This autumn I decided to put my money where my mouth is … and I bought a half share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). There are several reasons behind this decision. Some are related to taste, others to ethics, or my profession, and some to ... ego.
I never realized how fortunate I was growing up in Northern California in an agricultural community – with a father who worked in the industry. Frequently he brought home lug boxes of melons, tomatoes, corn, pears, and peaches. In the early 70’s when Kiwi’s became the “next big thing”, he had customers growing them and they found their way to our table.
When I moved away from home to Arizona I suddenly realized what I’d left behind. The green grocer in the produce section could only tell me the peaches were “California Peaches” – not if they were Clings or Freestones. Pears were never warm and juicy, Bing cherries were tart and tough, and artichokes were dried out and wizened. That’s when I learned that produce tasted best picked at the height of ripeness – and grown close to home.
I struggle with the fate of the US farming community. Should they grow their goods commercially, for high yields, with customer-pleasing uniformity and budget pleasing consumer-cheapness? Or grow them in agricultural-boutique settings, limited in quantity and radius, beguiled with imperfections, while affordable only to those living at or above middle class?
I'm also finding myself evaluating my food decisions a little longer after reading Michael Pollan’s, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. (I highly recommend you read this book)
I am employed by agriculture. I hate being a hypocrite. I want to support the (a) solution – not just sit on the sidelines and criticize.
I read all these whiny posts about people who say, “OMG … WEEK FIVE OF SWEET POTATOES/GREENS, what can I do with them?” Each time I want to smack them then walk into their kitchen and take over. So –once again, put my money where my mouth is … or my cooking rep on the line.
So far, it’s been a good, if expensive, experience. My ½ share cost $63.00 for six weeks of produce. When you buy in – it’s like a marriage. For better or for worse – so you better choose a good mate. Worse means if there’s a natural disaster – flood, freeze, or petulance, you’ve paid a farmer to receive nothing. Better means a farmer that offers variety. Better means even with variety you might still have five weeks of unending greens, but they will taste better than the one pound you purchased at the local grocery.
Signing up also doesn’t mean you’ll stop making produce purchases at the local grocery store. I’ve yet to end up with a single onion, head of garlic, clutch of mushrooms, shallots, green onions, or bunch of basil. All those weekly produce purchases are still happening. So – ten dollars a week for produce I might not buy to begin with so … NOT the most cost effective way to acquire produce.
I have won out with the “what else can I make with this” dilemma. I’ve added Vitamin Green aka Mizuna to green chili chicken enchiladas and soups. I’ve kicked up my oriental cooking to use the bock choy … and prepared sweet potatoes four different ways without resorting to marshmallows, pecans or bourbon.
Orecchiette with Broccoli
Aprox. 2 lbs broccoli (I used up some leftover Broccolini)
5 tbls olive oil
4 lrg cloves garlic, finely minced
8 anchovy fillets, finely minced (or anchovy paste)
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
1 lb dried orecchiette ("little ears")
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Make an ice-water bath in a large bowl.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water - at least 5 quarts - to boil over high heat.
Separate broccoli florets from stems, but keep florets in large clumps. Use tender parts of the stems, cut in sizes about the same as the florets.
Add stems to boiling water, cook 2 minutes, then add florets to boiling water and cook until just tender. The florets will cook in 2 to 3 minutes, stems in 3 to 4 minutes. Lift them out with tongs or a skimmer as they are done and place in ice-water bath to stop the cooking. RESERVE COOKING WATER.
Boil pasta unilt al dente in the same water you used to cook the broccoli, stirring often to keep the orecchiette from sticking together.
Drain broccoli from bath water and chop coarsely.
While pasta cooks, Heat 3 tbls olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over moderately low heat. Add garlic and saute 1 minute to release its fragrance. Add anchovies and stir with a wooden spoon to blend with the oil. Add hot red pepper flakes. Add broccoli and stir to coat with oil and seasonings. Season well with salt. Keep warm.
Take 1/2 cup of pasta water out of boiling pasta and reserve.
In a large warm bowl, add remaining 2 tbls oil and 1/2 cup of the cheese. When pasta is done, drain. Transfer to warm bowl and toss with oil and cheese. Add contents of skillet and remaining 1/2 cup cheese and toss again. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if needed to moisten the pasta and make a sauce.
Serve immediately on warm dishes.
...One of the things I like about this recipe is that it's quick and easy. With the exception of the broccoli, everything is/should be in my pantry as staples. Plus - those little ears! It's amazing how they cup the bits of broccoli - nestling a little bit of garlic and sauce in each bite.
It's also easy to warm up the leftovers without ruining the taste. I just add 1/8 to 1/4 cup of chicken stock (from frozen ice-cubes) to a saute pan. Dump in the past - warm, stir, warm - garnish with more cheese and consume.