The recent books and TV shows about unhealthy foods are preaching to the choir, at least in my home, but it never hurts to think about one's eating habits and try and improve them one way or the other. I am getting a little more obsessed with the quality and origin of my food every time I read or hear about the subject. It has been many years now since we started buying most of our groceries at Whole Foods Market and on the farmer's market. But until recently I was relying on these "institutions" to make good choices for me; I read the labels without paying too much attention, trusting that all I could buy there would be equally "good". If you look closer, though, not all producers on the farmer's market are certified organic, and not all fruits and vegetables sold at Whole Foods are local (nor organic). To really make educated choices, it takes more than just going to the "right" place, one has to pay close attention to every bit of information (or lack thereof) on everything one buys... Phew.... So in the hurry of grocery shopping with 2 agitated babies, we ended up buying the same things over and over again (read the labels once, buy multiple times!) and it wasn't satisfying our need for variety and creativity.
Thankfully we live in one of the best regions in the world to accomplish what we were aiming for: buy local, organic, fresh, in-season produce without having to think too much about it. We have recently joined Two Small Farms' CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and so far it has been a great experience. We get a whole box of fruits, veggies and herbs every week, along with a 2-page newsletter explaining what's what and how to cook or prepare all these gems. The freshness surpasses anything we could find even on the farmer's market, as everything goes directly from the fields to our box to our fridge the day it is picked. The cost is significantly lower too... But what I like the best is that we don't know what's in the box until we open it (we could find out online... but it would spoil the surprise) and some of the veggies, we are seeing for the first time in our lives. I know it doesn't appeal to everybody, but to me this is heaven. It really feels like discovering a treasure every week and with ingredients that tasty, it's hard not to make something delicious. From green garlic to rutabagas to rapini greens or erbette chards, we never stop learning. Some items are even called "mystery" when the newsletter is printed before knowing what can be harvested that day. Love it!
We have been adjusting quite smoothly to the large quantity of produce getting into our fridge every week. I am guessing that the box is sized for a family of 4 adults. But so far we have managed to eat everything (and eat out for lunch). Hopefully we'll get to walk to the farmer's market once in a while because I absolutely love walking there from home and meeting the farmers and my neighbors. There is a social aspect to it that we lost with the CSA box.
Our first box contained 2 red cabbages. We had eaten red cabbage before (especially in Munich) but never cooked with it. So I turned to my Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition cookbook and adapted the Becker Coleslaw based on what was in my box. It was crunchy, juicy, refreshing...
Serves 8 (nearly two 1.75-qt (7-cup) Pyrex containers)
- 1 red cabbage
- 3 carrots (mine were Chantenay carrots)
- 1 heart celery
- 10 sprigs curly parsley
- zest of 1 organic lemon
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp french mustard
- 5-10 dashes hot pepper sauce
- salt and pepper
- Dice all the veggies (washed or peeled). Grate the lemon. Discard the stems from the parsley sprigs and mince the leaves. Place all in a large bowl.
- Combine the mustard, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Whisk well. Pour on the veggies. Add the hot pepper sauce.
- Toss, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Serve chill.