Each week we get the chance to catch up with Courtney. Her enthusiasm for cooking and the CSA vegetables is wonderful. We have gotten a lot of good inspirational tips from her about new ways of preparing things. She never turns away from a challenge whether it is a broken jaw or an entire 3/4 bushel box of zucchini in a particularly abundant season. We are glad to have her as part of our CSA community.
How long have you been a member with Three Sisters CSA Community Farm?
This is our third year.
We used to get their produce at the FM in Tosa. I know there’s a lot of great farms around here, but I honestly think they have the best tasting, most beautiful produce. So we bought the bulk of our veggies from them.
We also get the egg share from them, we love to get the eggs and veggies each week.
What part of Southeastern Wisconsin do you live in?
Have you ever met Jeff and/or Kelly in person?
Actually I try and be here on Thursdays (for home delivery) because I love talking to Kelly - she's so great. It’s like a bright spot in my week. I probably hold her up every week because I can get a bit wordy.
In three words, how would you describe the experience of seasonal eating you have through your CSA share?
Exciting : You never know what’s ready to choose from, and it’s always a surprise to see what we get to cook with each week.
Blessing: Because a lot of communities that don’t have the option.
Vital: To our community as a whole to support local food and to eat seasonally. It’s good for the environment, for our health and for commerce.
When other people ask you what it’s like to be a CSA member or why you do it, what do you usually say?
I really like to support our local farmers and I think that’s so important. I talk about the freshness and quality, and knowing your produce came from somewhere nearby and was raised well.
It also gives people the freedom to experiment with their cooking. When you have a box full of fresh produce already in your kitchen, all you have to do is pick a few things and cook up some veggies and pasta. It can actually make it easier to cook at home. I think everyone should do it for at least one season.
What is your favorite CSA food item?
Oh my goodness - that’s hard. I’d probably say snap peas and cherry tomatoes, and the summer squash and zucchini. If left to my own devices I’d eat all the cherry tomatoes in one go.
Is there a CSA food item that most confounds or stumps you when it comes to cooking or eating, or used to before you knew what to do with it?
Nothing really stumps me, I’m a vegetarian so I’ll pretty much eat any vegetables. But I like to never waste anything so I try and cook all the parts that come in the box. But the carrot tops are one thing I never know what to do with. This year they were so beautiful, I have been using it in place of parsley - I made a carrot top chimichurri and we put it in tabbouleh.
Sometimes we’ll keep a bag of vegetable parts in the freezer - like carrot tops or parsley in a bag and then use them for making stock.
Do you have a “box unpacking ritual” each week?
Yes I do. I usually unpack everything and lay it out on the kitchen table, take pictures and put it on my Instagram feed. Without a doubt I get tons of comments about how beautiful the produce is, and people want to know what I’m going to do with it. It also gives me the ability to look back and see what I chose from year to year.
What is your favorite thing about being a member of Three Sisters Community Farm?
I love the passion of Jeff and Kelly. It’s inspiring to me that they care as much as they do about the work, the land and the vegetables, and then we have that privilege of eating the fruits of their labor.
Also the variety of produce and being able to pick the box contents.
Do you have a funny anecdote related to a CSA experience?
The first CSA delivery of the season always comes the week of my birthday so it’s like a birthday present. I always look forward to making a big fresh salad with everything that comes in the box. But last summer during that week I had a freak accident - I tripped over a big buckle in the sidewalk and face-planted onto the cement and broke my jaw. It was wired shut for two months. And when I was at the hospital I was very upset and crying about the fact that I couldn’t have my big salad!
But I got really creative with our box and I made a lot of soups and smoothies with the veggies, so I was spared the unpleasant experience of having to drink those nutritional drinks. I was really thankful that we invested in the CSA and also a Vitamix.
What about being a CSA member is most important to you?
Being able to have that connection with the people who are growing food for you. I’m a vegetarian, and that box is the bulk of what I'm eating each week. I have some health issues too, so I need to eat as cleanly as I can, and get the most nutrients from my food. The freshness and seasonality is so much healthier for me. Also I love to cook, so it makes that easy too.
