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One way to get more out of your CSA subscription and keep your CSA kitchen sustainable is to collect dishes that are flexible, easy, and veggie-intensive. It’s not hard to do – dishes like this exist in every food culture and have the following characteristics:

  • high vegetable to meat ratio (perhaps infinite)
  • infinitely variable in amounts and ingredients (with a few seasonal restraints)
  • can serve as one-dish meals
  • don’t call for a lot of additional ingredients
  • don’t require too much attention or time once you get the idea down

Veggie lo mein!

Here’s a quick list of possibilities. (Our two current favorites – lo mein and cottage pie – are discussed in more detail below.)

  • vegetable soup or stew (pretty much everywhere)
  • cottage pie (Britain)
  • ratatouille (France)
  • briami (Greece)
  • lo mein, fried rice (China)
  • yaksoba (Japan)
  • pad thai (Thailand)
  • gado gado (Indonesia)
  • curries of all sorts (India)

(more…)

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Sustainability doesn’t stop at the farm. Joining a CSA is neither sprint nor short-run performance – it’s a lifestyle change. (You’re not doing it just because it’s trendy, right?) Check your dreams of instant local food bliss at the door. There’s simply too much work to be done.

Is your operation sustainable?

It’s a good idea to prepare for this long-term effort by dreaming up and adopting sustainable practices for you and your household. By sustainable, I don’t mean environmentally sound. I’m talking about  careful stewardship of your household’s most valuable resource: your sanity.

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The second preseason delivery of 2011 came in an enormous box with plenty of good stuff inside.

bread, butter, and eggs

We’re excited about making peanut butter sandwiches with this bread. We haven’t gone on a good peanut butter sandwich binge in a while. Toast the bread, use local honey instead of jelly, and cut it in quarters for even more bliss.

I’ve got about a pound and a half of Sparkman’s butter in our fridge already, so this block is headed to the freezer for now. It’s nice to have butter you feel good about using, but  it’s a bit of a pain to measure carefully in this conformation when you’re used to the little sticks and their convenient markings. Good thing I don’t measure butter carefully. My rule of thumb is when in doubt, it needs more butter.

And I love the bright pepto-bismol egg carton! Out with the chewed-up, dingy grey! The carton and its contents make me smile. (more…)

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Ever since I started eating local food, I’ve had a dream of roasting a free-range, happy-except-for-that-last-day chicken. I’d serve delicious roast chicken, pull the rest of the meat for other dishes, and make stock from the carcass. If you’re going to eat a chicken, it seems only right to use as much of said chicken as you can.

But something’s always gone wrong. One time I misread the recipe and dreadfully overcooked the chicken. Last time, Chris was too efficient with the kitchen clean-up and tossed the carcass before I could make stock.

Finally, it all came together earlier this month with a chicken I received last fall as a member of a CSA program run by Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds. (more…)

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Kohlrabi is related to cabbage and definitely sports a cabbage-y flavor. Often kohlrabi comes with stems and leaves attached. You can sort of see a whole kohlrabi in this picture of a CSA delivery from May 2009.

The kohlrabi's the purple thing towards the left laying on its side.

But it’s easier to see in this picture from Washington State University’s herbarium.

Last week, I received a green bulb and a purple bulb without tops. (more…)

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Pre-season so far

We’re a week into CSA pre-season and our first delivery. This past week, Chris and I have eaten lots of salad. The hydroponic lettuce was a little bitter and not keeping so well from last week’s extreme temps, so we powered through it and finished it at lunch today. Now we’re onto the baby spinach and romaine.

The apples are amazing – fresh, crisp, and bursting with flavor! They remind me of my childhood and apple-flavored Jolly Ranchers. (I never understood why that flavor was considered “apple” until I started eating local apples.) Afternoon snacks of apple and Havarti slices have made this a wonderful week.

People, see to your sweet potatoes. In the fall, I got used to ignoring sweets for a week or so, but these guys need to be cooked promptly. They’ve already done their time in storage. I’m chopping and roasting the rest of mine tonight even though we probably won’t eat them until tomorrow

For lunch today, I got the tiniest bit fancy and made sausage-stuffed kohlrabi. Turned out pretty good, but fancy doesn’t do it for me. I wish I had made a casserole-like dish with the same ingredients instead.

Coming up…

Tomorrow, I think we’ll have roasted sweet potatoes and Komatsuna greens. Prepping the Komatsuna will leave some large stems that I’ll include in a lo mein stir-fry along with some green onions, cabbage, and my last Asian turnip. And I want to make French toast with the whole-wheat sourdough bread this weekend.

Enjoy your food!

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It’s preseason, and the most January of Januaries I can remember with frozen snow and 5 days of school closings.

Still, the Farmers Fresh CSA farmers worked some serious overtime to get all the produce in before Snow Jam ’11 and then out to us afterward. Here’s what I got for my first preseason Family pack delivery.

