Several years ago, I first heard the term “CSA.” I had a vague understanding that it involved deliveries of produce, but beyond that, I had no knowledge of what it involved, nor did I have a desire to find out. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that when I first heard about CSAs, I was working either two or three jobs and living on mostly brown rice, broccoli, and whatever was in my parents’ fridge when I went to their house on Sunday nights to do laundry (Sunday was my “day off” because I only had to go to one job that day). I didn’t have the money to spend on organic anything and I considered it lucky when those preservative-and-sodium laden packs of Knorr rice mixes were 10 for $10 at the grocery store. For $10, I knew I wouldn’t have to skip dinner for almost three weeks.
Eventually, those two or three jobs turned into one (which sometimes turned back into two but never at the pace it once was) and no money turned into some, and I was finally able to go to Whole Foods maybe twice a year for special occasions (buying crab legs for Festivus once, then buying everything else when Graham broke up with me for a few weeks) and Trader Joe’s when I had a vacation day. I slowly came to understand about CSAs, but I still wasn’t ready to commit to one. I was living by myself and couldn’t imagine eating that much produce on my own before it went bad, and even when Graham moved in, his tastes veered more towards frozen pizzas and leftover casseroles. And besides, I lived in the Midwest. Finding a CSA there was far more difficult than it should have been, considering we were surrounded by the nation’s largest swath of agricultural landscape (although you can thank Monsanto for the monocultures of easily-blighted corn raised solely for livestock feed and grain sold to Wonder Bread).
It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle that I finally “got it” about CSAs. “CSA” stands for community supported agriculture, and it’s the practice of helping to fund a farm’s growing season in exchange for a selection of seasonal, locally-grown products harvested there. In the past 2 years that Courtney and I have participated, the weekly pickups have really changed the way that I think about, plan around, and cook food that’s available in my part of the world at certain times of the year. As for the other food, the CSA has affected my understanding of how it’s produced, how far it travels, and in some cases, appreciate why certain types of it cost so much and how this can translate into actual and ethical value measured in the economic and environmental success achieved by area farmers.
Today was the last day of the 2014 CSA, which, I think, was better than 2013. Not only were we more prepared this time around, but we didn’t get any rotten potatoes! The brussels sprouts weren’t wormy! Neither of us will have to buy flour from the store for probably a hundred years!
What was great:
The salads. If either of my parents reads this, they will be gobsmacked that I have finally come around to salads. They were my most hated food as a kid and I would take hours to chew them into a cud-like sludge just so I wouldn’t have to swallow. But my versions – dressingless! – containing lettuces, balsamic-roasted squash, roasted chicken, coconut oil-toasted whole grain bread croutons, and grapes (or apricots, pears, grapefruit, or whatever else is in season) are one of my favorite things to eat. And I eat them a lot. Sometimes in macro versions out of mixing bowls.
The green beans. Guys, I’ll eat anything with green beans. Except green bean casserole, which I argue contains so actual green beans at all. Anyway. You know the best way to eat green beans? Blanch them for a couple of minutes in salted boiling water, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. Then return them to a pot over low heat and drench them in a Dijon-shallot-and-garlic heavy vinaigrette, then try not to ruin your clothes or furniture as you devour piles of them.
The chicken and charred broccoli tacos. Years ago, I made it my mission to sell people on roasted broccoli. Stephanie was my first convert and I am still not done because not enough people know how fucking great it is to the point where yes, you can put it in tacos! I promise!
The corn and potato chowder. This was an “eh, maybe I’ll make it” write-in that became one of the best things I made all year, and this was partially due to the expensive Smith Brothers heavy cream that went into it. Not the most economic choice but it made the chowder incredibly rich, silky, and golden.
The rockfish piccata, and also the red lentil soup with crispy halibut on top. Seattle’s top industry may be tech, but in Ballard it’s still fishing, and as a native Midwesterner, I am trying my damndest to honor that without fucking it up.
The pizza. I don’t know how Graham or I would survive if there was no pizza. The sauce can be made in advance and frozen in little go-packs. One pizza can support, like, almost a whole bunch of shredded kale or arugula. And it’s fine to eat sausage and cheese because you’re eating so many other terrific vegetables.
The chilaquiles verde. My understanding is that “chilaquiles” is just a fancy word for “wet nachos” but I don’t even care because these were a triumph.
SUNCHOOOOOOKES. Not enough people know how great sunchokes are. On one hand they feel like mine and Courtney’s secret. On the other, they may replace roasted broccoli as my new food gospel.
The berry spoonbread. Taken from Mark Bittman’s VB6 cookbook before I gifted it to Courtney (oh relax, she was out of town), slightly adapted to include some decidedly non-vegan cream poured on top for serving.
The pear and apple puff pastry tart, which eventually became just an apple puff pastry tart with apple cider caramel. Reason number 3,468 why I love living in the Northwest. Apples. Apples fucking everywhere.
