You know how time drags when you’re waiting for something. That was Tuesday afternoon for me. At 6 on the dot I bolted out of work to go pick up what I’d been waiting for all day, my very own box of… vegetables! A coworker who is part of a CSA* was out of town this week and offered to let me buy her box off of her. Obviously, I said yes. I’d thought about joining a CSA this spring, but since my usual grocery budget is $25 per week and the CSA boxes cost $25 per week, I decided I might starve to death and would select my veggies at the farmer’s market instead.
Still, I’ve been wanting to try one and this was a perfect opportunity! So when I got home I looked in my box and found: a bag of lettuce mix (looked like spinach, red leaf, and arugula to me), 1 bunch baby bok choy (3), 4 small cucumbers, the largest bunch of scallions/green onions I’ve seen in my life (nearly two feet long!), 1 bunch cilantro, a bag of pole beans (in green, yellow, and purple), 1 bunch of beets (3 golden and 2 purple), 1 bunch hakurei turnips (5), 1 bunch purple haze carrots, 3 tomatoes, and a pint of strawberries. Not bad!
And then I realized I had three chapters of biochemistry to read, ten pages of review questions to fill out, an apartment to clean– and it was already almost 7:00. So did I quietly put away my vegetables and hit the books? You go ahead and think so if it will make you feel better.
As a matter of fact, I decided biochemistry isn’t really all that important after all (!) and spent the next hour trying to decide how to cram as many of my vegetables into one meal as possible. The obvious starter was a nice little salad– that covered the lettuce mix, tomato, cucumber, and a bit of the green part of the scallion. Sprinkle with blue cheese and a drizzle of homemade mayo (it is the base of creamy salad dressing, after all, and will taste delicious: just don’t try this with store bought goo) and you’re good to go.
My experience has been that after greens (sometimes before) string beans are the first to go bad in my refrigerator, so some were automatically added to my menu plan as a side. And I’ve been wanting mashed turnips for a while now, so they were assigned as side #2. As the only fruit, strawberries were elected as dessert.
At this point I realized that it might not be possible to have some of everything in one meal. True, I knew I could pull it off with a stir-fry, but I just wasn’t in the mood. And my blue-cheese salad plan didn’t seem very complimentary to that idea anyway.
So what to have for the main course? A meat might be nice and I quickly realized my options were pork loin or sausage. I don’t eat much meat so there’s not a large stock of options in the freezer. I hacked a slice off the loin for a boneless chop and kept digging. I uncovered a bottle of red wine in the pantry and some mushrooms in the refrigerator drawer. The result: a pork chop cooked with mushrooms and scallions served over mashed turnips and potatoes with a red wine reduction. I can honestly say that while eating my dinner I couldn’t think of a single thing I would have rather had on my plate at that time.
Pork Chop and Mushrooms with Red Wine Reduction
1 T butter
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1 boneless pork chop
salt and pepper
1 sliced green onion
4 basil leaves, torn
1/3 cup red wine
Melt your butter in a small frying pan until starting to bubble. Add mushrooms and let brown on one side, flip and scoot to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the pork chop with salt and pepper and place in the hot oil in the center of the pan. Give it a minute to brown, then flip it over and allow it to brown on the other side. Drop your basil leaves directly onto the chop and let them wilt quietly there. Pour the red wine into the pan and let the pork cook through. Remove it to a plate and let the wine cook a little longer until it has reduced in volume by half. Serve the chop and wine sauce on a bed of mashed turnips and potatoes. Add a fresh green salad and vegetable of choice on the side for a 5-star dinner.
Mashed Turnips and Potatoes
Wash and trim 3 turnips and 1-2 potatoes. Cut the turnips into eighths and the potatoes to the same size, then steam for 20 minutes or until tender. Mash with 1 T butter and salt to taste.
Recipe comments: Pork chops come from the pork loin, so buying whole loins is an inexpensive way to get yourself some nice boneless chops. For this recipe I cut mine medium thin. If you would like to thicken your red wine, whisk in a little cornstarch. I used Merlot, but the recipe is flexible–just don’t use cooking wine. The general consensus among every chef and foodwriter I’ve ever read is that cooking wine is a way of disguising wine that is so bad no one would buy it for drinking. Buy yourself a bottle of regular wine and just use that for cooking. You may mash turnips alone, but I think adding potatoes improves the texture and bulks them up.
*CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Usually, the general idea is that you give a farmer a certain amount of money (or commit to weekly payments for a period of time) and in return you get a “share” of whatever that farmer grows each week. If you’re interested in finding one near you, take a look at Local Harvest. Just keep in mind that what and how much you get is totally dependent on the farmer–so check carefully before committing.