First Week of a San Diego CSA

csabox

In the days leading up to our first CSA pick up in San Diego, I cleared out much of the lingering produce in the fridge, and did my diligent research: How to best store greens. Which produce to use up first. What the heck to do with cabbage.

I had resolved this time around to better use all the produce, and hopefully I’m off to a good start, inspired by the variety and quality of the organic fruits and vegetables. Since our box contained a little of every season – eggplant! berries! citrus! cauliflower! – it was far different from my first experience last summer. So many of those boxes contained turnips. More than a few, unfortunately, went to waste. Sharing meals also helps use up more of the yield; a CSA isn’t really ideal for one person.

Here’s what the box contained:

1 bunch of arugula
1 bunch of mizuna
1 bunch of kale
1 bok choy
2 small heads of cauliflower
1 large eggplant
1 green cabbage
1 bunch spring onions
3 lemons
4 apples
9 tangerines
5 blood oranges
1 bag of carrots
2 pints strawberries
1 avocado (Fuerte, perhaps?)

Whereas in Virginia and elsewhere, CSAs are structured in a way for customers to support farmers by signing up before a season begins, allowing them to know how much to plan for and guaranteed customers no matter the yield, in San Diego, most of the CSAs offer a flexible schedule, allowing customers to sign up casually, even week-by-week. It doesn’t seem to me that this model meets the traditional aim of community supporting agriculture, but, perhaps the lax commitment makes the idea more attractive. I’ve instead opted to try a quarterly CSA, where after a 4-box trial period, you sign up for three-month periods. As we go forward, I’m hoping to buy as little additional produce as I can, though, I’ll have to get used to the amounts included in the box and letting the contents guide my menu planning.

rachel

So how’d we do this week?

I had no worries about using the fruits this week – particularly berries in our yogurt every morning (with homemade granola and for the first time, homemade yogurt, too!), apples and tangerines for snacks. Blood oranges were destined for my favorite preparation, margaritas.

Monday: Stir Fry with Bok Choy, Mizuna, Carrots and Tofu, with a Spicy Orange Sauce; brown rice; tangerines

My go-to stir fry recipe comes from Pam Anderson’s Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals. This time, I tried the spicy orange sauce, substituting a freshly squeezed navel for the called-for combination of concentrate and water. The sauce needed a little extra zing I felt – perhaps some rice wine vinegar? – but it still made for a decent coating to the the veggies. I actually wished the bunches of greens had been larger, for they cooked down to nothing here. (I’m curious about trying this tofu preparation and sauce next time.)

stirfry

stirfry2

Tuesday: Eggplant Dip with pita; simple arugula salad; roasted chickpeas; fruit salad

Eggplant and I aren’t always best of friends, and I think it’s because so often, it’s just not cooked well. I’m usually reluctant to order an eggplant-based dish at a restaurant, though, many places think it’s a suitable vegetarian stand-in. The few times that I have cooked with it, I’ve found success in recipes on Alexandra’s Kitchen – the eggplant involtini, deconstructed eggplant parm, and this burnt eggplant dip adapted from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables. That’s what I made again Tuesday, since Tom still isn’t a fan of tomato sauce-based dishes. Charring the eggplant’s skin transforms the flesh into a silky base that’s then boosted with vinegar-soaked shallots, garlic and parsley. Our version, roasted in a 500 degree oven, ended up slightly sweet; grilling would likely impart a smokier flavor. Rounding out our meal were crunchy roasted chickpeas with za’atar, warm pita bread, a simple arugula salad (dressed with just a 2:1 olive oil-lemon juice emulsion, s&p, and topped with Parmesan shavings) and a bowl of oranges and berries. Day 2: A success.

eggplant

mezzedinner

 

Wednesday: Kale Caesar salad; butternut squash pasta sauce (from the freezer) with gnocchi

My first attempt at making a Caesar salad dressing, inspired by the few anchovies leftover from making a pasta dish last week, turned out well. The lemony, light dressing was simple and quick to make, and a nice choice to coat the sturdier greens. I cooked up a pack of gnocchi and tossed them with a defrosted container of butternut squash pasta sauce that I’d cooked in the fall and tucked away. TJ’s asiago bread rounded out the meal, which Tom said was “más good, the most más good meal this week!”

kalecaesar

Thursday: Go Dukes!

