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.

Fall Cauliflower

I’m coming to the end of my early fall cauliflower crop, six lovely heads that have matured from seeds I started in early June. I wrapped the leaves around the just-forming heads in mid-August, and, protected this way, beautiful full cauliflowers formed a month later.

Cauliflowers tied

Cauliflower head 9:18

The last time I wrote about cauliflower was early summer, 2012 when I explained how I coddle along this challenging-to-grow vegetable and offered my favorite way to cook cauliflower: simply roast it.  Roasting is still my favorite way to prepare cauliflower because the caramelizing that happens as cauliflower roasts in olive oil brings out its earthy but delicate sweetness.

So of course I had to roast the first few heads I harvested.  For a party, I followed my go-to recipe, slicing large pieces into ¼ inch wide fans, arranging them on a sheet pan, brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling on salt and pepper and roasting them at 375 until they were soft and caramelized.

Cauliflower fans roasted

With six heads of cauliflower, though, I decided to branch out a little bit, looking for recipes that still called for roasting but added other flavors.  I should have done this branching out years ago because I found some great recipes.  In Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2014 cookbook Plenty More he offers a roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad that totally suits this fall season.  I was even able to use the Canadice grapes ripening on our arbor.  The raisins marinated in the vinaigrette complement the fresh grapes and the crumbled bits of Cheddar cheese and the chopped hazelnuts add richness. Best of all, though, the flavor of roasted cauliflower comes through.

Cauliflower Ottolenghi salad

Roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad

1 large head cauliflower broken into bite sized florets

6 tablespoons sunflower or other light oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed

2/3 cup seedless red grapes, halved

3 oz aged Cheddar cheese, coarsely crumbled

2/3 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°

Toss the cauliflower florets with half of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the dressing, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the vinegar, mustard, honey and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the raisins and let them marinade for at least 10 minutes.

Just before serving, transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and add the hazelnuts, grapes, Cheddar and parsley. Pour the raisins and dressing over the top, toss together, transfer to a large platter, and serve.

Inspired by the success of this move from plain roasted cauliflower to other flavors, I was ready to take on a Food 52 recipe that appeared in my email last week. Titled Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower, it’s a slightly modified recipe from Melissa Clark, one of my favorite cookbook authors.

Nicholas Day, creator of this version, introduced the recipe as: lightly adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Her version has whole cumin, coriander and brown mustard seeds. It’s a spice mixture that’s very adaptable, obviously; my current version is below. Also, if you don’t have sliced almonds, substitute some chopped almonds or cashews.

Cauliflower spicy almond

large cauliflower, cut into inch-sized florets
1/2teaspoon coriander seed
1/2teaspoon ground cumin
1/2teaspoon ground cinammon
tablespoons olive oil
1/2teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 425° F. With a mortar and pestle, or the flat side of a chef’s knife, lightly crush the coriander seeds. Add the crushed seeds to a bowl along with the cumin, cinnamon, olive oil, and salt. 

Scatter the cauliflower florets over a rimmed baking sheet, then toss them with the oil-and-spice mixture. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and roast for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle on the almonds and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower and the almonds are nicely browned. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

This combination of cauliflower, spices and nuts makes a great side dish warm or cold.  I also used it hot the other night as part of a pasta sauce, adding grapes and hazelnuts in a nod to Ottolenghi and thinly slicing a bunch of succulent fall arugula leaves and tossing it in to the hot pasta and spicy cauliflower so it wilted slightly.  With grated pecorino cheese, this pasta with cauliflower made a hearty fall dinner.

I have one more cauliflower left in the kitchen garden. I’ll need to decide soon how to prepare it.

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Panzanella Again

It’s hard not to want to photograph everything that the kitchen garden offers right now: glossy purple eggplant, red, orange and yellow peppers, purple onions, and perhaps most photogenic of all, tomatoes. I brought in an especially stunning basketful of tomatoes the other day: deep red Cherokee Carbon and Cherokee Purple, softer red Momotaro and Mortgage Lifter, yellow Hillbillies with their dramatic red creases, and Darby Red and Yellows, small red-orange orbs dashed with yellow.  In the left corner of this red and yellow still life there are two peppers in the same tones: an orange Etudia and a red Carmen.

