Ever since I read Mark Bittman's Food Matters, I've felt the need to make huge changes to what we eat and where it comes from. As a result, we've really cut down on the amount of meat we eat (especially Monday-Thursday), making it, as Bittman suggests, a side dish rather than the main event. When you cut down on your meat consumption though, you've got to fill the plate somehow, so I signed us up for organic fruit and vegetable delivery from Mama Earth Organics. I felt that if we had a list of foods that had to be eaten, we'd be a little more creative and definitely eat more fruits and veggies. After almost a year, I've been thrilled with the service. The winter was mostly filled with imported organic stuff with local root vegetables and hydroponic salads thrown in, but since the growing season has really started, we've been seeing some really great stuff. But it's a challenge, getting through all of it, and there's more waste than I'd like if we don't have a clear plan. So this past Sunday, I sat down with my cookbooks and the list of perishables (both in the fridge and in the upcoming delivery) and found a way to incorporate them all. Starting this coming Sunday, I'll post our menu plan for the coming week.
The particular challenge with a lot of the stuff that comes in the box, particularly in early spring, is that I've never cooked with it before. Things like ramps, chard, and kale were all brand new to me. But eating in season is a priority now, so I needed to learn to cook with what was available. That's why Melissa Clark's Cook This Now is so fabulous. The book is laid out by the month and she focuses on ingredients that are commonly (and locally) available at that time of year. She's based in NYC, and they are a few weeks ahead of us growing wise, but I haven't felt it to be a huge handicap. For each recipe, she writes a long, juicy introduction and finishes with ideas for substitutions and extras. That was a life saver when a recipe called for bulgar (which I thought I had, and didn't) and her suggestion to substitute was quinoa (which I did). I like options that I don't have to agonize over. I've cooked four recipes thus far and they've all been great (David has approved all for repeats), so I'm excited to keep cooking through it.
This week's delivery included Ontario mini cucumbers. We've had them a couple of times already and the takeaway has been that they get soft quickly. We had to find a way to use them first. Last time I made a Greek salad, but a quick perusal of the index of Cook This Now revealed a recipe for 'Seared Wild Salmon with Brown Butter Cucumbers' (conveniently also posted on the New York Times website). This was auspicious timing, because I'd just read in Bon Appetit about how it was wild salmon season. The fact that our local fishmonger, Hooked Inc., tweeted that they had BC wild salmon in stock made it a no brainer for box delivery day. I'm not going to lie, the price tag was a bit shocking, but I'm trying not to be cheap about things like meat and fish anymore.
Anyways, the dish was delicious. You could really taste the difference between this salmon and the frozen crap we've been buying. This was also a great vehicle for the cucumber, although David thought maybe we could have added it and the garlic a little closer to the end, as they were in danger of overcooking. Her side dish suggestion was soba noodles, but we used an Israeli couscous mix that we enjoy.
So, one perishable down, only nine more to go. Onward!