Our new(ish) membership in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) means that each week we get a box of produce delivered to our door every week. As much as I love to cook and thought I would dive into that box each week with abandon, I find myself struggling with a common challenge that many other CSA-supporters mention: how to be creative with unexpected ingredients.
Ingredients that are native to Southeast Asia (but rare or unheard of in my native North America) are particularly challenging.
Like these moonflowers – any ideas on how to cook these pretty little guys?
The great thing about a CSA is getting to try new things.
For just about everything (except for the fruit and greens), the easiest answer is roasting. I fire up the oven to 450 degrees F, chop everything into evenly-sized pieces and put them in the oven. Just about everything comes out tender, caramelized, and delicious by itself or, as in the recipe below, tossed in a sweet combination of balsamic vinegar and a bit of honey.
It is not terribly common for apartments in Bangkok to have ovens. When we moved here, I figured I would take whatever we got – oven or not.
Now, two years in, I’m not sure what I would do without one. Sure, wok cooking makes a lot of sense in this hot climate, but it was not the answer I was looking for when it came to experimenting with these sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) that came in the CSA box last weekend.
The arrived crusted in dirt and looking a bit gnarly (they remind me of ginger root), but armed with a pre-heated oven and a bunch of other vegetables, I knew just what to do with them. Hello, flavor. Sunchokes are slightly sweet, more firm than a potato, but somehow reminiscent of those other similarly dirt-dwelling starches. If you have never tried sunchokes, I highly recommend them, but this recipe would work well with just about any vegetable.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp. honey
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2½ pounds assorted vegetables, cut into ½ inch cubes or rounds (I used butternut squash, carrots, and sunchokes but sweet potatoes, zucchini, squash, eggplant or mushrooms would be great)
- 1 red onion, chopped
- salt and pepper
- Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and mustard in a small jar with a lid and shake to combine. (Dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Just shake well before using.)
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Toss vegetables and onion in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add dressing; toss to coat. Divide between 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Roast until vegetables are tender and slightly brown around edges,stirring every 15 minutes to brown all sides, about 40 minutes.
Thank you, CSA. And thank you, oven.