Tag Archives: green vegetables

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Lima Beans . . . Yum?

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my Nana told me that she loved lima beans when she was my age.  Then she paused briefly before going on to say, “But they just don’t taste the same anymore.” 

No wonder.  The lima beans of my Nana’s adulthood — and for all of my childhood —  were either the salty canned variety or the insipid frozen kind. 

While I never turned my nose up at lima beans, I never really embraced them, either.  That is, until, I found them at my farmers market, fresh and still in their pods. 

Now I finally understand why Nana once loved lima beans.

Lima Beans . . . Yum?

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Size Doesn’t Matter

New York and New Jersey farmers are seem to be geniuses when it comes to growing foods that one doesn’t associate with the northern half of the East Coast.  One of those foods is artichokes.  Native to the Mediterranean region and climate, most artichokes grown in the United States come from California.  The East Coast variety are much smaller than those grown on the West Coast, but they’re every bit as delicious.  In fact, because their chokes — the fuzzy, inedible part at the top of the heart — is underdeveloped, they’re far easier to clean and eat than their western cousins . . . proving once again, perhaps, that size doesn’t matter.

Tiny Artichoke

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Surprise!

I was away from home last week, working on the other side of the country.  When I returned, a visit to my farmers market was very near the top of my “To Do” list.  Once there, I found the summer produce season at its peak, and amaranth, corn, lemon cucumbers, sweet onions, green garlic, chilis of every variety, baby eggplant, carrots, zucchini, okra, edamame, sugar snap peas, English shell peas, cranberry beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, cherries, blueberries, and countless varieties of tomatoes, all found their way into my cart.

I still have no idea what I will do with most of it, but I can hardly wait to find out.  I love a surprise!

Surprise!

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Shell Peas Shelled

I love eating fresh English shell peas.

And when I see them at the farmers market,

I always buy a big bagful.

Then I get them home.

And I look at them.

And I remember how long it will take to shell them all.

And I wonder what I was thinking when I bought so many.

But I sit down at the table,

Or I stand at the kitchen counter,

And I start removing the tiny peas from their protective shells.

And it never really takes as long as I fear.

And when I’ve blanched them in salt water,

And tossed them in a little butter,

And popped them in my mouth,

I remember exactly what I was thinking when I bought so many.

Shell Peas Shelled

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Edible Stonecrop

One of the things I love most about going to the farmers market is discovering new things to eat.  My latest discovery comes courtesy of Lani’s Farms, which sells edible stonecrop, commonly known to the average gardener as “sedum.” 

Slightly lemony and a bit astringent, these beautiful little plants are a surprisingly pleasant addition to any salad, and make a striking garnish on any fresh fish filet.  While not inexpensive, it takes only a few tiny plants to make your dinner guests wonder aloud, “Can you eat these?” And, when they try them and proclaim them delicious, you can enjoy hearing their praise as much as you enjoy eating the stonecrop.

Stonecrop

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Arugula Flowers

If I told you this was some kind of exotic bug, you might believe me. 

If I told you that it was some kind of prehistoric plant, you might believe me. 

If I told you that it’s my dinner, you might tell me I’m nuts. 

And I might be. 

But that has nothing to do with the fact that arugula flowers are delicious.

Arugula Flowers

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Less Can be More

Once upon a time, I would spend days preparing a dinner for friends.  A typical meal at my home included six courses served on my great-great grandmother’s bone china, and could take three hours to eat.  I spent more time working in the kitchen during dinner than I spent with my guests at the table.

When I moved from a single-family home in Chicago to a small New York City apartment, I left my heirloom china behind in my brother’s custodial care for my niece. As a result, my friends  now enjoy eating simpler dinners in my home, and I enjoy having more time to spend with them during the meals. 

The focus of a meal is no longer on the culinary skills I worked so hard to acquire and perfect.  Instead, our attention is on the incomparable produce and heirloom grains grown by local farmers, and the fresh fish or succulent piece of meat sold to me that morning by a local fisherman or rancher.  After all, a good cook without talented and dedicated farmers is like a writer without an alphabet.

It took me years of study and decades of practice, but I now understand that — more often than not — less can be more.

Swordfish & Sorrel Sauce

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Rainbow Chard

While standing at one of my favorite greenmarket stands, I overheard a couple speaking to each other while gazing at the rainbow chard.

“Look at this.  It’s absolutely beautiful,” one said.

“Yes it is,” said the other, “but I never know how to cook it.”

