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Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

I mentioned, awhile ago, that H and I were joining a CSA.  For those of you who aren’t trendy enough to know what a CSA is, it stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture.  Basically you pay an up-front fee to receive a weekly ‘share’ of food from a local farm for around 6 months.  This is a good idea for a variety of reasons.

1. You are supporting a local farmer.  My farmer (yes, he’s all mine) is named Zaid and is Egyptian and went to Cornell.  I’ve never actually met him, but he sounds fun when he writes his farm updates.  This is the closest I will ever get to a real working farm in my life (a fact I am VERY VERY okay with).  So it’s fun to live vicariously and imagine singing cucumbers and caterpillars being jolly up on the farm  as I sit in my air-conditioned apt in New York City.

2. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that there is something seriously effed up about the food industry in this country.  In a nutshell: mass-produced food = bad.  Thanks, food industry, but I don’t need chemical covered fruit or genetically modified chickens pumped up with antibiotics.  Tempting, but no.

3.  It’s a volunteer opportunity.  You have to help unload the food and organize stuff for pick up.  This is a “Good Thing.”  Sigh.  I’ll let you know how I further feel about this after I actually execute my assigned volunteer slot in two weeks.  Please don’t have high hopes.

4. You are forced (cheerfully) to deal with types of fruits and veggies you’ve never seen or even heard of before.  Kohlrabi, anyone?  Fava beans (with a nice Chianti….psssfftttthhh (okay I have heard of that one))?  This forced feeding has led to some personal epiphanies.  For example: fresh beets?  Not so bad!  When there are fried up with lots of salt and butter, that is. But still.  Expanding my horizons!

The list goes on, but I’m sure you’re about done with reading it.  Suffice it to say that our CSA (www.harvestastoria.com, if you’re curious) has basically taken over my life.  Every Wednesday I MUST go and pick up our share, and then I MUST go home and stand in my sweltering cubby-hole of a kitchen and clean and prepare said share.  I then spend the remainder of the week alternating between trying to think up clever ways to eat the things I have and obsessing over when they will spoil.  ONCE I FOUND A SLUG IN MY LETTUCE.  It was horrifying and I gagged (what up my gagging friends, A. and C.!), but after regaining my composure I convinced myself that it was a good sign.  Somehow.  Now I’m too grossed out thinking about the slug to remember.

See? I wasn't exaggerating

Anyway, despite how time-consuming it is and how much I dislike volunteering for things, our inaugural CSA season is going pretty swimmingly.  I’m certainly expanding my culinary repertoire.   It’s absolutely making me eat more fruits and vegetables (it’s hard not to when they are staring you in the face every time you open the fridge…smug bastards).  It even gives me a perfect excuse to take artsy pictures with my iPhone and then force you to view them.  So I’ll leave you with that.  Lucky ducks.

The Noble Fava Bean

Collard Greens (and yes, I do waste a lot paper towel whist cleaning my veggies)

Oh also, yes.  Squadiculous is a made-up word.  Made-up of AWESOMENESS.

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You know something is up when the highlight of your meal is not dessert, but rather the vegetable. And you further know something is up when all you have to do is add some olive oil and sea salt to make said vegetable so memorable.

What’s my secret?

Well!  Lucky lucky me has a boyfriend who has a nice family who has a really nice garden.  And even more lucky, we get to take home all sorts of goodies from said garden when we go to visit them in Massachusetts. I don’t know if many of you get to experience fresh, just-plucked-from-the-dirt garden veggies…I have always been lucky (again! I’m very lucky apparently) to have extremely good gardeners around who generously share their harvests.  Even my Mom, with her notorious “black thumb”, comes up with the occasional home-grown tomatoes.  The difference between these gems and the sad produce sitting on grocery store shelves is astounding.  Seriously.  One bite of anything home-garden grown and you will be a CSA/garden/farmers-market/organic convert, fo’life.

H asked me to cook the asparagus his dad had given us to take home tonight, so after a quick jaunt to the grocery store for some salmon, I opened up the crisper to get out the asparagi…and nearly died.

Because unbeknownst to me, H’s dad had not given us simply regular asparagus, oh no.  He had given us the most incredible, MUTANT (in a good way), asparagus-on-steriods I’ve ever seen.  I am not kidding.

Purple Asparagi

I know what you’re thinking.  “Mary, you’re a whacko.  It’s nice and stuff but it’s not blowing my hair back.”

And to you I say, take a second gander.

Not an Optical Illusion

THAT ASPARAGUS.  IS THE SIZE.  OF A WINE BOTTLE.  I wasn’t planning on blogging tonight, but come on…you can’t pass something like this up.

Also, on a side note, what are your thoughts on this photograph?  I may or may not have (I did) purchase a fancy iPhone app that takes old-timey photos.  Yes? No?  Lame? Artsy?

Anyway.  The asparagus, you guys.  Please…just gaze in awe.

I didn’t want to do much to these, lest I tarnish the pure asparagusness of them.  So I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pep, with a dash of garlic powder, and grilled ’em in the grill pan.

The giant mother-of-all-asparagus (above) obviously took a little longer to cook than it’s smaller but still delish brothers and sisters, but oh my.  It was worth the wait.

Oh yeah, I also made some salmon.

Rosemary & Lemon Salmon (again ‘en papillote’ which is my new fave way of cooking fish)

– 1 lemon, sliced

– 1 medium sized salmon fillet

– 2-3 Springs of fresh Rosemary

– drizzle of Olive Oil

– Splash of white wine

This is so easy it’s hardly a recipe:

– cover salmon with slices of lemon and rosemary

– Drizzle with olive oil and splash with white wine

– Wrap it up in parchment paper, seal tight, bake for 15-30 minutes.

