"Life is like a box of CSA vegetables..."
Forrest Gump had it half right, life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you're going to get. But you can't do much with chocolates except eat them and hope you don't bite into the weird strawberry creme filled one.
CSA vegetables on the other hand...well you never know what you're going to get AND once you get them, you have to figure out what to do with them! Just like life, you've got to make the most out of what you've got. That is perhaps what I love most about CSAs and farmers market shopping- it gives you the chance to get the best, seasonal vegetables and then use your creativity to come up with something delicious.
That was the idea behind the cooking challenge at the lllinois Stewardship Alliance Annual Meeting earlier this December. We broke 15 participants into three teams and handed them a basket full of four mystery ingredients. Their job was to use all four of the ingredients to create the best dish possible. Those ingredients were sweet potatoes and spinach from Veenstra's Vegetables, goat cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, and eggs from Willow City Farm. They also had a limited number of tools and a small pantry of spices and varying other staple ingredients at their disposal.
What they came up with was amazing! Sweet potato burgers, sauteed spinach, poached eggs, and quick-pickled veggies all made an appearance in the various dishes, but the winning dish, by a very close popular vote, was Sweet Potato Pizza with Spinach Pesto, Goat Cheese, and a Fried Egg. And that's the recipe we're sharing with you today.
The term "recipe" here is pretty loose. Often times when you're given an odd combination of ingredients you won't have a recipe that fits it perfectly; our competitors certainly didn't. Therefore, the "recipe" below is not an exact replication of the winning dish, just a close approximation. But of course, you're encouraged to make your own changes and add your own personal touch! There might not be any chocolate in it, but we think Forrest Gump would approve.
1 sweet potato
1 red onion
1 bag of spinach
6 oz of goat cheese
4 slices of Na'an flatbread (or pre-baked pizza crust)
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil plus more for sauteeing
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup dried canberries
1. Peel and slice the potatoes and onions and toss them into a large skillet with a little olive oil to cook and caramelize over medium heat. Potatoes are done when a fork can pierce them easily.
2. Prepare the spinach pesto by tossing the spinach, 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic cloves, lemon and a dash of salt and pepper into a food processor. Add more olive oil as needed.
3. Remove the potatoes from the skillet and set aside. Add a little extra olive oil to the skillet and fry the eggs, seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from the skillet when done.
4. Add the flatbread to the skillet and toast until warmed through.
5. Assemble the pizzas by smearing each flatbread with the pesto, layering on the sweet potatoes and onions, adding several dollops of goat cheese, and topping with the fried egg and a sprinkling of cranberries.
They started off with just four local ingredients that you can find in Illinois in December.
They chopped, they stirred, they diced, and they spiced up their dished with a few pantry ingredients.
The result were smiles all around....
Oh, and some seriously delicious eats.
The next time life or your CSA, throws something crazy at you, don't be afraid to think outside the box of chocolates.