CSA Half Share

What the Heck is CSA? And What Do I Do With It?

By Melissa Petersen / Photography By Melissa Petersen | April 01, 2010
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CSA vegetables
Baby Swiss chard — just need a quick sauté with some garlic and olive oil. Steamed new potatoes with sweet kale folded in...a little butter and parmesan...and I’ve got lunch. Snow peas and sugar peas — blanch and chill to keep on hand with french breakfast radishes for snacking...with some of my herb creme fraiche dip. Hmmm...cabbage...there’s enough to do some cabbage rolls for dinner and maybe even to make some slaw. Oooohhh...there are enough radishes to make some of those radish/butter sandwiches that sound strange, but taste great...need to store them in ice water in the fridge till I’m ready to use them: just a few carrots + just a little bit of broccoli + some baby spring onions + olive oil and foil = veggies to go with dinner

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been around the U.S. since the mid-1980s. We’ve had two here in Memphis for the last two years. It’s nothing new. But the growth of the model here does make it news.

CSA started with the premise that you — the client — pay a farmer (or cooperative of farmers) upfront for your season’s worth of produce. The farmer gets startup money for the year for seeds, equipment and labor, and each week you get a sack or box of what is fresh and abundant from the farm. It’s important to note that you don’t get to choose what you get. If it’s a banner week for eggplant, but the basil was eaten up by a bug — you’re going to get a bunch o’ eggplant and wait a few more weeks to get some basil. Originally, you — the client — also put in some volunteer hours on the farm, but that practice hasn’t been put into effect lately.

You have a “share” of the farm. You are in it with the farmer. When things are good, your box is full. And when things are thin, you’re toughing it out together.

For those of you who call yourself “foodies” — being a CSA member is where we separate the men from the boys. Sure, anyone can pull some recipes, make a shopping list and put together fresh, tasty meals. But how many of you can take what you get and make it work?

Apparently, hundreds of you in Memphis are making it work. Last year, among the two CSA programs, there were nearly 400 CSA members.

If you’re interested, you have lots of options. You can get a veggie full share (enough for 2 – 4 people), veggie half share (great for 1 or 2 person households), flower share (pick up a bouquet each week), and even shares with meat, honey, eggs and jellies. Most of the farmers offering CSAs offer several durations (4 weeks – 20 weeks) and pickup locations.

And because the farmers are working hard to provide variety, there are many times that the CSA members get the cool, new thing that just ripened this week and the regular farmers’ market shoppers have to do without.

So are you game to step your foodiness up to the next level?


“ANY GREEN” SAUTE


I was reading an article by Amber Nimocks in Edible Piedmont and she had a great line about greens — “You do not necessarily need to know what the green is to sauté it with olive oil and garlic.” So true!

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 – 4 cups greens (kale, collards, spinach,
  • Swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard greens) juice from 1/2 lemon
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of dried chile flakes or a dash of hot sauce (optional)

In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and greens, stirring constantly until greens are just wilted (they should still be bright green). Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper and dried chile flakes (or hot sauce). Serve immediately.


SLAW DRESSING


I’m not a huge fan of sweet slaw; I like a little tanginess. This recipe uses a light slaw dressing, made with sour cream, which actually lightens the feel of the dressing. The tanginess is toned down by using rice wine vinegar — you can also use champagne vinegar — but if you want a lot of tartness, using apple cider or red wine vinegar works, as well.

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together, then add to shredded cabbage. Some grated carrot and onion adds a nice crunch, too.


RADISH SANDWICHES


I’ve had these for lunch, and modified the recipe a bit and used it as an appetizer (served on bite-sized bread). Good salt makes a difference. Use kosher salt — the crunch of the salt adds something great — or one of those cool salts — smoked, fleur de sel, sel gris, himalayan salt.

firm radishes, ends trimmed and sliced thin
unsalted butter, softened
french baguettes
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Slather interior sides of bread with butter — don’t be afraid, use a significant amount of butter on this. Layer radish slices on the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


HERB CREME FRAICHE DIP


When I was a cook at a large catering company in San Diego, we used this dip every week. Customers always raved about it; yet it is a very simple recipe. The herb choices are up to you. Fresh herbs make all the difference, but having several herbs really adds some depth to it. The lemon juice is not optional — it’s necessary to “brighten” all the flavors.

