Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CSA Story: Potatoes, Basil, and Creativity

There's a certain sense of accomplishment I feel when I am getting dinner ready, realizing that somehow I should be working in disparate ingredients from the CSA cooler. It's like being on one of those cooking shows, handed a box of odd ingredients and told to make dinner with it.

Certainly it pushes me out of my comfort zone and into inspiration. And sometimes ... every so often ... it pushes me into a place where my family is delighted with the inspiration.

Yesterday, for example, I was making Baked Salmon with Horseradish Sauce. I had picked up some fresh green beans at the store last weekend but was wondering what starch to have with the meal. Then I remembered the red potatoes from the CSA, some of them were fairly small. I could have potatoes and green beans.

Super simple in first boiling a pot of water, then putting in the potatoes, and toward the last 10 minutes or so dropping in the tailed green beans. (If the potatoes are different sizes, I just pull the smaller ones when they are done and pop them back in to warm up right before I drain the whole thing.

When I opened the fridge to get the beans out, I smelled the fresh basil that the farmer also brought last weekend. Basil. When was I ever going to use that? Pasta was my usual use for basil and that wasn't in my sights until way after that basil went bad.

And then I remembered. An Italian region makes green beans, potatoes, and pesto. Or at least it seemed as if I had read something about that. But I had no time to look up recipes and, truth be told, no inclination.

I pulled the basil, washed and dried it, threw it in the food processor along with a pinch of salt, a clove of garlic, and a small handful of walnuts. I whirred it until everything looked as small as it was going to get (pretty grainy, not smooth) and then I glugged in some olive oil until it was less solid but not really runny. Then I threw in a couple handfuls of grated Parmesan and whirred again. Done.

Yes, all of this was off the cuff so those are the best descriptions you're gonna get. Blame Nigel Slater and my ongoing reading of Tender.

When the potatoes and beans were tender (should've snapped those beans in half, but there's always next time), I tossed them with the impromptu pesto.

And nervously put it in a dish in front of Tom.

Who tentatively tried it, said, "This is really good!" and reached for more.

It was really good.

The chances would have been slim of me actually looking that up in the cookbook and deliberately getting the ingredients to put that dish together.

But thanks to the mystery box each week from the CSA, we got a delicious, semi-authentic Italian dish and I had a sense of creativity that is all too rare.


Debbie said...

Never thought of adding Basil. Good call. I've been sauteing onions, green beans and the new potatoes all summer. Love that combo! Next time I will try adding basil, especially now that we have a basil plant, as well.

Julie said...

I didn't think of sauteeing the potatoes, although I have made hash browns to serve with mushroom omelets.

I like the idea of sauteeing the beans and potatoes, then adding a dollop of pesto at the end.

Creative synergy! Woohoo!

Anonymous said...

Hey I'll go ahead and share my accidental recipe that I've wanted to tell someone about:

1) Attempted to make vichyssoise (per _The Joy_) in the crockpot. It overcooked and tasted weird. Not quite right. Oh and I had to sub in milk and cream cheese for the cream, because guess who didn't go grocery shopping.

2) Meanwhile, had sauteed garlic, fresh tomatoes, and a lot of red (hot) pepper, to use as a topping for an omelet.

Combine half-and-half the potato soup and the spicy tomato mixture. Excellent. On re-heating if you toss on a slice of swiss cheese and swirl it in melted, even better.

Tante Leonie said...

Re: basil going bad.

If you have too much basil, you can always whip up a batch of pesto and freeze it in ice-cube trays. Pop them out, put 'em in a plastic bag, and you'll have a hit of summer in the dead of winter.

I used to do that all the time when I lived in the US, and actually had a freezer (those were the days!)