“Everybody thinks it’s hard getting
this time of year. A lot
of places will close. But we have found several farmers who grow
things in the winter. We use Tim
Friary, in Barnstable. Another farmer named Julie has phenomenal shiitake mushrooms in the
summer. She wanted to get into doing more things in the winter, so she
got what she thought were turnip seeds, but it happened to be kale.
So she had this phenomenal organic purple kale, which she didn’t
know what to do with.
“She told me it was the best kale she had ever
seen. When she brought it in,
it was just phenomenal. It
had like a foot long stem. We trimmed the stems off and made stock
with it, and then we used the leaves as a vegetable.
“At the last Slow Food dinner, we paired the purple kale with
venison shanks. We did the kale Italian-style. We slow-braised it
for about 30 minutes with
pancetta bacon, heirloom garlic, cracked black pepper and red
pepper flakes. For the next dinner, I wanted to take a different
direction, so I made a really nice vegetarian purple kale soup. I
made a stock with white mirepoix, and the kale stems and
some aromatics, and let that simmer for about an hour.
It had a really nice fragrance to it. I let the kale greens steep
in there. Then we strained it. We also roasted organic red
and yellow tomatoes. And we had some
just-dug potatoes from Farmer Tim that we roasted with extra-virgin olive
oil, thyme, rosemary, and savory. We served the roasted tomatoes and
potatoes in a bowl with the wilted kale from the broth and a handful
of julienned kale that we added raw just before we poured the hot
broth over it. That soup was
our first course. It was a big hit. A lot of people enjoyed that.”
“We have had a lot of fun with the purple
kale. It is neat because it is one of those leafy winter vegetables,
and so the more frost and the colder it is, the firmer it gets and
the more flavor it has. And what’s neat is, it doesn't get bitter.
“During these dinners, it's a whole new
thing. It's like wintertime cuisine. We have a lot of fun with it
and make a lot of contacts and develop a strong relationship with
farmers I didn't know.
am actually working with the farmers now on things we would like to
see in the coming months. When I was in
New York, I worked at Esca,
which was one of Mario Batali's restaurants. Working with farmers
was one of the things that was really big with him.
He brought a lot of seeds from
Italy, and he had a farmer on
plant them. That way, he could have a lot of things available.
“That's something that I am doing now. I am working with some of the
farmers I've just met and we are developing lists for April, May and
June, which are some of the tougher months when things are not quite
as plentiful. One of the
things we are working on for spring is ramps. And white asparagus,
plum tomatoes, and English peas. And rhubarb is fantastic that time
of year. We will have fun with that.”