About Lopez Island Kitchen Gardens

Over the five years that I’ve written the Islands’ Weekly Green Living column about Lopez Island farms and farmers, I’ve occasionally used my kitchen garden as a topic. The pleasure of writing these personal columns has finally tempted me away from the monthly Green Living column and to a blog where I can write regularly about kitchen gardens, my own and the many others on Lopez Island. I think of kitchen gardens as gardens where people who love to garden and to cook grow vegetables, fruit and herbs for their kitchens. Join me as I explore this new media and the possibilities it offers for sharing ideas about growing and cooking vegetables.

Earth Day 2017

I usually plant seeds outside in the garden on Earth Day. The soil and air are often warm enough by April 22nd and it’s often a pretty day. But this year I’m going to wait a week or maybe two for soil still saturated and cold from March rains to warm up a bit and for temperatures to rise a little more. Maybe this year’s first outside planting day will be May 1st, a date many Lopez Island old-timers recommended to me when I first started gardening here twenty-five years ago.

Despite the delay in planting seeds of spring vegetable crops, the kitchen garden is still providing food I associate with spring. New leaf growth on kale, arugula and chard provides salads, pesto sauces and sautés. And flower buds forming on kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustards and the last remaining rutabagas and turnips offer raab-like treats for pasta sauces and side dishes. Most exciting, asparagus is shooting up, growing quickly in spite of cool days and cooler nights. We’ve been enjoying some every night for the past week.

This burgeoning green in the garden is matched by the greening of the landscape outside the garden hedge. Willow and alder are leafing out, shrubs in the hedgerows show a film of green, and grass in the pastures seems taller and greener each day. I see this landscape from the kitchen as I cook.

Kitchen green view

Last night I sautéed kale flower buds with some of the last leeks, sliced and roasted some asparagus, thawed and simmered some fava beans frozen last summer

Primavera ingredients

and mixed all of these green vegetables into a sauce for homemade pasta,

Primavera in skillet

our kitchen garden version of pasta primavera to celebrate Earth Day, toasting the spirit that inaugurated Earth Day forty-seven years ago and hoping our activism can prevail against the current administration’s assault.

In another week or two I’ll plant seeds outside, carrots, beets, radishes and spring turnips. They’ll join starts of sugar snap peas, broccoli and cauliflower I set out this week. While I wait to plant outside, I can tend the summer vegetables growing in the warm shelter of the seed starting room and the greenhouse. Tomatoes I seeded indoors on February 22nd are planted in the greenhouse ground now, spreading up and out. Eggplant and peppers are in 4” pots in the greenhouse, adjusting to this new environment after their six weeks under lights in the seed room. When temperatures rise enough, I’ll set them out in their permanent bed under a hoop house in the garden. In the seed room, starts of fennel, radicchios and lettuces are ready to harden off and get into the ground as soon as the soil is ready. Spring may be slow this year, but it’s coming.

 

 

Gardening and Traveling

I love gardening and the meals that the kitchen garden offers, but I love traveling too. As I plan each year’s gardening calendar, decisions about when to plant are influenced by when I want to be away. Over the years, I’ve learned that with the help of gardening friends to water and to raise lights as indoor seeded plants grow I can arrange planting timetables that open spaces for travel throughout the year.

February and March are the months when I start seeds indoors for summer’s plants, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers; storage plants like shallots and onions; late spring plants like peas, broccoli and cauliflower; and long season plants like celery root.

Sometime in April, early or later depending on weather and when I’m home, I begin planting seeds in the ground, salad greens, spring turnips, carrots, beets, fennel and potatoes. In May I continue with seeds that need a little more warmth to germinate, corn and beans directly in the ground and squash in pots to germinate before setting them out as soon as they’ve formed true leaves. Late May is also the time to start leeks in pots or in a nursery bed so I can transplant pencil-size stalks in early July.

June to late July I’m thinking ahead to fall and winter vegetables, direct seeding parsnips in early June, starting Brussels sprouts indoors a week later, then cabbage, more broccoli and cauliflower indoors. In July I start kale, chard and more fennel, carrots and beets as well as winter turnips and rutabaga.

