This week I’m sharing a recipe from Michael Rice of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. Each month or so Michael has been featuring one of his coffees and the country it’s from, along with a recipe from that country. Mad Priest’s mission is to “craft good coffee, educate the curious, and champion the displaced”. The coffee/country/recipe combination is one of the ways they are doing that. This month’s country is Laos, the coffee is Typica from Nongsamphan, and the recipe is for Beef Larb. Although the recipe contains some exotic ingredients, they are available locally and there are ingredients found at the market as well.
Quite a few ingredients can be found at market, in fact: beef, spring onions, mint, cilantro, cucumbers, and lettuce are available right now, though you might want to plan ahead and ask your farmer about such large quantities of mint and cilantro. Lemongrass may be available and hot chilies will be as the weather continues to warm up.
For the galangal and fish sauces you will want to try an Asian or other specialty store. Galangal is a rhizome, like ginger, but has a different flavor and a woodier texture. Find it at Asian Food and Gifts of Chattanooga, though I’ve heard it’s sometimes at Whole Foods as well. Or substitute fresh ginger. Ginger is always a nice flavor though it won’t be the same as galangal. Padaek is a fermented fish sauce and found at Asian gifts as well. If you love to DIY, recipes abound for this “lifeblood of Lao cuisine.”
And remember flowers for your table! Southerly Flower Farm is back at the market with spring flowers to brighten your table.
Photos by Zachary Cross
From Mad Priest’s website about Laos:
Laos has seen an incredible amount of upheaval and destruction since its independence from the French in 1954. The Laotian Civil War (the Communist Pathet Lao versus the Royal Lao Government) raged alongside the Vietnam War for many years, and by the end in 1975, around 25 percent of the population of Laos was displaced from their homes. Then the victorious Communist party cracked down on all dissention, and over the next two decades 360,000 Laotians (about 10% of the population) were forced to flee across the treacherous Mekong River to Thailand, from there resettling mostly in the US and France.
In the 1920s, the French first introduced coffee to the fertile Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos, but the decades of continual violence obviously took a toll. Most notably, American B-52s relentlessly bombed sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that snuck into the Laotian jungle, killed an untold number of civilians and contaminated many coffee fields with craters and unexploded ordinances. But since 1992, when the Communist regime began to soften its stance, there has been a quiet rebirth of coffee as farmers have returned and the region's wounded fields are once again producing world-class beans.
About the featured coffee:
Laos, primarily known for their Robusta coffee, has had a rough past with frosts and rust diseases. But a resurgence of Arabica beans and a push to infiltrate the specialty market has allowed crops like this one to make their mark!
100% washed Typica from Nongsamphan. Grown at 1100-1250 masl (meters above sea level), you'll taste a strong rhubarb overtone with a dry green tea finish. An interesting brightness and a full earthy body makes this coffee worth trying!
About Beef Larb:
"Larb" means "Good Fortune" in Lao, and this spicy, tangy, salty Laotian beef salad is sure to bring you some! It is a party in your mouth and a culinary journey into the essence of Laos. While Laotians eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world, they also love meat (sometimes raw) and fresh vegetables. Galangal (a rhizome similar to ginger), lemongrass, and padaek (fermented fish sauce) are prominent flavors in Lao Cuisine.
What you need:
What to do:
Place the beef in a bowl with all marinade ingredients, combine well, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat a wok or frying pan until smoking hot. Add the vegetable oil and wait until it smokes. Add the beef and toss for just a few minutes (Beef Larb is generally medium-rare). Place the beef in a large bowl and toss with the fresh and dried chillies, ground toasted sticky rice, spring onion, mint, coriander and lemongrass. Serve with cucumbers, lettuce, watercress, and extra fresh herbs. If you like it spicy, you can experiment with more chilies, lime, and fish sauce.
*To toast the sticky rice, place in a dry wok and stir over medium heat until dark golden, then pound to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or spice mill.
Printable recipe here
Flowering stinging nettles - photos by Zachary Cross
Eat stinging nettles? Who would want to do that? As it turns out, they can be eaten safely and they have both culinary and medicinal benefits.
