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Sunday, September 28, 2008

kale (or collards) and cabbage with white beans on garlic toast


feeding my farmers

Yesterday afternoon, after we finished selling our whole grain sourdough bread at the Saturday South Anchorage Farmers’ Market, we brought my friend (and farmer, and market manager) Arthur home with us. Farms where he lives in Palmer (53 miles north of Anchorage) have experienced their first frosts, and the snow is creeping farther down the mountains every time it rains here in town. Our market was shrouded in a bone-chilling blanket of fog all morning before the sun burned it off and turned it into a beautiful, crisp clear day. I love the golden leaves against that brilliant blue backdrop!

Beautiful it may be, but still, we get cold standing out in it all day! It sure was nice to get home. After a warm bowl of soup and hot showers, we thawed out and felt tired but happy. Welcome to



Then Arthur’s wife, Michelle (also a farmer), and their three sweet kids arrived from Palmer to join us for the afternoon and dinner. Meredith, our only child, was delighted—it’s not often she gets to have three kids over to play! And I was almost as excited as Meredith, because while the kids played with Meredith’s blocks and trains and beads, I got to do something special: cook for my two favorite farmers, who grow so much of the wonderful, fresh produce that nourishes us all year!

It feels so good to give something back for all the wonderful, fresh meals I’ve made with their beautiful broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, potatoes, onions, carrots and more… I chose this meal, because it feels somehow like alchemy: combining these very basic ingredients creates a meal that is truly extraordinary: warming, savory, and nourishing. It was the perfect dinner for tired and hungry bodies at the end of the week.


kale (or collards) and cabbage with white beans on garlic toast

This is one of my favorite recipes, believe it or not. The ingredients are so unassuming and humble, but when you cook them all together, they become wonderfully good. The onions are sweet, the garlic and greens are savory, the parsley is fresh and vibrant, and the cabbage is tender. You don’t have to put this on toast, but I love it that way. If you add lots more bean broth, this is a good soup, as well. It’s a meal on its own.

It makes a big batch, but I’m betting you won’t have any trouble finishing it off as leftovers. It tastes even better the second day, after the flavors have had time to meld. This recipe is a variation of one in Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets.


2 cups white beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 bay leaves
sea salt or kosher salt


2 large onions, finely diced
2 bunches dino or Tuscan kale or collard greens, leaves stripped from the stems and sliced into ½” slices
1 small cabbage, either Savoy or green cabbage, quartered, cored, and sliced thinly
4 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper


thick slices of hearty whole-wheat bread (1 or 2 per person)
extra-virgin olive oil

1. Drain the soaked beans, then put them in a pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add the quartered onion, garlic, and bay leaves and make sure the water covers the onions. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender. This could take 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on the size of the beans and how old they are. When the beans are tender enough to easily squish between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, turn the heat off. If you have time, let the beans sit in their liquid with the aromatics until cool. Remove the quartered onions and whole garlic and discard. Add salt to the beans to taste.
2. While the beans are cooking, chop all the vegetables and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the kale or collards and boil them until tender. The boiling time could be as short as 3 minutes in the summer, or as long as 10 or 12 minutes in the fall, depending on how big and old the greens are—just keep tasting them. Drain the greens.
3. Warm the olive oil in a heavy, wide skillet or pot (non-stick works especially well). Add the onion and cook over medium heat with 1 teaspoon salt until the onion is soft and golden brown, about 12 minutes. Add the kale or collards, cabbage, garlic, parsley, and 2 more teaspoons salt. Cook over low heat with the pan covered until the vegetables are soft and the volume greatly reduced, about 15-20 minutes.
4. When the beans are done, add them, along with a cup or two or their cooking liquid, to the pot. Simmer until the greens are completely tender. Taste for salt and season with pepper. (You may have to add quite a bit of salt—kale and collards need a lot of salt, as do beans.) Save the rest of the bean broth for vegetable stock in soups and stews—just freeze it until you need it.
5. Toast the bread slices. Rub the toasts with a peeled clove of garlic and sprinkle with a little salt. Spoon the beans and greens over the toast and serve, drizzled with a little olive oil, if desired.

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