July is chugging right along and, despite the temperatures of late, summer is certainly here and that means frequent trips to the farmer's market. While I live in the heartland, unfortunately our market only lasts a few months out of the year. So, when the market is around, I feel terribly guilty for skipping it out of laziness. I know that come December, when I have snow up to my knees, I want to feel secure in the notion that I'd done all I could to take advantage of the abundance while it lasted.
That said, we've had our first garden this year and as a result decided against getting a CSA share this year, being uncertain of the amount of produce we'd have on hand each week.
For those that aren't familiar, a CSA share is a weekly amount of produce from a local farm that you pay for before the season begins. CSA stands for "community supported agriculture". I like to think about taking a share in a CSA as an investment. By giving a specific farm your money before the market season begins, you commit yourself financially to a farm. This support is not contingent upon any amount of food. If your chosen farm has a tomato disease this year, you do not receive any tomatoes, and you pay the same amount of money. Likewise, if your farm produces the most fantastic tomatoes ever known to man in great abundance, you get them, for the same fee. (Find one!)
One of the most fantastic things about CSA shares is that very element of surprise. To me, this quality gets at the exciting and motivating nature of cooking locally and seasonally. Aside from the undebatable difference in quality that good produce provides, planning meals based on what's in season forces home cooks to be creative. Rather than beginning to plan a meal thinking, "what do I feel like?", when we are faced with the limitations of the season, we're forced to think, "well, I have all this_____________. What do I do?"
A coworker who is luckier than me was on vacation last week, and very kindly gifted me her weekly vegetable and bread share from the fantastic ZJ Farms (which I've blogged about before)
Hence, I was initiated into the CSA fold.
Looking down at the produce spread around the table I thought...
"well, what do I do now?"
I occurred to me that I was in the situation so many CSA supporters find themselves in each week: a ton of highly perishable quality produce.
I thought it would be very interesting to show the world (the internet, i.e. you) what I did with every piece of this share.
Today I give you the first installment of the share.
Before I move on, I should identify everything in the above photo. We were given:
a small bunch of baby leeks
handfuls of many greens, including kale and chard
Four pieces of squash
six red skinned small potatoes
a small bunch of dill, savory, and some herb that smelled like anise
a small bag of broccoli
a head of cabbage
I was so excited to see all the top flavors of early summer represented in this share. I hope that what I share can give some inspiration to those who are faced with a big bunch of food and the task of figuring out how to feed it to their families. I chose to do some things I am very comfortable with and that I think highlight the quality of these ingredients.
To begin, I wanted to dig into the bread. I couldn't think of anything better than breakfast. That idea was helped along by the bacon and eggs that I took home from market with the share.
Round here, breakfast starts with french press coffee.
The setup for some pretty sweet breakfast. There are chives on the right from the planter in the back, and a little extra sharp cheddar and parmesan. (I highly recommend looking for your grocery store's brand of extra sharp cheddar. It's sold with the other block cheeses, but it can be very good. I got a huge block of this on sale for $3 and used it for everything from pizza to eggs to eating straight out of hand. Much cheaper than the aged cheddars in the cheese island.)
I made toast with the baguette, fried the bacon, and made a fried egg for me
and herbed scrambled eggs with cheese for the man.
(Those photos really show the difference between the natural light and light bulbs.)
Tasty. A delicious respite from my weekday oatmeal. (And much better coffee than at work.)
Next I decided to deal with the potatoes. I boiled them whole to make one of my favorite salads.
Vegan Chili Lime Dill Potato Salad
6 small potatoes, chopped
2-3 pieces of celery, diced
a handful of fresh dill, minced
a handful of fresh chives, minced
the juice of one small lime
a healthy dose of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1 tsp. cayenne powder, to taste
mix the above and add
enough Vegenaise to bring it together (usually 3/4-1 c.)
I really have found the flavor of Vegenaise to be superior to most premade mayo, though it still can't compete with the homemade stuff. (which is very easy. try it!)
As my aunt Meg would say, "NUM!"
I have to thank Mary for this beautiful bowl which really brings out the color range in this salad. (Click that one!) If I were a good little food blogger I'd have put some lime zest on the top to make it even prettier, but you know I dug into this as soon as the photo was finished.
I'm going to stop with the potato salad so this post doesn't become outrageously long, but stay tuned for the fates of the rest of the share.
In the mean time, I want to hear from you. If you're a blogger and have a CSA share, I challenge you to try doing the same project I am. Photograph a share and blog the whole thing. (I promise you'll realize just how creative you are!) If you send me a link to your posts I'll gladly post it here. If you're a blogger, post something you've gotten from market and what you've done with it, and I'll do a post full of links. If you're an eater and have ideas to share about your farmer's market hauls, leave a comment, or send me an email with photos and I'll post them.
Until then, some up to date photos of the garden. My beans are growing like crazy! And the onions and carrots have really taken off!
A dragon carrot!
The Biggest Onion!
All together now!
Alright folks, I look forward to hearing from you and will share the rest very very soon!