So you have a garden, or you buy strictly local and seasonal produce. While that makes you a conscientious and probably healthy eater, it also means you are eating a lot of the same things for weeks or even months at a time.
Right now my garden surplus is kale. There is so much blue dwarf kale in my front yard that I feel bad preparing any meal that doesn’t include it. But … really… more kale?
So I’m looking for new recipes to spice up my relationship with kale. Try doing the same with your favorite, but tired, garden surplus items:
- Comb your personal stock of standby recipes for ones that either have no veggies or veggies that have flavors and textures similar to the one you’re trying to substitute. My example: my spinach sharp cheddar quiche is a staple I can bake in my sleep. It would be just as good with kale and some creamy goat cheese. Almost any veggie will work in an omelet (brinner, anyone?) or a quick burrito. Potatoes au gratin would taste even better with fresh snap peas, chopped carrots, green onions or thick greens. If you’re adding veggies to an existing recipe, consider how much water they’ll add while it bakes–no one likes a soggy gratin.
- Think outside the proverbial box. Instead of ripping your greens up into bite-sized pieces for salads every night, why not wrap them around your food? Your sturdiest leaves of butterhead or romaine lettuce, chard, or, say, kale, can be softened for 30 seconds in boiling water, then blanched, stems trimmed, and wrapped around rice and beans, egg salad, strips of grilled fish, spicy lentils, anything at all. If you don’t want to turn on the oven, try a cold red potato vinaigrette salad leftover from a weekend picnic. If the oven is an option, place green-wrapped grains in a baking dish, top with tomato sauce and mozzarella, and bake until melty. This is how you avoid wasting leftovers AND greens you might be getting sick of tasting with nothing but Italian dressing. Google a recipe for a quick tempura batter and fry up some chunks to serve with rice or noodles and soy sauce. Toss kale leaves with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and bake into chips on a cookie sheet for a savory snack. It may not seem like it, but the possibilities really are endless.
- Grill it. Farm to picnic table — why go back inside? There isn’t much that doesn’t taste better off the grill. If you’re sick of sautes, stick just about any veggie on a kabob stick or a piece of lightly sprayed or oiled foil and grill until golden. Zucchini and eggplant don’t get nearly as soggy and mushy as when you saute them in oil. Cherry tomatoes become sweeter, even more delicious orbs of juicy goodness. Even kale gets smoky and crispy.
- Freeze, freeze, freeze. Maybe I’ll go nuts and make extra quiches to freeze for when kale is a distant — and more appetizing — summer memory. Get out your mandolin slicer, julienne the potatoes that are coming out of every crevice of your garden (wait, is that just me?), and put them in your best freezer-safe Tupperware — way cheaper than store-bought frozen hash browns. Learn how to blanch veggies the proper way. I did 15 pounds of asparagus earlier this summer; it didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, and I’ll have fresh asparagus as a fast side dish for months.
- Give it away, now. If you’re a farmer who sells your produce, by all means, sell away (kale, 2 pounds, $3). But by the end of the growing season, wouldn’t you rather know those veggies were going to be eaten? (Update: kale, free to good home.)
What do you do with your garden surplus?