Thursday, July 16, 2009
Week 5: A Quick CSA Primer
THIS WEEK’S HITS: Vegetarian “Cajun” Collards and Chard, Chickpeas and Feta
Broadly speaking, Community Supported Agriculture is a system of shared risk. You pay in advance for a share of the harvest and you assume some of the farmer’s risks in growing it.
There are different models for this. Some CSA programs are run by a single farm; others are cooperatives. Some operate in an Iron Chef mode: Your bag of “secret ingredients” is revealed each week. Others offer credits or “free choice” so you can bag your own mix of produce from the available harvest. Still others require members to work on the farm as part of their share.
What’s available from a CSA, in terms of quantity and variety, can vary considerably, depending on weather, critters, Acts of God, and the farm’s commitments to retail outlets. It’s not necessarily a money-saver -- though I certainly squirreled away a lot of food last fall. It’s more about eating well and supporting local agriculture.
I love our CSA program, and it’s a good fit for us. It helps that The Programmer and I like vegetables, like to cook, and are willing to experiment with unfamiliar food. I know where my vegetables are being grown and I know the guy who’s growing them.
That’s a benefit also offered by farmers’ markets and farm stands. If a CSA share is not a practical option for you (and you know who you are), I encourage you to patronize your local growers for fresh, seasonal produce. Local food is good eating!
The past week was a light one for our CSA, which is still recovering from a gloomy June. We received Swiss chard, beets, Boston and red leaf lettuce, collard greens, sage plants for our own garden, and a voucher for pick-your-own fruit later this season. Still, it was a good week of dinners. Chard, Chickpeas and Feta was a side dish to baked cod. Several recipes are available on the Web; I started with the one here, substituting red onion for green. I pickled the beets in a mustard vinaigrette and I roasted chicken with parsley, thyme, and our newly acquired sage.
Collard greens were a new one for us. (Yes, The Programmer grew up in Florida, but his Miami upbringing was closer in spirit to New York than anywhere in the Deep South.)
Unlike many traditional recipes for collards, this one – slightly modified from one found on About.com -- includes no pork and has a fairly short cooking time. I served the greens with the roasted chicken. They were even better reheated the next day.
Vegetarian “Cajun” Collards
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil, for sauteeing
1 bunch collard greens, rinsed, stemmed, and chopped
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved
Reserved tomato liquid plus water to make 3/4 cup
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a little olive oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onions and garlic until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the collard greens and the reserved tomato liquid and water. Cook, covered, for about 8 minutes, or until the greens have softened slightly. Add the tomato pieces and spices and simmer, covered, for another 8 minutes or until the greens are done to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste.