Rocco officially outgrew some of his newborn clothes last week, an event we marked with photos and exclamations and the reorganization of his top dresser drawer. I am ever comparing the Rocco Today with the Rocco [Insert Age Here], something that’s pretty easy to do when you have an ongoing chronology building in your phone’s photo album, but what can I say? I’m nostalgic. It’s not that I long for those first few emotional, sleep-deprived days; it’s just that I like to remember them. They are part of Rocco’s story; they are part of ours; and, because those first early weeks were so hazy and slow, there’s a lot about them that would be easy to forget or neglect—namely, other things happening in the world outside this one. One that’s especially worth noting, for example: the release of Honey & Jam, a beautiful, seasonal baking book by Hannah Queen.
Last year at this time I was talking to you about sautéed beet greens. Today I’m bringing you sautéed Swiss chard. What can I say, I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to June vegetables. (Also, fun fact, I’m apparently thinking like the Italians, who refer to beet greens and chard almost interchangeably, says historian Clifford A. Wright.) While the name chard was originally a corruption of another French word, historically it’s been called everything from leaf beet and strawberry spinach to Roman kale, because it’s been considered so similar to these other greens. To a Nashville girl in 2014, carrying home bags of local greens from my CSA dropoff this past Monday night, that makes sense: because the main thing I was thinking while I washed earth off plants, cooking some and storing the rest, wasn’t how I wanted to highlight lamb’s quarters over collards or how intricate the differences were between the two. Instead it was the real and pressing need that all my greens have in common, namely this: I would need to find a way to cook and eat them all this week.
This year our vegetable CSA, CSA meaning community supported agriculture, or, essentially, a share of a particular farm’s produce, began in June. Every year it runs about through December, but the start date changes based on how the weather affects what grows, and this year it was a little later than last, so here in the initial weeks, things are still monochromatic. We leave with bags that bear twenty shades of green. And while this past week we’ve had beet green chips (excellent!) and, even in the sauna that is Nashville June, some pretty dreamy soup, we’ve also fallen back on the ever-beloved classic, the dish that reminds Tim of his childhood and me of old blog posts: sautéed greens.
So here’s the thing with sautéed greens, whether you’re talking about chard or beet greens or spinach or kale: When they are done right, they are so, so right. Oily and wilty, warm and comforting, sautéed greens are satisfying and nostalgic, and even if you didn’t grow up eating them, like I didn’t grow up eating them, they taste like home. The problem is that when they’re done wrong, they are so, so wrong: limp and tasteless, swimming in a greenish liquid, the sort of mixture that makes people say things like they don’t like vegetables, no thanks. I realized, while writing this post, that I never order sautéed greens at restaurants anymore, which I don’t blame you for thinking is a pretentious thing to say. But here is the reason: Once you’ve had one gloppy mess of greens and tried to force it down, you know you never want to do that again.
So here is how we sauté greens or, in this case, how we sautéed Swiss chard with onions and toasted walnuts and raisins: You start by melting oil (ghee or coconut oil or butter are what we like best) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced onions, salt and pepper, reducing the heat and letting the onions soften and caramelize for about 15 minutes or so. Add nuts and raisins, toasting for 5 minutes. Add chard and a little more salt and some water. The greens themselves cook pretty quickly, in 10 minutes or less, but the flavorful, aromatic addins add so much value to the dish, they’re worth the extra initial time. Once the greens are soft and wilted, you taste and adjust for salt and you’re done! We’ve been known to eat greens like these for dinner, but you might like them alongside roast chicken or a big pot of grass-fed pot roast.
This year’s CSA started Monday with a first week loaded with lettuce (baskets and baskets of lettuce!)… there was so much lettuce, in fact, that our farmers were giving it away, as much as you could take, whether or not you have the larger, family-sized share (we don’t). It was hard for my frugal heart to take only two heads (even in addition to the kale, pokeweed, catnip, etc.), but it was easier when I unpacked our bags at home and tried to figure out how two of us would eat so many greens before they wilt. It almost goes without saying that we’ve been eating salads ever since. Salads with goat cheese and pesto, salads with a hodge podge of vegetables or fresh strawberries (from our other farmer!) and salads like this triple berry one we had tonight. At its heart, this is a simple combination, but the shallots and walnuts add a more complex, savory note that reminds me of Thanksgiving, and then the whole thing gets kicked up even further with the cayenne-honey oil/vinegar on top.
