On Your Mark, Get Set: A Winter’s Share
By Marc Duquette
Last week Sarah offered an inviting Warm Kale Salad with Beets & Feta. It was nice to see kale used in a tasty recipe other than soup! However, after the past week’s two feet of snow and the biting cold wind that followed, my thoughts keep returning to that bowl of hot soup. What if I relay the kale? How can I kick-up the simple and traditional kale and bean soup? And, what fresh, local, organic ingredients can I use at this time of year when I can’t even leave my driveway?
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Sourcing healthy, fresh, local and organic foods is quite a challenge in my little corner of New Hampshire. I live in a blue-collar, suburban/semi-rural town with one commercial strip containing dozens of pizza shops, used car lots, and border town convenience stores where Massachusetts residents come to buy cigarettes and beer tax-free. The one farm in town with any potential is run-down and poorly managed.
Despite all this, I eat fresh and local year-round. We enjoy fresh veggies from one of the few CSAs in this area, Farmer Dave’s in neighboring Dracut, Massachusetts. I also maintain a sizable organic garden that now includes a greenhouse to extend the growing season. In addition to the greenhouse, I have an aquaponics system in my basement throughout the winter months. Unlike a hydroponic system that uses chemical solutions to feed plants, an aquaponics system uses fish to maintain a natural, organic, and balanced system. The fish poop, the plants eat, and everyone is happy. Capitalizing on the abundance of fresh and locally grown food offered by the CSA and my own garden, I “put-up” considerable amounts for later use by canning, freezing and drying everything I can think of including beans, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, several varieties of peppers and herbs just to name a few. A cool closet serves as my “root cellar” for storing winter squashes, beets, potatoes and onions.
In addition to the items that I put-up for later use, I look forward to the winter share from my CSA. The bounty of late fall carries over and makes for a satisfying selection of vegetables in the box each week. The sweetness of the carrots, the bold flavor and crunch of the celery, and the fresh onions and potatoes all combine to easily make this season my favorite.
Looking out my window at the 24 inches of fresh snow, I am thinking about how I can make use of these available resources to drum up a hearty, healthy, winter kale soup. So as I research recipes for kale that meet my criteria for a “kicked-up” kale soup, I will consider how I can incorporate the dried beans from the garden, leeks from the greenhouse, celeriac (celery root) and onions from the “root cellar,” and fresh herbs from the basement garden. The dish will feature an organic, heirloom, crinkly, deep blue-grey Italian kale called ‘Dinosaur’ kale. Come out of the cold, take off your coat, and join me Thursday for a bowl of hot soup.