What would it be like to live the life you love, and live it powerfully? Sometimes, choosing to incorporate or eliminate certain foods can make all the difference. How does the word “raw” connect to Passover? In the desert we were inexperienced. The weather made our skin raw. We experienced gut wrenching raw fear, and we ate raw, unprocessed and unrefined manna (mystery) to survive.
Passover is the perfect opportunity and invitation to cleanse the body, mind, and spirit through living foods and holistic health practices. In order to dive into this possibility it requires us to look at the dietary habits that accumulate excessive physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bondage.
Based on Smitten Kitchen’s lentil soup with sausage, chard, and garlic
1/4 c olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of chili pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
4 turkey or chicken Italian sausages (not pre-cooked), with the casings removed
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
6 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 c dried lentils
2 heaping handfuls of Kale, chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, chili flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the sausage and break up into small pieces with a spoon. Heat until cooked through.
Open the can of tomatoes and chop them into roughly 1/2-inch chunks. An easy way to do this is by cutting them with a pair of kitchen scissors while they’re still in the can. Add the tomatoes (with their juices) and the broth to the pot.
When the soup boils, rinse and add the lentils. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are cooked. Add the kale and simmer for 5 more minutes.
In August, I left Brooklyn and moved to the North Dakota-Minnesota border where my boyfriend, Nick, is a fifth-generation farmer. I arrived just in time for harvest, so with Nick’s 14-hour tractor shifts, our Shabbat meals have been improvised, eaten out of Thermoses, and rustic. (“Rustic” is just my glorified way of saying that bits of soil from the field may or may not have made their way onto our utensils by the time we ate.)
What the locals don’t specify when you’re warned about the brutal winters here is that soup weather arrives much earlier than it does in Brooklyn. Which is something to celebrate; you take what you can when the tales of -40 degree temperatures start circulating. And so my favorite Shabbat meal thus far was a few weeks ago during navy bean harvest. It consisted of a simple but filling soup, shared with Nick during a very bumpy chisel-plowing ride.
The soup is a lentil soup, and it’s one that I made nearly every week during soup weather when I lived in Brooklyn. I’d add kale from the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket and sausage from Fleischer’s; this time I added kale from the farmstead garden and sausage from a local turkey farm. Both renditions were amazing.
Perched up on our little tractor seats, two spoons and one Thermos, our first bites instantly brought us back to Brooklyn in the fall. It was the kind of nostalgia that you really only get from a warm comforting dish, and it came on like a strong drink on an empty stomach. As the sun went down, we gobbled up that soup, and I peered out the tractor window where the crops stretched into the horizon. It wasn’t a traditional Shabbat, and admittedly it wasn’t totally restful either, but it was indeed memorable, beautiful, and delicious.
Click here for Molly Yeh’s recipe for lentil, sausage and kale soup to warm those cold Shabbat nights.
Springtime is in full swing in Tennessee. The dogwoods, irises and tulips are blooming, and last week I was privy to an early edition of my CSA share: parsnips, watercress, chickweed and kale. I’m still trying to decide what to make with the parsnips (besides drying them for soup this fall), but the greens made their way into salads and stir-frys.
The freshness of the greens got me thinking about what I have in easy garden access: parsley, mint, spinach, arugula and chard. The last of these was the most inspiring, and I’d love to share some of that, and a great dish with you!
I did the most stereotypical thing one can do after the New Year. I went on a juice cleanse. Three full days existing on nothing but sludgy, vitamin and mineral-laden juice. I’ve experienced a variety of feelings: cleansed (yes, seriously), hungry, exhausted, slightly delusional, energetic, sated and, did I mention hungry? My one constant was my ever-present desire to cook. You can pump me up with all the kale juice in the world but you can’t take away my inherent need to cook.
Why did I deliberately submit myself to 72 hours of pure juice torture?
The most obvious reason: the holidays. It’s safe to say I put back enough Nutella, red meat, wine, cookies, and other unmentionables to sustain me through the entirety of 2013. I needed a detox.
Reason two: I wanted to test my self discipline.
Reason three: call me crazy, but I thought juicing might lend itself to a sort of spiritual experience.
When it comes to leafy greens, there are some big players that tend to dominate our salads, soups, and suppers: romaine, baby spinach, and perhaps even a few “exotic” varieties like arugula. With CSA deliveries and farmers markets well underway, we get to meet some new possibilities that can enhance (and dare I say, replace?) the regulars we so often lean toward. Nothing against romaine and spinach; they have many redeeming qualities, and are favorites for good reasons. Yet there are other leafy greens just as delicious, and with the bonus of adding significantly more vitamins and nutrients to your dishes.
Kale is one of these leafy greens. New to many people, and gaining popularity due to its health benefits and versatility in cooking. In the same family as cabbage, kale comes in a variety of forms, such as ornamental, curly, and dinosaur — which I assure you, is as fun to eat as it is to say. Kale’s bright flavor and rich texture easily distinguishes it from other garden greens. It also comes in many colors, dark green and beautiful purple being the most common kinds in CSA boxes and markets today.
“I am surprised that the only leafy item in my CSA box this week is lettuce,” began one Facebook post from a friend. Her pithy commentary summed up what seems to be the experience of many who open their kitchens to weekly mystery deliveries from the farm. Eating locally means eating a lot of greens. I’ve seen crowd-sourced requests for ways to cook amaranth leaves, escarole (that was me), tatsoi, purslane and various kinds of kale and chard. Not to mention the tasty looking yet delicate leaves that come attached to beets and turnips. Sturdier than spinach, yet delicate enough to require cooking within a day or two, greens inspire culinary creativity in my friends. But why so many greens?
For CSA farmers, I suspect the abundance of greens has a lot to do with flexibility. Greens such as chard and kale grow well in the cooler weather of the beginning and end of the growing season. They don’t require as sustained periods of heat to get them going (the way melons or peppers might), they grow quickly and in a difficult growing season, they can be started in a greenhouse and then transported. Greens aren’t as easily damaged in rains as lettuce or delicate greens. Part of a CSA membership is learning to eat what the land produces, rather than what we are used to, and greens have been an education.