I am positively quivering with excitement. My garden is growing fantastically! Finally, I have a garden! And this Southern climate is giving me her goodness– a few of my earlier planted things are ready for harvest!
I bought some collard and chard starts last fall, thinking I’d have my garden bed much sooner. They sat in a planter on our porch all winter (meaning December-February) not doing much, and I figured them for stunted. But when my garden bed was finally ready to plant, and I didn’t have anything to put in yet, I thought what the hell? I’ll throw ’em in. Can’t hurt. And those puppies took off like a house afire! I mean, seriously. I put the starts in little more than a month ago, and the collards are now mammoth, almost archaicly huge green monsters, fully a foot and a half across. I cut two of them straight down, as they were just barely beginning to bolt, and took the big leaves off of the other two. And got this mess of greens.
Back in Cordova, my most beloved garden plant was kale. For her tenacity, vibrancy, and forceful desire to grow. I can see that collards will be taking that place in my heart for these southern years.
Of course, growing greens doesn’t mean much if you don’t like to eat ’em. I love to eat ’em. Homegrown collards, I should have known, are so much more tender and sweet than even the stuff I was getting at the farmer’s market. Downright Delish. Follow that kale-ey link above for my fave homegrown greens recipe. So simple. So good.
Here at home I made my first cutting of salad greens. I had planted them all around my tomato, pepper and bean plants, in my self irrigated planters. Let the gorgeous, flavorful salads begin!
In case any readers out there are still buying salad dressing, or are less than in love with their regular recipe, here’s how I do mine, and people often ask for the recipe. It’s knock-out. But it’s incredibly simple. Simple technique, short ingredient list. The secret is white balsamic vinegar. Look around in your local shop for it. It’s worth tracking down. My aunt first introduced me to the stuff, in a gourmet care package years ago. I have gone to great lengths since to keep my small town kitchen supplied with the stuff. Note that it’s sometimes also called “golden balsamic.” Same, same. It’s just white wine, done up in casks like regular balsamic (which is from red wine). It’s got the same sweet, woody flavor, but not so overpowering.
This recipe is also pretty damn fine with fresh squeezed lemon. In fact, I often prefer lemon when the weather is hot, and the balsamic when the weather is cooler…
The other secrets here are top quality ingredients. Do not expect to substitute canola, or even super cheap olive oil and still have your skirt blown up. It’s only fair to mention that this dressing is not cheaper than store bought, just heaps better.
Lastly, a decent dressing can be done quicky-style, just pouring the vinegar and oil straight onto your salad, but leaving out the garlic will also leave out the real fantastic-ness.
Well, that pretty much gives it away. That’s the recipe. White (or golden) balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and freshly smashed garlic. Zat’s it.
I proceed as so, for a 2-3 person salad:
Finely slice a small clove of garlic (or half a medium one), then turn your knife on its side and drag the blade over, at somewhat of an angle, pressing down at the same time, until your garlic is a fine almost paste. You can use a garlic press too, but it’s as much work (‘cuz you have to wash the thing) and lots less fun.
Scrape up that lovely paste and deposit into the bottom of your salad bowl. Add salt (say 1/8-1/4 teaspoon) and black pepper (1/8 t).
Now splash in your balsamic, lemon juice or a combination. This time I used a little grapefruit that was heading toward ferment, along with my balsamic (apx 2 Tablespoons total). Let the whole thing alchemify while you go pick your greens.
Then pour in your decent quality olive oil. Doesn’t need to be top shelf, though if it is, your dressing will be top shelf too. Apx 3 Tablespoon of that should looks like so:
Now whip it up with a fork, it may or may not emulsify a bit. Dump your greens in. I’m not much for the classic romaine, tomato and cucumber salad. Head lettuce simply does not have much flavor. If I’m going to eat salad I want it to have taste! Apart from the divine dressing! And for whatever reason, I love chunky salads, and I love leafy salads, but I don’t like both together. So my greens salad is just that. Baby lettuce, arugula, chicories, kale, sorrel and fresh mint and chives if I have them. Roughly chop, and toss with dressing.
And there you have it. Insalada Divina. Dig in.