Normally at this time of year the local farms are just ramping up for their bigger harvests later in the summe that will include a wide variety of species. Which means that the first few boxes are often greens, greens, and more greens, which sprout early and often and are quite hardy. This year, BC has experienced seriously high water levels and many farms and fields have been flooded. Glen Valley Farm, provider of our CSA, has been strongly affected, and while they are optimistic for the season ahead, they're scrambling to reseed and to harvest any assets that can be taken out at an earlier stage than usual. So our CSA box has had a surprising amount of variety in it so far. We've seen gorgeous new potatoes, kohlrabi, fava beans, young carrots untouched by rust flies, bok choy, and fennel. But of course, there are always the greens. Contending with the overload of greens every summer is a task in and of itself, and requires creativity and perseverance. Because if you can stomach all those amazing phytochemicals and fibre, you will be rewarded later in the harvest with treats like summer squash, green beans (haricots verts to Americans and the French - ha!), and leeks. Yum!
This year is the first year we've received collards in our CSA box. Other than braising it with garlic and something salty (bacon for all you carnivores, soy sauce maybe for us vegetarians), I was looking for new ways to use the broad, flat leaves that are also fairly thick. Scanning food blogs turned up the idea of using collards as wraps instead of tortillas. Some people use them this way raw, and others give the leaves a brief steaming or blanching before using them. I decided to try a baked dish so I opted to blanch them before rolling them up around a yummy ricotta walnut mixture and baking them in a sea of red sauce. It worked really, really well! If we receive collards again this week I'll try them again as a wrap in a different kind of dish because they lend themselves really well to this method, and it helps me to avoid the gluten in flour tortillas or bread that I've developed a bit of sensitivity to.
***I apologise for the crap quality of my photos! I really haven't learned anything about food photography, and my cameras also doesn't seem to be self-producing the right colouring or effects. I'll work on it.***
8 or so collard leaves
1 cup ricotta (light is fine)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup walnuts, ground fine in a blender
1/4 tsp salt
I used the de-stemming and rolling methods described in the video on Eat Naked Now (tee hee!). Just remove the thickest, toughest stem with a sharp knife, trying to keep the upper part of the leaf in one piece. ENN steams the leaves, but I chose to blanche them because I was already using a pot of boiling water for some accompanying spuds. To blanche the leaves I submerged them two at a time in boiling water for about a minute, then removed them to an ice bath. When they are cool and you're ready to roll, just take them out of the water, shake them off, and make a tidy pile of the leaves laid out with the underside of the leaf up (the veiny side).
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, walnuts and salt. Lay one leaf on your work surface and overlap the lobes of the leaf a little so no gaps are visible. Place a quarter cup or so of ricotta mixture near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the bottom over the ricotta, fold both sides in and over the bottom fold, then roll up all along the leaf so that what you end up with is something like a burrito or cabbage roll. Go see the video I posted to above if you need a little more instruction like I did.
Place the rolled packets in a greased baking dish so they fit snuggly.I poured the sauce liberally over the collard rolls until they were pretty much submerged. This went into a hot oven (uncovered) at 375-400F for about 45 minutes.
smashed potatoes. It was nice to have a crunchy starch on the side to help mop up the extra delicious sauce and to add texture to the dish.
Well, that was a long blog, and a long time coming! I'm super happy to be back in the kitchen and back to blogging, so come back soon to see what else I'm getting up to now that the major stress of writing has lifted. Oh yeah, there's still the defence to be stressed about (August 7th!) but I have a few weeks yet to prepare for that one. Thanks for reading! I hope you're all having a fabulous summer!