Week 10 of our summer CSA was exactly three weeks away from our August wedding, so needless to say the CSA was not the only thing on my plate (sorry).
Andrew, as well as my close friends and family, sometimes refer to me as having “organizational abilities.” I know they’re being serious, but whatever they are referring to as my “organizational abilities” is what I think of as “Kyra’s panicked reaction to things that stress her out that don’t seem to stress other people out at all.” The phrase “organizational abilities” implies a clear-eyed, rational mind, definitely no crying about wedding reception tablecloths, and I’m pretty sure a person with “organizational abilities” doesn’t have to pour themselves a shot of bourbon every time they open their wedding planning spreadsheet.
I am a person who is happy when I have a plan and that plan is successful. While other people might focus on, say, how delicious the CSA vegetables taste, what really makes me happy is when I have a sheet of paper enumerating exactly what dish I will cook with which CSA vegetable, what day we’re going to eat it, what other ingredients I need, and how much they will cost. I also lack the patience to make this happen. It’s an unfortunate combination of traits. This is where Andrew comes in.
Andrew has no organizational abilities almost at all. One would think that I would find this annoying, but it’s actually quite useful. He’s mostly appreciative of my attempts to organize our lives—seeing as he’s the beneficiary of things like knowing what we’re going to eat, getting plane tickets more than three days before the holiday in question, and having a good credit score. But deep down inside, he doesn’t really care about whether we’re organized or not. He cares about things like Art, and Beauty, and Nature, and the late 19th-century Elocution movement (don’t ask). So when I start to get spun up over the fact that I went over our gas budget by $3.25, he tends to take the long view.
Unfortunately, the first week of August Andrew left to play a summer music festival in Santa Cruz, leaving me at home in Chicago with my planning spreadsheet and my bourbon. Apparently planning a wedding with someone is supposed to be a good way of predicting what it’s like to be married to them. In this case, we discovered that when Andrew’s not around to act as a breaking mechanism on my stress, I tend to go off the rails.
Managing the time difference was part of the problem—Andrew was in Santa Cruz which was a two hour time difference from me and a three hour time difference from where we were getting married. (We had decided to get married in Vermont, which—like so many of our decisions around the wedding over the last year—seemed like a good idea at the time.) My sense of soon-to-be-spousal compassion was tested daily when I picked up the phone determined to wake him up at 6:00 AM to discuss with him, say, if he thought we should buy 2 1/2 inch or 3 inch thick birch poles for the chuppah, before talking myself off the ledge and waiting until lunch time.
Over the two weeks he was gone, I also had some CSA boxes to content with, containing squash, green peppers, banana peppers, tomatoes, apples, chard, corn, shallots, pickling cucumbers, potatoes, fennel, broccoli, more bell peppers, more potatoes, more tomatoes, more apples. more onions, more carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, more green beans, and jalapeños.
I should have been happy that it was tomato season. I feel that between the end of July and the middle of September, one is morally obligated to eat as much tomato and mozzarella as humanly possible. But I was mostly feeling sorry for myself. Andrew and I had gotten engaged the previous summer during tomato season and it was awesome. The night we got engaged, we made this caprese salad:
Hoping to cheer myself up, I made my own caprese salad, which, instead of providing comfort, became a sort of pathetically nostalgic emblem of my loneliness.
In all honesty, the tomatoes were just really bad this year. Chicago was strangely cold in August—highs in the sixties, maybe low seventies. I mean, it was beautiful and very pleasant. But maybe not if you’re a tomato.
Andrew also has a moderating influence on what we choose to eat, since I have almost no judgment of what constitutes an actual meal. I’ll find a recipe and announce, “This calls for buttermilk, carrots, and ham! We have all of these things! Let’s make it!” And he just stares at me noncommittally until I have a chance to think things through.
This brings me to the beet & egg spring rolls I made the first day Andrew was gone.
Spring Rolls with Beets, Brown Rice, Eggs, and Herbs
This weird recipe calls for Napa cabbage and also for beets (in case you’ve forgotten in the 2 months since I last posted…but we have a really large Napa cabbage in the refrigerator at this point). It also made use of some of our mint and basil that was going wild in the back yard. As an added bonus, I didn’t have to cook the beets.