Din for 2 on 1 plate, cause I hate washing dishes

It was simple and, according to H, “one of my better meals,” which just goes to show you that it’s all about ingredients.  Fancy cooking doesn’t hold a candle to fresh ingredients.

And for my last trick, I actually attempted dessert.  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (I have a ‘salt tooth’, actually), but today I found a recipe that I just couldn’t resist (um, because it has the word SALTED in the title).  I got it from the website “Sarah’s Cucina Bella” which is adorable and girlie and oh, also has some ridiculous recipes.

I can’t take one once of credit for these bars.  Just trust me.  They are TO DIE FOR.  If you like that sweet/salty thing.  Which, if you don’t, I don’t want to be your friend.

Let’s see if I can figure out how to link it…

Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

Success!  It really is worth a visit.  Go.

H’s Dad also gave us a big bunch of rhubarb and a big bucket of freshly dug Duxbury Bay littleneck clams.  Yeah, I know.  Going up there is like going to the world’s best FREE farmer’s market.

Confession time: I don’t think I’ve ever eaten rhubarb.  Not in a pie, not in a chutney, not in anything.  Guess there’s a first time for everything.  Pie intimidates me, but I do have some other ideas in the works…

And as for the clams, I’d tell you what I’m doing with them, but H’s Dad told me I would be excommunicated if I broke his super-secret baked clams recipe to the world.  So, sorry.  None for you.

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I am 24 years old.  And last night, for the first time in my LIFE, I popped popcorn on the stove-top.  And it blew my mind.

Okay, so maybe I’m easily mind-blown.  But what is perhaps worse is that I didn’t even realize a regular person could do that.  I thought one needed a fancy popper machine or at the very least, a microwave.  For me, it was microwave popcorn or nothing.  Which really, if you think about it, is pretty sad…not to mention pretty telling about my generation and the world I grew up in.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love me some technology.  I am obsessed with my iPhone and can’t imagine how I ever lived without it.  I get mad when my wireless internet goes slow.  I Twitter, for god’s sake.  But lately I’ve been on a little bit of a  ‘let’s live more simply” kick.

Everyone talks about how ‘easy’ life is now, how we have everything at our fingertips.  And everyone is right.  Living is easier today than it has ever been.  Which is probably why Humans are now fat, lazy, and uninspired.

I’ve come to the conclusion that all the things that make life easier really take away from our quality of life.  I mean look at all the news stories–kids committing suicide over online bullying, obesity skyrocketing because people want ‘fast’ (read: unhealthy) food, basic human relationships deteriorating because of our dependence on technology, super antibiotic-resistant viruses…ugh.  Life may be easier now, but it sure isn’t any better.

New York City is a weird place, because on one had it prides itself on being at the very cuttingest edge of everything: fashion, art, cuisine, etc.   On the other hand though, I’ve noticed that there is a burgeoning movement in which people here are trying to remove themselves from all that edginess and return to a basic, more simple kind of life.  Bike-riding is taking off as the newest trend.  People are growing gardens on their roofs and raving about it like they invented photosynthesis.  Restaurants are pushing a ‘farm to table’ style of food.  At flea markets and farmer’s markets business is a boomin’.

It’s a little bit annoying and rather pretentious though.  Inevitably the people who are doing this have the means to do it–that is, they are upper middle class, educated, financially sound. And the way some people flaunt it (“Oh yes, I just bought this 2nd hand bike (for 300 bucks) and now I’m going to attach a darling basket to it and go to the organic market and stock up on tofu and brown rice and spelt!”) is downright grating.

But I’m being a leeeetle bit of a hypocrite, because I suddenly find myself inching towards this group, even becoming (GASP) a part of it.

Up until very recently I was one of those people who turned their nose up at the whole “Organic” thing, claiming it was just a ploy to part me with my hard-earned cash a little quicker than usual.  But the longer I lived in the city, the more I came to understand why these people act the way they do.  NYC is not an easy place to live.  It’s stressful and loud, dirty, unfriendly, exhausting, potentially dangerous at every turn.  Considering that, it doesn’t really surprise me that people have foregone the high-speed, human contact-less, money focused culture for something a little more breathable.  Plus, behaviors etc that are considered ‘old’ now suddenly take on a patina of charm and quirk, of authenticity.  No, I shall not buy my veggies from a grocery store!  I shall buy them from…A FARMER! People are so smug about this–like it’s a brand new idea that they themselves thought up.  Everything old is new again.

Oh well. Guilty as charged: we joined a CSA.  I started buying organic items.  I grow herbs on my windowsill.  One of my favorite activities is Farmer’s Market browsing.  Why the change?

Well aside from the NYC-dwelling and all issues that come with it (see above),  I don’t make a lot of money.  Thanks bunches, publishing industry.  I should’ve known to try another career when in my very 1st interview a manager told me that “no one in publishing does it to make money.”   So that has kind of lit a fire under my bum to do things at home that I would not regularly do.  Like make popcorn on a stove top.

It’s simplicity out of necessity, I suppose.  But I’m not complaining.  I enjoy discovering that I can do things at home for way less dollars than going out and buying it.  It sort of makes life feel more real.   My next attempt in this category?  Making my own bread.

I’m not totally eschewing capitalism and commercialism and technology.  I like to shop, I love my Mac, and I still think that sometimes this whole “Green” movement is just kinda annoying and self-superior.  But you have to admit: there is something refreshing about consciously rejecting the ease of Modern Life.  It’s just not necessary to flaunt it.  I’m looking at you, Brooklyn.

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