19 January 2012

How to Eat Your Greens. All of them.

I have this theory that at some point in every successful gardening season, supply far exceeds demand. I only have a few successful veggie-growing seasons under my belt, so it's a half-baked theory, but so far it's held true. When you're eating chard with every meal and baking with zucchini, you realize pretty quickly that one can have too much of a good thing. (First world problems, I know!)

As of last week, my fall/winter garden has reached that tipping point. In my three small garden beds I now have a sea of greens--soft, leafy lettuces, red russian kale, curly spinach, bok choy, the list goes on... It fills me with both extreme pride and sweaty anxiety. My inner gardener (and spendthrift) fears nothing more than good food gone uneaten, tender lettuces left to bolt or once-crisp radishes turned tough and woody. No longer am I harvesting a few leaves here, a stem or two there but am hastily clear cutting, filling bags with arugula, lettuce, mesclun mix, parsley and cilantro, and pawning them off on friends. It's exhausting but also exhilarating to know that with a little space, time, energy, and a lot of good luck weather-wise, I can be one heck of a gardener!

But I'm not just writing to brag about how productive my garden is. I mostly wanted to share a few recipes that have helped me handle this overabundance of fragile leafy greens, and to ask for your suggestions too. What would you do with a bonanza of mesclun mix? A robust row of tender leaf lettuces that will soon be past their prime? And what about chard? Always a winner in my garden, I cook chard many different ways (including the recipe below) but would love to shake things up a little. I welcome your recipe ideas and invite you to come on over and share in the harvest!

Arugula Pesto

I really like arugula--in salads, on sandwiches, on top of pasta and pizza--but I have an entire row of it in my garden getting more mature (and spicy) as every day passes. This recipe turns the perishable green into something with a shelf life, either in the fridge or freezer. It's actually a little milder than the typical basil pesto, and is delicious on pasta (shown). I also plan to try it out as a sandwich spread and mixed into sour cream or greek yogurt for a dip. I eyeballed all my measurements so listen to your own taste buds when making this and adjust any way you'd like. For extra pizzaz, I might try adding a little anchovy next time, and/or some hot chile pepper flakes or fresh jalapeno.

2 huge handfuls of arugula (probably two bunches from the grocery store)
1 small bunch of italian parsley
1 small bunch of cilantro
1/4 to 1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or pecans)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt (or to taste)

Wash and dry all the greens, discarding any really big stems. Pulse cheese in food processor until it's a pretty fine crumb. Add garlic, pulsing until a paste forms. Add remaining ingredients, pulsing until it reaches the consistency you like. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Will keep, covered in the fridge, for at least a week and for months in the freezer.

Garlicky Greens with Rosemary, Currants, and Walnuts

The lovely Lily (who you might remember from my post long ago about fried green tomatoes) made me these greens for dinner last night. I've loved the classic Italian combo of greens and currants for a long time, but it never dawned on me that it would be much more delicious with the simple addition of fresh rosemary. I liked it so much I made it again for dinner tonight, using chard from my garden instead of the dino kale Lily used (my garden kale does not yet urgently require harvesting but I look forward to using it this way when it is). Great as a side to meat or fish and also good on pasta or a goat cheese tartine (open-faced sandwich). Makes about 3-4 generous side-dish servings.

1 bunch chard or kale (I prefer dinosaur kale, aka lacinato kale), washed, coarsely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, diced (I prefer 2 but I like lots of garlic)
1/4 cup dried currants (I like lots of currants so use more)
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (or pinenuts)
1/4 cup italian parsley, chopped
grated parmesan to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add greens stems and saute for a minute or two. Toss in the rosemary, garlic, and currants, give a stir and then add the remaining leafy portions of the greens. Saute, stirring frequently, for several more minutes, until the greens are crisp-tender. Serve garnished with grated cheese, toasted nuts, and parsley.


M.E. said...

What a bountiful garden you have and a green thumb too. I too like arugula and am going to try out your recipe. Let us know what and when you plant your spring garden.

diane said...

Bag up that excess and donate to a local food pantry or shelter. They so seldom get fresh produce and it is really appreciated. Here in Fredericksburg, the Food Pantry gets lots of "leftovers" from the local Farmers Market vendors and area farmers.
The garden is so very lovely, Nisa! Good for you...your hard work had excellent results!!