Saturday, June 7, 2014

Farm to City

Summer is upon us, and with it, CSA season. This morning was the first pickup of my CSA, including lots of greens (red lettuce, kale, and spinach!) and the first crop of strawberries. I'm supporting the same farm as last year, so I'm looking forward to peppers, carrots, and apples upon apples as the season progresses.

As my CSA starts back up, it's time to reflect upon an experiment that I tried this spring, Quinciple. Quinciple is a weekly grocery delivery service in NYC that delivers to my office. I've heard a couple of people refer to Quinciple as a CSA. Quinciple does partner with farms, but you aren't investing in a farm up front as they plan for their season and begin planting. Thus, I think that grocery delivery is a better category. They do strive to include as much produce from the northeast as possible, but it's nice to have lemons from California and the occasional Wisconsin gouda thrown in. Although a box is geared for two people, I found that the ingredients typically lasted long enough or were freezable/pantry items that it was no trouble for me to stretch it to two weeks for just myself (or with a dinner with a friend thrown in).

One of my favorite parts of my CSA is that it encourages me to experiment. It's unlikely that I'd buy kohlrabi or celeriac on my own, but when it's thrown into my box, I'll find a way to use it. Similarly, Quinciple encouraged me to branch out. As a general rule, I don't buy meat. I'm not a vegetarian, but I save meat for going out to eat or office lunches. Yet, except for the occasional for vegetarian week featuring dried beans, Quinciple includes some sort of meat. Pork chops, chicken thighs, and smoked salmon have all been adventures for me, but also fun as I become comfortable cooking new foods. Plus, I still have brats in my freezer, which will make for delicious grilling later this summer.

Below is one of my favorite meat experiments using one of Quinciple's recommended recipes for Memorial Day weekend. The meatballs were delicious enough, that I'd actually consider buying ground beef expressly for making them again.

Cumin Spiced Meatballs with Rhubarb Compote

For the meatballs:
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1/2 bunch ramps, green tops only
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary (I skipped, but you'd probably enjoy it.)
  • salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the cumin with the beef and 1/2 tsp of salt. Toast the bread thoroughly and make into breadcrumbs (hint: food processors are wonderful). Add the breadcrumbs to the the meatballs along with the egg and the rosemary. Finely chop the green tops of the ramps finely and add them as well. (Note: ramps are a variety of wild leeks that grow in the Northeast. If you don't have them, I'd try scallions.) Mix every thoroughly.

Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Form the beef into small meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Arrange evenly on the cookie sheet and pop in the oven. They'll need about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Use this time to make the rhubarb compote.

Once the meatballs are cooked through, serve with a generous dollop of rhubarb compote. (May be served over rice if you wish.)

For the rhubarb compote:
  • 3 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp water
Put the rhubarb, sugar, and water into a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan. Squeeze in the lemon, and add the rind in too. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender but not mushy. Remove the lemon rind. Any extras can be refrigerated and be enjoyed on toast or over vanilla ice cream.