There’s so much to recommend a CSA (a.k.a farm share). Your vegetables are extremely fresh, local, and seasonal. You’re supporting the operation of a small, independent farm. But I especially love my CSA for the creativity it requires of me. I’m always discovering new foods and dishes and methods of cooking, just because of what comes in my farm share.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You pay for a season’s worth of produce, plus sometimes meat, eggs, and cheese, before the start of the season. The farm uses that money to actually grow and raise the food. It also brings stability to the farm, by indicating what kind of demand they’ll have to satisfy during the season ahead of time. I love it because it forces me to eat healthy. I love shopping at the farmers market, but I never get around to it, and then I’m running out to the grocery store on a last-minute run. And oh, look! Organic popcorn! With a CSA, you’re handed local produce every week or two weeks whether you like it or not. (I like it.)
I bought my CSA through ABC Kitchen. It’s a nice one, with a curated selection each week from several farms, instead of just one. There’s always a variety of produce, several types of meat, eggs, a selection of cheeses, plus a special treat thrown in, like Himalayan salt, spicy artisanal ketchup, or even a couple free passes to a Soul Cycle class.This curated nature is actually pretty rare among CSAs. Usually, you get everything from one farm, which means you have to absorb whatever vegetable is having its moment en masse, repeatedly. (Oh my God, SO much summer squash.)
Still, when I pick up my CSA and bring it home, I have some (fun) work to do. First, I catalogue everything in my CSA. Sometimes it takes a little research to figure out what I’m looking at. Is this a green peach? Beet, radish, or turnip? Once I’ve written down all the ingredients that I’ve gotten, I start looking for how to cook it. My goal is to get several meals on the table that require no or little extra grocery shopping, using as many of the ingredients provided as possible. I do this by choosing two or three ingredients and googling them together to see what comes up. Sometimes I’ll modify the recipe to suit my needs.
For example, I got tomatillos in my last share. My boyfriend didn’t know what to do with them. “Everything I found said they should be pureed,” he told me. The next day I ask him to swing by the grocery store and pick up a yellow onion, a red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro and parsley. I pulled quinoa, olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, canned corn and grated cheese out that I already had. When he walked into the kitchen later that night, I was putting the finishing touches on a tomatillo-quinoa salad. “How did you come up with that?” he asked. “I knew we had a lot of quinoa, so I googled, “quinoa tomatillo,” I told him. I used the grated cheddar I had in the fridge to replace the cheese specified in the recipe, the white wine vinegar instead of the champagne vinegar, and left off a few ingredients. It tasted great.
I once made a summer squash and zucchini galette, and all I had to buy was a lemon for the zest. The CSA had come with locally made ricotta, and I had the rest of the ingredients in the fridge and pantry already. (Dried thyme instead of fresh worked just fine.) It helps, in these adventures, to have the Food Substitutions Bible at hand, which will help you use up what you have instead of buying fancy new ingredients.
And I don’t limit myself to food. When mint and local honey came in, I made some special mojitos. (Hint: When using honey instead of simple syrup, heat up some water on the stove, then pour it over the honey into a shaker/mason jar. Then add the other ingredients, some ice, and shake up to cool it. Voila, a sweet cold cocktail.
Anyway, I have to go. I have some local bacon and a green peach waiting for me to eat them for breakfast!