Tag Archives: Lettuce

Winter Garden Salad: A Template Recipe for Greens + Roots

If we didn’t have 150 pounds of pork in the freezer, I could eat a warm salad of winter greens and roasted veggies every night. (Roy, not so much.) This is one of those recipe/techniques that I unapologetically come back to again and again—Warm Winter Salad of Roasted Root Fries (The Fresh and Green Table), Warm Bistro Salad with Tiny Roasted Root Vegetables and Bacon Dressing (Fast, Fresh & Green), and Quick-Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Salad with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette (coming in Fresh from the Farm), to name a few. (Hmmm, it appears I’m not averse to sneaking pork into these things, so you could certainly have your salad, and your bacon, too.)

The appeal of a warm salad with crispy, yummy roasted veggies served atop deep, dark greens with a bracing vinaigrette is the interplay between fresh and comforting. I also like the textural contrast, and to be honest, the visual appeal. These days, I don’t compose the salads so much as scatter-and-platter them. It’s a looser, more rustic look, and served family-style, more casual. But you can always arrange the salads on individual serving plates if you like.

It occurred to me this week that I should back up, look at the architecture of these salads, and come up with a template you could use, depending on whatever greens and winter veggies you’ve got hanging around.

Plus, I needed an excuse to show off my greens that are still alive in the market garden. (Ahem, again, unapologetic…) So this morning after my chicken chores (no frozen water—yay!), I took a bowl and scissors and collected a nice combo of mizuna, Ruby Streaks mustard, Russian kale, arugula, tat soi, parsley, a few baby bok choy leaves, and even a few carrot tops. It’s amazing what lives through freezing temperatures and unfortunate ice formations; the arugula is particularly hearty, and one of my lettuces, Winter Marvel, acts like it doesn’t even know its December. (Alas, soon enough, nothing will be growing, even if it stays alive, since we’re now down below the critical mark of 10 hours of daylight. I’ve got lots of lettuce and greens down in the hoop house which I am just hoping to keep alive and harvest sparingly until early February, when 10+hours returns and they’ll start growing again.)

Realistically, most of us will be harvesting greens for our winter salads from the grocery store, so here’s your chance to buy baby kale, escarole and frisee, sturdy spinach, and anything that’s got some backbone or body. Make your own custom mix, and try to steer away from bagged mixes of salad greens, which tend to be less fresh than heads or bunches and also contain filler lettuces which don’t hold up to warm vinaigrettes too well.

For your veggie mix, choose from sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, beets, or butternut squash. Dice them quite small so that they’ll roast quickly; most won’t need peeling—but for the butternut. (For a pretty all squash-salad, you could use thinly sliced acorn and/or Delicata rings, which don’t need peeling and will also cook quickly.) Add diced pears or apples to the veggie mix if you want, and customize your salad with whatever toasted nuts and good quality cheeses you like. Use your favorite vinegar in the warm vinaigrette, and don’t be shy with a squeeze of lemon or lime to juice it up.

Here’s my template—I hope it will make a nice starting point for you. If you come up with a really delicious combo, I’d love to hear about it!

Warm Salad of Roasted Root Veggies and Winter Greens

Be sure to cut your veggies into evenly small pieces so they’ll all cook at the same rate. Don’t be tempted to crowd them on one pan, either—a little room around them will brown them up better. (Unless, of course, you want to cut this recipe in half, which is perfectly doable.) If you decide to include beets in your veggie mix, toss them with a little oil and salt separately from the rest or they’ll tend to color everything else.

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For the salad:

1½ to 1¾ pounds combination sweet potatoes (unpeeled), potatoes (unpeeled), carrots (peeled), parsnips (peeled), turnips (unpeeled), beets (unpeeled), butternut squash (peeled), firm-ripe pears (peeled), or Golden Delicious apples (unpeeled), cut into small dice (about 3/8-inch in diameter) (about 5 to 6 cups)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

6 to 7 cups combination sturdy mixed winter greens (such as baby kale, escarole, frisee, arugula, mustard, or tat soi)

¼ cup chopped toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts

½ to 2/3 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese, feta cheese, goat cheese or 1/3 cup coarsely grated aged gouda or Parmigianno

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, figs, pitted dates, or other dried fruit (optional)

For the vinaigrette:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, or cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice (more to taste)

½ teaspoons lemon or lime zest

1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves (or other herb of choice)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

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Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line two large rimmed heavy-duty baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large, wide mixing bowl, combine the veggies, the 4 tablespoons olive oil, and a scant teaspoon kosher salt. Toss well and spread in one layer on the two baking sheets. Roast, rotating the sheet pans once (and flipping the veg with a spatula if you like), until the veggies are nicely browned and tender, about 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes on the sheet pans and then combine in a mixing bowl.