It’s not hard to like pictures of plates piled high with lettuce and berries, but between you and me it’s that last one that I like best, just above, because it’s got Tim in it, and I’m so thankful for every bit of life I have with him in it, from our late nights in the kitchen with YouTube music videos playing to our early nights at the table with salads we’ve just prepped side by side. He’s not perfect, I’m not perfect, and being married to each other means rubbing up against each other’s imperfections all the time, but, man, the rewards of love outweigh the risks. I was thinking tonight how he is probably the only person I’ve ever known in my entire life who lets me challenge him, and I don’t mean with soft questions, about everything from nutrition to sanctification to how to manage stocks, and he doesn’t run away or go anywhere when I’m pushing something I want to understand; he doesn’t hold it against me or get mad; instead, he keeps talking and stays to work it out. It still surprises me I’m married to him. It surprises me I know him. I can’t think of any explanation for it but the loving hand of Providence giving a good gift.
Triple Berry Salad
The other night, when Tim and I ate this salad, we’d just come back from a few hours of driving through neighborhoods. Tim and I do a lot of driving through neighborhoods. You could say driving through neighborhoods is our thing. I guess that’s good—that there’s a thing we have, you know, together. When my friend Julie got married in 2006, I remember the pastor saying something in his homily about how every couple ought to share a hobby of some kind. “Tennis or cooking or sports,” he’d suggested, right there at the front of the church filled with people and flowers and music. I hadn’t yet met Tim that day, standing up there with three other girls in blue dresses with cap sleeves, but I still like to think about the hobbies we were already sharing, even so.
In 2006, for example, I was baking batch after batch of biscotti for favors at that friend’s sit-down wedding reception. Meanwhile, the Ohio man I would someday marry was rolling out and topping homemade pizza crusts to keep in the freezer on hand. “Like frozen pizzas, but better!” he still says to me, describing that long-ago process in step-by-step detail.
Indeed, since we’ve met, Tim and I have had plenty of things, from loving the kitchen to loving quiet nights on the sofa to getting excited about properties we could dream to call home. And so, the night we ate this creamy kale salad, we’d just returned from spotting one particular 1920s treasure of a foreclosure, with cedar shake details and original stained glass. (Too bad it’s already sold!) And when we came back home, to the work we’d abandoned and a house growing dark, big plates of this salad were the kind of thing both of us had in mind. [Read more…]
No burying the lead in this post, folks: I’m nuts about this Brussels sprouts salad. I want to tell you I almost cried when I tasted it, but then I’d have to tell you how my brother almost rolls his eyes whenever he hears me say that. “Yeah, that tortilla soup you posted is good,” he told me a few months ago after he’d read about it here and then tested it at home, “but it’s not like I cried about it.”
My brother thinks he’s very funny.
I saw that brother—and my mom and my dad, and my in-laws, and Tim’s cousins, and his aunt, and his sister and her family, and his sweet grandma Emily, and my dear friend Jacqui—last weekend, in the midst of an epic few days in which Tim and his brother, Nathan, and I drove five hours to Ohio and five hours to Chicago before Nathan flew back and Tim and I drove eight hours home. We left Friday and came back Tuesday and, writing this now, I almost can’t remember what day it is, let alone where I’m sitting as I type. But before we left, inspired by versions of this I’ve seen everywhere from Shutterbean to Gluten-Free Girl to Instagram, I made this shredded Brussels sprouts salad. [Read more…]
Here we are, gang, a new week, another early Tuesday morning, and I’m still talking about einkorn. I know. But I figure, when I brought you Friday’s post, less a story and more a list of FAQs, you all were such champs, and I mean you all, every last one of you, looking a new ingredient in the face boldly and bravely, ready to give it a shot, that maybe you wouldn’t mind just one more einkorn post to follow it? The thing is, while we’ve already told you einkorn flour is great for pizza, pancakes, cookies (einkorn in these!), tartlets and pitas, and while you know you can create your own einkorn flour by buying the berries and grinding them at home, there’s something else that needs to be said, because there’s more to einkorn berries than flour:
einkorn berries can hold their own.
The truth is, that tiny mention in Friday’s post about the berries, about using them in porridges or salads—it was a little lackluster, to say the least. It was not the kind of thing to get the message across. So today is all about the berries and two of our favorite ways to enjoy them.
Last summer, summer 2011, was the summer of wedding planning (also known as The Pit). I spent all my free time hunkered down in there, absorbed in the constant tasks of ceremony details, caterers, jazz bands, invitations, favors, showers, guest lists, seating charts, expectations, and I’ll be honest with you: sometimes it got a little dark. Thankfully, Tim was with me. Having the two of us together made The Pit more cozy.
The only problem with hunkering down for a summer, however, is that you miss a lot of things. It has to happen, but you do. While we were making regular trips back and forth from Chicago, the rest of the world continued on, the way it always does. While our weekends were spreadsheets of to-do lists and hours picking towels and bed sheets at Target, I tuned out of blogs and stopped reading or writing or paying attention to, well, anything that couldn’t get into The Pit with us. Sometimes my family got in there. Sometimes, our friends. But everything else didn’t fit, and so I let it go.
