PLANTING AN HERB GARDEN // the local food report

I've never had a real herb garden. I've had chives in a pot, thyme and rosemary plants that never overwinter, and a patch of oregano that spreads like the plague. I even managed to kill mint! Apparently this is a nearly impossible feat. 

But this year is the year I'm changing that. Last fall I tossed my chives and thyme into the ground in the greenhouse to overwinter. That led to the exciting discovery that in that little micro-climate, they produced all year round! So the other day I rounded their corner out with mint, oregano, and sage. Soon to come: cilantro, dill, parsley, and rosemary. 

I have to admit—this herb fever comes at least ninety-five percent from my obsession with Jerusalem. Every recipe in that book is a) delicious and b) jam-packed with herbs, and herbs are a) expensive and b) annoying to have to plan for. If I want to make conchiglie with yogurt, peas, & basil on the regular—and I do, desperately—then it's high time for a real herb garden. 

The plans I like come from an article in Mother Earth News. You don't necessarily need plans to start an herb garden, but I like the idea of getting a little advice. Here's what I've gleaned. Plant herbs as close as possible to your kitchen. Make sure there's a walkway—you'll probably often be in your slippers, and you don't want to trek through wet grass, snow, etc. Put spreaders like mint and oregano in buried pots. Leave space for annuals. Taste before you buy—there are all kinds of different varieties, and you want to make sure you're getting one you like. Remember, these are for cooking! And finally, herbs need full sun. That's the important stuff.

The other important thing is to remember to cook with herbs. People don't use as many herbs as they used to—at least not in mainstream American cooking—and Ottolenghi's book has been an important reminder for me of how delicious using lots of herbs can be. Ever since I made his Arugula, Artichoke, & Herb Salad I've been putting mint and cilantro in all my salads. It's a nice change. And the other day, I tried his recipe for spanikopita-style herb pie. That did it. It is rich and savory and full of flavor—the kind of meal you can eat over and over again. There will be herbs in the garden from now on.


This recipe is adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It has all the comfort of a traditional spanikopita but a little more jazz.

extra virgin olive oil
1 large onions, peeled and diced
1 pound Swiss chard or spinach, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups arugula
2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped dill
3/4 ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated cheddar
1/2 cup feta
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/3 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
9 ounces filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and sauté over low heat for 8-10 minutes, until soft and translucent.  Add the celery and cook another few minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chard and turn the heat up to medium-high. When it starts to wilt down add the scallions, arugula, and herbs and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer everything to a colander.

When the mixture is cool, wring out as much water as possible. Put the greens in a mixing bowl along with the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

Get out a square casserole pan and lay a piece of filo over the bottom. The sides should hang over the edges of the pan. Brush the filo with olive oil and layer it with 4 more sheets, brushing each with oil as you work. Spoon in the herb and cheese filling. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling, then layer another 5 pieces of filo on top, brushing with oil as you go. Tuck in the edges and brush the top layer generously with olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pastry turns golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


POPCORN PEOPLE ! // elspeth

Maybe this doesn't need saying. But here goes. POPCORN PEOPLE! Popcorn! Popcorn made at home! You probably all know how to do this already. But I didn't, and I was very happy to make the discovery that I am capable of popping top notch popcorn from the corn we got with our grain & bean CSA share last fall. 

That's not to say I didn't know people made popcorn over campfires and stoves. I did. But I had never tried it, because as with most easy things, it seemed like it might be hard. Also, I haven't had popcorn in a while, and I'd forgotten how delicious it is. So in case you suffer from these same hurdles, I wanted to clear things up. 

Making popcorn at home is not hard. It is ridiculously easy, and what you get tastes much better than what you get at the movie theater or out of a bag. Also, if you make it the way my mom recommends, with a drizzle of olive oil and a little sea salt, it is practically a health food. Popcorn guilt, be gone. 