We finally found a time to go to a JMU alumni event out here. I’ve been surprised by the number of times fellow alumni have stopped to say hi when I wear JMU attire, whether I’m walking Rachel or running errands. After the Dukes men’s basketball team beat Drexel, we joined a table with an ’06 and an ’07 graduate, bonded over residence halls and now-shuttered nightlife spots, shared puppy pictures and home brew stories, and feasted on wings, potato wedges and carrots.

Friday: Mussels! Roasted cabbage, carrots, Ina Garten’s cauliflower snowflakes, baguette

Tom had hoped to hear some good news on the job front and had requested mussels to celebrate, but, unfortunately it being Friday afternoon meant he never got a call. We still had mussels though! So good, and so easy. Many of the remaining vegetables were sides this night – simple roasted cabbage; carrots steamed and coated with coconut oil, salt and a big squeeze of lime, from Deborah Madison (our favorite preparation); and cauliflower sliced, roasted, coated with panko and parmesan, and roasted a little longer, per Ina Garten’s latest cookbook.

mussels

Saturday: Japanese vegetable pancakes; fried eggs

This weekend, we took it easy – two birthday celebrations and a longer-than-planned hike last weekend left me exhausted all week! We cleaned, I baked bialys and topped them with smoked salmon for lunch, and we took Rachel to the beach for the afternoon. Poor pup started shivering while playing fetch and jumping waves, so as soon as the sun set, we left La Jolla Shores. These vegetable pancakes from Smitten Kitchen were good, but I don’t think I’d make them again. Just like her latke recipe, the shredded vegetables (cabbage, carrots, onion, kale) are tossed with flour, then mixed with beaten eggs, and pan fried. The suggested sauce was not a hit, but we made a simple dumpling sauce instead.

pancakemix

vegpancakes

Sunday: Chana masala, yogurt, pita, and stir-fried cabbage

This was a fantastic Indian meal, and very simple too. Chickpeas and tomatoes from the freezer cooked down with spices, as described by Molly Wizenburg in A Homemade Life. I added the last few pieces of kale at the end. This was also my favorite cabbage preparation of the week. Madhur Jaffrey suggests stir frying sliced onions with cumin, fennel and sesame seeds, then adding cabbage, and finishing the dish with lemon juice and warm garam masala. Now I actually can’t wait to get another head of cabbage! (Tom has since said that this was the “most más good” meal of the week!)

Indian

Happy Monday, friends! Enjoy your week, and all your meals!

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BCM: Palets de Dames | Fall in San Diego

I’m jealous of all your stunning landscapes with changing leaves, your picturesque apple orchards, your warming scarves and coats.

We’re still wearing shorts here in mid-November while biking to the beach, spotting tables full of colorful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market, and sleeping with the windows open. San Diegans love their year-round mild weather, and sure, there are some great things about it, especially when walking the pup, but, I really do miss the familiar fall back East.

blacksmountain

A Saturday afternoon hike up Black Mountain; and beautiful views of sunsets from our neighborhood.

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Six Months in San Diego in Photos

Six months ago, on a snowy February 14, my dad and I packed up the Camry and started a 2,800 mile journey to a far-away city that was to become my new home.

On the 19th, we arrived. (Though, from my blog posts, you’d think we were still stuck in New Mexico! I’ll share that last day soon!)

Now, it’s August 19. It’s been an up-and-down six months, with a trip home, two visits from my family, one from Tom’s, a vacation in Colorado, lots of furniture shopping and apartment decorating, several expensive vet visits, lots of great food, and, the primary reason I moved here, fun and adventures with Tom.

Here are some of my favorite memories from the past six months:

We made it! 

1-newapartment

Lots of dog walks in our new neighborhood, Bankers Hill.

dogwalk

All the fish tacos. 

2-fishtacos

And all the produce. Avocados every day! Blood orange margaritas!

avocadoes

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How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Even in San Diego, it gets hot.

