(CSA) Vegetables & Cancer

This was my version of this root vegetable slaw from the wonderful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Getting a cancer diagnosis was scary. It didn’t leave me with much band width to make major life-style changes. Those are hard enough to make when one is well! After the original shock subsided and a plan for treatment formed I began to realize just how lucky I was. I knew how to cook vegetables and had a steady source in the form of my CSA. I already loved vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones like broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, cabbage and kale, which are noted for their cancer fighting properties. As I proceeded through many months of chemotherapy, followed by major surgery I was able to eat and often prepare for myself great quantities of vegetables. Luckily, all these veggies also tasted good during treatment, especially with plenty of added acidity and spice during the months of altered taste buds.

 

As I near the end of my treatments and regain strength and venture back out into my garden and sign up for my CSA (summer and winter) I am maybe more grateful than ever for farmers and farmworkers near and far. Farmers for whom the hard winters, storms, droughts and increasing climate volatility and fickle consumers and trends are not something managed by weather appropriate clothes or simple tweaks in business plans. The resilience, smarts and commitment farmers demonstrate day after day is staggering really. And the CSA–Community Supported Agriculture–model was designed in part to provide a little bit of stability in this volatile profession, providing $ up front so that farmers can plan for the season’s work and harvests in a way that involves the eater in a bit more depth. CSA is what has made me a better cook over the years and certainly what has inspired the increased quantity of vegetables enjoyed daily.

 

Hopefully most of us will not get cancer and will not think about vegetables primarily as a collection of nutrients with various properties but will enjoy them in all their beauty and deliciousness and cultural relevance and richness. However, it is nice to know that in addition to all that, enjoying them and knowing how to prepare them has many advantages for us and our loved ones, some of whom may need that extra boost today or some day in the future!

 

A special shout out to the CSA farms with whom I work, who subscribe to my Seasonal Recipe Collection so that their members can enjoy their weekly bounty to the fullest, with simple recipes and tips. Now is a great time to sign up and see what the season has in store for you!

 

47th Ave FarmSauvie Island OrganicsMinto Island GrowersLove Farm OrganicsFull Cellar FarmMud Creek FarmJoy Haven FarmLaughing Crow OrganicsHill Family FarmFarmer Joe’s GardensOlsen Communities CSAThe Good Earth Farm Full Plate FarmAmazing Heart Farm

Don’t Do What I Do . . .

. . . or at least not to the letter! What I have in my pantry, fridge, freezer, garden is likely not exactly or not at all like what you have. Often, when I write recipes for the Seasonal Recipe Collection or this blog or just post a photo on Instagram I say things like “use what you have” or “substitute x for y” or “if you don’t have this use that!” This may get annoying but my hope is of course, that this approach is freeing and gives you control and creative license. It’s also economical, quicker.

I was talking about slaw the other day and a friend mentioned that her slaw includes x, y, z, etc. and I imagine many of you have THE slaw that you make but I realized that I’m not sure I’ve ever made the same slaw twice. I’m sure those slaws are delicious but do they get made when there’s only a browning wedge of cabbage left in the fridge, maybe a few carrots and a chunk of red onion, a wilty half-bunch of cilantro and just a few sprigs of mint in the garden? That list may not sound appealing but I guarantee you the sum of those parts will be great and fresh and bright. And if you’re like me, you’ll feel smug and satisfied that you cooked with next to nothing. My grandmother (and mother!) would be/are proud. And of course fresh, newly purchased vegetables make wonderful slaws too so no need to wait until the wilt sets in but don’t forget that slaw idea if time takes its toll!

Less waste, more creativity, fewer rules. . . . are a few of the principles that get my going. However, I also know that the fun of this kind of cooking, i.e. using recipes as a template or loose guide, often comes with experience and years of experimentation and comes more easily to some than others. Temperament seems to play a big role here. But whatever your experience level or temperament I hope that there might be some new or continued fun to be had in cooking-with-what-you-have and to your taste!

Cabbage and Tatsoi Slaw w/ Miso Dressing

I never tire of slaws and this is a quick, delicious one. As usual, substitute other kinds of cabbage or greens or herbs. Mint would be wonderful here instead or in addition to the cilantro. Any kind of miso will do but I tend to keep red miso on hand so it’s what I typically  use.

savoy tatsoi slaw miso dressing

Serves 4

1/2 small head savoy or regular green cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
1 small bunch tatsoi, washed, dried and thinly sliced
Handful cilantro, roughly chopped, including stems (or other herbs, see headnote)
Handful radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced (optional)

Dressing:
2-3 teaspoons red miso (see headnote)
1 tablespoon mirin (rice cooking wine or a bit  more rice wine vinegar and a pinch or two of sugar)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil or other oil
Juice of half a lemon or lime
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 stalk green garlic, minced)
Back pepper and a possibly a little salt–probably not needed as the miso is salty

Put the vegetables and herbs in a large salad bowl. In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together well. Toss the salad with the dressing, taste and adjust seasoning.