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my first csa harvest basket

by Arlene Krasner

How can an adult woman get so excited about a basket of veggies?  I don’t know, but I am. This week I picked up my first CSA Harvest Basket at the Portland Farmers Market.

The Portland Farmers Market,  which is in the heart of the city and held on Saturdays at Portland State University (PSU), is huge. They have fresh veggies and fruits, but also baked goods (“Two Tarts,” a locally-owned bakery, is one of my favorites), fresh fish, meats, artisan cheeses, breads, flowers and ready-to-eat foods, not to mention live music and cooking demonstrations.

The Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area population is over two million people and boasts more than 30 Farmers markets.  These markets, in neighborhoods across the metro area, are open on various weekdays, Saturday and Sunday. I live 15 miles west of the downtown Portland city center and we have, in our small community alone, three Farmers markets: one on Tuesday, one each on Saturday and Sunday.

I arrived at the market mid-morning and it was buzzing. There were people everywhere, including a man dressed in kilts, riding a unicycle and playing the bagpipes. After making a quick stop at the “Two Tarts” (www.twotartsbakery.com) to pick up some cookies, I picked up my basket at the Sun Gold Farms booth.

My CSA basket was brimming with strawberries, rhubarb, kohlrabi, lettuce, pinto beans, and onion. Immediately, my mind started racing about what to make with all these fresh, bright vegetables and fruits.

I’ve never worked with kohlrabi before so I read up a bit and learned that it tastes like a cross between a radish and broccoli and that it is best eaten raw. I think it will make a great addition to my usual green salad (recipe follows).

The strawberries are as delicious as last week’s were so I decided to make a parfait, using the same mascarpone/whipped cream mixture.  In a wine glass, I’ll insert a layer of cream; add a layer of strawberries mixed with some sugar, then repeat, ending with a layer of cream.

The weather here in Portland is still not summer yet (summer in Portland starts after July 4, or so the local wisdom goes) so some cooked pinto beans will be welcome.  While living in Mexico, I picked up ranch-cook’s simple recipe for Mexican beans and I’ll make that (recipe follows).

This first basket is wonderful.  I received something new – kohlrabi – to try, as well as some favorites. This is going to be a foodie summer to remember.

My Favorite Salad

I’ve never had kohlrabi, but its taste is somewhere between radish and broccoli stems  so I thought it would be good addition to my usual salad. The amounts are all estimates, use more or less depending on your taste or what you have.

Lettuce, 2 cups
Arugula, 2 cups
½ cup Radish, thinly sliced
½ cup Kohlrabi, thinly sliced
½ cup Green onion, sliced
¼ cup Blue cheese, crumbled
¼ cup Croutons, preferable homemade (recipe follows)
Vinaigrette, preferably homemade

Rinse the lettuce and arugula to make sure there’s no sand. Tear the leaves into bite-size portions. Add radish, kohlrabi and green onions. Toss. Add blue cheese and croutons.

Dress with your favorite vinaigrette at the last minute.


When we lived in Mexico, I couldn’t get my favorite croutons which were made locally in Portland. So I made my own and I’ve continued to do so since we’ve been back. I usually buy a baguette; cut up some for crostini and some for croutons. It is best to use day-old bread.

½  large baguette, or 1 small baguette
Garlic powder
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cube the bread into approximately 1-inch cubes. Toss in bowl with enough olive oil to moisten. Add the salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Place seasoned cubes on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes, until golden.  Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Note:  If you want to be really decadent, sauté the cubes in butter in a skillet. Toss so that they are browned all over. Made this way, the croutons are fantastic in soups.

Mexican Style Beans

Every year, Mujeres en Cambio, a non-profit organization in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, that provides scholarships to rural girls, holds a fundraising lunch on a ranch. They always serve chicken mole, rice, and these beans. The recipe couldn’t be any simpler.

1 pound beans, preferably pinto
1 quart water
½ onion, chopped
Vegetable oil

Soak beans overnight. Place beans in a large saucepan. Add water and cook until very tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the some of the cooking liquid and the beans.

In a large skillet, heat oil over moderate heat and sauté onions until translucent. Add beans and cook until heated through. Place the bean/onion mixture in a blender and purée until smooth. Add some cooking liquid if too thick. Serve hot.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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