So it was another afternoon in Harlem but I wasn’t spending it strapped to my desk and computer…well, maybe to my laptop. It was a work day. What started as a quick run with a friend to assess the venue for his impending gathering at Paris Blues turned into tasting delicious and expensive kale chips at the State Office Building farmers market, a bank run and back to Paris Blues. By this time we realized that the rest of the day would be spent working from home individually, so we figured why not do it together? I grabbed the laptop and soon found myself sitting on his fire escape listening to the melodic sounds of 8th avenue.
Feverishly working on my weekly column, there soon came a point where my friend had to depart to pick up a friend’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. I asked if I could stay behind and finish my piece and leave when he returned. There is something very cool about writing (typing) on a fire escape.
When he returned with the bounty he sweetly challenged me to make something from it and whatever else he had in his place. Iron Chef? Next Food Network Star? No. I am going to go with the Top Chef-style, the challenge when they are out in the wilderness and have to use a pocketknife, a stick and their molars to cook a 3-course meal. That one!
In the CSA box was: a large zucchini, green bell pepper, beefsteak tomato, garlic, corn, swiss chard, a cucumber, and macintosh apples. He had: some thawed ground turkey, onion, pasta of course, olive oil and some various other items. What he didn’t have was a proper knife, a cutting board, a big enough pot or anything else that I usually have at my fingertips. I know…I am a cooking snob, but it makes making the most benign dishes laborious.
My original thought was to start with a sweet corn and tomato hash but then I struggled with needing some of the first course’s ingredients in the second one, so I cut my loses and decided to make a pasta primavera with turkey meatballs and for dessert an apple crumble.
First up was the crumble since it would take the longest. I cut the four apples (macintosh are not the best option for a crisp, but I was making due) and I added a ripe nectarine I found in the back of the fridge. Tossed it all with sugar in the raw, butter, cinnamon, a little allspice and apple juice and baked in a 350 degree preheated oven until it was basically yummy apple sauce. A guest brought some regular ginger snaps that we crumbled and tossed with melted butter as the crisp part of the crisp. The result after the main meal…
The main meal of pasta proved to be challenging to make in the kitchen, but turned out to be perfect – al dente well seasoned pasta in a sauce of onion, corn cut off the cob, chunks of zucchini, garlic and diced tomatoes. I used a slice of bread to fill out the well seasoned turkey meatballs that I browned in a pan and finished in the oven.
Soon after we moved onto the crisp. Buttery, crunchy, sweet, smooth. The vanilla ice cream had to succumb to its fate. Could have eaten the whole dish of that.
So the lesson here? If you wanna eat, you gotta make it yourself. And hopefully you have friends with friends with a CSA membership AND a good knife.