Archive for the ‘greens’ category

if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.

May 11, 2010

Spring weeds greens with…sliced pickled garlic and oregano/chive foccacia

brown rice pilaf with dried figs, almonds, sweet spices

their own roots

polenta, poached eggs, last summer’s pesto, parm

omelette aux not-so-fines herbes

May 11, 2010

Very often the cycles of our cravings and the cycles of the world around us are intertwined. In the deep midwinter, when there’s nothing left of the garden but a few sacks of dried beans, nothing tastes better than a long-simmered pot of them. And in April and May, just when we’re craving some acerbic greenness, the dandelions sprout forth. I was looking forward to their bracing, bitter freshness as I planned my most recent trip to Roseboom, but then the weather turned nasty and I was in the mood for comfort food. Unfortunately my schedule was not going to accommodate anything long-simmering. Fortunately I had a nice hunk of sharp cheddar in the fridge, and a selection of strong tasting green stuff beginning to sprout: oregano, cilantro, chives, garlic tops. And, OK, why not include a few dandelions?

Not only were the herbs distinctly unsubtle, I didn’t even attempt anything like an omelette. But you know what? The gooey, savory mess was exactly the right thing for a cold spring evening.

first (and second) crop

April 13, 2010

On Friday afternoon, I cleared the small garden behind the house. Over the past few years, I’ve cut a lot of dandelion leaves for eating, and I’ve dug up a lot of their taproots to make room for my vegetables, but I had never tried eating the root, despite the enthusiastic exhortations of Euell Gibbons. This day, however, I determined to combine weed control with dinner preparation and sup on dandelion two ways. (I hedged my bets by also setting some focaccia to rise before beginning my work—I figured not only would the sweet carmelized onion topping balance the inevitable bitterness, but the refined flour could cushion my system for the plant’s powerful cleansing properties.)  

Uncle Euell’s recipe for the roots goes like this: “Slice them thinly crosswise, boil in two waters, with a pinch of soda added to the first water, then season with salt, pepper and butter.” My roots were much smaller than his, which he described as having several forks as big as your little finger, so I left them whole. After the first boil, I took a taste and was very pleasantly surprised. There may have been a very slight bitterness, but you had to know to look for it. And their taste—slightly nutty, slightly artichoke-y. Oh edible taproots, where have you been all my life?  As good as they might taste, their appearance leaves something to be desired:  I cooked a handful of walnuts in butter, and just as it was beginning to brown, threw in the chopped blanched roots and tipped a splash of wine from my glass. I cooked only long enough to heat and glaze the root pieces, then stirred in some chives. Still not beautiful, but so, so good. (The lovely red stuff is a survivor from last year’s mesclun patch.)

Leftover rootstuff with some fresh leaves for lunch the next day:   Saturday I moved on to the big garden. It gets lots more sun, so not surprisingly these dandelions were better developed. By now I trusted Uncle Euell unreservedly, so when I saw that most of them had tiny undeveloped blossoms in the center of their crowns, I looked forward to enjoying another one of the dandelion delicacies described in Stalking the Wild Asparagus. These three-food plants were even more trouble to clean and prepare, but eventually I had this: Supposedly the crowns take only one boil, but a quick taste told me this was wrong, wrong, wrong. I put them back on for another boil, then contemplated what to do. I had planned on serving them simply, but the thought of facing an unmitigated bowlful of bitterness and earth was not so appealing.  So I set some water to boil for pasta in one pot; in another, I warmed some olive oil with chopped garlic and red pepper.  The second swim did much to dilute the bitterness. I threw the crowns in the zingy oil for a minute or so, followed by the cooked pasta, then some romano cheese and fresh oregano. Success! It really was quite delicious. There is something satisfying about reaping what one did not sow, about the idea of gathering several meals for nothing. Of course, when you consider I spent several hours on the harvest, another couple of hours cleaning, and another hour or so on preparation, those meals were hardly free, even if one somehow figures in the value of clearing weeds to make way for vegetables. On the other hand, those hours were completely absorbing, full of more variety and fascination than many evenings I’ve spent in the theater at considerable price. I can’t even begin to assign a value to such education and entertainment as I experience in the garden, even before the intentional crops begin to appear. So… I win!


March 28, 2010

The sky is behaving like it’s spring—last night it was holding light as late as 8:00. But a glance at the ground tells the cold hard fact. It snowed on Thursday and though the sun has been shining brightly, it’s no match for the still-chilly air, and patches of the white stuff are stubbornly hanging around. 

Still, there are a few signs of life. The apples are budding. Busy bunnies have been doing their best to clean up the last of the Brussels sprout stalks, leaving behind neat pellets of organic fertilizer. (I’m glad for their contribution but a little worried they’ll continue the habit of taking their meals here in the high season.) The rhubarb is beginning to surface.

The newborn baby howls, sorrowful and indignant to be pushed out of the womb and made to weather the world. But what about the first tender plants that crack the frozen earth to reach toward the light in these early unspringlike days? When I inspected the area where I planted last season’s mesclun, I noticed a strong reddish leaf re-emerging after a winter slumber. I remember that leaf, tough and bitter—not unpleasant, but better for a sauté than a salad. It’s an unsurprising survivor. The feathery, fennel-tasting herb is a wonder, though. With its delicate taste and texture, and I figured it for an annual. Who would have guessed it would return, up before even the dandelions?

mid-august menu

August 27, 2009

000_0871soft lettuces with nasturtium flowers and mustardy vinaigrette

roasted beets with lemon thyme, green beans and toasted walnuts

grilled scallop squash with basil, lemon zest and yellow cherry tomatoes

grilled pork chops

cheese, bread, berries

warm, comforting….lettuce?

July 21, 2009

It’s still raining. The lettuce is thriving, but I’m craving mac & cheese.

Compromise comfort food:

Melt butter.

Wilt lettuce.

Stir in some cream.

Shave parm over top.

Dunk bread (not shown) in lettucey-creamy-goodness.

Feel much better.


to this we’ve come

July 20, 2009

Yep, that’s a lettuce frittata. With sorrel, chives, and feta. Sort of odd, sort of whydidntithinkofthatsooner? Delicate and delicious, and a good way to collapse several salads worth of romaine.000_0795