Nettles are a springtime dish, best only until June in our climate. They’re a distant relative of mint and could be confused at first sight. Unlike mint, they are covered with hollow stinging hairs which can inject skin with chemicals if they are touched. These chemicals cause a stinging sensation. Interestingly, nettles are also a remedy for allergies as well as other autoimmune disorders. Whether eaten or drunk as an tea, the components that cause the sting can also help the body’s histamine and other inflammatory reactions to calm down.
Dead nettle is more closely related to mint than stinging nettles. It gets its name from its resemblance to stinging nettles but without the sting it is “dead.” Like stinging nettles it has medicinal and culinary value and is found at the market in season.
Stinging nettles are also full of nutrients, including a high level of protein for a green. They can be added to a mix of greens in a sauté, in a soup, in very green baked goods, or as pesto. Cooking takes away the sting and makes it safe to eat. However, folks come from all over the world to enter the Nettle Eating Championship in Dorset England and see if they can eat the most amount of the raw, still stinging plant.
Watch out for those stingers!
If you’re not interested in the sting you’ll want to handle your nettles carefully. Your farmer may have already washed them for you - ask! If not, wash them like any other green, but use tongs or a pasta server to transfer them from the water. I’ve read that soaking them in water takes away the sting, but I’ve always parboiled. Three to five minutes is plenty of time to neutralize the stingers. Save the cooking water and drink it as a spring tonic, alone or mixed with another herb tea like mint. If you are not accustomed to nettles, start small! Drink just a little per day at first and work your way up. Nettles can be somewhat laxative, and the dose varies from person to person.
Once your leaves are not a hazard, you can add them to any meal you’d use spinach in. The flavor is equally mild but I find the texture to be lacking. I typically mix it with other spring greens if I’m using it in a sauté. I was excited to try nettle pesto as I figured that would eliminate any issues with the texture. This recipe is from Suzanna Alexander of Alexzanna Farms and is very flexible. Use nuts and cheese you have on hand. I substituted green garlic, too, for the regular garlic. A great thing about nettle pesto is its color. Unlike basil pesto it stayed a bright green, even after a few days in the refrigerator.
Note again that nettles can have a laxative effect. This is not usually a problem with the small amount of pesto used in a pound of pasta. It’s so yummy, though, beware the temptation to eat a whole bowl of it as a dip!
From Suzanna Alexander, Alexzanna Farms
4 cups fresh nettle tops - roughly chopped
⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup nuts of your choice (I used ½ almonds, ½ pecans in my last batch...yum!)
2-6 cloves of garlic according to taste
¼ cup Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
(Remember: Parboil nettles for 3-5 minutes, drain.)
Put all ingredients into food processor and process until creamy, making sure all the nettles are incorporated. That’s it! What an incredible taste!
Not only is it good on the traditional pasta, but the pesto makes a wonderful spread on toast or crackers. Also good as a dip. (Note from Heather: watch your portions till you know your tolerance level!) It freezes well.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
Often on the blog I post other people’s recipes that I’ve found online or in cookbooks or elsewhere. Sometimes they’re tweaked and sometimes as they are written. I do come up with my own recipes once in a while, whether on purpose on by accident.
This recipe was definitely a happy accident. One evening I had market ingredients I wanted to use, looked at a cookbook or two, and just threw a few things together. At supper Jeffrey asked, “is this the blog recipe this week?” I said no and he said it should be. All right, then! I made sure to write down what I did right away so I could remember it.
The ingredients I especially wanted to use that night were shiitakes and pea shoots. In the past I’ve had pea shoots that were trimmings off of regular pea vines, but these were very young plants grown in soil. Pea sprouts grown in water are also available. They all taste like peas. I’ve found that pea trimmings from the vines get woody very quickly, so use those within a day or two of market. The shoots grown in soil, otherwise known as microgreens, were tender and tasty after quite some time in the fridge. Although, like most vegetables, their nutritional value is highest right after cutting, you can be certain they will be usable for longer.
Microgreens are fairly new on the food scene. I see recipes online going back as far as 2009 but presenting them as something new. They are grown both for their taste, much like the mature plant in a compact and tender form, and for their nutritional value, up to 40 times greater than mature plants. The definition of microgreen is a pretty loose one. They’re older than a sprout and have at least their first set of true leaves. They’re usually going to be smaller, though, than the greens sold as baby greens. A more complete description can be found here.