Early August and on into September I start seed of hardy greens like mache, arugula, mustards and radicchios. And from October to January I harvest fall and winter crops but have no more seeds to plant.

This planting summary suggests that October through January would be great months to travel and they are. Weeks of hiking and backpacking, more weeks of skiing, and longer trips farther away find room in the calendar. But spring is great for travel too. Attention to planting timetables and the help of a kind friend who’s happy to share my seed starting room to start her own plants make it possible.

Last year, I was away from the garden for most of April. Knowing that tomatoes take about six weeks from seeding to setting into the ground, I started tomato seeds on February 17th and set out sturdy plants in the greenhouse on March 27th a few days before leaving for a month.

tomato-starts-soil

 

tomato-seedlings-sturdy-tall

The same day I started tomatoes I also started some broccoli and cauliflower and set these starts out in the garden just before we left. On March 1st I seeded a flat of onions and set robust plants out in the garden when I returned at the end of April. Also on March 1st I started a flat of sugar snap peas and set them out in the garden on March 18th.  Finally, because I wanted to have eggplant and pepper starts ready to plant out when I returned, I started seeds in 1-inch cells on March 8th , moved these tiny seedlings to 4-inch pots three weeks later, just before leaving, and when I returned in a month sturdy plants were ready for the garden.

This year I’ll be traveling for most of March and into April. Encouraged by my success last year, I modified the timetable slightly. I’ll be back April 5th so I started tomatoes February 22nd and hope for plants to set out soon after I return. I’m starting eggplant and peppers in 2×2 inch pots March 6th, the day before I leave, and hope they’ll be ready to pot up into 4-inch pots when I return and then be ready for the garden a few weeks after that. I seeded onions on March 1st again this year but not peas. This spring has been so cold and wet that I’ll wait until I return to plant peas. And I’ll leave the broccoli and cauliflower I started February 22nd in 4-inch pots and hope they won’t be too overgrown to set out when I return.

Finding a balance between garden and travel, between being home and being away is a challenge for a year-round kitchen gardener but the adventure of travel makes it worth the effort.

 

Root Vegetable Annas

The classic French pommes Anna recipe calls for layering thinly sliced potatoes with clarified butter and baking them to create a cake. As Julia Child writes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two (1970): “Pommes Anna looks like a brown cake 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 2 inches high, and it smells marvelously of potatoes and butter. That, in effect, is all it is: thinly sliced potatoes packed in layers in a heavy pan, bathed in clarified butter, and baked in a very hot oven so that the outside crusts enough for the potatoes to be unmolded without collapsing. The contrast of crusty exterior and tender, buttery interior is quite unlike anything else in potato cookery, and to many pommes Anna is the supreme potato recipe of all time.”

Pommes Anna is truly delicious but so, I’m finding, are Annas made from other root vegetables. Turnips, rutabaga, beets, celery root, carrots all undergo the same transformation when thinly sliced, layered with butter or olive oil in a glass or metal pie plate or heavy skillet, and baked in a hot oven.

The first non-potato Anna I tried was Turnips Anna from an October 2014 Sunset Magazine recipe. A friend had made it for a party that fall and I finally got around to making one this winter. In addition to layers of turnip, bits of crispy bacon, a little grated cheddar cheese and fresh thyme join the melted butter in the layers between the thinly sliced turnips.

turnips-anna-ingredientsI used Gilfeather turnip, a large, very sweet white turnip that holds beautifully in our winter kitchen garden. Gilfeather turnips growingThe result was everything Julia Child promised for pommes Anna, crispy exterior, creamy interior, but this time the fragrance was of sweet turnip and butter with a hint of smoky bacon and herby thyme. turnips-anna-finishedI’ve made it several times since and want to try it next with Joan rutabaga instead Gilfeather turnip. I think the flavor will be very similar but perhaps a bit earthier and the color more golden from the yellow-toned rutabaga.