Here's how it happens. Get out a big pot like the one you see up there—make sure you have a lid.  The pan should be cold; not heat on yet. Measure 3-5 tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of the cold pan. Swirl it around so it coats the entire bottom. Add 1 cup of un-popped popcorn kernels (we had a mix of white and yellow from our CSA; I thought this might be a problem, but they popped evenly). 

Turn the heat onto medium. Shake the pan to coat the kernels evenly with oil, and keep shaking every 15 seconds or so to make sure they heat evenly. Eventually, after 2-4 minutes, the first kernel will pop. When you see this, grab the lid and put it on. The others will follow, and within another 2-3 minutes, you'll hear the noise start to die down. Turn off the heat and let the pan sit covered for another few minutes to let any remaining kernels pop. Then take the top off, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt to taste, and enjoy!


SQUID INK // the local food report

I was standing down at the docks at Stage Harbor the other day, hanging around with a microphone when something very exciting happened. My friend Shannon announced that she and her boyfriend Russell had come up with a recipe for a squid ink martini! They had my attention immediately.

Shannon and Russell help her family run a CSF, or Community Supported Fishery. It's a catch share program, and this year customers haven't been getting much squid. Usually there's tons of squid by now, Shannon says, but this year the water's been cold and it's been a slow season. So she and Russell are trying to help share-holders make the most of what little squid they do get, and part of that is using the ink.

I've eaten squid before, and even squid ink pasta, but I've never heard of a squid ink martini. Apparently squid ink has a very briny, slightly metallic taste that lends itself well to vodka and triple sec—sort of like a dirty martini without the olives.

The ink sac is the little silvery thing you see right there. It's tiny—maybe two or three centimeters long—and it ruptures easily. If you want to save it, you have to clean the squid very carefully. Alex gave me a tutorial the other day.

First you strip the wings from the body. Get your thumb in between the wings and the body and that will help you separate the wings from the body and begin peeling the skin off. 

Next grab just above the eyeballs and slowly pull the guts from the body. If you do it right everything should come sliding out, even the cartilage. If the cartilage doesn't come out of the body, go back in and pull it out, slow and steady. If you're not sure what the cartilage is, it's the long, thin clear strip that looks and feels like plastic.

Rinse out the hollow body tube and set it aside. 

Now squeeze the eyeballs out of the head and remove the beak (more cartilage). You will be left with tentacles.

Carefully extract the ink sac from the guts. As you can see from the bottom photo, it's easy to rupture.

Now you have squid and squid ink. The guts and cartilage can go in the compost. You can cook the squid up into something delicious. (We like stuffed squid.) You can make a squid ink martini, or you can make Nancy Civetta's Risotto Nero alla Fiorentina. If that sounds good, keep reading.

Nancy is a member of the CSF and also works for the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman's Association. She was on the docks when I was talking with Shannon and Russell the other day, and after requesting squid ink martinis at the next pick-up, she told me about what she does with squid ink.

Turns out, she lived in Italy for a long time, and what they like to do with there is make a squid ink risotto. You use both the squid and the ink, which is nice since you can't really get one without the other. And best of all, it's delicious.

If I still haven't convinced you, consider this. Squid ink is naturally rich in glutamane, the same amino acid found in fish sauce (yum) and imitated synthetically as MSG. In other words, salty and delicious. And if you're looking for other recipes, try calamares en su tinta (squid stewed in their own ink—I once had the octopus version in Spain!) or squid ink pasta with spring asparagus. And for a riff on the squid ink martini...try the squid ink sour!


This comes from the kitchen of Nancy Civetta in Wellfleet and is a delicious way to use the whole squid.

