March came in like a lion this year, and went out like a polar bear. And after a one-day flirtation with summer, April decided to go back to winter as well. Several farmers at Saturday’s Bainbridge Farmers’ Market spoke of harvesting this week’s offerings from under a thin layer of snow.
This big chill is dramatically slowing the growth of newly planted crops, and it will take a major warm-up to get the season back on track. The good news; some crops like kale actually taste better after they’ve been nipped by cold. So look on the bright side, and take advantage of all the tasty greens that the farmers are bringing to market. Kale, chard, sprouting broccoli, bok choy and spinach are all being harvested fresh from local fields. That means their vitamin content is high and their chemical content is nil, unlike comparable crops on grocery shelves.
The standard everyday way to prepare kale. sprouting broccoli, and any of the braising green mixes found at the Market is to remove tough stems, cut or tear the greens into bite-size pieces, then wash them. Pour a glug of good olive oil into a slightly warmed pan, add some chopped garlic (don’t burn it), sauté for about 30 seconds, then add the still-wet greens and turn the heat to medium. Toss the greens over the heat for a minute or so, and then turn the heat to low and steam them until tender to your taste, adding a little water or broth if needed. A few minutes are all it takes. Season with salt and pepper; add a splash of balsamic vinegar if you like. Another standby side dish is Mashed Potatoes and Kale.
I get into a soupy mood when the weather is this cold. Kale makes a wonderful addition to all kinds of soups, adding lovely dark green color and savory taste. The big plus is that its toothsome texture can take the heat instead of melting away like chard or spinach. You can use any type of kale – the black or “lacinato’ kale, blue-green Tuscan kale, etc. I made a satisfying pot of Rustic Italian Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup from the food blog Tigers and Strawberries. I used Uli’s Chicken Italian Sausage, and regular garlic in place of the green garlic. Lentils and kale are another comforting combination, as in Kale and Lentil Soup. This is a little lighter and quicker than your average lentil soup, as it uses red lentils.
For a warming one-pot meal, combine kale with fish and potatoes in Cod Braised with Kale. The recipe also calls for leeks, which both Persephone Farms and Leapfrog Farm are offering now. A light and simple dinner is Halibut Steamed with Bok Choy. I made this with Butler Green’s bok choy and some of the wonderful fresh halibut that’s available now, and it was delightful. Wrapping fish in leafy greens is a good way to flavor it and preserve moisture; one of my all-time favorite halibut recipes is Chard-Wrapped Halibut with Ginger Cream Sauce. Serve it with basmati rice and sauteed chard, including the chopped up stems.
If you find yourself with a leg of lamb (Lopez Farms is delivering pasture-raised lamb to Bainbridge Island this week), there is a great recipe pairing Leg of Lamb with Greens. Another great lamb and greens combo is Rack of Lamb with Chard, where a chard mix is stuffed into an incision between the bones and the meat, and then the roast is tied and baked. The meat and the greens benefit from each other’s company as they roast.
These are just a few of the ways that the abundant greens at the Market can help you make it through this chilly spring. If you have favorite recipes for spring greens, please share them by registering and posting comments to this article. We can all use more ideas for eating our greens!