Tomatoes in basket 8:18

What better way to taste the sweet flavors and show off the warm colors of ripe tomatoes than panzanella? I wrote about this Tuscan bread salad last August and included my favorite recipe for it then, but I want to remind tomato lovers of panzanella again this year and to offer another recipe.  You can never have too many variations on this salad.  This one comes from Melissa Clark and features fresh mozzarella and cucumbers in addition to tomatoes and bread.  My friend Dena served this delicious version of panzanella last week for dinner and shared the equally tasty leftovers on a picnic the next day.  For my latest version, I substituted thinly sliced fennel and those red and orange peppers in the basket because I didn’t have any cucumbers.  They provided the same crunch cucumbers would plus the spicy sweetness of peppers and the sweet anise flavor of fennel.

Tomato bread salad 8:18

Until the tomatoes run out, I’ll be making more variations on this perfect summer salad.

Panzanella With Mozzarella and Herbs Melissa Clark

At the height of tomato season, for every perfectly ripe, taut and juicy specimen, there’s an overripe, oozing counterpart not far away. The Tuscan bread salad called panzanella is the perfect place to use those sad, soft tomatoes that are still rich in flavor. Traditional panzanella is made with stale, dried bread that’s rehydrated from a dressing of sweet tomato juices, vinegar and plenty of olive oil. This version also includes some mozzarella for richness and cucumber for crunch. It’s an ideal make-ahead dish; the longer the mixture sits (up to 6 or so hours), the better it tastes. Just make sure your bread thoroughly dries out in the oven so it won’t turn to mush.

  • 4 ounces ciabatta or baguette, preferably stale, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3

cups)

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt, more to taste
  • 2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, preferably a mix of varieties and colors
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion, about half a small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated to a paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oreganoor thyme (or a combination)
  •  Large pinch red pepper flakes(optional)
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  •  Black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup thinly sliced Persian or Kirby cucumber, about 1 small cucumber
  • ½ cup torn basil leaves
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons oil and a pinch of salt. Bake until they are dried out and pale golden brown at the edges, about 7 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
  2. Cut tomatoes into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Add mozzarella, onions, garlic paste, 1 tablespoon vinegar, oregano or thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes if using. Toss to coat and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, the mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt and some black pepper to taste. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil until the mixture is thickened. Stir in cucumbers, basil and parsley.
  4. Add bread cubes, cucumber mixture and capers to the tomatoes and toss well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before serving. Toss with a little more olive oil, vinegar and salt if needed just before serving.

From my August 27, 2017 post:

The panzanella recipe I use as my starting point comes from Orcas Island chef Christina Orchid who published it in the Islands Weekly years ago. Here’s the recipe from her website http://redrabbitfarm.com/classes/:

Panzanella green dish

Panzanella: Italian style bread salad.

1 loaf hearty artisanal style French or Italian bread cut into 1 inch cubes.

1/2 cup grated Reggiano parmesan cheese or grana panda

2 pints garden ripe cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 cup basil, chopped

1 small red onion cut in thin slices and quartered

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 1/4 cup superior quality red wine vinegar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

 On a large sheet pan toss the bread cubes with enough olive oil to thoroughly moisten all, then toss with the grated cheese, and toast bread cubes in a 440 degree oven for 5 minutes or until crispy and golden.  Reserve.  Cut the tomatoes in half from the stem end and toss with the onions and red wine vinegar.  Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.  Just before service toss the bread cubes together with the tomato mixture and the chopped basil.  Drizzle with Olive Oil and toss until all is moistened.  Garnish with a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar.  Serves 8.

If you follow her recipe exactly, this panzanella provides a transporting mix of textures and flavors. Over the years, though, variations have crept into the panzanella I make. The biggest change currently is that instead of white flour French or Italian bread, I use  either seeded whole wheat bread or whole wheat walnut levain, breads I make from the Della Fattoria Bread cookbook http://dellafattoria.com. I love the way the wheat, seed and walnut flavors meld with the sweetly acid tomato flavors.

