CSA Merrimack Valley: Fresh Connections
Tender spring vegetables burst with fresh flavors. This is a great time of year for healthy local eating. As the farmers markets get going and the CSA baskets start arriving, be on the lookout for the peas and a variety of crunchy vegetables to pair with them.
In the last few years, avocado toast has grown in popularity among health-minded folks looking for a delicious snack or hearty meal. Using this as inspiration, we’ll swap out the avocado for delicious local spring peas and add a variety of fresh toppings. We’ll garnish the toast with tangy marinated goat cheese and herbaceous microgreens.
MIXED SPRING VEGETABLES ON SMASHED-PEAS TOAST
Start to finish: Overnight, with 1 hour of active cooking time
Servings: 9 appetizer portions or 3 dinner portions
1/2 pound radishes
1/2 pound baby turnips
1/2 pound asparagus
2 cups water
3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves
In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, spices and garlic to a boil. While the water comes to a boil, wash the vegetables thoroughly.
Cut the radishes and turnips into quarters, and peel or trim off the woody ends of the asparagus. Place each vegetable in its own container, such as a Mason jar or heat-proof bowl.
Once the water boils and the sugar and salt are dissolved, turn off the heat and let the pickling mixture cool to room temperature. You can speed this up by adding a few ice cubes. When the mixture is ready, divide it evenly across the three jars or bowls. Make sure the vegetables are all submerged by pushing them down. If you need a little more liquid to cover, simply add a little more water. Seal the jars, or cover your bowls, and set in the refrigerator overnight.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup fresh shelled green peas
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Fill a small saucepan with about 1 quart of water and add a tablespoon of salt. Bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the fresh peas and cook for 5 to 6 minutes until tender. Drain the peas and immediately place them in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, put them in a sturdy mixing bowl and get out the potato masher.
Add in the remaining ingredients — olive oil, yogurt, seasoning, and mint leaves — and process until combined. This will take about 10 to 12 pulses. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse an additional 2 or 3 times until fully combined into a consistent but chunky mixture.
MARINATED GOAT CHEESE
8 ounces goat cheese crumbles
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and toss gently.
Set aside to marinate for at least a half hour. You’ll get the best results if it sits overnight.
1 small loaf crusty fresh bread, such as baguette, sour dough, or ciabatta
1/2 cup microgreens (radish sprouts, sunflower shoots, or micro basil all work well)
Quick-pickled vegetables (see above)
Smashed peas (see above)
Marinated goat cheese
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Slice the loaf into 9 equal slices about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices on a cookie sheet and toast for 3 to 5 minutes.
Once the slices are cool to the touch, divide the smashed-pea mixture onto each slice and spread evenly. Top 3 slices with radish, 3 slices with turnip, and 3 slices with asparagus.
Spoon out approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of the goat cheese mixture on top of each slice and garnish with microgreens.
While working for Mill City Grows, Christopher Horne was a FoodCorps service member and taught gardening and cooking classes to Lowell students. In 2017, Christopher graduated from The Farm School’s learn-to-farm program and now runs a half-acre market garden business that offers a small CSA service. He sells his produce to local restaurants in the Merrimack Valley area. Learn more at HorneFarms.com
Marc Horne is a lifelong Lowell resident. He works as a community development professional, developing affordable housing in the Merrimack Valley for nonprofit organizations. Marc also assists his brother, Christopher, with farming operations at Horne Family Farms in any way he can. His personal interests are strongly centered on food and the natural environment, especially cooking family dinners with local agricultural products.