What was not so great:
Artichokes. Guys, artichokes are just not worth the fucking trouble. Either get a restaurant to make them for you or buy them frozen or packed in oil. I just cannot get behind preparing them at home.
All the stuff I tried to make with quinoa. Similar to artichokes, quinoa is not worth the trouble and kind of tastes how bad breath smells. All of our fresh CSA ingredients tasted much better with bulgur, barley, triticale or brown rice.
The eggplant and white bean meatball sandwiches, also taken from Mark Bittman’s VB6. There’s a reason why most people turn up their noses at vegan “meatballs.” Do yourself a favor and fry them like falafel, they’re way better that way.
So the good outweighed the not-so-good, and really, nothing I made was absolutely inedible or even patently unenjoyable. And, as a bonus, we’re much closer to the Ballard Market this year, so even in the winter when the vendors shrink by easily half, I can still head down there to pick up meat, seafood, or anything else hardy enough to grow out of the ground.
The 2014 CSA Weekly Menu Plan
Sat: chicken souvlaki w/ leftover lemon tahini
Steak salad w/ nectarines and bleu cheese
Sun: green ful medames w/ pita and roasted broccoli on the side
Mon: cashew chicken w/ carrot, basil, bok choy and napa cabbage
Tues: lettuce and spinach salad w/ shallot, bread, quick-pickled beets and lemon-harissa roasted shrimp
Wed: adobo-stewed pork w/ rice and beans, pineapple and cantaloupe salad w/ basil and mint
Thurs: go out?
Fri: lentil salad w/ bacon, egg, spinach, and mustard vinaigrette
Sun: rice and beans w/ chili-stewed pork, kohlrabi and apple slaw
Mon: roasted cauliflower, carrots and green onions w/ honey, brown butter and thyme
Tues: green beans and shredded chicken w/ parsley-lemon pesto (+ pistachios?)
Wed: pizza w/ spinach, arugula, garlic, Italian sausage and dried tomato-anchovy pesto
Thurs: raw bar? + make chocolate zucchini bread
Fri: turkey parmesan meatballs, roasted broccoli
Sat: chopped chicken salad w/ corn, avocado, and black beans
Sun: red lentil soup w/ golden beets, mizuna and coconut milk w/ crispy fish on top
Berry spoonbread w/ cream
Mon: salad w/ lettuce, apricot, and lardons, omelette w/ chard and feta
Tues: tofu, snap pea, and peanut-fried brown rice w/ garlic, ginger, and spinach
Wed: turkey-zucchini burgers w/ mint and sumac
Fri: mixed peppers and onion w/ roasted potatoes and chicken sausage
Sun: roasted salmon w/ lemon and dill, sautéed corn, scallions and spinach in miso-garlic butter
Mon: quinoa tabbouleh w/ green beans, cherry tomatoes, parsley and feta
Tues: cold noodle salad w/ rainbow carrots, red cabbage, bell pepper and peanut dressing
Wed or Thurs: pasta w/ chicken sausage, kale, and roasted tomato-pepper sauce
Fri: marinated peaches w/ bleu cheese on toast
Sat: chicken and charred broccoli tacos w/ white cheddar and salsa
Sun: Ottolenghi veg paella w/ peppers, walla walla, artichokes, tomatoes and feta
Peach-blueberry cobbler (note: only the cobbler actually happened)
Mon: chickpea salad w/ basil, salami and parm
Quick-pickled carrots and chioggia beets w/ dill
Tues: roasted chicken w/ broccoli and sweet sesame salad
Wed: pork chops w/ braised collards and roasted potatoes
Thurs: salad w/ romaine and mixed greens, grapes, olive oil croutons and leftover chicken
Sat: roasted chicken w/ herb compound butter, blistered green beans in vinaigrette
Sun: corn and edamame fritters w/ leeks and basil
Mon: triticale salad w/ kale, chard, broccoli, snap peas and leftover chicken
Tues: artichokes w/ sriracha butter, walnut bread w/ butter and salt (note: this never happened because artichokes are simply not worth the fucking trouble)
Wed: pizza w/ peppers, onions, kale and sausage
Thurs: make tomato sauce for Fri
Fri: eggplant and white bean meatball sandwiches w/ tomato sauce
Sun: rockfish piccata w/ sautéed runner beans and brown rice
Mon: chicken thighs in tomato sauce w/ chickpeas and beet greens
Tues: salad w/ romaine, warm potatoes, chopped egg and vinaigrette
Wed or Thurs: tofu spring rolls w/ carrot, cabbage, bok choy and basil w/ peanut sauce
Sun: summer minestrone w/ leeks, purple beans, ditalini and parsley-spinach pesto
Mon: broccoli, triticale and wild rice salad w/ sweet onions, raisins, leftover pesto and mint
Tues: chicken burrito bowls w/ leftover wild rice, black beans, scallions, corn, kale and cheese
