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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mission Community Market's Chef Box

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 7:00 AM

  • Camila McHugh

I love my CSA box. I love the convenient delivery, the juicy peaches, and the vegetables with names I have to pretend I know how to pronounce. Sometimes, however, I might leave a rutabaga to rot, or get more excited about the florescent pink of the radishes than anything I might cook with them. The Chef's Market Box from Mission Community Market has the answer to these CSA box quandries.

Every other week a local chef puts together a dinner recipe with ingredients sourced from the Mission Market vendors, all collected and packaged together for you to prepare at home. Pickup takes place on Thursdays at a variety of locations around the Mission, like Local: Mission Eatery, or you can have the bag delivered anywhere in San Francisco for $5.

The bag costs $22 for two hefty servings (you can select how many people you are planning on feeding) of a delicious, local meal. A few weeks ago, 4505 founder Ryan Farr helped home cooks try their hand at his famous hamburger, complete with secret sauce.

For the program, Mission Community Market teamed up with GoodEggs, a Mission-based technology start-up with a similar goal: to bolster and expand local food systems. At the same time, they want to make sure you know that this is "not Grandma's CSA box." Last week, I picked up a bag of goodies to make a fresh spring pasta just like Chef Ryan Baker of Naked Kitchen SF and Cuisine Naturelle would. Freshly made tagliarini pasta was accompanied by broccolini, summer squash, spring onions, and mint, along with ingredients for a beet salad with fennel, radishes, and strawberries.

The box takes care of all the troubleshooting for you. You won't get halfway through and realize you're missing an ingredient. You won't even have to wonder just how you should slice your fennel, because you'll have Baker's tips clearly written out for you (slice thinly top down if you don't have a mandolin). I cooked up my box for a family dinner last week and got rave reviews, if I do say so myself. You could taste the difference in the fresh pasta, which cooked to a nice al dente in just three minutes. The fresh mint sprigs Baker instructed to toss in at the end drew out the zucchini and complimented the pieces of Merguez sausage (an optional ingredient), a subtle allusion to the classic combination of lamb and mint jelly.

The unusual beet, fennel, radish, and strawberry salad was also completed by hints of mint. The dressing, an elegant twist on olive oil and vinegar, was the real pro-chef upgrade on my habitual dinner routine. Small steps, like soaking the beets in vinegar to release some of their juices and adding a few pureed strawberries to the dressing to provide body and flavor, made a world of difference.

My two servings worth of ingredients easily fed four and allowed for a few days of salad leftovers. The market itself takes place on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. at Bartlett and 22nd St. -- a convenient alternative to morning farmers' markets. Sign up online to order a bag to spruce up your Thursday night dinner routine. Next week's meal isn't online yet, so check back for the signup link to go live.

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Camila McHugh


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