Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Great Resistance

You would think any resistance to a week of greens recipes would come from the The Carnivorous Husband, but instead it is Odd Toddler who is giving me the most grief. I'm beginning to miss the earlier days when he would happily eat anything I put in front of him. These days, he tries to live solely on a diet of yogurt and Nutella. If he sees ANY form of greens on his plate (whether it be a chiffonade of fresh basil on bruschetta, lettuce in a salad, or a nice pile of steamed kale), he makes a gutteral sound and croaks out, "But mom, I don't like the nasty stuff." I console myself through his dinnertime pouts by hoping this is just a phase. And by quietly handing him a small carton of Yobaby.

I picked up our first bag of CSA produce on Friday, and was even more pleased than I had hoped to be. So pleased, in fact, that I happily stuffed leaves of fresh-picked lettuce into my mouth at every red light (hey, I'm 18 weeks pregnant - if I want to eat plain lettuce in my car, I have every right). The first bag included swiss chard, kale, radicchio, green garlic, and a leaf lettuce that I can't identify but which I have used in salads every day since.

This was my first encounter with green garlic and I was completely stumped by it at first. When I pawed through my bag on Friday, I thought at first glance that the garlic was a type of green onion. The stalks looked exactly like scallions, but the bulbous root end left me scratching my head. Instead of doing any research though, I (wrongly) assumed it was just a green onion that I was unfamiliar with and so I popped it into the fridge without another thought.

It was at the Oconee Farmer's Market on Saturday that I got the first inkling that I was wrong. I went by a table that advertised garlic and I quickly back-tracked to pick some up. It was one of those forehead-slapping moments when I saw the only items on the table bore a strong resemblance to my chubby-bottomed scallions. I picked up some local strawberries (the only strawberries I've seen anywhere lately that didn't come from Watsonville, California) because Odd Toddler had instructed me not to come home without some, and raced back to the house to pull the questionable green things out of the crisper drawer for some emergency surgery. Once I had the concept that they might be garlic in my mind, it only took a sniff for me to recognize the unmistakable scent of garlic, and a little cutting into the chubby part yielded some white flesh surrounding a couple of tender "cloves" of garlic. I fired up the computer and went online to see what I could find out with a little Googling, and I stumbled upon Gourmet Sleuth, a REALLY cool website in which you can search not only for recipes using specific ingredients, but where you can also get pictures and information of the ingredients themselves along with planting and storing instructions. Handy for amateurs like myself.

As it turns out, in case I'm not the only foolish one who had never used green garlic before, this is a milder-tasting version of the regular dried heads of garlic you can pick up at the grocery store, and, like leeks, you can use both the white end and the light green part of the stalk. Interestingly, one stalk of green garlic equals one or two cloves of regular garlic. I've had fun using these in all manner of recipes this week. To me, they taste like a cross between scallions and garlic; very fresh, with less bite than regular garlic, but still with a little assertive oomph. I've found green garlic and regular garlic to be virtually interchangeable in saute and soup recipes, and the green variety to be incredibly good in simple vinaigrettes (which I made a lot of this week to drizzle over the lettuces I had also received).

I tried new recipes every day this week, delighting in finding ways to use the chard and the kale, neither of which I had cooked before. My mother raised me on steamed greens, which we would dress with vinegar and salt and eat daily in the early spring when I was kid. I loved greens then, and I love them possibly even more now. So many years had passed in the interim however, that I had forgotten what a beautiful, buttery taste chard has.

The winning recipe of the week though, was a quick and uber-easy Kale and White Bean Soup that I adapted from the March issue of Cooking Light magazine (the original recipe called for collards, but it didn't seem like much of a stretch to substitute kale instead; and of course I tinkered around to make it a vegetarian dish).

As much as I may love simple, steamed greens, I have The Carnivore to think about, and I do my best to not make it so glaringly obvious to him that he married the child of a reformed hippie. The soup recipe was a standout because it truly let the kale shine through as the star of the dish, without trying to mask the delicate flavor of the green or turning the texture into mush. My favorite thing about kale is the great curly, crunchy bite to it, and only a quick wilting was required by this recipe.

I can't wait to see what's in next week's bag of greens...

KALE & WHITE BEAN SOUP (serves four - great served alongside a goat cheese & roasted red pepper sandwich)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion - I used a vidalia
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced - I used three whole stalks of green garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper - as coarsely ground as possible
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 oz shredded or chopped kale
  • 2 tsps minced fresh thyme (or 3/4 tsp dried thyme)
  • 28 oz vegetable broth
  • 1 (15.5-oz) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add wine, pepper and salt. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until liquid has almost evaporated.
  3. Add greens, thyme and broth. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until greens are wilted but still slightly crunchy to the taste (sort of an al dente texture). Take care not to overcook the greens.
  4. Add beans; simmer 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

And, um, sleep in separate rooms if you're easily offended by particularly plentiful and odiferous gas.


Shari said...

As I was grocery shopping today I was thinking of your last post and I looked to see where my veggies were coming from. I must say that they are definately better traveled than I but had to laugh when I noted that my vidalia onions and sweet carrots came from Georgia.

Shari said...

Sorry, should have added that I am in eastern Canada!

Sarah Beam said...

Shari, that figures. The only carrots I can find in my local grocery stores are from California. This is madness.