Archives for posts with tag: salads
photo depicts fresh lettuce in colander with Buddha looking on.

From the Winter Garden. Photo by Kuya Minogue.

Today The Kale Chronicles features a guest post from Kuya Minogue of Creston, British Columbia, who shares what she has learned about winter gardening in her locale. Kuya and I met at a Natalie Goldberg writing retreat in New Mexico. When I saw a Facebook post of hers on harvesting greens from her winter garden I asked her to share her garden story with you. Although it is May and not winter in the northern hemisphere now, perhaps it will allow some of you cold-climate gardeners to plan next year’s winter garden. You can find more of Kuya at zenwords here.

When it’s twenty below Centigrade outside and the garden is buried under four feet of snow, it’s hard to imagine that under the plastic cloches and row covers in the greenhouse beds, the spinach, lettuce, chard and cilantro that I seeded in late August are lying dormant, waiting for a warm day to awaken them from their winter hibernation. But it only takes a few warm days in mid-winter to bring them out of sleep and into a delicious and completely alive salad.

photo of spinach growing in Creston, B.C.

Spinach in January. Photo by Kuya Minogue.

Last year, we had a week of above zero sunshine in Creston, BC where my winter garden lives, and by the end of that week, when I removed the cloche from the spinach bed, I found salad ready greens. The leaves were thick and juicy. There’s nothing better than a garden fresh salad in January, and the amazing thing is that all it took was one plastic snow-covered cloche to keep the plants alive and a few warm days to make a salad. When the weather turned cold again, I recovered the spinach and it lived through another two months of frost.

In that January warm spell, when I looked at the lettuce under the row cover inside the greenhouse, the leaves were so withered that I thought that winter had taken them. But by the first week of March, the lettuce had revived, and by the second week of April, we were eating fresh spinach and lettuce salads straight out of the garden. I was afraid the lettuce would be bitter, but only the outside leaves had the taint of winter. The butterball at the centre of the plant was crisp and fresh, and tasted like summer.

I don’t like to mix my first collection of winter salad greens with store bought tomatoes, cucumbers or avocado. I prefer to sprinkle winter garden green onions and a handful of garden-fresh cilantro over the greens, and to make a lemon and olive oil dressing that has a squirt of liquid honey and tamari sauce, and a sprinkling of minced garlic from last year’s garden. From first bite to the last, I’m transported to the warm days of summer.

Hardy greens survive the winter too: chard, kale and a chinese vegetable whose name I don’t know are ready to eat by mid March. By mid April, they are so prolific that I invite anyone who comes to the Zen Centre to meditate or do some yoga to take a mixture of these greens and some winter garden onions home with them so they can clean them, cut them into bite size pieces and then stir fry them in sesame seed oil, lemon juice and tamari.  The cooking greens are also delicious if I simply steam them and eat them with a little butter.

painting of picked mixed greens in colander, Buddha image.

Buddha with Greens from the Winter Garden. 8″ x 8″ Gouache and Watercolor Pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

I learned about winter gardening when one of my Zen students, a horticulturalist, offered to give a Winter Gardening Class at the zendo. Having lived through many years of Canadian winters, I was skeptical when we seeded the beds in late August and then put them under cover in mid-October. It just seemed impossible that anything as delicate as spinach or lettuce could survive the winter. But I was wrong. Even in Canada, we can grow greens in the winter and eat garden-fresh salad in the spring. If we can do it here, you can do it anywhere.

 

 

Advertisements
painting depicts salad, varierty of citrus fruits.

Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn DImmick

What do we eat in January? The reds of the summer and late fall have given way to orange and green. Citrus is pouring in from the farm box, from the market, from my sister-in-law’s orange tree. Lemons and limes are ripening in the yard. This week’s box from Riverdog Farm featured a red Kabocha squash (which is a deep shade of reddish-orange), two pounds of oranges, one and a half pounds of mandarin oranges, a couple of leeks, rapini, spinach, two celery roots and a pound and a half of potatoes.

