Saturday, February 21, 2009

mmmm, do you wonder about greens?

In order to make this a pleasurable, useful experience for you as well as me, I'd love to read any questions or thoughts that you have about green leafy vegetables. Send your questions, your ponders, your inspiring words or recipes. We'd all benefit!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Dream of Endive

An unseasonably warm Springish gust has blown across my home this week in mid-February. This combined with the incredibly bright full moon has been inspiring some great creative projects. Nothing like a taste of Spring to motivate experimentation. 

So walking into the coop on Monday, I was struck by a beautiful big bunch of a  curly, curly light green vegetable and recognizing it as curly endive, I decided that this week would be the week of endive play. 

Up until this week, I have had little experience with this green. My only memorable experience of eating this vegetable was as slimy green strands in a salty chicken soup. Not a grand memory. Endive is a leafy green that belongs to the daisy family. It's soft like lettuce but unlike lettuce, it is often cooked. It is also called frisee and is often used in French, Italian, and Bavarian cooking. 

Europeans often eat curly endive as a raw salad so that's where I began my experimentation. Actually, I ran into a lovely friend at the coop and she and I began the raw endive experimentation by chomping down a big leaf like little hungry bunnies. As a raw salad green, endive is bitter which makes it an excellent spring cleansing plant but not the most enjoyable eating experience unless you are particularly partial to bitter tastes. To counteract the bitter, you could also add sweet elements to your salad such as roasted beets, walnuts, and sliced pear. If you're a cheese fan, goat cheese would be nice.

The next morning, I decided to toss some curly endive into a little omelette. That proved to be a delicious way to enjoy curly endive. Just like spinach, rip of a few leaves of curly endive and add them to your eggs for just two-three minutes until they're wilted, but not slimy. 

Traditionally, endive is often added to bean soups as a final step in the preparation of the soup. Because it was so warm this week, I did not venture into the soup realms, but I did discover a delicious way to enjoy endive.

Here goes:

Pesto Tempeh with Sauteed Frisee'
(Quick and easy!)
Serves 2-3:

Bunch of Curly Endive or Frisee
1 large onion
1 package of tempeh
2 tbs olive oil
2 carrots
3 tbs pesto

Begin by chopping your onion, carrot, and tempeh into bite size pieces. 

Wash and chop or rip curly endive into bite size pieces. 

Heat 1-2 tbs olive oil in a large skillet on the stove.  Add onions to the skillet and sauté on medium until they begin to turn translucent 2-5 minutes. Add carrots and then add tempeh and continue to saute. Add pesto and toss to evenly coat and lastly, add frisee and saute for a final 2-5 minutes until the frisee is bright green and wilted but not limp and slimy. 

Serve over your favorite grain...quinoa, millet, couscous or try eating it over spaghetti squash for an added veggie kick. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

To Those Songs of Intermingling Greens

To those songs of mixed, up, chopped up, intermingling fermented vegetables. Sauerkraut, kimchee, cabapplefennelwonder. Of krauts, we sing today. 

St. John of the Cross wrote of the power of mixing body and spirit:

Your body is a divine stream,
as is your spirit

When your two great rivers merge, one voice is found
and the earth applauds in excitement

Shrines are erected to those songs 
and the hand and heart have sung 
as they served
the world

with a love, a love
we cherish

Stretching the mystic stream a bit, I'd like to introduce you to the simple process of mixing greens (cabbage in particular) with time and and a good dash of quality sea salt, resulting in such unique, surprising, intriguing melodies that you just might have to start writing ecstatic poetry. 

Fermentation practices can be found in cultures around the world. Not only does fermentation preserve food, but in many cases it introduces incredibly healthy bacteria into your system like lactobacillus, it makes food more digestible, and it's tasty! In fact, almost all of our delicacy foods have been fermented: coffee, chocolate, tea, cheeses, bread, wine. Fermentation is a grand, expansive world. If this whets your curiosity, check out a totally informative, fun, and practical book on the subject: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.  Your kitchen will be full of bubbling jars in no time. 

But for now, here's a little lesson on fermenting a satisfying, hearty green: cabbage.

Sauerkrauts are palates for great creativity. Pretty much any fruit or vegetable can be added to a vegetable ferment. 

For the most basic sauerkraut recipe, here's how you do it.