First you prep a bunch of things. You need to cook about a cup and a half of rice. Once it’s done, toss it in a bowl with 1 TB rice vinegar. Next, peel 3 or 4 raw beets and grate them (recipe was for 1 LB – I almost had this with one beet). Grating it took like an hour, and your cutting board will look like a crime scene, but that’s just how it is with beets.
Then prep some assorted herbs and cabbage: I used 1/3 cup of mint, 1/2 cup of basil, and 2 cups of shredded Napa cabbage. The beets and herbs go together in a bowl with 2 TB rice vinegar, and the shredded cabbage goes in its own bowl with another 2 TB vinegar.
Now it’s time to make a few egg pancakes. Take 3 eggs and crack them individually into 3 little bowls and beat them. Slip one beaten egg into an 8 inch non-stick skillet that has a little oil in the bottom. After a minute or two, flip the egg over and you should have a little omelet. Repeat with the other two eggs. Once the eggs are done, cut them into little slices.
Finally, everything gets rolled together. You need 8 1/2 inch diameter spring roll wrappers. Dip each one in warm water for about 30 seconds to maybe it pliable, and then place some whole basil and mint leaves on top. Next, add some of the beet mixture, then the cabbage mixture, then the rice, and a few strips of egg.
Obviously I was suspicious of how these would taste—raw beets and eggs and such. But they were actually pretty good, and the egg made them substantive enough to eat a few as a meal.
CSA ingredients used: Napa cabbage, beets
Other ingredients used: mint, basil, brown rice, egg, Spring roll wrappers, rice wine vinegar,
Recognizing that I was heading into a period of time where I might be a little to excited/crazed to feed myself, I decided it would be smart to make a giant pot of something. I bought this book by Raghaven Iyer called 660 Curries after my last experience cooking saag paneer, feeling that I needed to upgrade my Indian cooking resourcing a little. As a CSA cookbook it looked like it would be invaluable—vegetables in any combination in delicious curry format. I picked a recipe for Sirka Paneer, which is a sweet-tart cheese with potatoes and cauliflower in a vinegar sauce.
To make this recipe, first you need to make paneer. (Or buy it. You could do that. I just didn’t, because I had milk and I didn’t feeling like going out again)
Then, pour 1/4 cup water into a blender jar and 1/4 cup of cider vinegar, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1 TB coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 dried chiles, 2 fresh chiles, 2 cloves of garlic, and a bit of sliced up ginger. Blend it around together to make a paste.
Next, heat 2 TB vegetable oil in a skillet and add 1/2 cup chopped red onion (I used white onion). Stir-fry it until it’s started to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the curry paste to the pan and lower the heat, then cook 2 to 4 minutes until the oil start to separate from the curry.
Next, you add 1 cup of water to the blender and blitz it around to clean out the blender. Once the paste is done, throw in this water as well.
Next, add 2 cups of chopped cauliflower, 2 medium potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes (I put in about 6 little ones), and 1 tsp salt to the pan. Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. I decided to add some carrots too since I had them.
Once the vegetables are tender, add the coconut milk and the paneer and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then sprinkle some cilantro on top and it’s done.
This recipe was great – the carrots were not a good call and I ended up mostly picking around them. But all of the other vegetables were soft and mushy and the curry flavor blended into them really nicely.
CSA ingredients used: cauliflower, onion, carrots, potatoes
Other ingredients used: milk, vinegar, apple cider vinegar, salt, garlic, ginger, coconut milk, cilantro, tomato paste, chiles, cumin, and coriander.
Corn, Tomatoes, Avocado, and Bacon in Various Combinations
As the days went on and the wedding got nearer, it became clear that my concerns about being too busy to cook for myself were somewhat moot because I discovered I had no appetite at all. Apparently this is pretty normal in the two weeks before one’s wedding. Luckily, if you’re going to be picking at your food for a few weeks, an early August farm box provides a pretty accessible assortment of choices. Here are a few of the salad-like things I made in a vain hope that I would at some point be hungry:
CSA ingredients used: tomatoes, corn, onions, cucumber
Other ingredients used: feta, bacon, basil, avocado
Next: In which I solemnly take on the responsibilities of a wife-to-be by using a vacuum sealer to freeze things.