I’m skipping the Monday Rundown this week because it’s my blog, and I can skip what I want to. So there. Diva moment over. The real reason for the change is I really want to talk about our CSA and how much I love veggies, especially when received in abundance. And let me tell you, we get a crazy abundance.
Which is why participating in a CSA might not be a good idea if you aren’t into cooking, unless you’re using it as a motivational tool. And in that case, you’ll need to be frugal too, so the idea of pitching food (i.e. hard earned money) should be double motivation to get cooking (literally).
The Hubby and I get a “single” CSA share each week, and I have to bust ass to use up all the produce before anything spoils. The end result though is we eat pretty fabulous almost all the time. I’m on year two now, so I’ve also learned how to make the most of our CSA, and since I have a whole year’s worth of wisdom, which is pretty much equivalent to being a rocket scientist, I thought I’d share some tips.
1) Go Green: the hardest part about the CSA is all the lettuce and other greens (Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards) you get. We get a mammoth amount of lettuce every week, which can be a lot to keep up with, especially when you factor in cleaning and drying it all. It’s tough, so make your life easier and handle all the lettuce prep one time, in a great big batch. On the weekend or in the evening, I spend anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes washing all the lettuce and then patting it down with some paper towels. I break it into salad size pieces and throw it in the salad spinner for a quick ride before popping it into my Bubble (a.k.a. the Lettuce Crisper). I love my Bubble; it’s my holy grail for lettuce, and it will keep things fresh, for much longer than I care to admit. Stick the Bubble in the fridge, and you are salad ready all the time. And what happen’s when things are ready to be eaten? Hmm, you actually eat them (bonus points for those who got this right). Case in point; the Hubby and I have happily devoured a million salads so far this summer, and we’d happily consume a million more.
2) The Internet is Your Friend: when you get produce you don’t know what to do with, and you will get produce you’ve never seen before (Kohlrabi anyone?), search the internet and you’ll have hundred of recipes at your fingertips in seconds. Need to know how to store your fabulous fruits and veggies…go here: http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/index2.php?cmd=storageusetips
2) If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again: but not the same dish because odds are if you didn’t like it the first time, you won’t like it the second time. I’ll be honest, they’re not all winners. If they were, I’d go on Hell’s Kitchen and get abused by Gordon Ramsey. It might be kind of fun, in a sick twisted way.
For example: the Hubby and I really liked the Swiss Chard with a Balsamic Vinegar we made a few weeks ago, but we weren’t fans of our latest Swiss Chard dish, the Frittata. It was a little bit boring and a tad bitter (I don’t think I cooked the Chard long enough), so you have to experiment. There’s a ton of different ways to prepare food, so eventually you’ll find one which works for you. Or you can just check out my recipe page because I only publish the keepers. See, I’m your personal guinea pig (don’t you dare call me a rodent).
4) Go all out and use more than one CSA item in a single dish. Make it into a game if you have to; one point for using a CSA item and double points for each additional CSA item, which makes its way into the same dish or meal. This weekend’s Gazpacho was like the Queen Bee of them all. I used five items from the CSA (yellow onion, green onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil) and paired it with a salad (hello lettuce), and that’s how you make a 10 point meal. How do you like me now!
5) Quantity matters. I’m a huge fan of quality, but when it comes to the CSA, use your produce by cooking it all in one bunch, when possible. I’m not suggesting you eat it all in one sitting, but instead make leftovers, especially the kind you can freeze and eat later when you don’t want to cook (gasp). Leftovers are your friend. Remember the tomato sauce I made a few weeks back and promptly froze. It became part of a pizza one night and then got mixed with whole wheat pasta another, and all I had to do was defrost it. Super easy and the reason leftovers are your friend.
6) Take a night off. Unless you’re superwoman, and I’m not sure even she could hang, take a night off from cooking. Everybody needs a break every so often. If you keep going without one, you’ll surely suffer from burnout, and nobody wants to hang out with a burnout, so go easy on yourself.
Find a restaurant where you know you can get a quality product, without the crap and guilt and eat there on your days off. I’m a huge fan of Chipolte or Liquid Planet. If I have more time, I’ll hit up the Roots Cafe or Sweet Melissa’s. Ultimately, clean options exists if you’re willing to find them, and they’ll leave you way more satisfied than your typical fast food joint.
The last time I wrote about our CSA, we covered the first three weeks of the program, and now we are all the way through week 5; I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed. Thus far, I haven’t tossed a single piece of food, although I did give away a bunch of beets in week two (hanging my head in shame…alright, I’m over it). I’ve used everything from weeks one through three with the exception of the green onions. I’m still working my way through these; thankfully they last a long stretch, although they are nearly gone. I don’t want to make any predictions, but I expect them to be completely eaten by weeks end, and apparently, I do want to make predictions.
Week four brought us more fresh produce (because that’s what we pay for): beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, swiss chard, pickling cucumbers, squash and yes, more lettuce coupled with a ridiculously huge bunch of basil. I can only imagine the cost of this much organic basil in the supermarket; it’s likely more than the cost of our entire weekly share. Can you say Score!
I’m fairly impressed with myself because all but the squash and the lettuce from week three is gone, and the lettuce is in my Bubble, standing at attention, ready to rock and roll. We ate the snap peas raw (because we are tough) as snacks throughout the week. The swiss chard became a so-so frittata, and the pickling cucumbers I made into a salad with some red onion, oil, vinegar and blue cheese (we were out of feta). They were definitely not as good as your standard cucumbers, but since I don’t have a clue about how to pickle things, this seemed like a safe and easy option. I really should learn though because I love me some pickles. Or maybe I’ll just use them on my eyes for skin rejuvenation. Do you think it works with the mini-cucumbers too?
The cherry tomatoes and some basil made their way into this salad which we brought to a fourth of July party. This dish is always good and packs such a flavor punch with garlic and basil, and the chickpeas provide a good dose of protein (beefcake). The beautiful beefsteak tomatoes and some more basil were used in our Gazpacho, along with week five’s cucumber, tomato and some onion. Speaking of week five….
Other than what went into the Gazpacho, we’ve barely tapped into week five, but I have a plan, and you know how much I love a plan. I’m thinking a big bowl of veggie stir fry, possibly a Zucchini Bake with some cheese and fresh herbs, maybe some green beans and sweet potato fries, or perhaps a whole head of cauliflower smothered in a blue cheese vinaigrette. When you have options like these, you know it’s gonna be a good week.
Does anyone else participate in a CSA? Would you be willing to try one? And, what would you do with all this crazy good produce?