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!
When 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:
- Green beans
- Kohlrabi (grr)
- 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
Tomatoes-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
- Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. While pan heats, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
When I was younger, I had subscriptions to the sorts of magazines that had personality tests for everything — “What Kind of Girlfriend Are You?”, “Are You a Pushover?”, etc. — but my favorites by far were the ones whose purpose was to determine the best perfume for me. I never ended up with the right scents (I loathe patchouli) but the results never bothered me because I’ve always known what my favorite fragrance is: tomatoes on the vine.
They smell so amazing, don’t they, tomatoes and their plants? Spicy and peppery, they just typify summer to me, and their presence in my kitchen is something I look forward to all year. Of course, the summer of 2009 is going to be one of fresh, local tomato shortages, a direct result of the late blight.
Completely aggressive and destructive, the blight has almost totally annihilated The Food Project‘s potato and tomato crop — though, apparently, the Colorado Potato Beetle had already taken out a lot of the plants out in Lincoln. We’ve been promised green tomatoes in the near future, and while I am excited to receive some sort of tomato, and even though I keep on thinking about gift horses and mouths, I kind of just want a proper red tomato. I don’t think stamping my foot is going to get me far, so I’ll just settle for what was in our box this week:
- Asian eggplant
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Green garlic
- New potatoes
- Salad mix
- Spicy salad mix with arugula and mizuna
These three tomatoes, dewy with condensation from the humidity in the air, were like treasure to me — which is why I ate them over the sink, raw, their juices running down my chin and wrists. If I could have, I would’ve figured out a way to savor them more, especially considering these will most likely be the final burst of tomato-y-ness I’ll experience for a while… which is why I took a snapshot. You know what they say: pictures last longer.
It’s hard to believe summer is almost over, especially since our CSA box has been steadily growing, all but inundating the fridge with its contents. In fact, I emptied the CSA produce out of the fridge just to see the difference its removal made, and Keith said, “It looks like there’s no food in here.”
This week’s box consisted of the following:
- Garden Peach tomatoes
- Hot pepper
- “Regular” tomatoes
- Spicy salad mix
- Sungold cherry tomatoes
- Watermelon (which was out of the box, if you want to get into specifics.)
I needed to put together a super-fast dinner for Keith and me; it had to get on to the table in fifteen minutes or less. I had just read an article on CookThink about boiling garlic for pasta; since I had several heads, I decided I would use them all. Though the CookThink piece indicates the use of unpeeled cloves, I threw in my cloves unpeeled, along with some gemelli. While the pasta boiled, I halved each of the tiny Sungolds; after I strained the gemelli, I picked out the cloves, which I then mashed into two tablespoons of melted butter. I tossed everything together — pasta, raw Sungolds, garlic-butter — and added some Parmesan. Had I any fresh herbs (sage, maybe, or even thyme) I would have given them a rough chop and added them to the mix. As it was, everything came together nicely for a quick, light dinner, and I’m pleased to say that it took precisely fifteen minutes. Not bad at all.