Arugula, Lamb’s Quarters, and Goat Cheese Salad

Yesterday offered a sobering reminder of why gluttony is a sin. Fred and I joined a friend at our beloved  Federal to watch Butler and VCU in the Final Four. I found myself drinking barley wine, a deceptively named beer that even I, normally not a beer drinker, could enjoy. We dug into a plate of fries, then moved on to a pork belly sandwich (Fred ordered, I sampled). We downed a mountain of nachos. 

After seeing a plate of nachos with guacamole at a nearby table, however, and realizing that we had at least 30 more minutes of basketball remaining, I decide that additional nachos were needed. This was a serious error. The onslaught of more cheese, beans, sour cream, and chips–now with guacamole thrown in–proved devastating to internal systems already groaning under the weight of the garlic fries and the barley wine. The rest of the evening was lost to a food coma of monumental proportions. I’m still recovering.

The moral of the story? Greens are your friend. Greens will make up for a multitude of sins. Greens are what I will eat for the rest of this week. (Guacamole does not count as a green.)

Most importantly, greens are delicious, and the Durham Farmers’ Market has some beautiful examples right now, including some I’ve never tried. Recently, for instance, I picked up lamb’s quarters, pictured below. They may look like tree leaves, but they have a mild flavor–more like lettuce than a green–with a light peach-like fuzz that disappears after they’re washed.

I bought Russian kale as well. (Note the continuation of the tree leaf theme.) This is a mild kale, and the purple adds a nice bit of color.

Most people recommend lightly sauteing these greens before serving. I’ve found, however, that both lend themselves quite well to salad. The lamb’s quarters, in particular, offered the perfect balance for some sharpish arugula we picked up on the same day. The resulting salad was, according to a friend who came over for dinner, the best he’s ever had. Truth be told, it was even better than the nachos.

Arugula, Lamb’s Quarters, and Goat Cheese Salad

Serves 4

6 cups mixed lamb’s quarters and arugula, large stems removed from lamb’s quarters, all greens rinsed and dried
4 spring onions, all but 1″ of green part removed, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, or to taste

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, cut into six pieces
1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt, or to taste (can substitute regular or kosher salt)
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in small bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes or so. Place greens in large bowl. Remove garlic pieces from dressing. Whisk dressing again and pour over greens. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and toss. Add onions and goat cheese. Toss one more time before serving.

Other ingredients that work in this salad: Mushrooms, cubed Granny Smith or other sour apple, chicken, Parmesan cheese instead of the goat cheese.

Roasted Persimmon Salsa

In addition to the loss of our beloved Louise, June has been a trying month for The Newlyfeds. That’s primarily because my work takes me traveling across the country to Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church. There’s generally not much to report food-wise on these trips, unless you fantasize about hotel banquet meals.

Perhaps this overabundance of salad topped with chicken breast, combined with our current explorations of Durham’s taqueria scene, has led me to explore spicier food–along with the prodding of my dear neighbor, Melissa. During one cat-sitting stint for us, she looked over my cookbook collection and upon our return declared, “Your cookbooks seem kind of outdated for someone who writes about food.”

I tried to explain that a) I liked to collect older cookbooks and b) we were too cheap to buy new ones. She raised her eyebrows, looking at me just as my mother did about 40 years ago when I tried to tell her that it was Cindy Riden’s idea to “decorate” my bedroom furniture in magic marker and crayon.

“You can buy used cookbooks on Amazon for practically nothing,” she said. “Come over to my house and look over some of mine. You can even borrow them.”

That’s how I ended up with her copies of Rick Bayless’s Mexico: One Plate at a Time and Mexican Kitchen–two thorough, engaging books that have set me off on a new journey through Mexico’s foodways. Melissa was finally able to pry the books out of my greedy, grasping fingers after several weeks, but fortunately Fred stepped in and bought me copies for my 45th birthday on June 16, along with the newer Salsas that Cook.

I’ve especially enjoyed the salsas, which have introduced me to the technique of roasting garlic and peppers in a skillet to bring out their flavors, then adding to roasted tomatoes.

Inspired by these and by the purchase of some persimmons on a trip to Atlanta, I came up with the recipe below. It’s reminiscent of peach or mango salsa, but not treacly as those can be. Instead, it offers just a hint of sweetness followed by a considerable kick.

If you’ve never tried persimmons, they’re common in the South though not always easily found in the store. The trees grew wild on our farm in Tennessee. These wild ones must be very ripe before they’re eaten; unripe, the taste resembles lemon infused with chalk. The ones you’ll find in stores are a little more forgiving, tasting a bit like a not too sweet apricot with hints of orange. For this recipe, use the ripest ones you can find, or let them ripen on your counter for a few days–the sweeter persimmons help balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

Roasted Persimmon Salsa
2 whole unpeeled, very ripe persimmons (available in most stores)
2 whole unpeeled tomatoes
1-2 whole jalapeno peppers
3 whole cloves unpeeled garlic
Salt to taste
Chopped onion and fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

Set oven rack about 6 inches below broiler and turn broiler on high. Place persimmons and tomatoes on baking sheet with rim. Roast in oven about 6 minutes on each side until blackened in spots. Remove and let cool on sheet.

Meanwhile, place garlic and jalapenos in ungreased skillet on medium high heat. Roast on stove top until blackened in spots, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Remove stems from jalapenos and peel garlic. Chop in food processor or blender a few seconds, until minced. Cut out tops of persimmons and tomatoes and discard; peel if desired. Add to jalapenos and garlic in food processor or blender, along with juice. Chop coarsely and salt to taste. Garnish with onion and cilantro if desired.