Category Archives: Kitchen

Trends in California CSAs

 

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Farmers in San Diego say they feel pressure to offer additional benefits in their CSAs – to sell different sized produce boxes, to provide various sign-up periods and to allow add-ons and weekly cancellations – all of which require additional time to manage.

During a panel on CSAs at the recent California Small Farm Conference, a question came up: Why are CSAs on the East and West coasts set up so differently from each other – and is it worth it? I was wondering the same thing, after researching the choices in San Diego, and noticing how unlike my experience with and knowledge of Virginia CSAs – where I received bags of turnips when other crops were suffering, and other CSAs doled out bushels of corn during the summer. In San Diego, I receive the same amount of produce in each box, and the contents thus far have be fairly standard.

It seems to boil down to the problem of retention and a difference in the underlying understanding of what a CSA even is.

“The trend in California is people want to choose what they want, and they don’t want what they don’t want,” said Robin Taylor, owner of Suzie’s Farm in Imperial Beach.

Farmers are desperate to attract and retain members to their CSA programs. Continue reading

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First Week of a San Diego CSA

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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.

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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.

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

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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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Picnic Dinners

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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

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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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Strawberry Spinach Salad

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A quick search online will yield an overwhelming number of strawberry spinach salads. Some have cheese, some slivered onions. But I think this one is best.

It’s one my mom pulled from the Washington Post ages ago, but I haven’t been able to find it on their website. The salad is quick to pull together, yet impressive enough for parties, where my mom has served it, several times. Share it with a few friends at a pool party, or just enjoy for a weekday lunch.

A tangy-sweet dressing, specked with poppy and sesame seeds clings to the spinach leaves. Almond slivers add a crunch, and the strawberries, of course, offer a sweet and colorful bite.

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Molly Wizenberg’s Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula and Goat Cheese

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Books are piling up on the shelf and beside my bed again this summer. It’s nice–I’ve missed them. Many are related to food, others are thriftstore finds, and two are quick picks meant to fill the hours on my recent cross-country flight to visit my family for the Fourth.

My favorites so far–and if you’ve read them, you’ll understand–are Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life and the just-published Delancey, which chronicles the birth of their Seattle pizza restaurant. Recipes mix with stories of family, love, challenges and of course, food. So many pages are now dogeared, but the first recipe I tried was a simple one, a mealtime salad, one that reaffirms that salad shouldn’t be a swear word. “It’s handsome, delicious, and a little messy, like most good things in this life.”

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