While the vegetables are roasting, put the greens in a wide heat-proof mixing bowl. Set out a serving platter or four serving plates.

Make the warm vinaigrette: Heat the 1/3 cup olive oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are browned and crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Take the skillet off the heat and remove the shallot rings with a fork, transferring them to a paper-towel lined plate. Let the oil cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, the maple syrup, the Dijon, the juice, the zest, the herbs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Whisk vigorously until the dressing is mostly emulsified. (Alternatively, first transfer the shallot-infused oil to a heat-proof Pyrex liquid measure, add the other ingredients and whisk well. This is a slightly less awkward way of making the dressing). Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon or lime juice, salt or pepper as needed.

Season the greens with a sprinkling of kosher salt and drizzle over them a few tablespoons of the warm vinaigrette. (Be sparing at this point). Toss well, taste, and add a little more dressing if necessary. Arrange most of the greens on your platter or serving plates. Sprinkle with half of the nuts, cheese, and fruit.

Season the roasted veggies with a pinch more salt, and dress them lightly with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Toss well and scatter over the greens. Garnish with remaining nuts, cheese, fruit, greens, and reserved shallots. Serve right away, passing the remaining dressing if desired.

Serves 4

P.S. Farmer enjoyed harvesting greens this morning, too!

 

Countdown to Opening Day: Green Island Farm Stand 2012!

I have been secretly harvesting a few greens here and there for a customer in need. But I’m trying not to pilfer too much as I want to be stocked up for opening day—which is, yikes, 10 days away! Next Friday is the start of Memorial Day weekend, and Green Island Farm Stand will be open for business. (At least during the weekend. We’ll probably close during the weekdays until late June.)

I am both giddy and nervous with excitement. There is such a huge learning curve with growing—and it begins to go up more rapidly as the years pass. So I can’t help but feel good about some things I’ve finally got figured out. (See the photo gallery below.) At the same time, I can already see that despite doubling the size of the garden this year (Roy finished enclosing the “back 40” this weekend while I transplanted tomato seedlings into pots), I still wish we had more of some things—especially our beautiful greens. The salad lettuces are simply stunning, and all of the Asian greens are flourishing under cover of Remay. Hopefully, there’s enough to keep up with demand in June, since greens are the main deal until the early carrots and peas come in. (I sort of never thinned the peas, all of which miraculously germinated, so I hope they don’t strangle each other. If not, there will be a lot of peas!)

The trick to growing and selling greens is to seed new flats every week and transplant when holes open up. Or to transplant some and direct-seed new beds at intervals. (Some greens, like the lettuces, the mustards, and the kale will provide multiple harvests—and we do love them for that—but once a head of baby bok choy goes, it goes. Arugula is good for a couple rounds, but then the new growth toughens.) But knowing these tricks (finally) doesn’t make them necessarily doable. When we get the hoop house built, that will help a lot. But there’s only so much space we can devote to greens, too, since we like having the farm stand—and that means we have to make room for a variety of vegetables and that will yield at different times during the season, filling in gaps when other things wane. It’s a big puzzle, but a very fun one.

Of course the other way to deal with all this is to just dig more beds! And now that we have the tractor, well…we just bought a bunch of asparagus crowns…and more rhubarb plants…and a few strawberry plants. And we turned the old chicken yard into a patch for Roy’s gladiolus. Yeah, we are not too good at saying ‘enough.’ (Witness the new flock of chicks. And yes, they are all doing fine!)

Here’s a photo gallery preview of the goodies to come (and a look at the “Back 40″ awaiting a gate, beds, plants, and a new irrigation system!):

On the Wings of Christmas

Two fields over and across Scotchman’s Lane lies the house of our friend Katherine Long. Less than a half-mile as the hawk flies. (And fly it does. More on that in a minute.) We trekked over to her Mermaid-and-Starfish-festooned place on Sunday for her famous Solstice potluck. Actually, we drove, though we would’ve walked if the snow really had turned from flurries to blurries like it did two years ago on the day of her party.

