Food Friday--Let the CSA Adventures Begin!

I've decided to do a CSA this year for the first time. What's a CSA, you may ask? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When participating in a CSA, you buy "shares" in a local farm and, in return, get fresh produce each week. The farmer's markets near us are at times that are difficult for us to fit into our schedule, and although I grow my own herbs, we've had terrible luck with tomatoes in the last few years and I travel quite a bit over the summer, leaving the bulk of the responsibility for summer gardening to my husband. He enjoys gardening, but works long hours himself. So our garden attempts the last few years have been pretty sad.

I finally tracked down a CSA near enough for me to make the weekly pick-ups pretty easily. Last night was our first pick-up.

In this week's bag: peas, kale, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and bok choy. I was afraid we'd get too much to handle but this feels do-able.

Both my daughter and I are fans of certain raw vegetables, straight off the vine. The raw peas made a very tasty appetizer while I was washing everything and figuring out what I was going to make for dinner.

My husband was out for the evening at a work thing, so it was just my vegetarian daughter and I. We decided to go on a cooking adventure and just make it up as we went. Well, "we" being in the royal sense, as it turned out. Normally my daughter does like to help cook but she had two late nights in a row so she begged off; I stuck her with loading the dishwasher after dinner instead. Not a bad trade-off, in my mind. I got to play with new toys, so to speak, as I messed around with new-to-me-produce, and she did most of the kitchen clean-up.

Here was my resulting dinner! (My daughter skipped the salmon and ate her bok choy with some vegetarian chicken nuggets.)

I wasn't as creative with the salmon as I could've been--just sprinkled some five-spice seasoning on it and baked it. I spent too much mental energy on the bok choy. Bok choy is something I've never cooked before, although I've eaten it plenty of times in Asian foods--usually in soups, I believe, although a lot of the Burmese meals I get to eat with my new arrival friends probably have it as well.

I put together a concept in my head and then checked my ideas by some recipes online. Yep! I was in the right ballpark. And it turned out mighty tasty, if I do say so myself! So, here's my recipe for this week:

Sandy's Sauteed Bok Choy
2 bunches bok choy, chopped into 1-2" pieces.
1/2 medium onion, diced or sliced thin
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
garlic to taste (garlic powder or fresh garlic)
2-3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

  • Heat oil, then add onion and ginger and saute for a few minutes until onion begins to turn translucent.
  • Add garlic and saute for another minute.
  • Add bok choy and saute until it cooks down slightly, then add soy sauce.
  • Saute for about 7-8 minutes, or until bok choy stems are crisp-tender.
  • As usual with my own recipes, all amounts are approximate and depend on what you've got on hand, as well as personal taste. I had three or four bunches of bok choy but a couple of them were quite small, so knowing what I typically see available in the grocery story, I'm thinking two larger bunches would be the equivalent. I just used garlic powder this time but fresh garlic would be better, as fresh usually is.
  • I used low-sodium soy sauce and didn't add any other salt. If you use regular soy sauce, you may want to use less. This was just about the right saltiness for me.
  • The bok choy, like any leafy green when you put it in heat, cooks down quite a bit. Using all four bunches that we'd gotten gave me barely enough for my daughter and I, and you can see our servings weren't that big.
Food Friday posts are making a comeback this summer as I go on my CSA adventure! Here are two cookbooks that were highly reviewed on Amazon that I'll be consulting (although I didn't tonight):

The Farmer's Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Your CSA and Farmer's Market Foods, by Julia Shanks and Brett Grohsqal (CreateSpace, 2012). Looks good, but no pictures with recipes. I miss having pictures. Looking forward to trying the recipes, though.

From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce, by Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (Jones Books, 2004). Again with the no-pictures-thing. When I'm trying to identify produce, a nice color picture would be extremely helpful.

Both of these books have good tips on storage, as well as a wealth of recipes. I have another book I've requested through my public library that was recommended by a friend--I'll let you know about that one when I get it.

I'll leave you with a moment of quilting inspiration...Swiss chard stems. 
(Match those up to your color wheels, why don't you?)

It sounds like a horror movie but...

...I now have red creeping thyme in my garden. (Cue horrific scream.)

Gotta love anything named "creeping." But it should be pretty. Not that mine looks like this yet. Rather, I now have five little tiny patches of green bitty leaves interspersed along a boulder wall in my front yard. I had to leave the plant markers in so my husband wouldn't accidentally yank them as weeds. I doubt they'll even look like this by the end of the summer, but at least they should look like something by then.

We've been in this house for 4 years now and I've yet to find anything that will actually grow over the top of that wall and flow attractively down the front of it like I've dreamed. It gets a kazillion degrees out there and is subject to pretty high winds, so we can only plant the most hardy of stuff. Daylillies--check. Ornamental grasses--check. Sedum--check. A few other wildflower-esque things that now I can't remember what they're named--check. But pretty flowy things? Not yet. The alyssum lasted all of about 5 minutes, the creeping sedum is growing about a quarter inch a year, and I've had a few tragic ends to other hopeful plants. I think I'm starting to hear them scream when I come towards their little table in the garden shop.

So, since I've had a lot of luck with herbs over the years and it's amazingly hard to kill them (they are, after all, edible weeds), I decided to give the creeping thyme a shot. I'll just try not to have nightmares of it eventually "creeping" it's way into my bedroom in the dead of night and wrapping itself around my neck.

It feels good to have finally gotten my hands in some dirt this weekend. I got my tomatoes planted, as well as some mint, basil, and rosemary to supplement the other herbs that did come back from last year (anyone need oregano, sage, or tarragon? Bumper crop already). I'm a little late--usually Memorial Day weekend is the big planting season around here. Any earlier, and they freeze their little roots off. Later and you can't get the produce off before it freezes at the other end. I think we'll be good. Round about mid-August I should start being able to make pasta sauce almost completely from my garden. I still have a few other random empty spots I need to find something to plant in but hopefully by the end of next weekend I'll be done and we can just wait and see what survives our strange little mini-ecosystem.

OK, so this isn't a quilty blog entry. Sorry. I have been sewing but I'm finishing up the creativity challenge project so I can't really say much about it nor can I post pictures yet. Later this week--promise! I can't wait to post pictures of other folks' responses to the creativity challenge that I've been sent--this is so freaking cool! I love seeing how different people interpret the photo. Nifty keen.