Spring Pesto (or, what do to with all those greens!)
Ingredients: 8 cups leafy greens (arugula, spinach, green garlic, orach, kale, asparagus etc.) 6 tbs tahini 1 lemon salt to taste 1/4 -1/2 cup oil
1) Put two cups of leafy greens in food processor or blender. Blend greens until coarsely chopped. Add more greens and blend, repeating until all greens are coarsely chopped. Scrape down bowl as needed.
2) Add tahini, lemon juice and salt. Blend fully incorporated with greens.
3) Continue blending the greens and slowly drizzle olive oil into mix. Taste pesto as you go to decide how much oil you want to add.
4) Enjoy! Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge or months in the freezer.
DANDELION SALAD with HERBED SUNCHOKE CROUTONS
Ingredients:Colander full of dandelion greens 3 c. cubed sunchokes 2 cloves garlic 1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme 2 tbsp. Olive Oil 4 heads of Garlic Dressing ¼ c. Balsamic Vinegar ¼ c. Olive Oil 3 tbsp. Dried Tomatoes Salt/Pepper to taste 1 tbsp. thyme 1 tbsp. chives
Method: Harvest and soak greens in a bowl of cold water. Preheat oven to 375—Clean and scrub sunchokes, then chop into small crouton sized squares. In a bowl, cover Sunchokes with thyme, garlic, and olive oil. Spread thin on a pan and roast in the oven for about 45-55 minutes or until the sunchokes have caramelized. Make use of the oven while the sunchokes are roasting to roast the garlic. Cut the tops off the heads of garlic and drizzle a little olive oil in them. By the time the sunchokes are done roasting, so should be the garlic.
Dressing: In a jar, combine ¼ c Olive oil, ¼ c Balsamic Vinegar, 1 Tbsp. chopped chives, 3 Tbsp. crushed dried tomatoes, 1 tbsp. minced chives, salt and pepper to taste and shake.
Assemble salad: Spin clean dandelion greens; add hot sunchoke croutons, roasted garlic, and dressing. The heat from the sunchokes will slightly wilt the dandelion greens. ENJOY!
Optional Garnish: roasted hazelnuts or crumbled feta or blue cheese
Eat Your Greens!
Every Northwest gardener must become well versed in the delicious and healthful world of greens. Kale, chard, beets, turnips and mustards are some of the easiest crops to grow here, and as you garden into the fall and through the winter you’ll find that these plants just keep on giving. But they will give the most and keep from bolting when picked and enjoyed regularly. Lucky for us, greens are also some of the simplest and most versatile vegetables in the kitchen. Here are some ideas:
Raw! Are you eating plenty of fresh salads? The greens that many people consider “cooking greens” are also colorful, interesting additions to raw salads. For a finer texture, slice out the central rib from the leaves, finely chop and toss in with your lettuce and favorite dressing. If you find summer greens to be a bit bitter or strong-flavored, you can also temper them for a few minutes in lemon juice, vinegar, or pickle brine before adding to your salad. Real greens lovers skip the lettuce altogether!
Steamed! Perhaps the easiest way to cook greens; I regard a big plate of steamed greens as real convenience food. Place an inch or two of water in the pot under a steamer basket, add chopped greens, lightly salt and pepper and add a tablespoon of butter or oil. Three to seven minutes of boil will do it, depending on what sort of texture you enjoy. You want your greens to still be bright in color, browning indicates vitamin loss. I am a lazy cook who also loves some crunch in her dinner, so I leave the ribs in for cooked greens.
Warm salad! Start with a little high heat sautee of garlic, walking onions, and small amounts of your vegetables of choice—carrots, beets, turnips, summer squash, broccoli, etc. After just a couple of minutes, begin adding chopped greens to your pan, salting and peppering lightly as you go. Add more greens as they cook down. Pull from heat when greens are wilted but still bright in color. The whole cooking process takes about ten minutes. Yum!