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh flatleaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together. Cover and chill overnight in refrigerator. Serve with the crunchy spring veggies you get in your CSA — snap peas, radishes, spring onions, steamed and chilled potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.


BEER, BACON AND ONION POTATO SALAD


3 pounds red potatoes, cubed
2 – 3 tablespoons apple cider
vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 – 3/4 cup Ghost River Brown Ale
3 – 4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 small spring onion, finely chopped
4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Place cubed potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are just tender. Drain and chill potatoes.

In a small bowl combine vinegar, mustard and honey. Whisk in olive oil and beer. More oil may be necessary to achieve a thicker dressing. Fold in green onions, parsley and spring onion. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with chilled potatoes and crumbled bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve chilled.

BEER PAIRING, courtesy of Boscos Brewing Co. Growlers available at 827 S. Main St. and 2120 Madison Avenue — The caramel notes in Ghost River Brown Ale link up with virtually any beef or pork dish, but this pairing reaches perfection when you weave the flavors of the beer and bacon together. The addition of the beer to the potato salad strengthens this bond.


STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC GLAZED CHICKEN


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then sear chicken breasts on each side until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Place chicken in an oven-proof baking dish and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook shallots, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Cook until strawberries are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Carefully puree strawberry mixture in a blender, then strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds. Return strained strawberry mixture to saucepan, add honey and season with salt and pepper. Over medium heat cook until mixture is syrupy, about 8 minutes. Brush glaze onto chicken breasts. Bake chicken breasts until cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes, basting with strawberry glaze every 5 minutes. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.

WINE PAIRING courtesy of Wine Market, 4700 Spottswood — A fruity red with racy acidity will echo the flavors of the glaze for a perfect match.
Monte Antico Tuscan Red Blend, 2006, $14
Roaring Meg Pinot Noir, Central Otago, 2008, $22

BEER PAIRING, courtesy of Boscos Brewing Co. Growlers available at 827 S. Main St. and 2120 Madison Avenue — The strong banana character of Ghost River Hefeweizen finds a perfect compliment with the strawberry balsamic. This beer also has enough acidity to stand up to the vinegar.


FLANK STEAK ROULADE


1 flank steak, butterflied and pounded to 1/2” thick
2 cups spinach or arugula
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, softened
1 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
kitchen twine
Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, add 2 tablespoon of olive oil and sliced onions. Stirring frequently, cook until onions are soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Lay flank steak out flat and season “inside” with salt and pepper. Spread caramelized onions-spinach mixture evenly on steak. Layer sundried tomatoes and goat cheese. Press filling ingredients flat against steak. Roll steak tightly into a log. Tie kitchen twine every 2 – 3 inches along the length of the roll. Brush outside of roulade with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy saute pan, over high heat, sear roulade on all sides. Transfer roulade to an ovenproof baking dish and roast roulade until cooked through, about 30 – 40 minutes. For medium rare, internal temperature should be around 128°. For medium, cook until internal temperature is 140°. Let roulade rest for 10 minutes. Remove and discard kitchen twine. Slice roulade into 1”-thick slices and serve.

BEER PAIRING, courtesy of Boscos Brewing Co. Growlers available at 827 S. Main St. and 2120 Madison Avenue — The charred character of the grill is picked up beautifully by the roasted malt flavors in dark beers such as Boscos London Porter. Porter was made to pair with sweet, smoky, flavors.

WINE PAIRING courtesy of Wine Market, 4700 Spottswood —The Sangiovese variety of Chianti fame brings dried cherry fruit and a lithe, lean finish, allowing the cheese and sun-dried tomatoes to shine.
Centine Rosso, Tuscany, 2006, $14
Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino, 2006, $22

Article from Edible Memphis at http://ediblememphis.ediblecommunities.com/recipes/what-heck-csa-and-what-do-i-do-it
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