Intrigued by this Anna technique, I’ve searched the Internet for other root vegetable Annas and found many variations both in vegetables used and in baking strategies. One recipe from Food 52 is titled Rustic Rainbow Root Vegetables with Rosemary (or, more simply put, Root Vegetables Anna) and begins with the observation that “you can basically do whatever you want with this one,” both in the roots you choose and the technique you follow. I’m learning that flexibility is one of the pleasures of root vegetable Annas. For my rainbow of root vegetables, I used celery root, White Satin carrots, Yellowstone carrots, Red Core Chantenay carrots and red beets, slicing each on a mandoline then layering them in a heavy skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper, grated Parmesan cheese and rosemary.

rainbow-anna-ingredientsThe resulting Anna was fragrant with the sweet smells of carrots and beets. The celery root wasn’t so dominant as the other roots, but it offered a subtle sweetness and softer texture and I’d definitely include it in future recipes. And the finished dish was beautiful.

rainbow-anna-in-skillet

rainbow-anna-on-plate

Other variations I’m looking forward to trying are from Bon Appetit using potatoes, celery root and turnip, butter and rosemary and from Martha Stewart using rutabaga and potato, butter and thyme. Finally, the New York Times recently republished a recipe for Sweet Potatoes Anna With Prunes from The Food 52 Cookbook. I don’t grow sweet potatoes but I’m wondering if winter squash would be a good substitute.

Just as there is a lot of variation among the root vegetables, oils, herbs and cheeses, each recipe also gives slightly different suggestions for how to slice the vegetables, what pan to cook them in, whether to use the oven, the stove top, or some combination of the two, how to bond the layers of vegetables and finally how to present the finished Anna.

I’ve most often used a mandoline to slice the vegetables and really like the very thin, even slices it allows (3.5 mm or about 1/8 inch), slicing-gf-turnip-with-mandolinbut I’ve also used a sharp knife and gotten good, thin slices, not so thin as a mandoline produces but still fine for the final dish. I used Pyrex pie dishes for the first Turnip Anna because I didn’t have metal pie pans, but I’ve made it again in a heavy aluminum frying pan and I agree that metal produces a crispier crust. Both Julia Child in her pommes Anna instructions and the Food 52 Rainbow Anna recommend using a heavy skillet and starting the Anna on the stovetop to begin the browning immediately and then transferring the Anna to the hot oven to finish cooking. This method has produced a crispier bottom crust for me.

Another step most recipes include is pressing or weighting down the layers so that they fuse into a cake. The Food 52 Rustic Rainbow recipe suggests simply pressing down on the layers while the skillet is on the stove top “to make sure the layers are bonding together.” Sunset’s Turnips Anna recipe recommends setting another pie pan on top of the Anna and weighting it with dried beans or pie weights. I’ve done both and find the added weight helps bond the layers. Several of the recipes also suggest placing a rimmed baking sheet underneath the pie pan or skillet to catch bubbling butter. In her pommes Anna recipe, Julia Child gets graphic with this warning advising: “Set drip pan under the potatoes, on rack below, to catch bubblings-up of butter (which could otherwise set fire to your oven).” No fires yet in my oven!

And for the final presentation, turning the Anna out onto a platter shows off the crispy bottom layer as well as any pretty design of vegetables I might have managed to arrange on the bottom layer, but serving directly from the pan works fine too. The important thing is to enjoy the amazing fragrance and flavors and, of course, to have fun making these root vegetable variations on the classic French pommes Anna.

Sunset’s Turnips Anna

 About 6 tbsp. butter, melted, divided

6 ounces sliced bacon

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, plus several thyme sprigs

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 pounds small to medium turnips (any variety), peeled and ends trimmed

  1. Generously brush a 9-in. pie pan with some butter. Preheat oven to 400° (if using metal pans) or 425° (if using glass or ceramic) with a rack set in lower third of oven.
  2. Brown bacon in a medium frying pan until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then chop.
  3. Combine bacon, cheese, flour, minced thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Thinly slice turnips into rounds with a handheld slicer. Arrange one-sixth of turnips in a layer in pie pan, starting from center, working outward in concentric circles, and slightly overlapping slices. Evenly sprinkle a heaping 2 tbsp. bacon-cheese mixture over turnips and drizzle with about 2 tsp. butter. Repeat to use all ingredients, ending with turnips.
  5. Lightly butter bottom of another 9-in. pie pan and set on top of turnips. Fill upper pan with pie weights or dried beans; set pans on a rimmed baking sheet to catch bubbling butter.
  6. Bake until edge turns golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Carefully remove top pie pan and weights and continue to bake Anna until browned on top, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  7. Loosen Anna from pan with a knife and invert onto a plate. Top with thyme sprigs.

