One advantage of shopping at the farmers market is that the vendor can advise you how to select, prep, store and cook whatever you’re buying. If you’ve never cooked leeks, or turnips or fennel before, ask the farmer for advice, or the shopper next to you who is buying the vegetable you’re eyeing.
My favorite method is to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. I add the chard ribs first and, after a few minutes, add the greens in reverse order of tenderness. Tuscan kale is typically tougher than chard or mustard greens, so it goes in before them. When all the greens are tender — maybe 3 minutes — I drain them and shock them with cold running water, then gather them up and squeeze them to remove excess water.
Then I chop them up and reheat them in a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil with sautéed garlic. A pinch of chili flakes is a good idea, although we use my husband’s homemade giardiniera to spike the greens at the table. When the greens are hot throughout and well-seasoned with salt, I’ll transfer them to a platter and crumble feta on top.
You could serve these greens with pan-fried sausages from the farmers market, or some baked halibut. Or go meatless and serve them with baked sweet potatoes. On occasion, we toss the garlicky cooked greens with orecchiette and a lot of grated pecorino romano for a one-dish meal.
As far as eating kale raw, I came late to that party. Kale salads had been popular for a long time before I decided to give them a try. Now that I know the secret (see the recipe below), I am as big a fan as everyone else.
Kale Salad with Red Grapes, Walnuts, and Feta
The secret to an irresistible kale salad is the pre-dressing massage. Rubbing the sturdy leaves with salt and lemon breaks down cell walls, softening the greens and allowing the dressing to penetrate. If you find more than one variety of kale (such as Tuscan or Russian kale) at the Napa Farmers Market, choose the type with the most tender leaves. Feel free to improvise with this recipe, replacing the grapes on occasion with figs, persimmons, or apples. From Wine Country Table by Janet Fletcher (Rizzoli).
Wine suggestion: Rosé or Riesling
¼ pound Tuscan kale leaves (no ribs), chopped coarsely
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1 cup halved red seedless grapes
2 green onions, white and pale green part only, thinly sliced or finely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 small clove garlic
1 small heart of romaine, about ¼ pound, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 ounces feta, finely crumbled
In a large bowl, combine the kale, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Massage the kale, kneading it vigorously with your hands for a couple of minutes to soften it. It will shrink in volume. Add the olive oil, grapes, green onions, and dill. With a rasp grater, add a few scrapings of garlic, or a pinch of finely minced garlic. Toss well with a fork and let the kale relax for 15 to 30 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the romaine, walnuts, and feta. Toss well, taste for salt, and add more lemon juice if desired. Serve immediately.
Serves 3 to 4
Kids activities at the Napa Farmers Market: Bring your youngsters to the market Education Station on Saturdays for Story Time at 10:30 a.m. There might be coloring, matching games or other fun activities too.
On the KVYN Music Stage: On Saturday, Jan. 18, Oscar Reynolds will be performing.
Harvest of the Month: Through January, enjoy comparative tastings of citrus and chard at the market’s Education Station at 11 a.m. or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.