Garden of Eve Farm

Our CSA is mere weeks from starting up again, and we are very prepared to be inundated by vegetable goodness!  We’ve started with a different farm this year, Garden of Eve (joyful picture above from their website).  Their farm has a CSA that’s a little closer to us than last year’s, and we’re excited to check out the new landscape.  This year we went for a whole share instead of a half and have split it with another couple, as well as a full fruit share, and two half-dozen egg shares.

We have big plans for dinner parties and picnics and trips to the farm!

As a refresher course, here’s the beloved 10 Reasons to Join a CSA, the abridged version (click to your left to see the loquacious version):

  1. Support local farms!
  2. Reduce your footprint!
  3. Be season conscious!
  4. Build a community!
  5. Try new veggies!
  6. Reduce your meat intake!
  7. Learn to cook!
  8. Improve your nutrition!
  9. Save money!
  10. Forget the brainstorm!

Find your own local CSA here.

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Drowning the Harvest

With the impending apocalypse – dubbed Irene – it seems a day to celebrate the harvest… as it drowns slowly to oblivion.  And so, a little whimsy.

PearspicacityA little pearspicacity?
A head’s a mighty good place for strings beans, carrots, and arugula too, if they made it to your share… which they just might in August!

Prepare to get peppered. (Also gar-licked, zucchini-slapped, cuc-ed, and tomato-faced, if say, they also landed in your CSA box.)

I ‘ear you also got an eggplant? Hope it doesn’t get babaghasmooshed in the hurricane.

Fingers crossed, Irene won’t drown the fields of New York and squander our share for the rest of the season. Such is the risk (and reward) in relying on the harvest.

Sesame Mucho

Here’s a challenge those of us in my household enjoy: how many foods can we combine from our CSA share into one meal, and still have it taste good?

This week we managed to accumulate:

  • fresh onion
  • fresh garlic
  • purple basil
  • amaranth greens
  • Velour string beans
  • gold beets
  • eggplant
  • plum tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • hot green peppers
  • blueberries
  • and yellow peaches
And ten out of twelve ain’t half bad.

A good way to throw it all into one meal is with a (sesame) stir-fry. Start with your aromatics… say, fresh onion, garlic, purple basil, and hot green peppers. Then let them sauté until soft.
Add chopped eggplant.
When that has softened, add plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and amaranth greens.
Then add (mmm) sesame seeds, with a sauce made of sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, ginger, and a squeeze of orange.  Put it over rice and grab chopsticks.
For dessert we had peaches and blueberries.
Cheating you say? Oh. Oops.

Zucchini Battle

Zucchini BattleHere’s a secret they don’t tell you about visiting the country: if you leave your car unlocked – for mere seconds – someone will come along and sneakily dump a 30-pound box of zucchinis in your trunk when you are distracted by a deer.

This makes the Bronx look rather tame.

Zucchini TartThe other thing they fail to tell you is that there’s a million things to do with zucchini. With our surprise 30-pound box, we dedicated a meal a day for a week to zucchy dishes.

Zucchini Fritters and Golden BeetsWe started ambitiously on a Monday with a zucchini tart, the recipe for which came from our seasonal bible. It’s a base of bread crumbs with vegetables on top and a cheesy egg mixture, which turned out to be a crowd pleaser.

On Tuesday, we had share veggies: mesclun greens with golden beets alongside some local goat cheese and zucchini fritters (egg, a little flower, s&p, fried in butter).

Ratatouille PastaIf after a long Wednesday you received tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil in your CSA… what would you make? It seemed pretty obvious that this was a night for pasta, and so we cooked what we deem ratatouille pasta! Zucchini and summer squash with the fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, sautéed up with some whole wheat pasta. And the coziest Wednesday night meal was set, to be paired with a Cary Grant movie (“His Girl Friday”).

img_7808On Thursday, zucchini bread seemed to be in order. All kinds of variations are plastered over the internet and they’re easy to make. Also, I’ve found that when you give people zucchini breads, they inexplicably love you.

Zucchini and BeansFor Friday, a variation on beans and rice with zucchini, tomatoes, shallots, oregano, cumin, and chili pepper.

And on Saturday, another Vegetables From An Italian Garden meal – zucchini pesto! It turned out quite beautiful and impressive (perfect for a Saturday evening first course affair), and while vaguely like pesto, had delicious summer zuch undertones.  Highly recommended.

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And on the seventh day, we rested.

Aka: ordered take-out.  It did not contain zucchini.

Eggplantpalozza

Eggplant looms large in our legend. On my first date with my honey – a story I’ve been forced to tell three times alone this week – I fainted head first into my Eggplant Parmeggplant parm for no apparent reason. The entire fire department piled into the tiniest Italian restaurant you’ve ever seen, followed by an ambulance squad, a whole pack of hysterical waiters, and my poor boy had a minor heart attack. (We’ve both recovered, by the way.) So when our dubious friend the eggplant arrived in our CSA share this weekend, we were skeptical… and also, very excited.