I’m not complaining, really, at least not too much. We don’t have A/C, but at least it’s not like that horrible summer of 2011, when I would, for some reason, straighten my hair every single morning, only to have it curl up from sweat by the time I arrived at the newsroom. No, fortunately San Diego doesn’t have that humidity and the weeks of never-ending heat like Virginia.

But when my mom and sister visited recently, the sun’s rays were relentless, giving us days  in the upper-80s and 90s, while they were practically turning on the heat back home. Of course, we had to keep hydrated, with water, margaritas, sangria, beer, more margaritas, and jamaica.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Jamaica–not that Caribbean country, pronounce it Hah-My-Kah–is hibiscus iced tea. You’ll find it at virtually every taqueria and Mexican spot, near the soda dispenser. The tea is almost a punch, cool and refreshing, a brilliant shade of pink, a little tart and a little sweet, like cranberry juice. Jamaica seems to be the drink of San Diego.

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How to Pack Jewelry For Moving (or Traveling)

packjewelry

On vacations, my packed earrings and necklaces always seemed to get twisted and knotted so many times that I’d have to pull out tweezers to work them loose.

What would happen, I wondered, during a cross-country move, when all these chains, beads and hooks were bunched together? I didn’t want to find out. Fortunately I found a great tip online for necklaces–and discovered another solution for earrings while cleaning.

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Picnic Dinners

sunsetcliffsselfie

One of our favorite new dinner routines is to pack a picnic, a blanket and a Frisbee, and explore a new park.

Dinners don’t require much prep–just a quick stop at the grocery store and a few odds and ends from the fridge, tossed into a basket or bag. We’ve been buying a baguette and cheeses, especially those little marinated balls of mozzarella because Tom is obsessed. My friend Eva included some baby brie rounds on a cheese plate this weekend, and I think those would be awesome too, because they’d get all gooey as they sat outside. Once, for my birthday weekend, we picked up a few other sides at Whole Foods for our elaborate smorgasbord, but I also like to just prep a salad during the day and slice up some fruit to round out our meal.

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Arugula Salad with Peaches, Avocado, Feta, Nuts

peachsalad

This is a celebratory salad.

It’s for those times when something exciting happens–Germany wins the World Cup AND you now own a couch AND a patio table, all in one weekend. Or, it’s for those times when it’s too hot to cook and you just want, no, need, something light and cool on your table, something quick but filling, and full of good-for-you things.

Four months in, our apartment is almost a home now, in time for both our families to visit in the next few weeks. Having a couch makes the living room feel like it should, though, I’ll admit, I’ve still been cuddling with pup on her dog couch/futon mattress, especially as she recovers from anesthesia and a tooth extraction. We purchased the IKEA Ektorp sofa in black because of the dog hair, but also because the fabric was on clearance so the couch was significantly cheaper. Have you ever wondered what a couch from IKEA looks like before it’s assembled?

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A Colorado Summer Vacation

Tom travels for work pretty often. Too often, in my opinion, for it’s far different for him to be out-of-town now than it was when I lived in Virginia. Just this week, pup and I dropped Tom and his suits off at the airport at 5 a.m. Monday for a three-day conference he’s putting on in Chicago, leaving us with lots of time for decorating and napping together. (And, job searching? And a puppy’s tooth extraction.) But the perks of his work-travel allow Tom to explore new cities (and countries!), and every once in a while, I’ll try to tag along. (San Francisco, you’re next!)

Last month, his company produced its largest event in Denver. A trip to the midwest seemed ideal for my own summer “funemployment,” since I’d last traveled to Colorado when I was but 1-year-old. Memories of hiking in the mountains during that trip are nonexistent, though a photo proved I had fun. This time, I’ll remember the vacation. Colorado is completely stunning.

RMNPselfie

The conference was still ongoing when I arrived mid-week, so I roamed along the 16th Street Mall for most of the afternoon, and relaxed on the banks of Confluence Park. (Travel tip: Getting to downtown from the distant Denver International Airport is incredibly easy and doesn’t require an expensive taxi. A public bus runs about every hour, and is only $11, exact change required. A free shuttle along the 16th Street Mall dropped me off right by the hotel.)

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