CSA: The First Month

Goodlifer: CSA: The First Month

I have lettuce anxiety. It started the first week, with one or two huge heads, I can’t even remember at this point. Last week, there were three enormous ones, in addition to three other giant bunches of green. I have eaten lettuce for breakfast, lunch, dinner for weeks. The stress of never knowing when it might just wilt is at times unbearable. But… I feel beyond great.

During this past month, since my CSA pickups started, I haven’t been to the cafeteria at work for lunch. That, in itself, is a huge personal victory since the cafeteria cooks seem to be happily unaware of heart disease (fried, breaded everything) or climate change (meat every day, in everything). The bag of greens picked up on Wednesday evenings lasts the two of us pretty much the whole week, with some added ingredients.

Lettuce is my new best friend.

Lettuce is my new best friend.

Lunch is usually lettuce, naked leaves, usually whole because they’re just easier to eat like that at my desk (a very unhealthy habit I have not able to rid myself of). I don’t like dressing, never have; if anything, I will put seasoning mix on my lettuce, because I have a salt addiction problem, because it’s healthier and because it just tastes good. A friend who was staying with us for a few days marveled at our bountiful lettuce stash and munched on the stalks as if he had never seen a head of lettuce before (which he actually claimed to not have). I felt like a very good hostess for having such healthiness readily available.

Bunches of beets, ready to be picked up.

Bunches of beets, ready to be picked up.

Mounds of mint. Mojitos anyone?

Mounds of mint. Mojitos anyone?

I can safely say I had never eaten or cooked a turnip before. They're great, I was missing out.

I can safely say I had never eaten or cooked a turnip before. They’re great, I was missing out.

There’s not just lettuce, there have been turnips and beets and swiss chard and collard greens and kale and squash and mint and basil and radishes, many of which I have had to learn how to cook. Before joining a CSA, I was a very habitual cook. I would buy my same old staples, tofu, garbanzos, lentils, corn, mushrooms… and cook them with a lot of spices and not much oil at all (a leftover from my gym rat days). While most of my old staples were canned or frozen (a matter of practicality and convenience) the CSA veggies are all fresh as can be, which brings two interesting dilemmas.

Marrying my long-time affinity for tofu and curry with my new CSA ingredients. Salad with curried tofu and radishes.

Marrying my long-time affinity for tofu and curry with my new CSA ingredients. Salad with curried tofu and radishes.

The first is urgency, having to cook the veggies within the matter of a few days or they will wilt or shrivel. The second dilemma, you can’t really spice the crap out of super fresh veggies, it just doesn’t taste very good. So, I put the curry powder away and turned to Mark Bittman for advice. His How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a great reference guide that I have leafed through many times in the past month for inspiration. I have never followed a recipe exactly, because planning and making shopping lists in advance is just not my style. To me, customizing the recipes to suit my own taste is part of the fun. If it doesn’t turn out perfectly every single time, then I wouldn’t learn anything either.

Pasta with swiss chard sauteed in olive oil and garlic, red pepper flaked, homemade bread crumbs (which I had never used before — a great discovery!), sundried tomatoes and aioli. Adopted from a Bittman recipe.

Pasta with swiss chard sauteed in olive oil and garlic, red pepper flaked, homemade bread crumbs (which I had never used before — a great discovery!), sundried tomatoes and aioli. Adopted from a Bittman recipe.

Another of my foodie heroes is Jaime Oliver, and although his recipes are often very meat-heavy I have picked up quite a few things from watching shows and skimming books (his Cook is a beautiful book that anyone who is visually inclined will appreciate). I particularly relate to Oliver’s casualness regarding measurements. On a long-distance flight a while ago, I watched an episode from one of his cooking shows; the setting was a small village in rural Italy, and as the grande finale he had to cook dinner for a large birthday party. Ever since setting foot in the village and starting to cook for the family he was staying with, the people all complained that he complicated things too much, mixed ingredients that should never go together and took all-around liberties with the cuisine in which they took such pride. The lesson of the day was simplicity, why ruin a good thing trying to be fancy?

Oven-roasted potatoes with mint and pecorino cheese, one of my favorite new discoveries by far.

Oven-roasted potatoes with mint and pecorino cheese, one of my favorite new discoveries by far.

Swiss chard, sautéing in my pan.

Swiss chard, sautéing in my pan.

I have found that pretty much everything tastes best grilled, steamed, sautéed in olive oil or butter with garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or braised with a bit of white wine, letting the flavor of the food really be the hero. If possible, I eat whatever I can raw. Simplicity in the kitchen has become my mantra. I’m still going to whip up an Indian dal or spicy tofu curry soon, but in the meantime, the greens are my best friends, and I feel great. I am no longer so afraid of using oil, and my salt addiction has somewhat subsided. I am trying hard not to let anything wilt on me, or stress about it. But, I am already a hundred times more motivated to cook and feel like I have acquired more skills in the kitchen. Skills that will keep on growing as I enter the second month of Community Supported Agriculture.

Gathering veggies from crates at the pickup spot. BYOB.

Gathering veggies from crates at the pickup spot. BYOB.

And now, a word from my farmer.

Paisley Farm and the Future of Food from David Becker on Vimeo.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Dear Johanna

    Please contact me at your earliest convenience by th etime you want some fine shots of your food dishes.

    Hope this message finds you all right.

    Best

    Jorge

  2. Very interesting – I’m dealing with a similar situation, trying to figure out how to build my diet around whatever the food coop delivers. This week I have 2 heads of iceberg lettuce, ugh, but 6 beautiful peaches and 8 wonderful plums – among other wonderful things. I agree – eat as much as possible raw. Some veggies I’ll roast or grill – a few things become salsa. And yes, it does get me out of a rut, too!

  3. I`m glad you try not to eat so much salt, it`s not good for you. The food you cook looks much like the food I cook at home in Sweden, using for example a lot of olive oil and always fresh vegetables to every meal. We also try to buy food that is ecological and locally produced. That food tastes so much better!
    Keep up the good work of cooking in your own way………..

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