CSA SNAFU

Fresh from the CSA... ignore the plastic bag.

I feel like I’ve been an unwitting contestant on Iron Chef: CSA for the past week, trying to use up my box of picked-for-me produce. Some things have been great. I made the basil into a pesto, roasted the cherry tomatoes, and tossed the whole kit and caboodle together with some pasta and black olives. The Kentucky Wonder Beans were delicious in a Chinese stew I made with some potatoes I found in the cupboard and a few mushrooms who were just waiting to fulfill their dinner destiny at the bottom of my crisper. Of course, I failed at taking photos of either dish, but I promise to make the stew in a few weeks and share it with you. I would make it again next week, I loved it so much, but I think Rich would prefer a little more variety on his plate.

And then there were the four poblano peppers and the butternut squash.

What do you do when half your CSA makes you sick?

By some miracle, I came across this recipe off a blog I read about in this New York Times article about a doctor who believes eating well is essential to being well. It looked easy enough, and I had everything the recipe called for in my pantry — quinoa, pecans, and dried cranberries. I had stock hanging out in the fridge, and I ignored the call for non-fat sour cream, which is how I usually deal with dairy in recipes. It sounded easy enough.

But it was a DISASTER. The poblano pepper skins did not peel as easily as the words on my screen said they would. And, it burned. A lot. Now I know I should have known better and used latex gloves to peel the peppers, but honestly, um, yeah, I don’t have any lying around my kitchen because a. I am not a surgeon, and b. really spicy things hurt my tummy, so owning a box of latex gloves seems silly. (Of course, I also received a set of steak knives as a wedding present, but I digress) So the skins didn’t peel right, the seeds burned my fingers, and the pepper just kind of fell apart in the process, making them impossible to stuff. Then I had a bite of one of the roasted peppers and thought, oh uh, I have to eat four of these? I could barely swallow a bite of one, they were so hot. In true Iron Chef fashion I made do with what I had and added some of the poblano peppers to the butternut squash sauce, in lieu of flavor from the non-fat sour cream. I sauteed up the bunch of kale and placed it atop the quinoa mixture and sauce.

Trust me, it looks a lot better than it tasted.

And, well, it was a pretty crappy dinner. It just wasn’t very good.

I didn’t bother signing up for the CSA box this week. My body can’t handle apples, pears, carrots or super spicy things — what I am going to do with with SIX habenero peppers, let alone another bunch of carrots, a half dozen apples and an Asian pear? I would love to get all my produce from a CSA, but it actually turned out to be a wasteful experience for me. I guess other CSA participants have no food intolerances, but I do. What I’m trying to say is, even though I would love to support the farmer, and be with him through floods and tomato blight, I can’t actually eat most of the produce he produces. When I have to give away half my CSA box, I’m not saving any money, I’m wasting the farmer’s time by not using his food he’s worked hard at growing, and then I still have three or four nights of dinners I need to find food for. I guess I do need a little more choice when it comes to what I put in my body.

Perhaps a CSA is just not for me.

This Week in Food: Sotheby’s, CSAs and Stephen Colbert

The highlight of this past week (aside from, you know, working crazy hours and getting back into the swing of grad school) was discovering that I could participate in a CSA on campus, provided by the kind folks at Ward’s Berry Farm. For $20 I picked up a box teeming with poblano peppers, butternut squash, yellow carrots, apples, kale and some basil.
And wouldn’t you know it, auction goers at Sotheby’s “The Art of Farming” also participated in community-supported agriculture. The auction raised more than $100,000 to support local farming and to preserve heirloom vegetables. On the way out, attendees were able to pick up $20 boxes of farm-fresh veggies.
All lovely ideas, although, am I the only one who sees this auction as elitist? The fact that vegetables need to be a cause celebre for rich people says something troubling about the way we eat in America. Vegetables should be seen as something that EVERYONE can eat every day. Is the only way this kind of heirloom agriculture can exist is through high class events like this?
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Stephen Colbert testifying about Americans not wanting to do the work of migrant farmers. So we have small farmers selling their produce to wealthy people, while the rest of the country is only able to afford produce which has been picked by exploited workers without a voice?
As I think further about this, in the next few weeks I plan on seeing how much the produce I get from the CSA would cost in the stores I normally shop at: Whole Foods, Russo’s, etc. I’m curious to see whether I’m saving money or paying a premium to support local agriculture.
Either way, it’s clear CSAs aren’t an ideal solution for everyone. One of the reasons I am doing a CSA box is it’s right there on campus. But many people don’t have that luxury, and certainly can’t spend hours in the car driving to the farm or pick-up spot. Then there’s the issue of choice. I’ve been cooking veggies for years and will hopefully be able to find a use for everything I get in my box. But it’s hard enough get folks who don’t eat enough vegetables to eat them even when they’re chosen to suit their tastes.
Look for CSA updates in the weeks to come — if I can fit them in with school and work!

Deliciously Affordable Buffet, Monday, August 23

This buffet sounds delicious and quite affordable:

Smart Peoples’ Lounge

Monday August 23

6 to 10

Bring your eyes ears hearts minds tongues teeth …the whole alimentary canal .. feet tushes

Featuring art works by Sylvain Malfroy-Camine

$10 includes buffet of seasonal foods from independent local farms

Pizza with Chestnut Farms goat, paprika-Aleppo harissa and Naragansett feta

White pizza with fresh mozzarella, and pesto with Grateful Farm basil

Kimball Farm heirloom tomatoes

Adobo seasoned Kimball Farm corn

Braised Chestnut Farms pork belly with spicy kim chi of wild fermented Dick’s Farmstand cabbages

House made pickles

Flats Mentor Farm pea tendrils with Kimball Farm radishes

Mac and cheese with Smith Farm raw milk 2-year aged gouda, 4-year aged cheddar, onions and pimenton

Cold brewed iced tea

Cold brewed iced coffee

Please RSVP to Debbie 781 648 2800

Prose 352A Massachusetts Avenue Arlington, MA 02474 781 648 2800 prosefood@aol.com