The recipe technique of thoroughly moistening the bread cubes with olive oil then tossing them with grated Parmesan and toasting at high heat works wonderfully with this more hearty bread. For tomatoes, I often use juicy full-sized tomatoes like Cherokee Carbon or Cherokee Purple in addition to cherry tomatoes. The extra juice in these larger tomatoes soaks into the toasted bread cubes, softening them but not making them mushy. Sometimes I omit the red onion and use chives or instead of onion use a little chopped garlic but I always use basil. And because high summer tomato flavors are so complex and wonderful on their own, I often omit the red wine vinegar and the balsamic and rely instead on tomato juices for the acid. Despite these many variations that have evolved over the years, I still think of this panzanella as Christina’s and am grateful to her for sharing it. It’s a perfect way to celebrate the peak tomatoes of summer.

Fava Bean Salads

Friends who like fava beans joined us for dinner this week and I took the opportunity to explore new ways to serve these rich, flavorful beans.  My fava crop is a little late this year because I planted late so the mid-August timing for a fava-themed dinner was good.

My quest for new recipes began, as it sometimes does, with a search of the New York Times Cooking site.  Entering “fava bean recipes” yielded lots of inspiring titles and photos of fava bean purees, salads, pasta sauces, soups, stews and risottos, and, most useful to me, names of the recipe authors so I could go to cooks whose recipes I’ve liked in the past.  David Tanis, Melissa Clark and Martha Rose Shulman are three favorites.

Imagining salads for this summer meal, I was drawn to David Tanis’s recipe for Burrata With Fava Beans, Fennel and Celery as well as to a favorite Tanis recipe I’ve made before: Fresh Multi-Bean Salad with Charred Red Onion.  Offering more inspiration, Martha Rose Shulman’s Green Bean and Fava Bean Salad With Walnuts also combines favas with green beans, and her Rainbow Quinoa Salad With Fava Beans and Herbs suggests a tasty pairing of favas and quinoa.

As often happens when ingredients overlap among recipes, I started combining recipes. Inspired by Shulman’s pairing of favas and quinoa, I decided to serve Tanis’s Fresh Multi-Bean Salad with Charred Red Onion on a bed of red quinoa. Another change I made to the Tanis recipe was to sauté the fava beans in olive oil, garlic and chopped rosemary until they were soft rather than adding them raw.  I like the sharp, earthy flavor of raw fava beans but sautéing brings out a deeper richness that worked well with the sweet bean flavors of the cooked pole beans.

Fava, beans, charred onions

As also often happens, I substituted some ingredients.  I wanted to make Tanis’s Burrata With Fava Beans, Fennel and Celery, but I don’t have any celery in my kitchen garden. Remembering a salad of Golden Beets with Fava Beans and Mint I’d made from from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, I substituted yellow beets from my kitchen garden for the celery, peeling the beets, cutting them into ½ inch cubes and steaming them.  I left the favas raw for this salad.  The combination of the slightly bitter raw favas with the deeply sweet yellow beets and finely sliced sweet fennel was perfect dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and tossed with the creamy burrata.

Fava, beet, fennel salad

Finally, beginning the meal with favas, I made a simple fava bean purée for an appetizer, serving it with raw sweet peppers for dipping. I followed Alice Water’s recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables.

Fava puree and peppers

3 lbs. fava beans

1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine

1/4 bay leaf                       

1 small sprig rosemary           

1 sprig thyme

1/2 lemon

    1. Shell the favas discarding pods. Boil a large pot of water and blanch the favas for 1 minute. Drain and plunge in ice water. When cool pop the favas out of their skins.
    2. Warm 2/2 cup olive oil in a sautee pan. Add beans and salt. Add garlic, the herbs sprigs and a splash of water. Cook favas at a slow simmer stirring occasionally 30 minutes till they are completely soft. Add a splash of water if the beans begin to dry out.
    3. When they are done discard the herbs and mash the beans to a paste with a potato masher or puree in a food processor. Taste for seasoning and add lemon juice. If paste is at all dry add additional olive oil. Oil is an important part of the flavor so don’t be stingy. Serve at room temperature with slices of grilled baguette.


