From the Farm

Season of renewal

Season of renewal
Fresh Swiss chard
Kris Nusskern

December 30 2012

It's always such a relief to me to see Christmas day pass.

No, I'm not a Grinch; I do love Christmas. I have a four-year-old; how could I not love Christmas?

Seeing things through his eyes makes the lights brighter, the hunt for a tree more adventurous, the packages bigger and the wait for Santa more sensational.

But the shopping, the cooking and baking, the obligatory socializing, and the pressure to make it all perfect can get me a little tense.

So, on the 26th, the temptation to stay in my jammies and build Legos all day is one I just cannot resist. That's how my family of three came to transform 1,100 tiny plastic bricks into a small city over the course of three days.

This year, I think the snow has had something to do with my mood lifting as the New Year approaches. As much as we moan and groan about cleaning off cars and clearing driveways, I know I'm not the only Upstate New Yorker who despises a brown winter even more than the labors of a white one.

It just seems easier to imagine the New Year as a time of renewal when the earth is covered in a blanket of fresh, clean white.

The other thing that I love about being beyond the holiday pressure is the freedom to start experimenting in the kitchen. This year, I got a new cookbook focusing on beans as a gift from my mother-in-law, so I'm excited to start trying out new recipes from it. Many of them call for ingredients that grow on the farm, so I can combine some local greens with my beans.

The one I've picked out is similar to something I've made before, but I like this version. I also like the simplicity and versatility of cooking greens with beans. Feel free to use any variety of pasta, greens or beans you have available.

CD's Beans & Greens Pasta (serves 4)
from “Bean by Bean” by Crescent Dragonwagon

* 16 ounces dried pasta, such as fusilli or shells

* 2 or 3 whole dried chilies, stemmed and broken in half

* 3 to 5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

* 1 bunch Swiss chard, rinsed well, leaves and tender parts of stems sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch ribbons

* 3 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped

* 1 lemon, halved

* 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained

* Salt

* Black pepper

* Finely grated Parmesan cheese (omit for vegans)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta.

Meanwhile, set a large, heavy skillet (ideally cast iron) over medium-high heat. Place chilies in the skillet and toast, stirring them or giving the pan a shake occasionally, until they darken slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. (Turn on exhaust vent, as the air may get pungent).

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the still-wet greens. Stir. There will be a big sizzle and the greens will quickly start wilting down, deepening in color. Immediately, just as soon as the greens have been stirred into the chile and olive oil, pop a tight-fitting lid over the skillet. Lower the heat just a bit and let the greens steam in their own liquid for 3 to 4 minutes.

Lift the lid and stir in the garlic. Cook for a few minutes more, just to take the edge of rawness off the garlic, stirring to distribute everything. Then turn off the heat, squeeze half the lemon over the greens and add the beans. Stir some more to heat the beans through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pile the pasta on plates and divide the greens and beans over each portion. Try to pick out the chilies, or warn diners they are there. Drizzle each portion with a bit of olive oil. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges, and pass them along with the Parmesan at the table.

Kris Nusskern is a mom who writes for the Kilpatrick Family Farm in Middle Granville when she’s not busy herding her four year old son. She is frequently in the kitchen experimenting with locally grown foods and likes writing about our relationship to the land.

Photo Credit: Jessica Riehl



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