I like knowing that Jeff and Kelly are just such great stewards of the land too.
What’s the most delicious meal you have had recently?
The other day we roasted a big pan of vegetables - eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, dill and just let that get all caramelized and we had that with a loaf of good bread. When the produce is that good you don’t have to do that much to it.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
Once when I was a kid, I grabbed a spoon and took a big old swipe of what I thought was butter from the butter dish. Turns out it was Crisco! My mom was thawing it out to bake a pie.
What is your favorite place to have a meal?
Outside on our patio table is perfect, when the weather is great in the summer. In fact we are having a cookout this Saturday.
What is one thing that is bringing joy into your life these days?
I know this sounds really corny but - just being here. I have been through so much medical stuff lately, there were moments I wasn’t sure I would make it here. I’m just happy and taking every day as it comes.
And I have full use of my jaw now! So that makes me really happy.
What is one thing that is giving you pause, or reason for concern?
Honestly it’s the political climate today. For all of these steps ahead that we make we seem to get kicked back ten or twenty. I wonder how we will improve the damage that’s been done. I hope that in my lifetime I see positivity edging ahead again.
I think the CSA can help with that too though - that sense of community where you can see that we are all in this together, regardless of color or creed or background.
Eggplant or Fennel? They aren’t similar, but they can both be tricky to cook with.
Eggplant. Because I think this a little bit more versatile. I love fennel but I think it can overtake what you are cooking. Whereas eggplant is a Team Player. It's great by itself, but it pairs really well with other things too.
Is there anything you would like to share about seasonal eating, local food, CSA membership or anything else related to these topics that you have never had the chance to say?
I would just encourage people that if they haven’t done a CSA just to try it out. Once you try it you may never go back!
Courtney's Recommended Recipe
Tomato Caprese Pie
1 single pie crust, store bought or homemade
3/4 c mozzarella, shredded
3 lg tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/3 c. Fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 c. Cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. Mozzarella, shredded
Line your pie dish with the pie crust, poke the bottom with a fork in several places. Sprinkle a 1/4 c. mozzarella on the bottom of the crust. Bake at 450 F for 10 min. Cool completely.
Into cooled pie crust layer half of the sliced tomatoes, sprinkle with half the salt, half the garlic, 1/4c mozzarella and half of the basil. Repeat the layer. Finish by topping with the halved cherry tomatoes and the last 1/4 c mozzarella.
Place the pie in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 and bake uncovered for 35 to 40 min.
Greek Chickpea Village Salad
1/2c extra virgin olive oil
1/4c fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c tomatoes, chopped
1 c cucumber, chopped
1 c scallions, chopped
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
2 tbl fresh dill, finely chopped
1/3 c feta cheese,crumbled
In a large bowl combine salad ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad ,tossing to mix the salad well.
If you have non vegetarians in your family, you could easily add cooked shrimp or grilled chicken to this salad as well. Conversely, if you're vegan, you can skip the feta and add in cubed tofu that was marinated in some of the dressing and pan fried,beforehand.
2 lg eggplants
2 garlic cloves,minced
4 tbl tahini
2 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp salt
2 tbl plain greek yogurt (optional)
Zaatar spice,olive oil,fresh parsley
Crudites, pita bread wedges,naan bread
Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Place flesh side down on parchment lined baking sheets and roast the eggplants at 450 until very tender and collapsing,about 50 to 60 minutes. (Alternatively,you could grill the eggplants whole ,turning them every 10 minutes until charred and collapsing . They should be done in 20 to 25 minutes this way )
Scoop out the flesh and drain in a strainer for about 10 minutes.
Place the roasted eggplant into a bowl,mash well with a fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
If desired, drizzle the Baba Ghanouj with a little olive oil and sprinkle with fresh parsley and zaatar . Serve as a dip with crudites, pita bread, pretzels,etc. Also makes a great sandwich condiment, spread on naan bread or toast and top with veggies, feta or fresh mozzarella and a protein of your choice.
Jeff Schreiber has been farming organically for 10 years. In 2011 he started Three Sisters Community Farm with his wife, Kelly.