I am going through a photo slump lately, the kind where I hate the places I usually use and hate the new places I try, so all of my photos are turning out just O.K., and I’m afraid to even submit them to Foodgawker or Tastespotting because a little more rejection is just not what I need right now; nonetheless, there’s nothing wrong with my eating, as you can probably guess, so let’s focus on that.

I’ve joined a CSA. This is a fairly big deal. You probably already know what one is, but I didn’t—not until June, when one of my favorite bloggers mentioned a shipment from hers, and I said something about being jealous, and she said, Doesn’t Chicago have Community Supported Agriculture? And I said, Well, I guess we do.

Here’s how it works: you pay a flat upfront fee (mine was a reduced $180 because of a rough growing season in Chicago), like you’re buying a share in the farm, and, in exchange, the farmers give you regular shipments of fresh produce.

Actually I think it was fate that I learned this in June, because Broad Branch Farm (located in central Illinois, four miles east of a town named Wyoming) was only the second farm I contacted, and, would you believe it, they still had openings for the vegetable half shares, delivered every other weekend for a total of eight shipments, beginning in July.

I got my first shipment Saturday, and, people, I am so excited. In the box (again, pay no attention to the overexposed photography) were peppers, garlic, Swiss chard, lettuce, turnips, parsley and, oh my gosh, was all I kept thinking to myself while I pulled packages like presents out of the cardboard: how am I going to eat all this?

So I started with soup.

cream of turnip soup

Having had such success with vegetable-based soups (celeriac, carrot, spinach) in the past, this was a natural choice for the turnips, but, I am sorry to say, a disappointing one. While the soup was edible, it lacked flavor, of any kind, enough so that I was shaking additions on top (more salt! some parsley!) in an attempt to help things. It was creamy, it was hot, but it was nothing much else. I’m half-tempted to add the leftovers to some mashed potatoes (do any of you have thoughts on that?).

swiss chard and eggs

On to the greens. There was a little brochure with my share that gave news about the farm and included a recipe for a quick breakfast—Swiss chard and eggs. What you do is this: saute the Swiss chard (stem and leaf, which I chopped up roughly), crack some eggs on top and cover until cooked through. I added a step in scrambling and pouring in a little milk, as well as seasoning the whole thing with salt and pepper, but, let me tell you, I loved it. I ate it for dinner Saturday and then again for breakfast Sunday. Swiss chard is similar to spinach and from the same family as the garden beet, so you could use those if they’re handy. It will be ready in 15 minutes, and you’ll feel totally satisfied when you’re done.

potato fritters

Then, the peppers. I found five or six of them in there, in different sizes, some fat and short, some skinny and long like jalapenos, but they were all sweet, and so I searched a little online and found something perfect: Potato fritters with sweet pepper relish.

This is a little more fussy of a recipe than I usually like: you have to make the relish at least two hours ahead of time, and, separately, you have to peel, dice and cook the potatoes, before mixing them with other things, forming them into patties covered in bread crumbs and frying them on the stove.

However. This recipe is worth it.

Reminiscent of the so-good-I’m-still-talking-about-them croquettes I got at a Japanese deli in San Francisco’s Ferry Building last summer, these little fritters are crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, blended with bites of cilantro and onion and cheddar cheese. And the pepper relish, cold and sweet, drenched with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, makes the perfect complement on top.

Plus, these fritters look so pretty when you’re done! (and that’s nothing to scoff at, particularly these days, when I’m the one behind the camera.)

Potato Fritters with Sweet Pepper Relish
Adapted from What Did You Eat, via Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cookbook

4 to 6 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 onion, diced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
about 1 cup bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons oil
Recipe for sweet pepper relish (*see below)

Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash, leaving them a little rough in texture. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the potatoes with egg yolks, cilantro, onions and cheese. Season with salt (I’d be generous here) and shape into little patties. You can pop them in the fridge or freezer at this point to help them meld together quickly. When ready to cook, dredge the patties in bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs into each side. Heat the oil in a skillet until hot, and cook the patties over medium high heat, until browned on both sides. Top with the pepper relish and enjoy!

