CSA 2009, Week Nine.

This may come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I hate my CSA box.  Each week, Keith brings it home and  I scamper over to see the contents within, and while I am mostly excited, sometimes me heart sinks at the sight of such things as the overwhelmingly intimidating kohlrabi and yet another bundle of irritatingly cheerful carrots.  I lean towards the gloom and doom, friends, and there are moments when a bright orange carrot can be downright scowl-worthy, what with its incessant merry disposition and sweet sweet sunny crunch.

Bah to you, Carrot.  BAH!

CSA basilWhen I’m in a mood like this, basil is more to my liking; I need its zesty and licorice-y bite, and I positively relish the fact that such an ordinary-looking bouquet of green leaves can posses such a knockout punch of spice.

So when Keith hefted our pounds of produce on the counter this week, I was zanily* happy to see a sneaky bunch of basil sitting atop a cluster of carrots, very much looking like a conquering hero in my crazy little mind.

The rest of the box overflowed with the following:

  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi (grr)
  • Lettuce
  • Scallions
  • Summer squash
  • Tomato (a single, happy tomato, which did not turn me into more of a grouch, since we all know I love them)
  • Wax beans

'Thai Style' BeefTomatoes-and-basil are one of those holy pairings like milk-and-cookies, mac-and-cheese, fries-and-mayo… and I knew my grumpiness would be assuaged by the familiarity of the two, but not if I threw them together into something boringly predictable like a bruschetta or a Caprese salad.  That would only sour me further, like milk left out in the sun.  So instead I turned to the below recipe, which added asparagus, beef and lime to the mix.

A quick word on asparagus: I may get some grief for this, but I’ll freely admit I’m not its biggest fan.  I mostly eat it exclusively in soup form, with tons of cream, though I always am tempted to try it again.  Maybe this will be when I like it, I say to myself.  Maybe I’ve only had bad asparagus, I reason.  Each time though, I’m disappointed.  What is it about this stalky plant that causes people — most notably the French — to go mad with desire?  What am I not getting?

This, it turns out, is what I’m not getting.  This, all of you out there, is this dish for asparaphobes.

The tomato and basil aren’t that bad either.

Thai Basil Beef with Rice Noodles, from Cooking Light
Makes four  portions

8 cups water
1 pound flank steak, trimmed of fat
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
4 ounces wide bánh pho rice stick noodles
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or a good-sized seeded tomato or two)
½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil

  1. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat.  While pan heats, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add steak to grill pan; grill 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Sprinkle steak with salt. Cut steak across grain into thin slices.
  3. While steak cooks, add asparagus to boiling water; cook 2 minutes. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon. Add noodles to boiling water; cook 3 minutes or until done. Drain; rinse well. Cut noodles into smaller pieces; place in a medium bowl.
  4. While noodles cook, combine sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, and curry paste in a large bowl. Add one-half of lime mixture to medium bowl with noodles; toss to coat. Add steak, asparagus, tomatoes, and basil to remaining lime mixture in large bowl; toss to combine. Serve steak mixture over noodles.
* Is this is a word?  No?  It should be.

CSA 2008, Week Five: Guest Writer!

Since Keith and I are in Oregon and therefore unable to use our CSA box, I asked my friends Amanda and Darlington (who are also sisters, I might add) if they wanted some fresh, locally-harvested vegetables. Not only did they eagerly agree, Amanda even wrote about her on-and-off love affair with the carrot and provided a carrot-centric recipe. Enjoy!
— Nayiri

When running on a hot summer’s eve, it helps to have something awaiting you at the finish line — perhaps a cool pond for swimming, the promise of a tasty meal, or even — as was the case on Tuesday — a fresh carrot! Straight from Nayiri and Keith’s vegetable box which I had picked up hours earlier (in their absence), it really was a deliciously sweet carrot.

But my relationship with the carrot hasn’t always been so serene.

Eight years ago I spent a season working on my cousins’ organic vegetable and flower farm in Stow, Massachusetts. One Sunday afternoon in late September I brought a friend to visit the farm. We chatted while I deftly chopped (with small machete) the greens off carrots fresh from the ground. (One might wonder why I needed a small machete to hack greens off carrots when a simple kitchen knife or scissors would do, but something about “expertly” wielding that knife just made me feel strong.)

So there I was strongly chopping and happily chatting until THWHACK! — I deftly chopped a chunk out of my finger. A mess ensued, followed by a trip to the local fire station where I have distinct memories of blood dripping on the driveway and an EMT telling me I should see a doctor.

My aforementioned friend offered to drive the forty-five minutes home; a generous offer indeed, but sadly, she couldn’t drive a standard so I held my left (injured) hand in the air while one-handedly driving us home. Then my father took me to the ER and then bought us ice creams cones. While it’s a well-known fact that any day ending with ice cream can’t be all bad, it took me a while to regain my affinity for carrots.

Sure, there are some pretty amazing things about carrots — how they can enhance night vision (debatable), how they can turn skin orange (true, if you eat enough), how they originated in Afghanistan in purple, red, white, yellow (but not orange!). Still, one look at the scar on my finger and my stomach churned at the thought of this particular root vegetable.

In fact, it wasn’t until last Thanksgiving that all was set aright between the carrot and I. It came in the form of a peace offering of sorts — from that very same farm where I had wielded the machete — and it was the most lovely, creamy, orange peace offering I have seen. Bearing the name “Carrot Soufflé” and prepared by my farmer cousin Barbara, it was the talk of the table.

Now that my appreciation for the carrot is back, you can imagine my delight at seeing a lovely bunch in this week’s vegetable box: perfect for snacking upon after a sweaty run. (They are 87% water, after all!)

And so a few days ago, when I shaved a chunk out of my thumb with a carrot peeler, I conjured up all of my positive carrot memories, took a deep breath, and reminded myself that the best thing to do with a carrot is neither chop nor peel it, but simply eat it — skin, bits of dirt and all.

If that isn’t enough to tempt you toward a big crunchy bite, there’s always this: the Ancient Greek called the carrot a philtron, which translates to “love charm.” They believed it made men and women more amorous.

Carrots, anyone?
— Amanda

Carrot Soufflé, from Barbara and Dwight Sipler at small farm
Makes six portions

1½ pounds carrots, sliced
½ cup butter or margarine
3 large eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

  1. Cook carrots in boiling water to cover, twenty to twenty-five minutes or until tender. Drain.
  2. Transfer carrots to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides occasionally. Add remaining ingredients and continue processing until smooth. Spoon into a lightly greased 1½ quart soufflé dish.
  3. Bake at 350˚ for one hour and ten minutes, or until soufflé is set.