CSA, CSA delivery, January, Atlanta, local food

  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • green cabbage
  • Komatsuna greens
  • 3 heads of hydroponic lettuce (1 Romaine, 2 butterhead/bibb?)
  • baby spinach
  • 4 zucchini (Beats the heck out of me, too! Guess someone’s got a greenhouse.)
  • Havarti cheese!!
  • dozen apples (in great condition and flavor for snacking – so good!)
  • dozen eggs (only half pictured here)
  • 2 kohlrabi bulbs
  • garlic
  • ~1 pound of corn grits
  • half a dozen sweet potatoes
  • pound of sausage (delicious stuff!)
  • whole-wheat sourdough loaf

Whew! That’s a lot of food, but we’ve got two weeks to use it. The first week, we’ll make the most of the butterhead lettuce and baby spinach with large salads. The Romaine will last a little longer and the Komatsuna and cabbage, longer still.

We’ll have afternoon snacks of cheese, bread, and apples until all are gone. I’m going to freeze half of this loaf. The bakers at Magnolia Bread don’t recommend putting bread in the refrigerator; it’s in freezer or on the counter. Because Chris and I have a hard time getting through a whole loaf before it starts to mold, I’ll put half of this in the freezer now.

The kohlrabi bulbs, the large Komatsuna stems (Larger than the diameter of a pencil is one rule of thumb.), and a bulb or two of garlic will star in a stir-fry sometime during the next couple of weeks. I’ve been enjoying stir-fries more since making my own sauces of soy sauce, fish sauce, and sherry plus a little sesame oil and rice vinegar. (Who knew sherry was the secret to Chinese cooking? My mother did when I asked her about it. But who else?) I’ve been stretching the sauce with pasta water, but next time I’ll use either this vegetable broth or my own chicken broth I made last week. Can’t wait!

The sausage is a real treat, but for now it’s going in the freezer. I’ve got some poultry and meat in there I need to cycle through before cooking something new. I’d recommend trying this sausage first as just plain old patties. That will give you a sense of how good the flavor is before covering it up with other flavors. I’ve got recipes that call for sausage, but I rarely use them because the sausage is so perfect on its own. It’s the same with the eggs; try them just scrambled at some point to taste the difference between fresh, local eggs and their store-bought cousins. You could have an incredible snow day breakfast with sausage, eggs, and grits.

The Komatsuna greens will get sautéed with raisins and walnuts. This is one of our favorite dishes, and it is based on Cartoon Kitchen’s Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts recipe. Komatsuna are delicious greens and the least bitter of the family. So if you’re greens-shy, start with these and see what you think.

My Komatsuna greens arrived rather wet. With all the produce, I dump it out of the plastic bags to inspect it and then turn the bag inside out before putting the bag in the crisper. I like to believe this is a form of moisture control. Sometimes, however, the produce is simply too wet, so I spread it out on a towel while I deal with the rest of the contents.

Komatsuna greens

Komatsuna greens drying out before re-bagging

I probably should have done the same with the baby spinach. I’ll reinspect it today.

Recently we had a supper of just kale, raisins, and walnuts, but usually we prefer to eat some winter squash or sweet potatoes along with it. Sweet potatoes are easy to bake whole, but sometimes it’s better to peel, chop, and roast them. Here are three such scenarios:

  1. There are some bad spots on the potatoes, so you need to cut those off leaving you with deformed or shortened potatoes. Plus you want to make sure there aren’t any hidden bad spots inside.
  2. The number or size of potatoes you have doesn’t match the number you need to serve. Four people and three good-sized potatoes and one runt – who gets the short end?
  3. You’re short on time and don’t have the hour it takes for a sweet potato to bake in the oven. (Okay, so you can use the microwave, but I haven’t had much success with that lately. My potatoes end up with poorer texture than when I use the regular oven.)

So preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the potatoes, removing any icky spots, and chop them in very rough half-inch squares. Toss them in a bowl with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them on a rimmed pan for about 20 minutes, checking and turning halfway. They’ll get soft and a little brown when they’re ready. This recipe also works with butternut, acorn, and Kabocha squash as well as real potatoes.

A couple of my sweet potatoes has some really icky spots on the ends, so I was in a hurry to use those. We chopped them up and roasted them as described above, and they were delicious. We also had some of the grits and a salad made with the Bibb or Butterhead lettuce topped with green onions, Asian turnips, and organic vinaigrette dressing from last year’s deliveries, feta cheese (from Kroger), and some beets I picked up at the Decatur Farmers Market last week.

sweet potatoes, hydroponic lettuce with green onions, beets, turnips, and feta, and local grits with local butter

Even being from the South, I’d always thought of grits as the stuff you get at Waffle House. But these grits are a completely different animal and have tremendous texture and flavor. They have weight without being heavy. (And no need to add the cheesy-flavoring!) I usually make a double recipe, so we get some for breakfast the next morning. And I always use milk instead of water. Or at least half milk. Mmmm… grits.

We will definitely be well-fed and well-entertained for the next couple of weeks.

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