I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of leafy greens. Big, big fan. A taste for greens kind of comes with the territory when you grow up in the south, along with a decent addiction to fried okra and sweet tea. But unlike those two childhood favorites, greens can be an incredibly healthy addition to your diet - full of fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, iron and calcium - as long as you leave out the bacon that is standard in most southern dishes. And when you eat greens as often as Brian and I do you really should leave out the bacon. Or run a few extra miles a day which, lets be honest, could be worth it.
We planted kale our first year with the garden but had very little luck with it. We were late getting the seeds in the ground that spring and wound up having very hot weather very early in the season so the poor little shoots never really had a chance. The next year we tried collard greens, having heard that they were a bit heartier than kale. Wow. Heartier was right. We had more collards than Brian and I plus the handful of friends that also like greens could handle. They were enjoyed immensely through most of the summer, but at the end of the season Brian not-so-subtly hinted that he’d had enough collards to last him for quite some time, and could we maybe try kale again next year?
We chose lacinato kale this spring, also known as black or dinosaur kale, because we love its deep earthy flavor and feel that it is a tad less bitter than other kale varieties. The seeds went into the ground in mid-march, and because we’ve had a relatively cool and wet summer we've been enjoying a steady harvest of fresh garden kale for the last two months. The weather is getting warmer now though, and the greens are fading fast. I’m suddenly feeling the pressure to increase our intake before they all wilt away and we have to wait for the cooler fall air for our next crop.
Luckily, this increase in consumption corresponded with a couple of key events that led to the creation of a new favorite salad. The first was an email I received a few weeks ago asking if I would like to participate in a Barhyte Foodsrecipe contest featuring their line of condiments - Saucy Mama. The second was my discovery that young, raw lacinato kale leaves make for quite the tasty salad.
Accompanied by sweet roasted vegetables, tangy goat cheese and a delightful raspberry vinaigrette, the slight bitterness of the greens (which is typically tempered by blanching) was balanced perfectly. And because kale is more firm than lettuce it holds its own quite well even after being coated with the dressing, adding a nice crunch to a bite filled with soft beets and creamy cheese. Add some toasted walnuts to the top and you have a lovely dinner salad in front of you. You won’t even miss the bacon.
It is best to use young kale leaves, just 4 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. They will be more tender, and less bitter, than their older siblings. I also tossed in some beet greens, which have a wonderful spicy bite to them and are best if used within one day of being pulled from the ground.
For the dressing I used Saucy Mama’s Raspberry Vinaigrette. In full disclosure, Barhyte Foods has sent me samples of their most popular condiments to develop recipes for a contest they are holding. Also, to be completely honest, I must tell you that this dressing is delicious. Really, really delicious.
Summer Greens Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Raspberry Vinaigretteserves 4 for a light dinner
about 1 pound of fresh greens - rinsed, dried, removed from stems and chopped (I used lacinato kale and beet greens) - should equal about 6 cups
3 medium-size beets - washed, peeled and chopped to 1" dice
2 medium-size carrots - washed, peeled and chopped to 1" dice
Preheat oven to 350*. Place chopped beets and carrots into medium-size glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir to coat. Roast vegetables for 30-40 minutes, until tender but not mushy.
Wash and dry greens as best you can. Remove leaves from stems and chop to bite-size pieces. Place in large bowl and toss with raspberry vinaigrette to coat well.
Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. While they cool, toast your walnuts.
Place a heap of greens in the center of your plate. Top with roasted vegetables, crumbled goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
Have you ever tried pickling?
I hadn’t either, until a couple of weeks ago. Hadn’t even really thought about it until finishing Molly Wizenburg’sA Homemade Life a couple of weeks before that. The timing was perfect. I’d been thinking about our upcoming barbeque, flipping through magazines and cookbooks trying to decide what to make. Our overall plan was simple - we would provide all of the makings for pulled pork sandwiches, some snackie appetizers and, of course, dessert. Our guests would each bring a side dish to share and beverages of choice. Easy, cost-effective, everybody gets to contribute AND you learn about some great new salads for future summer parties.
However, when you’re throwing a party and only contributing a few key dishes to the event, the pressure is on to make those dishes shine. Especially if your name is Andrea and you write a food blog. It isn’t outside pressure; its completely internal. I do it to myself, and not because I feel the need to impress my guests (which is a nice bonus, if it happens), but simply because I don’t get many opportunities to cook for that many people. Smoking a 10-pound pork shoulder for 10-12 hours isn’t something that Brian and I do every weekend, as nice as that sounds. And I certainly wouldn’t make 24 cupcakes on a whim without a special occasion or at least an office full of male co-workers to take them to. So, when given an excuse to prepare something indulgent or time-consuming, I jump. And start planning weeks in advance.
The pulled pork was an easy decision, we’d been wanting to try something similar for quite some time. I left Brian in charge of consulting with the local farmer that supplied the shoulder (Double H Farm - fabulous people and Big Green Egg owners as well!) and finding the right vinegar-based barbeque sauce recipe to go along with it. The cupcakes were much more difficult - I was emailing back and forth with my cupcake consultant the day before the party, still trying to determine the perfect frosting for those decadent cakes mere hours before I was planning to make it. Luckily, I had decided on the "snackie appetizer" portion of our food contribution weeks prior, and the sugar snap peas and carrots had been nestled in their brine, resting in our fridge for a full five days.
When I chose to make pickles, the idea seemed to jive well with my overly-indulgent, time-consuming criteria for recipe selection. They were certainly delicious enough, and were crowd-pleasers that elicited impressed reactions from our guests ("you made pickles?!?"). But here's the thing...they were so incredibly easy to make. So easy that I'm already brainstorming about all of the other vegetables I can pickle this summer, especially those that we are growing in our garden. Cucumbers? Check. ...Beets? Check... Okra? Check...
Many thanks to Whitney for introducing me to the pickled sugar snaps recipe, and Molly for the carrots.
Pickled Sugar Snap Peasrecipe from smitten kitchen, who adapted from the joy of pickling via epicurious
1-1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
1-1/4 cups cold water
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 pound sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
In a non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, salt and sugar until both are dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the cold water.
When the vinegar mixture is cool, pack the sugar snaps, red pepper flakes and garlic into jars or a large bowl (I used three 1-pint jars) and pour the brine over them. If you run out of brine (I was just short) mix together equal parts water and vinegar to add to the jars. Cover with a non-reactive lid if using jars, or plastic wrap if using a bowl.
Store in the refrigerator. They will be lightly pickled after 24 hours. We ate ours at the 5-day mark, and they were absolutely perfect. The original recipe says to wait 2 weeks for them to reach optimum flavor, but they can (and probably will be) consumed long before that.
1-1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds (original recipe calls for brown, I only had yellow)
1-1/2 pounds small carrots, or large carrots cut into matchsticks 1/2" thick by 3" long
In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups of vinegar, water, sugar, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt and mustard seeds to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining vinegar.
Place the carrots in a large, heat-proof bowl. Pour the warm brine over them and let sit until the brine cools to room temperature.
While the carrots cool, clean your canning jars and lids in warm, soapy water (I used three 1-pint jars).
Once the carrots are cool, arrange them in the jars so that they are nice and snug. Feel free to use your fingers. Using a ladle, distribute the brine evenly amongst the jars. The carrots should be completely covered by brine. If they are not then add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water.
Seal firmly and refrigerate for at least 3 days. We consumed most of them at the 5-day mark, and they were delicious, but I think they were even better after a full week.