Veggie Box, With a Side of Beef

Our household is in the midst of what we are calling Steak Salad Summer. This week there was grilled top round steak over purslane, parsley, and sweet onions; last week, spice-rubbed chuck slices with spicy salad greens and purple radishes. We didn't foresee ourselves spending the summer here, but overall it's a pretty tasty place to be.

Steak salad summer is sponsored entirely by our weekly bounty of CSA veggies from Local Roots Farm and the eighth of a grass-fed cow from Cascade Range Beef Company that currently takes up 99.8% of our freezer.

While we intentionally set out to have a box of fresh vegetables from a local farm arrive every week, the cow came by happy accident. Back in April, a friend on Facebook posted that she was looking for a few more people to join her "cowpooling" group, and it seemed like an intriguing idea: we'd join funds and forces to purchase a whole beef, then in June our meat would come, processed and packaged into a variety of cuts, which we'd divide into 1/8 and 1/4 shares.

The more I looked into it, the more I liked it: The beef would come from Cascade Range Beef, a company made up of a family of ranches in Snohomish and east King County, just west of the Cascade mountains. The cows are all fed all-grass, 100% vegetarian diets with no antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids, or processing additives. Additionally, Cascade Range proudly stated that their cows "get plenty of exercise and fresh, green forages, and are free to graze on hundreds of acres of pastureland."

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Our cowpool shares many of the same characteristics that are important to us as our CSA: we know exactly where the food comes from, the practices used to raise the food are sustainable, and the money we pay goes directly to the people doing the hard work (in the case of the cow, that also includes a family-owned, old school butcher shop, Kelso's Kustom Meats).

When our 80 pounds of meat arrived in late June, I panicked. It took over a half an hour to solve the puzzle of how to fit all the meat into our average-sized freezer and I imagined us eating beef every night well into our 90s without ever finishing it. For a few weeks, opening the freezer meant that a giant soup bone or package of ground beef would fall out and bruise my foot.

Now, what I love about our cowpooling share is exactly what I love about our CSA: variety, which leads to creativity and more enjoyment in the kitchen. We basically go shopping for dinner in the fridge, pulling out a random cut, a cluster of vegetables, then experimenting and trying new recipes and combinations. While we invested a chunk of money up front for our vegetables and beef, it's been weeks since we had to spend any significant amount of money at the grocery store. And, of course, there is the matter of deliciousness, which this beef is exploding with.

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