In many ways, produce boxes paved the way for meal kits.
Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, boxes have been around for a few decades now, but it’s only been in the past five years that they’ve gone somewhat mainstream. Customers buy boxes of vegetables, herbs and fruit — usually recurring through a home delivery subscription and directly from a farm — without much say about what goes in them, but that’s part of the appeal. Instead of picking out the same four vegetables from the grocery store, CSAs force you to try new ingredients and can really help you break out of a cooking rut.
For seven years, Austin-based Farmhouse Delivery has been selling CSA-like bushels of produce that it sources from a number of local farms, including Rain Lily, the East Austin farm where the company started. Last year, Farmhouse purchased Greenling, a competitor in the food delivery space that offered a similar service as well as meal kits, which include all the ingredients you’d need to make a certain dish at home.
After the acquisition, Farmhouse Delivery decided to reconfigure those meal kits so that they complement the bushels that the company was already selling to hundreds of cooks throughout Texas. (Farmhouse operates in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.) Instead of packing up every single grain of salt and ounce of vinegar, Farmhouse would prepare some of the components of a meal, including the sauces, rubs, marinades and dressings, at a commercial kitchen, which not only cut down on packaging — all those little plastic containers of ingredients has been one of my complaints about meal kits from the beginning — but also the amount of work the cook has to do at home.
Farmhouse hired Ren Garcia, a chef and butcher formerly of Kerbey Lane, Vespaio and Dai Due, to oversee what they are calling the Farmhouse Supper Club. The four dishes that are available every week change with the seasons and are developed to incorporate whatever produce is available at that time of year. Last week, they included pork ranchero enchiladas, lamb-stuffed summer squash, jerk grilled chicken and caramelized onion and blue cheese burgers. A few weeks ago, I got to try cheese ravioli with corn and basil that also came with a tomato bisque.
Instead of having to make the ravioli, pasta sauce and bisque, all those elements arrived on my doorstep ready to heat-and-eat. All I had to do was cut the corn kernels off the cob, chop the onion, chiffonade the basil, boil the pasta and heat the bisque. The ravioli, it turns out, are from Pasta & Co., the fresh pasta shop at 3502 Kerbey Lane that I don’t visit nearly as much as I should, and it was really nice to already have a high-quality creamy pasta sauce that I didn’t have to try to whip up myself on a weeknight. The tomato bisque was a good complement, especially because I didn’t have to dirty up my food processor to make it.
For the most part, Farmhouse sells these meal kits as add-ons to their weekly bushels, but you can also buy them separately for a slightly higher fee. The meals cost $10 per serving if you already buy a bushel, and $12 per serving if you don’t, with a minimum order of four servings, which is in line with the per-serving cost and minimums from national companies such as Blue Apron and Plated. For more information about the meal kits, bushels and other proteins and prepared foods you can order through Farmhouse, go to farmhousedelivery.com.
Cheese Ravioli with Corn, Squash and Basil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, small diced
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1-2 small summer squash or zucchini, thinly sliced
8 oz. store-bought creamy pasta sauce
1/2 lb. Pasta & Co. cheese ravioli
3 oz. grated aged cheddar
Fresh basil, stems removed, chiffonade
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion, a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until onions are translucent. Add corn kernels and squash and continue to cook for 4 minutes. Add creamy pasta sauce and stir. Remove from heat and set aside.
Drop raviolis into the boiling water and stir. Boil for 5-6 minutes and drain.
Bring your cream sauce mix back to a simmer and add raviolis and aged cheddar. Toss gently to coat raviolis with the sauce, roughly 1 minute. Divide raviolis with sauce onto two plates, topping each with chiffonade basil. Serves 2.
— From Farmhouse Kitchen executive chef Ren Garcia