While these fava salads would make fine meals on their own, for this shared meal they complemented our friend Anne’s very delicious poblano chili relleno, stuffed with potato and cheese and topped with a spicy tomato sauce, all the vegetables in it from her garden.  High summer gardens are great inspirations for dinners with friends and we’re looking forward to more of these dinners as late summer slides into autumn.

 

The First Eggplant of Summer

I was checking the eggplant in the plastic greenhouse the other day, hoping I’d see a few small, dark purple vegetables forming among the lavender blossoms of the Galine and Diamond plants.  Instead, to my great surprise, I found, nestled in the mulch beneath the robust green plants, some really big eggplant.  Yikes!  I know it’s been warm, but I really hadn’t expected eggplant this soon. Dinner suddenly included eggplant.

Eggplant growing

Eggplant counter

Harvesting five big purple globes and bringing them to the kitchen, I turned the oven on to 475 and cut the largest two lengthwise into wedges.  I arranged the wedges on a sheet pan, brushed them generously on all sides with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and, when the oven reached 475, I put the pan in the oven.

Eggplant wedges raw

Eggplant roastedTwenty minutes later, the wedges had softened into creamy, sweet and slightly smoky eggplant flesh.

Half of them went onto our dinner plates, a perfect side dish for basil pesto on linguine, sugar snap peas and Orange Paruche cherry tomatoes.  We ate dinner outside, celebrating the start of high summer meals.

Eggplant dinner

I put the remaining roasted eggplant into the Cuisinart to make a spread I discovered a few years ago.  This Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread is one of the best reasons to grow eggplant.

Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/charred-eggplant-and-tahini-spread

  • 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin

     Toasted sesame seeds

 Preheat oven to 475°. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with ¼ cup oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.

Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and top with sesame seeds.  Makes 1 and ½ cups.

Eggplant spread

There are a lot of other reasons to grow eggplant. From the remaining eggplant from this first harvest I made grilled eggplant, dried tomato and goat cheese pasta sauce from Jack Bishop’s Pasta & Verdura, 140 Vegetable Sauces for Spaghetti, Fusilli, Rigatoni, and All Other Noodles (1996).

Bishop 1

Bishop 2

Bishop 3

Eggplant pasta

Looking ahead to more eggplant harvests, there’s eggplant pizza, our favorite summer pizza, and for a dinner party or even just the two of us, Ottolenghi’s eggplant stuffed with lamb and pine nuts from his cookbook Jerusalem (2012).  Finally, as the tomatoes and peppers ripen, there is caponata, the perfect summer stew.  And with any excess eggplants, I’ll keep making the Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread, great on sandwiches for lunch, on crackers or appetizers or simply by the spoonful.

Some of my Favorite Cookbooks

Earlier this month, a Lopez Island Kitchen Gardens blog reader wrote: “You should do a post on your favorite cook books…I’m always looking for new and different ways to cook vegetables.”  At her suggestion, I started to make a list of the cookbooks I go to regularly for recipes and inspiration.  I didn’t even need to look at my cookbook shelves to make this list because these writers are so much a part of my kitchen, some of them, as the publication dates I added later reveal, for over two decades.

Cookbooks favs

Alice Waters: Chez Panisse Vegetables(1996)

Deborah Madison:The Greens Cookbook(1987) Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone(1997), Vegetable Literacy(2013)

Yotam Ottolenghi: Plenty More(2014)

Nigel Slater: Tender(2009)

Georgeanne Brennan:Potager(1992)

Viana La Place: Verdura(1991)

Nancy Harmon Jenkins: Flavors of Tuscany(1998)

Marcella Hazan: Marcella’s Italian Kitchen(1986)

Jack Bishop: Pasta e Verdura(1996)

There are a lot of reasons that these books made my short list. They are all either vegetable-focused, like Madison’s, Waters’s, Ottolenghi’s, Slater’s, LaPlace’s and Bishop’s, or they have excellent sections on vegetables as do Hazan’s and Jenkins’ Italian cookbooks.  I can count on opening the table of contents of any book on this list and finding some inspiring ideas for cooking whatever vegetable I’ve brought in from the kitchen garden.