I apologized for eavesdropping on their conversation, and quickly explained that cooking rainbow chard is as easy as chopping it up and sautéing it with some oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and — if they liked — a squirt of fresh lemon juice.  Then, I promised them that it would be delicious.  They thanked me and bought a big bunch, as did I.

On my walk home, I wondered how many twenty-first century Americans believe they no longer know how to cook.  It’s a shame that our society has become so intimidated by the concept of turning on a stove, throwing some fresh food in a pan, and seeing what happens.  

So, if you think you may be letting fear keep you from expanding your culinary repertoire, buy something you’ve never bought before, bring it home, research a simple recipe or two on the internet, and give it a shot.  Chances are, it will be easier than you think, taste better than you expect, and give you a well-deserved reason to pat yourself on the back.

Rainbow Chard

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Hard Boiled Eggs

Recently, a woman selling me eggs at my farmers market apologized for the price.   At $6.00 a dozen, she felt they may be too expensive.  I assured her they were not.  What else can you buy for fifty cents that is high in protein, low in salt, sugar, and fat, and contains only about 80 calories?  Add to that the versatility of eggs, and they seem like a genuine bargain to me.   When I got home, I hard boiled a few and added them to some fresh salad greens, homemade croutons, and sliced red onion, and tossed it all together with some mustard vinaigrette.  It was delicious.  In fact, it was a lot tastier and healthier than a large coffee beverage that costs nearly as much.  So, the next time you hear someone complaining about the price of eggs, you may want to politely suggest that they think again.  

Bacon and Egg Salad

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Pea Shoots

With the weather still cold, and snowflakes falling as recently as yesterday, posting a photo of beautiful, fresh pea shoots could very well seem like a cruel April Fool’s joke.  But, thanks to Bodhitree Farm in New Jersey, the bowl of pea shoots I ate for lunch yesterday was no joke; rather, it was a delicious oracle of the bounty of fresh, spring produce that will soon grace our farmers markets and tables.  Happy April!

Pea Shoots

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Kale Stem Pesto

. . . And now, back to kale.  Not surprisingly, I had a bag full of kale stems left over after I stripped the leaves for kale salad and kale chips.  I could have composted the stems at my farmers market, which I often do, but I had so many stems this time that I decided to search the internet for a recipe for kale stem pesto. 

It’s a good thing I did. 

As instructed, I chopped and blanched the kale stems, along with a few cloves of garlic, before adding it all to my food processor with olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, red pepper flakes, sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and a big handful of organic walnuts — a gift from a dear friend with a walnut ranch in California.  I tossed the pesto together with fresh, homemade spaghetti and some spicy chicken sausage made on a local farm, then I topped it all off with grated Romano cheese from Tonjes Farm Dairy.  It was sublime. 

I doubt that I’ll ever throw my kale stems into the compost pile again.  

Kale Pesto

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Kale Chips

If kale salad isn’t your thing, perhaps you’re a fan of kale chips.  These addicting, crispy little snacks are a great way to get even the most finicky eater — child or adult — to eat green vegetables.  You can, of course, spend a small fortune purchasing them in plastic containers at your local health food store.  Or you can save yourself a lot of money and make them at home in almost no time at all.

Simply remove the leaves from the stems, wash and dry them thoroughly, toss them in a little olive oil (rubbing each leaf to make sure it’s very lightly coated), and sprinkle with sea salt (kosher salt will work, too)  and, if you like, pepper.  Then spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan or two (or three), and place them in a 350 degree oven for about 12 to 18 minutes, turning the trays around after about 6 or 7 minutes.  You’ll know they’re done when they’re translucent but haven’t yet begun to turn black. 

Try it, and I suspect you’ll discover that the hardest part about making kale chips is not eating them before they have a chance to cool.  

Kale Chips

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Kale Salad

A couple of years ago, raw kale — once much-maligned — became all the rage in almost every restaurant of note.  It was hard to find a menu that didn’t feature kale salad in one form or another.  In my opinion, its fame was long overdue, and my own version of kale salad has become a winter staple at Chez Ks.  A simple dressing of olive oil, shallots, anchovies, capers, preserved lemon, black pepper, and chopped dates, makes the chiffonade of kale appear almost translucent.  But it’s the irresistible taste that keeps me coming back for more as I patiently await the arrival of spring’s baby lettuces.

Kale Salad

 

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An Abundance of Riches

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that there’s no good produce at the farmers market this time of year, I’d be a very wealthy woman.   And if I had another dollar for every time I proved them wrong, I’d be twice as wealthy.

An Abundance of Riches