Virginia Willis Blog

Wild about Vegetables!

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I’m a meat eater. I love seafood, poultry, goat, lamb, pork, and beef. I enjoy wild game and will pretty much try anything once. I’m even working on a book proposal about my friend Will Harris, a 4th generation cattle farmer. I got a kick out of this sticker I saw last week on a cooler of “Absolutely Local Beef” near Amherst, Massachusetts.

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However, especially in the summer, I’m wild about vegetables. For those of you that have been reading my blog you know we’ve got a garden. We have been harvesting cucumbers, squash, arugula, chard, and kale. The cucumbers have been fresh and crisp; the squash, creamy rich and aggressively vegetal at the same time. Wasabi arugula is an eye-opening green that gives our salads serious zip. (The yankee okra has been delicate, vibrant — and infrequent, but more about that later.) I admit I love the colors of the rainbow chard more than the green itself. Aahh, but the kale? I adore the kale.

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One of the cookbooks I’ve been reaching for to gain inspiration is Wild About Greens by my friend and colleague Nava Atlas. Now, Nava is a vegan culinary authority who fully subscribes to a non-animal lifestyle – no meat, no animal products, no honey, no wool, no leather. At first glance you might wonder if she and I, the Southern-born and bred, French-trained, meat-eating, Italian-loafer loving chef would have anything in common.

We do. We most certainly do. We both like good food. My ingredient list may be more diverse than her plant based one, but I fully respect her beliefs and her food is good! Her recipe for Garlicky Greens and mine for Chilled Kale Salad were separated at birth. Please make sure to check out her book. Just like the subject of her book, it’s good and good for you!

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I’m hosting Martha Stewart Radio this week! Today, Wednesday, July 25 is all about Preserving. I’ll be talking to canning expert Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put Em Up! We’ll explore ways to help you put up some great summer fruits and vegetables.
I am also thrilled to be “chilling out” with NY Times best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, who has written a biography on the inventor of modern frozen foods, Clarence Birdseye.

Please call in with your questions! You can also follow or ask questions on twitter at @MarthaRadio and use the hashtag #CookingToday. It’s Martha Stewart Living Radio, channel SiriusXM 110. If you would like to listen in but do not have Sirius, you can sign up for a FREE 7 day trial!

Below are a couple of greens recipes I hope you are wild about!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!
VA

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Nava’s Very Green Avocado-Tahini Dip
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Kind of a marriage of guacamole and hummus, and infused with a good amount of leafy greens, this rich dip makes its own unique statement. Serve with tortilla chips, fresh pita, pita chips, raw veggies, or a combination.

3 to 4 ounces baby spinach or arugula, or a combination
1 large, ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or dill
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the greens and place in a large skillet or saucepan. With just the water clinging to the leaves, cook until just wilted down. Remove from the heat.

Place all the ingredients in the container of a food processor, and process until smooth. Add 1/4 water, as needed, to achieve a medium-thick consistency. Transfer to a serving bowl. Keep covered until ready to serve.

Serve at once as suggested in the headnote. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Recipe from Wild About Greens by Nava Atlas (Sterling, 2012), reprinted by permission

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Virginia’s Chilled Kale & Garlic Salad
Serves 4-6

The best way to clean greens is to fill a clean sink with cold water, add the greens, and swish them around. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink. Lift the greens out, drain the sink, and repeat until the water is clear and the greens are free of dirt and grit.

1- 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium bunch kale (about 11/2 pounds), cleaned, tough stems removed and discarded,
and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the slightly damp ribbons of greens; season with salt and pepper. Toss once or twice, then add the garlic. (This is where Nava and I slightly differ, but the results are quite similar. I add mine after the greens to buffer the garlic from possibly burning) Cook until the greens are bright green and slightly wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. You can serve warm or for salad, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until well-chilled. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Kale Photo credit: Virginia Willis
Dip Photo credit: Susan Voisin

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

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8 Responses to “Wild about Vegetables!”

  1. I hope that someday you will follow your friend Nava down the vegan path, Virginia! You will feel so good, you’ll wonder why it took you so long. Thanks for the recipes and good health to you!

  2. David Galloway

    Got my copy of Nava’s book. Thanks for the rec!

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