Being creative with produce: orange tilapia filets with salad and quinoa

You may or may not know that Rawls, one of our esteemed contributors, is a huge proponent of Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSA’s) and of using organic and local produce. She is affiliated with Gaia’s Greens, a south-metro-Atlanta based CSA program and organic produce delivery service.

I live on the north side of town, and am unable to take advantage of their services, but Rawls was kind enough to point me to another similar group that offers the same type of service in my area.  So far, I am loving it!

I really look forward to the email that arrives on Saturday morning telling me what’s coming in my box on Tuesday.  I usually make a couple of exchanges, but try to always make sure we’re getting something new that we wouldn’t necessarily buy on our own. And when the box comes on Tuesdays? It’s like Christmas for food geeks!

One of the most fun parts of using this service is coming up with new and adventurous ways to use the produce from week to week.  Last week, I made a lasagna using sweet potatoes, swiss chard and zucchini.

We were out of town over the weekend, and I’ve had events in the evening for work the last few nights, so today I still had quite a bit of produce left from last week’s box that needed to be used:

1/2 head of red-leaf lettuce
1/2 a red onion
3 Valencia oranges
1 bunch of celery (which I still need to use)
2 pears (which I pureed and froze for baby food)

In this week’s box, I received:

4 red delicious apples
4 jazz apples
7 bananas
4 tangerines
1 head of cabbage
1 head of green-leaf lettuce
2 zucchini
2 avocados
2 slicing tomatoes
4 large shallots

I definitely knew that a salad was in our immediate future.  I chopped up the leaf-lettuce and sliced part of the red onion very thin.  I also shredded about a quarter of the cabbage I got in this week’s box very thin and chopped one of the slicing tomatoes.  I smashed up one of the avocados from this week’s box with some buttermilk and ranch dressing mix (I know, not the best way to make ranch, but I was in a hurry).  Oh, and I shredded some sharp cheddar cheese to sprinkle over the top (yum!).

For our protein, I had four tilapia filets in the freezer.  I let them thaw in cold water, then placed them in a ziploc bag with the juice of two Valencia oranges, 1/2 a teaspoon of chili powder and a clove of garlic.  I let this marinate for an hour or two in the fridge. When I was ready to cook them, I removed them from the marinade, placed them on a foil-lined baking sheet that I brushed with oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. I placed a small pat of butter in the center of each fillet and placed the whole pan under the broiler in my oven. I let them cook for 5-8 minutes until the flesh was opaque.

For the quinoa pilaf, I boiled two cups of quinoa in four cups of chicken stock until it was tender.  I added about half a can of quartered artichoke hearts (which I further chopped) and salt and pepper to taste.

Overall, the meal was a hit. Even the four-year-old ate some of everything. He loved the fish, like the quinoa and tolerated the salad (he doesn’t care for red-leaf lettuce, prefers baby spinach or green-leaf).

So, do you participate in a CSA program? If not, do you have a bunch of produce in your fridge or fruit basket that you need to use? What kinds of creative ways are you using produce in your kitchens?

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