Food 52’s Rustic Rainbow Root Vegetables with Rosemary (or, more simply put, Root Vegetables Anna)

 Author Notes: Not to lead you astray in the introduction to this recipe, but you can basically do whatever you want with this one. It’s delicious. And you can make it as simple, or as complex as you see fit. Don’t own a mandoline? No problem. Just slice the vegetables thinly, and perhaps extend the cooking time a bit. Don’t want to go through the acrobatics of flipping a giant hot oily root vegetable pancake? No big deal. Throw it in a gratin dish, seriously consider adding more cheese and some cream, and then bake it for about an hour. If you are feeling really ambitious, whip a little goat cheese with some cream and serve as a sauce on the side.

 Serves 6 as a side

2 red beets, each about the size of a baseball, peeled
3 carrots, peeled
1 large sweet potato or 2 yellow beets, peeled
1 large garnet yam, peeled
3-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 sprig rosemary, chopped very finely
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Preheat the oven to 375. Trim the ends off all of the vegetables.
  • Thinly slice each vegetable, about the thickness you would use for making homemade potato chips, with a mandoline. Keep the sliced vegetables separate from one another (the red beets seem to want to territorially mark everything!).
  • Generously brush the inside of an oven safe skillet (I highly recommend cast iron here – an 8 inch works great) with olive oil.
  • Starting with the lightest color root vegetable (either the yellow beets or the sweet potato), lay the thin slices on the bottom of the pan. Start at the outside of the pan, go in a circular motion, and slightly overlap each piece. When you have created the first layer, gently brush a little olive oil on top, then sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and rosemary. Lightly cover with parmesan cheese.
  • Repeat with another layer of that vegetable, if you have enough. If not, move on to the next darkest color (usually the carrots). Again, gently brush a little olive oil on top, then sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and rosemary. Lightly cover with parmesan cheese
  • Continue this process until you reach the top layer of red beets. Do not brush olive oil on the very top of the dish.
  • Placing the cast iron skillet on the stove, heat for about ten minutes on medium-high heat. Occasionally, gently press down on the vegetables to make sure the layers are bonding together.
  • Ok, this is the tricky step. Take the skillet off the heat (go ahead and wait a few minutes for it to cool slightly if you want). Gently loosen sides of vegetables with a spatula. Place a large plate (as flat as you can find that fits completely) over the skillet. Flip the skillet over onto the plate – be VERY careful – there is a possibility of hot oil here.
  • Once the vegetable pancake is inverted onto the plate, slide it back into the skillet, now the light color is facing up. The skillet goes back on the heat for another 8 minutes, and then into the oven for another 15 minutes. (I found that this Anna took longer to cook, up to 30 minutes longer for the vegetables to get soft, making the cooking time closer to that of the Turnips Anna.)

Take the vegetables out of the oven and let cool in the skillet for about ten minutes. Gently using spatula, slide pancake onto plate. Cool for another five minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015390-sweet-potatoes-anna-with-prunes

Seeds for 2017

2017-seed-catalogs

Ordering vegetable seeds each year is a process of looking back at what worked and what didn’t and ahead to re-ordering old favorites and tempting new varieties. It’s a pleasant process, a good way to spend some January afternoons. This year though there was some sadness as well as I looked for acceptable replacements for some long-time favorites no longer available.

Avalanche Beet and Red Cored Chantenay carrot were delicious additions to the kitchen garden’s root vegetables this year. I’d ordered Avalanche, a sweet white beet and recent AAS winner, for its color. It looked great steamed or roasted with yellow and red beets and though its flavor was a bit milder than a red beet it was still deliciously beetlike. I’d ordered Red Cored Chantenay because my friend Mary gave me one to taste last winter and I was amazed by its juicy sweet carrot flavor. It’s an heirloom from the late 19th century and one I’m grateful is still available. I’ve also been especially impressed by how well it’s held this winter, heavily mulched with hay, through 20 degree night-time temperatures.

