With an unstoppable flow of leafy veggies coming from my CSA share every week, I have to get creative in the kitchen.
Two months into my summer CSA share, and I'm more than a little tired of lettuce. My family eats salad every night, trying to make our way through the two or more heads we get each week, plus the bags of arugula, frisée, and other mixed greens. That's not counting all the kale, Swiss chard, arugula, and spinach.
At this point I have to get creative in order to keep the meals interesting for my kids. There are a few things I do in order to keep them (and me) munching happily.
1. Make great homemade salad dressings.
Salad dressing is super cheap and easy to make at home and far more delicious than the store-bought stuff. Try out some different recipes to find your favorite, then make it in a large batch, so it's always ready to go. My kids love Caesar salad dressing and I'm a big lime-cumin fan (recipe here).
2. Add lots of garnishes.
What takes a salad to the next level is having a variety of flavors and textures. Plain lettuce gets old real fast, but a bowl full of crunchy cucumbers, shaved fennel, toasted walnuts, salty feta, firm pepitas or sunflower seeds, juicy cherry tomatoes, soft avocado, and swirly alfalfa sprouts never loses its appeal.
3. Cook whatever greens you can.
To lessen the amount of salad you need to eat, cook the greens that are best suited to it, such as kale, spinach, and chard. These shrink down to a fraction of their original volume once cooked and can be used in many different ways. I liked Elaheh Nozari's tip for Bon Appétit to make a galette:
"Everything tastes better surrounded by pastry dough. I make a simple dough from flour, butter, and apple cider vinegar, roll it into a free-form galette, and fill it with whatever’s left over — potatoes, kale, chard, onion — and cheese, because no matter what you cook in cheese and pastry dough, you’ll still want seconds."
Curries are another great way to use up greens. Handfuls of spinach will disappear into a pot of dal or other veggies simmering in a spicy coconut sauce.
4. Make a big batch of grains and beans.
Another good suggestion that Nozari mentions, this is something I've been doing for several months -- cooking a pot of farro (my current favorite) and using it to bulk up salads and other greens. Other good options are quinoa, bulgur, and amaranth. Same goes for chickpeas, lentils, and other beans. They make a salad more interesting, nutritious, and filling.
5. Make green sauce.
You may already know that I am obsessed with green sauce, and by that I mean all green sauces -- pesto, chimichurri, chermoula, etc. Whenever I have a surplus of greens, I whiz them in the blender with olive oil, garlic, a dash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. This could be the herbs that are traditionally used in these recipes, such as basil, cilantro, and parsley, but arugula also works beautifully.
6. Look for new recipes.
Break out of your routine by flipping through food magazines, cookbooks, and websites. Just this morning I came across a recipe for grilled coleslaw in a "Dinner Illustrated" cookbook by America's Test Kitchen; it has never occurred to me to pre-grill cabbage before turning it into salad, so guess what we'll be having for dinner tonight? Another cookbook showed me how to prepare garlicky Swiss chard the other day, and I was amazed at how much better (and less bitter) it tastes with some vinegar and chili pepper flakes added to the pan. We've begun adding raw greens to smoothies and to summer wraps, made with rice paper.
The greens extravaganza won't last forever. Already I'm getting more zucchini, green beans, broccoli, and carrots. I know that, before long, winter will be here and I'll think back on these salad days of summer with longing.