CSA: A Focus on Quality Ingredients

22Jan09

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Up until now, my biggest drive for cooking has been to learn new techniques and discover flavor affinities, rather than the quality of my ingredients. There’s a moment of pure satisfaction when you can orchestrate a recipe to build a dish with layers of complexity and depth. I think that’s probably why I tend to be more attracted to recipes that incorporate a lot of spices and uncommon flavor combinations. I think it makes me feel more like I personally invented those flavors and made the dish come to life. This may be rooted in some sort of first child, self-centered complex. But as I mature in age, my cooking philosophy seems to as well. Up until now, I’ve lived by the “more is better” philosophy, but I’m starting to appreciate  the “less is more.”  Along with the rest of mainstream America, I’m discovering the importance of understanding where your foods come from and their effect on your health and well-being. And it’s something I’m hoping to be more appreciative of with my new membership to our local CSA.

Like most forms of art, individual components are often overlooked for the final composition. But every individual artist knows (or at least should) the importance of each note, each word, each pitch, each element. Many cuisines have been crafted by people who don’t have access to quality ingredients. Spices and preservatives have been used for centuries to either mask decay or elevate plain, staple foods. But now that quality ingredients have become a growing concern (or trend, if you will) in mainstream culture, I’m learning to embrace foods more by season, by true taste, and by true form. 

Because Scott and I split a “reduced share” (roughly 3-4 lbs. of produce each), we each took home a motley bag of produce (i.e.  1 apple, 3 asparagus spears, 2 carrots, 2 garlic cloves, a head of swiss chard, etc.). It’s hard enough cooking with ingredients you didn’t choose yourself, but it’s even harder when they’re in disproportionate amounts. On day 1 I felt completely flustered and ate whole carrots with hummus for dinner. But then I took it as a challenge to grow my culinary skills, and to be inspired by the ingredients rather than a recipe.

This is becoming to be a very educating experience because I’ve always tended to be a “by the book” kind of cook. I’m usually fairly cautious to experiment with ingredients unless I have some sort of skeleton recipe to guide me (this may stem from the “do not waste anything” indoctrination I received as a child in a household that washed Ziploc bags). But for once, I’m letting my fingers loose. Slowly. Here it goes…

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Braised Swiss Chard with Curried Roasted Chickpeas and Shallots

1 bunch of Swiss Chard, stems removed and roughly chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 can of chickpeas

2 ;arge shallots, sliced thin

1/2- 3/4 cups of low sodium chicken stock, or water

1 tspn curry powder

1 tspn garam masala

1/2 tspn fennel seeds

olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Toss chickpeas, sliced shallots, olive oil, curry powder, garam masala, fennel seeds, and salt as needed in bowl. Pour mixture onto baking sheet and roast until chickpeas are golden brown. Approximately 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat olive oil in pan over medium heat, add garlic slices and cook until they soften, but not brown. Add swiss chard, salt and pepper and cook until greens reduce down. Add stock/water and braise until greens wilt completely. Approximately 10-15 minutes.  

Serve roasted chickpeas over the wilted swiss chard. 

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3 Responses to “CSA: A Focus on Quality Ingredients”

  1. 1 Shanna

    I LOVE it. Can I post this on my CSA website?

  2. 2 smelly

    it is unacceptable that you did not tell us how it tastes!!!

  3. 3 foodyi

    oh right. i always forget something…. IT WAS AMAZING. I could quite possibly be a 75% vegetarian…Come on, 100% is just ridiculous…


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