Two tomatoes that I’ll definitely plant again this year are Sunchocola , a large henna-colored cherry tomato, and Fiaschetto de Manduria, a paste tomato from Puglia via Uprising Organics. Both were flavorful whether fresh, roasted or dried. And both produced early and continued to provide lots of tomatoes throughout the summer.

A couple surprising disappointments were Escamillo and Lipstick peppers from Johnny’s. Johnny’s wonderful Carmen has been a favorite for years and the catalog described Escamillo as Carmen’s “perfect, golden-yellow partner.” It did look pretty but it was missing the sweet and spicy flavors I like in peppers. Lipstick tempted me with its blockier shape compared to Carmen’s bull’s-horn shape but it wasn’t so productive as Carmen or so flavorful.

It’s hard to resist new varieties of tomatoes and this year I gave in to two. The first is Orange Paruche, described by Territorial as “succulent, sweet and flavorful,” excelling “in productivity and taste with astonishing quantities of brilliant, glowing orange fruit.” But the deciding piece of praise for me was that Orange Paruche won Territorial’s in-house taste test. The second is from Territorial’s Heritage Marriage Series, Cherokee Carbon The catalog describes it as “the best of Cherokee Purple and Carbon… beautiful beefsteaks [that] have a dusky blush and rich, delicious flavor.” Cherokee Purple is one of my favorites and my friend Carol says Carbon is a great tomato so maybe this marriage will work.

Sugar Snap peas and Copra onions were two sources of sadness. For the past several years I’ve noticed the corruption of the original strain of Sugar Snap peas; more and more off types have been turning up, peas the shape of flimsy snow peas mixed in with the classic crunchy, sweet edible pea pod. Most catalogs no longer even offer the original Sugar Snap, suggesting as replacement Super Sugar Snap. I’ve tried Super Sugar Snap and been disappointed by the flavor so this year, intrigued by their catalog description, I’m trying Adaptive Seeds’ Sugaree . “A classic green sugar snap pea… Super tasty with a classic sweet crunch …Originally bred to be a public domain replacement for Sugar Snap…”

Copra has been the perfect yellow storage onion in my garden for years but this year’s Fedco catalog signaled its end with their description of Patterson Onion, the suggested replacement: “2016 is a time of great partings. Which is worse: losing Obama as president or losing Copra onion?” Well, there are replacements for Copra. Turning to Adaptive Seeds again, I’m going to try their Newburg  described as “simply the best open pollinated yellow storage-onion… a great replacement for the classic Hybrid Copra.” I can feel optimistic about a replacement onion; as for the just-inaugurated replacement for Obama, I feel only despair.

The garden can offer some relief from despair. It’s an act of hope to bury a small seed in the ground and trust that it will produce a plant and food. And the hopefulness of gardening can be a metaphor for other acts of hope. Small seeds of goodness can germinate, can grow and reach out into the world. I can’t order these seeds from a catalog but I’m going to look hard for them in the year ahead, plant them and join with others to move beyond despair.

Cold Snaps

We’ve had a lot of cold weather in the past few weeks, days barely above thirty-two and nights close to twenty. Almost every winter we get these cold spells, those of 2012 and 2014 come to mind, and during each I wonder what will still be thriving in the winter kitchen garden once the cold passes and we return to our usual temperate coastal winter temperatures. Experience tells me that the heavily mulched root vegetables, the rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets, will be fine and most of the plastic and Reemay-covered kale, mustard, arugula and radicchio will be too.  Walking through the garden, surveying the mulched mounds, the frosted cold frame, plastic tunnels and Reemay blankets, I remind myself that everything will taste sweeter after this cold. But it is hard to look at this frozen garden.

cold-mulched-beds-16

cold-cold-frame-16

cold-reemay-16

Luckily there are storage vegetables to get us through these cold times. Winter squash, potatoes, onions, dried beans and dried tomatoes and the shell beans, corn and peppers I put up at the end of summer all offer comforting meals. I have a black bean, poblano pepper and onion soup simmering on the stove for lunch. I may add a bit of leftover baked Buttercup squash to it for sweetness. And I’ll top it with a dollop of spicy red pepper hazelnut sauce.