They are all strong on technique, introducing each recipe with an informative paragraph or two and then providing clear, step-by-step instructions.  Alice Waters, in Chez Panisse Vegetables, also offers what she calls snapshot recipes: “narrative descriptions that leave much to the imagination and intuition of the cook.” Characterizing her book as an “album of possibilities for vegetables,” she says that these snapshots are scattered among more formal portrait recipes that list specific quantities of ingredients and step-by-step instructions. (p. xx)  Actually, all of the recipes I love in the books on my list leave room for imagination and intuition, substitution and variation, making the cooking experience even more creative.

These books also vary in their organization.  The most common is by courses, making it easy to focus in on recipes for vegetable soups, side dishes or main courses. Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables, Nigel Slater’s Tender and Bishop’s Pasta e Verdura are organized alphabetically by vegetable, clustering all of the recipes for one vegetable together for easy study. Georgeanne Brennan’s Potager is organized by season, an inspiring pattern for a year-round kitchen gardener. Yotam Ottolenghi organized Plenty More by cooking technique—tossed, steamed blanched; simmered and braised; grilled, roasted and fried; and mashed—a pattern that I’ve grown to love because of the way it helps me think about each cooking technique.

Cookbooks 1

Cookbooks 2

Overall, the books on this short list and the recipes I turn to in them as well as recipes in other cookbooks on my shelves reveal a lot about the flavors and techniques of my cooking. Olive oil or butter, garlic, salt, pepper and maybe red pepper flakes are about as complicated as I get with seasonings.  Roasting or sautéing are my default techniques.  My goal is to let the flavor of the particular fresh-from-the-garden vegetable stand out. This approach means I’m missing out on the more complex flavors of Asian and Indian cuisines, a lack I sometimes think about addressing.  From Ottolenghi, though, I’m getting a helpful nudge in the direction of the Middle East. Thanks to his creative recipes, cumin and coriander, tahini and yogurt based sauces are a bigger part of my vegetable cooking now.  Who knows, maybe one of these years my palate will advance beyond West Coast and the Mediterranean and my cooking will get there too.  Maybe I need to get some more cookbooks or better yet, travel farther east!

Chard Flower Buds

Each spring I look forward to harvesting, cooking and eating the flower buds that form on overwintered kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and red mustard.

Kale top Red Russian

Before their buds burst into yellow, bee-attracting flowers, these members of the Brassica family provide us with tasty side dishes and pasta sauces. Last week, as we were sharing a meal of sautéed red mustard leaves and their spicy flower buds with weekend guests, my friend Chris asked me if I’d ever eaten chard flower buds. No, I said, and wondered why I’d never considered the flower buds of this other overwintered green.

In the kitchen garden a few days later, I looked more closely at the flower heads that were forming on the bolting, overwintered chard plants.

chard tops garden group

Unlike the tight, broccoli and broccoli raab-like buds on kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and red mustard, these chard buds looked shaggy, loose and seedy, more like amaranth than the Brassica family buds I was used to harvesting.

chard tops garden closeup

This different appearance makes sense because chard and amaranth are members of the Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae). But were the Goosefoot flower buds as edible and delicious as the Brassica buds?

Curious to know if other people harvested and cooked chard flower buds, I searched the Internet and found a July 29, 2009 blog entry titled “Eating Whole Food: When Chard Bolts,” by Deborah Madison, the chef and vegetable cookbook author whose inspiring work has guided my cooking for years. She describes surveying her bolting chard and deciding to cook and eat it instead of composting it: “True, it didn’t look much like the chard you buy at the store—no big fleshy leaves, here—but why assume what filled my arms wouldn’t be tender and tasty?”

