March 6, 2015
The fire roars in the wood-burning stove as the season’s first real snowstorm begins. I’m settled into my chair, thinking about parsnips. Thinking about how much I hate them. How to stomach them as part of my dedication to keeping my footprint on this earth as small as possible. I’m an obsessive local eater, harvesting most of what I cook from my garden from April to November, and then tackling what my community supported agriculture (CSA) box delivers through the cold, dark months. Sometimes eating local means delicious green beans and tomatoes for weeks on end. Sometimes it means a lot of root vegetables and cabbage.
I happily eat most things that come in the weekly CSA box. But each year, I manage to carefully avoid a few select root vegetables. This year, I vowed, would be different. As I unpacked this past week’s box and nestled it into the fridge, I knew I had some parsnip, turnip, and cabbage cooking thinking to do.
I’ve been reading through Didi Emmons’ latest book Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking from Eva’s Farm. I’ve trusted her recipes for quite some time. I figured if anyone could get me to like the parsnip, it was her. And there on page 24 was a recipe for parsnip pie. I reasoned if the parsnip was slightly diluted by the potato—combined with some nicely sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions—all with the crunch of 100 percent wholewheat crust, I’d be okay.
I will say, it was textured and tasty. (A little time consuming to make. But worth it.)
Parsnips down. Turnips and cabbage to go.
I faced the three white turnips head on with Puree of Turnip soup. Simple and straightforward turnip-ness. I drizzled it with a little rosemary-arugula oil that I had leftover from a successful Brussels sprouts experiment. That drizzle made the soup elegant looking. With a hunk of whole-grain bread on the side it made an excellent lunch and then with a nice arugula salad—a great dinner.
With the big head of cabbage my husband Rick chipped in and made a great slow-cooker cabbage soup with cannellini beans and lots of onions. Once again, the contrasting textures really interested me here. A perfect winter dinner.
That didn’t quite do in the cabbage. So I decided to try a recommendation from my old housemate Christopher. He contributed a cabbage juice suggestion via Facebook. With my new juicer, I’ve learned most anything can be juiced. Cabbage is no exception. For the CSA maximalist, the juicer is a great secret weapon. I couldn’t believe how refreshing this concoction was with a creamy, interesting sweetness—and also a truly lovely shade of green. A juice revelation, the cabbage.
The only veggies left were the beets. I love beets and grow them each year in my garden. I roasted some with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I juiced the rest. Simple beet-ginger-apple juice. A juice no-brainer.
The winter CSA not only keeps me in touch with what is local right now in Western Pennsylvania, but also creates a kind of kitchen improvisation every other week where I’m given these mystery vegetables that I both love and don’t—and I’m forced to marry them in recipes.