We Tried It: Why an Ingredient Delivery Service Can Be Fun
I've got thousands and thousands of awesome recipes at my fingertips, sure, but even I can get in a rut of thinking up new things for dinner. I have my go-to favorites and sections of the magazine (I'm a sucker for our 5-Ingredient Cookbook section), but I've recently signed up for—on my own volition and dime, not as a job thing—a few Blue Apron boxes. Simply to shake it up and challenge myself. And also because it's easy, and I'm tired.
If you're unfamiliar with Blue Apron, it's a fresh ingredient and recipe delivery service. That means you receive a box of everything you need to make (in the case of the level I signed up for) three meals for two people. Everything: recipes, ingredients, links to instructional videos. Everything. They ship to 85% of the country, and the price is comparable to—or slightly less than, even—what you'd find shopping on your own.
A recent Thai recipe I tried from Blue Apron (one I probably would've skipped over if I hadn't already been tasked with making it by BA, to be honest) had me so enamored that I later scoured my local Asian market for ingredients to replicate it for a dinner party. It's exactly this curiosity that Matt Wadiak, Blue Apron COO, chef, and co-founder, hopes to inspire in all of his subscribers: "We want our home chefs to learn to cook a new cuisine, pick up some new cooking techniques, and try unique, hard-to-find ingredients with each Blue Apron meal they experience," he says.
I recently talked with Wadiak about spring ingredient trends. "Our culinary team has been working with new and interesting seasonal ingredients, including pea tips, ramps, fava leaves, purple asparagus, and baby fennel. Pea tips, which you’ll typically see used in Asian dishes, are used as an alternative to leafier greens like kale and spinach; they add a fresh, light flavor to any dish," he says.
Another interesting trend on menus this spring is green garlic, a unique form of garlic that hasn’t yet matured into full cloves. "We’re featuring green garlic in a recipe we created with Chef Marissa Perello from Frances Restaurant," Wadiak says. "We sourced it from an organic produce farm in California's Central Valley through an organization that promotes fair trade in farming. While our culinary team was visiting the farm, they saw some beautiful fava plants and heard that the farmer wasn't currently selling the fava leaves. They tasted the leaves right on the field (they have a flavor reminiscent of fresh peas) and included them in a recipe a few weeks later. Our culinary team gets inspiration from working directly with farmers all the time—we learn about the unique ingredients they're growing (like watermelon radishes, husk cherries, and nasturtium leaves) and those ingredients inspire our recipes."
Verdict: Although I've only done the two-person plan—and that even allotted for a lunch or two of leftovers—the company recently rolled out a four-person Family Plan. These recipes are kid-friendly (kids can even help with prep) and balanced, and incorporate fresh, seasonal ingredients that appeal to parents and kids alike. Most nights, I'm gonna reach for the recipes I know and love. But I'll keep ordering a Blue Apron box once every 4-6 weeks. They've turned me on to new cuisines (and even inspired me to plant some Thai basil in my spring garden) and helped me conquer proteins that had previously given me pause. These types of ingredient delivery services keep things fun—and fresh—in my kitchen.
What do you think? Have you tried a service like Blue Apron? What did you think? Did you learn something new?