The birds are signing outside my window as I type this blog post, drawing my attention away from my computer and outside into the cool afternoon. Soon I'll be packing up the car and heading out for a backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail on the Lake Superior shoreline in northeastern Minnesota. Soon I'll be climbing up the ridgeline surrounded by birch and aspen, then descending into the canyons of the powerful rivers that run into the lake.
For me, this time with nature is an important way to slow down, reprioritize, and take sense of my place in this world. Studies have shown again and again that walking outdoors has a positive effect on our physical and psychological wellbeing. Personally, spending time in the wilderness has a powerful calming effect on me, but it's not the only way I've found to reconnect with nature.
As Tony has so eloquently expressed in this week's newsletter, spending a day in the gardens at Scotch Hill, watching the transformation of land and crop through hand labor is another. Returning throughout the season provides a strong sense of the seasons, the natural cycles of growth and dormancy, and our place in it all. If you can, spend a day on the farm before summer sets in fully; see what it's like now, contribute your energy to its growth, and visit again to witness the transformation.
Highlights from Last Week
This past week as been a rather busy one, so I don't have many photos to show here. Most of our share items found their way into salads or sauteed as sides to different meals. For dinner one night this week, we made an entree salad using the lettuce, radishes, peas, kohlrabi, and garlic scapes. I added some chickpeas and feta cheese to bulk up the protein and fat a little and drizzled the whole bowl with a honey mustard vinaigrette I whipped up on the spot.
Last Thursday we made the recipe I shared for chicken piccata with sauteed chard and it turned out quite nicely. Meals like that are a simple way to work in a protein with a CSA item in an exciting way.
Snow & snap peas
Like everything on The First Mess, this pea salad is beautiful, if a touch aspirational for a weeknight meal. Actually, I think this is a great example of a recipe you can learn a lot from, even if you don't execute it after work on a Thursday night. If you're feeling like donning your gourmand hat and don't mind juggling multiple preparations, then this would be a great recipe to show off your chops. Otherwise, I think the broad idea and flavor combinations are still a great takeaway from this recipe. I love the idea of using both types of peas together like this and preparing them in different ways, some sliced, some shelled (though I might just use some thawed frozen peas to get the effect of the shelled peas) and a vegan creamy dill dressing. Since there's so little involved in preparing them, I might also borrow this idea for "acidulated shallots" next time I want to add a little bite to a salad.
Another idea for turning snap or snow peas into an entree is this recipe by Deborah Madison for peas with baked ricotta and breadcrumbs. It's written with shelled peas in mind, but I imagine if you sliced the pea pods into bite-sized pieces (say, about as wide as a single pea?), it would work quite nicely with these as well.
Our snow and snap peas would make excellent sides as well. Consider this snow peas with tarragon recipe (or, better yet, use this week's bit of basil and some garlic scapes in place of the tarragon) or snow peas with sesame seeds.
Toss your radishes and sliced peas into this millet and pea salad with grapefruit-mint dressing for a springy grain bowl or add some of this weeks' lettuce to the meal with this spring greens with radish and toasted millet.
What a lovely addition to our shares this week! A beautiful leafy salad would be the obvious choice for the nasturtiums, arugula, and basil in this week's share. Mixed with some radishes and this week's lettuce mix, these peppery flowers and herbs would make a quintessential spring salad. I'd add a light lemony dressing and serve a salad like this alongside some radish top soup or sliced baguette. Nasturtiums, arugula, and basil are also natural matches for toasts spread with creamy goat cheese, as Dela's Facebook post showed us yesterday.