Collard Green and Pecan Pesto

Pesto needs no introduction. I bet almost everyone reading this has made one type or another. There are so many variations, based on anything from herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, sage), greens (kale, arugula), mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, and roasted red peppers. This is my Southern take on the classic by using collard greens and pecans.

There are a couple tips for making a great pesto: first, roast the nuts and second, toast most of the garlic. Roasting the nuts brings out the flavor while toasting the garlic mellows the flavor so it doesn’t take over the dish (I do add a little raw garlic at the end, however).

Enjoy!

Collard Greens & Pecan Pesto
makes enough for 1 pound pasta

Recipe note: 1) you can use the traditional Parmesan here but I liked mixing it up a bit by using cheddar; 2) use a traditional skillet (cast iron or aluminum) as opposed to a non-stick skillet to toast garlic as non-stick skillets can release harmful chemicals when heated without fat in the pan; 3) reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water to thin out the pesto if you plan on tossing it with pasta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (just under 4 ounces) pecan pieces
  • 5 large garlic cloves, unpeeled plus 1 small clove, minced
  • 4-1/2 ounces collard greens, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-1/2 ounces extra aged cheddar, shredded on large holes of box grater (about 3/4 cup) (see recipe note)
  • Salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used 5 to 10 grinds)
  • Apple cider vinegar to taste (I used 1-1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 pound dry pasta of choice (fusilli, bowtie, shells)

Directions:

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Place nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 5-8 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  • Heat unpeeled garlic cloves in a small skillet (see recipe note) over medium heat, turning every few minutes, until soft and skin is starting to darken and pull away. Set aside. Once cool enough to handle, remove skins and mince.
  • Add nuts, garlic, greens and oil to a large food processor and pulse until nuts and greens are broken down but still have a little texture. Transfer to a bowl and mix in cheese and raw garlic. Taste and add salt, pepper and vinegar as needed. Toss with pasta of choice and reserved cooking water (see recipe note), adding a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Dietary Guidelines (Alice O’Dea Article)

Hi there! In this weeks article, Alice discusses the 5 food categories in light of the new governmental dietary guidelines coming out later this year. Food doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing, she reminds us, as long as you “get real food and prepare it yourself”, you should be fine. Just another great reminder why it is best to buy local and from a farmer you trust (like us!).

There’s recently been some discussion in the news and on social media about the new dietary guidelines that will be coming out this year. This is a process we go through every five years, and it inevitably is fraught with controversy and leads to confusion. This year has been no exception. Unfortunately, while the details are being ironed out by the experts, the rest of us still have to eat.

The good news, though, is that figuring out what to eat is not as complicated as a lot of people make it out to be. Most of the confusion and controversy arises because modern eaters have so many options to choose from, which can be quite overwhelming. But if you ignore all the claims on the boxes and in the ads, and pay attention to just the food that ends up on your plate, things can get a lot simpler and clearer.

Eat a wide variety of foods (not a lot of anything) that are sourced as close to the farm as possible, and you will likely be getting a balanced diet. What you might not get in one meal, you’ll make up for in the next. Over the course of a day or two, things will balance out. Looking at the government’s recommendations is an interesting exercise, as it helps to have a general sense of the proportions, but for most people, there’s no need to measure out each bit of food. Take Michael Pollan’s famous advice (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”), and you’ll be fine.

If you’re curious, you can find out how many calories you should be eating on a given day to either lose, gain or maintain your current weight by using the calculator here. That link will also give you a food plan, with some detail as to what you should be eating, but don’t worry too much about the particulars. It will give you just a general sense of what sorts of things (and how much of them) you should be seeing on your plate day to day, and then you can think about how you might best supply your body with those foods without surrounding them with empty fats, sugars and starches. The five categories of foods included are fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein.

When it comes to fruit, raw and without added sweetener is the ideal to shoot for. Just eat an apple, banana or grapefruit, plain and unadorned. This way, you get the vitamins and minerals without any extra calories or sugar. You could get some of those nutrients in a supplement or in juice, but then you’d be missing out on the fiber that you get when you enjoy simple, fresh fruit. And if it’s out of season, dried versions can be a good alternative.

Eat a wide variety of vegetables in all sorts of colors for maximum nutrition. If you’re struggling to get enough vegetables into your diet, keep in mind that frozen vegetables can be as delicious and nutritious as fresh ones, and are easy to slip into a dish. Making eggs for breakfast? Make a frittata instead and you can probably fit in at least a serving or two of your day’s veggies. Serving soup? Whether or not it’s called for in the recipe (or even if the soup is from a can), mix in some greens. Make rarebit instead of grilled cheese, nibble on cabbage chips instead of potato chips and so on. After a while, you’ll get there without even thinking about it all that much.

