Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Practicing Prevention: Using Produce from a Farm Share

As someone who spent a lot of childhood summers on a dairy farm (my grandfather’s), I became accustomed to the (superior) taste of freshly picked fruit and vegetables and missed them when I made the move to the big city. I also believe in supporting family farms. When I was single, this meant trekking to farmers markets when I could, but weekends I was often on the road or otherwise occupied and couldn’t make it on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, Wegmans (www.wegmans.com) hadn’t made it to any of the cities I was living in during my 20s and none of the stores I shopped at made it a practice of buying from local farmers the way Wegmans admirably has for years.

Thankfully, a colleague in Chicago introduced me to community-supported agriculture (CSA) (http://www.localharvest.org/csa/) and farm shares. Once we started having family dinners on a regular basis, it seemed that enough vegetables would be consumed in our family to support our participation, and we signed up.

Meal preparation is a bit different with a CSA. Instead of planning my meals and then doing shopping, I now start with what’s in the weeks’ box, find recipes that use those items up before they spoil (since they were picked ripe, my window is short for some items) and supplement with items from the grocery store. This process is made SUPER easy in the internet age as you can go to any number of recipe sites and enter your ingredient (e.g. zucchini) and get a long list of ideas – with something to meet everyone’s mood and taste preferences. Or, if you’re like me and have a rather large binder of recipes you’ve gathered and been meaning to try, you cull through piles of recipes as you watch the game/match to put meals together. Sometimes I improvise, substituting an item in the recipe for one I have. Our box comes on Thursday afternoons so I plan my menus on Friday night and go shopping Saturday morning. My main criteria in choosing a recipe are finding something that uses what comes from the farm, “healthy” and likely to be declared “yummy” by my family. This can be a challenge in a house where I think “yummy” means tasting the vegetables and other people think life would be grand eating Alfredo sauce every night! So there is a balance and some tweaking – we aren’t all about plain raw veggies!

Can you show me what you mean?

SURE!

This week, we had a few gorgeous zucchini in our box so I went looking for recipes that used zucchini in my pile. I found a yummy looking pasta dish I had ripped out of some magazine while on an airplane. It called for zucchini (check), onion (had some in the pantry), lemon (always have those), Parmesan cheese (always in the fridge), tiny frozen green beans (which I misread as tiny frozen peas, check) and heavy cream. The recipe mostly met the Your Disease Risk cancer prevention guidelines i.e. eat vegetables, limit red meat) but was a little heavier on the cream and cheese (i.e. limit saturated fats) than I’d like so I just scaled back a bit on those items. It came together quickly and easily.

Chop up a zucchini.

And an onion.

Grate some Parmesan cheese. (that looks like a lot in the photo but it was maybe 1/2 cup)

Thaw some frozen peas (because that’s what you have even though the recipe says green beans)

Zest and juice a lemon.
Saute the zucchini and onion together with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until tender.


Toss it together with the cooked pasta, a little cream, the Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice and a bit of the pasta cooking liquid.

Fast, easy and delicious.

And if you’re lucky like those of us who participate in the Yellow Wood Farms CSA, your weekly box sometimes contains mulberries! Mulberries (which apparently grow on trees not bushes) don’t transport well from what I’ve read so you won’t find them in stores. So unless you’re doing some urban foraging, you won’t find them… unless you’ve got a great farm share!

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