Sauerkraut: Fuschia style

1 head green cabbage
1 head purple cabbage
Salt: big kosher salt is nice as is sea salt

Shred or chop up your cabbage in to fine pieces. Put in a large mixing bowl. Shake a good tablespoon salt on top of the cabbage each time you empty your cutting board into the bowl...say three times...three tablespoons of salt's not a hard science, play about, it'll turn out well.

Then use a hard object like the base of a mason jar or a potato smasher, to hammer the cabbage in the bowl. This breaks down the cell walls of the cabbage, allowing the juices to flow forth. Keep beating for a few minutes.

Then, pack all of the cabbage into a big, gallon-size widemouthed jar or a ceramic crock and pack it in there as tight as possible. Pack it and press it. Pack it and press it down. 

Then you have a choice, you can either find a lid that fits inside the jar's mouth and place a heavy object like a rock or large can of artichokes on top of the lid/plate that's resting on top of the cabbage inside of the jar and this lid will keep pressing the cabbage down, inviting it to release it's juices and become a healthy bacterial garden or.... you can add a little bit of salty water to the kraut so that it just covers the top of the cabbage and swear each day to walk over to your kraut and press  the cabbage down underneath the water level..making sure it remains tamped down. 

In both cases the crock should be covered with cheesecloth and a rubberband or a towel and rubberband to keep little unwanted crawling things out.

Let it sit on top of the fridge for a few days to a few weeks...taste every so often . If it develops mold on top, just scoop out all the mold. The layers below should be fine. As soon as it ferments to a level that you enjoy, place the jar in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process and enjoy.

Again, pretty much anything can be added to a vegetable ferment: in classical kimchee, chiles, napa cabbage, shredded carrots, and ginger spice up the jar. Radishes, broccoli, and bok choy are nice. 

My favorite variation so far has been newly named the 

Cabapplefennel WonderSwirl
Try it out!

1 head purple cabbage
2 stalks of fennel
2 green apples
1 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
Caraway seeds (1-2tbs)

Chop up all the veggies fine. Use the soft, whispy leaves of the fennel stalks. Mix it all up and put it all into a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of sea salt. Pound the veggies to encourage co-mingling and then pack it all in a jar. Choose either to add a little salt water or place a plate and rock on top of the mixture. Check it each day to make sure that the cabbage is underwater. 

Enjoy in 3-12 days or more! Put in the fridge when it tastes good to you!

Let your imagination soar for as Rumi says," What will our children do in the morning if they do not see us fly?" 

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Year Bok Choy

Happy Chinese New Year 2009, the Year of the Ox has arrived. The moon has retreated inward, a breath of savory introspection. 

In honor of this beautiful transition into a new year, I thought we could celebrate a beautiful chinese green.

Bok Choy is also a member of the cabbage family like kale and collards. However, as you can see, it's appearance is quite distinct and lovely. Both the bright green leaves and the white stalk are edible. The leaves are mild and can be eaten raw or cooked, and the stalk is a delightfully watery and refreshing. It's reminiscent of celery minus the stringiness. It too can be eaten raw or cooked. 

There are actually over 20 varieties of Bok Choy and smaller varieties are especially valued for their tenderness. Bok Choy is delicious chopped up in a miso soup or stir fry or finely sliced to add crunchiness to your fresh rolls and kimchee. 

I just finished spending a lovely weekend cooking for a group of spiritual activists and my fellow chef and I used Bok Choy in a recipe for a delicious Oriental Soba Noodle Salad which follows here. Prepare it for lunches this week!

Oriental Soba Noodle Salad

Inspired by the Esalen Cookbook

Prepare buckwheat soba noodles according to their instructions. Soba noodles take about 8 minutes to cook. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Lightly saute in 2tbs. olive oil 

1 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs. minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 cup chopped button mushrooms
1 cup snow peas, chopped in half
2 cups bok choy, sliced into thin ribbons

Toast 4 tbs. sesame seeds on the stove in a dry pan....just a few minutes of toasting on medium heat until they turn brown and smell deliciously nutty

Place sesame seeds in small mixing bowl and add
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup olive oil
5 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice- 1 fresh squeezed orange
1/4 cup maple syrup
5 tbs. tamari

Whisk it all together

Toss soba noodles, vegetables, and dressing in a pleasing bowl and enjoy!

Happy Year of the Ox.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The State of Greens...Collards in Particular

Much of my motivation in penning this blog is a desire to help restore the knowledge and usage of green leafies in this world. On most restaurant menus, one is lucky if they can find romaine lettuce, spinach, and the occasional sprig of kale for garnish. Frustrating for the greens enthusiast.

