Tatsoi? What the hell is tatsoi?
You know, buying a share of an organic farm’s annual output – a concept also known as “community supported agriculture” – sure sounded like a good idea when I first heard about it.
Get organic vegetables at good prices, grown close so there’s not a lot of diesel being burned to bring you your chard. Supporting your local farmers instead of agricultural mega-corporations with lobbyists in Washington who want the federal definition of “organic” to allow the odd dose of weedkillers and insecticide.
Then I found out how much work it was. I mean, every week when my wife Kathy came home with the bags from Native Offerings, I had to actually think about how it would be used. Instead of my cooking patterns shaping my vegetable choices, it was the other way around.
Some stuff I ended up throwing out. (There, I said it.) Didn’t have the energy to research a recipe the family might eat, and actually make it.
But by the end of the season, I learned better. My whining abated slightly. I started to appreciate how the weekly challenge of the share could help me to grow as a cook as I shoveled mammoth doses of vitamins onto my family’s plates, disguised as tasty food.
I have a collection of cookbooks and the Internet as my allies in this regard. Decisions get made the first day, now. What gets eaten today? What gets scheduled for later in the week? What gets handed off to my dad, who is so ga-ga for organic greenery that he asked if he could plunder my yard for dandelion greens?
This week, the first of the season, we had choices to make, as is usually the case. But I was ready.
Rapini or tatsoi? What’s tatsoi again? Oh yes, the mild green thing with the spoonlike leaves, like spinach with crunchier stems and a touch of mustard taste. I’ll take that over the rapini, which has a stronger flavor my children would not eat without a level of corporal punishment I am not prepared to apply.
Leeks, garlic greens, or chives – leeks, absolutely. In a soup, topping a pizza or filling out a pasta, that’s a sweet choice.
Radish? Um, er, meh. What’s the substitute offered? Potatoes or celeriac? Woo, celeriac it is. Ugly booger tastes lovely, raw or steamed and mashed.
Braising greens? Mizuna and mustard, mostly – looks like dad’s in luck. I can’t get my lot to eat all this.
Asparagus? Thank you kindly. Good olive oil, kosher salt, a hot grill – they’ll be racing to pick up the last pieces off the platter.
At home, I rinsed two bunches of tatsoi and quickly stir-fried the greens in hot oil, then coated them with a mixture of oyster sauce, sesame oil, dark soy and basalmic vinegar. Even Jake ate it - after a showdown worthy of High Noon.
My mom came to collect the braising greens. I trimmed the asparagus, which went into a cup of water to stay fresh, and the leeks, which went into the fridge with the arugula and celeriac.
All the time, I was thinking of the sign I’d seen on the way out of the distribution site:
Strawberries next week.
Oh, my. Talk about delicious anticipation.