With the first snowfall already behind us (or at least slowly melting on the sidewalk out front here in the northeast), it is hard to believe that it might be time to think about your deep winter or next summer CSA (or Community Supported Agriculture, which basically means buying an advance “subscription” to a meat or produce farm for a season). But, having been relegated to the wait list more than once, I believe that it is best to be on top of reserving your space for the next season as soon as the farm allows. In the upcoming book Locavore in the City (more details to come by the end of the year!) I will include tips on choosing the best CSA for you. But, with online resources emerging and changing all the time, I want to help create a living resource list here on the web site. In the comment section, please leave the location and website for your favorite CSA sites – whether for individual farms or regional or national lists of participating farms – and I will periodically organize and update this master list to ensure that the sites are active and appropriate, although I can’t guarantee the business activities of the posted links. (Alternately, email me with links or corrections at locavoreinthecity (at) gmail (dot) com.) Here are a few links to get us started. I look forward to hearing about all of your favorite farms!
National and General CSA Resources
New England CSAs
Granby, MA http://www.redfirefarm.com/
Waltham, MA http://communityfarms.org/
Hardwick, MA http://www.chestnutfarms.org/
Now that the CSA is over for the season (although I do have a deep winter subscription starting in February or March) and I am stocked up with half bushels of butternut squash, red onions and sweet potatoes, I have to start getting creative if I want to eat as locally as possible. Yet, how many ways can one make an orange vegetable taste, well, different? I’ve made sweet potato fries and sweet potato breakfast home fries. I’ve put them in fritattas and thrown them in soups. And I’ll certainly be putting them on my Thanksgiving table. Which is kind of where the inspiration for this dish came from. I had read about a savory sweet potato crisp (or streudel) recently, but couldn’t remember much about it other than the concept. So I thought I would experiment with my own version in an effort to have it perfected by that last Thursday of the month. This isn’t perfect yet, but it’s getting there….
Savory Sweet Potato Crisp
Chop 3 large sweet potatoes into 1 1/2″ pieces and then steam them until just soft – about 8 – 10 minutes. Then, like apple crisp, put them in a baking dish (9 x9 or 9 x 12). Season them with a few dashes of nutmeg, a touch of salt and pepper and chopped fresh sage. Put a half inch of liquid in the bottom – white wine, broth, apple cider or maybe even whiskey.
While the potatoes are steaming, cook 5 – 6 slices of good bacon (I used my meat share bacon, but would have loved Savenor’s applewood smoked bacon even more). When cooked to a crisp, drain on a paper towel until cool enough to crumble. Reserve the bacon fat (I did not say this was low-cal!). In a bowl mix together 2 cups of chunky breadcrumbs, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, the crumbled bacon, 1 T chopped sage and 1/2 T chopped rosemary. Pour the bacon fat on top and mix until a chunky “crisp-esque” crumble consistency is achieved.
Spread the topping on the chopped sweet potato and bake at 350 until topping is browned and the potatoes are very soft – maybe 30 minutes or so.
In passing the other day, an acquaintance mentioned using green tomatoes to make curry. In truth I don’t recall much else about the conversation, but with a second frost coming this week, I knew it was time to pick the last of the crop. I ended up with about 2 pounds of green tomatoes and a vague vision of what I was going to do with them. Roast them like tomatillos, then cook them like a fresh ripe tomato marinara. And add curry. And the pork I’ve had defrosted for the last few days, but was too busy to cook up. And it will be good. I was right.
Green Tomato Curry
I halved and roasted (at 400 for about 25 minutes) about 2 pounds of unripe green tomatoes. Meanwhile, I turned on the slow cooker on high and toasted 1 – 2 T of curry powder in it with nothing else to start to bring out its flavor, stirring every once in a while. After 15 minutes I added a thinly sliced onion from the farm share. Once the tomatoes were quote soft, I added them to the slow cooker and then just about covered them with 2 cups of chicken broth (leftover from risotto a few days prior). I let it get good and hot – maybe another 5 minutes – and then added some thin boneless pork cutlets (from our meat share). I put the top on and let it cook for 2 – 3 hours.
This was a thinnish sauce, perfect for serving over rice. (I also steamed some carrots and butternut squash to add to the dish – if I was making more of this and cooked it on the stove top, I would have added it right to the sauce.) The pork was so tender – the best result I’ve had yet with this particular cut from our meat share. I definitely think this experiment is worth re-creating and adapting to what one has on hand. I wouldn’t say I could taste the green tomatoes, it was just a perfect, healthy and local vehicle for the curry, pork, squash and carrot.
I haven’t yet given appropriate due to my new, beloved meat share. Chestnut Farms offers a great deal – 10 pounds of meat per month (on a six month committment) for $80. I pick it up at in Arlington (the next town over) and if I get there early enough, I can even buy farm fresh eggs for $4/ dozen. We typically get a mix of chicken (legs, breast on bone), pork (chops on the bone, thinner boneless chops, ground), and beef (all cuts from filet to skirt to ground to burger patties). I’ve been told that once the lambs are big enough we’ll be getting some of their gracious offerings as well.
The pork sausage this month was fantastic. I took one link out of its casing and browned it in olive oil, then added chopped garlic, then tossed in a bunch of fresh tomatoes and cooked until it turned into a chunky sauce, seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh basil and oregano from the garden.
What I love about this meat is that it is so flavorful and so guilt-free. I know where these animals came from (all CSA members are welcome to visit the farm) and I know that they lived a satisfying, clean, and hormone- and antibiotic- free life. I know that I am supporting a family farm. I know that I am paying a fair price for my meal. And because I am savoring my food, and supplementing my mostly local veggies and grains with flavorful meat instead of building my meal around the protein, I eat less but still feel satisfied. The downside is that when I eat meat while dining out, it never quite satiates body or soul. A small price to pay.