First up, I stir-fried the rapini in olive oil with garlic and squeezed a lemon over that. We ate it with roasted delicata squash seasoned with ginger, lime and an apple cider reduction made from the last of a bottle of cider. We had a slice of heated up ham, which Mom splashed a little maple syrup on at the last minute. We each ate a slice of homemade whole wheat bread. I peeled a tangerine for dessert and Mom cut half an orange into quarters. I watched as her face puckered and volunteered to use the other half of the orange in salad dressing tomorrow.

I first saw this vinaigrette recipe in the farm newsletter, where it was reprinted from the Sun-Times. I have adapted it to use a variety of citrus and I’ll make it from now until citrus fruits fade out in the spring to be replaced by strawberries. While the original recipe called for canola or safflower oil I like to use peanut oil, which goes well with the Asian flavors of ginger, sesame, rice vinegar and tamari.

Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

Juice and zest 1 orange or 2 tangerines or 2 blood oranges or any combination into a bowl, bottle or cruet.

Add

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp tamari

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp honey

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1/2 tsp kosher salt

black pepper to taste

minced chives, scallions or green garlic, depending on what you have

Whisk in

1/4 cup peanut oil (or add it to jar and shake vigorously).

Toast

2 Tbsp sesame seeds in a skillet

Now, make a salad of winter greens: spinach, arugula, lettuce, watercress — whatever you can get. If you can’t get fresh greens, you can slice up napa cabbage on a mandoline. Add slivered carrots, cabbage, sliced fennel, radishes. Throw in roasted peanuts or almonds if you like. Segment your favorite citrus fruits. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and reserved sesame seeds.

Food notes: You can also eat this vinaigrette on cooked greens or Brussels sprouts. If you are allergic to peanut oil, substitute another oil that you like. Tamari is a wheat-free soy sauce, not as salty as standard soy sauce.

Painting note: This painting is a little blurry because it is a photo of a photo — the original is in a private collection and is more vivid and well-defined.

January is citruslove month. Which makes sense in the Northern Hemisphere at any rate. There is a citrus love recipe posting project. The hash tag is #citruslove. More about it here.

Now, Lauren of PrinceProductions has kindly awarded me another blogging award, Food Bloggers Uncovered, just to make sure I start the New Year off right. She posted ten questions to answer:

1.   What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

After struggling mightily over how to launch a website and what would be on it, I was talking to my friend Neola and she said, “Why don’t you just write about food? You could write about what vegetables you get and what you do with them.” Neola knows I am passionate about seasonal eating, that it actually pains me to see recipes containing basil and tomatoes in January.

2.   Who is your foodie inspiration?

I have had the good fortune to eat at Greens in San Francisco, at Chez Panisse and Ajanta in Berkeley, and at Joseph’s Table and The Love Apple in Taos, New Mexico. The chefs at those restaurants, Alice Waters, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and Michael Pollan’s books have influenced me mightily. The produce from Riverdog Farm has forced me to stretch my cooking muscles, and increase my versatility and look for ways to render a variety of greens delicious.

3.   Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?

The old Betty Crocker Picture cookbook, which is where I go when I have a question about anything basic (substitutions, cooking methods, standard dishes). I like it that it has tabbed sections for yeast breads and pies as well as main dishes, meat, poultry. Read more about the cookbooks I use the most here.

4.   Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

It would have to be in Paris in the winter where I ate coquilles St. Jacques, a poached pear and the best white bordeaux I have ever tasted, perfectly matched to the food.

5.   Another food bloggers table you’d like to eat at is?

I would like to dine with Susan Nye when she is cooking lobster, dine with anyone who likes to cook lamb, sit down to an Italian meal with John of the Bartolini Kitchens. Greg of Rufus’ Food  and Spirits Guide can make the pre-dinner cocktails and perhaps the bread pudding and you can all submit selections for the dessert cart. Are you listening, Linda? Get out the cheesecake! And I want to know what Christine of Angry Cherry is baking as well. Sally can bring the bread.

 6.   What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

We have a KitchenAid, but I would like the heavier-duty model, please.

7.   Who taught you how to cook?

Mom taught me the basics, including the pie crust, and then I started collecting recipes and techniques and ideas wherever I found them: learned to cook a few Indian and Thai dishes from college roommates, copied flavors I had had in restaurants, watched people cook on T.V., and read lots and lots of cookbooks.

