I miss the luxury of being able to make daily runs to the store for specific ingredients and now must make food, especially fresh produce last for a week and sometimes more. It’s incredible how quickly our fridge empties after cooking three meals a day for four plus keeping up with my kids’ endless snacking needs. We’ve been relying on picking up groceries from local stores about once a week and then making a big trip to the Carroll Gardens Farmer’s market on Sundays, arriving when it opens to avoid the crowds and before things start running out. I’ve also signed up to receive weekly deliveries from Local Roots NYC, a CSA that delivers a box of produce, eggs and meat sourced from farms within two hours of NYC to our doorstep once a week.
One upside, it’s really forced us to consume whatever produce is in season. I admit, in a previous life I would gravitate to pre-washed packages of greens from the refrigerator section at Whole Foods. The convenience seemed worth the price and my efforts at hand washing lettuce resulted in soggy greens that never got crispy. I’ve recently picked up a few new habits that have completely changed my relationship to produce, especially fresh greens. With the arrival of spring I’ve been met with an abundance of bok choy, red leaf lettuce, beet greens, Swiss chard and even dandelion greens. Instead of putting away the groceries as soon as they arrive here are some of the extra steps I take to ensure crisp greens and veggies that will last through the week:
For greens and fresh herbs, start with a good rinse and dry: Pull out all greens from their packaging and throw them in the sink. Remove all the rubber bands and rinse with cold water, shaking off as much excess water as possible . For really dirty greens like dandelions or radish greens submerge in a bowl of cold water and let soak for about 30 mins. Line your counter with a dry towel and place the greens in strainers (pasta strainers and steam baskets work too!). For the herbs, trim the bottoms and place them standing up in mason jars filled with cold water. I leave the greens on the counter for 30-60 mins, seeing everything separated and cleaned I can start to take inventory of what I have to work with for the week.
Wrap well and store in fridge: After the greens seem dry use clean dish towels and carefully wrap the greens, try and fit a few different varieties in each dish towel by folding it over on itself. Clear space in the fridge on a lower shelf and carefully place the greens in the fridge. Make sure to pull older produce forward to use up first.
For produce like beets, radishes, and carrots separate greens and prep veggies. Think twice about tossing greens associated with vegetables like radishes, carrots and beets. Try experimenting with ways to use the greens or stems in another dish like radish or carrot top hummus and chard stalk hummus (see recipes below). Rinse and peel my carrots so they’re ready to go for cooking and snacking. Beets and radishes get a good rinse too, if you’re feeling ambitious prep a sheet pan and place some of the carrots and beets right into the oven to have ready for the week. Just toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until tender.
Adopting some of these habits when tackling produce will save precious time when it comes to cooking. I have started spontaneously incorporating more greens and vegetables especially into breakfast and lunch, for example tossing a handful of greens on avocado toast or mixing fresh herbs and spinach into scrambled eggs. I find making a quick salad for lunch has become much easier because I can now just pull things out of the fridge and throw them in a bowl. I’ve also started prepping a jar full of my favorite tangy vinaigrette (recipe below) to make things even easier. When it comes to meal planning I’ve also started to think about new ways to highlight produce in season (Pasta with Anchovies, Swiss chard and Breadcrumbs).
Here are some new new recipes I’ve come to rely on to make the most of my produce:
Carrot Top Pesto
Radish greens can also be used in place of carrot top greens
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 small garlic clove smashed
- 1 cup coarsely chopped carrot stems and greens
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn roughly
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- Pinch of sea salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp capers
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- Using a food processor or hand blender, pulse together pine nuts and garlic. Add carrot tops, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, pulse again until combined. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil until incorporated into the mixture. Add capers and parmesan cheese, pulse once more until combined.
Swiss Chard Stalk Hummus
- 1 bunch swiss chard stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic clove peeled
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add Swiss chard stalks and cook until tender, about 15 mins. Drain well.
- Pulse the garlic in a food processor until chopped. Add the Swiss chard stalks and pulse until combined. Add tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and salt processing until mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil before serving.
Tangy Mustard Vinaigrette
- 3 tbs red wine vinegar (try experimenting with other vinegars or lemon juice as well)
- 2 tbs of whole grain or dijon mustard
- 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tbs fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or dill, chopped (optional)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium jar, combine vinegar, mustard, shallot and herbs. Cover and shake until smooth. Slowly add olive oil, stirring until combined. Season with salt and pepper and shake vinaigrette until blended.