Preseason Playbook #3: Substitution Style Cooking
Until I became a farmer, I treated recipes as rules. (My mother taught me this.) If I didn’t have the full list of ingredients for something, I wouldn’t make it. If I found myself half way through cooking something and realized I was missing something, I’d feel super stressed. Meanwhile, trying to find really great, veggie dense seasonally appropriate recipes could be frustrating. Sound familiar to you?
Becoming a farmer forced me to renegotiate my relationship with recipes. I had so many seasonal ingredients (and not enough time to go to a grocery store) that it just stopped making sense to follow recipes literally. I wanted to be able to cook with what I had. To do that, I had to stop following recipes strictly.
This wasn’t easy at first. But slowly, I began to use recipes as navigational suggestions, and started to substitute wildly. You know what I discovered? While the meals I’d end up with weren’t exactly the same as what a recipe’s author intended, most times the meals were still tasty. How freeing!
This transition to what we like to call substitution style cooking, is a key component to having a successful experience with CSA.
The more you cook—and you will be cooking (!)—the easier and more fun it is to substitute and adapt as you go. Use what you have! Families of vegetables such as brassicas and alliums have certain common characteristics that in many cases let you substitute one for another. And the more you do this, the more you begin to learn the flavor profiles of different vegetables and gain an understanding and confidence of what can substituted for what.
Need a visual? Check out this cool little chart that an east coast CSA farm put together (thanks Brookford farm!).
One last trick? Always use more vegetables than the recipe calls for! One cup of shredded kale… try two. You get the idea.
And just because I can’t help myself, here’s a new mantra for cooking in the kitchen: CSA, Constantly Substitute & Adapt. I should copyright that. 🙂
One last preseason playbook coming your way before the boxes start to come! Study up and be prepared to experiment.