Community Supported Agriculture—CSA. Why does one join a CSA? Is it for incredibly fresh and tasty vegetables? Is it to be part of a movement to support non-industrial farming? Is it choosing to eat foods grown closer to home, to lessen your “footprint” on our planet? Is it an ethical, environmental, political, health or culinary decision or all of the above?
For a whole month last winter I drove around in my Subaru, listening to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, as a book on CD. Every time I started up the engine, Mr. Pollan’s story of food came on where I had left off, reminding me why I participate in a CSA, and why, to me, the CSA concept is so important. The book was first published in 2006, so yes I am late to the pew. But even years ago, when I read a review of the book, I knew he was preaching to my choir. For me, CSA is much more than a weekly box of garden goodies.
Today, Summer Solstice, Ranui CSA members celebrate with our first box of produce. May the harvest stretch well into fall so we can enjoy the fruits of John’s labor longer than we anticipate. And though it may be summer, this week’s veggies speak of spring—like flowering chives.
Chives, like onions, leeks and garlic, belong to the lily (Allium) family. Their lovely lavender blossoms are aromatic and edible, with a subtle bite. Separate the blossoms into petals and use them liberally, on top of your salad mix this week and sprinkled on your new potatoes, whether grilled, roasted, pan-sautéed or mashed.
Grilled and Braised Leeks with Chive Blossoms
Grilling adds the smoky flavor, though is not imperative to grill leeks before braising. But just grilling is not enough: leeks need more cooking time to make them meltingly tender. Since this vegetarian household came to the grilling scene only last summer, we are way into grilling. In my kitchen, grilled and braised is the perfect marriage for leeks. Think (lily) family and dress up a platter of grilled and braised leeks with pale purple chive flowers.
About 8 young leeks
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 cup vegetable broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Chive blossom petals
Trim the roots from the leeks. Cut off and discard the upper darker green parts and peel away and discard any tough outer layers. Cut each leek in half lengthwise. Wash them well to remove dirt, checking in between each leaf, especially at the root end. Drain and blot with a towel to remove much of the water moisture.
Preheat the grill to high. Brush the leek halves with olive oil on the cut side. Grill them cut side down, about 5 to 6 minutes or until grill marks appear. Remove to a skillet or foil packet.
To braise stovetop: Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the grilled leek halves and pour the vegetable broth on top. When the broth comes to a simmer, lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook gently about 20 minutes, until the leeks are tender. Remove the cover and cook until most of the broth has evaporated but the leeks are still glossy and moist.
(You can cook the leeks completely using the grill: after giving them nice grill marks and flavor, enclose the leeks in a tight foil packet with about half of the veggie broth. Continue cooking over medium-hot coals, about 20 minutes, until the leeks are soft and well cooked.)
Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle generously with coarse salt and chive blossom petals.
Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish.
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