Review: Sample Organic Basket From WWOOF CSA (Part II - Cooking and Eating)

Well, I've used up all the goods from the CSA basket by WWOOF CSA except for a garlic clove or two.

I was initially impressed by what I received but of course with edibles, the true test comes in the kitchen and that's exactly what I did as I tried and tested out new and old dishes using the stuff from the CSA basket and some of what I had on hand over the course of a week.

Before cooking anything, I compared some of the produce from the CSA basket and from what I already had on hand in my fridge or pantry for fun.

The nutari mushrooms (or oyster mushrooms) from CSA is on the left while the mushrooms I bought from my local grocery store is on the right.

Mind you, the ones on the right were a few days older than the ones from the CSA basket but still, color and size size, the CSA mushrooms were far more vibrant and appetizing. 

Comparing potatoes, the ones from the CSA basket (pictured on the right) was a lot bigger than the ones I bought at the mart although I think this is simply because the potato varieties were different.

In any case, with such a bountiful spread I had a tough time trying to decide what to make first. I recalled I had some really good potato croquettes from a famous place in Gangnam recently and I'd been craving it for a while so I decided to give that a first attempt.

I boiled the potatoes from the CSA box and mashed it up. Then I added some fried bacon along with an onion and carrot from the CSA box and sprinkled in some green onions and cheese for good measure. Rolled the boys up, dunked them in a whisked egg from the CSA box and bread crumbs and fried'em up.

Lots of nice flavors from all the ingredients and especially nice knowing the potatoes, carrots and onions were organic. Was left with a bunch of croquettes so I put them in the fridge and just reheated for snacking or eating with meals throughout the week.

Recipe for the vegetable potato croquettes will come up in the near future!

It was tedious but certainly worth the effort of making these vegetable potato croquettes
Used potatoes, onion, carrot and an egg from the CSA box to make it!

To try out the breads I decided to eat it in the form of one of my big food loves- the sandwich. Luckily I had some slow cooker barbecue chicken in the fridge (recipe is here) so I cut and toasted the vegetable Ciabatta, stuffed it with the bbq chicken and a slice of provolone and broiled the thing for a bit to melt the cheese before adding some of the cabbage from the CSA box.

I also took some of the oyster mushrooms from the CSA box, cooked it up with a bit of garlic in a pot before putting it in a blender with chicken broth and a bit of milk and giving it a whirl. Sliced up a garlic clove and cooked it up for garnish. I sliced and toasted some of the walnut potato bread to dip and eat.

Clockwise from top left: Walnut and potato bread, mushroom soup, croquette, chicken BBQ sandwich on ciabatta

The vegetable Ciabatta is nice and dense and just perfect for stuffing it as a sandwich. There's a slightly funky scent from the vegetables which I think is mostly from the boochoo (chives) but eaten as a sandwich I didn't mind at all.

The cabbage from the CSA box seems to be a different variety from the ones I usually get at my local mart. It's sturdier and lighter in color but seems juicier(?) than the ones I get. Would be great in a cole slaw!

Vegetable Ciabatta and cabbage from CSA box

The walnut and potato bread rocked on so many levels. Everything from the texture to flavor was great. The bits of walnuts embedded gave a nice surprise when eating, and I enjoyed it as an accompaniment to soups, toasted with some of the mulberry jam from the CSA box or just on its own.

Really enjoyed the potato and walnut bread!

The freshness of the oyster mushrooms certainly made this batch of mushroom soup one of the best I've made yet. Fresh ingredients definitely make a huge difference!

Potato and walnut bread slices with the mushroom soup

The sturdy bread held well when dipped in the chunky mushroom soup and was promptly devoured

The mulberry jam looked and tasted homemade. I've found jams in Korea to be cloyingly sweet but this jam didn't taste like it was drowned in syrup and you could really taste (and see) the berries. I'm not a big jam person but I enjoyed it spread on the walnut and potato bread. 

For another healthier meal, I cooked up some quinoa with carrots, onions and a bit of greens from the CSA box and added a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I hard boiled some of eggs from the CSA basket and added a bit of mayo and seasonings to make an egg salad sandwich. I tossed in a few greens from the CSA box and used two thick cuts of the walnut and potato bread to hold it all together.

