What’s fresh, and a delicious recipe for sauteed escarole
Winter, if we can call it that in the amazing Sonoma Valley, does slow down the growing season, or at least a bit. Soil temperatures are a defining factor in what grows in a given season, and are closely synced with nighttime low temperatures. When we have weather below 40 degrees, a relative rarity, most food crop seeds will not germinate, which means fall harvests and plantings must last through the winter to get us through to spring.
Storage crops like winter squash and onions are grown in summer to be kept through winter. Other late planted crops – carrots and kale – are planted in late summer or early fall to allow for time to size up before temperatures drop. These will then be harvested and sold or cold-stored. A recent visit to Paul’s Produce stand at the Fridays Farmers Market reveals the selection available.
Carrots are there, big winter carrots that could double as a caveman’s club. Other root vegetables accompany them, including parsnips, beets, turnips, radish, potatoes, and less common foods like celeriac – a celery grown for its starchy root, and kohlrabi, a broccoli grown for its stem. Storage crops of winter squash, including delicata, kabocha, butternut and spaghetti, are found next to shallots and red and yellow onions. At the opposite end of the stand are the greens – kales, chard, collards, dandelion, cabbage, and specialty varieties like spigarello, a seeming combination of kale and broccoli. In the dead of winter, lettuces are few and far between, but alternatives such as chicories abound – radicchio, frisee, and escarole – diverse in shape and color, most are crisp and somewhat bitter, pairing well with savory dressings, goat cheese, and seasoned seeds or croutons.
Shopping through the market, a great variety of local foods are still available in this daylight-deprived season. Citrus from Chris Gertz from over the hill in Winters, with grapefruit, blood oranges, meyer lemons, navel oranges and, if you’re lucky, mandarins. Microgreens and sprouts from Sweetwater Farm. Local meat from Victorian Farmstead, and Sonoma Mountain beef. Dairy from Strauss and organic cheese from Spring Hill. Tasty spinach, cilantro, and parsley from Ortiz farms and local honey from Hector. Incredible mushrooms from Occidental from Sammy of Bohemian Well-Being Farm tie in well with beneficial fermented foods from Golden State Pickle Works. And we can’t forget excellent bread from Mike the Bejkr including a seasonal loaf of pan coi sante – with currants, walnuts, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Winter favorite recipe: Sauteed Escarole
By Sean Z. Paxton | www.homebrewchef.com
What is escarole? Escarole is a leafy green that looks like a cross between romaine lettuce and spinach. It is in the chicory family, sharing flavor characteristics of its cousins radicchio, frisée, and endive. While slightly bitter, this hardy green can be sautéed, braised, grilled, added to soups, and used to create a winter salad. Here is a recipe using Paul’s Produce’s winter green option.
Serves: 4 guests as a side dish
2 head escarole
2 tbsp oil, olive
4 each garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
1 pinch red pepper flakes, optional
2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, julienned
1 tsp salt, kosher
It’s important to wash escarole, as the leaves catch dirt that should be removed. First, cut from the top of the leaves down, into three equal portions. Using this technique will hold the leaves together, as the root end will hold the opposite end. Add the leaves to a bowl of cold water, rinsing well. Drain the leaves, allowing any extra water to stay on the leaves. This water will slightly steam the greens when they are sautéed.
In a large pan or Dutch-oven, add the oil and garlic while the pan is still cold, then turn the stove to medium heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and prepared escarole. Using tongs, turn the greens until they start to wilt. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and salt. Total cooking time will be about 5 minutes.