Hey y’all, hope you’re having a good week. We’re feeling very lucky that we’re still here and didn’t blow away in that CRAZY storm yesterday!! We had a laundry list of restaurant orders to harvest and deliver – can you imagine? As the team cut greens and tossed them into harvest bins they were blowing away in the gusts! Michael was wearing a bright yellow hooded slicker and rain pants and looked like a lobsterman, and at one point I saw Matt pick up a stone paver and take off full-speed down the length of the farm to weigh down a tarp on the chicken coop that was this close to taking off in a gust! Scary day to be a rooftop farmer!
It’s been a rough season and most of our crops have struggled with a pest or weather problem at some point, but there’s one star that’s shone throughout. Hailing from the awesome chenopod genus, my favorite goosefoot (cheno means goose and pod means foot!) by far is swiss chard. In the amaranth family, chenopods give us all the healthy “superfoods” we know and love such as spinach, beets, lamb’s quarter and Ben’s “comfort food,” quinoa. But swiss chard stands out among the rest for its bright and beautiful colors and distinctly briny flavor. That salinity should come as no surprise, considering it descends from the sea beet, which was bred for leaf growth into chard and for root growth into beetroot! Sea beets grow in coastal areas with soil high in sodium and its descendants reflect that, as chard can have as much as 313 mg of sodium per cup! So take it easy on the salt when you cook this stuff! But keep in mind that nature has its own sets of checks and balances, and chard is also chock full of potassium, which regulates the body’s hydration levels, as well as a million other amazing nutrients and vitamins, so don’t worry too much.
If that salty goodness has you really thirsty, make yourself some anise hyssop tea, because Michael said this cold weather warrants a nice hot cuppa. Just hang that bunch up to dry for a few days and then brew in a cup of boiling water with a touch of rooftop honey for a few minutes and he promises it’ll cure what ails you. Toss some mint in the bunch, too! And while you’re drying things, string some habaneros up for the winter! Goodbye Blanduary!
CHARD AND CHICKPEA STEW
Serves 2 as a hearty main course
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp cayenne
1 bag black cherry tomatoes
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 sweet peppers
1 bunch carrots
thyme herb bunch
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch chard
2 cups couscous
salt and pepper to taste
2 lamb sausages or 1 lb lamb stew meat
Preserved lemon or finely diced lemon zest
¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup golden raisins
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Rinse and thoroughly dry the tomatoes and place on a baking sheet in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until they’ve begun to shrivel up like raisins. (Tip: Oven roasting tomatoes is a great way to concentrate their sweetness. Try this next time you’re making a sauce or have soft tomatoes that you don’t want to slice up and eat raw.)
While the tomatoes are doing their thing, get your mise en place together: you’re your eggplant and slice it, sprinkling salt atop the slices to draw out the bitterness. Chop the onion, garlic, peppers, carrots and de-stem the thyme. Place your broth in a saucepan on the stove and bring to a simmer, covered. If you like spicy food, pop a habanero in the freezer for a few minutes to make chopping tiny bits of it easier. Wash and destem the chard but DO NOT THROW THOSE STEMS AWAY!! Slice them up into 1” logs.
When your materials are all mised , your broth is simmering and your tomatoes are oven roasted to sweet goodness and cooling on the counter, it’s time to begin cooking. In a large, heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of oil over med-high heat. If you’re using meat, throw this in first and cook through, then remove with a slotted spoon to a plate and tent with foil. You can return it to the pan shortly before the stew is done so that the flavors coalesce or serve it scattered on top.
When oil is hot but not smoking, toss your dried spices in and stir until they begin to release their scent, about 30-60 seconds. Add your onion, carrot, garlic and thyme and sauté until beginning to turn translucent, about 5-6 minutes. If your onion or garlic is starting to turn brown, turn the heat down (it rhymes!).
While that’s simmering, rinse and thoroughly dry the eggplant and dice into 1” cubes. Add to the pan with the sweet (and hot, if using) pepper and chard stems. Let that sauté while you open up your can of chickpeas, drain and rinse. Your tomatoes should be cool by now! Slip them from their skins into the pot and discard the skins. Add the chickpeas, chard leaves and a cup of broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, stir and loosely cover. That’s gonna hang out for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook your couscous following the directions on the package or, if you are like me and buy it at a dusty old spice shop in ziplock bags without a label and don’t have directions to follow, 1 cup couscous to 1 ¼ cups broth is a pretty universal ratio that should do you right. I like to toss some sliced almonds and/or golden raisins into my couscous, but that’s totally unnecessary. It’s delicious as is!
If you can get your hands on some preserved lemon, slice that up and scatter atop the dish. Fresh lemon zest (careful not to get the bitter, white pith in there) chopped finely is a nice addition in a pinch!