Monday, June 20, 2011

A Summer Onslaught of Vegetables

I must confess: we are not that into organic food. That might seem strange for two people who love food like we do, but we eat corn-fed beef and non-organic tomatoes and regular old milk, and we are perfectly fine with that.

The idea of organic food, however, is a fine one that we finally bought into. This winter, my colleagues asked if Chef Matt and I wanted to buy into a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) share. We had resisted in years past, partly because of the upfront cost and partly because we were unsure if we would be able to consume all the vegetables that came in a weekly box.

But this year, in the pit of despair that is February, I perused the list of vegetables and fruit and could suddenly smell sweet summer breezes and feel watermelon juice running down my chin. I called Matt and pitched the idea to him, and he agreed before I could finish rattling off the many varieties of leafy vegetables. It was very much a "you had me at rainbow chard" moment.

Last week, our first box arrived. I was a little stumped: how does one cook a turnip? how does one eat that much lettuce? what, precisely, is a pea vine? But, motivated by the upfront cost and the sad sight of food in the garbage, I resolved to use it all. When in doubt, Matt said, saute in butter and garlic.

First, I made a layered summer salad with romaine, green leaf lettuce, scallions, pea vine and basil. The bouquet of greens tasted like fresh air, even through a veil of mayonnaise, cheese and bacon. Tonight, I whipped together a homemade sweet and sour dressing, and tossed it with baby bok choy, scallions, French breakfast radishes (sauteed in butter and garlic), and parmesan cheese. The greens had that bright, heady taste of something that has been recently plucked from the earth, still warm from the sunshine.

Undoubtedly, the flavor and freshness of something organic and recently harvested is heavenly. Our non-organic way of eating is not likely to change, but the CSA will inject a little new life into our summer menus, with its heirloom tomatoes, varieties of peppers and eggplant, and lovely exotic foods like kohlrabi and rutabaga.

The weekly boxes, unfortunately, do not include any sort of macaroni and cheese, so it is unlikely that our children will eat any of it, no matter how luscious. I suppose that means more rainbow chard for us ... whatever that is.

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