Thursday, May 17, 2012

CSA: Community Supported Agriculture

I've known about CSA's for years, but as a single person, I just couldn't get my head around receiving THAT MUCH produce every week! I've been low-carb for just over a year now, and have stopped the madness of eating cereal for dinner with ice cream for dessert. Now there's room for produce!

I'm settling into my new self and my new life, following the before/during/shortly thereafter tumult of my move from NYC. I'm lighter in every way.

Eating healthier food is becoming a mindset, and I'm becoming disciplined about menu planning. I shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store for proteins and veggies and I fill in at trips to the farmer's market. There are still challenges to overcome. If I have an event or dine out a few nights or if I feel like having a smoothie for dinner rather than cooking, I might not get to the mushrooms, or to the bagged spinach...and they cross the line over to slimy. I'm buying more carefully, roasting and grilling pretty regularly, and there's no waste now that I use the FoodSaver. 

I've signed on for a 12-week Summer Produce/Herb CSA Membership from Poplar Ridge Farm in Waxhaw, NC. I've mentioned the farm in previous posts. Farm dinners featuring local chefs are served under the stars, there are beautiful flowers for sale, condiments canned by farm interns, canning and baking classes by "The Sweetie Pie" Ashley Eller, seasonal farm tours, Wednesday and Saturday market days, etc... Owner Marianne Battistone is a transplanted New Yorker, former dancer and a contributor to Self Magazine.

I'm splitting a 1/2 share (every other week) with a friend and it's forcing me to incorporate veggies into my diet, consciously! This week I received arugula, lettuce, white and purple kohlrabi, beet greens/baby beets, two kinds of radishes, baby leeks, kale, spinach and collard greens.

This is my 1/4 share--and I couldn't fit the lettuce or the arugula in this overflowing basket!

I washed and prepped, wrapped, labled and bagged my haul. It took about 30 mins.

I have ideas about how to use everything except the collard greens. Collard greens? I had them once before in the 1990's, during a very touristy brunch at Sylvia's in Harlem, NYC. They were cooked to death (they didn't look green), and were served with big whompin' ham hocks in an aluminum chafing dish. I have not sought them out since.

But my CSA "Flash" Collard Greens were gorgeous! I unfurled them and just stared. The leaves are strong~~you could use one as a fan! I surfed the web for recipes and found one I'd like to share with you. 

Collard Green & Sweet Corn Pesto
Courtesy of  Chef Darius Williams

½ c. toasted pecans
4 medium sized collard green leaves, stems removed
¼ c. Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
1 ½ c. olive oil (Dale's note: I used a bit less...I'll add more if needed)
½ cup of frozen sweet corn kernels

Heavily salt a huge pot of water, bring to a rolling simmer and blanch the collard green leaves for about 4 minutes. The idea is to have them slightly tender without losing color or flavor. Once 4 minutes have elapsed, drain (Dales's note: run under cold water to cool, and to set the bright color) and set aside.
In a blender add drained collard green leaves, pecans, cheese, salt, pepper, corn kernels, and drizzle oil until a thick paste forms. Darius suggests tossing with hot pasta, serving with roasted salmon and garnishing with a few frozen corn kernels.

(Dale's note: Some other ideas~use this pesto as a sandwich spread, toss shrimp in it, drizzle over goat cheese, dollop onto roasted's goood!)

Here are some pix of my prep, and the process through the finished product. I'm open to more ideas for collards, but this is a great first step for a collard newbie!

I'll be working my way through my bounty...roasting, sauteeing, frizzling, braising, grilling, etc... and I'll look forward more surprises in my next deliveries!

Life is good. Level and plumb.