We had to transport our goodies—two big salads straight from the winter garden (the color of those leaves still really knocks my socks off); a broccoli, cheddar and potato frittata; and one of my all-time favorite Christmas recipes, Mrs. Lenkhe’s Cheese Sables. My friend Martha Holmberg  introduced me to these years ago, and they are almost as flaky as puff pastry and they pretty much melt in your mouth. (These, and the spicy pecans I made and crumbled into the salad would both make great nibbles to serve before your Christmas dinner.)

The spread at Katherine’s was seductive.  She’d made her real Texas chili, which is smoky and spicy with lots of ancho chiles. (She grew up in Hill Country.) My favorite. Friends helped her make dozens and dozens of deviled eggs (Katherine has sixty laying hens), and from there the list went on and on—ham, roast turkey, coq au vin, whole poached salmon, wild-rice and cranberry salad, quiche, carrot soup, house-made cheese (another of Katherine’s talents), sweets of every imaginable form, many from her good friend Rosemary Jackson. Roy and I went back for seconds…and thirds. The amazing thing is that Katherine keeps her party going from noon to 9 pm, and she invites anyone in West Tisbury who wants to come! I am so impressed and also inspired to do a summer potluck myself next year.

Tuesday afternoon I was just about to head out the door to retrieve a cutting board from Katherine’s when a Facebook post from her caught my eye. It was a photo (top of blog) of a young Red-tail hawk, in her yard, with its talons around a hen. The hawk had mauled the hen but wouldn’t let go. Katherine poured a bucket of water over the hawk and still it didn’t budge. I believe that Katherine had to wave a plastic chair at the bird before it finally flew away. But in the process she managed to get a very up-close-and-personal photo. This arresting image stopped me cold because I was still enjoying the warm afterglow of her party—looking at all the photos of friends on Facebook and even enjoying some of the leftovers at home. It reminded me that while we humans gather together snugly inside our warm houses and begin to hibernate (with full larders at our disposal), the birds and the rest of the critters outside are still desperately focused on finding food and preparing for the winter. The birds in particular seem very antsy, and every time I’ve gone outside this week I’ve gotten a birdy-y surprise.

Yesterday I caught Farmer playing with something feathery in the yard. He was just kind of tossing it around—not biting it—and it turned out to be a mostly intact dead robin. Probably it had come to feed at the new feeder Roy just hung (the cardinals are loving it) and had accidentally banged into something.  (Farmer also brought me a dead mouse this week—unfortunately this one was partially decomposed and full of maggots. Luckily I had my gardening gloves on when I reached in to his mouth to retrieve it. Yuck.) This morning our neighborhood flock of wild turkeys (5 adults and 2 juveniles) was hanging around our driveway, not 10 feet from my kitchen window, drinking water out of the puddles. I went out and shooed them away but they chose to trundle through the newly planted blueberry bushes on their way back down to the fence line. Harumph. The other day I caught one standing on top of the chicken coop.

And then, around noontime today, just as Roy was pulling down the driveway, the hawk arrived. Maybe he (or she) flew over from Katherine’s place or maybe this was a different  hawk, but more than likely they’re at least related, as we know there is a pair of adult hawks at nearby Whiting Farm that mate every year and hatch young trouble-makers. Of course, you’re not allowed to shoot a hawk (not that either of us was considering it or would really want to); you just have to be clever about scaring them off. Hence Katherine’s bucket of water. And Roy’s projectiles. He began tossing various objects at our visitor (right), who had alighted on a tree branch right above the chicken coop. The hawk didn’t even flinch at the first few missives, but finally took off—for a taller, but still nearby tree branch. Then Roy and I cornered Perky.

You see, Perky has been free-ranging this week while all the other hens stay in their protected yard, which is adjacent to their coop and covered with bird netting. Perky has been such a bad girl that we actually considered sacrificing her, but when faced with the imminent reality of that today, we quickly scooped her up and put her back in the pen…where, unfortunately, she will do what she does every day—peck at least one of the eggs that the other hens have laid.

