Endless summer salads

I have a new mantra. It’s “THERE CAN BE NO LEFTOVERS!” I declared this loudly to Dan as we served up our late lunch today- bowls full of protein-packed buckwheat noodles in a citrusy sauce with greens that were taking up valuable real estate in our refrigerator.

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I have been making a riff on this salad for some time now- it’s pretty foolproof. My number one suggestion is to cook the soba noodles first thing so that they have time to cool and dry off- I just let them sit in the colander (better yet to put them in a bowl in the fridge.) And don’t skimp on the sauce. The sauce is the boss. I’m sure I’ve also mentioned this before, but I don’t measure anything, so use this recipe more as a guideline and be creative with whatever you might have burning a hole in your fridge.

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Soy-Citrus Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
Sauce:
Garlic clove, make into a paste with a pinch of salt
Soy sauce or tamari
Juice of 1 or 2 limes or lemons (or a combination)
Chili sauce
Fresh ginger, minced
1-2 Tbl. sesame oil
Cilantro and basil, chopped
Green onions, minced
Jalapeno, chopped

Salad:
Soba (buckwheat) noodles (about a handful the size of quarter per person is a good bet)
Greens (any combination of collard greens, kale, beet greens, swiss chard, spinach…)
Cucumbers, sliced thinly or celery, chopped
Snow peas, chopped into thirds

Garnish:
Peanuts
Cilantro
Lime wedges

Directions:
Boil water for the soba noodles and cook according to the directions. I like to give the noodles time to cool and dry off so the sauce sticks better to the noodles. Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a large bowl. Start with the garlic paste and stir in the other ingredients. Taste as you go along and adjust as you like (I like A LOT of citrus, fresh herbs and heat.)
Saute the greens for the salad over medium low heat just until they are tender and starting to cook down. I saute them in organic canola oil or coconut oil and a little more chili sauce. Slice the cucumbers and chop the snow peas. To assemble the salad toss the all of the ingredients into the bowl with the sauce. Garnish each serving with peanuts, cilantro and a squeeze of lime, if you like.

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Enjoy!

Block party

Growing up on the near-west side of Madison, the fourth of July always meant a block party in our dear friends’ neighborhood. We dug for prizes in kiddie pools of sawdust and watched our parents compete in the water balloon toss. There were long tables set up in the middle of the street where neighbors placed bowls of potato, bean and pasta salad. After the communal meal we held matches to light the black snakes lining the sidewalk and waved sprinklers in the air, waiting for the adults to pop the corn and take us to watch the fireworks. And there was, of course, the parade. I remember distinctly sitting in my bedroom on the morning of the fourth creating my Rosie the Riveter costume for the 1985 parade. In a stroke of genius, I turned a colander into my helmet and someone handed me a drill to carry. I believe that was the year I won a prize- a $10 gift certificate to Michael’s Frozen Custard.

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Today I’m using a colander to wash lettuce. It’s my turn to contribute to the potuck. I’m marinating cucumbers, fennel and garlic scapes in equal parts apple cider vinegar, sugar (or honey, if you open the cupboard and find yourself without sugar) and water.

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After consulting with my salad guru, my sister, I’m making a light dressing of olive oil, salt, mustard and parsley and will toss this all together with a head of red lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (remove the cucumbers, etc. from the marinade before adding to the salad). I need to hurry, because I don’t want to miss the water balloon toss. Happy Fourth of July, my friends. May there be a block party in your future.

Cheers.

Early summer soup

This morning a steady mist of rain spread out over the farm as I crouched in the mud snapping collard greens off their stalks. In jeans, a sweatshirt and a rain coat I felt cozy as the temperatures barely hit 60. As much as I love summer, I don’t mind the occasional cool, rainy day; they remind of summer camp- hunkering down in the lodge, a chance to don a sweater, a change of pace. Moving on to pull weeds from the winter squash, my mind wandered to soup. Making a deliciously simple potato soup for lunch is something that my mother pulls off on a regular basis, regardless the season. I think it is something that she inherited from her parents. When I picture my grandpa, it is often at the stove. Either the small gas one that sits in front of the brick-lined kitchen wall of the northwest Iowa cottage or the one sixty miles away at his home where I could hand-crank the bell on the door that led inside to the kitchen, announcing my arrival. At the cottage he popped his homegrown corn to perfection; at home he stirred his award-winning fudge. But I think he loved potatoes the most. To make a simple potato soup, cut up some potatoes and put them in a pot with just enough water to cover. Gently boil until the potatoes are cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Mash up the potatoes to the desired consistency and add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mine never tastes as good as my mom’s.

After returning home from the farm today I wanted to make an Iowa-inspired potato soup for lunch, but I have turnips haunting me from my crisper drawer and garlic scapes curled-up, hovering on the bottom shelf waiting for something extraordinary to happen to them. I also took home two beets today from the farm, deemed “farmer food” due to the fact that some worms also wanted a few bites, so into the pot they go. And don’t forget the neglected leek, long forgotten under kale and lettuces.

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So I chopped up turnips, a couple of potatoes and beets and added them to leeks and garlic scapes sauteed in olive oil and butter. I added dill and red pepper flakes. Right before serving I blended it all up, added salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

As the vegetables simmered on the stove, I sauteed more garlic scapes, dill and chives in olive oil and made herbed croutons from the 1/2 eaten loaf of sourdough bread leftover from my lunch a few days ago. Danger Boy watched the whole thing, perched under my muddy jeans and garlic scapes.

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Please use the following recipe as a guide- I don’t have a tendency to measure things- and adjust it to whatever vegetables are haunting you.

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Early Summer Soup with Herbed Croutons

Soup ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
4 garlic scapes, finely chopped (use only the part below the bud)
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
5 white turnips, cut into chunks
2 beets, cut into chunks
herbs (I used dried thyme, pepper flakes and fresh dill)
4 cups water (or veggie broth, if you like)
lemon juice
salt + pepper to taste

Crouton ingredients:

1/2 loaf of good, old bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used dill, chives and a chopped garlic scape)
salt + pepper

Directions:

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the leek and scapes and saute for a few minutes. Add the root vegetables and herbs and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rip the bread into bite-sized pieces. In a skillet, saute the fresh herbs in the olive oil. Remove from the heat and add the bread, tossing to coat. Pour the bread onto a baking sheet, making sure to spread the pieces out. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
When the vegetables in the soup are tender, blend it with an immersion blender until smooth. Add fresh herbs and as much lemon juice as you like (I like a lot, Dan likes a little, so I add more to my own bowl). Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a pour of olive oil, more dill and herbed croutons.

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Cultivating and cooking are in our bones. This soup will warm yours.

Cheers.