With all the food blogging I’ve been doing lately, and all the great discussions we’ve had about some of the social, political, and cultural obstacles people face when it comes to cooking as frequently as we’re often told we should for our health and well-being, I thought it might be an interesting project to take all this interest in eating locally and cooking more and get into some practical application blogging. I joined a CSA, which is short for community supported agriculture, here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has a whole bunch of these, but they’re becoming common all over the country. In Austin, I used a company that allowed you to dabble, buying the CSA package one week but not the next if you wanted. Here I’ve gone all in. And I plan to use Saturdays to blog what I got and what I did with it.
CSAs can be daunting, because you often get a bunch of vegetables you have no idea how to cook. I know I was daunted, but reading food blogs, as well as getting a copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food gave me way more confidence. Joining CSAs doesn’t just encourage a culture of support for local farmers, it encourages a culture of support for cooking with seasonal food, reducing demand for imports that consume great deal of fossil fuels. I’m not one of those fanatics who thinks that it’s possible to go all local or all seasonal, but I’m very focused on the value of reduction and making some changes in the right direction. I’m hoping this project makes the possibility of joining CSAs seem more within the reach of others.
A few notes before we begin. I’m a pescatarian—someone who eats seafood but no other meat—but that’s on a very occasional basis. On a day-to-day level, I’m basically a vegetarian. But if you’re not, this project can still be of value to you. Even people who eat meat can benefit and contribute by reducing their meat consumption dramatically, and by shopping locally. A lot of stuff I do here can be modified to include meat, but there’s also no law forcing meat eaters to eat meat at every meal. My carnivore boyfriend has shifted to a vegetarian-when-Amanda-cooks diet. In addition to a lot of the standard stuff Bittman recommends for a basically stocked kitchen, I have an extensive spice rack, and I keep one of those big jars of minced garlic in water in my fridge. If you can get this cheap, it’s well worth doing that instead of buying and mincing garlic, which is a pain in the ass. I found I cooked a lot more when mincing garlic stopped being a chore I had to complete. I also have jars full of vegetarian bouillon to use to spice up grains, but if you’re not a vegetarian, chicken works well. On my fire escape, I grow basil, thyme, and parsley.
1) Decided to use the collard greens and spring onions first, because they take up the most storage space otherwise. Blanched the greens first. Chopped up both green onions and greens, wilted them, and then sautéed them (don’t forget to salt first) with white wine, butter, garlic and thyme from my herb garden plus herbs de provenance and some chili powder.
Added a can of white beans last, and cooked it through until it was hot.
2) Chopped up some yellow zucchini from the farmer’s market. Steamed it and ate it with just a little balsamic dressing. Yellow zucchini tastes buttery, so it’s even better served straight than regular zucchini.
3) Had two whole wheat submarine rolls left over that had to be eaten. Toasted them, served them with tomatoes and fromage blanc (that was on sale at the grocery store). Eaten with the greens and beans scooped on them.
Total time: Around 30 minutes. Leftovers for sure.
1) Used a recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for cucumber salad. Soy sauce, ginger, vinegar base for the dressing. Served over the lettuce.
2) Stir fried the green beans with the tofu. The key to doing tofu is to drain it—start an hour before you cook it, if you can. Slice it up, wrap it in a towel, put a cookie sheet on top of it, and then put a bunch of heavy stuff on top of that.
Basically, stir frying is adding a bunch of spicy crap and a little soy sauce in the pan. I have no science for this. I tried to stick somewhat close to Bittman’s recommendation of ginger and soy sauce—he recommended Thai chilis, but I didn’t have any on hand. So I used Louisiana hot sauce instead. And cumin and tumeric.
3) Rice. I threw a vegetarian bouillon in the water to add some flavor.
Time: Probably no more than 20 minutes of actually doing stuff, but obviously there’s a lot of waiting around. If you don’t generally have hours to hang out in the kitchen, it’s totally doable to drain tofu ahead of time and then marinate it. Also, delicious.
The beans and greens mix made a lot of leftovers, which I ate for breakfast or lunch, depending on the day. Just over toast with some more of that fromage blanc and some of lettuce (with tomato, which I compulsively add to everything). There was leftover cucumber salad, which I ate as a side, again with the lettuce.
I haven’t used all the zucchini, beets, or basil yet. But I plan to today, and it will be included in next week’s.