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Wednesday, 20 July 2016 11:23

The Green Agreement deliciously in place

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 With a sense of anticipation usually held in reserve for boxes of cookbooks or a new Kitchen Aid attachment (rumour has it there’s a new candy panning drum!), I lift open the flaps on the first delivery of the season.


Almost literally, it’s a box of fresh air. And just like that, I’m back in my mother’s 8th Street garden with an afterschool friend, and we’re Peter Rabbiting our way across the back alley that divides the west side of 8th from the east side 9th.
“That’s my grandmother’s house,” she says. “I dare you to sneak over there and steal a kohlrabi.”
Stealing a vegetable from a grandmother’s garden, however, doesn’t feel much like stealing, not when going in the front door would probably result in being given cookies and milk. And so I’m back in a minute, munching on the pale green vegetable as though it’s an apple.
To this day, I still don’t know any other way to eat a kohlrabi, and can’t remember having come across them more than twice ever since.
I look in my box. No kohlrabi.
There are many more boxes to come, however. As from now until the end of the growing season sometime late in the Autumn, every Thursday is officially Fresh Vegetables Day.
As agreed upon with our favourite professional gardener, every Thursday, we will receive a box of whatever’s growing that very morning.
It’s kind of like a Vegetable-of-the-Week-Club. And while the idea isn’t new, or even new in town, it’s our first delivery. And when I lean in and breathe deeply, I feel giddy as a kid who’s just poached a vegetable from a neighbour’s garden.
Among all the extra oxygen is wonderland of tender baby greens, so fresh that I can still smell this morning’s sunshine on their assorted leaves.
There are baby bok choy, pleasingly bitter stems of rapini, and two pounds of asparagus.
According to the agreement, we don’t pick, we don’t choose. We don’t call to see what’s coming. We don’t shop in any way. We get whatever’s ready in the garden. And from there, our only responsibility is to decide how best to eat them.
“Dinner Salads, twice a week,” I say, looking at the sheer volume of greens. “And I’ve always wanted to try raw asparagus ribbons in a light dressing.”
Solved with these deliveries is the problem of finding good produce on a work schedule that is sometimes out of synch with the fresh produce markets and farm stands. Solved is the problem of making do with hit and miss items at the supermarket, which stocks passable-if-spindly asparagus along with unsnappy snap beans and assorted other garden clippings.
New, however, is the problem of eating so much foliage in so little time.
As it happens, neither Chefhusband nor I grew up loving our vegetables.
Even though he grew up vegetarian, and I did likewise through my teens, we each inherited a tradition of tinned green beans and frozen three-vegetable medley. And when fresh vegetables were there to be had, they were usually cooked so long that they submitted into mash at the first press of a fork.
But I also grew up eating carrots while sitting in the dirt, pulling up and wiping them clean on the leg of my jeans.
And that, we’ve discovered, is closer to the way vegetables need to be served.
 This week, the rapini will require a quick sauté with a little butter, salt and pepper. The baby bok choy will become a stir fry. The salad leaves just need a drizzle of favourite bottled dressing. And our two pounds of asparagus simply need to be shaved into a salad and dressed with a vinaigrette and a crumble of goat cheese.
 
Asparagus Ribbon Salad
(serves about 4)
20 very fresh, plump asparagus spears
1 Tbsp citrus balsamic
(note: we used a Calamondin Balsamic from www.crescendocanada.com)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
75 grams fresh goat cheese (chevre)
flaked kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
Slice tips from asparagus and set aside.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave asparagus spears, first from one side, then the opposite. (You should get 2-3 ribbons from either side, before the spear becomes too thin to work with. A mandolin slicer would produce a better yield.)
In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic and oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss together with asparagus ribbons and tips. Let sit for 15 minutes to develop flavours.
Serve sprinkled with a little more salt and pepper, along with crumbled goat cheese.

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