Because the shoots have a pea flavor, I looked in my cookbooks at pea recipes - I don’t think any of my cookbooks have pea shoot recipes. In Vegetables Every Day I came across a recipe for a side dish called Peas with Onion and Mushrooms. That gave me the basic idea to saute an onion and the shiitakes and add a fresh herb garnish at the end. From there I decided to make it more of a main dish, adding tempeh, and making the flavors more Asian with fresh ginger and cilantro.
Although the flavor combination in this recipe is excellent, it’s still a flexible recipe. For instance, tempeh is not currently a product available locally (The Farm was growing soybeans and making tempeh back in the 70s and 80s, at least, so it is possible!) Chicken breast is a logical substitute, and would be prepared similarly, though I have not tried this variation yet. I did try substituting Pacific cod from Wild Alaskan Seafood. I cut it into small chunks and added it at the very end instead of the beginning. It only needs to be cooked briefly, until it begins to get opaque. I’ve also substituted green garlic and leeks for the onion. Any available green can be substituted for the chard. A quick-cooking green such as any baby green or any spinach will cook the same as chard. A tougher green should be parboiled so it can be ready quickly in the sauté.
The basic flavor should be pretty consistent whichever variation you choose. Sometimes I like to use soy sauce or one of San-J’s gluten-free sauces in a sauté or stir fry but for this recipe I chose to leave them out. I like the way the flavors of the ingredients shine through: alliums, ginger, and the nuttiness of the oils, plus the mushrooms and pea flavors.
Serve your veggies with rice, bread, squash, or sweet potato. The herb garnish at the end adds even more green color, crunchy texture, and complementary flavors. Use these to taste, but I enjoyed a lot of them: two kinds of chives and parsley as well as the cilantro.
1-2 packages of tempeh (8 oz each)
1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced thin
8 oz shiitakes, stemmed and sliced (about 6 oz after stemming)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Leaves from 1 bunch of chard, cut in ribbons, then chopped
~2 cups of pea shoots
Palm and sesame oils, or other fat for cooking
Chives, parsley, and cilantro, chopped, to taste
Photos by Zachary Cross
Herbs are something that we usually think of as enhancing a dish, and are often used with a light hand. What happens when they are a larger part of a recipe? It makes for a lot of flavor!
Once upon a time, when magazines were at their heyday, there were many to choose from if you wanted to try new recipes. Martha Stewart is still around with Living, Cooking Light (that staple of 90s fat free cooking), and the classic women’s magazines are also available. But now the internet is the star for recipes. Pinterest is the place to go for recipes of all kinds, from the most sugary, food color-laden dessert, to Paleo, to vegan, to Thanksgiving dinner. Just about anything you can think of. I find all sorts of new recipes there, and though, just like when I clipped magazine pages, I pin more than I use (though without cluttering my house!). I do use plenty of those recipes and find new favorites as well as enjoy simply experimenting.
Somehow, even with all those online recipes, I had never heard of Persian herb omelets. Kuku is a Persian egg dish that is something like a frittata or thick omelet. Kuku sabzi (sabzi is herb in Farsi) is a kuku flavored with herbs. Not delicately sprinkled on top or measured by the tablespoon, this recipe has herbs by the cup - five cups of them! And this is for only six eggs.
I came across this recipe in Milk Street Magazine. A new venture by the co-founder of America’s Test Kitchen, the magazine says, “we’ll explore a lively new kind of cooking that‘s both simpler and smarter, and it’s guaranteed to make you a better cook.” I’ve enjoyed Cook’s Illustrated in the past so, despite already having plenty of recipes on Pinterest, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s been fun reading about various cooks, foods, and new recipes.
As it turns out, Martha’s made kuku, and recipes abound on Pinterest. But it took a different medium to bring it to my attention.
Like many other types of foods, kuku, even specifically kuku sabzi, has many variations. Some have onions or leeks; others leave them out. The number of eggs and amounts and kinds of herbs change. Walnuts and barberries (often replaced by dried cranberries) make it especially Persian. Eggs are an essential, though I’ve seen some vegan versions that challenge that idea. This is a gluten-free and dairy-free dish, though again some rogues add unnecessary ingredients such as flour or butter.
I checked out a few recipes online, but in the end I decided to stick with the Milk Street recipe. I made sure to ask a farmer ahead of time for the herbs, and I suggest you do, too. Five cups is a lot! Also, this recipe calls for cilantro which varies widely in availability. It bolts in the heat so it may be available one week but not the next.