For the most part, that was OK. Simplifying, even. But then a few weeks ago, I was washing dishes in our kitchen, looking out the window, and I noticed how big and tall and purple our neighbor’s tree had gotten. In an instant, my eyes moved across the street to another one, hot pink like a Spring Break bikini. We drove to the grocery store, past that vintage brick apartment complex we always see, and an entire row of trees bordering the road had exploded into whites and reds and violet and deep maroon. It was then that I realized just how deep we’d been buried, together with our heads down, moving through that tunnel in the dark.
Last summer, I don’t remember a flower. This year, giant blooming trees are EVERYWHERE.
So if there’s one thing I’ve wanted for summer 2012, it’s to stay above ground. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been here so often. When I look back on this year, I’ll remember making risotto with my brother, enduring weeks of three-digit-temperature days, sitting inside while the sky got dark with clouds and rain and thunderstorms.
I’ll remember walking through neighborhoods with Tim to see the world in bloom, camera around my neck, marveling at the different colors and the intricate petals and the way they look against the early evening sky.
I’ll remember telling myself to take the time to notice, really look at and observe, the life I’m living: the mornings Tim and I shuffle to the dining table, laptops in hand; the afternoons walking down the driveway, feeling the heat as we grab the mail and see that couple across the street who wave like friendly grandparents. I’ll remember walking through a park last night, where the air smelled mossy and moist, surrounded by one hundred different shades of green.
But mostly, I’ll remember what we’ve been eating:
The ice cream.
Summer 2012, in addition to being the first summer we were married and the first summer I felt like I lived in Nashville has also, more notably, been this, at least in our house: The Summer of Ice Cream.
There are new flavors rolling out every week, from frozen yogurt to chocolate chunk to cinnamon honey, and we eat it almost as quickly as it comes out of the machine. The first time Tim made this strawberry version, plumped up with chopped walnuts and big pieces of soft chocolate chunks, we polished it off in one day. It might be our current favorite.
In fact, the way things are going, this fall may be The Autumn of Ice Cream and this winter, The Winter of Ice Cream, and who knows how long it will go. But whatever the future brings, ice cream and otherwise, one thing’s for sure:
I get to have my eyes open to notice it, right now, today.
This past week, Tim and I did sort of a cleanse, wherein we ate mostly raw: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, raw dairy, dried fruit. We added homemade chicken soup, nettle and Tulsi teas and, at a maximum of once a day, roasted vegetables, but otherwise it was, for the first time in our lives, an experience in raw eating.
It was interesting.
First of all, it wasn’t hard, at least not in the way typical cleanses are. I wasn’t starving, I didn’t get major detox reactions, there was no need to summon all my willpower not to eat a cookie. A couple times, one of us would say to the other, doesn’t a taco sound good?, but, for the most part, we felt like there was so much we still could eat: a bowl of juicy grapefruit; fresh pomegranate arils sprinkled with flax seeds and coconut; caprese salad (tomatoes, raw mozzarella, fresh basil), morning smoothies, giant green salads (and you know how I like those), frozen fruit mixed with nuts in raw milk, homemade pecan nut butter on celery sticks—all along with our soup and roasted vegetables, so, as you can imagine, we were quite full and satisfied.
Also, it was really, well, cleansing, just as we hoped it would be. The week made us feel good—really good—from our skin to our digestion to our energy levels. After the holidays, I had been fighting a little bit of a sore throat/cold/infection, the first one since I changed my diet in 2009. This cleanse week killed it, knocked it right out of me.
But there’s one more thing, too, a thing that’s been especially fascinating and something I didn’t expect or plan for: this week has started to open my eyes to the world of raw eating. It’s something. You know, there are raw restaurants, raw blogs (like my new favorite g0lubka), raw cookbooks. And it’s not like you just eat an apple and a carrot and call it a day, either: there are crazy inventive raw recipes for things like raw donuts, raw cookies and chocolate avocado pudding, for example.
I mean, have you ever had a raw brownie?
This was an idea that had never before occurred, let alone appealed, to me.
And I know they say, when you take yourself away from something for a little while, say from sugar, for example, you change your tastes. So I know it’s possible that these brownies won’t seem sweet enough to the average palate or chocolatey enough compared to the typical brownie.
But to me, they were amazing, enough to make me wonder why I’ve trained my brain to think I need things sweeter than they have to be. I loved them. I made them twice. And both times, when I saw the simple combination of dates, walnuts and cocoa powder make a brownie and the ability of half an avocado with honey, cocoa powder, vanilla and cinnamon, along with just a pinch of salt, to create a velvety chocolate frosting, I marveled. It’s the same feeling I’ve had looking at a piece of segmented grapefruit or the inside of a pomegranate: what amazing foods we’ve been given. It’s good to celebrate them.