[ vegetarian improvisational peasant fusion cuisine for the 22nd century ]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

cooking can be god through Nash's farmshare recipes, october 20th, 2006

One angel (of many) recently sent me a cookbook in the mail. Or rather, a not-cookbook, as the author (let's just call him Gabriel) makes strong and repeated claims that all cooked foods are poisonous. He's also in favor of removing all flesh-foods, dairy products, honey, fermented foods, high-glycemic fruits, dried fruits, and grains (except maybe sprouted buckwheat) from our diets.

In a surprising turn of events, the second half of the book is full of amazing recipes, including an avocado-kale salad that I've modified below, to fit softly into this first week of local salmon hunting.

** Almost-Live Kale Salad **

Please note that contrary to popular belief, salmon is not a vegetable. If you're interested in labels, and play the game of choosing amongst them, sometimes you're up against a wall. The original incarnation of this recipe -- with avocados instead of salmon -- easily qualifies as "vegetarian" and "raw" as well as "organic" (if you shop at the farm store), but certainly not "local" (keep running those engines...). My simple substitution adds a merit badge for "local" and loses the "vegetarian" designation. But if you're willing, you can still keep it "raw".

1 bunch lacinato kale
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large tomato

a few ounces of freshly-caught local salmon, cut carefully and hygienically, with appropriate gods, governments, humans, animals, plants, and natural phenomena thanked in turn.

2 tablespoons of good olive oil
2 tablespoons of soaked sesame seeds
1 stalk of celery

Now. The secret to enjoying raw kale is the same secret (come on people, listen to the prophets, there's only one secret) to enjoying Life After Work. Relaxation. And relaxation, for those of us too sophisticated, poor, bored, or health-conscious to pop open a cold local organic fermented ambrosia, is Massage.

Finely chop your kale into a dry, empty bowl with your salt sitting at the bottom. Mix well and massage thoroughly until the kale sighs audibly and gives up the fall's early tension (the water-stress of the past fortnight perhaps) and wilts. Stretch your fingers, straighten your back (is your counter-top high enough to work without stooping?), add the lemon and go again. Massage the lemon essence into the kale until it's fully relaxed, and leave it to rest in its own exuberance while you make the dressing.

Cut the salmon carefully into precious sashimi pieces, reserving a scant third for the dressing. If you find the raw fish dégoûtant you have two options a) Sear each side on the highest heat you can manage until the flesh turns white enough to be palatable, b) Get over it and say Gabriel told you so (even though he didn't)

Otherwise, blend the rest of the salmon with the olive oil, sesame seeds, and celery to create a creamy dressing. Chop the tomato (the farm's meaty black crims are a great choice) and mix the kale, tomato, and dressing together.

Fancy, panted individuals may see the advantages to marinating the salmon beforehand (in tamari sauce and ginger juice perhaps, or maybe with dried cranberries and white wine) or adding additional elements to the salad (crumbled nori, pine nuts, olives). Remember that you can still use the "local" label with some dignity if your exotic ingredients are dried, pickled, or can otherwise reach you by camel.


Collard Greens: Experience the Flavor

Cooking is a mask. As the seasons change and you find yourself face-to-leaf with strange growths in your farmshare box, you might want to experience the vegetable in itself, for who it really is. And often the raw mouthful doesn't quite take you there (like with a potato, say). A simple experiment is in order: heat a cast-iron pan with half an inch of water. Chop thin strips of collard greens, kale, chard greens, and spinach in separate piles. Ready individual bowls of lemon juice and olive oil. Braise each green in the pan for a couple of minutes, just until it turns a brighter shade of green and wilts, and remove.

Now divide each braised green into three piles -- one to mix with a wee splash of lemon juice, another for a bit of olive oil, and a third au natural. You have just created a twelve-course sampler plate to teach yourself what these things really taste like.

Remember to breathe deeply, close your eyes, and chew slowly as you sample each course, slowly working through the different hits and hints of each mouthful. Treat each pile of steamy green as a glass of expensive red wine: the depth and flavor have always been there, in every bite, and are only waiting for you to acknowledge them.