If you can’t get the cilantro or one of the other herbs, feel free to substitute to taste and availability. Mint and chives are two other common herbs in kuku sabzi. Chives sometimes take the place of the onion, too, or sometimes are in addition to it.
Like a frittata, kuku can be cooked on the stove, in the oven, or both. This recipe is just in the oven which is pretty simple. Lining the pan with parchment ensures that the eggs make it out of the pan. The olive oil is supposed to help it crisp up but mine did not do that. It was good anyway and I will perhaps I will bake it a little longer next time to see if that makes a difference.
Cut your kuku in slices, as you would a frittata or pie, to serve. Or try in small squares, as Martha did for a buffet meal.
Whole milk, Greek-style plain yogurt is a traditional topping or side. I found that straining my regular yogurt through a coffee filter during the time I was making supper to be long enough to make it nice and thick.
Top with more cranberries, and/or walnuts as a garnish. Enjoy!
From: Milk Street Magazine, March-April 2017
Start to finish: 1 hour
(20 minutes active) | Servings: 6
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups lightly packed flat-leaf spinach
2 cups lightly packed cilantro stems and tender leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
6 scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 large eggs
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
⅓ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (optional)
Plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt, to serve (optional)
Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the the upper-middle position. Trace the bottom of an 8-inch square or 9-inch-round cake pan on kitchen parchment, then cut inside the line to create a piece to fit inside the pan. Coat the bottom and sides of the pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil, turing the parchment to coat both sides.
In a food processor, combine the parsley, cilantro, dill, scallions, and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Process until finely ground. In a large bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and pepper. Add 2 of the eggs and whisk until blended. Add the remaining 4 eggs and whisk until just combined. Fold in the herb-scallion mixture and the walnuts and cranberries, if using. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the center is firm, 20 to 25 minutes.
Let the kuku cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then invert onto a plate and remove the parchment. Re-invert onto a cutting board or serving platter. Cut into wedges or squares and serve warm, cold, or at room temperature with a dollop of yogurt, if desired. The kuku can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, tightly wrapped.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
Happy Easter! One classic Easter decoration is eggs, usually dyed pastel or bright colors. All you need for beautiful eggs can be found at the market and you can use common household items.
With the return of warm weather and longer days, eggs are abundant at market right now. Although many of the eggs at market are brown, there are also white, blue, and green. And those colors have more variations and shades, including spots and combinations of brown and green.
A common way to do Easter eggs is to hard boil them, but blowing them gives you the opportunity to use the insides for scrambled eggs or baking and the outsides for decorating. If you’ve never blown eggs before, the basic idea is to make a small hole on each end of the egg, insert something inside to break up the yolk, blow the contents into a bowl, rinse, and let dry. You can make the hole with a pin, thin nail, or tiny drill bit. Stir up the yolk with the nail or a large, unbent paper clip. Although blowing the egg out with your mouth works there are other ways to do it. There are tools made for blowing eggs, or you can use an empty medicine syringe or nasal aspirator.
The simplest way, and my favorite, to decorate with eggs is to display them in their natural colors, no extra work needed! If you’ve kept your holes small they are not terribly noticeable. You can cover over the holes with matching paper, or use the holes to thread string or ribbon through to hang your eggs. If an egg cracks, you can use it as a scenery egg or a pot for a tiny plant. Still using the natural colors, or after you’ve dyed them, crushed eggs can be used as tiles for a mosaic egg.
If you’d like to decorate your eggs, the quickest way is to use a permanent marker or other pens to achieve anything from simple or whimsical decorations to complicated, Psansky-like designs. Use white gel or paint pen on brown or blue eggs, black on white, or combinations of colors. Your designs can be freeform or you can find tips for more complicated designs here.
Although tutorials for naturally dyed eggs, accompanied by beautiful photos (here is another), abound on the internet, I was somewhat disappointed in the results. I did see photos that matched my results, though, so at least I’m not alone! It is fun, though, to try out natural dyes and see what colors come from each plant - not always what you’d think. Many natural dyes can come from market produce, including leftovers and what we usually consider waste.