1 plus pounds dirty squid, cleaned and cut into rings and tentacles — save the ink sacs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine, or more, as needed
3 cups of fish stock
salt and pepper to taste

Put the ink sacs in a shallow bowl and add a little hot water. Mash to break them up and set aside. Sauté onion and garlic in butter and olive oil on medium heat. Once the onion has softened, add the rice and cook for a bit, stirring frequently. When the rice starts sticking, add white wine to coat the bottom of the pan and let it evaporate, stirring. Then being adding the fish stock a ladleful at a time until it's absorbed. Adjust the heat so the rice just simmers. Stir frequently so the rice doesn't stick' always add a ladleful of stock when the rice starts to stick. It should take about 20 minutes to cook.

Keep tasting until the rice is done (al dente). Once the rice is cooked, add the squid and ink sacs and stir just until the ink has incorporated throughout the rice. Then turn off the burner and let the squid cook in the heat of the rice. Let it sit off the heat for a few minutes and stir in salt and pepper to taste. (No parmigiano!) Then buon appetito!



Let me preface this by saying: Yes, it's another rhubarb recipe.  I'm sorry – I just can't help myself. Rhubarb season is so short and sweet that I always feel a rush to make rhubarb everything before it's gone! We've talked about rhubarb pie, rhubarb cake, rhubarb waffles, and rhubarb chutney, so today we're going to talk about a new-to-me flavor combination: rhubarb and ginger.

The process of making this turned out to be somewhat disastrous.  (Side note: I originally tried to make this as a galette with a lattice top, but after my experience I recommend saving yourself the trouble and making it as a pie.)  My food processor exploded flour all over the kitchen, the bottom of the crust ripped, sugary rhubarb syrup leaked out all over the pan, and I forgot to do an egg wash on the crust.  It was just one of those days in my kitchen.  Needless to say, this was not the most beautiful baked good I've ever made.  I'm embarrassed to even show you pictures for fear you won't try it!

Luckily, what this pie lacks in beauty and ease it makes up for in flavor.  The ginger adds a light, refreshing touch and gives the already-tangy rhubarb a little extra kick.  It would be perfect for a beginning-of-summer celebration, or even just a warm evening on the patio.  I recommend serving it warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Adapted from The Wright Recipes

Any pie crust will work for this recipe, as long as there is enough for a top and bottom crust.  

6 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 to 3/4 cups sugar, depending on how tangy you like your pie
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (more if you're daring!)
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (optional)

1 egg
1 teaspoon water or milk

In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb, sugar, flour, ginger and lemon rind if you are using it.  Set aside while you make the pie dough.

Once the pie dough is ready, divide it in half.  Roll out one half of the dough into a large circle and place in the bottom of a pie pan.  Spoon the rhubarb mixture into the pie pan.  

Roll out the other half of the pie dough and cut it into long strips.  Criss-cross the strips over each other to form a lattice pattern, or lay the entire crust over the top of the pie pan, making sure to cut some holes for steam.  Trim the excess pie dough from the edge of the pan and pinch or crimp the top and bottom crusts together.  

Combine the egg and the water or milk in a small bowl and beat well.  Using a pastry brush, paint the top of the pie with this egg wash – this will give the crust a nice golden color as it bakes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden on top.  


THE NEXT THREE // elspeth

Summer has snuck up on me. It happens every year, but this time it seemed to come especially fast. I got my tomato seedlings and dahlia tubers in the ground just in time yesterday. The farmers' market opened last Wednesday. Mac's Shack starts lunch this week, and I'll be there Mondays and Thursdays. I have three huge radio deadlines this week, and I have a benefit to help with either Friday or Saturday for the next three weekends. Needless to say I do not have a recipe for you today, but I do have a picture of Sally.

Also, I'd like to tell you about those benefits I'm helping to coordinate.

The first one is this Sunday. It's called A Taste of the Town, and it's a fundraiser for programming at Wellfleet's Preservation Hall. All sorts of local restaurants are participating. I'll be there with a few other people from the farmers' market serving up 18 dozen of Victoria Pecoraro's beautiful eggs. They'll all be hard-boiled, and the ones I'm bringing will have deviled yolks and beet-dyed whites. I hope you'll stop by and grab a taste. 

