Using recipes … or not!

Meet this week’s Mac veggies:

  • Radicchio — See the recipes for more information about enjoying this beautiful green!
  • Salad mix
  • Sweet peppers
  • Brussels sprouts — Brussels sprouts are the classic fall vegetable, perfect for sautéing with butter.
  • Butternut winter squash — Our favorite way to eat Butternut is to (carefully!) peel it, chop it, and roast it. So sweet and delicious!
  • Celery root — Another classic fall and winter vegetable for us. For some reason, this root daunts people more than others, but it is just another root. It’s great for roasting, adding to soups, or cooking and pureeing.
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks — In the fall and winter, we like to alternate between onions and leeks. Leeks are also an “allium” (in the onion family), except that they store well in the field as a green vegetable. We harvest them all winter long and love the fresh flavor they bring to dishes. Chop the white stalk all the way up to where it becomes tough by the greens and then use in place of onions in any cooked dish.

Several surveys this year (especially from newer folks) requested more recipes in the newsletter … this is something I will definitely try to do, as well as to continue giving tips for general preparations and good cookbooks (and other resources).

Interestingly, my inclusion of recipes has dwindled over the last few years (even though it is always a goal of mine). There are two reasons. First, I often write the “essay” portion of the newsletter first, and it seems that recently I’ve had a lot to say in that bit, leaving room for little else.

But also, to be honest, these days Casey and I don’t use recipes much when we cook. Sure, every few months we might check out a new cookbook and read it for inspiration, but most of our meals are very simple improvised combinations rather than official “dishes.”

For example, from this week, we’ve eaten at different meals: Cabbage sautéed with onions, roasted potatoes, with hamburger patties. Cooked winter squash mashed up with quinoa and sautéed kale, with fried eggs. Stew of beef and various roots and cabbage.

None of these started as recipes — instead, we stopped to ponder what we had in our cooler (or in the fields) and then considered how much time we had to cook and which combinations sounded good.

Eating like this requires some creativity every day. Fortunately, we usually have a huge “formula” breakfast (eggs, cooked greens, starch of some kind, kefir, coffee) and often have doctored leftovers for lunch. So, really, dinner is the primary “some-thought-required” meal. We also often cook up random pots of beans and grains to keep in the fridge, which helps speed along later meals.

I know plenty of people who prefer planning it all out carefully ahead of time, which I’m sure makes for some more interesting combinations (since we tend to fall on old favorites a lot) and helps with shopping and prep work. Every now and then we try to change our style, but we always come back to the “jazz” kitchen.

Probably something in between the two styles would be ideal for keeping a diet interesting and comfortable. I think it’s extremely useful for a household cook to become familiar enough with ingredients to feel comfortable looking at a kitchen full of veggies and have ideas about simple reliable preparations. But special meals can really be enhanced by careful consideration ahead of time and possible even the purchase of special ingredients (spices, herbs, etc.).

Today’s newsletter has more than the usual average of recipes, pulled from old newsletters (oldies but goodies) and some of our favorite cookbooks. In 2012, I will aim to be more regular in this habit, and eventually when/if we have CSA pick up on the farm (maybe starting in 2014?), we want to build a filing cabinet full of favorite recipes that people can search through while at pick-up.

In the meantime, if you’re starting your shopping for Christmas already, perhaps you might want to gift the cook in your house a new veggie-oriented cookbook. Here are a few of our favorites (selected for their great combinations but also for their useful general preparation information):

•    Joy of Cooking, the 1997 edition of this classic is our favorite
•    How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman
•    From Asparagus to Zucchini, Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition
•    Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
•    The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters
•    Simply in Season, Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert

If you have other favorite cookbooks, we’d love to hear more suggestions!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

2011 CSA season winding down!

Mac folks, you still have three more pick-ups after this week. Newberg folks, you have just one more! As the season winds down, here are things to think about:

  • Have you paid in full for 2011? (If not, you would have received a notice from us in the mail recently.)
  • Are you signed up for 2012? (Forms available at pick-up — please return to us by the end of November!)
  • Would you like to order extra veggies for storage over the break? (We’ll have a list of items to order attached to this week’s Newberg newsletter and to the second to last Mac newsletter. Items will be picked up and paid for at the final CSA pick-up for each location!)
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