Last week, I was lucky enough to be given a box of produce as part of The Oxbow Box Project. Oxbow is an organic farm and education center here in Washington state, and I am thrilled to be able to help get the word out about them.
The box of produce I got was from Oxbow’s CSA program. For those who may not be familiar, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and essentially means that you – as an individual or family – buy a share in the harvest of a particular farm. Once you’ve signed up for a share you receive a box at regular intervals containing produce that is currently being harvested at the farm. It is a wonderful way to eat seasonally, and to learn about fruits and vegetables you’ve never used in your cooking before.
My first experience with a CSA box was several years ago when I was living in DC and had decided to go vegan. Once I made that decision, I quickly realized that much (MUCH) of my regular diet did not fit the restrictions of a vegan diet, and that if I was going to do this thing and still be healthy, I needed to eat more vegetables. Lots more vegetables.
So, I signed up for a CSA as a way to force myself to do just that. Sure, I could have not eaten the produce and let it go bad in the fridge, but the combination of being a semi-impoverished early twenty-something and having an aversion to wasting food basically guaranteed that I would eat all the dang vegetables come hell or high water.
This period of enforced vegetable eating led to a much more veggie-focused diet that I have happily maintained, even though I am not vegan anymore. I decided to treat this CSA box the way I treated my boxes back then – as my week’s allotment of produce, the challenge of which is to make it last the week without letting anything go to waste.
This can be a really fun challenge…at least if you have a good attitude about it and like to cook. It can also be stressful if you just want something you know you can turn into dinner. To get myself into the right mood, I like to pretend like I am on Chopped or Iron Chef America!
Ahem, anyways… This is what I found when I opened my Oxbow box:
A pretty good haul, right?! And only a few things that I don’t generally use (whew!) The carrots and tomato I used in salads throughout the week, and the apples I happily just munched on for breakfast or a snack. The broccoli I roasted one night – my favorite way to eat broccoli – and the potatoes I used in this DELICIOUS potato and green bean salad from The Garden of Eating.
All of that was easy enough, because they were vegetables and fruits that I use on a regular basis. By the middle of the week I had to start getting creative. (I mean, what are Brussels sprouts tops anyways?)
My bible when I need to cook with an unfamiliar vegetable – or even want to try something new with a familiar one – is the book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. Not only does it contain hundreds of mouth-watering vegetarian recipes, it also devotes a page or two to explaining each vegetable, enumerating cooking techniques that can be used with it, and listing flavors that go well with it. It is a life-saver.
Using this treasured tome as a guide, one night I prepared the Romano beans topped with a spicy, bright olive tapenade sauce. Another night I created a variation of this quinoa dish with pickled radishes, using the radishes, radish greens, and lemon cucumbers.
But those Brussels sprouts tops were still staring me in the face whenever I opened the fridge. I returned to Madison for inspiration, and this time really made use of her complimentary flavors lists to figure out what could potentially go well with the Brussels tops. After ruminating on that list, it struck me to create a riff on this favorite pizza I told you about a few weeks ago.
Let me tell you people, I am really happy I made this pizza. It is crazy good. A little weird? Yes. But so, so good. Here it is…stay with me here: shredded Brussels tops and spinach cooked with onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes, fresh mozzarella, and capers, topped with parsley and lemon juice. It’s creamy, it’s spicy, it’s tangy and a little salty, and it has that lovely roasty-toasty taste of roasted Brussels sprouts.
A traditional pizza it is not, but I will be making it again. The best part is that it turned Brussels tops, a vegetable (rather, part of a vegetable) I’d never heard of or used, into my new best friend. That’s the beauty of a CSA. Thank you Oxbow, for giving me the chance to cook with these wonderful ingredients!
Spicy Brussels Tops Pizza with Capers and Parsley
In order to shred the Brussels sprouts tops I ran them through the slicing blade of my food processor. The grating blade made the shreds way too small, but the slicing blade did the trick. Admittedly, Brussels sprouts tops are not an incredibly common ingredient. But, you could easily use actual Brussels sprouts in the same way and I think it would taste very similar – and similarly delicious.
- half of this pizza crust (I left the honey out this time and it worked well for this pizza)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- one small onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups shredded Brussels sprouts tops
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
- 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Sauté onion over medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the shredded Brussels tops, spinach, salt, and red pepper flakes, and sauté until the Brussels tops are tender (5-10 minutes).
While that is cooking, roll out the pizza dough into a 12- to 14-inch disk and transfer to pizza pan or stone. Lightly brush the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge dry.
Evenly sprinkle the cheese on the oiled dough. When the greens are done, spread them over the cheese, then top with the capers.
Put the pizza in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is brown and crisp.
Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with parsley and lemon juice. Slice and serve.