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
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.
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.)
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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!)
Happy Monday, friends! Enjoy your week, and all your meals!