Tag Archives: CSA

The Veg Box Chronicles, Week 2

There was more kohlrabi this week.

I probably don’t despise this poor, water-chestnut-type tuber thing as much as I think I do, but I have been filled with commuter rage all week and whatever patience I once held to, tenuously, has long since been squeezed to nothingness in my clenched fists.

I chucked the kohlrabi into the compost bin, hard enough to knock it over.

And of course, the kitten went to town in her new playground of coffee grounds, broken eggshells, and disgusting vegetables that look like toy cat balls with legs.

Neither of those things happened, but imagining them made me laugh, so that’s something. And this week’s CSA share was something else:

  • 1 bok choi
  • 1 celtuce
  • 4 small cucumbers
  • 1 handful of garlic scapes
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 bunch of white radishes
  • 4 small zucchini
  • and, ugh, 2 kohlrabi

Tuesday night, he made a veggie-licious dinner. He grated all four of the zucchini into long, wide noodles, along with a pair of carrots from the crisper drawer, and tossed them with a spicy-sweet peanut sauce and white sesame seeds, then arranged them on a plate with a little quick-pickled cucumber along the side. For the protein, he laid a gorgeous piece of salmon on top, and topped it with another of the spring onions from last week’s share, which he split lengthwise; both were basted with Hoisin sauce.

After the dishes were washed, dried, and put away, we finished the last steps of a batch of particularly awesome Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. It’s a remarkably easy recipe for people who can stick to a schedule, which we can do very occasionally:

  1. Quarter 4 cups of strawberries. In a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl, combine them with 1 cup of finely chopped rhubarb and 2 cups of sugar, stirring well to distribute the sugar evenly. Cover the bowl and let sit, stirring occasionally.
  2. 8 hours later…
    Pour the mixed fruit into a pot and place it over medium-high heat until the liquid released by the fruit begins to boil. Stir in 1/4 cup of lemon juice and let the mixture return to a boil. At that point, set a timer for 5 minutes and stir continuously, adjusting the heat to keep the temperature high without allowing it to boil over. When the timer beeps, cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and let it sit.
  3. 24 hours later…
    Set the pot back on the stove over medium-high heat and bring it to a rolling boil. Set a timer for five minutes and stir continuously. When the timer beeps, ladle the jam into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

    Yield: 5 scant half-pint jars, if your husband sneaks some of the fruit out of the pot between boils, to make a dessert sauce.

Tonight’s dinner will be burritos (scratch that: burrito bowls, since the tortillas are past edible), made with last week’s lettuce; pulled-chicken and -pork leftovers from last night’s BBQ dinner out, combined with a few bites of skirt steak from earlier in the week; fresh avocado; and a salsa that’s about to be put together from two ears of roasted corn (nearly forgotten in the crisper), a roasted bell pepper, a roasted jalapeno pepper, the last spring onion, a small handful of chopped cherry tomatoes, and a small lime.

We haven’t figured out what to do with the rest of our haul yet, but I’ll share it when we do. In the meantime, our cost breakdown:

  • Amortized weekly cost of CSA = $53
  • Additional produce purchased = $7.14
    • Avocado (1, $1.49)
    • Green Bell Pepper (0.58 lbs, $1.15)
    • Jalapeno (0.10 lbs, $0.35)
    • Lime (1, $0.15)
    • Strawberries (2 pounds, $4.00)

By the way, it turns out he likes the bok choi after all–at least when it’s been sauteed with a little olive oil and a bit more of the Hoisin sauce, and tossed with a little leftover rice, and maybe a little leftover turkey. We still haven’t figured out what to do with kohlrabi, but bok choi definitely gets a star at lunchtime.

Edit

The Veg Box Chronicles, Week 1

In September 2014, two months after I first moved from the City House to the Country House, we passed our pick-up-in-Manhattan-every-Thursday CSA share to friends who lived uptown, rather than cope with the steeplechase of office-in-midtown to pick-up-spot-on-the-UWS to train-station-in-East-Harlem to Country-House-in-Connecticut. I’ve been looking for a replacement ever since, but suburban CT assumes that tasks like Farmer’s Market shopping and CSA collection happen Monday through Friday during the workday. Not so much for us commuter-types, alas.

Luckily for us, an enterprising little business realized that the gap was an opportunity, and we discovered a CSA program with a weekly home delivery of fruits and vegetables, with a significant advantage over the other: no obligation to volunteer at the pick-up point. (I like community, and I like volunteering, but I prefer to be able to control the scheduling of mandatory hours.)

