Now that we’ve all reveled and partied; socialized and entertained; and eaten and drunk possibly past the point of judicious reason on one or more occasions during the past holidays, it’s time for a more moderated approach. One with less. Of everything involving fat, carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and excess. The quickest and simplest way to find dietary equilibrium is by inserting more greens into our bowls and onto our plates.
Green vegetables of all kinds, as many of us know, are filled with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber. What they aren’t filled with is the fore-mentioned excesses, unless we are talking portion size, and in that case, more is a good thing. I’m planning on getting my greens in any way I can over the next couple of months. Here are a few suggestions from my kitchen:
1. Add a salad to an already planned dinner. Easy, easy. This is something many of us already do; just make sure you have enough greens in the house and use a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing for a little while. When you dress your salad with lemon juice (and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) you have the added bonus of helping your body to absorb all of the nutrients in the greens.
2. Salad as the main meal. Add protein of any kind and texture of any kind to create a meal rather than a side. Beans, avocado, nuts, dried fruit, cooked chicken or fish – really the sky is the limit.
3. Add another green vegetable to an already planned dinner. Steamed or sautéed is best for nutrient retention. With either, remove from heat when tender but still bright green.
4. Smoothies made with kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens. Or add a handful of greens to your already favorite breakfast smoothie. If you choose fruit or veggies that are light or green in color, your smoothie will also be bright green. If you love strawberries or other red or purple fruit in your smoothie, you’ll have to deal with dull green and brown. Get over it, they still taste great!
5. Add pureed greens to already prepared soups. For every soup that serves 4 people, heat 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and puree with one cup lightly packed greens. Add to prepared soup right before serving and serve immediately. If not, the brilliant green becomes a dull avocado color.
6. Soups with greens as the main event. Again, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens are the best go to’s.
Spinach Soup (with variations)
This soup is a gorgeous, brilliant green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything just before adding the spinach. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and puree with spinach in the blender as per the directions.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
11/2 cups diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery; about 2 stalks
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips; about 2 parsnips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 ounces spinach leaves, de-stemmed and well-washed; about 3 cups lightly packed
Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of creme frâiche
In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the stock and again bring to a boil.
Place the uncooked spinach leaves in the blender and pour the hot stock over the leaves. Puree in a blender and serve immediately.
Serves 4 (Makes 6 cups)
Chicken and Cilantro Spinach Soup – add 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves with the spinach and 1 1/2 cups diced poached chicken. Puree the greens with the stock or leave it rustic.
Cannellini Bean and Pesto Spinach Soup – add 4 tablespoons pesto with the spinach, puree, and then add 1 (15-ounce) can of cannellini beans.
Kale and Mushroom Soup – substitute kale for spinach, puree, and then add 1 cup sautéed mushrooms (3 cups raw and sliced).
7. Substitute the pasta, potatoes, or rice for a bed of greens. For example, with beans and brown rice for dinner, just add a bed of sautéed kale, or even better, forgo the rice and just have the beans and kale with all the fixin’s. Instead of mashed potatoes, add roasted kale or collard greens to your plate. Toss spinach leaves with a hot vegetable pasta sauce and have a warm wilted salad for dinner without the pasta.
It’s a tradition in our family to pick a ton of apples in the fall and then take them to the press to be turned into cider at Sewall Organic Orchard. Every since the girls were old enough to pick up apples from the tarp on the ground, we have joined our long-time family friends in this fall ritual. They have more heirloom trees than we do, so most of the apples come from their property. Over the years, as the girls have grown, we’ve perfected our apple picking technique to the point were we’ve got it down to a science. This year, our crew was able to see the press and spend some time sipping cider. And next summer on the Riggin, we will have organic cider every week! There’s a video of the process on Instagram.
It’s a race to pick the cherries before the birds feast!
Because we have a thriving bed of asparagus, it’s on the menu much of the time right now – chilled with a shallot and lemon vinaigrette when it’s warm outside and served bright green and piping hot when it’s chilly. Snapping the fat tops off the green and purple-hued stalks was one of the daily “chores” for the girls, although they fought over who got to do it, rather than the more usual, “It’s not MY turn!”
An asparagus bed is fairly maintenance free once the roots are in and settled. Just keeping it fed and weed-free is all it takes to produce enough sweet, grassy fronds until you almost tire of them and are looking forward to another vegetable to become your fascination. It takes three years before the plants are strong enough to handle a harvest. One can’t be greedy with an asparagus bed – clear cutting is a sure way to weaken a bed quickly. Some must always be left. These stalks then grow tall and fern like, with red berries dotting their fronds and are cut down in the fall.
When the bed first sprouts, the stalks are thick, the width of a strong man’s thumb and then, as the energy diminishes, they become thinner and easier to overcook. If there ever was a case to be made for al dente vegetables, asparagus is it. Err on the side of undercooked, if they are even a little over done they become unpleasantly mushy.
Enjoy the gray, chilly days of warm soups and bread, the days of hot kitchens will be here soon enough.
Pork, Potato and Parsnip Hash with Poached Eggs and Asparagus
Hash is usually made with leftover meat or fish from a previous meal. Feel free to substitute beef, pollock, or other flavorful fish in place of the pork. This recipe was originally published in my cookbook, Sugar & Salt: The Orange Book.
1 1/2 cups diced parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch dice; about 2 parsnips
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onions; about 1 small onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 pound cooked pork shoulder or other tender pork meat, pulled apart with a fork into bite sized pieces
1 pound asparagus, ends cut or snapped off; about 1 bunch
8 large eggs
Herbed Salt (below)
Place the parsnips and potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from water with a basket strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water hot for the asparagus. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and onions. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the potatoes, parsnips, salt, and pepper and cook until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is warm. Remove from heat and cover.
Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute or until the asparagus is tender. Timing will vary with the thickness of the stalks. Remove from water with tongs, transfer to a platter and cover. To the same pot of water, add the vinegar and poach the eggs ever so gently. Plate the hash, asparagus, and poached eggs and sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of Herbed Salt.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
Makes about 2 tablespoons
Snap. The weather turned ever so slightly warmer and now all I want is salad for dinner. With protein.
A trip to our local fish monger, Jess’s Market, solved that healthy problem and not that long after, dinner was on the table. While I was waiting my turn to be served, another customer had some curiosity about how to cook the beautiful shad roe resting in the display case like ruby jewels. Sharon, one of the owners, shared a couple of Maine ways it’s often prepared. One being to par-boil it and then sauté the slices in bacon fat. We then started talking about chives and garlic chives shooting up in the garden and how a little lemony beurre blanc flavored with one or both would go great with shad roe and some greens. With capers maybe. Hmmm, I may have to go back and get some shad roe for this recipe floating around in my head.
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for reusing the same pan several times. Reusing the pan is something that happens a lot in my kitchen. Rather than dirtying 5 pans and creating a mountain of clean up, rinsing a pan between uses is a simple way to make light duty of the dishes once dinner is finished (Jon loves me for this). This is especially true when the flavors will compliment each other and are all going into the same dish in any case.
Seared Salmon Arugula Salad with Lime Crema
2 (6 to 8 ounce) skin on salmon fillets
several pinches kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
2 ounces arugula, about 4 cups lightly packed
1/2 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
zest from 1 lime; about 1 teaspoon (for both sour cream and arugula)
juice from 1 lime; about 3 tablespoons (for both sour cream and arugula)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 roma tomatoes, quartered
2 ears of corn with corn removed
1 (16-ounce) can black beans
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
Sprinkle the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Add the arugula to a medium salad bowl and using a spoon, scoop small pieces of avocado onto the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Toss to combine.
Combine the sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in a small bowl. Set aside for garnish.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the 2 salmon fillets, skin side down. When the salmon is cooked half way through, about 5 minutes, turn carefully and cook the second side for another 4 minutes. Remove the salmon from the pan when it is still dark pink in the center and set aside on a platter or cutting board. Clean the pan and return it to medium-high heat.
Add grapeseed oil to the pan and add the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and sear until the edges begin to brown. Transfer to the edges of the salad bowl and return the pan to the heat. Add the corn and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes and transfer to the salad bowl as well.
Meanwhile, heat another skillet over medium heat and add the black beans, bring to simmer and set aside. Serve with the salad and the salmon. Garnish with the sour cream and cilantro.
Happy, healthy dinner (and one still creating in my head)
Echinacea is a beautiful flower in the herb or perennial garden. We are lucky enough to have the purple cone flowers dotting several of our beds. Not only is it a lovely friend to enjoy in the garden, when dried, the flowers and roots have healing and immune boosting properties.
The girls and I dig Echinacea root with our friends every fall so both families have a winter’s supply of dried flowers and roots for tea and tincture.
If you don’t have Echinacea in your garden, no worries, it’s easily found in natural food stores. When anyone feels the first sign of a cold coming on, this is the first things that goes on the stove.
2 quarts water
2/3 cup lemon juice from organic lemons; about 3 lemons
9 slices ginger root, 1/8-inch thick
2/3 cup local honey
5 or 6 pieces dried Echinacea root and flowers (use several drops of tincture per mug as a substitute)
Bring the water, ginger root, and Echinacea root to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. If you are using Echinacea tincture reserve this until you pour your steaming mug of tea. Reduce the heat to barely a simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice and honey. Sip all day long as desired, heating up each time. Strain any tea you don’t drink over the day into a glass jar and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Makes 2 quarts
It’s been a week now since our last sailing day and already I miss the wide open sky; seeing the horizon when the sun sets and rises; and living outside.
Our first day on shore saw the entire boat change. Within hours the cabins were empty of linens, mattresses, curtains, and anything else that makes them habitable – for people or for mice. The galley was a whirl of banana boxes and milk crates filled to the brim with dry goods and equipment. After two days of bee-hive like intensity, the galley is also barren of any sign that on a daily basis, all summer long, three abundant meals are produced and consumed in short order by our guests.
These changes help me recognize that our transition to shore has begun. The ending of each season brings both satisfaction and a little melancholy. The feeling of a job well done in creating a safe and happy season for our crew and our many beloved guests is strong. This is also tinged with a tiny sadness that it has again come to an end. At the same time there is more space in our days which we quickly fill up with private conversation and cozy time on the couch, riding horses, playing music, talking with family, and even cleaning the house.
What’s interesting is that I don’t pine for one place over the other. When I’m cooking on my wood stove I never yearn for my gas stove at home and when I’m at home cooking for us or catering for a crowd, I don’t wish for my wood stove. The same is true for my bunk. When I sleep on the boat, I love hearing the light lap of the ocean against the hull, the rain on the deck, and the smell of pine tar and wood. When I’m home, half the time we sleep with the window open so we can smell the fresh air and it’s luxuriant to climb into cozy sheets under a beautiful duvet and have a little space to spread out.
The settling in to either of our homes, the boat and our house, always feels like the shifting of weather seasons, sometimes there is resistance to what is coming and also a knowing that whatever we are leaving will come around again. There is also a looking forward to the new.