Saturday, October 18, 2008

VeganMoFo: Anatomy of a CSA Basket & a Simple Salad

I dream of one day providing all, or at least the vast majority, of my family's fresh produce from a huge garden. Until then I have to find alternatives. I have been making more of an effort to eat in season and as locally as possible. My "rule" is that if a product is grown in CA then I avoid buying it unless it is from CA, if it is grown in the US then I don't buy it if it is from another country. So no oranges from South Africa (does that baffle anyone else?), or apples from New Zealand. We do still buy bananas and a couple other tropical fruits occasionally. Additionally, most of the tea I drink is not local, and for obvious reasons, neither are a lot of my spices. I try to buy organic and fair trade as much as practical, especially organic for the dirty dozen and crops that are heavily GM (corn, soy, and, most recently, sugar beets) and fair trade for those crops which are known to be exploitative (chocolate, tea, coffee, etc). And for everything I prefer to support small farmers and co-ops over large corporations. Does that seem too complicated? See why I just want to grow my own?!

As part of this endeavor I joined a CSA this past January, as soon as a drop off point was established in our area. We get a basket every other week, so I thought I would show you what we got this Wednesday. B was very pleased with this one, he has whined in the past about all the "greens" (heaven forbid!) we get. The winter baskets do contain a fair amount of dark greens such as kale and chard, which I love. He is a total fruit fiend (I think he would be almost a fruititarian if left to his own devices). In this basket, starting from the left: purple and yellow green beans, eating pumpkin, purple basil, scallions, red chard, carrots, romaine lettuce, celery, corn, Valencia oranges, red bell peppers,  a large yellow tomato, plum tomatoes, russet potatoes, green apples, cucumber, red apples, pears, yellow onion, and zucchini. This was the very first basket that I didn't trade anything (our CSA always offers a "trade basket" if there are items you aren't fond of). I don't remember all the specific varieties they gave us, but most of them are not "commercial" strains.

We've been getting a bunch of purple basil pretty much every basket this summer and I wasn't really sure what to do with all of it. One of my experiments was basil vinegar, which you can see below in the glass bottle. The purple basil turns the vinegar a beautiful red color after it seeps a couple weeks. You just need one large bunch purple basil, a sterilized quart canning jar, and enough white wine vinegar to cover (about 2 cups). Just wash the basil (no need to stem), stuff in jar and cover with vinegar. Leave in a cool, dry place for a couple weeks then strain into a clean jar and stash in the fridge. It is fantastic for making a quick and flavorful salad dressing, which is what I use it for below.

Christmas-in-Summer Salad
This serves 4 as an appetizer, or 2 as half of a meal. It's yummy paired with a light soup and is a great way to use up some of that garden bounty which may be coming out of your ears. This keeps well in the fridge for a day or two if you like.

1 lb tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper
1 med cucumber, partially peeled if desired
1 med zucchini
1 small leek or one large shallot
1-2 tsp chopped thyme
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp flax oil
2-3 tbsp basil vinegar (alternately you can use white wine vinegar and add 1 tbsp chopped basil to the salad)
salt and pepper to taste
betta feta or diced avocado, optional

Dice tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, and zucchini and place in a medium bowl. Thinly slice leek and add to bowl. Sprinkle on herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Wisk oils and vinegar in a small bowl until pretty well emuslified then pour in to bowl. Toss to combine. Add feta or avocado, if using and toss gently. I like this best after it has hung out a few hours and the flavors have had time to marry and mellow.

You can see why I call this Christmas-in-Summer, the colors are beautiful and it celebrates the gifts of the harvest.


Jen Treehugger said...

Oh that Salad looks wonderful. What a GREAT Veg basket!

the little one said...

That basket is incredible! Do you mind if I ask how much it is? Do you pay a flat fee for a basket a week? I really have to look into whether I can get something like that around where I live!

Lily Girl said...

Little One: I'm sorry, I should have included that infomation. As with most CSA's I pay in advance for a whole quarter. It is $231 for 7 baskets, delivered every other week, which works out to $33 per basket I believe. We get about 20-25 lbs per basket, so it is around $1.50 per pound for organic, local produce, which I think is very reasonable. Check to find the one nearest you.
Let me know if you have any other questions.

Anonymous said...

Your CSA box is fantastic - such variety! I love the idea of "trading". I was stuck with so much eggplant this summer and I hate eggplant. I only wish my CSA box contained as much "greens" as yours!

Bethany said...

wow, they give you a ton of stuff. that is so cool.

purple basil = pesto :)

Lily Girl said...

Bethany: I've tried pesto with purple basil, but because it is usually not pure purple it ends up coming out an unappetizing shade of brown. At least that has been my experience. Of course it would still taste delicious :)