When choosing a dye material, think about what stains your hands, cutting board, and or countertops. Beets are an obvious first choice! They make a nice pink. However, I found the color faded when it dried. Carrot tops make a soft yellow. Yellow onion skins make a nice yellow when dipped briefly and make a darker orange when soaked for a while. Red cabbage makes blue, from pale to dark, depending on the color of the egg you start with and how long you dip it. If you froze or canned blueberries last summer they make a purple-ish color.
Colors I did not try but have seen online include carrots, spinach, and coffee. One color not available at market but one you might have in your home is red wine. I mention it because it was a fun one and a surprise. The color came out purple-ish brown but when it was dry it was sparkly, as if it were glittered.
All these colors are created by boiling the plant material with water - use about equal parts plant material and water. Strain and add one tablespoon vinegar per cup of dye. The internet, depending on the source, says to cool the dye or use it hot. The only dye I noticed a major difference with was onion skin: the hot dye made a nice yellow quickly but did not seem to cold. Certainly be careful if you use the dyes hot!
Have fun with the eggs you pick up at market this week!
Photos by Zachary Cross
Now that the weather is consistently warm, chard is in abundance at market. It’s so versatile and so pretty. Use the leaves in this recipe that’s appropriate for breakfast or supper
One night I needed a quick and easy meal (as I often do!) and opted for what I consider an all-in-one: Potato-Kale Hash Browns. It has eggs, potatoes, and chard - that covers all the food groups, right? I still think in food groups, no pyramid, steps, or plate for me. I did serve other foods that night, various leftovers that rounded out the meal.
Although recipes often call for specific greens, as long as you understand the differences among the various greens, they can be used interchangeably in recipes, sometimes with little tweaks. I find most kale recipes do not call for cooking the kale enough and lend themselves well to chard or spinach instead. This is one such recipe. Though they have very different tastes, both chard and spinach cook in a similar time frame. In this recipe the greens are sliced into ribbons and then combined with eggs, onions, and cheese, then quickly cooked. Substitute the greens you prefer or have on hand.
The first time I made this dish I used frozen hash browns to follow the recipe. Shredding fresh potatoes in the food processor is just as quick, especially considering the time it takes to let the frozen ones thaw a bit. Just be sure to squeeze them out in a towel. Or use leftover baked potatoes (note that I have not tried this but plan to in the future). Next, chop an onion (shallots are even better); slice some of the chard into ribbons; and mix with all the other ingredients except the oil. Cook in a skillet or griddle in a little of your choice of fat. I thought these were good cooked with a mix of palm oil and butter.
For supper these would be good with a soup, especially a pretty sweet potato or carrot one, such as last week’s recipe or this one.
Adapted from Potato Kale Hash Browns
20-24 oz potatoes (enough for 16 oz shredded and squeezed dry)
1-2 cups chard (or spinach) leaves cut in thin strips
4-5 eggs (depending on size)
¼ cup or more finely chopped onion (shallots, leeks, etc.)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste (taste it!)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fat for cooking (olive or palm oil, butter, whatever you like)
1. Combine all ingredients except oil(s) in a bowl. (The original author says you can cover and refrigerate up to 12 hours before cooking, perhaps for breakfast)
2. Heat a little oil in your skillet or griddle - I used medium heat, enough to cook quickly and brown well, but not too quickly. Stir whenever the mixture separates. Scoop about 1/4 cup and mound onto your pan, then flatten to make a cake. Cook until brown on one side, flip and cook until brown on the other (to your taste). Repeat with the remaining potato/kale mix.
This served five people with a few sides, there would probably have been leftovers had I provided more sides.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
Spring is really here and along with it warm days, cool nights, and some rainy days and nights. Soup is still a good option on the menu, especially one that can be served hot or cold.
Carrots are a versatile vegetable, and a beautiful one, too. Typically you’ll find orange ones at market but sometimes purple, red, yellow, or white ones as well. The colors aren’t just pretty, they represent different types of nutrients. We associate beta carotene with carrots and the color orange, but orange carrots also contain xanthophylls and lutein. Both are also carotenoids and associated with eye health. I know my mother told me that carrots would help me see at night! Red carrots contain lycopene like tomatoes do. Purple carrots contain the flavonoids anthocyanins instead of carotenoids. Anthocyanins are considered powerful antioxidants.
Originally, cultivated carrots were primarily purple, occasionally white, yellow, or red. Sometime around the 15 or 1600s Dutch growers bred yellow carrots with wild carrots, eventually ending up with the orange we associate with carrots today.
