Love the Declining Balance, Weeks 5-7

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  • Gone Fishin’ – Week 5, 6 June 2014
  • Choppin’ Cotton – Week 6, 13 June 2014
  • California Dreamin’ – Week 7, 20 June 2014

One of the (many) reason to love J&A’s CSA program is that they operate on a declining balance. It’s like having store credit: I spend against the amount that I paid in the spring.

This means I can buy more of what I want (fresh garlic, tomatoes) and can ignore items that don’t interest me (lettuce). There is no weekly box of bottomless bok choy, no planning around vacations.

My only problem: trying not to spend the entire balance on ground cherries in August.

Fresh Garlic, Week 3

Fresh garlic will change your life. Or at least how you cook. It takes less time to peel than older garlic, and one very pungent clove goes much further than the dried, mushy stuff from the store. Plus, if you act quickly enough, the green tops and stem can be cooked, too. They are more fibrous and tough than spring onion or scallion greens and so take a little longer to cook. For the tops, cut off the obviously dried and brown parts, and if wilted, soak in cold water for a while.

Cod in Cream Sauce

Generations of Cape Cod cooks can’t be wrong.

  • Cut the garlic fronds from the stalk(s), wash, and dice roughly.
  • Saute in olive oil and butter with salt until they become bright green and begin to soften.
  • Add half-and-half (or other fatty dairy liquid).
  • When the liquid is warm (not boiling) add the cod with some pepper and simmer gently (with the lid on) until the cod is cooked through. Do not boil. Cod should not be submerged in liquid.
  • Take out the cod and add salt and pepper as needed to the liquid.
  • Pour liquid around cod and serve with warm crusty bread and butter.
  • Promise to eat vegetables the next day.

Red Mustard, Week 3

The red mustard greens have purply stems and flatter leaves than regular mustard greens. Their taste is also more nuanced and sharper at the same time. Raw, they could provide a fun bite in a salad. Cooked, they become more mild, but fyi they also turn the cooking / sauteing water purple.

Salmon & Red Mustard Greens

  • Poach salmon in white wine with diced ginger.
  • Saute mustard greens in a hot pan with no oil, moving them around the pan often so they don’t stick.
  • Remove from pan with tongs, squeezing out excess purple liquid.
  • Dressing (optional): emulsion of sesame oil and soy sauce

Anise Hyssop, Week 3

Anise hyssop arrives around late May every year, just when it’s needed most (at least by me). Its delicate licorice flavor is the perfect antidote for sore throats, whatever the cause.

Anise Hyssop Tea

  • Make herbal or black tea according to your fancy, BUT
  • Before pouring the water, tear 4-6 large anise hyssop leave into quarters and add to the cup.
  • Let the leaves steep for at least 5 minutes in the tea.

Notes

  • Note 1: Don’t tear the leaves into itty bits because they will be difficult to fish out.
  • Note 2: You could leave the anise leaves in the tea while you drink it if you don’t mind clingy damp solids hitting your lips every time you take a sip.
  • Note 3: Leaves are good for only one steeping.
  • Note 4: Steeping just the anise hyssop leaves, even a large quantity, yields a barely tinted, too-mildly flavored tea for my taste. It lacks depth.
  • Note 5: Honey is the best friend of anise hyssop.

Parsley, Week 1

According to some recently gifted cookbooks (Ada Boni; Marcella Hazan; the Silver Spoon), parsley appears to be about the only garnish that finishes a dish, for the Italians. So, parsley on scrambled eggs, in a bulgar salad, and on that veal dish from Ada Boni.

Bulgar Salad

This can be made in small or large batches. I just try to make sure that the colors are evenly distributed, meaning that the quantities of each ingredient are balanced with the others.

  • Bulgar wheat: Rinse well with a fine mesh strainer until the water is pretty clear, then put in a bowl and barely cover with water until the liquid is absorbed, about 30 min. If it’s still al dente, add a little more liquid.
  • Equal parts: diced, sauteed red onion (with a little salt); nuts; dried fruit (less fruit that nut); parsley, sans stems, chopped coarsely
  • Dressing: emulsion of red wine vinegar and olive oil

Why I Joined a CSA

I’m a devoted Fairway shopper, but it kills me not to buy produce directly from a farmer, especially in the summer. Not because I have newly swallowed the Pollan-Waters-Bittman Kool-Aid (respect, yo). I’m from the South, a scant generation removed from grandparents who raised all of their food. Even after they moved off the farm, my grandparents still had a garden. We didn’t call it farm-to-table. Grandpa just went down to the garden before supper.

There must be a word for when you know you have it good, and you don’t think it could ever be otherwise. And then I moved to the New York.

The first year brought a new heartache each month. Strawberries in May? No. Corn in June? Ha. Tomatoes with the Fourth of July? Never. In desperation, I bought hot-house tomatoes from Canada. Cruel joke! Maybe I should plant a garden in my sink… for the roaches and mice. Or join a community garden… and grow a ton of shade-loving hostas between the tall buildings. And then I remembered there were CSA’s in the South. Why not here?

In the South, CSA is a loaded acronym. But for a tomato-deprived girl stranded in strange latitudes, CSA also stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It works like this: customers buy a share with a farmer, who pools the money (with his or her own) to buy seed for the coming season. The farmer nurtures and harvests the crops and delivers them to shareholders during the growing season. Much better than babying rosemary in my sink.

So, three years ago I crossed my fingers and mailed a check for a small share to J&A Farm in Goshen, New York. Because this is New York, I chose J&A mostly for their convenient drop-off site in Manhattan. But I was an investor, too. I did my homework on their farming practices and the variety of crops produced in a season. And then I got invested.

csa harvest, August 2013

csa harvest, August 2013