Anyway, back to our CSA. This past Tuesday was our first delivery day, and wow, am I loving having such a fabulous early haul to celebrate. In the first box, we received:

  • A bunch of spring onions
  • A bunch of green garlic (with scapes!)
  • A bunch of French radishes
  • A bunch of kale
  • An enormous pile of greens that he thought were maple leaves; they are, it turns out, a variety of spinach
  • Two gorgeous heads of green leaf lettuce
  • Two small bok choi
  • A big fistful of chives
  • Two small kohlrabi

That’s a lot of green for two non-vegetarian people to eat in a week, but we’re making the best of every delicious bite.

The chives were finely chopped into a rich creamy bowl of butter, which was whipped until all of the herb was incorporated, then wrapped in cling film and rolled into a tight cylinder, and chilled through in the fridge. Amazing on fresh bread, but even better when used to butter-baste a steak.

Garlic scapes and spinach were combined with Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and herb- infused olive oil to make a smooth, fragrant, and super fresh-tasting pesto. It will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge, and we’ll use it as a thickener and flavor agent in sauces and dressings, as well as a sandwich spread.

The green garlic and kale went into pasta dishes – separately.

Much of the garlic’s stem was too woody to be used, but we sliced the bulb very finely, and sauteed it with some tiny, tender asparagus tips in olive oil, salt, and fresh pepper. The mess was then covered in petite-diced tomato and a fistful of fresh oregano cut from the garden, and the flavors melded over low heat while the pasta cooked. We tossed the sauce with fettuccine and parmesan, and ate it by the forkful (on Thursday) while watching an episode of Guy’s Grocery Games on Hulu.

On Saturday, we cooked the remainder of that fettuccine, and served it with the Kale, which was tossed with a chicken breast that had been marinated in Italian dressing before a quick stir-fry, and halved cherry tomatoes, then stirred into the pasta with Ciliegine mozzarella and a heaping spoonful of our freshly-made Pesto. Our bowls were empty before the Signature Bake of Cake Week had been judged on S4E1 of The Great British Baking Show.

We passed both kohlrabi to our neighbor, since she expressed interest in a vegetable I can’t stand, and it’s likely that the bok choi will be composted since neither of us enjoy eating it. But the rest of our take is currently spread across the kitchen counters as he works on dinner: a Frittata with onion, asparagus, tomato, mushroom, and Wisconsin cheddar, served with  Hasselback potatoes, a green salad made of some of the lettuces, and pan roasted radishes (olive oil, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce).

The lettuce that remains will be tossed into a salad (tomato, cucumber, olives, and crumbled cheese left over from a party platter we made last weekend, dressed with some balsamic vinegar and a hint of the pesto). I have no idea what we’re doing with the rest of the onions, but they’ll have to be the star of Monday’s supper.

And since I’m a data nerd, I’m tracking what we spend on produce during CSA season, to be sure that we’re being careful stewards of our bounty. This week’s costs are:

  • Amortized weekly cost of CSA = $53
  • Additional produce purchased = $12.60
    • Red Seedless Grapes (2.74 pounds, $2.66)
    • Asparagus (0.77 lbs, $3.07)
    • Cherry Tomato (1 pint, $3.29)
    • Cucumber (1, $0.59)
    • Blueberries (1 pint, $2.99)

Tag Team

Sometimes we cook together, start to finish.  Sometimes one of us is on dinner duty while the other handles other chores, or isn’t even home yet.  Or it’s some combination of the two.

Knowing there would be tomatoes in this week’s CSA distribution, and realizing we still had a pile of tomatoes from last week’s share, we decided on a simple sauce to serve with pasta. While she was at work on Tuesday, I chopped the tomatoes, diced an onion, and baked some bacon.  Upon her return, she sautéed the onion, added tomatoes and capers, and cooked them until the tomatoes were soft and their juices reduced; also, she made a batch of penne. Everything was cooled and tucked away for Wednesday dinner.

We met at the terminal for a companionable train ride home in the Quiet Car; I worked on lyrics for a new project, she read an Agatha Christie novel.  Home at the Country House, we divided labor: she cleared the laundry closet for the painter who’ll arrive this morning; I fixed dinner.  I heated the sauce, gave the pasta a hot-water dunk to warm and separate, snipped some basil, crumbled a slice of bacon, sprinkled some cheese, added a little salt and pepper, and bowled it up, along with a couple ears of late-summer corn.  She finished the closet in time to prepare croutons (small pieces of bread we use to butter ears of corn), and we settled down to enjoy the result.

