The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
fried polenta squares w/ greens (recipe below)
Can I first say, OMG, OMG, OMG!!! I AM GOING TO BE THE GRANDMA OF TWINS!!!!!!!! I CAN HARDLY WAIT!!! OMG! Ok…I had to scream that to the world. I can now continue.
Every other Thursday, I pick up my box of vegetables from my farm co-op. I love bringing them home and laying them on the table, sorting them, cleaning them, cutting off the leaves from the root vegetables, and generally admiring their beauty. But at times my garden harvest combined with the bounty from my box explodes, especially if I have been away for a few days, which is precisely what happened last week. Here are the vegetables from my box combined with my garden harvest: carrots, beets, giant radishes, kale, lettuce, tatsoi, sorrel, spinach, mizuna, mustard greens….
...Not to mention what was already in my refrigerator: too many vegetables, even for a die-hard vegetarian such as myself. I felt a tad bit overwhelmed (perhaps a little mother-daughter empathy going on here?) and tried not to panic. I had to figure out what to do with all of these vegetables.
After inventorying all of the produce, I removed the tops from the root vegetables.
(This is important. If you leave the leaves on, the roots get soft and limp). Then I stared at everything, took a deep breath, and plunged into the planning.
“AHA!!” Thought I. “Now is the perfect time to make “Compost Soup!!”
I hadn’t made it in awhile, and frankly had forgotten about it. I coined the term a couple of years ago when I made a vegetable broth from odds and ends and random scraps of vegetables that I had in my refrigerator. Anything (that isn’t slimy) can go into it—even lettuce and the peelings of carrots. I brought out all of the vegetables from my refrigerator—the greens from leeks, the tough kale stems, some tired celery and carrots, and some collards that we hadn’t eaten. After washing all of them, I threw them in a pot with the carrot and radish tops from my box (yes, they are both edible and are great in soups!) and some herbs and bay leaves. I saved the beet tops for another dish since they will turn the soup red.
Compost Soup (Vegetable Stock)
Making a vegetable stock is a great way to use lots of veggies. You can add almost any vegetable, although I don’t like adding broccoli or cauliflower since they are too sulfuric.
Add parsley or cilantro for lots of flavor (I love the cilantro in my stock). Just cover the vegetables with water, bring to a boil, and cook for about an hour with herbs of your choice and a couple of bay leaves. Strain the broth, compost the solids, and freeze the broth in containers. You can use this broth for the basis of any soup recipe.
cooked compost soup
strained compost soup
My sister-in-law, Nancy, gave me a great tip—If you aren’t ready to cook your broth, just freeze all of these odds and ends (tops of leaks, random tough stems, etc) and then when you have collected enough for a soup, take them out of the freezer and combine with whatever other vegetables you have in the refrigerator.
When my pot was on to boil, I felt a little better about being able to manage my massive amounts of produce and planned what else I would make. I still had a lot of greens: kale, chard, spinach, mustard greens, and beet greens as well as a bunch of sorrel and a lot of carrots. I decided to roast the carrots and sauté the greens with garlic and shallots to serve over polenta.
Homemade polenta is so delicious and it very easy to make (and very inexpensive). All you need is cornmeal (medium ground) and water. If you want to add variations such as milk, butter, or Parmesan or other cheeses you can, but it isn’t necessary. You can make creamy polenta or pour it into a pan to get firm and fry it. I like it both ways.
1 cup polenta (medium ground cornmeal)
1 tsp salt
4 cups of water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
(Optional: ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese)
Heat water to a boil. Add salt and lower the heat to medium. Slowly add the cornmeal in a continuous stream, whisking as you add it, so no lumps form. Continue whisking until the mixture boils. Then turn down the heat to barely a simmer and cover. Every 10 minutes or so, stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for 35-40 minutes or until the cornmeal loses its raw flavor. Stir in the butter (and cheese if you want it). Serve immediately. Top with greens or any other vegetables (or mushrooms). Or, pour into a 9x9 square pan to set. Refrigerate until set, cut into large squares, dust with flour, and fry in hot olive oil until brown on both sides.
I took the greens and shallots recipe I made a couple of weeks ago and modified it to go well with the polenta. And I used LOTS OF GREENS which is awesome considering how many I had to start with!
Greens with garlic and shallots
About 3 lbs greens
(spinach, kale, beet greens, mustard greens, tatsoi, chard or others in any combination)
4 large shallots, sliced thinly (or two medium onions)
6 large garlic cloves, cut into slices
salt and pepper to taste
Clean all greens well and tear off any tough stems (save these stems for Compost Soup). If using kale, boil for a few minutes to soften and then cut up. For the rest of the greens, tear into pieces (about 3 or 4 inches).
Sauté the shallots in a generous amount of olive oil (about ¼ cup) on medium heat until caramelized. Add garlic, turn up the heat, and cook for a few minutes until garlic starts to turn golden brown. Add greens and stir to coat with oil. Cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Check and stir once in a while. If there is liquid in the pan, remove cover, and simmer on medium until the water evaporates. Serve over bowls of steaming polenta:
(or on top of the fried squares as seen above.)
We had this for two nights. The first night I served bowls of creamy polenta with the greens on top and roasted baby carrots (glazed with honey)*. The next night I cut the firm polenta leftovers into squares, dusted them with flour, and fried in olive oil. This was scrumptious! I used garbanzo bean flour because it’s gluten free but any flour would do. (The garbanzo bean flour added a crispy nuttiness that was truly amazing!)
*Roasted Baby Carrots
1 bunch baby carrots, scrubbed
fresh chopped herbs (I used rosemary but any would do)
salt and pepper to taste
1 T honey
Toss carrots in a drizzling of oil, sprinkle with herbs and salt and pepper, and toss again. Roast carrots (in a single non-overlapping layer in pan) at 425 until tender, about 15 minutes. Drizzle with honey and cook another few minutes.
The rest of the vegetables I will use for other meals. I’ll have plenty of time in the week to figure out ways to cook them. For now, I feel back in control of my vegetables and have cleaned out my refrigerator at the same time!