Cooking The CSA Basket

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If you know a a few basics – how to saute, steam, roast – and you have a few staples in your pantry and  freezer, cooking from a Mike’s Organic CSA basket is the simplest way to cook. No meal planning, no shopping lists, no slavish recipe following. Très Franςais.

by Karen Root from GoingZeroish.com

The Backstory

There was a knock at the door. Chris was there, shoes already off, holding my first Mike’s Organic basket filled with fresh produce, ready to unpack everything on the kitchen counter for me.  That was almost ten years ago!
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Funny story: I saw Mike’s truck at a stop light while getting gas and I took a picture of it so I could call for information. When I called half an hour or so later and said I’d seen his truck, Mike laughed: was I the lady who was taking pictures of his truck from Glenville Station? Yes, I admitted.
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The first question I asked him was, “Listen, I had a CSA before and I’d get a tiny bit of each thing, like. . . a potato. . . What am I supposed to cook for a family of five with a potato? Will there be  enough of each thing to make a meal?”  Mike assured me that I would have enough of each item for a recipe, and, nearly a decade later I’m still cooking meals from my basket. And happily not shopping.

Here’s my basic “Shopping Day” process:

It takes about 30 minutes start to finish and it’s quite pleasant.  I refer to this as my shopping day, which feels sophisticated.

 1. Wash (the easy way)

There’s only ONE non-optional step for me.  With all the time I don’t spend shopping I wash my produce and put it away.  (Don’t wash berries, they’ll go bad more quickly.) I store almost everything in Mason jars in the fridge.  A few things I just leave in an artful heap in a corner of my counter (tomatoes). If this sounds daunting, it’s not – really! I use the same salad spinner for all of the washing instead of using it, and cleaning it, every single meal to wash produce before using it.
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Here’s another nifty trick: if you have heartier produce like beans or herbs you can put them directly in a mason jar and fill it halfway with water – shake and repeat until your produce is clean. Just pour the water out and pop it in the fridge.
A Mike's Organic csa basket is the simplest way to "shop" and cook
Gorgeous, washed, csa produce means you are well on your way to a simple meal

2. Prep (optional)

Bonus points if I pop a few veggies on a parchment lined baking tray to roast for an unspecified future use. Similarly, I frequently hard boil one of my two dozen eggs for kids’ lunches or to top salads.
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That’s it!
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When I’m out during the week near a place I like to shop – the bakery, the butcher, the fish store, the cheese shop – I might pick something specific up as a treat or for a meal. I rarely make any special food shopping trips.

3. Get in the Mood (highly recommended)

When I got home fairly late on a Thursday night I sent everyone away to leave me in peace in the kitchen. It is a wonderful, life-affirming thing to cook with an eager seven-year-old but one that I only undertake on occasions when I have special reserves of strength and patience. After pouring a glass of rose and tying on my linen apron (I feel these are helpful steps for feeling fabulous in the kitchen) I got started. Here’s how I do it. . .

4. Cook

If you have all of your lovely produce and food put away you are well on your way to a meal.
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I looked in the fridge: peeled red onions, asparagus, camembert, lemon, mint. . .
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I looked in the pantry: a little whole wheat orzo left. On went a pot to boil. I chopped the onions, and sauteed them on low in a chunk of butter. I chopped the already clean asparagus into bite sized pieces. Dainty sip.
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I went to the freezer for frozen peas (in a plastic bag: zeroish) thinking that the meal could use more veggies. Into the pot went the orzo and salt, into the pan went the asparagus and a squeeze of lemon.
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I needed some sort of liquid; back to the fridge. I decided on dry vermouth and splashed a little into the pan. In went the peas. Off went the heat. I drained most of the liquid from the orzo and added it to the sauteed vegetables for a minute or two on low so the pasta absorbed the sauce. Sip.
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To finish, I added a little olive oil and some chopped mint and headed to the table with the pot. If you cook in a pretty Le Creuset pot or something similar this is still quite stylish, though I didn’t for reasons of easy clean up. I set out the camembert and we had a nice, light, spring meal in about 20 minutes.

Et Voila!

My meal was:
spontaneous
quick
vegetarian
local
organic
and used only two-dish-washer-safe-pots. . .
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Cooking from a Mike’s Organic basket is really so much easier than regular grocery shopping once you get the hang of it. It is a luxurious way to be virtuous.