Wed: pizza w/ roasted red cabbage, bacon, and garlic-parm sauce
Fri: sausage, pepper and kale hash w/ cornbread
Sat: strata w/ eggs, broccoli, spinach, sausage, bread and feta
Sun: roasted carrot and apple soup w/ carrot butter and carrot tops, roasted pork loin or chops
Mon: roasted broccoli and white bean flatbread w/ chili and sharp melted cheddar
Tues: red leaf lettuce salad w/ chicken, balsamic-roasted butternut squash, grapes and bread
Wed: hasselback potatoes w/ basil crumbs and sautéed chard
Sun: pilaf w/ brown rice, quinoa, walnuts, runner beans, dill and feta
Mon: ham and field pea soup w/ celery, leeks, carrots and kale
Tues: friend cauliflower rice w/ sticky tofu and bok choy
Wed: stuffed peppers w/ wild rice, bulgur, carrots, celery, onion, cabbage and sausage
Sat: bourbon cider punch
Toasted bread w/ bacon, gorgonzola, and rosemary-roasted grapes
Sun: rack of lamb w/ parsley gremolata, Yorkshire puddings, and roasted cauliflower and romanesco
Mon: corn and potato chowder w/ basil, golden beets, and beet greens
Tues/Wed: out for dinner w/ Graham’s family
Thurs: beef and green bean stir fry w/ scallions, ginger, and red cabbage
Fri: roasted shrimp w/ grits and collards
NOTE: NO GODDAMN ARTICHOKES
Sun: salad w/ red leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, chicken breast, balsamic-roasted squash and grapes
Mon: broccoli, savoy, and arugula salad w/ maple-sesame dressing, peanuts and tofu
Tues: stewed beans w/ yellow carrot, celeriac, onion, garlic, kale, and fried egg
Wed: roasted cauliflower, chicken sausage, and parmesan grits
Thurs: packing + takeout
Fri-Sat: SAINT FUCKING LOUIS
Sun: Saint Louis
Mon: Saint Louis
Tues: Saint Louis
Thurs-Sat: pear and apple puff pastry tart
Omelette w/ kale and roasted potatoes
Corn and carrots sautéed in miso-lemon butter
Sun: slow cooker chicken tikka masala w/ rice and sautéed garlic-ginger spinach
Mon: lentil salad w/ red chard, roasted golden beets and smoked salmon
Wed: roasted pork w/ caramelized fennel, cabbage, carrot and apple and mashed potatoes
Thurs: lamb and asparagus tamales from freezer with salsa verde and beans + kale
Sun: braised chard w/ bacon, caramelized delicate squash and pumpkin cornbread
Mon: curried chicken salad w/ apples, savoy cabbage, and carrots on pita toast
Tues: Belgian beef stew w/ carrots, russets, baby leeks, sunchokes and beer
Wed: PIZZA w/ squash, onion, and feta
PIZZA w/ green pepper, onion, kale and sausage
Fri: buffalo-roasted cauliflower and tofu
Sun: enchilada “lasagna” w/ squash, beans, kale and cheese
Mon: pasta w/ chard, broccoli, parsley and parm
Wed: shaved brussels sprouts w/ cranberry mostarda, glazed parsnips and roasted chicken thighs
Thurs: ricotta spaetzle w/ greens
Fri: PBJ pancakes with sautéed pears
Sun: Moroccan-spiced carrot and golden beet hummus w/ toasted bread
Mon: roasted broccoli, chicken sausage, and sweet potato bowl
Tues: lettuce salad w/ roasted chicken, delicate squash and toasted bread
Wed: pizza w/ kale, arugula, shaved brussels sprouts and sausage/onion/peppers
Thurs: roasted cauliflower and grain (quinoa + barley) salad w/ lemon, parsley, and pomegranate
Sun: meatball vindaloo w/ pearl couscous and red chard
Mon: stuffed sweet potato w/ black beans, kale, leftover chicken and cheese
Tues: crispy chicken thighs w/ roasted cauliflower and delicata squash
Wed or Thurs: braised lamb or beef shank w/ carrots, parnsips, leeks and apples
Thurs or Fri: stir fry w/ leftover chicken thighs, bok choy, and whatever noodles are in the pantry
Sat: gingerbread molasses bundt cake
Sun: go out w/ Isabel
Mon: chilaquiles verde w/ ground turkey, jalapeno, pinto beans and kale
Tues: savory hulless oatmeal w/ ham, leeks, cheese and parsley and roasted brussels sprouts w/ balsamic
Weds: leftovers + prep/store sunchokes and collards for Misfits Thanksgiving
Thurs: chicken Milanese w/ arugula salad and roasted delicata squash
Sun: white lasagna w/ leeks, kale, sugar pie pumpkin and gruyere
Mon: meatballs and gravy w/ carrot mashed potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts
Tues: charred cauliflower tacos
Wed: THANKSGIVING PREP
– Wash/chop collards and sunchokes
– Thaw bacon ends
– Dice onion
– Mince garlic
– Make spice mix for collards
– Portion rosemary/thyme for sunchokes
– Make scallion and cheddar biscuit dough
– Get takeout
Thurs: eat until I die