‘I’m sure there has been many a time when you’ve peered inside your weekly CSA box and thought, “What the hell?” ‘
I laughed out loud when I read that in Linda Ly’s The CSA Cookbook. I first got a community-supported agriculture (CSA) vegetable box in 1997 and readily admit there were moments like that. We were lucky because the CSA farm had a student chef as a summer intern so each box came with recipes, some more approachable than others. The good quality of that produce and the chance to support local farmers won the day, and the days of opening the box bewildered were soon outnumbered by the days opening the box excited. I learned to be fearless about substituting one vegetable for another in recipes. We had some help from cookbooks, but few are as approachable as The CSA Cookbook. It would have been very handy to have this book around back then!
Lots has happened since 1997: a new house, a garden, a different CSA, a bit more garden, several changes in family size, a bit less garden, experiments with new gardening methods, a new tradition of going to the farmer’s market with friends replacing the CSA box, but always cooking and looking for new options for vegetables. I’ve been following Linda’s blog, Garden Betty, and was delighted to see that she was working on a book. The book is subtitled “No-waste recipes for cooking your way through a community supported agriculture box, farmer’s market, or backyard bounty.” My perception is that the author intends to get us all comfortable with both cooking more vegetables and more of the vegetables we are already cooking. The book is divided by vegetable groups (leafy greens, tomatoes and peppers, roots and tubers, etc.) to help you get to the right place quickly. There are beautiful photographs with each recipe so you can see what you are aiming for.
I kept two questions in mind as I went through the book. First, could I imagine myself making some of these recipes on a weeknight after work? Second, how would the rest of my family feel about these recipes? On the first question, I can say that I would make some on a weeknight. Some, such as the pestos and hummuses (is that even a word?!?) can easily be made ahead and may even be more delicious that way. Many of the recipes are not so involved that they would keep you from trying them on a weeknight; a few you may want to try on the weekend first to see whether you’d feel rushed. Almost all of the ingredients are common ones, which is a big help when you’d rather be cooking that pile of veg instead of running to the store or scrambling for a substitute spice.
On the second question, my answer is that there are plenty of things I think my family would eat and a few things they’d find adventurous to try. With familiar dishes, like quesadillas, frittata, broccoli mac and cheese, various fries, there’s a base of family-friendly ideas to start with and then gradually work over to the more adventurous ones. But please, Leek and Bacon Breakfast Pizza, yes, ma’am! Plenty of variety and good hints in the sidebars will help you get the best results onto the table.
So gardeners, CSA subscribers, and farmer’s market fans, I encourage you to check out The CSA Cookbook for a fresh batch of ideas. You may never look at a pile of veggies the same way again. I’m looking forward to trying these recipes out as soon as the spring vegetables are ready!
Details: The CSA Cookbook, Linda Ly, 2015, hardcover, 224 pages, Voyageur Press, $24.99 US.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of the cookbook to review but with no conditions attached. I was predisposed to like this book as a fan of Garden Betty, but as always, all opinions on the Yarnstead blog are my own. Your mileage may vary.