*Sweet Pepper Relish
3 sweet peppers (green, red, yellow—whatever you have)
1/4 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons or more balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Chop the peppers into small, diced pieces, and combine them in a bowl with olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Marinate this for about 2 hours, then drain the oil off (you could use the drained oil for a salad dressing) when you are ready to serve the fritters.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. rachel

    veggies HOW FUN

  2. Jacqui

    oh, shanna. your photos look lovely! i know what you mean about slumps, though. i can’t seem to shake mine. fun, fresh veggies definitely help, though.

  3. Justopia

    The potato fritters look dee-licious! I could dive into that photo right now.

    I know just what you mean about submitting photos. Now when I submit I just shrug my shoulders and ask myself, “Wonder what the rejection reason will be THIS time?” Objectivity does not seem to be part and parcel of the process. C’est la vie.

    Keep up the good work with your blog and photos and have fun using all that summer bounty!

  4. postcollegecook

    I have never submitted to Tastespotting before, but now I’m intrigued and want to try (although if you’ve gotten rejected, then I surely will!)

    What a treat to have so many fresh veggies. That’s why summer is such a fun time to cook.

  5. Alicia

    I really hope we work together soon so you can give me more information on this CSA business. That is like my dream come true!

  6. Jess

    Hooray for your first CSA box! I’m honored to have inspired your membership. Looks like it’s working out for you!

  7. kickpleat

    I’m getting so many greens with our csa too! I love the idea of eggs and chard and I’ll definitely have to try that.

  8. redmenace

    I think your photos our fabulous My mouth is already watering. Thanks so much for your encouraging words on my blog. Here’s to change!!!!

  9. Shannalee

    Rachel: I never thought I’d feel that way, but veggies ARE fun!

    Jacqui: You are kind, friend. I’ve been trying to push away this slump by ignoring it, which hasn’t worked, so now I’m trying the opposite: calling it out and admitting it. Well, that, and eating. A lot. The CSA package was just in time.

    Justopia: Thank you! I hope I didn’t sound like I was downing TS or FG. They’re both awesome sites, full of gorgeous photos, the kind that inspire me towards better work. But sometimes I just feel, I don’t know, behind on all of it, like I’ll never do what I need to do to make them like my photos! It’s not them; it’s me. I know.

    PCC: You should! And don’t be intimidated: they are awesome sites, and, really, the rejections help me improve, even though I don’t love them at the time.

    Alicia: Why aren’t we farmers? No, seriously. I’ve been wondering about this all summer.

    Jess: Hooray, indeed! And thank you again, my dear, for the inspiration!

    Kickpleat: When I was flipping through Food Network yesterday on my MONDAY OFF WORK !!!, I caught a chili with Swiss chard that was very inspiring. If my next shipment has more, I might look that up, too!

    RedMenace: You’re very sweet. I was so excited to find your site, which is lovely! And the post about change resonated so well and so easily. So, really, thank you!

  10. TasteStopping

    First let me say that I am a wee bit jealous of your good luck with the CSA. Those around us are on waitlists. That’s a great thing…just not for me! (And I already love spinach in my scrambled eggs, so I’ll have to try the Swiss Chard, just to give my life a little variety. And vegetables.)

    Second let me say that I am stopping by to let you know about a site that I’ve launched that will help you take the sting out of rejection from TS and FG. It’s called TasteStopping and I created it specifically for rejected food photos. If you swing by and take a look around you’ll see that you and your photos will be in very good company! Everyone feels that blow when a photo doesn’t make the cut, but at least this way, you’d have a guaranteed second home for it. I hope you will visit and consider submitting. :)


  11. Cate

    I think your pictures are GREAT! I’m in a life-long photo slump :(

    I am really looking forward to being back in the states at some point in the next year or two so I can join a CSA…I’m totally missing out right now!

  12. kelly

    oh yeah! these look so awesome! they’re on my list of things to make.

  13. Angela@spinachtiger.com

    Those fritters are a great idea. Regarding the soup, I find that some freshly ground nutmet helps white creamy soups along. You can also add some white pepper, which has a nice amount of heat, works great for white food.