Dried for later! Got greens coming out your ears? They are also very easy to dehydrate if you want to save them for later. Blanch greens by steaming for one or two minutes, just until the color brightens. Spread evenly on dehydrator trays and check for dryness after 6 to 12 hours. Greens are finished drying when crisp. Fully cool and store in cool dry place in an airtight container. I crush dried greens into just about anything when camping and backpacking, and they are great for instant miso soup at home. They take just a few minutes of simmering to rehydrate, and even less if you soak them for 30 minutes to an hour first.
Any old way! Making curried lentils? Vegetable soup? Coconut curry? Stir fry? Enhance just about any one-pot meal with the addition of finely chopped greens in the last few minutes of cooking. Experiment and enjoy!
Raw Kale Slaw
This Spring salad uses local, over-wintered vegetables and a simple fresh dressing. Greens that are over-wintered taste sweeter than their main season counterparts and provide fresh vegetables very early in the spring. Some gardeners pick their kale or collards all winter long.
1 bunch kale, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped. (About four cups loosely packed.)
1 medium Chioggia or gold beet, grated. About 1 cup loosely packed. (Feel free to substitute red beets, especially if you like pink dressing! Chioggia and gold beets are milder in flavor and keep their colors to themselves.)
¼ Cup tahini, raw or roasted. I prefer the rich flavor of roasted tahini.
3 Tablespoons lemon juice.
2 Tablespoons water.
1 clove garlic, finely minced.
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced.
Salt and pepper to taste.
For the dressing: Whisk tahini and lemon juice with a fork until thoroughly combined and thick. Add water, 1 T at a time and whisk until smooth. Stir in garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.
Drizzle dressing over chopped kale and grated beets, toss, and enjoy.
Optional embellishments/substitutions: Fresh oregano or rosemary, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or chopped hazelnuts.
What are Rapini?
If you have any kale, collards or other Brassicaceae overwintered from
last year, you may notice small clusters of flower buds that look like
little broccoli florets. (In fact, they are – broccoli is a kale that
has been bred for gigantic flower clusters, and to produce them in the
first season rather than the second. )
These flower clusters are called raab or rapini in European cuisine,
and are a real treat. They first appear in early spring, and grow
faster as the weather warms. Don’t pull the plant out! Pick the
rapini as they appear, daily if possible, and they will continue to
feed you for about a month.
Your earliest rapini will be mild, more like broccoli; as the season
progresses the shoots will have a stronger, delightful mustard flavor.
Raw, they are spicy, but like mustard greens, mellow with cooking.
Harvest with a quick flick of your thumb and forefinger, or cut with a
thumbnail. Any stem you can harvest this way with a clean break will
be tender and not stringy. Nibble on a bit of one you think broke
cleanly to be sure your standards are high enough. For the best
flavor, harvest as close as possible to dinnertime.
Braised Rapini with Green Garlic
On low heat, warm a skillet or wok with about 2 Tbs. of your favorite
cooking fat. This recipe is most delicious with good olive oil,
another reason to keep the heat low.
Cleaning rapini: other than a quick rinse, they should be ready to eat.
Green garlic: Pull like a leek. Cut off roots. If the new stalk is
wrapped in an old squishy clove, peel it off, leaving the clean,
scallion-like center. Rinse. Trim and compost any brown or yellow
leaf tips. Cut green leafy top, mince, and add to warm oil in pan.
Saute about 5 minutes. Mince rest of garlic, add to oil and stir;
saute another 5-10 minutes.
When the garlic is still bright green and fills your kitchen with a
tasty but mild garlic aroma, toss in the rapini. The water left from
rinsing will steam them gently while they saute. Stir and cover.
Check after no more than 5 minutes. When rapini turn bright jade
green and slightly limp, they are done. Serve and enjoy immediately.
If you wish, a sprinkle of lemon juice or black pepper will enhance the flavor.
Rachel’s Favorite Dressing
All these measurements are approximate – vary proportions and
substitute ingredients to suit your taste and what you have available.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
handful of fresh sage leaves, minced
Combine all ingredients in a 12-16 oz jar. Shake well and let stand
at least one hour to meld flavors. Shake again right before serving.
This dressing will keep for weeks on the counter and indefinitely in
the refrigerator – though it will likely be eaten up much sooner.
It just keeps getting better with time.
Serve over salad, bread, beans, rice, cooked vegetables, you name it.