Joining a Community Supported Agriculture ("CSA") weekly farm share provides a healthy option for eating locally, seasonally, and sustainably. While not inexpensive, studies show that people who connect with farmers in their own communities and are exposed to locally harvested foods eat more vegetables and waste far less of their investment. Often, perishables purchased at the supermarket have been picked before their peak, or have traveled thousands of miles before they arrive in the home refrigerator. Veggies picked within a day or two of delivery are nutritionally more dense and by virtue of being local, have longer shelf life. CSA's do, however, present some easily overcome obstacles. Sometimes a particular crop is small and must be divided among all community members. For example, Siena Farm (a large CSA farm in Sudbury, Massachusetts) sent out just a few stalks of asparagus and a small bag of English peas, a handful of sorrel in addition to two full heads of salad greens, and other items. This salad shows just how far these smaller crops can be stretched and proves that a bit of creativity in the SALAD BOWL can produce a beautiful plate perfect for eating alone or at a gathering of friends or family. The avocado adds a touch of creaminess and protein while the semi dried tomatoes add color and balance the saltiness of the marinated feta and the golden balsamic gives just a hint of sweetness. Go ahead--support your local farmer and join a community of inspired growers and thinkers.
- Slice the feta block into 1/2" thick rectangles.
- Place 1/2 of the lemon thyme in the bottom of a glass dish that will hold the feta in a single layer. Sprinkle the thyme with half of the cracked black peppercorns and half of the preserved lemons, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- Place the feta in a single layer over the bottom layer of thyme, and top with the remaining thyme, cracked black pepper, preserved lemon and olive oil. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 24 hours.
- Fill a POT with water and bring to a boil. Add the string beans to the pan and blanch for 1 minute. Remove and shock the beans in an ice water bath to prevent further cooking and set the beautiful color. When cooled, remove, dry thoroughly and cut into 1.5" pieces. Reserve.
- Add the asparagus for 2 minutes (or until al dente with a definite crunch) to the same boiling water in which the beans were blanched. Remove the asparagus and shock in a cold water bath to prevent further cooking and preserve the brilliant color. When cool, gently dry on paper toweling and slice into 1.5" pieces. Reserve.
- Place the prepared greens in a SERVING BOWL. Add the green beans, asparagus pieces, English peas, and avocado.
- Top the salad with the semi dried tomatoes, a sprinkling of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Crumble the marinated feta over the salad (all may not be needed).
- Pass the golden balsamic vinegar and the olive oil at the table.
For the crispest results and greens that look as if they are ready to jump off the plate, rinse greens and soak for 2 minutes in cold water. Spin dry and the greens are ready for use. Do not be tempted to blanch the string beans or asparagus longer than recommended. The whole point is to maintain the crispy texture of the vegetables while encouraging the brightest, most vivid colors possible. This technique is known as big pot blanching--a large amount of water is used so that the vegetables do not cool the water too much when added to the boiling water. The less time vegetables spend in the water, the more their texture and nutrients are preserved. Jarred semi dried tomatoes packed in olive oil are a bit softer and more subtle than their sun dried counterparts. However, other than texture, they are both delicious.