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Beautiful, Abundant, Forgiving. . .

. . . and delicious! The wedding cake! Yes it was but that’s for the next post! I’m really talking about Chard, Swiss Chard. Much less sexy but much more practical. Chard is a workhorse of a vegetable and solved my dinner conundrum tonight. I have four plants in the garden and pick a generous bunch at least once a week.

Unfortunately my red chard plants just started bolting so I have less of a rainbow situation now but the white and gold ones are still beautiful.

Chard keeps in a plastic bag in the fridge for at least a week. It’s easy to cook and equally delicious braised for a longer period of time to bring out all its sweetness or quickly sautéed.

In tonight’s iteration I turned it into “Daddy Patties”, so named by my niece for my brother. Not sure why, but the moniker has stuck. Call them what you will, they are a hearty, delicious meal usually devoured by non-greens-loving adults and children with glee, as well as by us greens-lovers!

I had a heel of stale bread to use up today and was a bit lazy and just cut the bread into rough pieces. I love the flavor and texture of the bigger bits of bread in the patties but it does make the patties harder to fry and  flip as they break up more easily. They taste just as good but aren’t quite as beautiful.

My mother used to serve these with rice and a tomato sauce. I don’t usually take the time to make a sauce but it’s a great combo. I serve them with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream or just plain or with a salad on the side.

2 bunches greens (chard, beet greens, spinach, kale, collards or any combination of these)

2 eggs

½ – 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, gouda, asiago, parmesan (use the smaller amount if you’re using a hard cheese like parmesan, etc.)

1 cup larger, roughly torn bread crumbs or 1/cup more finely ground ones (or if you don’t have bread/bread crumbs you can  use 3 Tablespoons of cornmeal in the batter instead)

a pinch or two of chili flakes (optional)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

salt

pepper

oil for pan frying

Wash and coarsely chop the greens. Cook them in ½ cup or so of water in a large sauté pan or pot for a few minutes until they are tender (for kale or collards the cooking time will be a bit longer, but not much). Drain well and squeeze out most of the moisture and chop the greens again. Beat the 2 eggs in a large bowl, add salt, pepper, chili flakes and nutmeg (if using), grated cheese and bread crumbs. Mix in greens. Taste for salt.

Heat a cast iron or other large skillet with a tablespoon or so of olive or safflower oil. When hot spoon  about large spoonfuls of the mixture into pan and pat down with a spatula to flatten. Flip after a few minutes when the underside is golden brown. Cook a few minutes more and serve. They keep warm and hold up nicely in a 250 degree oven.

Salt your Food!

It’s too beautiful out to spend much time at the computer. At long last it feels like summer has arrived. One of my dearest friends is getting married this weekend here in Portland and I think her arrival in town has brought out the sun. Margo is also the person for whom I’m making the wedding cake that I may or may not have mentioned here but will get a full post once it’s completed and happily devoured.

The two salts I use: Diamond Crystal Kosher and a Portuguese "Flor de Sal", a very good sea salt.

Now to salt . . . . Much has been written recently about salt and several recent posts on the ever informative Culinate.com have useful links and commentary. Much of this debate was started by a panel appointed by the USDA which is making the case for more stringent crackdown on salt.

The key distinction, which many of the current articles make, is that processed food is jam-packed with salt and ever more so. This recent NY Times piece gives you all the dirty details. But I want to refer you to this wonderful piece I also just discovered on Culinate which sums up my salt mantra which I give at the beginning of each of my cooking classes. I start my spiel with: “The difference been mediocre food and good food is  salt.” It’s not quite that simple but almost, so read the piece and find out and then go out and play in the sun, then come in make a quick salad or soup or frittata with all the beautiful produce we have, salt it well and enjoy!

P.S. The sea salt I use–for salad dressings, finishing dishes, etc.–is available at Pastaworks.

P.P.S. I had two very fun cooking classes this last week and will share a recipe or two from these soon! If you can’t wait, some of them are posted on Sauvie Island Organic’s blog. You have to scroll down a bit, but I’m there!