black-bean-soup

I’ll roast another winter squash or two and make a savory tart and perhaps some squash soup. I’ll sauté some onions, thaw some roasted peppers and put them on a pizza.

pizza-pepper-onion-sausage

For a salad perhaps some corn, black beans and slices of dried tomato.

corn-black-bean-salad

We’ll be fine until the more temperate weather returns. And we’ll enjoy the clear skies and sun that come with these cold spells. If cold brings sun, it can’t be entirely bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://lopezislandkitchengardens.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/drying-tomatoes/

Polenta for Fall and Winter

A friend reminded me the other day that we’re entering the season when cooked cereals for breakfast and hot soups for lunch are especially satisfying. To them I’d add polenta, another softly textured, warm and comforting food, perfect for fall and winter dinners.

One of our favorite fall polenta recipes is from Georgeanne Brennan’s lovely 1992 cookbook Potager, a book my sister Nancy gave me that year, writing on the title page: “This just looked like a Debby kind of food book.” She was right. Brennan’s focus on cooking from the garden in every season inspires me, and her recipe for creamy polenta with melted white cheddar cheese topped with sautéed garlic, red peppers, chicories, chard, and spinach is one we look forward to every fall.

polenta-with-peppers-greensI made it the other night using the last of the summer peppers stored in the fridge and chard and mustard from the garden. A great thing about this recipe is that any kind of green will work. Chicories, chard and spinach are delicious but so are kale, collards or mustards. And when I don’t have fresh peppers, those that I’ve roasted and frozen are a fine substitute.

And then there’s the polenta itself, the base of this dish. To make it, most recipes suggest bringing water to a boil, adding the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly, then reducing the heat and cooking for 45 minutes more, stirring frequently. That’s a lot of stirring. Luckily for me, another 1992 cookbook, Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food, offered an easier method for cooking polenta, “a revelation,” Kasper notes, “for those who hate the tedium of stirring 30 or 40 minutes, as the stiff porridge fights you every step of the way.”

polenta-with-double-boiler

The key is a double boiler. Bring the water to a boil in the top of the double boiler, add salt and slowly add the polenta, stirring for a minute or two until the grains and water blend. Have water boiling in the bottom of the double boiler, set the top over the bottom, add the lid and cook for 1 and ½ hours, keeping the water simmering in the bottom. Two or three times during this hour and a half I check to be sure there is still enough water in the bottom pan and also give the polenta in the top pan a stir. Kasper concludes, “after 1½ hours the polenta will be thick, smooth, and have no suggestion of rawness in its taste.” I’ll add that the grains of ground corn will have swelled to a satisfying consistency, creamy and grainy at the same time. To serve six people, I use 8 ounces of polenta, 5 and ¼ cups water and a teaspoon of salt.

Though this cooking technique can be used with any ground grain, farro for example, to make a polenta, corn is the grain most commonly used for polenta, specifically ground flint corn. I use Giusto’s polenta, described on their website as having “robust flavor and the authentic Italian granulation.” It’s available in bulk at Blossom, the natural foods market here on Lopez Island, or online. Anson Mills also sells an authentic Italian corn polenta. Coarsely ground cornmeal or grits can also work but I like the flavor and texture of Italian polenta best.

polenta-closeupPolenta pairs wonderfully with so many foods. This time of year I like it with roasted Delicata squash and Gorgonzola cheese, with roasted root vegetables and a dusting of grated Parmesan, and with braised lamb shanks or lamb stew with black olives. And just this month I discovered another amazing way to eat polenta: with kale puree stirred into it just before serving.

I was leafing through April Bloomfield’s 2015 cookbook A Girl and her Greens, Hearty Meals from the Garden deciding whether or not to buy it when I saw a recipe titled Kale Polenta accompanied by a gorgeous photo of a pot of polenta swirled through with dark green kale puree. The final line of the paragraph introducing the recipe said: “You taste the sweetness of the corn polenta first, than a hint of garlic, and finally that green minerality of the kale at the end.” I bought the book. A few days later I made this dish for us and then a week later I made it for friends. I’m eager to make it again. It’s destined to be this year’s go-to polenta dish.

polenta-with-kale-puree

polenta-with-kale-puree-on-plate

April Bloomfield’s recipes for Kale Purée and Kale Polenta:

Kale Purée

Makes 1 generous cup 

5 medium garlic cloves, peeled

1 pound Tuscan or other kale, thick stems removed (about 1/2 pound after trimming)

Kosher salt

1 teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Put 4 of the garlic cloves in a medium pot, fill it with water, cover and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add enough kosher salt so that the water tastes slightly salty and add the kale, prodding to submerge it. Cook uncovered until the kale is tender and tears easily, 2 to 3 minutes.

