August 22, 2011

CSA Inspired Eats

After our success with last years CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription, it was a no-brainer that we'd sign up for the 2011 season. Although some people might see it as a downside to the format of this program, I enjoy the regimented meal planning tightly controlled by the items we receive each week. Since its apparently the cool thing to do, we thought we'd document "a week in the life" of our CSA inspired meals.


Weekly Half-Share Contents List
1 bag jalapeno peppers (3 large)
1 head red romaine lettuce
1 small head red butterhead lettuce
1 white eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 bunch basil
1 bag Yukon Gold potatoes
2 red onions
3 green bell peppers

A & I receive our CSA each Thursday, leaving us a couple of days to brainstorm and collaborate on our meal plan for the coming week (Sunday-Thursday) based on our extracurricular activities and evening plans- this helps specify who will be making what and how much time we will have to devote to cooking. This planning is absolutely vital to making fresh, healthy dinners (and leftovers for lunches!) without a bit of stress.

Obviously Sunday provides the most time for cooking, so A utilized some fresh corn leftover from the previous weeks CSA to make a corn chowder. Loosely following this recipe, she made a creamy blended corn soup with a jalapeno mixed in for kick. The warm, thick chowder was topped with a crunchy roasted corn salsa made with red onion and a few cherry tomatoes. The fresh corn really gave a depth of flavor and silkiness to the soup, eliminating the need for heavy cream. I really enjoyed the idea of "corn two ways", a great way to use up a big stash of corn all at once.

We eased into the work week with a simple Monday night recipe. A big bunch of fresh basil doesn't last long, so we knew we needed to use it early. Pesto is always a real treat; this one was made with walnuts and creamy goat cheese. The great thing about pesto is how many variations exist- a nut, a cheese, basil (or even spinach!), a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a drizzle of oil and you're ready to blend.

We baked slabs of green pepper and white eggplant and complemented the softened veggies with firm slices of fresh tomato.

Toasted white bread (a rarity in our house) gave structure to the juicy layers of the sandwich. The salty pesto really brightened the summer flavors. A handful of raw carrots and some Trader Joe's lentil dip rounded out the meal.

A's fiance typically joins us for dinner once a week, so she has to be a bit more creative to work in vegetables that he will tolerate. Tiny golden potato orbs are a real crowd pleaser, especially when sliced and baked under a sprinkled coating of sharp cheddar. We mixed in sweet potato to bulk up the smaller Yukon Golds.

Since we're in full-swing peach season, grilled chicken with a jalapeno peach salsa also made an appearance. A few cherry tomatoes and a bit of diced red onion went into that as well. Steamed broccoli from the freezer appeased our "need for green"- a great thing to have on hand for an easy side.

Even though cauliflower hasn't come in our CSA, I've been wanting to experiment with "cauliflower rice"- shredded cauliflower sauteed with seasonings and served as a starchy base. Inspired by this recipe, I made a fried rice version with a little carrot, garlic, a couple of eggs, and a splash of chicken broth to help steam the vegetable. The finished product had all of the consistency of rice and none of the cauliflower flavor- try it! I made a taco salad, layering the "rice" over a bed of red romaine on top of a whole-wheat tortilla. I also sauteed a red onion with a package of ground turkey. The quantity of food that a head of cauliflower and a pound of turkey made was astounding- and super cheap. A very satisfying, well-balanced meal. (Note: Use a food processor to shred the cauliflower. I used a hand grater and will probably be picking cauliflower from every crevice of my kitchen for the next few weeks.)

Leftovers for lunch.

Our last meal of the week was another super simple one- a salad made with the butterhead lettuce, which is a really soft, wide leafed lettuce similar to Bibb. Green peppers, grape tomatoes, avocado, and a big hunk of broiled salmon made a really easy and super healthy salad. I made a dressing with Dijon mustard, garlic, and a little coconut oil- my new favorite for a little hint of the tropics. I love salad.

I think we had a green pepper left over that we chopped up for a snack, and A also sliced the remaining jalapeno, adding it to an almost empty jar of pickles for use in future meals or just to eat whenever. Obviously we have to buy additional produce to supplement the CSA offerings, but its great knowing that we're primarily consuming fresh, local, seasonal stuff. While we didn't document the lettuces and green onions of the spring, we'll check back in with what the CSA brings us in the fall.

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