Tag Archives: vegetables

CSA #2: Seriously, it’s really easy being green

I don’t think I’m going to get tired of this. Every Thursday is like Christmas, only instead of reindeer socks that I won’t wear, I’m getting a huge haul of fresh veggies to eat through to next week.

(Oh, and Mom, I’m just joking about the socks. I really like the slippers you gave me this past year, although it does look kind of funny to be wearing Christmas-themed slippers past the holiday itself, but you know me. I don’t mind looking silly.)


(From left clockwise) Kohlrabi, more garlic scapes (woo hoo, pesto here I come!), mustard greens, and lovage.


Peas! And pea shoots!


More bagged salad mix and a large bunch of collard greens.

Mmm, collard greens. Looks like someone’s making some barbecue this weekend.

CSA #1: It’s Easy Being Green

As I have mentioned before, me and my partner have signed up for a season’s CSA subscription to Garfield Community Farm, a volunteer-run, non-profit farm in the upper reaches of Garfield, just a hop, skip, and long jump away from James’s place in Friendship.

One of the reasons the CSA membership to GCF caught my eye is that while other CSA organizations offered more options on subscription length, type of goods, and pick up points, Garfield Community Farm seemed so direct, not just local but super local. Signing up for the subscription meant going to the farm to pick up the produce, walking the very land that was going to grow our consumable goods.

CSA subscribers are also asked to donate some of their time to the farm itself. On pick up days, starting around 6:00 pm, volunteers handle a variety of tasks and chores, all of which benefit the farm and the overall organization. After a few summers of half-heartedly growing a few herbs in my kitchen and on my porch, I’m looking forward to lending a hand… and getting that hand dirty.

But enough with the ramble. On to the veggies!


On the left, a pound bag of mixed greens. On the right, pea shoots.


Radishes!


Kale (L) and spinach (R). Mmm…


Fresh tarragon (L), a cup of brown rice (center), and field garlic.

I am envisioning a weekend of beans and greens. If anyone has a good idea of what to do with the field garlic, let me know.

Good Morning, Green Onion Stir Fry!

They say that what you cook for yourself and yourself alone is a good indicator of how much you consider your own well-being. While I think there is some truth behind that – after all, if you didn’t care about yourself, you would care little for nourishment even when absolutely required – it’s largely a subjective matter. What one person considers a perfectly adequate meal for one might horrify another solo diner, and these opinions are, for the most part, a matter of taste.

I just finished reading Alone in the Kitchen With Eggplant, a compilation of essays from different writers focusing on the idea of cooking for one, dining out alone, and generally eating by one’s lonesome. Some of the essays took the stance that one should treat themselves to a meal that is on par, if not better, than what they would serve other people, because it’s important to show yourself the same level of consideration and care that you show other people.

That’s all well and good, but I tend to side more with Ann Patchett on the subject. Despite her years of food knowledge and preparation expertise, she is reluctant to put any significant effort into a meal meant only for herself. She writes of subsisting on crackers eaten over the sink, meager yet satisfying meals of odds and ends and non-cooked foods. Despite having the ability to make challenging and delicious cuisine, the last thing she wants to do after the trying experience of cooking that meal is to sit down and eat it. So when it came to feeding herself, she stuck to things that required as little effort as possible.

I don’t exactly eat saltines every night for dinner, but I understand the point. When I’m not cooking for others, I tend to lack the focus and energy to make a complete meal for myself. There are things I’d rather be doing with my time, and besides, I’m very easily satisfied. What’s the point in expelling all the energy, using up all that time, dirtying another dish, another pot, another fork and spoon?

But last Monday night, I felt in a bit of a food rut. I had eaten out a lot the prior week and hadn’t really gotten a whole lot of time in the kitchen, not even on the weekend when I generally do most of my meal-making. I still had quite a bit of produce in my fridge thanks to a Strip District visit the weekend before, and I didn’t have much to do or anywhere to be. I wasn’t even particularly tired.

So I set to making a simple stir fry.  Those of you who already have their chosen stir fry, feel free to ignore this recipe. Those who haven’t found their recipe might want to try mine. I’m not saying it’s the best, but it’s damn satisfying, especially with the addition of the green onion pancake.

Another one of my problems in cooking for myself is that I always end up making way too much, to the point that it’s more than even simple leftover lunch the next day can handle. This recipe yields a quantity big enough to share between two people.

Green Onion Pancake Stir Fry

Ingredients
– 2 to 4 green onions, chopped
– 1 small green pepper
– 1 small red pepper
– 1 small zucchini
– 1 tbsp veg oil
– 2 tbsp dark sesame oil
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1/4 tsp ground ginger
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
– Garlic chili hot sauce (optional – use to taste)
– 1 pre-packaged green onion pancake (found in Asian grocery stores – I got my pack of six at Lotus)
– 1 cup instant brown rice

– For rice, prepare as instructed on box.

