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posted: 6/25/2014 5:45 AM

Lean and lovin' it: CSA puts fresh surprise in every box

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  • Cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips make this zucchini bread doubly satisfying.

    Cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips make this zucchini bread doubly satisfying.
    Courtesy of Don Mauer


Right now I have eight medium-to-large zucchini in my refrigerator just waiting for me to decide their ultimate fate. Why? I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) this spring.

Unfamiliar with CSAs? You pay a local farmer to deliver a portion of his crops for the entire growing season (roughly 23 weeks). A whole bunch of folks pay in advance and the farmer is guaranteed a market for his produce. Prices vary from farm to farm, but my CSA cost $630 for a big box (4-6 people) and $435 for a small box (1-3 people).

Some of my office mates worked it out with the farmer to get deliveries at work each week -- quite convenient! Most other CSAs deliver to a central pickup spot where members go to pickup their box.

My local CSA was once a certified organic grower supplying local Whole Foods stores. After considering the expense and record keeping required to maintain organic certification, the farmer decided to sell his noncertified, but still grown by the same methods, produce direct to customers through a CSA.

My first box contained two pints of strawberries, one pound of spinach, one head of lettuce, one bunch of kale, one bundle of asparagus, one bunch of radishes and one small bag of salad mix. The following week was similar except five zucchini appeared. The next week there were five more zucchini.

I've also gotten two beautiful cauliflower heads, the freshest broccoli I've ever had (looked like it was picked that day) and a large fennel head (from which I'll make fennel slaw). Yummmmmmm.

Opening up my CSA box a feel like a chef on the Food Network's "Chopped," where four chefs open a black box to see what ingredients hide inside and then have 20-some minutes to make something using all those ingredients. It's fun.

In the past few weeks I've created salads, roasted veggies and created a tasty summer delight -- thinly sliced radishes and a smear of sweet butter on whole grain bread with a light sprinkle of salt.

The strawberries were everything a strawberry should be, deeply red, no white core, with a big strawberry flavor. My partner, Nannette, turned those into sensational strawberry freezer jam. Lucky me!

When it came to the zucchini I was glad I had smaller squash on my box. I remember Grandmother Mauer overcooking huge, overmatured zucchini until it ended up as a stringy, mushy mess with tough seeds. Today I cook zucchini quickly so it's not mushy and the skin still looks bright green. Zucchini has a light flavor profile and plays well with other vegetables. Plus, one cup of sliced zucchini delivers a mere 19 calories.

Here's a recipe to help use up some of the seasonal abundance that might be filling your refrigerator as it is mine. If you like chocolate, you're gonna love this quick bread. Give it a try.

Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at

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