Fish out the boiled garlic cloves and reserve. Drain the kale in a colander and, when it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can. Roughly chop the kale, the boiled garlic and the raw garlic.

Combine the kale, garlic and Maldon salt in a food processor. Process, stopping occasionally to prod and stir, for about 45 seconds, then add the oil and process, stirring once or twice, to a fairly smooth purée. The purée keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Kale polenta

8 ounces coarse stone-ground polenta (cooked in a double boiler with 5 ¼ cup water and 1 tsp salt)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup kale purée

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated

3 tablespoons mascarpone (I’ve substituted goat cheese and it’s tasty too.)

Coarsely ground black pepper

When the polenta is done, stir in the olive oil, kale purée and most of the Parmesan and keep over heat, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more. Take the pot off the heat and fold in 2 tablespoons of the mascarpone (it’s nice to run into a little pocket of mascarpone, so don’t stir too much). Top with the remaining mascarpone and Parmesan and as much black pepper as you’d like.

Georgeanne Brennan’s recipe for Sautéed Garlic, Red Peppers, Chicories, Chard, and Spinach for White Cheddar Polenta

Polenta

8 Giusto’s polenta (cooked in a double boiler with 5 ¼ cup water and 1 tsp salt)

2 Tablespoons butter

4 Ounces White Cheddar Cheese, grated

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peppers and Greens

10-12 ounces Swiss Chard, ribs removed

8-10 ounces Chicory, stems removed

10-12 ounces Spinach, trimmed

3 red, gold or orange bell peppers or other sweet peppers, cut in half lengthwise and sliced lengthwise into thin slices

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Just before the polenta is ready, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic and sweet peppers. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes and then add the greens. Sprinkle with the salt, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. The greens will steam and reduce considerably in volume. Remove the cover and continue cooking until the greens are limp but still retain their color, a few minutes.

When the polenta is done, stir in the butter, cheese, salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the polenta onto a warmed serving platter. Top it with the mixture of sautéed greens and peppers and serve.

 

Autumn Salad

The hedgerows along the fields and roads near my house are especially beautiful now. Rose hips glow red and orange, the last of the blackberries, dark purple, past ripe, mix with sprays of white snowberries, and the foliage of the berry vines and all the other deciduous shrubs offer shades shifting from red into purple, yellow into gold, orange into brown. On morning walks I look forward to one particular stretch of hedgerow where vibrant red and yellow leaves stand out against darker vines, berries and bits of still-green foliage. hedgerowI considered picking some of these leaves to decorate the table but then realized that with just a little more effort I could recreate these colors in a salad.

The autumn kitchen garden offers much the same palate as the hedgerow. In the garden basket, red, orange, and white beets next to purple, yellow, white and orange carrots matched the hedgerow colors that had inspired me. autumn-salad-vegetablesLeeks and kale would provide the contrasting green.

I peeled the beets and cut them into half-to-one-inch cubes, peeled the carrots and cut them into two-to-three-inch strips, spread both on sheet pans, coated them thinly with olive oil and roasted them at 425 degrees until they were tender but not too soft, about twenty minutes. I cut the leeks into ¼ inch dice, tossed them in olive oil and roasted them until they were golden and starting to crisp, about fifteen minutes.

While the vegetables were roasting, I made a simple kale salad, tearing the leaves into bite-sized pieces, rubbing them with olive oil and salt then adding lemon and some grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

When the vegetables were done and slightly cooled, I tossed the roasted leeks with the kale and then arranged the colorful carrots and beets on top. autumn-saladAnother squeeze of lemon just before serving completed this beautiful hedgerow-inspired salad. I’ll be making this autumn salad again even after the hedgerow foliage fades.