The carrot family is very large, though the family name is Apiaceae. Otherwise known as Umbelliferae, this family’s plants have upside down umbrella-shaped collections of flowers, or umbels. The most well known decorative family member is Queen Anne’s Lace (one kind of wild carrot) but you probably know many others: parsley, coriander/cilantro, caraway, cumin, dill, celery, parsnip, along with many, many others.
Coriander complements its cousin carrot’s sweet flavor, both in seed and leaf form. Though two parts of the same plant, they nevertheless have distinctive flavors of their own. The spice we call coriander here in the U.S. is typically the dried seed of the plant. Ground it has a sweet and almost citrusy flavor (though Serious Eats would disagree and say grinding takes the citrus taste out - I still smell and taste it!). You can buy it already ground or whole and grind or crush your own - it’s a simple job with a mortar and pestle. Jeffrey prefers the flavor and texture of crushed but I confess to preferring the convenience of buying ground.
Cilantro is the form of coriander you will find at market. Looking like Italian parsley, it has a much different smell and taste and some say it tastes like soap. Although this is supposed to be tied to your genes and nothing you can do can change it, I have found that repeat exposure to it, usually paired with yummy Mexican or Asian food, has made me go from hater to fan. Apparently this can work for anyone . If you are a cilantro hater, try it in pesto form or otherwise well chopped to help you acclimate.
We’ve been making carrot soup for a long time. It’s another of our favorites from Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus. The pages in the books are spattered and wrinkled - a sign of a good recipe!
It’s a pretty basic recipe, too. Shallots and coriander are sautéed in butter; carrots and stock are added, boiled, and pureed. A little cream adds body and a sprinkle of cilantro and chives add a nice touch of color as well as flavor.
We’ve followed this basic recipe pretty closely over the years but Martha says, “I find that the flavor of the carrots is greatly enhanced by adding a parsnip or a leek or even a ripe pear or apple to the soup while it is simmering.” The times we’ve tried a parsnip in the soup we found it bitter, but they were supermarket parsnips, not market ones. Maybe someday we will try again!
From Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
4 cups chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)
1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced (optional) (I did not use)
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
Photos by Zachary Cross
Spring has sprung! Make a meal this week with market vegetables that is quick and easy and leaves you plenty of time to play outside.
Last week at market I was drawn to Lacinato kale. Known to Italians as cavalo nero, or black cabbage, Lacinato kale is a deep, dark green with dimpled leaves. It’s known by quite a few other names such as Tuscan kale, Italian kale, or palm tree kale - the latter because harvesting the outside leaves can lead to the plant looking like a palm tree. Dinosaur kale is another name that I thought that was just a marketing ploy. Apparently some people imagine that the leaves look like dinosaur skin. It might help some dinosaur-crazy kids want to eat it!
Despite the name cavalo nero, kale is not cabbage. At least it doesn’t form the tight head we associate with round cabbages. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds describes it as “loose-leafed cabbage,” and Victory Seeds as “a primitive, open variety of kale.” Which is it, cabbage or kale? Well, cabbage and kale both fall under the species Brassica oleracea, as do many of the vegetables we commonly associate with the genus Brassica, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and many others. I was left wondering which brassicas are not oleracea. A least a few well-known ones are not: turnips, mustards, rapini, and Chinese cabbage.
Whichever species of Brassica you eat, they are highly nutritious. Members of the Brassica family are high in vitamin C, soluble fiber, and cancer-fighting compounds. Although eating them raw is one way to preserve the nutrients, Brassica crops retain many vitamins during the cooking process.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a vegetarian recipe that our whole family will enjoy. Especially one that’s not complicated. Beans are a great start to a vegetarian main dish but can be pretty bland. Sometimes when we serve them it’s in a dish with a lot of ingredients, but this one is pretty simple. Olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper help make the beans and kale into a tasty dish without a lot of effort.
To round out our meal I served a crusty Bread and Butter baguette. As a gluten-free alternative I also made a quick cheese grits casserole. My grits casserole is really more like polenta, making this an all-around Italian meal.
