CSA Week 1: Lettuce eat

We received our first box on May 1st, which is early for any growing season. It’s been a cold spring, which the farmer noted in his weekly Email: at this time last year all the early vegetables were coming in fast, but this year some of them are not yet ready. No problem: this early on, I don’t really plan meals around the share; the first few weeks are just to augment the rest of my diet. Besides, this week I was a little busy for cooking, working late to finish up a big project for my job and jetting up to NY and back twice (for work and for fun).

We got: lettuce, spinach, chives, spring onions, collards, sweet potatoes, and popcorn.

I try to wash and store or cook as much as the share as I can on Wednesdays when we receive it. But green onions and chives seem to stay intact in my fridge until needed; if they dry out, no problem, they still make excellent seasoning for soups or stock. Sweet potatoes and popcorn from last year’s harvest will last until I want them. So when I got home–rather late–from picking up the share and running errands with my neighbor, I focused on washing and storing the leafy greens. I bought a large salad spinner in my first season of CSA: it’s well worth it for me, because farm greens sometimes need to be dunked whole into cold water to rinse off the mud. For lettuce, I tear or trim off the bottom of the stem so I can wash the leaves loose, but I otherwise don’t cut leafy greens until I need them.

For as long as lettuce is in season–the first and last few months of the share–we end up eating a LOT of salad. This early, the radishes and cucumbers and whatnot aren’t ready, but I already had some on hand. I usually don’t cut and slice salad veggies until I need them–I don’t bring salad to lunch, as it’s not filling enough, and I don’t mind taking a few extra minutes in the evening to slice up a cucumber fresh. Some people find it more efficient to chop everything at once and store it in the fridge–nothing wrong with that, either.

Thursday

My neighbor and I got back from the gym after 8 and set ourselves to making a quick dinner with the collards. As I’ve mentioned before, collards are tough leaves and really want to be stewed with fat; I’ve never had them another way that I liked, but if anyone else has, I’d be curious to know. You can make collards vegetarian and I definitely do for large parties, but my neighbor and I prefer to use bacon. After the bacon is cooked and removed from the pot, we soften onions in some of the rendered fat, tear and add the leaves, and cover with our own chicken broth to simmer. The result is rich and satisfying, and made a filling dinner with some mashed potatoes (using some of our chives) and the salad we chopped while the collards and potatoes were cooked. We were watching Mad Men within an hour and had enough left over for a lunch.

Friday and Saturday I went out of town and ate several delicious meals out. But I returned Saturday night and invited a friend over for a late dinner. I had a taste for risotto, or something close to it, and a new cast iron pot to break in. In this version, I softened the spring onions in olive oil and browned sweet potato and chopped spinach in the same. (Usually I would sauté the veg separately, but I was feeling impatient and tired.) I deglazed with wine, let it reduce, and added some cups of water and a cup of the Autumn Harvest grain mix I buy from Trader Joe’s. (I was out of rice, and anyway the orzo, coucous, and quinoa cook faster.) When the grains were done and the sweet potatoes were soft, I added a little more water and stirred in parmesan cheese until creamy.

food

A good example of the basic pot cooking I described recently. Traditional risotto uses broth, I think, but I was keeping it vegetarian for my friend. Even without the rich chicken broth, this dish was creamy and satisfying. Rather than mushing all together as I feared, the vegetables were distinct but saturated with the light oil-and-wine broth we had made. We ate it with more of the ubiquitous salad, and I had enough left over for another work lunch.

On Sunday, after my lunch of salad (you can safely assume that all unmentioned meals for the next month are salads!) I popped some of the popcorn for a barbecue at a friend’s house. Popcorn from the farm is awesome: it has such a good flavor already that I do very little to it. I mix a small, unmeasured amount (but less than a teaspoon) each of salt, sugar and chipotle powder into a half-cup of kernels. I cover the bottom of a pot–my new blue pot, this time!–with olive oil, probably about two tablespoons’ worth. This makes about two quarts of fluffy, flavorful popcorn that everyone really seems to like.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning I was super busy but enjoyed already-made lunches and easily-made salad. That’s my goal: to cook once or twice a week and coast for the rest. This can be more challenging when there is more produce coming in, but also more varied and exciting.

This coming week we’ll have roughly the same vegetables, but with chard and mustard greens instead of collards. I expect to buy a lot of additional groceries this week, since I’m hosting a party–as much as I love mustard greens, it would be hard to make good party snacks from it! So it’s not a typical week of vegetable use, but that’s the point–there is no typical week.

Provided that I can find my camera cord, future posts will have more pictures.

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9 responses to “CSA Week 1: Lettuce eat

  1. OH. MY. GOSH. is that Le Creuset??!

    Also, I really am curious about your method for washing/storing lettuces. I’m finding with the hydroponic lettuces/herbs I’m buying at the long-season local farmers’ market (some really nice stuff here, for western NY!!) that they stay for freakin’ ever in the fridge because they still have plugs/dirt on the bottom. And when I worked on a regular farm last season, I never washed lettuce ahead of time (although I knew the farmer/interns like me washed the lettuce in cold water as soon as we harvested, and I would certainly assume Bud does that too). Do you really find it keeps longer washed?

    • Alas, no! It’s a $30 knockoff I got at BJ’s. It’s pretty great, though, particularly for someone who has been using Target pots continuously since college, along with one awesome but banged-up ancient tin dutch oven that belonged to my grandmother. My new iron pot doesn’t burn things, even the popcorn.

      I definitely don’t think that my lettuce keeps longer if I wash it–the opposite is usually true. But I do know that I am exponentially more likely to use it up quickly if it’s de-mudded and de-gritted, so I can just grab a few leaves to tear up for salad. I guess everyone has their kitchen peeves and pleasures. . . I like slicing up cucumbers and radishes, but dislike washing leaves every day.
      If the leaves aren’t torn or bruised by my careless toting, they usually last more than a week, but by then we have more lettuce!

      • Now that I have a Real Job(TM), I live in hopes of days when I can buy things like stand mixers and Le Creuset pots. I am indeed in love with very particular kinds of consumerism, it’s just geekier and (I like to think) more useful than conspicuous. 😉

        At any rate, I realized in the shower this morning that I have, in fact, been doing the EXACT same thing — i.e. being very likely to make (and enjoying making) salad every day because I pre-wash/tear lettuce & keep it in my salad spinner. (Speaking of kitchen goods, I need to buy a new spinner because mine’s cracked over the years — and at BB&B last night, I discovered they have one that is a salad spinner PLUS MANDOLINE! For serious, only like $5 extra). So yeah, I totally know what you mean about washing it ahead of time, and it does seem to keep for a couple/few days at a time.

        I think maybe my instinctive reaction was because the farm/CSA lettuce was before I started this habit of pre-washing, which I’ve been doing in recent weeks because I’ve been obsessed with escarole. So anyway, yeah. I agree. 🙂

      • Also, speaking of pots, I actually recommend IKEA’s little saucepans! I picked one up during my epic adventure into Canada (what one must do around here, to shop @ IKEA), and it’s perfectly-sized for heating up a serving of leftovers, seems decently-made, and only cost, y’know, IKEA prices.

  2. I love one pot cooking and find that our CSA is the perfect source. I typically add some beans to greens and a grain and other veg.

    • Me too, Tammy. . . I’ve been slowly stocking up on cans of beans, although eventually I hope to get around to making a big batch from dried beans and using it during the week.

  3. Pingback: CSA Week 5: So much green | Scenes of Eating·

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