The silver lining in all this time at home is that my vegetable garden has never looked better. Every morning I wander out there, coffee in hand, to see what’s happening. I pull a few weeds, but mostly I just wander around, marveling every day my little plants are growing and thriving.
I have a combination of flowers and vegetables growing in three big, raised beds as well as a big chunk of ground (about 45 x 30 feet) with rows of potatoes, onions, pumpkins and raspberries. I’m always so eager to plant a garden each spring, but in years past I was quick to abandon my efforts when the weeds or heat or busyness or whatever other little challenge presented itself.
This year I’ve got nothing but time, and it shows. I’m sure there’s a lesson for life in there somewhere, but I’m too distracted with eating snap peas off the vine and marveling at all the blossoms on my tomato plants and the giant head of broccoli I need to harvest.
I planted some lacinato, or elephant kale, this spring without much of a plan. We eat kale, of course, but I had no idea how much would grow from the couple of little starts I bought. Just about every day I harvest kale leaves and try to come up with a new or interesting way to incorporate it into our meals. The kids mostly gag at the sight, so I hide a little in their fruit smoothies and leave it at that. For myself, I’ve been making stir fry and salads on repeat.
When my McIlrath Farms produce box showed up last week with a big bulb of fennel, I had an idea for a salad: I would roast baby Yukon gold potatoes and the fennel until they were caramelized and crispy on the edges. I added a few slices of crisped-up prosciutto and a generous handful of Parmesan cheese and combined the entire thing with a big bowl of kale from my garden. The fennel mellows and sweetens slightly in the oven, and the end result was a warm salad hearty and filling enough to call dinner.
• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.
Kale Salad with Roasted Potatoes, Fennel & Prosciutto
5 ounces washed and shredded lacinato kale (spinach or arugula works, too)
1 bulb fennel, top removed, sliced thinly lengthwise
1 1/2 pounds baby Yukon gold potatoes, washed and quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 slices prosciutto
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Lemon tahini vinaigrette (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread fennel and potatoes evenly on the tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently toss to combine. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are crispy and the fennel is golden brown and caramelized.
Wash and shred greens. Place them in a large bowl and set aside while vegetables roast in the oven. In a pan over medium heat, crisp prosciutto, turning after a minute or two so both sides are crisp. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a plate. Break the prosciutto into smaller pieces. Sprinkle over greens.
When the vegetables are finished roasting, remove from oven and immediately toss with the greens. The warm vegetables slightly wilt the kale. Drizzle salad with lemon tahini dressing and a handful of Parmesan cheese. Use salad tongs to gently combine the ingredients. Garnish with a pinch of black pepper and serve immediately. Salad makes 4 dinner portions.
Lemon Tahini Vinaigrette
4 ounces tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch black pepper
1/2 cup water
In a jar with a lid, combine all the ingredients except the water. Stir vigorously with a small whisk or fork until well combined. Add the water a little at a time, stirring until you reach desired consistency. More water will result in a thinner dressing, less will leave the dressing thicker. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to a week.