This time of year is always a challenging one in the kitchen for me. We’ve been eating greens for months, with still a few more months to go, but I’m already running out of ideas that pique our interest and taste buds.
The apples I put on top of our morning oatmeal are all finished, yet the beginning of strawberry season, which means a switch to yogurt and granola, is still a month away. Oatmeal just isn’t as satisfying without fresh fruit on top and although our local orchard does still have oranges, they don’t work that well with oatmeal.
Delicate spring vegetables of peas and radishes are still growing and won’t be ready until late April. I’m impatient as I walk down the hill to check the garden each day to see how much they’ve grown. Not enough. Asparagus shoots have begun to poke up through the dirt but there are only a handful of them each week, enough for a salad garnish, but not much else.
Flowers are bursting forth around us, at least one new variety each week, and as much as they make me very happy, they don’t make me as happy as something I can pluck and eat.
So this is the time of year when I rely on what I put up for storage last year. I recently used tomatoes that I canned back in September to make a simple marinara sauce, and it was astonishing how flavorful they were. They were worlds beyond the canned tomatoes I buy in the grocery store – even the San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy (which I do enjoy). I prepared enchiladas with a sauce that I made from roasted tomatillos and poblano peppers, frozen for future use back in October, and I stuffed them with poached venison from the deer we helped our neighbor butcher several months ago.
But since we still have all of those greens in the garden to eat, and that’s what is in the farmers markets right now too, here is one of my go-to winter greens recipes that we never get tired of.
Kale Caesar Salad
- 2 large bunches of green curly kale, torn from the stalk into small bite-sized pieces
- 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
- 2 cups thinly sliced green or red cabbage
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 canned anchovy fillets
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 4 slices hearty bread, about 1 inch thick
- Olive oil spray
- Roasted garlic powder
Place kale pieces in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil to coat thoroughly but lightly. Massage the kale with your hands until it has softened and reduced in bulk. Add the carrots and cabbage to the bowl and toss to combine.
Place garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, salt and egg yolk in a blender and process until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil with the motor running and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Drizzle the dressing over the greens mixture in the bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Use your judgment on how much to use and don’t overdress. Add the cheese and pine nuts and toss again. Top with croutons to serve.
To make the croutons:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut the bread slices into small cubes (about 1 inch) and place on a baking sheet. Coat well with olive oil spray, then sprinkle with salt and roasted garlic powder. Toss and then coat with olive oil, salt and garlic powder again. Toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings. Place in the oven and bake approximately 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy. Let cool before using.