Adapted slightly from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
Serves 4 as a Main Course
1 ½ pounds kale
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 15-ounce cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
⅔ cup chicken or vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Photos by Zachary Cross
This has been such a warm winter and with all the trees and plants blooming it seems like spring. This weekend’s snow and chilly temperatures remind us that winter’s not over yet! Soon it will be time for salads again but for now use this season’s greens in a warm and comforting soup.
This Friday is St. Patrick’s Day and what better way to celebrate than with potatoes and kale? Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. I’ve made this dish before but potatoes and kale also make a good soup - and a beautiful, bright green one, too!
Once you’ve made potato soup enough times you don’t even need a recipe. Start by sautéing salted onion, shallots, or leeks in butter or oil. Once they’re soft, add some garlic if you’re in the mood for it. Add some potatoes, peeled or not, plus some more salt and water to cover. Cook the potatoes until they’re soft. Add enough liquid - milk, stock, and/or water - to make the soup consistency you desire. Purée some, all, or none of it. Vary it with something green: broccoli, spinach, kale, or another green. Or something not so green: cauliflower or celery. Or orange, as in pumpkin chowder.
Until you can make potato soup in your sleep there are plenty of recipes out there to give you structure. In addition to the pumpkin chowder there is a recipe for potato leek soup on the blog. This potato kale soup recipe comes from Simply in Season which has at least a half dozen other potato soup recipes as well!
Right now just about all our farmers that grow greens have kale. The varieties range from light green to dark green as well as reds. There are frilly leaves, flat leaves, and leaves in between. I choose Red Russian this time: it has flat but toothed leaves and is a light green with red stems. Be sure to stem your kale but use those stems! Chopped and sautéed with the onion they are plenty tender, especially after being parboiled.
Precooking the kale helps it blend quickly with the soup at the end and keeps the kale flavor from overwhelming the potatoes. I boil mine for 7 minutes to reduce oxalic acid and goitrogens, but 2-4 minutes or even less can be enough if your kale is super tender or you like a stronger flavor.
I often find myself wanting something orange to contrast with whatever green thing I am cooking. An easy way to supply this is with a baked sweet potato or baked sweet potato fries. If I’m feeling energetic I might make some pumpkin muffins. Before I made my soup I put a pumpkin in the oven to cook and when it was done I took a taste. It was delicious as-is! I did salt it a little and added a little butter before pureeing it. It made a vibrant and tasty topping for my soup. Other topping options are cheese, regular or pumpkin sour cream, or bacon bits.
Adapted Slightly from Simply in Season
Yields 6 cups/1.5 L
1 large bunch kale (stemmed)
Steam or parboil leaves and stems and set aside. (Don’t try to cook it with the potatoes; the flavor will be too strong.)
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
Melt butter in soup pot. Add onion and saute until golden. Add garlic and chopped kale stems and saute another minute.
2 large potatoes (diced)
2 cups/ 500 ml hot water or broth
Add, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Remove half of the cooked potatoes; puree the rest with the cooking liquid and return to the soup pot. Return reserved potatoes and steamed kale to soup pot. (Puree everything if a smooth texture is desired.)
3 cups water, broth, or milk
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Pepper to taste
Add along with additional hot water or milk to preferred consistency. Heat gently until hot and serve.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
It’s been a warm winter but it’s not over yet! Recent chilly mornings and evenings have been perfect for a wool hat. It’s a great project for even beginning knitters and can be made with local “ingredients!”
The three basic human needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Though we usually associate farmers markets with providing food, some of our farmers provide us with clothing items as well. Wool is an excellent fiber for all sorts of clothes.
My favorite knitting author is Elizabeth Zimmermann. In addition to being a phenomenal artist and knitter, Zimmerman was a delightful writer and her books are a pleasure to read whether or not you actually end up knitting something. Zimmermann’s preferred fiber was wool, and her essays on its virtues will convert most anyone. I assume her love of wool is at least partly because of her upbringing in England and later life in New England. Wool is warm, even when wet; yet breathable, naturally resistant to dust mites, dirt, and even fire.
But wool is also wonderful to knit with. It is elastic yet holds its shape. It feels good in your hands. It takes dyes beautifully and comes in natural colors as well.
Farmer Cheri Miller of Harvest Home raises Finnsheep in Rising Fawn Georgia. Although she also sells various cuts of lamb, she says, “fiber production is a farming activity - it isn’t always about food!” Cheri sells wool in the form of roving, yarn, dryer balls, hand knitted and woven items, and has partnered with a mill in Ft. Payne to make socks from her wool.