Sometimes the damage is minimal (meaning we can still eat the egg, though not sell it or give it away) but it’s always disheartening to see the cracks. When I’m home, I rush out to the nesting boxes several times during the morning to grab the eggs as soon as they’re laid, and Perky is always lurking around waiting to pounce. One of the bigger hens will usually brood over the warm eggs—I like to think she’s protecting them from Perky, but who knows. I do know that Perky actually sat on top of Sugar one day in an attempt to get at her pretty blue egg (a favorite to peck). We have tried various home remedies to get Perky to stop pecking, but it wasn’t until this week when Roy just picked her up and plunked her outside the chicken yard that we got a perfect batch of eggs again. And as it turns out, since Perky doesn’t want to be far from the flock, she mostly just circles around the pen and doesn’t go far. Could be a good daytime solution if it weren’t for the hawks. (Our friend came back twice this afternoon.)

There’s even strange bird activity inside the house: This week our love bird, Ellie, laid two eggs. We’ve had her for two years and she’s never laid an egg. They look awfully big (bigger than a marble) for such a tiny bird, but she is very pleased with herself and sits haphazardly over the eggs all day long, puffing her lollipop-green feathers out proudly.  Thankfully these eggs aren’t fertilized, so we won’t have any baby lovebirds. Whew.

I admit, I still have a curious and not entirely loving attitude towards the birds of the world. I keep writing about them, because I am surrounded by them, and I know there is some meaning in this. (I will probably freak out when a dove flies by some day carrying an olive branch—miracle believer that I am.) Roy loves birds and our dear friend Joannie loves them. (In the photo below, that’s Joannie on the left and Katherine on the right at the Solstice party.) In fact Joannie feeds the pair of swans down at the Mill Pond twice a day. So yesterday I was baking the last of some Christmas cookies and made Joannie a special batch. Libby and I had discovered a tiny swan cookie cutter in our collection a few weeks ago, which immediately made us think of Joannie. So I’m giving Joannie the cookies and the cookie cutter for Christmas. And for right now, I think my favorite kind of bird may be the edible kind—preferably with sugary sprinkles!

P. S. Thanks to Katherine for furnishing me with the photos at top and bottom.

Tiny Roasted Beets, A Winter Garden Salad, And A Dog that Likes Both

You would think that at some point I’d reach my limit with this whole veggie thing. But it seems I can never get enough. On Saturday I threw Libby and Farmer in the car (this was not hard, as where one goes, so goes the other) and headed off to Whippoorwill Farm. I’d heard a rumor that they were offering their last winter harvest for the CSA to the general public–$20 a share. Oh boy! I remember from belonging to the CSA a few years back that the cabbages and root veggies they provided at the end of the season lasted a good long time in the fridge. And since the only real winter-keepers we’ve got from our garden are onions and rutabagas, the idea of eating those carrots and beets and leeks (my favorite!) in January and February was too enticing for me to ignore.

When we got to the farm, Libby took over at the scales, weighing out each pound of carrots, turnips, and beets (we bought a double share, so it was a lot). Then she picked out our bags of lettuce and kale tops while I grabbed the cabbages and leeks. We hadn’t even made it back to the car before we were snacking on the incredibly sweet and crisp carrots. Of course Libby wanted to offer Farmer a carrot, so we broke one into pieces. He had a sniff from his back-seat perch, then proceded to crunch and swallow and lick his lips. Delicious. We ate three more on the way home.

After I sorted and rinsed the veggies and stored them in the new (old) mudroom fridge, I began to think about new ideas for using them. I also have exploding lettuces in the cold frame; the mix of seedlings we planted includes an unusual frilly purple mustard and a deeply handsome red Tat Soi, both of which are thriving. I also am nursing along a couple young heads of radicchio in the cold frame, so all the pretty reds and purples inspired me to make a Christmas-y deep red and green winter salad. (The arugula is also still thriving—outside of the cold frame, no less.)

I wanted to try a slightly different take on my favorite quick-roasting method for beets, too. While I love roasting them as thin slices, I decided to try tiny dice this time. (The recipe for quick-roasted beet slices is both here and in Fast, Fresh & Green. And while I also included a recipe for tiny roasted roots in Fast, Fresh & Green, I had left beets off the list in that recipe for two reasons—they bleed, and I figured they would take longer than most roots to cook.)