8.   I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?

It depends on the season. Turkey and apple stew, perhaps, or posole (without the kale!). Served with home-baked bread and a simple pudding or pie. Or green curry of anything. Or something Indian served with cucumber raita, whole wheat tortillas and chutney: chicken biryani or Indian-style black-eyed peas from the Ajanta cookbook.

9.   What is your guilty food pleasure?

My secret love of these processed foods: Cheez-Its (original flavor), barbecue chips, and Golden Grahams, which they might as well call candy.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

I refuse to eat a number of common foods: mayonnaise (I don’t care who makes it or if you call it “aioli”), avocado, hard-cooked eggs, most organ meats, tuna. I also refuse a number of delicacies: pate, sushi, oysters, caviar, Brie.

Finally…tag 5 other food bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on.

No, no. We live in a democracy. Take it upon yourselves to answer these questions, or tell your friends about them. Alright, I nominate Granny Wise of Granny’s Parlour because I want to hear how she answers the questions. Who else? You know my favorites already. There’s Eva and Betsy and John, who doubtless have all been nominated for this before. I know, let’s give another award to Jane at ArtEpicurean. Done.

painting depicts Canary melon, limes, chile paste, peanuts and fish sauce

Canary Melon Salad 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil, Sharyn Dimmick

Those of you who know me well know I am iffy about melons: I like watermelon and ripe honeydew, but I O.D’d on orange melons sometime after childhood. When I get a new melon, it is not necessarily a day of rejoicing. Wednesday’s CSA brought a rather large and spectacularly yellow Canary melon. I had never tasted one before. To make matters worse, my mother does not eat melons of any description, except for a token piece of watermelon on the hottest of days.

I got a sneak peek at the melon on Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market because they were giving pieces away at the Riverdog Farm stand. It was very sweet, floral or perfumy, complex and not orange: it was a melon I could eat.

In the schizophrenic weather of Northern California October I am cooking posole in the morning for a hot lunch and wishing I had gone swimming by mid-afternoon. After thinking about it for six days I knew what I was going to do with the ripe melon: I would fix it Thai-style with chile paste and fresh lime juice and some fish sauce and eat it on a bed of arugula, also featured  in the farm box.

As I sliced and seeded the melon, I tasted it again. It was really sweet. After I cubed each slice into a bowl, trying for bite-sized pieces, there was a lot of juice in the bottom.

I took another bowl, added a dollop of chile paste from my trusty jar, squeezed a lime into that and  added a touch of fish sauce. I tasted the dressing. Pretty good. I combined the dressing with the melon and tasted it again. Hmm. Could it use more lime? Try again to be sure. At this point I was standing at the cutting board tasting rapidly. Yes, It could use more lime. I cut another and squeezed in half of it. “More,” the melon said, “More.”

I ended up using two limes’ worth of juice in the salad. And I tossed in two packets of honey-roasted peanuts leftover from my last Southwest Airlines flight. I ate every bit of this in my large salad bowl and drank all of the juice from the bowl and am happy to say that I have enough melon and arugula left to make another batch for lunch tomorrow (or the next time it turns hot).

Canary Melon Salad with Arugula, Lime and Chile Paste

Slice and seed 1 Canary melon. Cut it into bite-sized chunks.

Wash and dry enough arugula to give each eater a portion of salad.

Make a dressing of a dollop of chile paste (up to 1 Tbsp if you like heat. 1/4 tsp if you are wary of chilies), plus the juice of 2 limes and a splash of fish sauce. (It helps if you taste the dressing with a piece of melon and a leaf of arugula to know what you are getting).

Toss arugula with dressing and remove arugula to individual salad plates or bowls or a family-style platter. Pour remaining dressing over melon and toss. Pile melon on top of arugula. Garnish with whole or chopped peanuts to taste.

Food notes: I meant to garnish this with Thai basil and/or mint as well, but I never made it out to the yard to pick any. But if you have more discipline than I do by all means add either herb. I might like this with cooked shrimp or prawns, too, or even grilled beef, or coins of sausage.

