There has been a lot of talk about CSAs – community supported agriculture – in the world at large and in the Jewish community. For example, check out the past few Hazon Food Conferences and their The Jew and the Carrot blog.
I first learned about CSAs when my good friend, Meira, the source of the pretzel chicken “nuggets” recipe, joined a CSA in New York and cooked interesting dishes with her fresh local vegetables. She always introduced each dish with, “I got this squash/cabbage/spinach from Eve, my Jewish female farmer.” She really seemed to feel a kinship with her farmer, especially after going to some sort of outdoorsy event way out on Long Island and driving past the Garden of Eve farm!
So, I was excited when my own local community decided to partner with a CSA. But I was also a bit apprehensive. Sure, there are a lot of pros – supporting local farmers and guaranteeing their livelihood, getting in tune with a more agrarian life (and a little reminder of the importance of the harvest in Jewish festivals), eating fresh (and almost entirely organic) produce, etc. And my friend Laura, whom I call “farmer Laura” since she will be be spending the summer as an ADAMAH Fellow — is organizing the CSA partnership and was quick to point out some of the logistical virtues partnering with this particular farm — Heavens Harvest — notably that they provide timely recipes that incorporate that week’s harvest and pre-pack everyone’s share (or half-share for couples or three-tenth-share for those single people out there…they’ve even thought of us!) which is apparently a vast improvement over other CSAs that have you bag your own which can take forever.
Despite all of these benefits, I was worried about one con – the loads and loads of kale that I would very likely be stuck with at the end of the season.
See, apparently kale is a very hearty leafy green and grows when other veggies can’t quite make the cut. So if the weather is really bad, kale will dominate.
Of course, I have never cooked kale. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten kale.
But, I’m open to new things and in preparation for joining the CSA, I decided to buy some kale and make something with it. In case I needed a push over the edge, the label on the rubber band around the kale was written in French, calling the leaves chou vert frisé. I once had a boss who could convince me to do any menial task by telling me, “it’s French…you’ll like it.”
So I bought some curly green cabbage and tried a recipe on a card near the grocery store entrance.
Based on my experience, I think I’ll be joining the CSA…
Kale and White Bean Soup with Parmesan Crisps
Adapted from Whole Foods Vegetarian Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup recipe card.
Makes ~ 5 cups soup or 4 servings.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 t thyme (to taste)
1-2 t oregano (to taste)
5 C ersatz chicken broth (i.e., parve chicken soup powder + 5 C water)
4 cups packed chopped kale (i.e., 1 bunch, chopped)
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced; or 20-25 baby carrots cut into thirds
1 small can (14.5-ounce) diced tomatoes
1 small can (14.5-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Parmesan crisps (see recipe below)
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion ~3 minutes until softened, then add garlic and cook together another 2-3 minutes.
Add 1t of each herb and carrots to pan and mix.
Add tomatoes, broth, and kale and mix a few times. Cover saucepan and allow kale to steam until tender, ~5 minutes.
Add drained cannellini beans when kale tender. Keep on heat until parmesan crisps finished to allow beans to warm.
Serve with parmesan crisps or sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Spread ~1T of parmesan cheese in ovals on parchment (1T per oval)
Bake in oven 5-7 minutes — WATCH VERY CAREFULLY - these can burn really quickly. Remove before your smoke alarm goes off (like mine did the first time I tried this!).
The crisps will peel very easily off of the parchment paper.