OP brings up, i.e., not getting enough of an item. For example, when we got tomatillos in our basket a few weeks ago, I wanted to make salsa, but we only got half a dozen small ones. I had to purchase more from the market. Luckily, we love tomatoes in all forms, raw and cooked, which should get us through the next month or so. Unfortunately, because of the endless heat this summer, basil peaked early and now that the tomatoes are ripe, the basil has already gone to seed. We've perhaps been least successful in using up our herbs, especially parsley. I've frozen some and used some for garnish, but basically, we've gotten too much for weekly use and not enough to make tabouli.

                              1. I probably sound like a broken record because I've posted about this before, but rather than thinking "dinner," think dessert. I routinely turn our massive cucumber haul into a delicious cucmber-vanilla granita, the zucchini goes into a zucchini chocolate cake or lemon cake; you can also cook it, puree it, and use it as the wet ingredient in cornbread or yeast bread. Definitely peel and seed the tomatoes, then puree without cooking them and freeze the sauce for use in the winter. You can also make the fantastic corn and tomato pie from the epicurious website. We've had that twice in a week because our CSA gave us 11 pounds of heirloom tomatoes. With the bok choy, make the bok choy provencal from the epicurious website or just use some of your pureed tomatoes and turn it into a minestrone. That will use up some of the cabbage and basil as well. Blanch the tomatillos until they turn tender and olive green, then puree them and freeze the puree. You can defrost this later to make a sauce for enchiladas verdes. Or use it now. Fry some corn tortillas in a little mild-tasting oil, layer them with cheese, then mix the tomatillo puree with sauteed onions and garlic (and your cilantro.) Pour this over the tortillas, top with a little creme fraiche and bake. You can send the sun gold tomatoes to me. I think they're heaven! (seriously, cut them in half and serve them on toast with honey!)

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Isolda

                                  I think of all the veggies, cucumbers are the most difficult since they are the least likely to lend themselves to being cooked.

                                  Using your idea "think dessert", I googled.

                                  Cucumber cake


                                  Cucumber bread/muffins

                                  Cucumber cookies

                                  Along the way I found a cool cucumber site (heh)

                                  It has a bazillion recipes with some good-sounding ideas like mixing cucumbers with fresh ginger.

                                  I'm not a cold soup fan usually but the recipe for Ukrainian Summer Cucumber and Lemon Borscht sounds good.

                                  There's a salad of Cucumber & Fennel with Orange-Mint Dressing.

                                  The recipe for Cucumber Cinnamon Rings calls for "15 cucumbers (older the better, even yellow ones)"

                                  There's a recipe for Cucumber Filled with Avocado Pesto ... which combines a use for cucumber and basil

                                  Cucumber Mint Gin Lemonade ingredients are a bit weird as it uses instant coffee

                                  Cucumbers do lend themselves to beverages. You can throw some chopped cucumbers, mint and lemon into a pitcher of water for a refreshing drink.

                                  Cucumber Mint Lemonade

                                  This cucumber/mint juice looks pretty ... scroll down

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I wonder if you can steep sliced cucumber in vodka for a few days to make cucumber vodka?

                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                      Along the adult beverage vain I made a version of this over the summer and it was really good. I used white wine since a made a lot for a party and it is cheaper. After a test run a replace the sugar with about half as much honey.


                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                        Oh, hey. That got me drooling. Cucumber vodka/midori psuedo-tini. Maybe garnished w/a mint leaf . . . yum.

                                  2. Check out the recipes by the much-loved Ottolenghi. They feature incredibly inventive and tasty vegetable dishes. In fact, I am making the fresh corn polenta with an eggplant ragu tonight.


                                    1. I'd make kimchi or saurkraut with the cabbage. I've also made kimchi with bok choy that was really good.

                                      1. You can core, de seed and slice the peppers and freeze them in freezer bags. Not a big fan of green peppers but I will put them in a chilli. Courgette (zucchini) soup is lovely and freezes well. Ditto fennel soup, I imagine. I was about to suggest Jamie Oliver's Mexican coleslaw for the red cabbage before noticing you're slawed out!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: limoen

                                          I do this with my CSA peppers; no need to roast first. My only additional tip is, after slicing, put them on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper until they freeze, and then put them frozen into freezer bags (and back into freezer). They don't stick together this way. You can then use them in soups, chili, fajitas (if you are into fajitas, I'm not), stews....green peppers (actually, in my box, I get them in all colors: green, purple, yellow, red...) can be expensive in winter, and you will appreciate them more then.

                                          by the way, I freeze strawberries (which I sometimes get in my CSA since a lot are grown around here, though season has now ended) the same way: rinse, cut off stems, freeze whole on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper, and then, once frozen, put into freezer bags and back into freezer. I am saving most for winter, but did grab a bag to take on a recent camping trip. It was perfect: they helped keep the cooler cool while thawing, and then on the third morning I just put them into a pan, added a tiny bit of sugar, heated them, and served on top of pancakes. Delicious and very easy!

                                        2. For your green peppers, I heartily recommend this recipe for roasted peppers stuffed with potatoes and cheese. I made it last night with peppers from my CSA, they were not bells but large sweet peppers. This is both easy and delicious:


                                          Also, I never get tired to black bean-corn salad with tomatoes and cilantro nor of greek salad with cukes, tomatoes, good feta, olive oil, and fresh oregano.

                                          1. red cabbage is fun in a crudite platter, I think it makes a nice vehicle for dips. Much of my CSA overload geets put into fritata. You could use the zuchini and tomatoes to make a ratatouille.

                                            1. Chow sent out this recipe today in their daily recipe email

                                              Cucumber and Green Grape Gazpacho

                                              1. This won't use up much, but it's my favorite way to eat bell peppers.


                                                1. Try stir frying the sliced zucchini in some Chinese rice wine with garlic and salt... different twist.

                                                  1. I'm a big fan of roasting cut up vegetables with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I make a big batch and keep them in a large covered container in the fridge. It's a great way to have something quick but tasty and healthy. I throw some in an omelet or fritatta, add some ovee a bed of brown rice or quinoa (my personal favorite), ready made side dish as is, add to a quick soup if in a hurry, and straight out of the fridge it can be a nice salad addition to chopped Romaine hearts. I find I eat more vegetables (definately more than the 5 servings a day) when I have them roasted and easily at hand. And they don't tend to last very many days - I just love it and haven't tired of it yet. Your peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, possibly fennel, and the white part of the bok choy (add the green parts just before the rest are done) would be great. I also sometimes add mushrooms and asparagus. Roasted corn would also make a nice addition. Mouth is beginning to water - going to roast some right now.