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Weekly cooking inspiration: Our CSA Surprise!

This post was written by Sarah Condella, Exact Sciences’ Director of Human Resources.

I have had a passion for cooking for as long as I can remember and love to make healthy meals for my family. However, some weeks it’s not easy to find inspiration for our meals.

Our Exact Sciences’ Wellness Committee came to the rescue when it promoted the idea of joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) late in the spring, which is typically when the local farmers were getting ready to plan for their summer and fall harvests.

For those unfamiliar with the CSA concept, here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" (basically a subscription) to the public. If you purchase a share, in return you receive a box (or sometimes a bag or basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. The share may be of a box full of an assortment of vegetables, but other farm products may be included.

There are many benefits to a CSA for all involved:

  • Members receive ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits you can only get from local produce
  • You are exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Farmers receive community support throughout the season
  • Farmers have the opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

We decided to try this out, and for the last 6 weeks my kitchen has been a laboratory for experiments on a variety of new meals. We joined a 20-week share with Vermont Valley Farm, where on Thursdays, we pick up a large bag of fresh produce at a location within a mile from our house. 

Last week, we received tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, eggplant, cantaloupe, onions, cherry tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, cucumber, carrots and baby red potatoes.

I made a simple vegetable pasta that was packed with several of the vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, sweet corn, eggplant, onion and cherry tomatoes). I tossed the veggies with a healthy dose of my favorite combination of balsamic vinegar, lemon, olive oil and garlic and voila!—-a dish that pleased my 16-month old daughter and husband and provided a great lunch option for a few days.

I am now eagerly looking forward to the surprises in the basket that I’ll be cooking with each week.

To find a CSA near you or learn more about them, visit localharvest.org. Madison-area readers should also be sure to check out the FairShare CSA Coalition, a local non-profit dedicated to connecting CSA farmers and eaters.

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Topics: Healthy Living

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