This Week's CSA Box: Satisfying Salads, Hold the Lettuce

On Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a common complaint about eating healthfully was that people didn't want to eat “rabbit food” all the time. But, as Oliver demonstrated on the series, there's more to eating well than munching on lettuce and carrots. So with the ingredients from this week's CSA (community supported agriculture) box, I will showcase salads made without lettuce.

While lettuce is a perfectly good base for a salad, it's not a requirement. The key to any good salad, I think, is a balance of color, texture (crunchy/chewy, hard/soft) and flavor (sour, sweet, savory). This week's CSA box from Foxtail Farm included green beans, broccoli, sugar-snap peas, beets, strawberries, and a zucchini. Since I have a half-box share, I could either take a head of cabbage or a bag of salad mix. I chose the cabbage and challenged myself to a week of lettuce-free salads. 


Using Beets

To begin, I consulted one of my favorite resources, Mark Bittman's New York Times Minimalist column “101 Simple Salads for the Season” for tips on how to use the beets.


#31: Roast beets whole (or buy them pre-cooked), then slice or cube and toss with a little chopped garlic (or a lot of roasted garlic), toasted walnuts, orange juice and olive oil.

Bittman's directions are intentionally loose, which encourages fiddling around with what's on hand. Here's the recipe I came up with based on his:


Roasted Beet Salad

1 bunch beets, greens removed

1 head garlic

olive oil

¼ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon of orange juice


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place beets and garlic on foil, drizzle with olive oil, and roast till soft, 45 minutes to an hour. Once cool, peel and slice the beets, and squeeze the roasted garlic from the cloves. Place in bowl and mix with walnuts. Pour olive oil and orange juice over; toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve alone, or atop greens, rice, quinoa or couscous.


Using Cabbage

I consulted Bittman again when I wanted to use the cabbage: 

#35: Combine cooked or canned black beans with shredded cabbage and this vinaigrette: olive oil, fresh orange juice, not much sherry vinegar, ground cumin.

Black Bean Chopped Cabbage Salad

½ head of green cabbage, chopped fine

1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon orange juice

½ teaspoon sherry vinegar

pinch cumin

pinch sugar

salt and pepper to taste


Combine chopped cabbage and black beans in large bowl. Mix remaining ingredients for dressing, then toss with cabbage and beans.


I found this a little bland. With the leftovers, I added ¼ cup of buttermilk, 1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds, and 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds to liven things up. It was better, but still not great. If I make this again, I'll add another ingredient, like shredded carrots, and use a tangier dressing, like this one from Smitten Kitchen's Broccoli Slaw:

½ cup buttermilk

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon sugar


Using Zucchini

For the zucchini, I referred to Bittman's salad #101:


Cook a pot of short-grain rice. While it's still hot, toss with raw grated zucchini, fermented black beans, sriracha, sesame oil, sake and a touch of rice vinegar. Add bits of leftover roast chicken or pork if you have it and pass soy sauce at the table.

Or you can try this:

Pan-Fried Tofu with Zucchini and Black Bean Rice Salad

1 cup short-grain brown rice

1 block water-packed extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, cut into 4 to 8 slabs

1 zucchini, grated

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (we tried the fermented beans once, and weren't fans)

4 Tablespoons sesame oil

1 Tablespoon mirin or sake

¼ teaspoon Sriracha sauce

½ teaspoon rice vinegar

pinch salt


Cook rice according to directions. Meanwhile, pan fry the tofu in a small amount of oil, about five minutes per side, then drain on paper towels. When rice is done, combine with zucchini and beans. Mix remaining ingredients for dressing; toss with rice mixture. Top each serving with tofu slices. 


Using Green Beans

Finally, with the green beans, I consulted Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking. As she says in the notes for the recipe:


Sometimes, all you need to do to breathe new life into your relationship with an overly used vegetable is to come up with a new way to cut it.

Shredded Green Beans with Lemon-Lime Zest and Snipped Chives
(serves four)

¾ pound green and/or yellow beans, tops and tails trimmed

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter

2 Tablespoons water

Grated zest of 1 large lemon

Grated zest of 1 lime

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

Fine-grain seal salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Slice the beans on a diagonal into roughly 1/8-inch pieces. If you are using a food processor, do them a handful at a time. Either way, the result should be tiny, angular zeroes.


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beans and stir until coated with oil, then add the water. Cover and cook 2 or 3 minutes, until the beans are brightly colored and tender; give the pan a good shake midway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from the heat and stir in the zests and half of the chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with the remaining chives.


You can serve it alone, as a side dish, or atop rice, quinoa or couscous.


The next time you open your CSA box, you'll likely find some lettuce, which will make some lovely salads. But remember, you can combine the rest of the items in surprising ways to make main-dish salads that satisfy.


Kristin J. Boldon lives in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband and two sons. She grew up in Central Ohio, but moved to Minnesota in 1998 from the east coast. (We're glad she stayed!) Kristin has a B.S. in Business from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Religion from Temple. In her so-called spare time, she cooks, bakes, practices yoga, reads, and writes for the Eastside Food Cooperative's newsletter on health and wellness, and for her own blog Girl Detective. Her last post for Simple Good and Tasty was "Kristin Boldon Helps You Get the Most from Your CSA Box."