The Perfect CSA
In a perfect world, food planning begins on Thursday when we receive our CSA share. I pick it up after work and the idea is to bring it home, lay it out on the table and wait for the inspiration to hit while washing the potatoes, spinning the greens and trying to fit the rest of it into an already bloated refrigerator. Instead of cooking on Thursdays, we aim to clean the fridge out of the leftovers from the previous week, trying to arrange them in a way that seems appetizing (some weeks are better than others). The hoard quickly gets divided into categories: the potatoes and onions are easy – they will last awhile. Peaches are to be eaten immediately – that’s no hardship. Other items are arranged in order of perishability while we try to plan meals around them. I’ve taken to photographing our share each week to keep track of what we are getting and to see if arranging them in a grid will somehow inspire us to new heights in cooking. This week’s share:
- Peaches – eat them as is and use the overripe ones in popsicles.
- Onions – they go with everything (if you like onions).
- Red Potatoes – looks like potato salad will be coming our way soon
- Carrots – these carrots are so cute, our kids will be happy to find them in their lunches.
- Green Beans – also a kid favorite, but also good julienned in salads with beets.
- Lettuce – salad with roast beets left over from last week’s share.
- Green Peppers – mix with corn for succotash,
- Zucchini – at one point we had over a dozen green zucchini and yellow squash in our fridge! There are a million ways to use zucchini, but our current favorite is to grate it over pasta or rice. Another is to make a confit which goes with just about everything.
- Corn – this week, we are going to take our corn with us upstate to grill with dinner, thus negating the “local” nature of our CSA by driving it back up to where it came from to eat it.
- Tomatoes – these are the first of the season – use fresh with the basil in pasta, or make into confit to perserve them for a bit longer.
- Basil – see tomatoes. or make into pesto. or use in gazpacho -which we seem to consume endlessly in the summer.
- Swiss Chard- sautee with onions. Serve with some kind of protein. or on toast with a poached egg on top!
- Yellow Squash – see zucchini
- Peaches again – just put them in a bowl and gaze at them.
- Eggplant – make into babaganoush for Meze picnic on Tuesday
- Cucumbers – tzadziki, cold cucumber soup, add to water, slice them up as a cool snack.
Once we lay everything out, we try to plot out a menu for the week looking to cookbooks (and blogs!) for inspiration and figuring out what items we will need to get from other sources. One version could be:
- Friday: Chicken or Steak with swiss chard and white beans – a friday night standby.
- Saturday: Savory breakfast toast topped with the leftover chard and poached eggs. Dinner upstate: roast corn succotash using corn and green peppers.
- Sunday: A simple dinner of pasta with grated zucchini and fresh tomato. Salad with roast beets. Sunday night we will start preparing the food for our Tuesday picnic using some of the CSA: roasting the eggplant, cucumber tzatziki, hummos, etc.
- Monday: perhaps a nice piece of fish over rice with green beans?
- Tuesday: Mediterranean Meze Picnic
- Wednesday: whatever is left, get creative!
By the end of a week like this, one would have used up all the CSA fare. But of course this is the perfect scenario, not reality. In truth, even though we have tried to plan otherwise, something has happened almost every Thursday since our share began in June to keep us from staying home and reveling in our bounty. Out of town visitors, a dinner invitation, a friend’s opening, work events, they just keep happening. In this new scenario, I am rushing from work to CSA site to home, stopping off long enough to try to shove things in the fridge before walking out the door again. Time doesn’t cooperate. Dinners are eaten out. Sometimes you plain don’t want what you have. Food starts to go bad. That’s how we ended up with a dozen zucchini – they add up quick.
But on the Thursdays when we do have time to devote an evening to the stewardship of our groceries, it feels like a new beginning. Those are the days that the challenge of getting a bunch of kohlrabi or mizuna greens feels exciting instead of daunting. But it takes some planning. After all, it’s really hard to say to someone, “Sorry, I can’t go out that night, I have to stay home and tend to my produce”. Because of our busy schedule the past several Thursdays, I have decided to come up with a second CSA strategy for busy weeks: Don’t take everything just because it is there. The food that isn’t picked up at our site on Thursdays goes directly to the food bank and soup kitchen and I would rather have it used there than rotting in my fridge. So last week I breezed through, leaving the greens, taking only 1/2 the tomatoes, and a few things I knew we would use. The bag was lighter and so was my guilt.