Last week I visited the new Caswell Farmer’s Market in Semora. There, on the side of the road, in blessed shade, were ten vendors, ranging from Catbriar Farm, which was in business long before I moved to Caswell County, to a more recent addition, Open Door Farm.
I arrived with grocery totes and a mission—to purchase and prepare late spring greens. With that end in mind, I bought Swiss chard and kale from Sara Broadwell, as well as pea shoots and fennel from Open Door Farm.
The recipes I developed during the week were simple ones. My goal wasn’t to cover up the flavors of the produce but to showcase the fresh, clean flavor of the greens. Here are the results:
Kale Salad. After rinsing the kale and spinning it dry, I removed the large stems, sliced the leaves into thin strips, and then placed them into a bowl. Next, I added a small box of raisins, halved cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and thin wedges of red onion. Before serving, I tossed the salad with vinaigrette and topped with boiled egg quarters.
Dressing for Kale Salad. In the food processor, combine 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, juice of 1 lemon, 2 TB. combination of fresh basil, parsley, oregano (or 1 TB. dried), 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp. lemon pepper, ½ tsp. salt (optional), and 1 tsp. minced garlic. Pulse to mix. With processor running, slowly pour in 1/2 cup canola or safflower oil and 3/4 cup olive oil until emulsified. Store in tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Swiss Chard with Poached Egg. Having worked with the kale, the next day I turned to the Swiss Chard. My objective was to create a hearty breakfast dish loaded with iron. If you wish to replicate the dish I made, season chopped Swiss chard and sauté it with some minced shallots and a little garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, remove from heat, and gently stir in a few quartered cherry tomatoes. Arrange chard mixture in a bowl, making a slight indention in the center for a poached egg. Garnish the entire dish with a few pea shoots.
Although poached eggs can be tricky, they are worth the effort. The result is velvety and creamy . . . I hesitate to call it an egg. It is so much more than that.
To poach an egg, begin by filling a saucepan with about 1-2 inches of water. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. white vinegar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, crack a very fresh, large egg into a tea cup. Use the handle of a spoon to quickly stir the simmering water in one direction until you’ve created a little whirlpool.
Quickly, but gently, plop the egg into the center of the whirlpool. The purpose of the whirlpool is to keep the egg from spreading out in the pan.
If you need to, use a spoon and gently scoop up any ‘wandering’ egg whites over the yolk. Cook 3 minutes to achieve a firm egg white and runny yolk. Lift the egg out of the water with a slotted spoon. Drain on a paper towel for a few seconds, then serve.
Chard, Fennel, and White Bean Gratin (adapted from SeriousEats.com). In a large skillet, melt 3 TB butter. Add a small bulb of fennel (thinly sliced) and 1 chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are soft, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add 2 tsp. garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds.
Add 1 lb. of thinly sliced Swiss chard in three batches, sautéing for a minute until wilted before adding another batch. Add 1/4 tsp. grated fresh nutmeg and 1 TB flour. Stir to combine. Gently mix in 1 can evaporated milk and 1/4 C. of milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Now add 2 (15 ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed. Cook until heated through (5-9 minutes).