think green: as in leafy, beans and herbs

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:

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

How You Can Join in Summer Fest:

So now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Wednesday, July 28, for five Wednesdays, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.

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.

  1. Alice says:

    You had me at “polenta” and “garlic” – can’t wait to try your recipe for farinata! It sounds delicious.

    I recently discovered a new green at my farmers market that just happens to be a weed. It’s called lamb’s quarters and is a close cousin to spinach. It might be a little tricky to find but the search is worth it – it’s very tasty and so, so good for you!


  2. Thank you for all this great information. I’m with you on preserving those herbs! I’m working on a short series of posts on the topic, starting with my recently decanted dill and lemon basil vinegar, tarragon vinegar and preserved tarragon leaves. Part 2 involves preserving sage in salt, my all time favorite.

    Here are the links to the posts.

  3. Christina says:

    I love this concept of sharing and blog-hopping! Great idea! This is my first week and I already can’t wait for next year. My recipe is for a fresh herb sauce for a grilled chicken and also a grilled vegetable salad with herb vinaigrette.

  4. Sarah says:

    My garden is abundant with beans and herbs this time of year! Here’s my favorite ways to eat them . . .

    Green Beans with Balsamic Tomatoes, Bacon & Basil

    Mojito Melon Salad featuring fresh mint, lime and honey

    Dilly Beans, perfect for stirring Bloody Mary’s!

    And, of course Pesto, which we eat on everything!

    one of my family’s favorite use for pesto is as the base for a quick ranch dressing (I do have two little ones after all!)

    Thank you for hosting Summer Food Fest! I can’t wait to see the other contributions!


  5. Wow!! Margaret your post was so full of wonderful information – thank you!! (Now I know the secret as to why my Oregano never tasted right!!) I’ve frozen pesto and parsley but haven’t tried the other herbs – great ideas!!!
    Here’s my contribution to Summerfest 2010 – a simple dish of Green Beans with Tarragon Vinaigrette

    I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

  6. Fran says:

    Love the beauty of your garden and the calm your site exudes. I created a post using herbs and spices from this week”s market bounty here: http://frantasticfood.com/?p=6479

    And I’ve got a tip for freezing — I picked up the Baby Beaba individual portion serving tray at Williams-Sonoma (yes, I work there) and have used it for months to freeze broth and pesto and other goodies I used to use an ice cube tray for. These are BPA free containers that allow you to push the frozen liquid out into a storage container or bag and back into the freezer for future use. It’s one of the most useful items I have in my kitchen.

  7. Matt says:

    @Alice: I doubt most people with a garden would have trouble finding lamb’s quarters. It’s the longest lived seed in the soil seed bank. Disturb the soil of our yard and it pops up all over the vegetable beds, Yum!

  8. Kim says:

    At Flexitarian Foodie, we’re into beans and greens—together, or separately! Here are a few of our favorite related posts:

    Beans & Greens: The Soup

    Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

    Avocado and Black Bean Enchiladas (my favorite!!!)

  9. Margaret, this is such a great summer fest post. Thanks for covering so much & cleverly in one post. We love pesto sauce in our house. It is so simple to prepare and very versatile. I have never tried a Farinata, but I sounds like something I would enjoy.

    Here is my recipe for this weeks Summer Fest, I highlighted Basil:
    Grilled Cheese Bruschetta

  10. We’re chatting about preserving herbs over at Simple Bites! Everything from when to pick, to drying and freezing – we’re trying to capitalize on summer’s abundant crop and store it for winter.

    Don’t miss out on the comments section either where our very savvy readers swap tips. My favorite? A working girl who dried herbs on trays in her car as it sits in the sun all day. Brilliant!

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