Week 29: Thinking inside the farmbox

The Wednesday before Christmas was the last pickup. Looking back, it was a fun season. I always enjoy receiving the vegetables I typically don’t buy (or can’t find) in the store—fava beans, garlic scapes, green garlic, cardoons, and crowder peas. But I also like receiving a box full of my favorites, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, hot peppers, collards, beets, corn, and shishito peppers.

The final box contained golden beets, red onions, celery root, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green cabbage, apples, popcorn, and daikon radishes.

I have a confession to make: I love the barbecued meatloaf from the Weber Grill in downtown Chicago. The restaurant is located in an area with loads of shopping and hotels, and, as a result, it’s typically filled with out-of-towners, which usually is kind of a turn-off for me. However, in the winter, I'd often leave work, walk to the train, pass the restaurant and immediately start dreaming about meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

For a long time, I never deviated from my basic meatloaf recipe. However, recently I’ve begun trying new ones, such as the chicken apple meatloaf with tarragon tomato gravy from the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook, and the creole meatloaf from the Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook. This week, I decided to try to make the Weber Grill’s barbecued meatloaf at home. It was so good. On the side were mashed potatoes and celery root and spicy carrots.

I also made my favorite smothered pork chop recipe, shrimp and sweet potato grits, and a beef and vegetable soup, which was chock-full of cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and bell peppers. I have a couple sweet potatoes left, and I plan to use them in a sweet potato and plantain soup.

The popcorn is going to be used for caramel corn. It’s the recipe my mom always makes for the holidays, and it’s amazing. I caught a nasty cold while I was visiting my family in North Carolina for Christmas, so I didn’t get to spend enough quality time on the couch with a huge bag of caramel corn next to me. I’m going to have to make my own so I can get my fix.

As the season wound to a close, I started thinking about when I first joined Nichols Farm's CSA. I was worried about variety. I had spoken with friends who participated in the CSA program with other farms, and they noted that some weeks their boxes contained a lot of one item and little else. I decided to subscribe to Nichols Farm’s CSA because of the diverse crops they grow. Although it is a challenge to figure out how to use the box, the variety helps a lot—and stops me from eating salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because I received an overabundance of lettuce.

If you’re interested in becoming a CSA shareholder, check out Local Harvest or Nichols Farm’s CSA page for more information.