However, I had an awakening journey last week in which I realized in some parts of the United States, the culture of greens eating is still very much alive. 

So last week, I had the incredible privilege to ride around Alabama and Georgia in a bus of students, teachers, and professors dedicated to learning the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement, preserving the stories, and applying the principles of Nonviolence. In the spirit of this journey, we of course consumed a lot of soul food. 

I was delighted to discover the propensity of greens on the soul food restaurants' menus. Collards were the most popular with few showings of mustard and beet greens. 

Collard greens belong to the brassica family and are a large, strong leafy green. They grow with great fervor all over the Southern United States as well as in Spain, Africa, Brazil, Portugal, and Kashmir. Although they will grow for much of the year, folk wisdom says they taste best when the sparkles of frost have graced their dark leaves. They're of course, incredibly nutritious, and have long been a staple of southern cuisine. 

During slavery, slaves were often forced to feed themselves from the scraps of their white masters. These scraps included pig's feet, ham hocks, hog moss (pig's bladder) and so these were tossed in with a pot of collards to create a nutritious, tasty stew. The mineral rich juice is called pot-likk0r and makes an excellent tonic. The collards that we met on our tour were similarly cooked with hunks of meat...pork fat back mostly. I didn't see any pig feet or bladder although that would have been interesting. Sometimes collards are also prepared with a bit of brown sugar or vinegar. If you come upon a co-op down South, your collards might be prepared with shoyu, tamari, or maybe a bit of miso.

In ethiopian cuisine, collards are sliced thin, steamed, and then scooped up with a bit of fermented flatbread called injera. This is my favorite way to eat collards. 

So next time you're at the store, look for a bunch of large, flat dark colored leaves. Take them home, wash them thoroughly. Then roll them up, and slice them into strips...fine strips or thick strips. Toss them in a steamer basket, steam for 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle on a bit of sea salt, squeeze half an orange and see how you like collards plain and simple.  

Mmm, hooray. The culture of collards is alive and well.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eat More Kale

I come from a family of tall, blonde German Lutherans. Stable and predictable, we've enjoyed the same Christmas dinner for as long as I can remember: fairly dry turkey, stuffing, cranberries (still holding their can shape, of course), french cut frozen green beans with little slivers of almond, Pillsbury crescent rolls, iceberg lettuce salad, pureed squash, mashed potatoes, and gravy. And oh yes, jello. Green jello with canned pears and strawberry jello with canned peaches. Must not deviate. Spices are lacking. Salt is minimal. Plain, simple, and predictable. 

This year, I decided the time was ripe for innovation. I was tired of leaving the table feeling stuffed but somehow still lacking nourishment. So, I turned to my favorite green, the one that inspired my fascination with the green-leafys, to pump up the nutrient density of Christmas dinner. I made a roasted kale and sweet potato salad. It's an extremely simple dish which can be served hot or cold and is quite palatable especially for the green-wary. 

Kale really is an incredible vegetable. It belongs to the cabbage or brassica family, and just one cup of kale provides more than enough beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K for  the whole day. It's also a great source of Vitamin C, calcium, and iron.  To learn more about the many health benifits of kale, visit Whole Foods, the World's Healthiest Foods link. 

Kale is also quite an important part of much of the world's cuisine. In Northern Europe, the Germans, Irish, Dutch, and Scottish have created festivals, named kings, and taken cross-country tasting tours to honor this fine green. In Southeastern Africa, kale is enjoyed boiled in coconut milk and eaten over rice or cornmeal. In Japan, kale juice is popular, and in South America, shredded kale accompanies many traditional dishes. Colcannon, kale and potatoes is favored by the Irish and amazingly kale and sweet potatoes was quite favored my my large family of plain-eating German Americans. 

As the dish made its way around the table, with its vivid green and orange hues bright and beautiful against the red tablecloth, I watched as everyone politely took a bit to pacify their strange, foody niece/daughter/granddaughter. I slight grin may have come to my lips as I watched the many hands reaching back for seconds and exclaiming with significant surprise, "Hmph, this is good." Some did just pick out the soft, salty sweet potatoes, I must admit, but the kale got eaten too! Roasting kale is simple and tasty. Try this recipe tonight.

Roasted Kale

One bunch of kale
Tbs. Extra-Virgin Olive oil
tsp. Salt (Kosher salt or sea salt is best)

Preheat oven to 400 F

Wash kale (any variety will do) and remove the major stem that runs down the center of the leaf. My favorite way to do this is to hold the leaf upside down in one hand and with my other hand, strongly run my fingers along the stem, separating the leaf from the stem. I then, rip the kale up into smaller pieces as if I were preparing it for a salad. 

