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Friday, May 14, 2010

Vegetables Are Friends... I Dont Eat Friends. Normally.

My first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Basket has finally arrived!

It actually comes in that basket.  Too cute.

Ever since Huell Howser went up to the Central Coast and featured a CSA program out there, I had wanted to subscribe to something similar in So. California.  Eventually a couple of friends signed up for an organic produce delivery program and sure enough, I developed produce envy. The hunt began. 

Most of what I could find wasn't exactly what I had in mind. The places that were willing to deliver to my home were expensive and often had produce coming from the Central Coast - which is local compared to the produce at the store coming from Chile or Washington - but I wanted really local... Orange County local... so I could eat fruits and vegetables that were in season right where I lived. 

Considering Orange County's farming history (most of us who grew up here remember endless orange groves,  avocado trees or lima bean fields near our homes that are now nowhere to be seen) there is only a dwindling handful of organic farms left in Orange County. Most of them do offer a CSA program but none of them dropped off anywhere near me and because I am too lazy to drive 25 minutes to the nearest pick-up locations, I slogged along buying my produce at Henry's down the street (in my defense, I have crappy work hours and I would have missed a number of the pick-up times anyway.) 

The problem with picking up my own produce at the store is that vegetables are scary.  Even with the aid of my trusty Veganomicon (I'm not vegan, but seriously a great cookbook: Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook) I don't know how to prepare half the vegetables on the stands and thusly end up with the same 5 bits of produce in my cart: tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and onions. 

One time I got an eggplant.  It was overwhelming.

So imagine my excitement when about 2 months ago, my favorite local restaurant - The Old Vine Cafe - sent out an e-mail to it's mailing list members saying that they were going to be a location for the South Coast Farms bi-weekly CSA drop off.  The Old Vine Cafe!  We walk there!  It was a sign from the heavens!

Except, I was the only person to sign up and they wouldn't start deliveries until they had 5 people committed to the drop-off location.  So, I waited.  And about 4 weeks later I get the call.   Week 8 of the Spring CSA quarter, my first basket would be ready and waiting for me at my favorite place to eat, drink and be merry (seriously, if you haven't been to the Old Vine Cafe, go... now. Dinner is my favorite, but breakfast/brunch/lunch is amazing too.)

So here it is.

Another view of all the goodies

I got an e-mail the day of the delivery with a list of the items in the basket and a couple of recipe ideas. In this first basket are:

Valencia Oranges
Red Leaf Lettuce
Green Onions
Sweet Pea Flowers

* This is not what broccoli looks like at the store.  Are we sure this is broccoli? This looks like Top Chef broccoli.
**I have seen these items on my plate at a restaurant or in a cookbook, but have no idea how to cook them.  Send recipes and instructions please.
*** What!?!?

This is all the goodies in the basket unpacked.

I think these are beets? I've only seen them in crinkle cuts from a can.

The basket was packed!  I wasn't expecting so much food, but it makes sense for a bi-weekly drop off. The cilantro and the green onions smelled incredible and after dinner I got to work washing and prepping the lettuces Alton Brown style for easy use later in the week. The washing process is much more labor intensive than with grocery store produce - there's still tons of real dirt on most of the food and I wasn't sure how to prep the chard, beets, kale, cabbage or  kohlrabi, so I kind of just left them in their dirty glory in a separate spot in the fridge.

Can we discuss kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi - part of my first CSA Basket

I had to Google it to find out what the heck it was. It's a type of turnip.  I've never eaten a turnip.  My first turnip experience will be a kohlrabi - which is clearly an alien species. Can anyone suggest any incredible recipes for alien turnip? What does one do with all the tentacles? 

Anyhoo.  I'm looking forward to the eating experience and if you have any recipes that include any of the items in my basket that we should try, please send them my way!!!  And Sardean - if you read this, I think I need my Veganomicon back soon... haha I need directions!

With all this amazing produce, I'm sure you're all wondering what I made for dinner too. 

Let me start with the excuses.

I didn't get home until about 8PM.  I had to go pick up the basket after the gym (which already makes me pretty late getting home on a daily basis…remember my crappy work hours?)  and I was tired and overwhelmed after seeing all the produce.  So, I pick out the thing I know.  Strawberries.  To eat as a side dish.  For hot dogs.


Granted, they were the organic-certified-humane-grass-fed-hormone-free-all-beef-uncured-dogs on whole grain buns... but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a twinge of irony sitting at my dining table surrounded by gorgeous veggies, eating a hot dog.

Did I mention we had my mom's homemade cookies for dessert? Because we did.

Yeah. We'll eat healthy tomorrow. Promise.


  1. kale is great! we make chips out of them to eat with burgers/hot dogs/sandwiches its a nice alternative to potato chips :)

  2. woah! I never would have imagined kale as a chip! Thanks for that link - that's probably how we'll like it.

  3. um, i will send you an email :) but check out this site for some recipes from other people that get get baskets. I have use have used a lot fo these recipes for inspiration. have fun with it!

  4. wow, that produce looks awesome! I wish I cooked at home more so I could sign up for a CSA.

    Anyway, I really love Epicurious' site for seasonal/healthy cooking:

    My mom usually peels, slices and then braises the beets with a lot of garlic and some water. They come out with an extra kick.

    Kale chips are awesome! Typically I'll wilt them with a little oil and garlic in a pan just like spinach or chop them up and add them to soups.

    Turnips are great for adding to salads. Having a mandolin that can thinly slice or julienne them makes things easier.

    Have fun!

  5. Mike - maybe you could find a couple people to split a basket with - then you'd all only take as much as you would be able to cook in 2 weeks.

    I did kale chips - pretty tasty although I think I burned them a bit. For the chard we did Batali's "Pasticcio di Bietole al Forno" from a recipe suggested on Chow Hound. We've finished all the lettuces, fruits and parsley.

    All we've got left to figure out is beets, turnips, cilantro, cabbage, green onions & broccoli. I wonder if there's something delicious that uses ALL of them. Haha... gross.

  6. I told my mom about it and I think she's interested, so maybe i'll sign up for it with her.

    With the leftovers I'd probably do some sort of lettuce wraps with pork belly in it. chop up the veggies to make a slaw with a sesame oil, soy sauce vinagrette. Serve with brown rice.

  7. just read your post today! will bring your book back tomorrow :)

    basket looks really good. if only i knew how to cook well and on the fly with whatever ingredients i had. my mom used to put kale in a blender for me to drink. kale chips sound muuuuch better.


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