Friday, July 18, 2008

Awash in Kale

HALLIE: This bowl contains our glorious weekly share of organic produce from the Farm School CSA (community support agriculture ).

Mesclun greens. Check.
Green beans. Check.
Onions. Check.
White radishes. Check. Parsley and dill. Check check.
Carrots and cucumbers and squash and beets. Check check check check.

This bounty is just 1/3-share--we split a single share with two other families—and this week Michelle and Donna graciously took all the kale. The farm is in Western Massachusetts, the season runs from June until November, and this 1/3-share costs us about $10 a week (plus gas to get to the drop-off point in Watertown).

The down side is there’s no choice—we get what they’re growing. I’ll be happy about this once the tomatoes come in. But how many ways are there to cook the kale and swiss chard that I usually enjoy in winter with white beans and chorizo? And one box of the most delicious strawberries you’ve ever tasted, split three ways, amounts to a meager eight berries a family.

The most amazing part is how fresh it is. Even after a week of sitting in my refrigerator, the lettuce and greens remain crisp. Guess that's what happens when they don't travel halfway around the world to get to my fridge.

No, we don’t work the farm, though there are CSAs where you can do that. All we have to do is pick the stuff up when it arrives in single-share box loads in Watertown.
A story about CSAs was recently featured on the front page of the New York Times . In the early 1990s, the article says, there were fewer than 100 such farms. Today there are close to 1,500.

It’s awfully nice to be on the cutting edge of a trend that's in the right direction. Eat healthy. Save gas. Support small farms. It’s the old win win win. And in case you, too, are awash in kale, here’s a my very own, invented out of necessity, summer kale soup recipe:

Hallie's Cold Summer Kale Soup…

3 small peeled potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 bunch of kale leaves, washed, the stems removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cups Buttermilk
Olive oil

Simmer the potatoes in the broth until fork tender.

Sautee the onions in oil until transluscent
Add the kale and cook until limp
Cover the pan and lower the heat and continue cooking for about 20 minutes.

Let everything cool.

Dump the potatoes/broth and the cooked kale/onions into a blender (in batches if need be) and blend until smooth.
Pour the blended mixture into a serving bowl and stir in buttermilk (add less or more until it’s the thickness you like)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chilled.
(Optional: garnish each serving with chopped scallions or chives or chopped sage)
(Optional: swirl a spoonful of Greek yogurt into to each serving)


  1. Beatuiful picture,Hallie. There are CSAs closer to home, too: Green Meadow Farm in Hamilton (where we were members last year), Appleton in Ipswich, and so on. It's a great way to support farmers and get local produce.

    In my just previous life, I ran a small certified-organic farm in West Newbury and had a CSA. In fact, my first and only murder mystery novel is set on an organic farm, but unfortunately I didn't quite finish writing it before I couldn't afford to farm any more and reentered the "real" paid workforce in hi-tech. I still plan to complete it, though. Murder in the Greenhouse anybody?

    But we also had WAY too much kale and chard last summer. At least you can blanch and freeze it for those winter soups. Often CSAs give out recipe for those hard-to-use portions. You can share your soup recipe with everybody else there!

  2. Okay, Hallie. The recipe sounds awesome, but this is what I want to you really keep buttermilk in the refrigerator or do you do it the vinegar-in-milk way?

    Also, I want your recipe for chorizo and kale soup. They sell an awesome one on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard, and I've been trying to figure out how they make it.

  3. this is the problem with any garden. My stepdaughter still claims she can't eat zucchini because I served it so many ways for so many meals when they were younger...

    on the other hand, I froze batches of half-made veggie soup last summer: sliced zucchini, green beans, leeks, yellow squash in chicken broth. Then pulled it out and simmered with white beans, pasta or potato chunks and swirled with pesto--also frozen from the summer. yum, yum...

  4. I'll skip to the wilting part.

    It's so interesting that produce --when really really fresh--keeps for so much longer. I'm contantly saddened by having to throw things away--produce from the regular grocery barely lasts five days, and I can't tell you how often a cucumber or head of lettuce or a bunch of cherry tomatoes just goes in the trash.
    It breaks my heart. It's like--throwing money away.

    Edith-I love your title! Especially since these days, it seems risky to eat a tomato.

  5. Hank, I'm going housewife here, but those high-tech green bags that you can now buy in the Produce Section (something like twenty of them for $9), really seem to work.

    You can wash and resuse, but have to mark them, lettuce, peppers, bananas, etc. so they remain vegetable or fruit specific.(something about the gases)

    Just call me the new Heloise.

  6. And if we all kept small (or not small) composters at the edge of the back yard for the spoiled vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells, cheese rinds, and too-ripe fruit, nobody would have to feel bad about throwing away food, because it would be returning sooner or later to food (or flowers or whatever). Just keep meat-related stuff out of it.

    I consider it a good trash day when all we have to put out is one small bag of otherwise unrecyclable and uncompostable stuff.


  7. Jan just don't start telling us we have to scrub our sinks every day...

    Edith, we love our compost pile! it helps to have guinea pigs too--they used to put away a lot of chard:)

  8. The buttermilk in my house comes from the carton. Didn't know you could make it with vinegar and milk. Really anything with buttermilk in it is deliciious.

    Swiss chard and white bean soup is easy... just chop the chard and cook it (sautee the chopped stems a few minutes, then add chopped leaves and sautee a few minutes more until it's limp but still green). Add some chicken stock, a drained can of white beans, and a chorizo you've sliced and crisped. If you like it add chopped rosemary.

    Heat the soup and serve with lots of parmesan cheese and bread. Dinner. For a chilly day.

  9. Dear Heloise:

    Can any fruit go in the bag with any fruit, and any vegetable go with any vegetable?

    ANd thanks, I'm going to try this...

    Harried housewife (Harriet Housewife??)

  10. It's 100 degrees outside and you women have me hankering for a bowl of soup..I'd say that's a testament to your powers of persuasion. All summer long I look forward to my month in Wellfleet and the fantastic kale soup at a place called Mac's. I can never get enough. Any other time sausage grosses me out, but somehow in that soup I don't mind it.
    With all of the critters in my garden, my husband and I are lucky if we salvage a few $64 tomatoes, but last year we got tons of blackberries and I've got my fingers crossed that this year's crop will be just as bountiful. I should dig up a recipe for blackberry preserves..

  11. Yes, yes, yes! Since I'm writing a series about a woman who ends up running a small orchard, I've gotten very invested in the whole CSA/local foods concept (yes, there's one in Middleboro). And if you can't commit to a share in a CSA, don't forget your local farmers markets. Locally-grown food is fresher, tastes better, and doesn't take expensive gas to transport, plus you get to taste and save heirloom varieties. So you end up with fifty pounds of zucchini--that's the way nature works.

    And you can encourage restaurants in your neighborhood to buy local, and patronize the ones that do.

    Murder in the Mulch?