CSA Surprise: Embracing a Southern Tradition.

I'm not a fan of promoting "busy." Some people thrive on their jam-packed schedules and talk about it--A LOT. For whatever reason, busy-ness seems to be a kind of competition, with people trying to validate and justify the hours of the day with constant activity. You know what? I used to be that person, until I decided that I just don't want to play anymore. Yes, we all have a lot to do, the kids constantly are on the go, the gardens need to be tended, there are articles to write...but so much of it is self-induced (at least, the majority of mine is) that I try not to talk about it.

But right now, I am feeling a little...time-pressed. In 11 days, our oldest son is getting married. MARRIED! How is that possible? Isn't he still nine years old with a little bowl haircut and Pokémon cards? Oh wait--that's his little brother now (minus the bowl cut.) I've tried to adopt a laissez-faire attitude about the wedding, offering help but realizing that I'm just the mother-of-the-groom and need to squelch my former PR event manager tendencies. Now, though--it's getting real. Add the fact that I'm going to be out of town the week of the wedding at P. Allen Smith's Garden2Blog event (the invitation being a bucket-list event for me that I couldn't turn down), and suddenly all of the little things I've been needing to do feel overwhelming.

It's all good. It's a happy, positive time, even if it requires me to consciously breathe. In, out.

It's so easy to eat out or eat badly when schedules get wacky, but with a weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, we're trying hard to stay on track. In fact, one thing that I'm really enjoying about our CSA is that it forces me to slow down. I look at the ingredients, really appreciate the farmers and artisans who provide these goodies, and try to plan our meals around the CSA treats and our garden. It also helps me think a little more creatively. Instead of throwing a potato in the microwave or rice in a pot, I'm trying new recipes, pulling our my Alice Waters cookbooks, hoping to incorporate as many local ingredients as possible into dinner.

Plus, our CSA is helping me stretch outside my comfort zone.

For instance, let's talk about collards.

Yes, collards. Collard greens, or Brassica oleracea to be more precise. As a former northern girl, I'd never eaten collards--even after living in South Carolina for more than 19 years. I never partook in the New Year's good luck tradition of black-eyed peas and collard greens. For whatever reason, I believed that collards tasted bitter. Why? I have no idea. I behaved like a finicky little kid, refusing to try them, assuming my taste buds would revolt.

So, when our CSA share included collards, my prejudice initially surfaced. I considered sharing them with the chickens.

But then I realized that it was time to take the challenge, to see if my northern-raised soul could handle the southern collard tradition.

After all, how can I fuss at the kids to eat their vegetables and try new foods if I'm not willing to try collards?

Out came my Alice Waters cookbooks...and for the first time, she failed me. In my hour of need, I found not one recipe for collards in her books.

Doom seemed imminent.

Of course, though, the Internet saved the day.

Preparing collard greens isn't quite as quick and easy as sautéing chard. Collards are a bit tougher, and it's best to remove the main stem before cooking.

Our CSA share included the collards, along with spring onions and local pasture raised chicken, among the other items. I knew the chicken would take the longest to cook, so I started with it.

I decided to keep the chicken fairly simple: oven roasted with a bit of olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, and herbs from the garden sprinkled on top: thyme and oregano. (Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle olive oil on top. Mix spices in a container, then sprinkle on top of chicken. Bake 1 hour or until no pink is present.)

As the chicken baked, I cleaned the collards and removed the tough stems. I also washed the peas from the garden--our first handful of the season--placing them into a microwave safe bowl for a quick 2-minute spin in the microwave once the rest of the meal was ready.

Knowing that everything tastes better with bacon, I decided to make a decidedly un-vegetarian attempt at my first collard preparation. I thought it might ease my collard anxiety.

Ingredients:

5 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch segments
4 spring onions, cleaned and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound fresh collard greens, washed, stems removed, and cut into 2-inch pieces

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside.
  2. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until golden. Add collard greens, and cook until they begin to wilt.
  3. Pour in chicken broth. Add sea salt and pepper, stirring well. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until greens are tender.
  4. Using slotted spoon, remove greens from pot, draining broth. Place in serving bowl and crumble bacon on top. Makes approximately 4 servings.

The chicken smelled delicious, the peas beeped their doneness...the great question remained: could a northern girl enjoy collards?

She did.

After decades of avoidance, I ate every bite of my collards. (And, naturally, every bite of the bacon, too.)

I think I've officially become southern.

Well, I thought I could claim a new southern citizenship, until I learned I made a major collard faux pas:

No cornbread.

I just never thought about cornbread, and from what my friends tell me, a girl can't eat collards without cornbread.

Sigh...

Ah well, there's always next time.

Are you a collards fan or foe? If fan, what's your favorite way to prepare them?

Until next week...I wonder what deliciousness our CSA basket will provide?

Happy gardening--and eating!

XOXO ~

Julie

tagged under: Growing locavores