5 Tips for CSA Cooking
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are getting more and more common. Rather than head to the grocery store for your weekly produce fix, you sign on to support a local farmer for the season and in return you get a fresh box of local, often organic produce each week! CSAs are a great way to reduce your food miles and support the local economy while filling your veggie drawer with healthy eats.
Our CSA basket arrives on Wednesdays, which can make it a little tricky to plan for. Weekends are traditionally when we head to the grocery store to stock our kitchen, so this mid-week arrival sort of throws things off. Some other folks have mentioned a similar challenge with CSA deliveries. Since you don’t know what you’re going to get, it’s tough to plan menus and keep the kitchen stocked properly.
With a little bit of planning and a few key staples, though, it’s easy as pie to get your pantry CSA ready!
Whole Grains and Breads
Keep a variety of grains around the house, so you’ll be able to toss a quick meal together when you need to. Whether your basket is full of summer squash and onions or bunches of celery and carrots, you can saute those harder veggies, toss them with whole grains and sauce, and have a quick, filling meal!
It’s also a good idea to have at least one sort of bread on hand for making sandwiches or wraps. This is a great way to get the most out of lettuces, sprouts, leafy greens, and tomatoes.
Some good grains to keep on hand: quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, Israeli couscous, barley, whole grain bread or tortillas
Most CSA baskets don’t contain much in the way of protein, so having a few options in the pantry can go a long way toward putting meals together. Top off a wrap or salad with something protein-rich to make meals that are nutritious and filling.
Handy proteins: dried or canned beans, tofu, tempeh, hummus, nuts
Up next: Spices and condiments to keep your kitchen CSA ready!
Whether you’re making sandwiches, salads, or hot dishes, you need some staple condiments on hand. It’s great to have the means to whip up a nice vinaigrette or sauce to accent all of those fresh, local veggies! You can whisk together oil, vinegar, and mustard to make a quick salad dressing or try adding some mirin, balsamic vinegar, or white wine to the pan when you saute to make a delicious reduction. The right sauce or dressing can really bring out the fresh taste of those veggies!
Key condiments: your favorite mustard, hot sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, mayo (or vegan mayo), mirin, white wine
A lot of CSAs include a bunch of fresh herbs or spices with the basket, but it’s good to have some dried ones as backup. Spice blends are the cheater’s way to season a dish without having to keep too much in the pantry.
Spices to Stock: herbes de Provence, Italian seasoning, sea salt, black pepper, white pepper, curry powder, cumin, coriander, fresh garlic
The other food I find really useful to have on hand that I couldn’t figure out how to categorize was potatoes. They’re great mashed and topped with steamed or sauteed veggies or roasted alongside root vegetables. A baked potato makes a great salad topping, too!
Do you guys have any kitchen staples that help you stretch your CSA basket? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by madame_furie