The second one is next Friday May 31, and it's a fundraiser for the Wellfleet Farmers' Market. It starts at 5:30 with a free public discussion on local farming with the Wellfleet market growers. At 6:30 we'll have cocktails and music from the Beet Greens, and at 7 a five-course dinner featuring food from the market.  If you're interested, tickets are for sale at the market the next two Wednesdays from 8-1 and at Preservation Hall. It would be great to see some familiar faces!

Last but not least, on Friday June 7th we're hosting Paul Greenberg, again at Preservation Hall, for a talk called The Fish Next Door: How shellfish, fishermen, and shore dwellers can cure the home coast. There will be a local seafood dinner beforehand, and whether you can make it or not I highly recommend checking out Paul's book, Four Fish. It's a fascinating history of four major species and how the wild fish industry has changed in the past few decades. 

Ok, enough from me. I don't normally use this space to talk about events, but I do think of it as a place where we can talk about shared interests, and I thought more than a few of you would be interested in all three. Anna will be around tomorrow with a recipe for rhubarb ginger pie, and I'll see you on Thursday. (Get your gloves out! We're talking squid ink.)

In the meantime enjoy the weather, and here's to a busy, productive week. 


RABE (RAAB) // the local food report

According to my friend Lucas, rabe is the new arugula. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it is delicious, and it's new to me. 

My mom called about a month ago to tell me that she'd made the discovery. "I just bought the best thing at the winter market!" she gushed. "Kale rabe!"

"What's kale rabe?" I asked. She explained that it's the little florets that pop up when kale overwinters and bolts, or goes to seed. It's kind of like broccoli rabe, except a little more sweet. "Great!" I told her. "I just cleaned out my greenhouse and filled up my compost with kale plants growing that exact same thing!"

Oh well. As my mom says, there's always next spring.

In the meantime I've found it at the markets here too. Four or five vendors had it at the first Orleans Farmers' Market of the season last Saturday, and a few had it this week in Wellfleet. And not just kale: turnips and collards too.

Rabe can be loosely defined as the flower bud of anything in the brassica family. This includes turnips, kale, cabbage, Asian greens, mustard greens, collards, and a handful of other veggies. They're biennial, which means they flower in the second year of their lifecycle. So when you overwinter these veggies—which many people do, since they're cold-hardy—you get flower buds the following spring. I've got turnip rabe outside as we speak. According to Ben Chung, a grower from East Orleans, the way to harvest it is to snap up the stalk until you get to the first spot where it's tender. That's the part you want, just like asparagus.

There are all kinds of delicious ways to eat it. Anna Henning of Redberry Farm in Eastham juices it with beets, limes, cucumbers, and carrots. My mom subs it for mizuna and bok choy in this tofu stir-fry recipe. Lucas grills it with olive oil and salt, and Ben Chung steams it and serves it with a little oyster sauce in the traditional Chinese way. I've got my eye on this kale rabe panini, and the other night I sautéed a whole bunch of collard rabe in some leftover bourbon sauce— amazing ! I think it would also be great in omelettes and really in any old recipe where you normally use asparagus or broccoli. 

What do you think? Have you tried it?



Spring is finally on our doorstep here in Brunswick. Our forsythia and quince bushes are at their peak, the garden is full of ground phlox and forget-me-not, and the phoebes are making a racket as they set up shop in the girls’ old playhouse. And that sea of green and red you see here? That’s our rhubarb patch! It’s a killer. A friend gave us four transplants from her patch back in 1980, and life has never been the same. Spring at our house means rhubarb.

“What do you do with all of it?” someone asked a few days ago. Plenty, I told her. I make rhubarb compote and rhubarb crisp, and two kinds of pies: the traditional kind, and a custard pie that has a meringue topping. I make rhubarb streusel muffins, rhubarb cake, rhubarb fool, rhubarb jam, and of course strawberry-rhubarb jam. Like her mama when she was little, Sally even likes to eat it raw. We aren’t lacking for ideas about how to eat rhubarb around here.

