Will $15 of locally grown produce feed a family for a week?

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 last week.

Boggy Creek‘s farmstand is open Wednesday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Springdale Farm, just a few blocks away, is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday.

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 each, 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 broccoli 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.

Pongol is a lentil dish from India that paired well with roasted sweet potatoes and carrot top pesto. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

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 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.

Cilantro and carrot tops went into this bright green pesto made with pistachios, garlic, almonds and olive oil. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The combination of the greens created a 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 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 in the comments or via the #Austin360Cooks hashtag.

Carrot Top Pesto

Leafy greens from one small bunch carrots
Large handful cilantro
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup slivered almonds
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




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