Green Garlic and Kale

Last week at the farmers market, I found some green garlic. I’ve had green garlic before that looks more like spring onions, but as you can see from the picture here, this bunch of green garlic was a little more mature. I’d never worked with it this way before but the nice guy who sold it to me assured me that practically the whole thing is edible. So I was sold!

In order to use green garlic in this state, it is necessary to remove the hard central stalk. To do this, I cut the bulb end off and then cut that in half. I removed the roots and the inner stalk. Then I peeled off the outer two or three layers, which are thin, kind of like spring onion. Inside the bulb, the cloves had only just started to show signs of differentiating. For the stalk, I used the tip of a knife to score its length, and pulled out the hard stalk from the center. Then I washed the leaves the same way that you would wash leeks, and trimmed the ends. I sliced the stalk into ribbons, and chopped the bulb.

The flavor of green garlic is extremely mild when eaten raw, and won’t leave you with bad breath. So I decided to use it in a raw kale salad. If you don’t have access to green garlic, this recipe goes great with anything that has a mild onion or garlic flavor. I’ve done it with green garlic, spring onions, and shallots each quite successfully. To further amp up the garlic flavor even further, use garlic oil.

This recipe makes a lot, but the salad keeps well in the fridge for days and makes a great snack.

Green Garlic and Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of kale, leaves removed from the stem
  • 1 chopped green garlic bulb or two finely diced shallots
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or garlic oil

Method

Roughly chop or slice the kale and place in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and whisk to emulsify. Pour over the kale and use tongs (or your hands) to toss. Make sure the kale is evenly coated. Set aside to let the kale wilt slightly at room temperature for 30 minutes or longer (an hour would be great). Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

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Lemon Ginger Tea

lemon-090930-0002Lemons are really wonderful. No one would ever sit down and eat a lemon or drink a glass of straight lemon juice unless it was for a dare. But added to food and drinks, lemon brings an amazing brightness and pleasant acidity to many foods, both savory and sweet.

But when using lemon, there is a dark side of which we must be careful. It is….BOTTLED LEMON JUICE.amcor_cliffstar_lemon_juice

Oof, I shiver just to look at it.

Let’s consider bottled lemon juice for a moment…have you ever tasted the stuff straight out of the bottle? And then tasted a real lemon? They don’t taste remotely alike. It’s like bottled met fresh at a party once, and that’s all they have in common. Bottled just tastes kinda dead, and it certainly isn’t doing your food any favors either.

To be fair, there is one thing that bottled juice is good for, and that is canning tomatoes and tomato products (which I will discuss in another post). But if you don’t can, then you don’t need it.

Juicing lemons takes hardly any time at all, and it will really elevate the flavor of your food if you’re not already using fresh juice; this is a case where the effort is more than worth the return.

No special equipment is needed, you can juice lemons with a fork over a bowl if you want to. But if you’re going to take the plunge, I recommend splurging on a reamer that sits above a measuring cup (such as this one from oxo), which is actually really handy for juicing any citrus fruits.

You will notice that in all my recipes, I stress that you must use fresh lemon juice. Now you know why. There are certain foods that I make and take to parties with me that always have people asking me “what’s the secret?” Now you know the secret.

So let’s jump in and make something that really showcases fresh lemon juice: my favorite tea.

Technically, this is an “infusion” and not tea. It is inspired by a drink I used to order in the Bookworm Cafe on Lamma Island when I lived in Hong Kong. It is really versatile and the quantities can be liberally adjusted to suite your taste.

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Lemon Ginger Tea

Ingredients

  • a 3″ piece of ginger root
  • 2-3 lemons, juiced
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar

Method

Give the ginger a good scrub under running water (I don’t usually even bother to peel it). Slice it into thin coins, and place into a tea pot or pitcher. Add lemon juice, boiling water, and agave nectar. Stir to combine, and let steep.

The amount of time you let the tea steep will affect how spicy it gets from the ginger…longer time means spicier. I really like the kick of ginger so I tend to let it sit for quite a while before drinking.

Taste the tea and adjust the sweetness and acidity as desired but playing with the agave and lemon juice.

Serve hot OR over ice. It’s delicious both ways.

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TIP: If you’re really feeling saucy, how about adding some fresh mint as well?

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Simple Savory Avocado

food-090930-0003Avocados were not a food that I grew up eating. In fact, I don’t think that I even tasted an avocado until well into my 20s. I wish I could remember the first time my face encountered a perfectly ripe avocado’s rich, velvety smoothness and clean taste, which has now become something I absolutely adore.

While guacamole is a pretty well-known and DELICIOUS way to serve avocados, I also like them more simply done up: they really come into their own when roughly chopped and sprinkled over a hot bowl of chili, sliced thin and laid out over a veggie pizza in lieu of cheese, or mashed into some crusty grilled bread with just a pinch of coarse sea salt.

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One of my favorite ways to serve avocados is this easy dish. It takes just a few minutes to prepare (you could probably even get to sub-minute times if you really practiced) and the dressing can be made days in advance.

You can make your own variation by subbing in ginger, or another kind of vinegar, or some hot sauce. No matter how you go about it, this is a really impressive way to showcase any creamy ripe avocados you can get your mitts on. I like to make up the dressing and keep it in the fridge, so that I can pull it out and splash it over avocado halves as the mood strikes. You really couldn’t ask for a quicker, more elegant, or more satisfying small dish.

TIP: If your avocados are hard when you buy them, leave them on the counter for a day or two until they yield slightly to gentle pressure. They should retain some firmness and NOT feel squishy. As soon as you think you’ve got one at the height of its ripeness, you can toss it into the fridge for a few days to halt the process so that it will stay perfect until you need it. I actually prefer to buy my avocados on the hard side so that I can control how soft they get before they make it onto my plate.

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Simple Savory Avocado

Ingredients

  • Juice of one lemon (you MUST use fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
  • Ripe avocados

Method

Prepare the dressing first. Combine the lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic in a small jar (or bowl). Shake (or whisk) to combine. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

When ready to serve, halve, pit, and peel your avocados. Place in a bowl or on a platter, drizzle with the dressing, and garnish as desired (chopped parsley or a sprig dill are nice). Enjoy right away!

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