Community cooking, seasonal eating, and special sauces with Maya and Jon

Maya moved into a group house in Columbia Heights five years ago, and at the time, she admits she was still learning how to cook. She had some solid staples she'd used since college, but when she moved in with her four housemates, she was still getting used to cooking with fresh produce.

Luckily, she had a cooking community around her. "I ended up in a community of people, not just in my own house but in the other group houses in our broader community, and they would have house dinners all the time or potlucks so I just got exposed to different recipes and different ways to cook vegetables," says Maya. From a cabbage salad to a garlicky kale sauce, she got inspired by her neighbors to try new recipes and share them with her housemates.

Her house, aka Rosemont, had a membership to the Radix Farm CSA (the predecessor of Owl's Nest) at the time, and she "got really into it" and especially into knowing who her farmers are. Although they loved the Radix CSA pickup at St. Stephens, after an infamous "daikon debacle" in which they tried way too hard to like those big radishes, they decided to shift to the Market CSA. This option allows Maya to plan an relaxing trip to the market most Saturday mornings to stock up on veggies for the week.

The CSA has also helped orient her meal planning process around what's in season. "I’ve learned to let the crops drive the cooking," Maya says. "I have a couple of go-to recipes for each vegetable and whatever vegetable shows up determines what I cook for the week."

Along the way, Maya also added her "farmer boyfriend" Jon to her cooking team, which has not only encouraged her to care more and more about where food comes from, but also made her enjoy cooking collaboratively.

"I think Jon and I are really good at looking at what’s in the fridge and turning it into whatever we need, particularly seasonally. How can this become soup in the winter and how can we throw this on the grill in the summer?" says Maya.

Another key part of their seasonal eating strategy is what Jon calls "the unsung heroes of cooking seasonally": the sauces. Among Jon and Maya's pantry staples are the ingredients for making a variety of delicious sauces that help make veggies into meals. Jon says: "Get the temperature and texture of the vegetables right and then the sauce is the separate delicious thing" to round it out. Scroll down for links to their favorite sauce recipes.

Despite the fact that she can now get a lot of great veggies via Jon's farm, there are two main reasons to keep getting an Owl's Nest Market CSA share:

  • Consistency: Maya likes that the upfront commitment requires that she picks up vegggies each week, because it means she'll actually do it.
  • Connection: "It's really excellent to know who’s growing my food. I can support the people in my community and the people I care about by getting vegetables. I can look at you and ask you questions and know the hard work that went into growing something before I consume it," says Maya.

sauces: the unsung heroes of seasonal eating

  • Miso-sesame dressing from Smitten Kitchen is great for roasted root vegetables and "just about everything."
  • Garlicky kale sauce: just olive oil, ACV, nutritional yeast, lots of fresh garlic, soy sauce, and tahini (if you like it thick). "Put that on kale and you can crush a bowl of it," says Maya. Shoutout to neighbor Meredith for this one!
  • Black garlic and yogurt sauce: This new addition to their repetoire is "so f--ing good I wish I had some right now." Maya notes you can stock up on black garlic at H Mart.
  • Pesto: Maya has been making pesto from all kinds of greens for years. Any extra greens can be combined with olive oil, salt, nuts, and cheese for a delicious sauce.

a peek in the rosemont pantry

  • Staple foods: grains, rice farrow, pasta, black beans, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, canned tomato, tomato paste, yogurt, lemon, limes, red onions, garlic, ginger, veg stock.
  • Tools: Knives! "We just got sharp knives for the first time in our lives," says Jon. "And cooking is so much better now. I actually enjoy cutting onions."
  • Maya also uses her immersion blender basically every time she cooks. Plus, their food processor, cast-iron pan and grill are essential.
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recipe inspiration

Although Maya and Jon tend to cook based on what they know and what's the fridge rather than following a recipe, when they're looking to make something different or special, they recommend the following sources of inspiration:

  • Smitten Kitchen - Maya especially gets inspired by their Instagram feed, where she can get excited about a new dish while she's scrolling.
  • Simple by Yotam Ottolengi - While some of his other cookbooks are made up of complex recipes "with like 25 ingredients" this one is 'simple' enough for weeknight meals.
  • New York Times Cooking email newsletter - although it's more meat-focused than their house is, Maya finds it useful sometimes.