When we were girls, my sisters and I had a game called “summer house, winter house.” There were two nooks on the outside of our old house that were shaded by stately old pines. One of them was our “summer house,” where we played in the spring and summer, and the other was our “winter house.” (Apparently, we considered ourselves to be little girls of quite ample means!) The point is, we incorporated the seasons into our make believe. Living in the South, the four seasons were distinct. In the summer, there was blackberry picking, barbeque, and pie-making. In the winter, we had hearty stews, lots of greens, and simmering cauldrons of my mom’s delicious meat ragu (directly from a Southern Railway cookbook).
Here in the desert, the seasons are a bit more changeable. There are two tomato seasons, for example, and we get tomatoes very late into the summer. At the same moment, we are already beginning to see broccoli and kale in the farmers’ market. Our Tucson falls are quite short and variable. Days are still hot while nights slowly taper into cool. I’ll wear sweatpants to bed and then a skirt and sandals the next day. While food bloggers in different climates have begun the pumpkin-baking-frenzy, I am still for the most part in my “summer house” mode.
And yet, I cannot resist that first bunch of lacinato kale of the winter season. Plus, friends have already started to give away their backyard pomegranates—one of my favorite Tucson treats. Last week, in the spirit of seasonal shifting, I made a summer salad and a winter salad, inspired by our CSA bag and other vegetables found at St. Philip’s Farmer’s Market. These gorgeous green and impossibly curly beans are courtesy of Sleeping Frogs Farm.
Summer Green Bean Salad
Delicious and light with fried chicken or burgers.
2 pounds green beans, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 lb tomatoes (about two large), diced roughly
½ red onion, sliced thinly
¼ cup vinegar (any)
1 cup torn basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
a few turns fresh cracked pepper
2 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
¼ cup vinegar (I use white wine, but use whichever you like)
¾ cup olive oil
Place onion in a shallow bowl and douse with the vinegar. Let sit ten minutes or longer. Combine garlic, Dijon, lemon juice, salt and pepper, agave, vinegar and olive oil in a jar. Cover tightly and shake. You will have a lot of leftover dressing to use at a later date (for the winter salad, perhaps). Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Boil beans for about 8 minutes, until crisp tender but still vibrant green. Drain beans and drain vinegar off the onions. Combine beans, onions, tomatoes and ¼ cup dressing, tossing lightly. Shower basil over.
Winter Kale and Fennel Salad
To make this a full meal, add homemade croutons, lentils, cheese, etc. This is also beautiful for a holiday table.
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly (reserve core and fronds for a stock)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch kale, cut from the ribs and shredded finely
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
Garlic Vinaigrette (see recipe above)
Preheat oven to 350. Toss the fennel with olive oil and some salt. Roast for about 20 minutes, checking halfway and stirring a bit. When some bits are brown and the fennel is fragrant, it is ready. Cool slightly. Massage the kale for a few minutes with your fingers—this helps it absorb the dressing. Toss kale, fennel, and dressing well. Top with pistachios and pomegranate seeds.