It isn’t just cooking; maybe she’ll sort and start a load of laundry, and I’ll switch it to the dryer and fold it, or the other way around. Dishes are washed and dried; the dishwasher is loaded and emptied; the cats get fed and the litter box  scooped. We don’t have “assigned” chores, but everything gets done.

Sharing. Nothing fancy. But simple. And wonderful. Like a bowl of pasta and an ear of corn.

Pasta and corn. Lots of basil, in place of a salad.  I forgot the mozzarella cheese we'd planned to cube into this dish, but that means the leftovers will be different!

Pasta and corn. Lots of basil, in place of a salad. I forgot the mozzarella cheese we’d planned to cube into this dish, but that means the leftovers will be different!

The Well-Traveled Salsa, and the End of the Road

Community Supported Agriculture is a system of supporting farms based on the recognition that small farmers need an influx of cash before they have a crop to sell.   Members pay in advance for a share of a local farm’s produce, then meet once a week during the harvest season when the crop is delivered, sort of like buying a magazine subscription.  The produce is of a higher quality than most supermarket fruit and vegetables–and much tastier than Time or Car and Driver.

At a farmer’s market, customers can pick and choose, or walk away without buying anything. In a CSA, you don’t know what will be offered on any given week until an email arrives the night before distribution; but since you’ve already paid for the produce, there’s an incentive to try everything, even when it’s unfamilar.  It’s Vegetable Roulette!–oh, wow! What can we make with eggplant, radishes, and chili peppers?

When she lived in upstate New York, she bought produce from Windflower Farm at farmer’s markets, so she was delighted to continue supporting them as a New Yorker. She’s been a member of Windflower’s CSA for several years, and we’ve enjoyed virtually every bite. (Okay, bok choy not so much, but that’s just a personal preference; everything else has been dandy.)

Lately, though, her “local” vegetables have been making an odd and circuitous trip: they’re trucked from upstate to NYC, where she takes a subway train uptown to pick them up, a long walk or cab ride across town to the train station, and another commuter train home to the Country House. Because it is a peak-hour train, she and her many pounds of produce are unlikely to find a seat.  As autumn vegetables start arriving (potatoes and squash replacing airy kale and cherry tomatoes), the trip is starting to, well, weigh on her. What used to be a 15-minute subway ride followed by a 15-minute walk to her kitchen is now a 3- or 4-hour trip.  The produce is every bit as flavorful, but exhaustion is leaving a bad taste. It’s sad to think of resenting such good food, so we’re looking for someone to take over the remaining 7 weeks of this year’s season.

We’ll eventually find a farmer’s market here that we can get to regularly; meanwhile, we’ve got a pantry full of applesauce, pickles, and salsa to remind us of the well-traveled route that fruits and vegetables–even relatively local ones–can take.

Dipping Kind-of bars in spicy tomato salsa is not recommended

Dipping Kind-of bars in spicy tomato salsa is not recommended

One Perfect Burger, One Slightly Past Well-done

She’ll probably say her burger is overdone.

She’ll probably be right.  She prefers a burger well-done, and I worked so hard to get it well-done (and still leave mine medium rare) that the smoke detector complained.

The corn was perfect–microwaved in their husks for 4 minutes an ear, the husk and silk slides right off, as she taught me from a cooking demo at the market. Each ear perched on a crouton of toasted whole-wheat bread, perfect for applying butter to the kernels. The green beans were steamed and then tossed into the cast iron skillet to pick up a little extra flavor from the juices left behind by the burgers.  The tomatoes came from the CSA; they just need slicing, though a little salt and pepper is not gilding the lily. The sweet potato fries were a bit of a cheat; I ran to the market to pick up the ground chuck and a sweet potato, and realized that the market’s outdoor grill was still open, so I picked up a serving of their really good sweet potato fries to share.

It’s a darn fine burger: 80-20 chuck (the store’s “naked” variety, no antibiotics), formed into a loose patty with a little chopped pepperoni pressed inside. Maybe that extra moisture will keep it from going past well-done into something else.

She slept through dinner, is what it comes down to.

I can’t blame her.  She was up at 4 AM, painting and waiting for the movers. (I had worked late last night to get things ready here, then slept in ’til almost 7.)  After everything was delivered to its proper place, she took a well-earned nap.  But the nap seems to be extending, and that does not bode well for a dinner plate that is staying warm in the oven.

Here’s a “before” picture, in case things don’t look so good when she gets around to dinner.

dinner0822