But I was so pleased to discover yesterday that the little diced beets did indeed get tender in 20 minutes at 475 degrees. (So the great news is the same here as it is with the quick-roasted slices: You do not need to invest hours of time to enjoy roasted beets.) With caramelized edges, these sweet little gems made a great addition to the salad—which I rounded out with a creamy blue cheese and a bit of salty pancetta. I forgot the nuts this time around, but would have been happy with chopped toasted pecans or hazelnuts. I used a simple white balsamic vinaigrette with a little maple, but you could improvise your own winter salad with your own dressing and any combination of arugula, endive, radicchio, escarole, mustard, tat soi, or other hearty salad green. Figure about two cups loosely packed greens for each serving, and plate the salads for the nicest presentation, especially if you’re including a creamy cheese (which tends to get messy when tossed). Certainly opt out of the pancetta if you like. Follow the simple recipe below to roast the beets. I think using them on the day they’re roasted is nicest (you can leave them at room temp for a couple hours), but they certainly hold in the fridge, too, and can even be marinated in a citrusy vinaigrette to become more of a condiment or relish.

I discovered one other thing yesterday—Farmer likes roasted beets and arugula (in addition to Snickerdoodles). I won’t go into the details on how I learned this, but it has something to do with distracting him from the Christmas tree ornaments.

Tiny Diced Roasted Beets

Toss these in salads, marinate them to make a condiment or relish, or just plain eat them as a side dish or a snack.

1/2 pound trimmed small red beets (unpeeled)

1 generous tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the oven to 475°F. Line a small heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet (also called a quarter sheet pan) with parchment. Cut the beets into dice that are between 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch big. (It’s easiest to slice the beets across first—after discarding the ends—and then lay the slices down to cut into dice.)

Toss the diced beets thoroughly with the olive oil and salt in a small mixing bowl and spread in one layer on the sheet pan. Roast for 20 to 22 minutes, until caramelized and tender when pierced with a knife (they do not have to be soft, just cooked through. Don’t overcook or they will begin to burn.) Let cool a bit on the sheet pan and eat right away—or later!

Makes enough to garnish three or four small salads or two large ones.

Here at Lettuce Central, We Love Our Vinaigrette

As if it weren’t bad enough to live with 400 seedlings in our tiny apartment all winter, now we have a LPU (lettuce processing unit) in the kitchen. This is not an official piece of equipment, but rather a collection of big stainless steel bowls, salad spinners, dish towels, and assorted plastic bags, trays, and coolers that I use to wash, dry and pack the lettuce and greens we’re harvesting from the garden in order to sell them at the farm stand.

There comes a point every evening and every morning when pretty much every surface is covered with lettuce or greens of some sort. I don’t yet have my system worked out perfectly, so my partner, Roy, is finding this chaos all very amusing. Only yesterday did I realize he’d written “Lettuce Central” on our blackboard next to the kitchen door a few days ago. I’d been so distracted, I hadn’t even seen it.

It’s all pretty swell though, as I am totally enchanted with the lettuces and greens, and with our success in growing them, despite their wobbly start as spindly seedlings in the apartment. And the best perk is the killer salads we are having every night for dinner.

But you don’t have to grow your own lettuce to make a really good green salad—just keep things simple. Stick with mostly greens (forget the big hulking cherry tomatoes and chunks of raw bell pepper—they’re distracting), and try a combination of tender lettuces and a little bit less of something assertive (I love Bibb lettuce with a bit of arugula or mizuna). You can even toss in a few baby herb leaves or finely sliced fresh herbs like mint, parsley or basil for a tiny surprise hit of flavor.

Take the extra time to buy individual heads of lettuce and bunches of greens—they’re much fresher and tastier than bagged lettuce. Wash them well, and be sure to spin them dry as dressing won’t cling to wet leaves. Lastly, make your own tasty house vinaigrette. Bottled salad dressings are full of things you don’t want to be consuming. Plus they taste, well, bottled.

A vinaigrette in its simplest form is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (vinegar, or a combination of vinegar and citrus juice). With a pinch of salt or a dab of mustard to emulsify the two, you can make a vinaigrette in seconds. Or add an extra flavor or two—fresh pepper, minced garlic, lemon zest, chopped herbs—and you’ve got a custom dressing with only a few more minutes of work. Make a decent-sized batch, and you’ll have homemade vinaigrette in the fridge for a couple weeks of dinner salads.

Here’s a recipe for our favorite house vinaigrette.

Lemon-Sherry Vinaigrette for Summer Salads

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7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon minced fresh garlic

several grinds of fresh pepper

½ to 1 teaspoon thinly sliced fresh mint (optional)

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Combine all the ingredients in a bowl or glass measure and whisk until emulsified. Or combine in a glass jar with a lid and shake the jar until the ingredients are emulsified. Store covered in the fridge for two weeks.

Yields about 2/3 cup