The Crisper Whisperer: How to Use Up Your Misfit Vegetables

You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing the abundance of fruits and vegetables you might get from your CSA or the market. —The Mgmt.

[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

There's a lot of talk around here about what to do when your crisper is overflowing with leafy greens and when perfectly soft, ripe peaches are threatening to overrun every inch of your counter top. That kind of talk is all well and good when you need it, but it's a little like those personal advice columns about how to multitask your way to a successful overfull life. It speaks only to the fortunate. It pretends not to hear the rising din of the less-well endowed—those with poorly managed CSAs and reproductively challenged patio gardens.

There are plenty of you out there, so don't be bashful, please. Come on out of the shadows and talk about it. Bring your two radishes, your lone Japanese eggplant, your brown cilantro plant that bolted at the beginning of June. (Actually, I've got that one covered.) Get to chatting. Maybe think about forming a union at some point down the road.

And while you're ironing out the details, pool your resources and make a grain salad. What follows is more of a flexible formula than a recipe. All it requires is your dribs and drabs and about half an hour to produce a wide variety of nutritious complete meals or side dishes for your summer table.

Dribs and Drabs Grain Salad

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in New Jersey.

The Crisper Whisperer: How to Use Up Your Misfit Vegetables

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About This Recipe

Yield:4 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of dry grains, such as wheat berries, farro, brown or wild rice, quinoa*, or couscous
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A few generous grinds of black pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • About 4 cups total of mixed vegetables
  • A big handful of mixed herbs, minced

Procedures

  1. 1

    First, choose your grain. Rinse it thoroughly under running water in a fine-mesh sieve, and then cook in boiling, well-salted water according to package directions. Drain if necessary.

  2. 2

    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk to blend well. Add the diced red onion.

  3. 3

    Choose, prepare, and add your vegetables. I know it's a leap of faith, but there are many good choices here and few not-so-good ones. You can opt for a combination of textures or a simpler approach. Good choices include:

    Steamed leafy greens such as kale, collards, chard, spinach and the like, drained well and cut into bite-sized pieces
    Grilled summer squash or eggplant
    Diced raw carrots, peppers, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, or radishes
    Winter squash or root vegetables, diced and roasted

  4. 4

    Choose and add your herbs. A mixture of two parts basil, two parts parsley and one part mint would work well with a wide variety of veggies.

  5. 5

    When the grains are cooked and still hot, add them to the bowl and toss to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

  6. 6

    *Quinoa is actually a seed, but it makes a great grain salad anyway.

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