Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Seed Catalogs and Black Lung Kale February 16, 2009

Filed under: gardening,In Season — blueheronlocal @ 5:46 pm
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(Black Tuscan Kale from

(Black Tuscan Kale from digital flowerpictures.

Mid-winter: the point where I am perfectly happy to eat virtually the same thing for dinner for almost two weeks in a row. Stored apples are no longer worth eating, and my stash of frozen blueberries is sadly decimated. And yet there remains two feet of snow/ice/frozen goop on the ground and I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to get the lid off the compost container in the garden. I’d say there is no hope, except that seed catalogues are starting to arrive and the days are getting longer (daylight! after work!). Seed catalogues are remarkably reviving. I’ve ordered some of the basics for my community garden, but the exciting varieties are still to be chosen. The standards– green/yellow bush beans, peas, turnips, broccoli, spinach, and even a few tomatoes (yes, heirloom) for the masses– have all been ordered. What I’m contemplating is what new things to try this year, or what oldies to bring back. Ground cherries? Flying saucer summer squash (supposedly they do quite nicely as winter squash as well, but I find there is too little flesh for the effort)? Should we even bother with carrots? Maybe some hot peppers? Some weird type of eggplant?


Definitely, I’m ordering the black lung kale (known to much of the rest of the world as Black Tuscan kale). It’s the one vegetable that I’m truly enamored with. I find it to be downright beautiful: graceful on the plant, complex and deeply green on the plate. This variety of kale is surprisingly tender, with a mottled texture that takes well to both eating raw (when muddled aka tenderized) and cooking lightly. Even better, kale is one of the best vegetable sources of minerals out there as well as having numerous handy little vitamins and anitoxidants. Basically, it’s good for your blood, your eyes, your bones, your brain, and your digestive tract.


Some people have been known to overwinter it, but I’ve never tried. Generally, I just have a day of boiling water, dripping kale, and freezer bags towards the end of the season. It defrosts quite nicely, for eating plain or tossing into pasta, stews, stir-frys or almost anywhere else you want something green and leafy. I threw a bag in a pan of cooked onions, garlic, oregano, sliced roasted red peppers, chickpeas, and a little block of frozen basil this weekend and was surprised as always how much better it is than a box of frozen spinach from the store. The kale held its shape well, and provided a nice earthy counterpoint to pasta and a sprinkle of feta and that was equally lovely as leftovers without the pasta the next day. Not to mention it was mostly organic (non-organic seeds) and pretty much free.


But what else to plant…




The end of farmer’s market season October 25, 2008

It’s a very sad day; we went to the last Marblehead farmers’ market of the season. We stocked up on cheese; feta; red-wine lamb sausage; gala apples; and fougasse (our newest discovery, a circular flat bread with sesame seeds, salt, and pepinas on top that tastes like a distant but infinitely superior relative of the fresh pretzel). We also came home with pea tendrils, dandelion greens, and a jerusalem artichoke. The pea tendrils will go into a stir fry, the dandelion greens will serve as the base for No Egret’s Hot Bacon Salad, and the jerusalem artichoke, which is new to us, will be used in a stew or shephard’s pie later on in the month.

(photo from wikipedia)

(photo from wikipedia)


My apple of the day is the Cameo, which is red-striped over yellow. It has a nice aromatic taste and the apples are small and crunchy, just the way I like ’em. Cameo is a surprise cultivar from Washington and is thought to be a cross between red delicious and yellow delicious (delicious is quite the euphenism for those bland supermarket apples—it almost moves me to quotation marks).


Best of luck to those of you finishing off the Eat Local Challenge.




Recipes of the Day October 1, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 5:49 pm
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I like to write blog posts just before lunch time, when I’m just beginning to be hungry and am most receptive to food ideas (but before I get too grouchy to write coherently and storm off to the kitchen to eat lunch).

Here are my recipe picks of the day:


Pumpkin dal on Tigers and Strawberries. I love dal. In my bachelorette days, I ate dal and rice at least once a week, from Anna Thomas’ Vegetarian Epicure 2. It is easy, quick, and delicious. You can be fancy and roast your spices beforehand,  add diced apples or tomatoes, and serve over delicately spiced rice. But on bad days, you can throw your lentils in water, toss in some spices, a pat of butter for flavor, and a squirt of lemon at the end and it’s still good. On a really fabulous day, you should make this pumpkin dal from Tigers and Strawberries.


Bibimbap. I first ate bibimbap at JP Seafood. It contains pretty much everything I like to eat all together: rice, greens, meat (or salmon, or tofu), chili peppers, cucumbers, and a fried egg. Today’s NY Times tells us how to make bibimbap in a rice cooker.


Red (purple) tortillas from Rancho Gordo. I’ve never had much luck making tortillas. I used to own a tortilla press, which I thought would be the answer to rubbery grocery store tortillas. Tortillas have very few ingredients and the steps looked easy, but the masa dough would stick to the sheets of wax paper and it never achieved the correct consistency. I gave away the tortilla maker in one of my moves. A few months ago my friend Coco and I tried to make tortillas by hand. The results tasted good, but the tortillas fell apart in the grill. Being bereft of good tortillas in Brookline and Beverly, respectively, Coco and I ate them anyway. Next time, we will try the red tortillas.



