Now that the garlic scapes have, well…. escaped the market, what’s next? Fresh garlic, of course! But fresh garlic is not the garlic you might be used to: fresh from the soil, its skin is moist and white with beautiful purple veins. And it is fragile. Unlike its aged counterpart, fresh garlic has a very short shelf life and must be kept in the refrigerator to be used within the week—so be conservative in your purchase. For the two of us—uncontrollable garlic lovers—two large bulbs will do us for the week. To use, remove the tough stem with your chef’s knife and peel away the white outer layers carefully to reveal the tender cloves. Now you can use it just as you would aged garlic, realizing its taste will be milder but oh so fresh.
Hearty greens are a great pairing with this garlic—think kale and broccoli. Be sure to buy these from a reputable local grower who doesn’t spray or who has a certified organic farm. Kale and broccoli often end up on a “dirty dozen” list by organizations that test and publish pesticide residue results. A good group to follow is the Environmental Working Group. Their famous and helpful lists of “dirty” and “clean” produce can help you make informed decisions when it comes to staying within your budget while you keep your family healthy. At some point, we should discuss the complexities of deep and shallow organic choices, but for now—let’s get cookin’!
Kale is a wonderful choice at any time, but it’s especially welcome when the other tender greens at the market have withered under the summer sun. It’s tough, literally, and it comes in many shapes and sizes. For the recipes below, I’m using Curly Kale, usually pretty tender if you get young, fresh leaves and mild-flavored compared with other varieties such as Dinosaur (sort of earthy) and Red Russian (sort of sweet). Curly Kale is also the most widely available from my experience. I always remove tough stems, regardless of the recipe or the variety of kale. They end up either in my “freeze stock bag” (another story) or in the compost.
Broccoli is in full swing, so take advantage of that. It may look slightly different from the supermarket variety, depending on your grower location and the amount of rainfall your area has had, but it is really tender, so eat those stalks! Just peel and slice—amazing and chock full of extra vitamins. Here are two starter recipes—one that incorporates that fresh garlic, kale and broccoli with mushrooms (Any type will do—a personal favorite is shitake.) for a savory sauté and another that takes kale and broccoli to the sweet side—my ultimate powerhouse green smoothie. Now, now… be brave in the kitchen, remember?
For the sauté, thoroughly wash a large bunch of kale and a large stalk of broccoli. I do mean thoroughly because many creatures love these delicacies and some refuse to give them up in the field, so I submerge in water with a veggie cleaner (Did you know you can make your own? We’ll talk.), rinse by submerging in clean water a second time and let dry on clean white flour sack towels. Always remember: if the bugs, birds and worms won’t eat your veggies, you shouldn’t either! To prep the veggies, coarsely chop the kale and broccoli, mince two or three cloves of garlic (Garlic is a real star here, so I often use four or five—no vampires in this house!), and slice the mushrooms thinly. Heat your oil (a generous four to five tablespoons) in a large sauté pan or chef’s skillet on medium heat. Olive oil is my choice because of the flavor; just remember to tend the heat. Add the garlic and some salt and stir for a minute or two. Feel free to toss in some chopped onion if you have one. Now add the broccoli and a pinch more salt and continue to sauté for maybe five to 10 minutes longer, until the broccoli sweats and starts to become tender. Add the mushrooms and stir for another couple of minutes. (Remember that sherry from the previous egg scramble? You can add a splash for pop, if you like.) Now add the Kale, which will fill the skillet at first and then fairly quickly wilt down as it cooks. Keep stirring. Once the Kale has wilted and begun to cook, throw in some fresh ground black pepper to taste and squeeze of fresh lemon juice to round it out—and you’re done! Be sure not to overcook your greens; the kale should still have structure and be tender-chewy, not soggy and stringy. This is a great side to any grilled meat or fish. For an extra special touch, shave on some REAL Parmigiano-Reggiano—pricey but so worth it.
On to the sweeter side of life. It took some doing, but my husband has finally come around to a green smoothie for breakfast. Here’s how we “powerhouse” our day: Note that I don’t have an expensive, high-end blender such as a Vitamix ® but that doesn’t stop me. I invested in something more modest to help my standard blender along—a Bella Rocket® processor that you can usually get for under $25. If you’ve got a big fancy blender, just start throwing the following into it; otherwise, begin with your little Bella Rocket by adding: two to three spears of broccoli, a medium carrot and a peeled orange, sectioned and seeded. Add ¼ cup cold water and pulse until completely liquefied. Add this to your large blender jar. (You can substitute a small beet—washed but unpeeled—for the broccoli, instead. Just dice it up to help with the liquefying. Note that your green smoothie will probably become a purple powerhouse with this substitution, but that’s fine.). Now add one apple, one banana and whatever berries you have to equal about a ½ cup. Trying to eat with the season or just what’s available, you can substitute just about any fruit for those listed, including half an avocado for that banana or half a cucumber for the apple—really! However, you may need to adjust the sweetness with a tablespoon of honey or pure maple syrup or even date sugar. Just no refined white sugar. To this we add one tablespoon chia seeds, one tablespoon hemp seeds, a tablespoon of organic, plain creamy peanut butter, a cup of unsweetened coconut water and one scope of protein powder (For us it’s whey, but choose your favorite.). Finally, add one cup packed kale leaves—stems removed. Process on high for at least two minutes, until everything is liquefied and beautifully green.
Before serving, I like to return this to the refrigerator for about 30 to 45 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry. Sometimes on really hot days, we stick in the freezer for an extra five or 10. This is controversial in some groups because the fresher the smoothie, the more nutrition. We’re good with it. Cold is key to flavor here, and it is the difference between my husband drinking or not drinking the smoothie. See? Have a favorite smoothie tip or a great kale recipe to share? Please do!