Earth Day in January? Well, in Israel, the promise of spring is waking up the senses as warmer air pushes buds forth, even in January. For those of us caught in the frozen tundra of the Northeast, we can try to connect with the beauty of Spring’s promise of regeneration by celebrating the holiday of Tu b’Shvat on January 15.
It’s a minor holiday celebrated with customs that connect locavores more deeply to the land. School children plant trees while home cooks and chefs dream up new ideas for celebrating the seven edible species mentioned in the Torah:
When M. brought plump, moist figs home from Israel last week, I was inspired to find a fig-centric recipe to help you celebrate. I must really love figs because I forgot that I highlighted figs last year here, with this easy recipe for Pecan Fig Biscotti from Kim Kushner.
This year, I turned to the magnificent new cookbook, The Heart of the Plate, by Mollie Katzen. I met her at the 92Y this fall, where she spoke with great warmth and animation about her history as the author of the Moosewood and Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbooks. Her latest volume is a renewal of her celebration of the most flavorful and colorful ingredients on our plates. The recipes are inspiring and flexible.
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to want to add this to your library. If you’re looking for ways to integrate more veg centric cooking into your repertoire, The Heart of the Plate will provide you with plenty of inspiration and delight.
This dairy salad was shared by Mollie Katzen, The Heart of the Plate
- 5-6 ripe figs (dried are fine)
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime
- 1 3oz. piece of parmesan
- 1 loaf ciabatta or sourdough baguette (fresh or day-old)
- 1 large or 2 small bunches lacinato kale (1/2 pound total)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small red onion, cut in half and then into 1/4 inch thick slices
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
- black pepper
- lemon or lime wedges
- Stem the figs and slice them lengthwise into about 5 wedges apiece. Place them in a medium dish and sprinkle with lemon or line juice. Toss gently to coat and set aside.
- Shave strips of parmesan from the block of cheese, using a sturdy vegetable peeler. Lovely cheese ribbons will ensue. Set aside.
- Slice the bread into approximately a dozen thin (as in almost see-through) slices. Larger slices from ciabatta can be halved for easier handling and consumption. Set aside.
- Hold each kale leaf by the stem and use a very sharp knife to release the leaf from the stem (it's OK to leave the narrow part of the stem that blends into the leaf farther up).
- Make a pile of leaves, roll them tightly, and cut crosswise into thin strips. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water and swish around to clean. Spin very dry and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.
- Place a large deep skillet over medium heat for about a minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the onion and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.
- Cook, stirring and/or shaking the pan a little, for 2-3 minutes, until the onion becomes shiny and is still this side of tender.
- Transfer the hot onion to the kale in the bowl and stir everything around for a bit, then return the entire bowlful of kale-plus-onion to the pan. Stir-fry quickly - for just a minute or so - over medium-high heat until the kale turns an even deeper shade of green and wilts slightly.
- Return it all to the bowl, tossing in the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. You can add some of the parmesan ribbons at this point, if you like them to melt in slightly.
- Remove the pan from the heat, wait a minute or two, then add the vinegar to the pan (stand back - it will sizzle), swirl it around, and pour what's left of it onto the kale. (It will most likely evaporate.)
- Without bothering to clean the pan, return it to the stove over medium heat. Wait another minute, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
- Add the bread slices in a single layer and grill on each side until lightly golden and perfectly crisp.
- Transfer the toasts to the kale, along with the figs and all their juice.
- Toss quickly (no need to get things uniform), adding the remaining cheese and walnuts as you go.
- Serve right away, passing a pepper mill and offering wedges of lemon or lime to be aimed straight at the figs.