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Posts Tagged ‘greens’

One of my least favorite parts of the CSA box is the kale. I like my greens raw, coated in olive oil and vinegar, so when the kale gets too leathery to simply toss into the salad spinner, I have to face cooking it in some manner. And I have NEVER liked cooked greens, no matter how much bacon, salt and cornbread were added into the mix.

A few fellow foodies suggested that I make kale chips, advice that I took to heart after sampling the dried okra at Earth Fare. Crunchy veggies instead of mushy greens? I’m in.

I followed a friend’s simple set of instructions:

Separate stems from leaves. Toss with olive oil to lightly coat and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes and let the chips cool on the tray for extra crispness.

The chips were pretty tasty when I tried them straight out of the oven, but when I sat down with them 20 minutes later in an ill-fated attempt to use them as a popcorn substitute while watching Butter (good movie, by the way), about half of them had wilted. Too much olive oil, maybe? Do you have to eat these within five minutes of their exit from the oven?

Anyway, no crunch = no popcorny goodness. So we’re back to Square One, where I make elaborate plans to steam the kale and stir it into quinoa and then pretty much don’t.

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In the end, it was nobody’s fault but my own that I brought home a monstrously large plastic box filled with salad greens. I already had my requisite $5 worth of Earth Fare hipster food (quinoa and steel-cut oats) in the cart, and the free salad coupon was burning a hole in my pocket. I sighed when I saw the packaging, but I put it in the cart anyway.

I didn’t truly realize how large the box was until I got it home and had to rearrange my entire refrigerator to make it fit.

I try not to buy produce in big plastic boxes like this, but other people obviously do. On the New York Times Freakonomics blog, James McWilliams maintains that this kind of packaging extends the life of produce, meaning that people are more likely to get a chance to eat it before it goes bad. Granted, this box of lettuce stayed reasonably fresh for the better part of two weeks. Had I been able to choose the amount of salad greens I was going to purchase, however, I never would have bought that much at one time. (And note that Earth Fare does offer a fresh mix of greens that you can purchase by the pound. Or ounce, in my case.)

Clamshell packaging just seems like so much overkill.

McWilliams points out that consumers could alleviate the need for food-extending packaging by learning how to shop strategically (don’t buy too much food at once), a skill that, admittedly, may be easier for a two-person household with a reasonably predictable routine.

Luckily, the box was No. 1 plastic, meaning I could put it in my recycling bin. I note, however, that a lot of houses in my neighborhood don’t put out a big blue recycling bin every week, so I fear that a lot of this packaging is not being recycled. Even if it is recycled — and even if the company uses 100 percent recycled plastic in the packaging — more plastic clamshells must be manufactured.

I guess what I’m saying is no more huge clamshell produce containers in the Haggerty household, free coupon or not. And I’m thinking that some sort of washable produce bags, like these, are in my future.

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The “Do One Thing” series chronicles my yearlong effort to tackle one project every day to organize my life and home.

Day 29: Listed a couple of books and CDs for sale at Amazon. I’m always tempted to keep every book that comes into my hands, but I don’t have room, and I don’t miss them when they’re gone.

Day 30: I have been granted permission to scour the garage and make executive decisions. Best. Fling. Ever.

Day 31: Who’s the genius that came up with side-by-side refrigerators? The freezer section isn’t necessarily small, but it acts small, with two deep drawers that items just get lost in, and a couple of flimsy wire shelves, one with too much vertical space, the other with too little. The design of the refrigerator section is slightly better, but it’s not proportioned quite right either. And, because it’s shoved into a just-right-sized hole in the cabinetry, I can’t open the fridge door enough to remove the drawers. So they’re only as clean as I can get them while they’re still inside. No soaking old dirt and grime off; it’s there for life.

I’ve only chosen my own refrigerator once during my entire life, and we had to leave it behind when we moved four years ago. Therefore, I’m always stuck with somebody else’s bad decision and missing accessories.

Sigh. Today, I repacked some small bags of frozen cantaloupe, strawberries and greens into bigger bags in an effort to make one of the freezer drawers less of an abyss. The other one may hold a human head for all I know.

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I still remember the moment I discovered that salad could mean something more than iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, croutons and dressing. I was at a fancy mountainside restaurant in Birmingham, Ala., with my future husband, probably around 1995, when the waiter brought out our small starter salads. They were filled with … leaves. And no hint of the crunchy, flavorless iceberg lettuce my fiance and I had both grown up thinking was the foundation of salad.

I learned that the leaves were baby arugula greens, and suddenly a new culinary world opened for me: Salad was no longer that bland bit of crunch existing only to carry dressing or serve as a low-calorie, tasteless diet option, but a real opportunity for nutritious, delicious creativity in the kitchen. Non-iceberg greens could be sweet or bitter and carry their own weight in a salad without relying on the dressing to make up for lack of flavor.

How did America get so obsessed with iceberg lettuce? Probably the same reason that grocery-store tomatoes and apples taste like mushy cardboard: According to Practically Edible, iceberg lettuce is easy to grow, easy to ship and lasts a long time in the fridge compared to other greens.

Through the early ’90s, it was nearly impossible to find any other kinds of greens in your average suburban grocery store, at least in Mississippi. I only had to remember one lettuce code during my entire six-month stint as a Jitney Jungle cashier in 1990.

I’m working my way through a big batch of Sylvetta Italian arugula mixed with other fresh greens this week, thanks to a winter CSA split with MrsDragon over at Mrs Dragon’s Den.  I even had to wash the dirt and a couple of tiny worms off, since my greens had just been plucked from the ground only two days earlier. Best salad ever.

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Listed among Things I Never Thought I Would Buy: a salad spinner. They always seemed very Carol Brady, although I guess they were really more Alice Nelson since Mrs. Brady didn’t do much of the cooking on that show.

I digress.

I spent last summer washing, drying and trying to properly store a weekly mess of Swiss chard and other greens that came in my CSA box. Never did it occur to me to look for a salad spinner.

This one caught my eye a couple of months ago because, frankly, everything OXO makes catches my eye. I researched, purchased and test drove it. Now I’m ready for this summer’s ridiculous amount of salad greens. Bring it on, CSA lady.

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