The tournament is on! The contenders? You versus Harvest Season, in a game of you trying to cook and eat up CSA veggies, garden veggies, or veggies that looked too good not to pick up at the farmers market before the next batch swarms into your kitchen. Because it’s summer, and that means everything looks good, and is plentiful (and relatively cheap). So it’s easy to have too much of a good food during summer harvest season.
This match can either be an exhilarating thrill or an exhausting headache, depending on your mood. The outcome of losing—that is, not using up your veggies—is that you’ve just wasted your money, time and energy, and are a shameful contributor to food waste in the home. And as with tennis players, it’s not just one match, but a relentless, months-long tournament of trying and cooking and eating before you get eaten up by the green monster pile of rotten vegetables that they will turn into (okay that doesn’t happen but it’s not a good feeling).
Joining a CSA has been the instigation of many peoples’ summer tournaments, but I’d also like to think that it’s the creator of many dishes that you’d never thought to make before. And not just recipes, but overall techniques and coping strategies that we can apply to all sorts of cooking anytime, anywhere. I was relating how I’d used up a bunch of green things from my CSA to a friend recently, and how I merely quick-boiled a bunch of scallions and garlic scapes with some peas and leafy greens and blended it all into a “green puree” that became a pasta sauce. (I’ve also plopped a ball of burrato into this dish of green-sauced pasta and would highly recommended that flourish—or just a heaping of grated parmiggiano-reggiano like I’ve done here.)
She said, I think I’m going to try that tonight. She was also in the weeds of too many greens from her CSA.
So if everything you have is green—contrary to what Kermit sang—it can be pretty easy. Green is, after all, the color of superfoods galore, from spinach and parsley to broccoli and kale. And in spring and early summer, it’s the tone of a lot of alliums, like ramps, chives, scallions, garlic scapes and young, bulbous spring onions with healthy green shoots. And green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree (and like Kermit).
Especially in the early summer and spring, we can have too many greens—let’s embrace that and make a monochrome sauce with it. It won’t be too long before tomatoes, eggplants, corn and fruit take center-stage. You can still create a well-balanced flavor in a sauce with them, and you can add a number of different green things to it. This sauce is purposefully called a vague “green puree” because you should use whatever green things you have in it. If you don’t have garlic scapes, just add a clove or two or garlic. If you have chives or ramps instead of scallions, add those. If you have spinach, kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens or radish greens instead of carrot greens (which I did, randomly), use those. And ANY fresh herbs can be added here—parsley, dill, mint, oregano, chervil, you name it.
Got peas? The first time I made this sauce, I boiled and blended them up into the sauce. It created a slightly sweeter taste, lighter color, and thicker, protein-rich texture, sort of like Nickelodeon slime (I write that in fondness—hey, I’m a Xennial). Or, like the second time I made this, you can leave them separate from the sauce, to sprinkle throughout the finished pasta dish. Frozen peas or just-shelled English peas from your farmers’ market or CSA both work fine here. If you’re like me and are accustomed to frozen peas year-round, then the fresh kind in the pod is such a rare joy both to shell and to eat that you’ll probably not want to mash them up in the sauce here—unless you have way too many, which can happen also.
So eat your greens—whatever hodgepodge they may be. If you’re gardening, CSA-ing, or foraging at farmstands, they’re bound to be good.
Paccheri Pasta with Green Puree and Peas
(makes 3-4 servings)
5-6 curly garlic scapes (or substitute with 2 cloves garlic)
5-6 scallions, both green and white parts, trimmed of ends
1 cup packed leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or carrot greens, trimmed of their stems
2 cups shelled peas (frozen or fresh)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb shaped pasta, such as paccheri seen here
1 cup grated parmiggiano-reggiano
Coarsely chop the garlic scapes, scallions, and greens. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the garlic scapes and 1 cup of the peas first; let boil for 30 seconds, then add the scallions and leafy greens (if using fresh herbs, skip this boiling step). Let boil for about 1 minute, then drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Let the mixture cool before transferring to a blender or food processor. Blend mixture, adding 1/2 cup of water initially, and using the remaining water to thin out the sauce to your preference. Blend the mixture very well, until there are almost no chunks. Mix in the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Add the remaining peas in the last 2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of its cooking liquid. Toss the cooked pasta and peas with the sauce in a large pot and add the reserved pasta cooking water if desired to create a thinner consistency. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper. Stir in about half the grated cheese, or more, if you like, and serve with extra on top of each plate.
(for 3-4 servings)
1 bunch garlic scapes (from CSA): $3.00
1 bunch scallions (from CSA): $3.00
green tops from 1 bunch of carrots: $1.00
2 cups peas (from CSA): $4.00
1 lb pasta: 4.00
2 tablespoons olive oil: $0.25
1 cup grated parmiggiano: $2.00
Four brownie points: Boiling and blending up greens is a great way to eat a lot of them in one sitting—giving you phytonutrients and Vitamin K galore. And thanks to the quick boiling, you’ll be getting rid of any toxins and aiding digestion, unlike with your fresh, raw green smoothies. You can butter up this pasta dish and make it sinfully rich with the addition of cream, butter, or more cheese if you like, or leave it out and just stick with olive oil for a totally plant-based meal.
Eight maple points: Not only are you using up a lot of veggies that might otherwise go bad, but this is a great opportunity to use greens that you might otherwise not eat, period. Like carrot greens, radish greens, or more coarse, unrefined stuff that really benefits from being cooked and blended up. Ugly, wilty-looking greens are perfectly good to go here as well.