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CSA Psolet Challenge: Week Three

In my earlier CSA Psolet Challenge posts, I committed myself to trying new recipes—specifically pesto—as part of my effort to be waste-free this month. My relationship to all this pesto-making turned out to be a mixed bag: I enjoyed eating pesto on pasta. I enjoyed creating a simple yet elevated dinner by spreading pesto on a baked potato. I enjoyed watching my one year old son smear pesto all over his face. What I did not enjoy was making the pesto. In my tiny Manhattan kitchen, none of the lovely kitchen appliances that occupied the extensive countertop in my Brooklyn apartment are anywhere within reach—so I grab the very useful Magic Bullet mini blender whenever I want to make a smoothie or some hummus. But sadly, the Magic Bullet was not particularly effective at making pesto, and blending the basil leaves and walnut to the right consistency became a very time consuming endeavor.

So when another bunch of basil arrived in this week’s CSA share, I opted for another route—several, in fact. Here are four ways to use your next basil harvest, with nary a pesto in sight.

Parmesan Basil Crisps

There are two ways to make these lovely crisps, which you can use as a garnish for a soup or a bowl of dip, or just eat on their own as a salty snack: baking or frying. The baking takes less active attention, but the crisps came out a little more delicate and attractive when I fried them.

Mix 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese with 2 teaspoons shredded basil.
To bake: Spread small discs of the mixture on a baking sheet (either greased or lined with non-stick baking paper) and bake at 400F until the cheese is melted and flat, about 7-10 minutes. (Check periodically to make sure that the cheese does not burn.)
To fry: heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and create small discs of the mixture around the pan. After about 2 minutes, use tongs to turn the discs over after and let cook on the other side for another minute or two, taking care not to let the cheese burn.
Makes about 8 crisps

Basil Oil

Blanch one cup of basil leaves in boiling water, then dry.
Blend in a food processor or blender with 1 cup olive oil until smooth (for some reason my Magic Bullet did fine with just the basil leaves and oil)
Strain the oil through a piece of cheesecloth that you have secured fastened around a cup or the mouth of a jar (use a rubber band or just hold firmly).

Keeps in the fridge for about 3 weeks, and is delicious as the oil for a salad dressing, or drizzled over really fresh tomatoes with a little salt.

Psolet elimination bonus: the basil leaf mush that remains after you’ve strained the oil can be added to a salad or rubbed on a piece of fish.

Thai Basil Eggplant
Adapted from Vegetarian Times

This was delicious and quick to make. And bonus for me this week: I used the eggplant that had arrived in the CSA share!

Serves 2-3

1 large or 2 small eggplants (or 4 baby eggplants), cubed
1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 onion, diced
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup shredded basil leaves
2 tbs olive oil crushed red pepper, to taste
2 tbs white vinegar
3 tbs dark brown soy sauce
2 tbs dark brown sugar

Heat olive oil over med-high heat in a wok or deep skillet. Add the crush red pepper and let it infuse the oil, taking care not to let it burn (about 15 seconds). Add the eggplant and stir fry for 5-7 minutes. You may need to add in more oil while cooking the eggplant—I found that it soaked up a lot of the oil and the pan started to smolder.

Add the onion, strips of pepper, and garlic, and stir fry for another 3 minutes. Add vinegar, soy sauce and sugar, and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the basil

Serve over jasmine rice.

Basil roasted tomatoes

This a great recipe for tomatoes that are just slightly past their prime and better served cooked than raw. You can make this with as many or as few tomatoes as you have on hand.

Halve tomatoes and rub the cut sides with a little olive oil. Spread 1-2 basil leaves over each cut side, and place on a baking tray. Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes, until soft but not mushy.

I did pretty well with the rest of my CSA share: most of the lettuce was used in a salad, along with a fennel. I made a Swiss chard goat cheese quiche, which turned out to be a great way to get my son to eat Swiss chard! And the large bunch of red onions were roasted in the oven in an olive oil/balsamic vinegar/honey dressing until soft, about 30 minutes. Perfect way to use up a big batch of onions!

What got tossed this week:
o The green tops to the onions. They were too rough and fibrous to eat raw, and I couldn’t figure out a good way to cook them.
o Some of the lettuce. Still my biggest CSA challenge!
o The fennel fronds. I have yet to find something to do with all those fronds—while I added some to the salad, there were just to many to eat.

Still, a good week, especially considering how much I did with the basil. Heading into my final week of the challenge, I am feeling pretty good!

Shuli Passow started her relationship with CSA’s in 2004 when she joined Hazon’s first CSA at Anshe Chesed, and is now a member of Hazorim, a Hazon CSA at B’nai Jeshurun. When she’s not cooking locally grown vegetables, Shuli keeps busy as a fourth year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary and rabbinic intern at New York University. A former Hazon board member, Shuli has worked as a Jewish educator and communal professional for nearly 15 years.

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