I found the newest idea just a few years ago: rhubarb chutney. It’s in Brooke Dojny’s excellent book Dishing Up Maine. It’s a great accompaniment to a roast chicken or ham, but what I especially like it with is Indian food. My husband is the Indian cook at our house, and he’s set himself the life task of working his way through this: 660 Indian Curries. He only has about 600 left to go—which means we need a steady supply of chutney.

The recipe below makes about 2 cups. It will keep in the fridge for 1–2 weeks, and it freezes beautifully. I like to freeze it in 4-ounce Mason jars, which for two people makes the perfect accompaniment for one Indian dinner.


Because rhubarb is so acidic, be sure to cook this in a nonreactive pan (which means no aluminum or copper). I use a large stainless steel or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.

4 cups diced, fresh rhubarb
1 small onion, diced
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup water
1/3 cup white or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 whole cloves
1 small dried red hot chile, crumbled into tiny bits, or ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a wide, deep, nonreactive skillet and turn the heat to high. Bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until you have a syrupy sauce that is close to the consistency you want. This will probably take about 30 minutes. Remember that the chutney will be a little firmer once it cools. Keep an eye on your skillet, and stir regularly.

Remove the cloves, and let the chutney cool to room temperature.


WATERCRESS // the local food report

Jesse Rose's family has lived on the same property for over a century. His great-grandfather bought the house in 1903, and his grandfather was born there in 1908. The watercress has been there at least that long, probably much longer.

It grows in a tributary of the Herring River, just below a fresh water spring. Jesse says the tributary is the only creek he knows of in the river with a hard bottom, and he jumps down into it in his muck boots to show me he doesn't sink. "Anywhere else," he says, "you'd be down in the mud."

Jesse knows a lot of other cool stuff about the river. When his great-grandfather first moved here, before the river was diked in 1907, the salt water came all the way in to the Wellfleet ponds. Outside the house, which is in between Coles Neck and Pamet Point, the river was deep-water, 100 yards across, and running strong. There were oysters and striped bass on the bank where we stand. 

Today you can still see the shape of the river bed. Jesse's grandfather and great-grandfather cleared most of it for farmland, but there are also plenty of briars and trees. The patch where we're standing is about 20 yards from the main river, and the creek is only a yard across, maybe two. Twice a year it fills up with watercress, those floating green leaves you see up there.

Technically watercress is an aquatic perennial in the brassica or mustard family. It grows wild in Europe and Asia and was introduced to North America long ago by European immigrants hungry for a taste of home. It needs fresh running water and especially alkaline water, so springs and fast streams are good places to look. Jesse says there are a few other spots where it grows in the Herring River, and that every spring and fall the growth chokes up the creek. 

He learned to harvest it as a kid. You need a good pair of scissors and a pair of rubber boots, and then all you do is hop in and cut above the roots, at the stem. You can eat both the stems and the leaves, but you want to leave the roots because that's where the plant will come back from the following spring. Jesse likes watercress mostly in salads, and he says he has a few friends who are wild for the flavor.

He calls it a zippy cilantro; I think it tastes more like horseradish. Either way it's good, and definitely spicy—not spicy hot, but zesty. You don't want a pure watercress salad—you want to cut it with something: mache, arugula, butter lettuce. 

The recipe I like comes from Darina Allen. It's on page 28 of Forgotten Skills of Cooking, right next to a watercress soup and a wild garlic pesto. It calls for watercress, wild garlic leaves, and lamb's lettuce (mache) for the greens, and these get topped with hard-boiled duck eggs and black olives. The whole thing is dressed with olive oil, balsamic, garlic, and sea salt, and Darina calls it a "lovely little clean, fresh-tasting salad."

