Today is CSA day. For those of you who don’t know, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Many organic farms in local communities offer members the opportunity to purchase a share in the farm. This can run anywhere from about $400 for a season to $1,000. Then, once growing season starts, the farm supplies you with a box of freshly picked vegetables every week.
This is my first year trying community supported agriculture. I like the idea of keeping my money in my community and receiving fresh, organic vegetables that haven’t traveled hundreds of miles before they make it to my kitchen. Very few foods taste better than a fresh vegetable picked at its peak of ripeness.
Having a CSA delivery every week has changed the way I cook this summer. I used to plan my meals and then go to the store to get what I needed to cook them. Now, I wait for my CSA box and then plan my meals around what is in them. Since Tuesday is CSA delivery day, I will see what treasures arrive today and then create simple meals. Last night I used the last of my previous week’s CSA, making a seafood chowder with red potatoes, fresh carrots, and local seafood.
My first CSA box contained scapes. While they look like octopus tentacles, scapes are actually the green tops of garlic bulbs that rise above the ground as the bulb develops. They have a subtle garlicky flavor and make a fantastic seasoning. You can chop them and use them to season foods such as oven-roasted potatoes, or you can create a terrific pesto.
Pesto is a simple, fresh sauce that is easy to make. All it requires are herbs, virgin olive oil, nuts, hard cheese, and garlic. The traditional pesto contains basil, olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and garlic. Pulse the ingredients in a food processor and voila, pesto. To make it, use two tablespoons of oil, 3/4 cup of grated cheese, 1/4 cup of pine nuts, three cloves of garlic and a small bunch of basil. You can also hand chop the ingredients and mix them together. If you do use the food processor, pulse it a few times to chop but not homogenize your ingredients.
That’s it. Use your basic pesto to top warm pasta, jazz up eggs, or as a sauce for grilled chicken or fish. Your only limit is your creativity. You can also replace any ingredient with something else. Consider this: arugula and walnuts in place of pine nuts and basil. It’s up to you, and it’s so easy to do.
Want to make scape pesto? Use scapes, parmesan, toasted slivered almonds, olive oil, and a touch of sea salt.
Pair pesto dishes with a nice unoaked white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Riesling. Try the 2010 Airfield Yakima Valley Sauvignon Blanc for just $13 per bottle, or a Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling Cold Creek Vineyard for around $15.