– Heat vegetable oil in a large, deep pan. Add green onions and sesame oil. Saute until onions are tender, then add peppers and seasonings. Cook for a few minutes longer, than add zucchini and soy sauce. Toss until everything is well coated. Allow to simmer on low heat for ten minutes.

– Cook the pancake in the toaster until lightly browned.

– Assemble your plate: First a scoop of rice, then the pancake. Add extra soy if desired. Then top generously with veggies and leftover sauce from the pan.

Vegan MoFo Polenta Casserole!

Oh, cornmeal. In every corner of the world, cornmeal is used in abundance, from the Makki di roti in South Asia to kachamak in Bulgaria to the intriguing national dish of Barbados, Cou-cou and the Flying Fish.

In my kitchen it is mostly used as breading, cornbread and the occasional johnnycake craving. I love working with cornmeal because it is versatile and flavorful, but I haven’t done much with polenta, or boiled cornmeal, despite its terrific heritage and various uses.

[Among my favorite, from the Wikipedia entry on polenta: “In southern Austria, polenta is also eaten for breakfast (sweet polenta); the polenta pieces are either dipped in café au lait or served in a bowl with the café au lait poured on top of it (this is a favourite of children).”]

Vegan Polenta Pizza Casserole! Continue reading

Good Morning, Community Supported Agriculture!

Thanks to testimonies from friends and from several local blogs (but especially Yum Yum), I have decided to quit sitting the fence and subscribe to a CSA.

From gfgastronaut.wordpress.com

Community supported agriculture, or CSA, has its roots in early 1960s Switzerland, Germany and Japan, when local consumers became concerned about the potential fiscal and health related problems that imported agriculture posed to their communities. For a set number of weeks, consumers purchase a subscription to a local farm entitling them to a weekly share of the crops. There is inherent shared risk and reward in the system, meaning that consumers get whatever the farm grows seasonally (and their share reflects the season’s yield). While contemporary versions of the system have expanded to include specific item ala carte ordering, mostly it works the same way: you subscribe and receive a share, usually vegetables and fruit, sometimes dairy and meat and occasionally even sundry items (apple butter, preserves, cider).

The main drawback of the system is the risk the consumer takes – a thin harvest means little to distribute as shares – but the benefits of the system are immense. Firstly, community supported agriculture does exactly that: supports agriculture in the community. By buying shares of the harvest, consumers are allowing farms to continue to exist, to thrive, to grow. Local farms can continue to feed and educate their communities. Everybody benefits.

From postgazette.com

In addition, CSA subscribers are given an increased intimacy with the food they eat. Knowing not only where the food has come from but how it was grown and when can lead to a powerful bond between grower, buyer, and the food between them. As a CSA participant, you are getting from a local source, which cuts down on the amount of travel, therefore, short of growing it yourself, you’re getting some of the freshest possible produce.

Western Pennsylvania boasts many local farms, which means a lot of choices when it comes to CSAs. That’s where I need some help. Anyone who has a subscription, which program/farm do you subscribe to? One of my friends, Kait, had a summer box with Isidore Foods, a company that pulls from several farms in Lawrence, Butler, and other counties to offer year-round CSA subscriptions. Because they have drop-off points right down the road from me in Mt. Lebanon, it makes sense to go with Isidore, but what are some other good options?

For reference:

From the Fork and the Road

Slow Food Pittsburgh has a good, concise guide to choosing a CSA.
– A good discussion thread on Chowhound regarding local CSA options.
– Nice overview on CSAs at Local Harvest.
– Comprehensive list of local farms from Grow Pittsburgh
– Isidore sponsored Eat Local Pittsburgh

Year of the Pie

With the at-home tailgate for the Mountaineer game on Friday, Halloween partying on Saturday, and trick-or-treaters + Steelers game/The Walking Dead premiere, I haven’t had a whole lot of down time to cook and/or write about cooking. I’m looking forward to the day I get a digital camera, because then I can properly write/display the culinary output of kitchen. Friday’s tailgate feast was particularly good, but without pictures there’s little point to devoting a whole post about it.

The little bit of food-related business from the weekend (unless you count stuffing my face with candy and drinking a lot of beer) was reading this article on The Huffington Post, reporting the Nation’s Restaurant News 2011 Food and Restaurant Trends predictions. Among the upcoming trends:

2011 is THE YEAR OF THE PIE – According to restaurant and hotel consultant, Andrew Freeman, we are on the cusp, or, rather, the crust of the 2011 Pieocalypse: “This is not just sweet pies, this is savory pies, bite-sized pies. They are even blended into milkshakes,” he said. “I’ll eat pie if I don’t get this one right at the end of the year.”
Following the trend of item-specific bakeries, notably the cupcake craze of 2007 – 2009, and a more recent spate of donut shop fever, look for more pie shops serving up sweet and savory offerings for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert, snack time, birthdays… Look, ANY TIME is a good time for pie. Continue reading