Why I Like Vegetables

Fava Beans

Last night I did something I haven’t done for a long time. I puréed vegetables in order for my son to eat them. He has plenty of teeth mind you (he is 3 years old!) and capacity to chew so that was not the reason. For the last week or so, we’ve relapsed into the negotiations over vegetables and I was simply tired of it. I sautéed onions, carrots, chard stems and added a bunch of collards and some veggie broth. Then I pureed the whole thing, added it to a small batch of cream sauce and baked it with pasta and a bit of cheese for a very-veggie-heavy “mac-n-cheese”. He devoured two bowls full with a grin on his face and asked me to be sure and save some for him for after school today and not send ALL of it to work with Daddy!

Why did I feel so compelled to do this? I love vegetables and I don’t like days without them. I probably love vegetables in part because I grew up eating them and watching my mother grow them. And they’re so beautiful. I also did this because I want my son to be healthy and strong and well-nourished and I’m convinced deep down in my soul that having good vegetables everyday is a part of that.  And I know that he likes vegetables but somehow those green and orange pieces would otherwise have been meticulously eaten around and left in the bowl – unless we’d launched said negotiations which tend to end with the promise of dessert!

But I digress, my point is that vegetables matter–flavor, nutrients, variety, color, cultural markers, history, beauty, and more flavor! I’m grateful for the variety and quality of vegetables surrounding me in my garden, my CSA share, the farmers markets and in some of our grocery stores. And that  makes me grateful to our many local farmers, who have not had an easy go of it this spring. When my broccoli is devastated by cabbage worms and my basil and peppers succumb to slugs, I’m frustrated but I still get my CSA every week and the markets are still abundant. But in order for that to be the case, so much creative energy, knowledge, skill and hard work is applied to those fields every day and for that, I am the most grateful.

And while last night’s pasta dish was perfectly fine, I don’t think any of you need the “recipe” so instead I’m going to direct you to this week’s blog post from Sauvie Island Organics in which I’m the featured “chef” and there you will find six new recipes to put all these wonderful veggies to use.

Happy Cooking and  Eating!

P.S. Summer Cooking Class Schedule at Cook With What You Have!

Salad, Salad, Salad. . .

Say (curse, shout, whine, cry) what I will about this unbelievably rainy spell we’ve had, the lettuces and greens are glorious and bountiful. We have salads every night these days, the greens picked minutes before dinner. They are tender, sweet and addictive. Right now I have lots of arugula (not going to seed nearly as quickly as usual), mache (also known as corn salad, lamb’s lettuce or Feldsalat) and red oak leaf, and variety of green lettuces.

And speaking of salads and before I forget, my next cooking class is Saturday 6/19 and will feature salads (and a guest chef!) and other fabulous dishes. Still spots left – sign up at Cook With What You Have!

A few nights ago the salad needed to be the main gig for dinner. I had hard-boiled a few eggs earlier in the day since I like to have them on hand. I had some lovely  new carrots from my CSA and a few beets. I scrubbed them well and without peeling either–I gave up peeling carrots years ago but more recently have quit peeling beets too, unless less their on the big side when the skin can get a bit tough–cut the carrots on the bias into nice chunks, the beets into small wedges and spread them out on a sheet pan. I sprinkled them generously with salt and olive oil and roasted them in a hot oven (425) for about 20 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized around the edges.

Meanwhile I washed and dried the greens, roughly chopped 3 hard-boiled eggs and made a dressing. Dressing was green garlic finely minced (of which I also have a lot in the garden and since I want the garden space for other things I’m pulling it all up now), fresh thyme, dijon-style mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil and a few teaspoons of my reduced apple cider. More on that later.

I tossed the greens with the roasted veggies, eggs and dressing and we sat down to a meal of this beautiful salad and warm cornbread muffins made extra good with sharp cheddar, chives and some chili flakes in the batter. Cornbread recipe to follow soon. And if you can’t wait, it’s an adaption of a recipe from Michael Ableman’s Fields of Plenty.

It was the perfect late spring dinner . . . at least my husband and I thought so. My son ended up eating a deconstructed version that looked like this:

Try as I might, dressed green salads have yet to enter his repertoire.

On a final note, it is supposed to dry out and warm up, albeit after yet another few days of rain, so next week I’ll have a pizza recipe, yes, with greens for you all!

Happy Cooking and Eating!