I find I’m in somewhat of a frenzy these days over the abundance of local fresh produce practically everywhere. The farmers market, sure. But driving home one afternoon last week (a distance of perhaps 3 or 4 miles), I passed no fewer than 3 roadside stands selling FLATHEAD CHERRIES! TREE RIPENED! I counted because I needed some for a couple of baking ideas I’ve been ruminating about, and was hoping to find one. I stopped at the one I could turn into most easily.
The Saturday farmers market today was overflowing with beans. Green beans, yellow beans, purple beans, all great, big, fat beauties. With temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s, boiling water to blanch is not in the cards. Everything about this salad is happening on the grill.
I need to digress here for a moment to talk about kale. Because I added some to the salad. But I want to be clear: please do not confuse me with one of those who has pledged my soul and my first-born to the Better Living Through Kale Society. I read an essay in the most recent Food & Wine by Katherine Wheelock on the very subject of the everywhere-ness of kale. I was tempted to write her a letter beginning with, “I think I love you!” I restrained myself, instead working out my thoughts and feelings here.
To be fair, her essay asked the question, “Is Seasonal Eating Overrated?” Her quarrel, though, was not with the philosophy of seasonal eating; rather, it was with the reductionist pattern it tends to engender. Which brings us to kale and its ubiquitousness.
Kale is the new oat bran. Remember oat bran? It was in everything and it was going to cure everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but I trust you’re getting my drift. Kale has a reach oat bran could only dream of. It’s everywhere. It’s in everything. And the implication is that everyone should be eating it. At every meal, and for snacks in between. Which anyone could very easily do. Enter kale into the Search field on any - any – food website, and you’ll find literally hundreds of ways to include it in breakfasts, soups, salads (“massaged” kale salad, oh please), entrées, side dishes, and yes, snacks. The only course so far exempt seems to be dessert. So far.
The guilt lies not with kale. It’s a perfectly nice vegetable. I’ve grown it in gardens and enjoyed its hardiness and abundance. And when its season was over, we moved on to other seasonally appropriate vegetables. But lately we’ve become positively myopic over kale. If I see one more recipe for it, I swear I’m going to start throwing things. That said, yes, I included it in this salad, and yes, I’m getting to the point.
I always cruise through the produce room at Costco just to see if there’s anything new and interesting. Portions are usually too large for me, but there are a few things I routinely buy there: carrots, mushrooms, grape tomatoes. And that day, kale, a 1.5 pound bag of organic, washed baby kale. I am trying hard to minimize the amount of unconsumed food I end up throwing away, so I contemplated it carefully. Kale is a good keeper, but I wanted to be sure I could and would use it up. When it’s gone, it will be a while before I buy another because I love greens, really love them, and variety is the proverbial spice.
GRILLED VEGETABLE SALAD
1 pound mixed beans, or green
1 medium or 2 small red onions
Corn from 3 ears (or 1 cup frozen, thawed)
1 or 2 handfuls baby kale left whole, or several large leaves cut into 1″ ribbons
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Build a charcoal fire or light your grill.
- Remove just the stem ends of the beans, then cut them in half across the middle.
- Cut the onions into 1/2″ dice.
- Husk the corn and remove the kernels. The easiest way to keep them from flying all over the kitchen is to lay the ears on your cutting board and remove the kernels with a knife by cutting in facets all around the cob.
- In a mixing bowl, toss together the beans, onions, and corn with about 2 or 3 ounces of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- When the fire is ready, set a grill pan on the grate to heat just as you would a skillet on the stove. Toss a piece of one the vegetables into it as a test. When hot, add the vegetables. Spread them around gently with long tongs. Flames will shoot up because of the olive oil dripping onto the coals; don’t worry, they’ll subside when you close the grill. Close the lid of the grill, and damp down the upper and lower drafts. Let the vegetables steam/smoke for 5 minutes. At the end of that time, add the kale and again close the grail for about 2 minutes. When the kale has wilted a bit, pour all the vegetables back into the bowl in which you tossed them.
- Back in the kitchen, add another ounce or so of olive oil along with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary. The vegetable juices will blend with the olive oil, creating its own earthy dressing. Allow salad to cool while you grill the rest of dinner.
- Refrigerate any leftovers. Add some feta cheese for a lovely lunch.