We’ve eaten something out of the garden nearly every day for a month and a half now.
At first, it was arugula, spinach, and mixed greens. Then kale, swiss chard, more mixed greens, snap/snow peas, and herbs (basil, thyme, dill, mint, and chives). Now green beans, beets, carrots, peppers, and broccoli.
It’s my second year of vegetable gardening, and it’s hugely satisfying to literally harvest the fruits of my learning and labor. It’s also satisfying to begin the science-art of figuring out how best to clean, store, and transform all of it into delicious meals.
The primary drawback of the garden is that now I want more: an expanded area for berries, corn, rhubarb, and a fruit tree. I’m also daydreaming of a yogurt maker, a dehydrator, and a second freezer.
Here’s just a taste of what I’m doing with the garden food.
Last June, a friend handed me a recipe for Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Radishes, Mint, and Ricotta Salata. I waited a year to make it so I could use my own peas. The contrast of the peas, mint, and earthy-pungent radishes is from a new palate planet for me. I made it three times, improvising when necessary by replacing radishes with fresh turnips and ricotta salata with feta. I’m thinking about how to cook more with mint. And next year, I’m adding radishes to the garden.
Beets take work (roasting always seems to take longer than predicted; it’s not ideal on a hot day), but once they’re roasted, this Epicurious recipe for Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Feta is easy to prep. It does double duty by making use of the greens too.
I combined the remaining beet greens with golden swiss chard for this Mark Bittman recipe (scroll down to Cooked Chard with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette).
The kale keeps coming. These 20 or so plants are my babies, planted in seed trays back in March when late winter almost killed me. I should count just for fun, but I suspect we’ve eaten at least 10 pounds of it. When I was in L.A. in January and serendipitously stumbled upon a farmers market, I ate a raw kale-citrus salad that completely changed the way I thought about kale. I tried to replicate it once with the hard, curly kale they sell at our grocery store, but it was too tough, even after blending and massaging it.
But fresh tuscan kale from the garden (also known as dinosaur or lacinato kale) is perfect for a raw salad. I made this recipe from Elana’s Pantry several times, using dribbles of orange concentrate when I didn’t have oranges.
But I think I prefer this recipe from DorieGreenspan.com because of the crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds and the avocado salsa. I skipped the tomato since mine aren’t ready yet, but I got to use my very first fresh jalapeno.
P.S. Key to using raw kale is the massage and the chiffonade. Use olive oil and coarse salt and massage the kale all over, then let it sit for at least 10 minutes before the next step. I never knew what chiffonade was until raw kale salad. Lay the kale leaves on on top of one another, roll them up from side to side, then cut very narrow strips.