IAM UP TO MY KNEES IN GREEN(S)—chard, arugula, and beans (sometimes yellow-green!), with kale coming on. I’m also up to my ankles, or at least toes, in deliciously lovable green frogs (Rana clamitans, a native species here). The amphibians seem to be sticking close to my home, where a few backyard pools and ceramic troughs provide respite in dry times. The botanicals do best near my sprinkler, which I’m moving every two hours practically 24/7, hoping to be fresh looking for today: Herbs, Greens and Beans Week of our 3d annual Summer Fest, a giant cross-blog recipe swap featuring nonstop green. Welcome!
Confession: I’m an Herb Cheapskate
IHATE SPENDING $1.49 OR EVEN 99 cents for a bunch of herbs, when all I ever need is a few springs at a time. And so I try to strive for herbal self-sufficiency, using simple tactics of growing and storing all the herbs I want all year—mostly in one of two basic frozen forms.
You can make a “pesto” (as in: a sauce of crushed herbs) with many of your green garden flavors. Not just parsley (above), but sage, basil, rosemary, chives and garlic scapes will work—and probably more, using a little water or oil to semi-liquefy the harvest. I’m putting up some cilantro and dill, using both the ice-cube and rolled “log” tactics below, as a test this year, too.
The recipes and how-to’s:
- Garlicky Green Ice Cubes. (How I make and freeze 365 days of basil pesto, and other herb pestos, too.)
- Will the Real Oregano Please Stand Up? (What a confusing herb this is! If your homegrown oregano tastes like dirt, here’s why.)
- Growing, and Storing, a Year of Parsley. (A step-by-step slideshow on making fresh-tasting frozen “logs” of herb leaves, and other tricks.)
A Life Lived With Leafy Greens
AFTER 30-PLUS YEARS of vegetarianism and vegetable gardening, I think I should automatically qualify as a greens expert, no? I’ve eaten, and grown, more than my share.
Some of the greens I grow—like kales—taste best after a touch of frost, and so I wait hungrily, making myself happy with spinach, pak choi, sautéed chard and then more spinach and such meanwhile. When the time is right, though, there’s an old-style peasant Italian recipe called Farinata that I like to incorporate kale or cabbage into on the first cold nights—and many that follow.
Note: This is not the chickpea-flour flatbread, Farinata di Ceci, but a polenta dish sometimes called Farinata di Cavolo Nero (meaning of black cabbage, also known these days as ‘Lacinato’ kale or ‘Dino’ kale in seed catalogs—the unfrilly, dark-green type with the elongated leaves). You can use any kale, or as I say cabbage or another green if you prefer, to make this Italian peasant porridge that’s quick, filling and perfect for those of us who consider such things as soupy polenta to be comfort food—and also love garlic. Count me in on both scores.
The recipe I use is for the very simplest of versions (others have added vegetables or even cannelloni beans). It was inspired by something a friend scribbled down from the old public-television show “Cucina Amore.”
½ lb. kale or cabbage
6 cups water or vegetable broth (if the broth is salted, or you like a lot of Parmesan, adjust salt below)
1½ teaspoons sea salt
¾ cup polenta (cornmeal)
½ cup grated Parmesan
4 cloves minced garlic
½ cup olive oil (with extra for garnish)
Bring salted water (see above note) or stock to rolling boil.
Meantime, wash and chop the vegetables; I use a coarse chiffonade cut, removing the toughest stem bits.
Simmer the greens until just slightly tender, just a few minutes; remove and set aside, but keep the water going. (Note: If I am using tender young greens, I do not pre-boil them, but simple fold them in toward the end of the polenta cooking to wilt.)
Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
Cook until creamy.
Fold in the minced garlic, grated cheese and the oil; remove from heat.
Serve in bowls garnished with more oil and pepper.
More greens ideas:
GREEN BEAN SEASON IS HEAVEN here; what could be easier to grow, cook, combine, or consume? I eat them on everything–and some are pure gold.
They go in soups, of course, like minestrone, and I gently steam them and toss the inch-long pieces into pasta or brown rice with red sauce, or pile them over baked potatoes with lots of butter. Leftover cooked beans can be refrigerated and tossed into tomorrow’s salad, with a vinaigrette. You get the idea: nonstop beans (provided you pick daily, or your plants will stop producing, and also provided you succession-sow).
And then there’s this possibility:
The Loveliest Greens of All
THIS CRAZY GUY lost the race for domination in the bigger water features here in my garden, so he got smart: He moved from a 10-foot-across pool where a bigger male got all the chiquitas to a 3-foot-long ceramic trough right near my door, and has yelled all night the last month to get a chick (er, female frog). Match made; everyone’s happy ever after (well, except me those first loud nights after his move, when he was advertising his new circumstances extra-loud: Frog Love For Sale!).
This Week’s Summer Fest Links
- White on Rice Couple Todd and Diane use fresh mint to make homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.
- Nicole at Pinch My Salt features Green Beans with Balsamic Browned Butter.
- Food Network UK is on the edge with herbs and greens.
- Caroline at the Wright Recipes is cooking up Wax and Butter Bean Herbed Salad.
- Alison at Food 2: Leftover Herb Solution (Pesto!)
- HealthyEats has the Top 6 Herbs.
- Cooking Channel offers up the Best Bean Salads and a French Take on Greens, Beans and Herbs.
- Food Network Dish has the “other” summer greens.
- Jennifer and Mark at Gilded Fork have a virtual garden of recipes
for basil, cilantro, fennel, lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, sage and tarragon.
- Shauna and Danny at Gluten Free Girl and the Chef will serve up homegrown fava beans.
- Tigress in a Jam has a preserving–book giveaway, and ways to put up greens, beans, herbs.
- Caron at SanDiegoFoodstuff talks about Kale and Feta Empanadas and roasted Romano Beans.
- Alana at Eating From the Ground Up has shirred eggs with fresh herbs: the affinity between eggs and herbs.
- Cate at Sweetnicks has Fresh Green Bean Salad with Herb Vinaigrette.
- Kelly at Just a Taste makes herbed fresh ricotta.
- Tara at Tea and Cookies whips up Clean Out the Fridge Fritatta.
- Paige at The Sister Project has Aloha Pesto (yes, all the way from Hawaii).
- Judy at Tuscan Diva makes an Italian herb blend.
How You Can Join in Summer Fest:
Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. Yes, copy and paste them everywhere! That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.
Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites.com).
The 2010 Schedule:
- Wednesday, July 28: CUKES AND ZUKES. Read it here.
- Wednesday, August 4: CORN. The details.
- Wednesday, August 11: HERBS-BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (any one or both/all, your choice).
- Wednesday, August 18: STONE FRUIT.
- Wednesday, August 25: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?
- And then…more, more, more if you want it (potatoes? sweet potatoes? root veggies? winter squash?). You name it.
And in case I forget what week it is, won’t somebody remind me on Twitter? Thanks. We’ll be talking it up there, too.
That’s how a Summer Fest works.