Grains have become a loaded subject lately, but there are plenty to choose from, so this is probably a pretty easy category for most people—even those who are trying to avoid gluten or fructans. Between breads, cereals, pasta, rice and popcorn, I suspect the majority of us might be in danger of getting too much of a good thing. The trick is in trying to stick to the whole and unrefined versions while avoiding the white, heavily processed stuff.

Dairy is an unfortunately named category because the requirement here isn’t that we eat something that is made from milk, but rather that we should make sure we have adequate sources of calcium, potassium and vitamin D. There are soy-, rice- and nut-based alternatives for those who are avoiding animal products or are lactose-intolerant (though fermented dairy is an option for some in the latter category).

And finally, there is protein, which can be a real Catch-22. Either we’re getting plenty because we eat a lot of meat (but then are also getting a potentially unhealthy dose of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat), or we have little or no animal protein in our diets and may not be getting enough from other sources. But even here, if we phase back the meats and ramp up plant proteins such as beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds and nuts—and don’t sweat the details—we’re probably going to be just fine. The key is to eat from a variety of protein sources while also eating an interesting assortment of vegetables and grains. The particulars will sort themselves out.

If you have a medical issue, by all means work with your health care team to come up with a proper diet. But otherwise, you’re going to be fine if, for the most part, you just get real food and prepare it yourself. That way, you can simply enjoy eating and not worry about the details.


Leaf Celery Gremolata

Gremolata is an herb based condiment typically made with parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Its beauty lies in its simplicity – just three ingredients, chopped, minced and grated and tossed together. Each ingredient is bold so just a sprinkling really heightens the flavor of whatever you use it with.

I swapped out the parsley in favor of leaf celery (CSA’ers – this is in next weeks share!). If you aren’t familiar with leaf celery, it looks a lot like parsley but the celery taste is unmistakable. There are actually 3 different celery plants grown for different culinary uses – stalk celery, celery root and leaf celery. This website provides a lot of additional background and growing information.

You can use this with many different types of dishes. The original version was made to accompany osso buco, a braised veal shank, so I imagine this would pair well with many types of roasted meat dishes. For cheese lovers, I love the flavor of celery with blue cheese. You could pick up some Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s Bellamy Blue at the Main Street Farmers Market and serve it on crackers with a little of the gremolata sprinkled on top. This also goes well with starchy dishes as well, such as risotto or pizza. I originally made this as a garnish for a mushroom pizza and it was fantastic (pizza can be a fairly quick meal when you purchase prepared pizza dough from your local grocer or Niedlov’s Breadworks). Please experiment and let us know how you use it! Enjoy!

Leaf Celery Gremolata
makes about 2 tablespoons

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped leaf celery
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients together until fully incorporated. Best used when freshly prepared.

Egg Drop Soup (Alice O’Dea Article)

Hello! Here is the latest article from our very own (CSA member, that is) Alice O’Dea. This week she discusses egg drop soup and I cannot wait to try it for myself! I have pasted the text of the article below for your reference but click on the link and check out the pretty picture of the soup. Enjoy!

I was reading about spring soups this week, and when I saw an image of this egg drop soup with ginger, chiles and spring peas, I thought it looked pretty awesome. But I didn’t have any ginger, chiles or spring peas, nor did I have the chicken broth and radishes that are also included in the recipe. No matter—those were just minor details. I was suddenly in the mood for egg drop soup, so I made some with what I had on hand.

This is a great dish that can be made on a moment’s notice in a matter of minutes. It is a substantial and comforting soup that provides protein without a lot of fat, and it is fun to cook—pouring the beaten eggs into the swirling broth makes such pretty patterns in the pot! It also doesn’t require a recipe, as you can make just one serving or much more, using some basic proportions and your own embellishments.

Variations on egg drop soup go by many names, depending on where you are in the world. It is known as egg flower soup in China, stracciatella in Italy,le tourin in France and avgolemono in Greece. A version in Austria (eierflockensuppe) is made by mixing the egg with flour so that it forms little dumplings when poured into the broth.

There are really only two requirements for egg drop soup: a flavorful liquid and an egg. The liquid is usually chicken broth or stock, but you can also try beef or vegetable stock (if you make some from scraps, you’re essentially conjuring this soup from little more than an egg and water!). Figure on somewhere around a cup or two of stock and one egg per serving of soup. The rest you can just fill in using whatever you can dig out of your refrigerator, find in the pantry or have growing out in the yard.

Of course, the better your ingredients, the more satisfying your results will be. Use the best stock and eggs you can find. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Some other flavors and textures you might want to add at this point are soy sauce, ginger, fish sauce, garlic, sliced chilies, grated cheese, bread crumbs, farina, asparagus, snow peas, snap peas, greens, bean sprouts, frozen peas or corn, mushrooms, meat, tofu, miso, lemongrass, shredded carrots or spices (such as nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and bay leaf).