I especially liked a natural dark gray yarn and chose that for my project. When I say natural, it’s the color of the sheep that the wool came from, not dyed. Cheri has dyed wool as well, in a variety of colors. Her yarn is a worsted weight, making it appropriate for many different kinds of projects. She sells it by the ounce, and my hat comes in at about 2.5 ounces. Allow another ounce for a larger hat or for one with a closed top.
This winter I’ve found that I wanted a basic, neutral-colored hat for chilly days. There have been days, too, that I’ve already had my hair in a ponytail or a bun and haven’t been able to fit a hat over that. Knitters and crocheters are a creative lot, and there are patterns for hats with holes in them to accommodate ponytails and pigtails. One of the easiest ways to do this is to finish off a hat earlier than usual in the process, creating a hole in the top of the hat for a high messy bun, man bun, or ponytail. Some would argue this hole allows heat to escape, and I say this warm winter is the year to give it a try!
For the basic hat pattern I went with Viridian Hue’s basic Tweed Hat. It’s in a man’s size which suits my large head. It could be easily adapted by using a smaller needle size, thinner yarn, or fewer stitches. I ended up knitting a little tightly, coming in at about 14 stitches to 4 inches, rather than the pattern’s gauge of 13 stitches to 4 inches, which made for a slightly smaller hat.
To make this a messy bun hat I turned to Vickie Howell’s article for guidance. It’s less work to make a bun/ponytail hat, since you’re ending it sooner, but having some guidance of when to end it was helpful. She provides another basic hat pattern, in more of a women’s size, if you prefer to try that. Her technique works for any basic bottom-up hat pattern and she has instructions for crocheted hats as well.
I began my hat in a lighter gray, also a natural color, and used that for the brim. It’s a nice contrast but subtle against the similar but darker gray. I used 20 inch circular needles for most of this project. They were a bit long, and if you use 16 inch you may be able to use them all the way to casting off, if you leave the bun hole. I found I needed to switch to double pointed needles near the end, but only for a few rows. If you are comfortable with double points, certainly use them for the whole hat if you like.
Though this hat is adaptable to different sizes and designs, keep certain proportions in mind. I used a 5x5 rib on the brim. To do that you need to keep the number of cast-on stitches a product of 10 - I cast on 70. If you want you can change it to 3x3 and cast on a multiple of 6, or 2x2 and cast on a multiple of 4, etc. When you’re decreasing and figuring out the size of the bun hole there’s a little math involved, but it’s not something you’ll be graded on!
Note that Harvest Home’s yarn comes in hanks, not skeins or balls, and you’ll need to wind it into a ball before using. This is not unusual, but if it’s not something you’re used to The Spruce has instructions on winding a ball from a hank. You can also wind a center pull ball with help from a paper towel tube.
Not a knitter, yet? In addition to Zimmermann’s books (the first project in Knitting Workshop is a similar hat to mine) there are many others, as well as plenty of free tutorials online. This one on YouTube is pretty simple and straightforward for casting on. Since you’ll be knitting in the round, joining in the round is an important step. Knitting abbreviations are described here.
Adapted from Viridian Hue’s Tweed hat, altered with Vickie Howell’s Tutorial for a messy bun hatYarn: Cheri Miller’s worsted in your choice of color, 2-3 oz or depending on hat size
Needles: size 8 16” circular for the brim, size 10 16” circular and dpn for the body of the hat *or size needed to obtain gauge (I usually use a size down)
Gauge: 13sts/4” in stockinette
Size: to fit a 24” head
Cast 70 stitches on size 8 needles and join in the round.
Knit 5, Purl 5 until brim measures 2 inches from cast on edge.
Switch to larger needles and knit until hat is about 6 inches from your cast on edge.
Switch to double point needles as needed
K 8 knit 2 together (K2tog) to the end of the row (63 stitches (sts))
K 7 K2tog to the end of the row (56 sts)
K 6 K2tog to the end of the row (49 sts)
K 5 K2tog to the end of the row (42 sts)
Knit 4 K2tog to almost the end of the row. Do not knit the last two stitches together (36 sts)
Knit 1, Purl 1 for 2 rows
Bind off in K1P1 rib pattern
Block and wear!
Printable pattern here
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