Weeds. It’s What’s for Dinner July 21, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 1:01 pm
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What’s a weed?  Everyone who’s ever had so much as a row of radishes knows that weeds are every gardener’s foe.  Weeds—those plants you are not trying to grow—even more than weather, neighbors who burn their brush pile under your black walnut tree, marauding deer, hedgehogs, and rabbits, are always a gardener’s problem.  They appear even if you haven’t had rain in three weeks, you’ve mulched heavily, or if your garden is simply a large mud puddle.  You, as the gardener, then feel guilty for not removing them or else grouchy from having spent 4 hours on your knees pulling them up.  Twice.  In the past week.  How can a gardener stay sane?


Unfortunately, a recent New York Times Magazine article kindly pointed out to us that the weeds are only going to get worse with increasing climate change. This does not bode well for gardens in the future, but there is one way to turn this twist of climate to your favor.  Two summers ago, my battle with weeds changed shape.  I started eating them.  If I was going to spend that much time dealing with them, I thought we’d better be getting something from it.  Most people know a few classic weeds are edible, but don’t bother separating them out.  I suggest that you do, particularly early in the season.  Here are a few options:



Two Easy Ways to Cook Fresh Greens July 4, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 12:49 pm
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So, you’ve got a bunch—no pun intended—of local greens and you’re wondering how to cook with them. These suggestions are for hardier greens, like arugula, spinach, bok choy, and other Asian greens (not lettuce).


Chop up your greens (say, a couple of handfuls per person) and sauté them in olive oil and garlic for a few minutes until softened. Add to an omelet with some pecorino or parmesean cheese.


Do the same as above, but after sautéing for a minute or two, add a little chicken stock, cover the pot, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until only a little stock remains. Add greens and stock mixture to cooked pasta, top with fresh parsley and freshly grated cheese. Yum! (You might add some local tomatoes, freshly chopped, to this summer pasta dish.)

(thanks, veggie gardening tips, for the photo)




Greens with Hot Bacon Dressing June 18, 2008

Filed under: Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:53 pm
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Wondering what to do with all the greens you just bought from your local farmers’ market?

no egrets recommends endive (or other greens) with hot bacon dressing.



Mom-Mom’s Endive with Bacon Dressing


This is how my grandmother on the Hildebrandt side made it.


For the dressing:

1/4 lb. bacon, chopped

1/8 cup sugar (or less)

1/8 cup cider vinegar (or less)

1/2 cup Miracle Whip


Chop and fry the bacon crisp, then dissolve the sugar in the hot grease.  Deglaze with the vinegar, lower the heat, and whisk in the Miracle Whip.  Serve hot over 3–4 lb. endive—the krinkly kind that looks like thistle, not the Belgian kind that looks like the Pope’s hat.



This is how I do it:


For the dressing:

1/4 lb. bacon chopped (Using bacon is non-negotiable.  Turkey bacon is a sin against Jesus. [Ed. note: no egrets has never even heard of fakon.])

1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

5–7 Tbsp. of organic sugar

5 Tbsp of rice wine vinegar (or lemon juice)

2–3 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar.

1/2 cup organic mayonnaise from a jar (or make fresh)


The procedure is about the same (add the pepper to the bacon just before the sugar), but I have a hard time finding the bitter, prickly endive that we Germans and Pennsylvania Dutch eat anywhere around the North Shore.  Go figure.  Reduce the sugar in either recipe to taste


I use baby spinach, but serve the dressing closer to room temperature so it doesn’t cook everything.  That way, you’ll have strong bones and teeth when you have your heart attack.  Don’t do that “wilted lettuce” thing they do in the South.  Gross.  You need strong, sturdy greens that will stand up to the dressing. 


People who don’t like mayo still like this dressing; just don’t tell them. [Ed. note: I’m living proof of this.]


-no egrets 









The Beginning

Filed under: Farmers market — blueheronlocal @ 2:33 pm
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Beet greens at market

(photo from Tinyfarmblog, thanks!)


I’m pleased to begin this blog with the first farmers’ market of the year in Marblehead, Massachusetts. I’m the person picking through shriveled apples in late November, trying to eke out my supply of fresh local vegetables for another week. One of the things I loved about living in Boston was the sheer number of farmers’ markets. It was City Hall on Monday and Wednesday; Copley Square on Tuesday and Friday, Thursday was Brookline, and Saturday was the farmers’ market in my very own JP. Sunday was the day to cook up all my lovely vegetables before I ventured out again to buy more. Now that I live on the North Shore I go to the farmers’ market on Saturday, but the quality of the Marblehead Farmers’ Market makes up for the fact that it only happens once a week.


The first farmer’s market of the season is always about greens. Back in the days I lived in North Carolina (sigh…the Carrboro Farmers Market was better than any Yankee market I have seen thus far….) greens season began in March. There would be collards, kale, mustard greens, arugula, red-leaf lettuce, beet greens, turnip greens, and watercress. The good folks of Marblehead have their greens in mid-June. I saw three kinds of lettuce, along with some spinach, and garlic snips, which are sprouts from the garlic bulb. They have a mild garlic flavor and taste very good sautéed in olive oil and served over fish (or anything else). I bought a cup of fair trade coffee to console myself for the lack of mustard greens. Our favorite Vermont cheese lady was there and we cheerfully stocked up on Cambridge cheese and the best lamb, rosemary, red wine, and feta sausages I have ever eaten.


Marblehead Farmers’ Market is open June 14 through October 25, 912. It is located at 217 Pleasant Street in Marblehead (take a dramatic 165-degree turn onto Vine Street just past the middle school to enter the middle school parking lot). Or just park in the shade across from the school on Pleasant Street.