Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CSA Weeks 7-8 and its Uses

CSA week 8

The lack of posts on this season's CSA crop should not be seen in any way as a reflection on the degree of my happiness with its supplier, Little River Market Garden. Quite to the contrary, we've been getting a wonderful variety of stuff and have been doing our best to use all of it effectively. Sometimes it's really easy. This week brought a gorgeous assortment of tomatoes, fresh arugula, cutting celery, eggplants, turnips, dinosaur kale, bananas, and a papaya.

Now, I'm not one to "fix myself a salad," but when the vegetables are this fresh, and this tasty, even I yield.

CSA salad

No bacon, no eggs, no croutons - just arugula, tomatoes, cutting celery, slivers of last week's radishes, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper, and a dollop of creme fraiche to pull everything together. I recognize this is not terribly interesting as a recipe or a dining experience. But it's a testament to the joy of great produce, grown with care, that this was one of the best things I ate all weekend. Those tomatoes are an emotional experience.

grilled carrots

For something just a bit more involved, I would highly recommend this recipe for Grilled Carrots with Brown Butter Vinaigrette, courtesy of Chef Bryce Gilmore of Austin's Barley Swine. The carrots (from last week's CSA pickup) are first marinated in olive oil spiked with pimentón, fennel, coriander, garlic and thyme, then grilled and dressed in a vinaigrette of browned butter blended with marcona almonds and sherry vinegar. There's a lot of subtle brilliance in this recipe: the carrots take well to the spices, the pimentón and grilling bring out a smoky aspect, while the brown butter and marcona almonds highlight the carrots' nutty flavors. I made just a few variations to the published recipe: I left the fennel seeds whole because I like their pop of flavor, I grilled these larger carrots (halved or quartered as appropriate) for closer to 10 minutes than 6 and covered the grill pan with a lid to steam them at the same time, and I added a bit of the remaining spice-infused oil from the marinade into the dressing to reinforce the flavors.

When prepared this way, the firm but yielding texture of the carrots and the smoky flavors actually calls to mind the experience of eating a grilled steak. This could, if you were inclined to such things, make a fine vegetarian entrée, and indeed you could sub olive oil for the brown butter and make it an entirely vegan - and still very satisfying - dish. Now I'm not ready to try the Vegan Experience, like Serious Eats writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is doing for the next month, but if I were, there are worse things I can imagine eating.

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