How to use a whole CSA box, part deux.
Fruits and vegetables are fantastic, clearly, but do not a whole meal make. In order to effectively use your whole CSA box, I recommend having a properly stocked pantry. If this is something you want to invest in now, or you need a pantry makeover, following this guide will make sure you have what you need to make lots of simple, delicious, and nutritious meals.
Shopping list to compliment CSA box:
1. Whole grains - farro is my current favorite, although brown or wild rice, barley, and quinoa are great also. I prefer to buy these in bulk - about 2 cups of 2 different grains each time I buy.
2. Herbs - just go ahead and buy 2 or 3 (or 4) different kinds. I'd say definitely get parsley and mint, and then pick one or two from basil, thyme, and cilantro. I'll show you some great ways to use up extra herbs soon too.
3. Beans - I like buying dried beans these days, but canned are totally fine. One of my recipes below has chickpeas, my favorite. I find cooking dried chickpeas makes them taste sweeter, fresher, and just generally better. I tend to buy white beans in a can though, no idea why. Red and french lentils are also great to have around.
4. Citrus - lemon mostly. so much lemon. Buy a whole bag of lemons. And grab a few limes, and an orange if you want to get snazzy.
5. Garlic - a few bulbs will do. I've recently taken to relying on my darling garlic press. I just use so much garlic, it's makes things easier. This one is my favorite.
6. Pungent small things - especially when cooking vegetarian or plant-based meals, you want a few options to give your dish that deep, grounding umami flavor. I like having all three in stock: olives, anchovies, and capers. I'm preferring anchovy paste these days to whole anchovies - less work. I buy black pitted kalamata olives for chopping into dishes.
7. Nuts - I throw pumpkin seeds into loads of salads these days. They are delicious, relatively inexpensive, and highly nutritious. They take on the perfect crunch when toasted. I also recommend having pine nuts, almonds, and cashews on hand.
8. Fat - olive oil obviously. There are lots of different oils you can use to make your dishes great. I know coconut oil is super popular these days, and I get it. It's delicious. I don't think it's a miracle oil like many people seem to, but I do use it occasionally. Other fancy oils will do great things for your food, but aren't really necessary. Good quality extra virgin olive oil is basically all I use. Oh, and butter for breakfast. I save the coconut oil for Thai and Indian dishes, and baking sometimes.
9. Vinegar - red wine vinegar mostly. I also always have unseasoned rice vinegar, balsamic, and sherry vinegar (if I can find it). And plain white vinegar for pickling.
10. Dairy - I am very fond of dairy. Yogurt, feta, and parmesan are always in my fridge, but I don't go through them very fast. And some sharp aged cheddar for snacking. And whole milk for my coffee. And... no that's it. Not everyone can digest lactose well, sadly. Fermented diary products, like yogurt and kefir, are often easier to tolerate in those who experience symptoms of lactose intolerance. Cheese is never the main ingredient in one of my recipes, just a little sprinkle on top, so it can be left out without noticing much.
On top of the above, you just need your fresh produce and a couple proteins. You can absolutely rely on beans, eggs, and soy-based proteins -- and I recommend it. Vegetarian diets are some of the healthiest out there. I, however, love to eat fish, chicken, and the occasional steak. The nutrients you get from animal products are undeniable - highly absorbable iron, B12, vitamin D, calcium. But meat is not necessary to get all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Stay tuned for the recipes....