Friday, February 22, 2008

Handfuls of Huge Flavor

Future House Farm, thank you for your E for excellence. This post is for you.

We've been receiving rain at least once a week since November, which means that I haven't watered in months. The clouds roll in and out, dropping snow on our mountains and keeping my little plot happily moist. The peas are plump, the lettuces are heading beautifully, the tatsoi is blooming, and everything green is just so green.

During the winter and spring, it's possible to grow a whole lot of food in my plot, but since I'm a variety addict, I grow quite a few different crops. That means I have a consistent influx of small harvests. Rarely do I have enough of any one vegetable to serve a crowd, but since I have so many crops, I've learned to mix and match handfuls of different vegetables for a huge variety of green side-dishes. I've come up with a little equation that works to make wonderful side dishes for two and can be adapted for more (if you have more veggies available). This equation can work for you whether you have bits and pieces of garden produce or odds and ends from the market. Here's my secret to green garden goodness:

fat + 1 aromatic +2 (or more) green veggies + 2 (or more) flavor enhancers + 1 color or texture addition (optional) = yum.

I mix and match garden ingredients according to my little equation to come up with some sort of vegetable wonder almost every night. For example, tonight I wilted a sliced shallot in duck fat, tossed in chopped sugar snap peas, a handful of fava beans, ribboned kale, and a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves. I covered the pot to let the ingredients steam a minute in their own moisture, tossed the ingredients around, then removed the lid and sauteed everything until just cooked and still crisp. I sprinkled coarse sea salt and a couple drops of sherry vinegar over everything, and had a vegetable side dish fit for royalty.

Here's your mix and match list:

Cooking fats:
Olive oil
Walnut oil
Bacon fat
Duck fat

Aromatic:
Garlic clove, crushed
Shallot, thinly sliced
Crushed red chili
Slivered preserved lemon

Green Veggies:

Tatsoi
Fava bean tops
Fava beans
Chard, cut in ribbons
Pea shoots
Sugar snap peas, cut in 1 centimeter lengths
Side sprouts of broccoli, chopped very coarsely
Kale, cut in ribbons
Green garlic, cut into 2 centimeter lengths

Flavor enhancers:

Pancetta or bacon, cooked and chopped
Lemon juice
Sherry vinegar
Cilantro
Thyme
Parsley
Scallions

Color or texture:

Violas
Calendula petals
Walnuts or pistachios
Cruciferous blossoms (broccoli, tatsoi, mustard, arugula, etc)

Method:
Choose your cooking fat and wilt whatever aromatic you're using in it. Toss in the veggie combination you have available, cover for a minute, remove the lid and stir around in the heat. Add the flavor enhancers, color or texture if you'd like it, and coarse sea salt. Serve.

4 comments:

Terry B said...

This is brilliant, Christina! What an excellent post! And by quickly blanching green beans, broccoli, cauliflower or other sturdier vegetables, you could adapt them to this method too. I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of duck fat--what fabulous flavor it can impart. Treasure Island, a lovely European-style grocery chain here in Chicago, even sells duck fat, in case you don't have any left over from cooking duck.

Kelly said...

Thanks for the shout-out. I'm having troubles coming up with the words to describe how damn smart this post is. It really shows how far a little food theory can go; I dig it.

Christina said...

Terry B.: I have a cup full of duck fat in my refrigerator from the legs I braised last week--it is such a great fat with which to cook. Thanks fro the tip on Treasure Island; I'll have to check it out online. Yes, all different sorts of veggies can work in this recipe, I just listed what I have growing in bits and pieces in my yard. I can't wait to try this with green beans this summer.

Kelly: You're most welcome! Thanks for including me in your Excellent list--it's such a compliment! I'm glad you like this post and hope that you find it useful in your kitchen.

Have a wonderful evening, guys!

Laura said...

Great equation Christina, do you grow Chinese Chives/Garlic chives they would do very well in your equation as aromatics and the flower buds are delicious too.