The Pick-up: CSA challenge means bringing up basil

(Catherine Mallette, The…)
July 09, 2013|By Catherine Mallette
The Baltimore Sun

I was visiting my sister in New England on our weekly CSA pickup day, so my husband dutifully went out to the farm to get our haul. Once home, he prepped all the veggies, carefully placing them in the crispers of the fridge.

He even took a photo of this week's Community Supported Agriculture bounty, and sent me a caption identifying everything in clockwise order: Garlic, lettuce, mustard greens, broccoli, raspberries, beets, carrots, basil. So helpful.

When I got home, three days later, everything was still there waiting for me to come up with exciting recipes. But there was a slight hitch. He was then going out of town until a day after the following week's pickup. One person (me). One week's worth of CSA share. Four days.

I started with the basil.

I love basil. If basil were a fragrance, I might consider wearing it. And washing my sheets in it. In North Texas, basil thrives from early spring until late fall and reseeds itself if you get any rain at all. I had practically a field of basil one summer and ate more Caprese salad than one might have thought possible, and yet I never tired of it.

But I remembered I also had made pesto, which uses up a bunch of the herb. I didn't remember having a great recipe, though, so I looked online for the easiest possible version involving the least number of ingredients. Bingo. There it was on I'd substitute the Parmesan for a cheese I already had, which meant all I had to buy was pine nuts — and the pasta.

I was also happy that this recipe called for a blender or a Cuisinart, but the quantity of pesto is small, so I was able to use my mini-processor instead of lugging the big one out of its home deep within the pantry. I was also happy to be able to use some of the CSA garlic, too.

I whipped up the pesto, started the pasta water and then decided to tackle the mustard greens. I found a recipe that used bacon and the bacon fat it was cooked in, and it sounded tasty, except I only had two slices of precooked bacon in the fridge. So instead, I poured some olive oil in a skillet and chopped up a red onion that was in the pantry. I put the onion in the hot skillet and cooked it for about 6 or 7 minutes, then tossed in the chopped bacon and clean pieces of the greens, cooking them down. I added salt and pepper and threw in a tablespoon of white wine vinegar when everything looked good. I wouldn't say this was the greatest recipe in the world, but it took some of the bitterness out of the greens. And who, except a vegetarian, doesn't love bacon? So I'll probably try a version of it again.

The angel hair pasta with pesto turned out to be a delight — I even added a couple of cherry tomatoes from my container garden. Definitely a recipe worth repeating.

Then, after dinner, I decided to really go for it and make my now famous-in-our-house root roast. I used some potatoes, beets, turnips (it turned out some of the beets were actually turnips), carrots and more of the garlic. When it was done, I packed it away in the fridge, as it reheats beautifully.

There. Three days left. And just one half-head of garlic, one full head of broccoli and some lettuce to go. Ha! Piece of cake, so to speak. And if you're wondering about those raspberries, they were long gone. I'd pulled a William Carlos Williams that morning. In case you're not familiar with the poem ("This Is Just to Say"), here it is. Just substitute raspberries for the plums.

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the ice box

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold


Adapted from

Makes 2 servings

1 1/4 cup fresh basil

3 tablespoons pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

9 ounces fresh angel hair pasta

Put the water on to boil for the pasta. Cook according to directions on package when water is ready.

Put basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil as you continue to mix. Turn off processor and add salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and blend.

When pasta is ready, mix in the pesto. Top with tomatoes if you wish.

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