I can't say I replicated it exactly. I didn't have wild garlic or lamb's lettuce, but I did have arugula. I used the watercress from Jesse's stream, and it was peppery and delicious. We live just across the river, but the spring's on his side. This weekend I'm headed down the road to find out if there's a patch on our side I can visit.

For more on identifying watercress, check out this guide in Mother Earth. And watch out for Fool's Cress! It looks similar and often grows nearby.


I've adapted this somewhat from Darina's original based on availability. I think it still retains the flavor profile, though: lovely, fresh, and clean.

4 duck or chicken eggs
12 large black or green olives
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
2 cups watercress
2 cups arugula or butter lettuce

Hard boil the eggs and immediately move to a bowl of ice water. Wait a few minutes before peeling. Chop and set aside. Pit the olives and chop finely.

Make the dressing by mixing the oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Toss the greens, eggs, and olives with the dressing in a bowl. Serve at once.  


TURNIP GREENS // elspeth

Today there is only one thing ready for harvest in the garden. It's a patch of turnip greens. I got a packet of Eastham seed last year when I was researching this story for Cape Cod Life magazine, down at the barber shop in Eastham from "Jolly" Roger Taggert. He reached under the counter, poured them into a manilla packet, and pressed it into the palm of my hand. "Plant these July 4th," he said. "Then let them overwinter, and the next year, they'll go to seed." That would give me more seed, he said, enough to start saving my own.

We're still waiting. The turnips are big and cream-colored, and the tops have popped up over the ground. The greens wilted and went dormant all winter in and out of the snow, and now they're growing again, furiously. Sometime around the end of June, I imagine, we'll start to see bolting and flower heads and then tiny black seeds.

In the meantime, we'll be eating the greens. I love wilted greens (Mom! are you reading? :), though I don't always follow a recipe. 

I didn't this time either. I gathered up a big armful this weekend, washed them, and cut them into thin ribbons. Then I warmed up a spoonful of bacon fat in the cast iron skillet and turned up the heat. When the greens started to wilt I added a splash of red wine, some minced garlic, and a pinch of salt. I spooned everything into a bowl, topped it with a few cooked pinto beans, croutons, and Parmesan ribbons, and that was lunch.

It was delicious and incredibly easy. And best of all, it made use of what we have today.


I'm not sure this is so much a recipe as a recommendation. You could sub all sorts of things: black beans or garbanzos for the pinto beans, spinach or Swiss chard or kale for the turnip greens, duck fat or butter for bacon fat, you name it. But the idea's here, and it's one of my favorites. You wilt some greens, add in some flavor and protein, and have a warm garden salad for lunch.

2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 large bunch turnip greens
3 gloves garlic, minced
a splash of red wine (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
sea salt and pepper to taste
a handful of cooked pinto beans
Parmesan, for grating
1 piece whole wheat toast, cut into squares, or a handful of croutons

Warm up the bacon fat in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the greens and cook, stirring occasionally. When they start to wilt pour in the wine and cook another few minutes until it's reduced by half. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste, and turn off the heat. Scoop the greens into a bowl and top with beans, Parmesan ribbons, and croutons. Eat warm. 



Here we have Exhibit A in the “Recipes That Taste Much Better Than Their Name Implies” category. I found it in the wonderful Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas about a year ago and immediately emailed Elspeth and Anna. “So good! So simple!” I crowed. “Go make this now.” I’ve been making it regularly ever since.

Atlas calls it “Wilted Sesame Spinach or Swiss Chard.” That might sound a tad more exciting, but it doesn’t tell you that you can use lots of other greens too. I’ve made it with spinach, chard, kale, turnip greens, bok choy, and broccoli rabe, and it’s always delicious. It’s not just a dinner dish, either; it’s excellent with eggs at breakfast or brunch.

It took my girls a while to get onboard with the recipe. I kept hitting the send button: “Yo, chickadees! Have you made the wilted greens?” I’m not sure what the problem was. Maybe it just sounded too dull, although I kept telling them it wasn’t. I finally just drove down to Anna’s apartment and made it for her. “This is delicious!” she said. Kids….

