Guest Check

Sitting in for Laura Cassidy, a junk-food foodie finds kale on her doorstep, and lives to tell about it.

Over the last year, I've received many e-mails from readers who are interested in receiving local, organic produce via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes but are, for one reason or another, hesitant to get started. On the morning one such e-mail arrived, I also heard from a good friend who had just signed up with Pioneer Organics, the Web-based deliverer of organic produce and grocery items. Though Pioneer's produce is not always all local (they get their goods from a variety of farmers), the company's easy-to-use online ordering system and reputation for good service (they've been dealing in deliverable organics for almost 10 years) are making them very popular—particularly among those experimenting with all-natural diets for the first time. I figured I'd let my friend tell you about it—and, at the same time, kick off a series of sporadic guest columns. Lacey Swain handles online sales and video promotions for Sub Pop Records, plays bass and guitar, respectively, in the Charming Snakes and the Coconut Coolouts, and makes a mean dip using Velveeta and a can of Ro-Tel Tomatoes and Green Chilies. LAURA CASSIDY I did it, I did it. I finally did it! I am not really the type of lady who would blow a bunch of dough on vegetables, but what with the promise of a new year and the ever-increasing fear of, well, death, I took the plunge at the beginning of January and signed up online for a small (recommended for a two-person household) biweekly produce delivery ($32) from Pioneer Organics, in an admittedly small effort to lay off the frozen pizza. According to my sources, most Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) services operate under the "you git what you git" philosophy, but Pioneer gives you total control over your order. For example, with a click of the mouse you can blacklist spinach for life, and theoretically you can change the whole damn order each week—while staying within the list of available harvests at that particular time, of course. But I didn't want to stick to just what I knew; I wanted to be made to try something new, even something potentially difficult and not necessarily delicious. My original plan: Take whatever the service sends me, without altering my order, and Google recipes for the unfamiliar items. Easy, right? Yes, but I panicked. A few days before my first order arrived, I went online to trade the honeydew Pioneer planned to send me for something less melony, ditched the butternut squash for something less squashy, and decided, after all, to keep the kale even though I'd been warned against it. On the day my first box was scheduled to arrive, I left work the tiniest bit before quitting time to see what kinds of goods were awaiting me on my dark porch steps. Lo and behold, I found a nice-looking head of green leaf lettuce, carrots, a couple tomatoes, three Pink Lady apples (a last-minute request!), a fennel bulb, red onions, salad mix, two navel oranges, several satsumas, two grapefruit, and kale. Ah, kale, you are a mysterious vegetable! Kale should be easy; it's a green, and I like greens. I know greens. In Texas, where I'm from, you boil them with onions and vinegar and eat them with cornbread and black-eyed peas. Not so with kale, my friend. Kale is tough and bitter no matter how long you boil it, and it winds up tasting like, well, kale, no matter how much garlic, salt, and pepper you dump on it. Kale is not for amateurs, and although mine wound up in the trash, I vowed to try it again—just not in the next delivery. Fennel, on the other hand, I tackled right off the bat. In fact, that was the vegetable I was most excited to see in the box; I had even specially requested it. I did a quick check on the old Internet to see if I knew what I was doing before I stabbed into it and ripped off its cute, furry branches. Once I really got into it, fennel and I were like old friends! I chopped up my buddy along with half an onion and sautéed them for a bit while I surfed for more recipes to poach from, knowing all the while I'd be far too lazy to actually follow any of them through to the end. Then I came upon a familiar but hazy word: braise. After poking around, I figured out that braising involved adding stock to your partially cooked vegetables, so I threw some in and let that mixture hang out for a short while. I was really, really pleased with the results; I bet they would've been a terrific accompaniment to some sort of main dish, but as it was, all I had was a bowl full of braised fennel. You know what goes surprisingly well with a bizarro Frankenstein-ed side of fennel? A couple slices of Totino's Party Pizza and a Diet Coke.

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow