Last night, we ate a roasted cauliflower salad with lemon tahini dressing that three out of four members of the family liked quite a bit. This is a significant win and I’m relieved to finally have a go-to cauliflower recipe.
We’ve been receiving a vegetable package weekly from the Lijsterbes in Groesbeek for about a year now. It is, in many ways, a dream come true for me. And yes, I know that’s a weird thing to dream about. But locally grown organic produce delivered to my doorstep once a week is just plain awesome.
It’s also often a pain. I get occasionally get vegetables that I have to google (in Dutch) and then find recipes for (preferably in English). We’ve eaten quite a few dishes that we won’t ever repeat again.
And the potatoes.
For most of the year, we get about a pound of potatoes a week. This can lead to a two or three week surplus. We don’t even get the family size package, we get one for 2-3 people. The family size package, which we had for the first few months, left us drowning in potatoes.
Despite the griping, I’m a huge fan of our veggie package and look forward to it every week. It’s challenged my cooking and the family’s taste buds nearly every week and taught me to become a more flexible meal planner.
I was doing some deep thinking about all this while clearing the dishwasher this morning and decided to pass on some veggie package survival tips to you. Here we go…
- Be flexible. There’s a list on-line every week of what we can expect in our package, but things happen on a farm and sometimes we get something different or they indicate a number of options that we’ll get one of. Scan the list and let your mind wander with ideas, but don’t settle on a plan until you’ve got the vegetables in hand.
- Store for cooking. Clean and prep your veggies as much as you can when they arrive. Store them properly to make sure they don’t go bad before you get a chance to use them. Fresh vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness. Take good care of them!
- Cook the most delicate veggies first. Sturdy veggies like zucchini and cauliflower will store in the fridge for a while. Leafy greens need to be cooked within a couple days of arrival and stored well in the meantime. Cleaning and storing your greens properly will help them last a lot longer.
- Find default recipes. The go-to cauliflower recipe is a big deal because it saves me time when the next cauliflower arrives. I know my family will enjoy this and that most of the ingredients are in the pantry. I’ve also got a bok choi default (this one is similar) and if there’s fennel we eat risotto. Find recipes you all like and keep them handy.
- Use accommodating recipes. Dishes like quiche, frittatas, omelets, risottos, and couscous can be varied as much as you dare. Once you master a frittata, it doesn’t matter much whether you put leftover roasted veg and cheddar cheese in them or beet greens and feta (image above). The principle is the same, and the shopping doesn’t change much, even if the filling does.
- Stock your pantry. It isn’t fun to rush out of the house every Thursday afternoon to get all the ingredients we need for dinner, so I keep a well stocked pantry. There are a zillion how to stock your pantry lists on-line. Pick one or watch your own eating habits and then stock up. I make sure to have different types of beans, canned tomatoes, pasta in shapes and long, rices, nuts, and some grains. We also keep a well stocked spice cabinet and fresh herbs in the garden are a huge plus.
- Maintain your shopping list. When the last can of beans comes out of the pantry, it goes on the shopping list in the kitchen before I open it. The same is true for oils, grains, jams, and anything else we stock up on. This habit means we don’t run into emergencies with pantry basics.
- Search by ingredients. Working from my pantry and the veggies when they arrive (or three days later, who knows!), search for recipes by ingredient or meal part. I found the cauliflower recipe by searching for cauliflower salad. Yesterday, we also ate roasted veggies with haloumi after I searched “broad beans haloumi.” You’ll find some surprising and surprisingly delicious combinations out there.
- Pay attention to prep work. When you find a recipe, read through it and make sure it isn’t going to take three hours in the kitchen to get dinner on the table. Read the entire recipe and calculate how long each step will take you, including cleaning those mud caked potatoes.
- Substitute with gusto. Ingredient lists are suggestions. You don’t have to use a particular type of lettuce or cheese to produce a satisfying dish. Learn the properties of the ingredients and then look for a substitute that will work. Chèvre is a soft, salty white cheese. Feta will probably work fine. Swiss chard is a tough green. Beet greens or a bok choi or a delicate cabbage will work fine.
- Think in terms of threes. I grew up on meat/starch/veg. Without meat, we enjoy our meals best when there are at least three different dishes, which means three different taste/texture/color combinations. Make sure there’s a bean or nut somewhere, something green, and something with a bit of starch. Eggs are satisfying and infinitely variable. The variation in dishes makes for a much more satisfying meal.
So, in the world of surviving a surprise veggie delivery every week, a cauliflower go-to-recipe is a pretty big deal for me. I just checked what we’re getting this week. After a one week break from potatoes (the winter stock ran out) – we’re getting new potatoes this week. Thank goodness I have a default recipe for them: New potato, tomato, and boiled egg salad. It’s a 4/4, we all love it.
Do you get a weekly veggie package? How do you cope?