Her account was all the encouragement I needed.

chard tops basket

I harvested a basket of chard flower buds and took them to the kitchen where I rinsed them, wilted them in a covered skillet, keeping an eye on them to see how long they took to soften. After five minutes, the thin stems and leaves and the shaggy blossoms were tender and delicious, tasting sweet and earthy like new chard. I added some chopped garlic and olive oil and sautéed them for a few minutes more before serving them.

With lots more seed heads forming on my bolting chard plants, I’ve been using them in other favorite chard recipes. One night I made Scafata, a mixture of fava beans, onion, tomato and chard from Viana La Place’s still-inspiring 1991 cookbook Verdura.

Scafata recipe

I used fava beans I’d frozen last summer, tomatoes I’d roasted and frozen and the last red onion, sautéing these together before adding the chard stems and flower heads. The flower heads softened and blended into the favas, tomatoes and onions, creating a sauté of complementary flavors and textures.

chard tops scafata.jpg

I served this flavorful sauce over pasta garnishing it with lots of black pepper and coarsely grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Last night I combined more chard flower buds with another set of flavors I often use with big chard leaves. Sautéing the chard buds in olive oil, garlic and shallots, I next added yellow raisins and red pepper flakes, and then served this sauté as a side dish garnished with toasted hazelnuts.

chard tops rack

chard tops raisins hazelnuts

I also look forward to making the recipes Deborah Madison describes in her blog post: wilted chard “leaves, stems and flower clusters” tossed with “cilantro, which I love with chard, lemon, olive oil, sea salt, pepper and little extra lemon juice for acid.” She adds that any leftovers can be a salad the next day or go into a pita sandwich or a fritatta or be mixed with beans. So many possibilities.

There will be more chard meals in the next week or two before these flower buds bloom and the plants finally go to the compost. My thanks to Chris for making me curious and to Deborah Madison for inspiring me! Now there’s another flower bud to look forward to each spring.

Early Spring Salads

The early spring kitchen garden continues to offer salad greens from the sturdy plants that provided greens throughout the winter. Arugula, red mustard and kale all came through the cold snaps of December, January and February and now with the longer light of March and April are sending out new growth.

Arugula is starting to bud and blossom but the new leaves that are growing too are tender and spicy.

Spring arugula 4.18

Red mustard is sending out succulent-stemmed, horseradish-spicy leaves.

Spring mustard 4.18

And kale, the year-round champion, is bursting with sweet, tender leaves.

Spring kale 4.18

We eat kale salads for lunch nearly every day and lately we’ve been adding red mustard leaves to the bowl, their hot crispness a perfect balance to the tender sweet kale. Olive oil, a little salt, fresh lemon juice and grated Pecorino cheese meld the flavors of the two together into a perfect salad.

Spring mustard, kale 4.18

Spring kale mustard salad

Arugula makes a great salad with the same dressing, but for the past few months, I’ve been using Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for arugula with roasted red onions and walnut salsa from his 2014 cookbook Plenty More.

Red onion Walnut salsa recipe

It’s so good! The thick slices of red onions roast, soften and caramelize. Redwing is my favorite storage onion, a variety I’ve grown for years. Served warm over a bed of arugula these roasted onions are delicious and beautiful and would be a fine just with the arugula, but what really makes this salad is the walnut salsa. Modifying Ottolenghi’s recipe slightly, I marinate minced garlic in red wine vinegar with a little salt for an hour or so then add coarsely chopped walnuts and finely diced poblano peppers I’d roasted and frozen last summer. Thawed they are perfect for this salsa.   Flavors of sharp vinegar, pungent garlic, crunchy walnuts and spicy poblanos make a salsa that I’m happy simply to eat with a spoon. Tossed into the salad it’s great too. Another modification I make is to use much more arugula than the recipe suggests, making this a dinner salad rather than an appetizer.

Red onion walnut salsa salad

These early spring salads are exactly what we need as we wait for warmer weather and the first lettuce of early summer.