If you want pasta or rice in your soup and it needs time to simmer, add it at this point so that it can cook to the proper texture. You want the eggs to be one of the last ingredients you add to the soup, but you might want to hold off adding anything to the pot that is very tender (like fresh spinach or chives) until the broth is fully heated and the starches properly softened.

Some recipes call for a bit of cornstarch (up to a tablespoon per quart of liquid) to firm up the broth, but they also warn not to add it too soon or it won’t hold its thickness. Regardless, if you use it, combine the cornstarch with an equal amount of broth or water before adding it to the pot so that it doesn’t get lumpy.

While the broth mixture is heating up, beat one egg for each serving. Some recipes out there call for whole eggs, and others don’t use all the yolks. That’s entirely up to your tastes and nutritional needs. I tend to make small batches of this soup, as it’s best when fresh, so I usually use just an egg or two anyway.

Turn the heat under the pot to low, mix the broth lightly, and slowly pour the beaten eggs into the soup while still stirring. Keep swirling until the egg tendrils set into curds, about two or three minutes. While the soup finishes cooking, you can taste and add last-minute flavors such as salt, sesame oil, vinegar or a splash of lemon juice.

Once it’s all set, scoop the soup into bowls and garnish with some scallions, cilantro, fresh chives, thinly sliced radishes, a splash of hot sauce and/or Parmesan cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve. Also, check your time, since it’s likely that you went from start to soup in as little as 15 minutes. Now that’s fast food!


Collard Green Falafel

I absolutely love falafel. I could eat it every day and be a very happy person. Especially when there’s hummus, pita and olives served along side. But to make authentic falafel, one needs to start with dried chickpeas (something I don’t always have on hand) and remember to soak them overnight (which I rarely remember to do). You don’t actually cook the beans when falafel are made this way which ensures a nice dense texture. While the recipe below yields falafel that are a little softer than the traditional version, they are a great, quick alternative.

The recipe below was adapted from The Minimalist Baker. They are all about simple recipes that can be made with 10 ingredients or less. Check out their blog if that type of cooking is up your alley!

Collard Green Falafel
makes about 25 1.5″ patties

Recipe note: I made a batch of these with almost twice the amount of collards (7.5 ounces/4 cups). I had to add more flour to keep them together and then cook them longer, but if you want to pack in more greens, it’s an option!

  • 4 ounces collard greens, stemmed and roughly chopped into 2″ pieces (about 2.5 cups) (see recipe note)
  • 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about a teaspoon), or more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 5 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients except the flour and oil to a large food processor and pulse to combine. I like to keep just a little texture in the beans if possible and not completely puree everything, so just keep pulsing, stopping to scrape down the bowl when needed, until you get the right consistency. Taste and add more seasoning (salt, cumin, garlic) if desired.
  • Transfer mixture to a medium mixing bowl and add 3 tablespoons of flour to start. Mix to combine and add the extra tablespoon of flour if the mixture doesn’t stay together when you clump a little up in your hand.
  • Portion out 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Form into a 1-1/2″ wide by 1/2″ tall disk. Continue until you have used up the remaining mixture. Set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Transfer roughly 12 disks to the oil, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook until brown and crisp on the first side, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook another 5 minutes on the second side. You may need to add just a little more oil to the pan after flipping in order to get the second side crisp. Once cooked, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Repeat with remaining oil and mixture. The falafel will firm up a bit when allowed to cool. Serve and enjoy.

Dealing with Disaster (Alice O’Dea Article)

Hi! I am almost a week late in posting another great article from Alice O’Dea, but here it is (with a great shout out to Tant Hill!). This week’s article is titled “Dealing with Disaster” where Alice reminds us that all is not lost when a dish doesn’t turn out as expected. The topic really hits home with me as I hate wasting food, and given the amount I cook, something is bound not to turn out right. Check out the original article here. I have also posted the text below.

I’ve been having one of those weeks where not many things have turned out the way I intended. My ambitions were thwarted in a variety of ways. The fruit I was drying somehow turned out both underdone and stubbornly fused to some waxed paper. My new food mill didn’t work as advertised, and I had to do some scrambling to figure out how to give cauliflower a roughly puréed texture without turning it into a liquid slush. And despite the liberal use of onions, garlic and seasonings, some bean soup came out incredibly bland.

It’s a terrible thing to waste food, so even while it might be a tad dramatic to call these experiences “disasters,” I was challenged to improvise, or the results of my efforts in the kitchen might have ended up in the compost heap. Fortunately, food is adaptable and flexible; if one thing doesn’t work out, it often can be adapted into another.

