The lettuces and other greens that overwintered in my garden don’t seem to mind the cold wet spring. The longer days and occasional rays of sun are enough for them to grow a few inches a day it seems. And as noted in last week’s post, my neighbor’s greens are even more prolific.
Not only are the cultivated greens thriving these days but so are the wild ones. I have never known much about what edibles one can forage but last week I had the pleasure of hosting a local TV news station and Edible Portland in my kitchen. They filmed a segment on wild edibles that had been picked earlier that morning in an urban neighborhood here in Portland by John Kallas, one of the authorities on wild foods. John wrote a comprehensive book on wild edibles including lots of recipes and photos to identify these delicious and nutritious foods. So if you don’t have any lettuces in your garden you might want to check out the book and then take a walk in your neighborhood and see what you find. The salads and frittatas we sampled during the filming were delicious.
And beans! I love beans and to my great delight I caught a bit of Splendid Table (the NPR weekly food show) on Sunday about some of the healthiest people on earth who live in Turkey and eat lots of beans, olive oil and red wine.
But back to yesterday’s lunch salad–the salad I make in some fashion several times a week for lunch and for dinner has two main components: greens and beans. I always have home-cooked beans in the freezer and usually a quart in the fridge (canned beans work fine for this kind of thing too). And in the winter I almost always have kale around (which works beautifully in this hearty salad in its raw state) and the above mentioned greens. You really can use most any kind of green leafy item from spinach to kale to watercress and arugula to endive to romaine. Same with the beans. . .. red, black, pinto, white, garbanzo are all delicious.
Nice additions to this salad foundation are some of kind of cheese, hard-boiled egg, some herbs or nuts, thinly sliced onion or minced garlic. . .. You can also play with the ratio of beans to greens. If you want a bean-heavy salad, just chop the greens and herbs a little finer and have the focal point be the beans, eggs, nuts, etc. And finally you need a zippy dressing. My standard is good olive oil (I like Unio by Siurana available locally at Pastaworks), lemon juice or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and my secret ingredient: reduced apple cider. I take a half-gallon of organic apple cider and bring it to a boil in a big pot and reduce it at a rolling boil until it gets a little syrupy and viscous. I usually get about 1 1/2 cups from half a gallon. I store the syrup in a jar in the fridge and add a couple of teaspoons to my salad dressing.
With or without a slice of good bread (or maybe a batch of cornbread at dinner time) this is a light but satisfying meal.
And finally, since I promised you two recipes this week, here is a link to a recipe from my current favorite cookbook: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi from the eponymous restaurant in London. I made these leek fritters last night and reluctantly sent my husband off to work with the leftovers.
P.S. There are a few spots left in my May classes, including next week’s Spring Market Class.
Greens & Bean Salad
See notes above about how to adapt this kind of salad to your liking and to what you have on hand, and hence the vague quantities below. This is really more of an idea than a formal recipe.
2-4 cups of packed greens of your choice
1-3 cups cooked (or canned) beans of your choice (pinto, black, white, garbanzo. . .)
2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/2 shallot or small chunk of red or yellow onion, slivered or diced
1-2 ounces of cheese of your choice (feta, sharp cheddar, fresh goat’s cheese. . . )
handful or two of raw or toasted nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts. . .)
1/4 cup roughly chopped herbs (parsley, basil, chervil, tarragon, cilantro. . .)
1/4 cup of good olive oil
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons reduced apple cider (see note above) (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 clove of garlic, minced
Place all salad ingredients in a large boil. Mix dressing and drizzle over salad and toss well.