Earlier this spring, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. In her book, she recounts the first year that she and her family moved to a farm in western Virginia (near her home of Kentucky!) to grow and raise their own food. “This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew,” she writes. Throughout the book, she explains that if we ate the food that grew at home (or at least in our local areas) we would reap numerous benefits, including increased nutrition, decreased petroleum consumption, better local economy, and a distinct food culture.
Admittedly, when I finished the book I believed it sounded a bit idealistic. While I have experienced firsthand that the best tomatoes come straight from a garden, I can’t grow all my food at home. I can, however, shop locally. My husband and I eat almost exclusively at the amazing local restaurants here in Louisville, our favorite being Ramsi’s Cafe on the World, where much of the food is produced locally. In general, I am an advocate for patronizing local businesses.
Yet, I did not see myself ever committing to eating close to home. For one, there are so many foods with fantastic health benefits that would be scratched out of my diet, including chia seeds and quinoa. I’d also be saying goodbye to fresh fruit for most of the year. Couldn’t there be some kind of middle ground?
Then, one day in April, I saw a post about the Casey County Community Supported Agriculture program, offered through Rainbow Blossom. My mother-in-law has been participating in a similar program for a few years, and so Nick and I decided to look into it. In short, we put down money to receive a box of fresh produce grown just a few counties south of us. We decided to join because 1) you can’t beat fresh, 2) we’d be supporting small farmers, 3) it’s fun to get a box of surprises every week.
While I love to cook, I knew participating in the program would challenge me. I usually make a meal plan before going grocery shopping, knowing exactly what I’ll be cooking in the week ahead. I’m always trying new recipes, but I tend to stick with vegetables I know how to prepare, such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, and peppers. Throughout this summer, I’ll have to get creative, learning that sometimes “less is more” and there is an art in preparing simple meals.
Last week I picked up our first box, eager to see what was inside:
We got parsley, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, green onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots. And a spider, who is not pictured because I had Nick evacuate him from the apartment. That’s how you know your produce is organic and farm fresh!
I immediately went onto Pinterest to explore recipes that contained these ingredients. I found a few really great ideas, including this balsamic parsley pesto, which I tossed with brown rice spaghetti, and sliced tomatoes. We had enough for two meals, and it was fantastic both times.
I used a sweet potato and some kale in another recipe that I’d made just a few weeks ago that we were still raving over: a pizza made with roasted sweet potato, caramelized white onion, balsamic kale, and mozzarella, just slightly adapted from this recipe. The flavor combination is outstanding!
Then I came to the cabbage. I stared at it. I willed it to go away. I was determined to get rid of it. Don’t get me wrong, I like cabbage, but just thinking about eating that entire head of cabbage…well, it made me not want to eat any of it. I decided to cook it in vegetable broth, making it go down easier in large quantities. In the end, I only ate one serving. Luckily, Nick got creative in another episode of Cooking With BFG and slathered it with hummus, making what I teasingly deemed his own version of fettuccine alfredo…
I had a friend who once became a vegetarian for the summer in order to make herself eat more vegetables. Well, I’m already a vegetarian, but I think being a part of this program will force me to eat a wider variety of vegetables. In particular, I’ll be eating more leafy greens, which, to be honest, aren’t my first choice. In this week’s box we got spinach, mixed salad greens, Bibb lettuce (I think) and something that might be a red kale (I think.) Clearly, I need to expand my salad knowledge. What I do know is that I made a really delicious sweet balsamic and oil dressing to put over them. (I guess it’s the summer of balsamic, huh?)
What are some of your favorite ways to prepare veggies in the summertime?