In a large bowl, I then toss it with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle on a teaspoon of salt and voila, it's ready to be put in the oven. 

Spread the kale out on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven for about 5 minutes. It's ready when it turns bright green, gets soft, and starts exuding the wonderful odor of cooked green vegetable. If you let it stay in the oven a little longer, sometimes the kale will begin to get a little crispy. This is a tasty way to eat roasted kale. See what you like. 

Roasted kale can be added to the kale and sweet potato salad below, added to a soup or casserole, or eaten plain. It's delicious!

Kale and Sweet Potato Salad


Bunch of kale
Large White or Yellow Onion
5-7 sweet potatoes
3 Tbs. Olive oil
2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 F

Thinly slice sweet potatoes and onions. Toss with 2-3 Tbs. Olive oil and 1-2 tsp. salt in a large bowl so that the olive oil is evenly coating all the vegetables. 

Spread in single layer over cookie sheets and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until onions are transluscent and sweet potatoes are soft and starting to grow spots of brown and black. 

Prepare kale as described above separately from the onions and sweet potatoes. 

Toss roasted kale and sweet potatoes together in a beautiful bowl and enjoy hot or cold!

Greens and Me

My love affair with greens began out in the dirt with a big yellow colendar in one hand and a pair of orange-handled scissors in the other. My mom would send me out to the vegetable garden in our Midwestern backyard all set to cut enough lettuce for a supper salad. I would skip out to the garden and settle in to cut the tops off the silky bibb and romaine lettuces, shaking off some of the dirt as I went. Although this job only required a few minutes of concentrated effort, the garden was a place for dreaming and I would get lost in imagining myself as Laura Ingalls Wilder, living off the land in the fertile plains of Iowa, or I would become a wise, healer woman who was harvesting her herbs for magic potions. Eventually, my mom would call impatiently from the back porch, and I would quick snip a few more greens, grab a handful of parsley and chives, and head in for dinner. I never associated greens with the gooey, tasteless mashes that come out of a can or the freezer.

Although, we grew greens in our garden every year, my midwestern family was not too experimental in our greens growing and so my childhood green intake was limited to a variety of lettuces and some spinach here and there. However, I feel extremely lucky because I never associated greens with the gooey, tasteless mashes that come out of a can or freezer box. Instead, greens were alight with the fresh green magic of the garden.

When I went away to college with a blossoming interest in nutrition and holistic health, the scope of my love for greens expanded. I started frequenting the local organic market and was intrigued by this dark, tough leafy green which I soon identified as kale. I started eating daily salads of this stuff with lots of carrots and sprouted nuts. Due to the enormous amount of the nutrient, carotene, in both the carrots and the kale, my skin started to take on a noticeably orange hue. When I came home for Christmas, my horrified mother made me promise to cut down on my kale and carrot intake. I was hooked on greens though and the world of healing through nature.
In order to pursue my passion, I decided to leave my middle of the road college in the Midwest and journey west to Seattle to study natural medicine. My mom and I drove across the country together and when we finally reached my new school, nestled on the bank of Lake Washington, surrounded by the tall, lush majesty of the Northwest forests, we got out of the car and walked into the school’s courtyard. The gardens were planted with masses of decorative kale, and I knew that I had found the right place.
Because of Seattle’s damp, temperate climate, greens thrive throughout much of the year. Every time I went to one of Seattle’s many excellent farmers’ markets, I got to meet new greens. Chards, kales, spinaches, collards, and mustard greens became good friends. My second year in Seattle, my childhood fantasies of living off the land were reawakened in full force when I began learning about wild greens but that story if for another time.
This blog is dedicated to glorifying the green leafies. Greens are jam-packed with nutrition, flavorful, diverse. They add great texture and are just beautiful. I realized a few days ago at Christmas when I brought a roasted kale and sweet potato salad to dinner and my cousin, Kelly, with eyes wide with surprise, said “Wow, this is really good. What is it?” that we just don’t know enough about greens. So, it is my hope to journey with you and learn all that we can about the greens of the world. We’ll learn about the diversity, the nutritional benefits, how to grow them, and most importantly, how to prepare them in a delicious, delectable ways. Please post questions, comments, wonderings, ponderings. Let’s celebrate greens!