Because of its unique texture, eggplant is highly maleable and open to a lot of recipes that other vegetables would crumble in the face of. And so we eat eggplant. Like, a lot of eggplant. Eggplant and zucchini have a running Vegetables From An Italian Gardenbet over who we’re going to get sick of first.

Meanwhile, we have a new bible: Vegetables From An Italian Garden. A gastronomic guide, this four-part (spring, summer, fall, winter) hunk of a book guides you through the growing seasons, inundating you with seasonal recipes. And from this fab-o book we’ve been inspired to eat Italian-style eggplant many times this week.

Like, eggplant balls. (Is that really what they’re called?) Eggplant balls are kind of frittery: they’re smooshed eggplant with breadcrumbs, egg, peccorino cheese, basil, and garlic, all packed together and pan-fried. For a variety on the theme, we covered them in a bit of mozzarella and blow-torched them.Eggplant BallsThis week’s eggplant parm – see photo above – went far better than the First Date Parm. (Although perhaps, as we’re still together, I shouldn’t knock it.) My face remains uncovered in marinara sauce.

The eggplant arrived alongside the momentous pile of:

  • red tomatoes
  • yellow tomatoes
  • amaranth greensShare Pile
  • basil
  • arugula
  • jalapenos
  • beets
  • swiss chard
  • sweet bulb onions
  • CORN (tis the season)
  • blueberries
  • Shire plums
  • and white nectarines

You win this round, Eggplantapalooza. Zucchini battle soon to follow.

The Protein Problem

The number one rebuttal to the practice of vegetarianism is that it’s nearly impossible to get enough protein. This is the basic argument that scare-tactics a lot of people out of reducing the amount of meat they eat. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it’s based in years of propaganda and misused science.

There are a few fundamentals to work through before you can really understand the protein issue. I’m working hand-in-hand, literally, with a biologist to help me understand them.  Pot o' BeansHe’s sitting next to me to walk us through the protein quandary. “To start off, let’s get on the same page on protein,” he says. “Proteins are made up of twenty different component amino acids. The arrangement and quantities of each amino acid in a protein are what determine the job that that protein is capable of doing in your body. The sticking point is that your body can only make twelve of the twenty, and the remaining eight have to be supplied in some way.”

Society tells us that we need more protein, by and large because the meat industry would have us so believe.  In reality, except for the severely malnourished, people eat enough protein.  Protein is largely a source for nitrogen, and the amount of nitrogen one needs is well accounted for in a normal diet.  The other thing one needs to get out of their protein consumption is those eight stubborn amino acids the body doesn’t make.  The theoretical complications here are cumbersome.  The amino acids are used in different amounts by the human body, and furthermore, different organisms (like plants and animals) use different amounts of each than we do.  You can see where this could be easily misconstrued.  The story goes that plants use less of a few essential amino acids than we do, and thus people who eat vegetarian are depriving themselves of those nutrients.  This is then generalized to the argument that vegetarians don’t get enough protein.  See how quickly that escalated?

Unfortunately, this line of logic is similar to reading that a presidential candidate won Iowa, and then figuring that they must have won the election.  (Ironically, this logic works if all you eat is corn.)

This spawns a series of myths, like that the protein in beans doesn’t provide anything unless it’s matched with rice, creating a “complete protein.” According to Young and Pellett, “… an undue emphasis on amino acid balance at each meal is inappropriate in the context of usual diets in healthy populations.”  If you speak Science, read further about Plant Proteins in Relation to Human Protein and Amino Acid Nutrition. If not (and I don’t), the translation is essentially that the beans and rice theory, along with others, appears to be bull. If you’re eating a well rounded and nutrient-rich diet – meaning lots of kinds of plants – then there’s no need to worry about specific amino acid deficiencies at each meal. Things that are lacking from one meal will be compensated for in the next.

A Well Rounded Meal.

As Jonathan Safran Foer fiercely argues in his book Eating Animals (which I beg you to read), “If it’s sometimes hard to believe that eschewing animal products will make it easier to eat healthfully, there is a reason: we are constantly lied to about nutrition.  Let me be precise.  When I say we are being lied to, I’m not impugning the scientific literature, but relying upon it.  What the public learns of the scientific data on nutrition and health (especially from the government’s nutritional guidelines) comes to us by way of many hands. Since the rise of science itself, those who produce meat have made sure that they are among those who influence how nutritional data will be presented to the likes of you and me.”

Disclaimer: This is not a case against eating meat.  Merely a case against the rumors as to why you should.

Disclaimer Disclaimer: While this remains an uncredited blog, I insist on handing over some credit for this piece to the biologist in question. He had his fun.