Let’s talk CSA.
We’re currently in our fourth week of the season (so behind on blogging…) and I have to say — this is a heck of a lot harder than I thought. I imagined all sorts of amazing meals that would result from having someone else select local, seasonal ingredients each week. And while we’ve had some real winners come out, I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the overwhelming feeling of, “what the heck do I do with all these unfamiliar ingredients?”
I’m used to sitting down each week and menu planning, but it frequently revolved around selecting proteins, and then determining the direction of the dish. The challenge now is designing menus around vegetables. Vegetables that I’m really not too familiar with.
When was the last time you thought to yourself, “Hmm, I’d really love to cook with kohlrabi root.” If you’re like me, the answer is never.
Walking around a store like Whole Foods, you’re bound to find a whole slew of unfamiliar ingredients. But most people already have their grocery list planned before they even set foot in the door. So whether you stumble across kohlrabi, lychees, or a head of escarole, you’re less likely to take it home and experiment unless — well — you’re forced to via a prepaid CSA subscription that you really don’t want to see go to waste.
By this time last year we would’ve been through a steady rotation of summertime favorites (mostly grilled zucchini and squash, accompanied by chicken burgers, steak, or salmon — repetitive much?). But now we’re branching out. And honestly? This is a great thing. I find myself creating simple, straightforward dishes that let the vegetables shine. At almost 34 weeks pregnant, this is a good thing. I can’t stand over the stove and bang out complex dishes with 42 steps. I want quick prep, relatively easy cooking, and above all, a meal that tastes great.
Last week’s CSA box included a few heads of escarole (a naturally bitter lettuce) and a package of dried yellow-eye beans. A quick google search informed me that when paired with sausage, these ingredients were a match made in heaven.
I was intimidated by this recipe. Escarole has never exactly been on my radar, I rarely cook with sausage, and I have a track record of royally screwing up fresh beans. So this was completely new territory for me.
I am happy to report that our first attempt at marrying these ingredients together was a home run! I used spicy Italian sausage, but next time (and there will be a nice time), I’m planning to use half sweet and half spicy.
Thanks to the guidance of my trusty sous chef husband, the beans turned out creamy and delicious, and offered the perfect counterbalance to the bitter escarole and spicy sausage. My only change to the recipe was adding about a ¼ – ½ cup of heavy cream. Given the spiciness of our sausage, I thought this would help mellow out the flavors a bit. It worked and ended up being a dish we both loved and enjoyed the whole week. It’s crazy filling, too.
Thank you, CSA, for opening up our eyes to a new way of eating. To many more adventurous meals this season!
*Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious.com.