There is some good reading out there about how to turn a mistake into an innovation. Tamar Adler devotes a whole chapter and an appendix of “An Everlasting Meal” to the subject, and each is rich with suggestions. Burned eggplant? Make baba ghanoush. Mushy beans? Purée or “refry” them. Does it have too much spice, oil, or flavor? Mush it up and call it a condiment. And so on.

The Internet is also filled with great ideas for turning mishaps into meals. Dilute an overly salty dish with supplemental ingredients, or balance the flavor with something sweet, spicy or acid. Turn old bread into deliciouscrostini. Shred overcooked or dry meat and use it to fill impromptu tacos. There’s no need to throw that food away if you’re a bit creative.

Your chances of recovering after a mistake in the kitchen are higher both if you have a well-stocked pantry, and if you have been working with good raw materials. There’s no saving the mac & cheese if what you ruined came in a box with bright orange powdered “cheese” (but then again, you’re only out a buck). But if you set out to cook some spaghetti carbonara and suddenly realize that you’re out of eggs, you can quickly shift to making Cacio e Pepe instead, because quality ingredients—like a nice olive oil or interesting cheese—can hold their own even in a simple dish.

I was able to salvage some of my fruit after letting it sweat in the refrigerator overnight; it seemed rather jam-like, so I used it as a spread. My bean soup was brightened with a big glug of vinegar and a splash of hot sauce at the table. I ran the cauliflower through a cheese grater, and even though the texture wasn’t ideal (my fake “tortilla” broke when flipped), the egg-and-cauliflower quesadilla ended up being pretty tasty (and was rehabilitated further when served alongside some of the most beautiful kale I have ever seen, courtesy of Tant Hill Farm). It all eventually worked out.

How have you recovered when things didn’t go as planned?


Chickweed Power Salad

I visited The Farmer’s Daughter for brunch this past weekend for the first time and I was not disappointed. It is just my type of food – local, seasonal and flavorful. The menu isn’t very big but I had a hard time deciding what to get. Pancakes? Grits & Greens? Hashbrowns? Everything sounded delicious. Oddly enough (for me), I chose the Power Salad. Maybe it’s the start of spring or the fact that the salad is described as “hearty” on the menu. Either way, I loved it and was determined to make my own version.

Their salad includes quinoa, French lentils, roasted root vegetables, seasonal slaw, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, shaved parmesan, and lemon-miso dressing with a smattering of salad greens tossed in.  I started, of course, using what was provided in last weeks CSA share. While I could have used kale as the base of the salad, I thought I would try it with chickweed. Check out this link if you aren’t familiar with chickweed. It’s nutritious, crunchy and it tastes similar to spinach. To this, I added the quinoa and French lentils and kept the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. I used goat cheese instead of Parmesan because it was on hand but I think I liked it better with Parmesan. Parmesan provided umami (or savoriness) that the salad was lacking otherwise. I also swapped the roasted root vegetables for shaved carrots (because it was easier) and lemon-miso dressing for lemon-avocado dressing (because it was on hand).

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a starting point. I think what makes this salad wonderful is the combination lentils and quinoa with lots of other flavors and textures. Below are directions on the lentils, quinoa and dressing but just use what you want and what is on hand. Experiment and enjoy this hearty salad!

Chickweed Power Salad
roughly 4 servings

Salad ingredients:

  • French lentils (recipe below)
  • Quinoa (recipe below)
  • Chickweed or greens of choice (kale, salad greens)
  • Shaved carrots or veggie of choice (roasted root vegetables)
  • Dried cranberries or dried fruit of choice (raisins)
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds or seeds/nuts of choice (sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts)
  • Shaved Parmesan or cheese of choice (goat cheese)
  • Lemon-avocado dressing (recipe below) or dressing of choice

Lentils (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated):

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup French lentils
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 teaspoon table salt
    • 4 cups water
    • Optional: a few smashed garlic cloves, 1/2 onion, stalk of chopped celery, sprig of fresh thyme
  • Directions:
    • Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Quinoa (from Cook’s Illustrated):

  • Ingredients
    • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and dried on a towel
    • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
    • 1-1/2 cups water
  • Directions:
    • Toast the quinoa in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until the quinoa is lightly toasted and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Stir in the water and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and continue to simmer until the quinoa has absorbed most of the water and is nearly tender, about 12 minutes. Spread the quinoa out over a rimmed baking sheet and set aside until it is tender and cool, about 20 minutes.

Lemon-Avocado Dressing

  • Ingredients:
    • 1/2 Hass avocado, pitted and removed from skin
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 1 small garlic clove, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • A few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • Directions:
    • Place all ingredients in a small food processor or blender and process until fully combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.