Getting through the early-summer greens glut

*Or, “Ramen: It’s not just for broke students anymore.”

I missed the first week of the “large” summer share that my roommates and I are splitting, but I am back in Boston for the avalanche of greens that is the second week.

We may need to buy some rabbits.

We may need to buy some rabbits.

Yep, that right there is what we in the business refer to as an “Oh My God What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into” amount of greens. Working clockwise from bottom left, we got romaine lettuce, red kale, rainbow swiss chard, mixed field greens, some seriously fierce parsley, beet greens with beets attached to them, and red oak lettuce. Not pictured is the baby spinach that I lost track of while corralling the greens for this class picture.

We also got these babies:

Spoon is for scale.

Spoon is for scale.

Now at this point you may be mentally composing a comment along the lines of, “Wow, Jackie, that’s a really cool CSA you joined if they send lime-flavored licorice ropes! I had no idea candy was an option! Where can I sign up?” Well, much to my dismay, these are not in fact farm candy. They are garlic scapes. And before you ask the natural “What the hell is a garlic scape” question, I’ll just admit that I have no idea. I’m going to go look them up right now. Imagine, if you will, elevator music is playing while I am away researching esoteric vegetables…

….strangers in the niiiight, exchanging glances…doobee doobeedoooo…………..

…Okay, I’m back. Apparently the scape is sort of the stalk of a garlic plant that will come up and eventually flower. Okay sure why not. I’ll let you know what we do with them and how it all turned out in the next post. For now let’s just look at some of the steps we are taking to whittle away at the Green Wall in the fridge.

It's tough to see, but every one of those bags has some sort of green leafy thing in it, we're trying to keep them, fresh. Seems to be working!

It’s tough to see, but every one of those bags has some sort of green leafy thing in it, we’re trying to keep them, fresh. Seems to be working!

Now, Chad is the first to tell you he isn’t much of a greens person, but he has embraced kale since moving into this apartment, and also helped out by putting two leaves of red oak lettuce on his sandwich today. Good job Chad!

Every little bit helps!

Here’s a slightly blurry shot of Chad with his lettuce leaves. Every little bit helps!

On Saturday, all three of us happened to make our own version of ramen. Now at this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “ That’s nice Jackie, but what does noodle soup have to do with the CSA greens issue you are supposed to be addressing?” Fair question. Ramen, it turns out, is not meant to be a just large portion of noodles in chicken broth, though college students and sick people everywhere are perfectly happy to have it be exactly that. No, this beloved dorm-room staple is actually supposed to be a base for nutritious and interesting meals with lots of vegetables and possibly some meat if you’re feeling frisky. As a matter of fact, let’s have a look at the package.

Notice the picture: Peas, carrot, celery, what may be cilantro, chicken

Notice the “serving suggestion” picture: Peas, carrot, celery, what may be cilantro, chicken

This pack suggests dumplings, prawns, and more. You can barely even see the noodles in the serving suggestion picture.

This pack suggests dumplings, prawns, and more. You can barely even see the noodles.

And that’s what we were all doing this Saturday. Here is my version. It includes the red kale we got this week, the sugar snap peas, mushrooms, zucchini, sautéed onion, and red pepper flakes. Shae went with something similar.

My masterpiece.

My masterpiece.

Chad got a little fancier by adding some shrimp. And he actually augmented the broth by boiling the shrimp shells in the water for a bit before adding the spice packet and other ingredients such as kale, seaweed, the aforementioned shrimp, and egg.

Chad's masterpiece.

Chad’s masterpiece.

Though Chad’s version had a couple more steps, the basic concept is simple: you just cut up whatever veggies you like to have in soup and add them to the boiling water along with the noodles.

Seriously. I chopped these things up while waiting for the water to boil. So fast and easy!

Seriously. I chopped these things up while waiting for the water to boil. So fast and easy!

The three minutes or so it takes the noodles to cook is just enough to make the kale edible but not limp, and all the other veggies pleasantly al dente. These meals are cheap, delicious, filling, and genuinely nutritious. Yes, there is a lot of sodium in those glorious little flavor packets, but the rest of my diet is generally low-salt, so I’m not going to worry about it. I highly recommend dressing up some ramen next time you have a soup craving but want it to be ready in ten minutes or less!

Moving on, I had the beet greens for dinner on Friday with a side (okay an entire box) of parmesan couscous, and donated the remaining beets to Chad, who is currently in the midst of a passionate beet phase. I am used to preparing beet greens because in Denver, bunched beets with the greens still attached were actually cheaper than trimmed ones. Often people just say to sauté beet greens with some garlic, but that method gets old pretty quickly. I instead use a version of a recipe I ran across back in Denver that goes something like this (no photo documentation here, I was really hungry and I just ate it):

Beet greens are usually a little muddy, so rinse the greens thoroughly to get rid of all the grit. I’ve read several places that dunking and rinsing them in a bowl of cool water that you empty and refill three times is the best way, and it has definitely worked for me when I’ve done it. Some say to blanche them next, but I have tried them with and without blanching and haven’t noticed it making a difference, so that step is out. I do in fact sauté them until they have just wilted, but then add a simple dressing: Oil, lemon juice, diced onion, chopped tomato, salt, pepper. Sometimes I sauté them with garlic, sometimes I leave the garlic raw and throw it in the dressing. It comes out delicious. A bunch of beets will yield enough greens for two pleasant side portions, or one bowl just at the edge of too much for one person.

Next up will be my adventures with coddled eggs and our communal Sunday dinner garlic scape escapade!


2 thoughts on “Getting through the early-summer greens glut

  1. The I didn’t think of ramen when we were overwhelmed by greens, cool idea. My favorite use for the thicker greens (beet greens, chard, collards) is to sauté them – with bacon if you aren’t a vegetarian!

    • I am a huge fan of meat, so I can’t believe I’ve never thought of throwing some bacon in while sautéing greens. I’ll definitely try that next time, thanks for the idea!

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