Speaking of kids—the little ones like this too. Nineteen-month-old Sally gobbles it up. I recently shared the recipe with a friend who’s been trying desperately to get her 6- and 8-year-olds to like kale. Bingo! Kim is now buying kale by the bagsful.

Give it a whirl. I think you’ll like it too.


If you’re a greens lover, this recipe will probably serve only two, but it’s a snap to double.

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
12–16 ounces fresh spinach, chard, kale, or other green (washed, if necessary)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the sesame seeds in a small, dry frying pan and lightly toast them. This will take only a few minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they can quickly go from perfectly toasted to toss-in-the-compost black. Set aside.

Place greens in a large frying pan or wok. For spinach, cover and steam—using just the water that’s clinging to the leaves—until lightly wilted, about 2–3 minutes. For chard or kale, add about ½ cup water to the bottom of the pan and steam until the greens are just tender, which might take 4–5 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Heat the soy sauce and sesame oil in your frying pan or wok. Add the greens and stir fry until they’re heated through, about 1–2 minutes. Season with fresh pepper and toss with sesame seeds. Serve at once, while still piping hot.


STINGING NETTLES // the local food report

After Sally was born, people brought food. I remember a lasagna, a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And in particular, I remember my friend Ish's nettle soup. 

It was not the first thing to disappear, I will admit. Stinging nettles? That was a plant I had learned to identify on a Canadian island as a kid, walking through along the meadow path with my hands held high over my head. We learned to spot them quickly; one brush with a leaf and you'd have a red, burning, nettle-stung hand. 

I knew they were edible, though I'd never tried them. But Ish said her mom cooked with them all the time, and that this was her version of her mother's stinging nettle soup. 

It was delicious. I'm still not sure what was in there, but it was rich and creamy, flecked with green and spotted with kernels of sweet late summer corn. We devoured it after the first bite, and Ish told me later she thought of it because nettles are especially good for mother's milk. I loved it. And then I forgot about nettles until I met Fiamma Straneo the other day.

A friend introduced us. Fiamma lives in Falmouth, but she grew up in Italy—in the northern part, in Milan. Growing up she ate nettles all the time—her mother made frittatas and folded them into gnocchi and tortellini and ravioli. She found them when she moved to Seattle in the early 90s, and again when she came to work in Woods Hole. The specimens you see up there are from a patch downtown, on the outskirts of a sunny garden. Fiamma took me foraging, and they were just poking up after all the cold and rain. For the next month or so, she says, they'll be perfect. (Once they've gone to flower you don't want to eat them, and then you can pick fresh shoots again in the fall.) Fiamma will be making the same frittatas and pastas her mother did, and a nettle soup with Parmesan and bread. 

You do have to take some precautions to avoid a sting. Fiamma says you want to wear gloves to pick nettles and while you're washing them. But once they're cooked—and she thinks even once they're washed—the little stingers dissolve and the greens taste like a richer, more pungent spinach. They're full of iron and sulphur and vitamins A, B and C, and people say a good dose cures everything from arthritis to hay fever. 

Fiamma makes her recipes by memory. But her friend Jess published a wonderful story about eating nettles with her and a recipe for Bucatini with Nettle-Pecan Pesto, which sounds delicious. And I've had and loved Alice Water's Wild Nettle Frittata. From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall comes a Ricotta and Nettle Gnocchi that sounds just like Fiamma's. And finally, from edible Madison, a creamy nettle soup that with a handful of corn sounds just like the version Ish made. 

I haven't found any wild nettles in Wellfleet. Ish foraged hers from her mother's house, out in the Berkshires, and Fiamma's patch is in Woods Hole. But now that Fiamma's reminded me how delicious these stinging leaves are, I've got my eyes peeled. You?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.