Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rolling in Green

This week my friend Judy invited me to pick vegetables. Her partner, Stu, was out of town, and his garden needed to be harvested. "I have to get in, get as much picked as I can, and get out before dark," she said. "Do you want to come with me?"

Well of course I did. We stuffed her dog and a bunch of plastic shopping bags in the back of her car and drove through the dissipating rush-hour traffic to Stu's outer-ring suburban home.

Stu's garden is in the corner of his enormous yard. (I garden on a smaller-than-standard south Minneapolis lot. You could spit a watermelon seed across my yard.) His soil is rich and black. (Mine was sand before I spaded in mountains of compost.) He grows peas, beets, brassicas, 10 kinds of pepper, tomatoes, berries, radishes, and a small ocean of Swiss chard. (No, I'm not at all envious. Whyever would you ask?)

We commenced filling up bags of produce, including a sack of chard as big as a gradeschool child. It hardly seemed to make a dent in the patch.

Judy dropped me off at home well after dark. "Thank you," she said. "If you hadn't come, I'd still be out there. And I'd have to find someone to take some of this food."

"Oh, thank YOU," I replied, hefting the bag of veggies that was my share of the haul. Each of us felt she'd gotten the better end of the deal.

Even though it was late, I decided to cook up a bit of the chard and eat it right on the spot. Chard is fast and easy to fix, after all. And how often does a city dweller get the chance to eat something that was picked less than two hours ago?

Not often enough, I thought, as I munched on my little dish. The vivid green leaves and white stems tasted sweet and fresh. Chard's mild undertone of minerals and barely perceptible bitterness add depth to the flavor of this favorite green. Perfect, and well worth the late bedtime.

Swiss Chard Midnight Snack

A few leaves of chard
Gomasio* (sesame salt)

Wash the chard and cut it up roughly. Throw it in a pan with perhaps a quarter inch of water and cover. Cook on medium until tender--maybe five or seven minutes.

Drain and sprinkle with gomasio. That's it!

* I always have gomasio, or sesame salt, lying around for the very purpose of sprinkling onto freshly cooked vegetables. I can't think of a single veggie that would not be rendered more delicious.

2 T sesame seeds
1 T sea salt (or less. Or none, if you're watching your salt. I guess technically it will not be gomasio anymore. Oh well.)

Toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking often, until they color and pop. The darker you toast them, the more flavorful they get. Have patience, hang in there, and shake them a lot so you toast them evenly--don't let them burn!

Grind them with the salt. I have a mortar and pestle. If you don't, you could use a food processor or even a blender.

Simple! Isn't it disproportionately good, though? That's what we call "high ROI" in the marketing world, folks.