As part of my #30atHome cooking challenge, I’ve been trying to get out of my everyday grocery shopping habits, which is why I went by two East Austin farmstands recently.
Between those two places, I spent $14.87 on five items. I was hoping that these would be our veggies for the week. (I still had to stop at the store for apples, bananas and oranges, because with two young boys, we can’t go long without familiar fruits.)
The broccolini was the cheapest at $1.70 ($3/lb.), and the cauliflower the most expensive at $4.25 ($4/lb.). Kale and carrots were $3 per bunch, and sweet potatoes were $2.95 ($2.50/lb.) These are some of my favorite kinds of produce, so I was excited to use them in several dishes, including a kale, carrot and butter bean soup, sauteed broccolini with pasta, roasted sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower.
I was the most skeptical about the cost of the cauliflower, a produce ingredient you can find for less than $2 at most grocery stores. But when I roasted it with minced garlic, the simplicity of the seasoning allowed me to enjoy the small but super flavorful cauliflower head.
The roasted sweet potatoes paired so well with pongal, an Indian dish that I picked up at a food swap last weekend from Hema Reddy, a local food business owner and fellow mom who is also doing the #30atHome challenge.
I’ve decided, however, that unless you use the carrot tops, there’s little sense in paying so much for carrots. My $3 bunch had about nine carrots no bigger in width than my fingers, and once I trimmed the green stems and tiny roots, it didn’t seem like much food was left. Just before I tossed the carrot tops in the compost, I realized that I had the stems from a bunch of cilantro left in my produce drawer and a bag of peeled pistachios that needed to be used up. I put the carrot tops, cilantro, pistachios, a few slivered almonds and peeled garlic cloves in a food processor with salt and lots of olive oil.
The combination of the greens created an herbaceous, somewhat grassy flavor that brightened my entire kitchen for the day. I originally made it to serve on that kale and butter bean soup, but it was a brilliant addition to all kinds of foods, from scrambled eggs to those roasted sweet potatoes and pongal.
The broccolini was the ingredient I felt like I got a deal on. Many more stores sell this ingredient that looks like baby broccoli, but it’s usually pretty expensive — and definitely more than regular heads of broccoli, which I love. At less than $2 at Springdale Farm, I bought two meals’ worth of broccolini, a brassica that bursts with earthy notes and just the right amount of bitterness. I’d make the trip to East Austin again just to stock up on it.
The other good news is that thanks to the carrot top pesto, not much of that $15 in produce went to waste. I can’t say the same for the cheaper produce I usually buy in the store and accidentally forget about in the fridge. The flavors in the ingredients were more vibrant than what you’d find in their supermarket counterparts, too, and buying seasonally forced me to come up with dishes that suited the produce, not the other way around, which is often what happens when I’m doing “regular” grocery shopping.
Now, did my kids eat any of this? Not really. They had fun with the raw carrots, and my oldest enjoyed the broccolini and roasted cauliflower, but he hates sweet potatoes and wasn’t ready for the pesto. They aren’t huge vegetable lovers anyway, but I ate more vegetables this week, which was my goal after a meaty first half of the month.
How does a trip to a farmstand or farmers market change what you cook? Do you spend extra on local and/or organic produce? Why? I’d love to hear from you via the #Austin360Cooks hashtag.
Carrot Top Pesto
Leafy greens from 1 small bunch carrots
Large handful cilantro
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
— Addie Broyles
How to share your photos with #Austin360Cooks
Are you cooking your way through January or doing the Whole30? Don’t forget to tag your social media posts and photos about home cooking with #Austin360Cooks, and if you find yourself lacking inspiration, just browse that hashtag to find ideas from fellow food-loving Central Texans.
Last week on Instagram (I’m @broylesa), I shared tips on making a kid-friendly edible Starburst putty, my favorite pie crust shield and why my most recent fillet of salmon came with a QR code attached to the meat with a plastic fastener. In next week’s food section, I’ll share the recipe for that blueberry bergamot pie and why spending 20 minutes in the spice-and-tea aisle of Central Market might be the best use of your grocery time this month.
Curious about the no-knead bread that keeps popping up on my feed? Go to facebook.com/Austin360 to find a how-to livestream I shared last week and my two favorite no-knead bread recipes.
Zaycon Fresh to host bulk meat sales in Austin this spring
At a Costco, many shoppers head straight for the meat aisles. That’s where you’ll find mega packs of ground beef, chicken breasts, fish, sausages and pork chops that cost less per pound than what you typically find at regular grocery store. Buying large quantities of meat can save you money, but you usually have to use the freezer to take advantage of the savings. (Pro tip: You can order from Costco without a membership through Instacart, but there is a markup on the products you buy.)
A direct-to-consumer company based in Washington called Zaycon Fresh skips the middle man and sells large quantities of already frozen meat — we’re talking 40 pounds here — at more than 1,200 pickup sites around the country. A few of the products, including the chicken breasts, are sold fresh, not frozen.
Zaycon, which was founded in 2009, has several pickup days planned for the Austin area. The company offers more than a dozen pickup locations around Central Texas, and some of the sites have fewer options than the others. You can find out more info and place an order at zayconfresh.com.
Here’s the upcoming schedule and examples of what they are selling each visit: Feb. 12 (hickory smoked bacon, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin fillets, wild Argentine red shrimp, pork sausage links), March 3 (ground turkey, pork tenderloins, boneless skinless chicken thighs, sweet Italian sausages), March 24 (boneless skinless chicken breasts), April 12 (ground beef, applewood-smoked ham), May 2 (chicken tenderloins, USDA Choice chuck roast, Kansas City strip steaks, pulled pork), May 25 (wild Alaskan cod fillets, hickory smoked bacon).