Chard and chard and chard and chard. And basil, pounds of it.
What to do with all this chard? I got sick of roasting it (which is delicious), but was looking for a way to use up multiple pounds of chard at a time. There’s a traditional souther recipe, usually made in winter (apparently I grew chard at the non-traditional time of year), called Gumbo Z’Herbs, that I used as inspiration for my gumbo. I used this recipe as a guideline. Although, being a mother who is always dreaming up things to cook last minute, and also refusing to run to the store for other expensive ingredients, I made it my own. The most important elements of the recipe are the greens and the meats. I used pastured pork in the form of smoked bacon, smoked sausage, and ground chorizo cooked in a cast-iron-ceramic pan. I didn’t need to add salt to my soup because smoked meats are so salty already. You may need to add unrefined sea salt if you choose unsalted meats. It’s important that you keep the fat, no matter what your instincts tell you. Put all of this beautiful, slightly charred meat, and all of it’s fat, into the soup. Sauté your onions first, forget the steps about sautéing your greens and then removing them. Forget the part about flour. Just cook the onions, add water and all the other veggies, herbs, and spices. When the root vegetables are about cooked, add handfuls upon handfuls of what ever greens you have, and the meats. When the greens are a vibrant, deep green, but not overcooked and dead-looking, scoop out as much of it as you can, blend it, and pour it back in. I added potatoes to my soup and blended almost all of them to serve as a thickener, allowing me to avoid the flour business. For spices and herbs, just use which ever ones you have. For the cajun seasoning, look up a recipe on how to make your own and add what ever of the spices you have. For spices, I go 50% instinct and 50% taste, so best of luck to those inexperienced with spices, but there’s only one way to learn. Here’s a photo of the result, with grated parmigiano reggiano and fresh garden parsley. I’d been having a time getting my husband to eat all the chard I’d been serving, but he devoured this.
Root vegetables and greens sautéed or roasted with good fats and balsamic vinegar make a wonderful, hearty side to a beautiful grass-fed steak. I cook my steak on a shallow roasting pan, as close as I can get the top shelf to the burners, set to broil on high. I pre-marinade in Worcestershire sauce and Montreal steak spice, and cook this way for 3 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the other. Perfect medium-rare steaks every time, no grill or barbecue required.
Pesto is the most obvious and delicious way to use up copious amounts of basil. My recipe is simple. In the small magic bullet: a small handful of pine nuts, 2 glugs of grape seed oil, generous grinding of unrefined sea salt and pepper, 2 tbsp of diced garlic from a jar (or less if fresh), jam the bullet full with basil. Blend and shake, blend and shake. Add liquid if necessary. Taste, adjust, stir in ~1/4 cup fresh grated parmigiano reggiano. Enjoy on bow ties.
Calendula has amazing skin-soothing properties, and is also edible. I used this blog post as a guideline. The only thing I’d like to add, is that the flowers have loads of nearly microscopic bugs inside of them. When trimming, cut at the first or second leaf, leaving yourself several inches of stem (this way of trimming is healthier for the plant, prevents stem rot). Hold the end of the trimmed end and bang the head on the side of your kitchen sink. Watch all those tiny critters scurry in the sink. They’re seriously tiny, so those afraid of bugs need not be deterred. Dry them like so, flip them daily.
You can also put fresh calendula heads directly in the bath.
For more traditional cooking inspiration, I recommend The Real Food Cookbook, by Nina Planck.
Stay tuned for more tutorials and ideas on drying herbs and flowers.