Painting Note: I was uploading the painting and realized I forgot to paint the arugula. Oh well. Artistic license.

Next Week’s Treat: Next week “The Kale Chronicles” will feature a guest post by painter Suzanne Edminster who will share with you her recipe for poached pears with goat cheese.

painting depicts Greek salad and ingredients

Greek Salad 8"x8" watercolor pencil and gouache Sharyn Dimmick

One of my friends wrote to me yesterday and asked me to address the issue of cooking and eating well when you are a household of one. I live in a household of two and I usually cook for both of us, but I used to live alone and cook for myself.

What makes you happy depends on your tastes: I do not mind eating leftovers — if I make something yummy I will want to eat it again and again. Some people want to eat different things everyday. If you are a person who craves freshness and innovation, some dishes are made for you. It is easy to prepare an individual salad, a bowl of pasta, an omelet, a plate of scrambled eggs, a sandwich, or a quesadilla. You can vary the ingredients by choosing the best of what you like that is in season: right now is a good time to put corn in quesadillas, zucchini in omelets, cucumbers in sandwiches and salads and peppers and tomatoes in everything.

In Northern California it is ideal to make Greek salad while tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are in season. You’ll need at least one tomato, cuke and red bell pepper, more if you want a larger salad. Other than that, all you need is feta cheese, a jar of kalamata olives and the ingredients to make a vinaigrette: olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, dry mustard, salt and pepper.

I make my simplest vinaigrette by drizzling some olive oil over my salad ingredients. I don’t measure it — I just drip some on and toss the greens or vegetables. Then I take a small measuring cup out. I add to it one clove of crushed garlic, a large pinch of hot mustard, ground black pepper, a dash of salt and a tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar. I stir that up and dump it on my salad. Toss again. Then I taste it by picking out a leaf of lettuce or a piece of cucumber. Can I taste every ingredient? If you go easy on the salt and vinegar in the first pass, you can always add more. I like quite vinegary dressing (My friend Valentine says salad dressing gets sharper as you move from East Coast to West Coast and I was born here in the west).

When I make vinaigrette for Greek salad, I like to add the juice of a lemon, especially a home-grown Meyer lemon from the front yard. I add it just after I toss the salad with oil. I also keep the salt to a few grains because both kalamatas and feta are salty.

Food notes: You can use any kind of cucumber in Greek salad. I like Armenian cucumbers best because you don’t need to peel them, but I have made the salad with lemon cukes, English cukes, pickling cucumbers and the standard supermarket variety. You can use bell pepper of any color, or gypsy peppers. You can use full-sized tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or grape tomatoes — I use what I have, but my favorites are little orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes right off the vine. I like sheep’s milk feta better than goat’s milk feta, and I prefer French or Greek feta to others when I can get them (but a lot of my feta comes from the cheese selection at Grocery Outlet). Do use kalamata olives — canned black olives will not deliver the punch here. Leftover kalamatas keep well in the refrigerator. I like the clean taste of kosher salt, but you can use what you like.

Variations: In full summer, I sometimes add watermelon chunks to Greek salad. It’s not for everyone. If you are cautious, put a bowl of watermelon chunks on the side, transfer just one piece to your salad plate and see what you think.  If it doesn’t work for you, save the watermelon for dessert. Want more spice? Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to your salad and toss well.

Greek Salad for One

Slice or chop one cucumber, one red bell pepper, and one tomato or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes into your salad bowl. Crumble in feta cheese to taste. Add some pitted kalamata olives (if you halve them, they will go further). Drizzle salad with olive oil and toss. Squeeze half of one Meyer lemon over salad. Toss again.

In the bowl of a measuring cup, make a vinaigrette of one small smashed clove of garlic, a Tbsp or two of red wine vinegar, a few grains of salt, a pinch of hot mustard. Stir together. Grind in some black pepper. Toss it into your salad. Taste and adjust.

It’s wonderful to eat this with a sourdough baguette to soak up the dressing — I “clean” my salad bowl with bread when I am done. If there are any leftovers (there shouldn’t be), they’ll be good for lunch tomorrow.

Painting Note: For information on “Greek Salad” or any other original painting, please contact me here.