Clockwise from top left: quinoa salad, apples, egg salad sandwich with greens and potato croquette

Mm mmm. That was a tasty sandwich. Again, the bits of walnuts in the bread was a really nice addition. Knowing that the hens that laid the eggs weren't given any antibiotics definitely was a big bonus too! 

See the nice chunks of walnuts embedded in the bread?

I fixed up a cold tofu salad with sesame dressing and included some of the greens, cabbage, mushrooms and carrot from the CSA box for another meal side. Because of the high pesticide usage in Korea, I did sometimes wonder if eating (uncooked) produce was actually doing my body a disservice from the pesticides but it was nice to know the produce from the CSA box was organic and put my mind at ease while I munched through the sandwich. I didn't even peel the carrots most of the time (but gave it a very thorough washing and scrubbing) because of the nutrients and it felt good knowing the carrots were pesticide free.

The local butcher had some moksal (pork chuck) on sale last week so I bought a pack and decided to marinate it. I used a bit of the apples, onion and garlic from the CSA box added some other stuff to make a simple fruit-based marinade in the blender. Then I mixed it with the pork and put the big ol' batch in the fridge for simple cooking and eating on busy nights. Recipe for this pork marinade will come in the future!

Apple, onion and garlic from the CSA box was used for the pork marinade

Mixed and ready to marinate in the fridge...

The marinated pork was enjoyed thoroughly throughout the week eaten in wraps with the fresh greens from the CSA box...

Fresh, organic greens on hand to wrap up the morsels of meat in wraps...

And even topped on a salad with some roasted kabocha squash.

I used the remaining eggs and last onion from the CSA box in this quick and spicy beef and rice noodle stir fry. Broccoli, mushrooms, onions, eggs, beef and rice noodles came together for a really flavorful and quick dinner. I'll be sure to post a recipe for this soon too.

I've been craving dongchimi (a water-based non spicy radish kimchi that's usually eaten in winter) and since radishes are all abound in the winter I decided to give it a go based on instructions my awesome momma gave me. A bunch of things were added to the kimchi broth for flavor while waiting for it to ferment including a bit of the apples from the CSA box and the giant garlic cloves. 

After patiently waiting for a few days, the dongchimi turned nice and bubbly and fermented and the dongchimi is damn good if I do say so myself. I'm sure the organic apples and garlic cloves from the CSA box definitely helped in bringing out the flavors! This was definitely a happy turnout and I'll get working on posting the recipe soon too. 

Last but not least, to use up the last of the veggies from the CSA box, I bought a few more veggies and other ingredients and made a simple stock to have a hot pot party with friends. The last of the oyster mushrooms, cabbage and remaining carrot from the CSA box joined other greens, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, kabocha squash, dumplings, tofu and thin beef slices for a kick-ass hot pot at home. Noodles were added at the end to the flavorful broth for the finish. I promise directions will go up soon for the hot pot too.

It was a grand and delicious way to cap my first-ever CSA box and my friends and I all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

All in all, my first CSA box was a smashing success and I was thoroughly pleased with what was included, the quality, and taste.  It wasn't like all the tastes of the organic produce and goods were better than all the non-organic stuff I've had so far, I certainly didn't taste that sort of difference, but yes, the quality and freshness was really superb. And good quality ingredients DO make a difference when cooked so I was a happy guy who ate well during the week. The peace of mind you get knowing everything is organic is a big plus and I'm sure health conscious Koreans will find that factor very appealling.

The only minor criticism I have is with the prepared spinach side dish that was included in the basket. I love spinach banchan but this was really overdone on the sodium level. I'm not sure if the company that prepared it was just feeling generous with the table salt when they made my batch or what but if their other side dishes are as salty as the spinach, I wouldn't be too pleased with getting more of their side dishes in the box....

But those two very minor points aside, I was very happy with the box. Organic, fresh, and in-season produce and goods shipped to your house directly on a weekly basis and for a reasonable price! What's the downside of that?

For those wondering, the pricing is below (image taken from WWOOF CSA website). As you can see, pricing is very reasonable. Not only are the baskets customized according to how many are in your household but you can also get it without bread if you wish or make your basket vegan.

Anyways, if you're interested in signing up click here! And for more info, browse through their homepage and be sure to check out WWOOF CSA's FB page too (remember to click 'like').

Props to my man, Joon for hooking this guy up and letting me have my first CSA experience!