  14. jessiev

    yum! yum!

  15. Lan

    i have been ambivalent about joining a csa. i think it’s because there are so many in baltimore too choose from (seriously, too many choices is not a good thing) and while i know in the long run it’s cheaper, the up front thing is so expensive and running the risk of receiving some veggies that i don’t like… well. it’s making a normally decisive person very indecisive which makes me decisively annoyed. i realize you’ve only just received your first shipment but have you felt the inclination to hit the grocery store for any extras of anything since?

    like you, i’ve been in a photography slump. i need to pay attention to composition and food plating/bowling.

  16. montague

    you sure created some yummy tasting treats from your CSA goodies! I totally know what you mean about going through a photo slump… sometime I can go through weeks where I just can’t take one single shot i like! but then you get your mojo back and things brighten up! these photos you posted today are lovely! so fresh and green and summery!

  17. Shannalee

    Tastestopping/Casey: Thanks for the info about your site, and best wishes with the wait list! I guess that means next year, you’ll be first in line? Here’s hoping!

    Cate: You’re sweet, and I’m glad to know I’m not alone! BTW I clicked over on your about page – what an exciting life you’re leading!

    Kelly: You’ve been so inspiring with your “market week” series – love all the ways you’ve found to use fresh produce!

    Angela: I can always count on you for good advice. Thank you!

    JessieV: Exactly!

    Lan: See, the way I look at the upfront thing is this: now it’s like I’m getting free boxes of food every two weeks! (I realize this is illogical, but that does not lessen the joy.) And, truthfully, aside from a run to Sam’s on Monday for a huge load of baking supplies (I have a party coming up, after all!), I’ve been trying to avoid the grocery store for as long as possible, so I’m just going with what I have and have received. So I guess the CSA’s other benefit is that it eliminates some decision-making from my life, as I don’t have to pick what I want; it does for me.

    Montague/Amy: You are too nice for words. When I look at your site’s insanely beautiful photos (every! one!), I am always in awe and unable to say much except WOW. Thanks for the encouragement!

  18. Amanda Mae

    how exciting! I LOVE our CSA. Every week is new and exciting – and even a challenge in eating it all. You had some great ideas – thanks for sharing! I’m excited to browse through your other posts!

    Thank you for your kind comments on my blog… It is so encouraging to hear those compliments – keeps me going! :)

  19. lo

    So glad you’ve discovered the joy of having a CSA! We subscribed for a number of years and loved it. This year we couldn’t afford the initial investment — but we make regular trips to see our farmer at the market each week. So, I feel like we’re still supporting their efforts — AND getting uber fresh produce at the same time.

  20. Shannalee

    Amanda Mae – That is so encouraging to hear! I hope the excitement keeps coming for me, too. And I love your photography so much.

    Lo – Sorry to hear you’re sitting out this year, but farmers’ markets are just as important and a way to support local agriculture, and I totally understand the cutting back. Yay, fresh produce!

  21. Pingback: we'll start somewhere | lemon rice-parsley salad | food loves writing

  22. Rachel

    Thanks again for the fabulous party over the weekend. It was so cool to meet you in person. Here’s that blog I was telling you about, which uses the veggies from a farm share:


    I’m so glad you will now have some similar vegetables and will hopefully be posting lots more great ideas of what to do with them!

  23. Shannalee

    Rachel, I just checked out the site today and have already become a subscriber. I need LOTS of ideas for my fresh produce, so thanks again for pointing me in the right direction. My current dilemma/wonderful thing? 14 EARS OF CORN that I bought at a farm stand for $4 yesterday because I couldn’t say no. Currently have chowder cooking and a big bowl of boiled corn mixed with butter and thyme, and I’m looking for MORE.

    It was wonderful meeting you and your family. Thank you again for coming. So much!

  24. Pingback: Embracing Rejection (Recipe – Taco Salad) | Dine and Dish

  25. Pingback: simple and complex and real | Roasted Lemon-Garlic Green Beans | food loves writing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>