When I first started keeping a vegetable garden, years ago, I was mistakenly under the impression that you only can grow things in the summer, between the frosts. Once I realized that you can grow vegetables year-round here in Northern California, I really fell in love with winter gardening. There’s none of the concern about high temperatures and keeping everything watered, and winter vegetables are quite happy to soak up the fog, rain and frosts, requiring almost no maintenance from me. There are a whole array of vegetables that have the potential to overwinter: all of the dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, all of the alliums…. Between all of these vegetables and the winter squash in the pantry, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to eat out of the garden all year round.
Here at our farm, we grow lots of dark leafy greens. I like to harvest them very small, as mixed baby braising greens. I’ve found that if I plant them out into the garden during September or October, they have plenty of time to get established and start growing before the days get really short. I’ll keep planting through the whole winter, but greens planted in December or January won’t really do much of anything until the days get longer, maybe late February. A few of the Black Dog Farm Winter Greens, clockwise from top center: Wild Harvested Miner’s Lettuce; Blue Curled Scotch Kale from Baker Creek Seeds; Toscano Kale from Johnny’s Seeds; Scarlett Frills from Johnny’s Seeds; Red Chidori Kale from Territorial Seeds; Red Russian Kale from Baker Creek Seeds
So yes, we have a ridiculous amount of kale floating around the farm for the winter months. One of my favorite ways to use it is in this really simple, fast meal. There’s nothing all that revolutionary about this; it’s just mashed potatoes, steamed braising greens, and some delicata squash, all topped with sausage gravy. If you’ve ever felt ambivalent about kale, though, this is absolutely the way to go. I eat a lot of kale and every once in awhile, my stomach says:
Those people are right.
This is foul.
If I eat any more kale, I’m going to die.
All it takes is the teeniest smidgen of sausage gravy to make a huge pile of steamed greens go from boring and gross to the star of the plate and completely convince everyone at the dinner table that it’s worth eating. The other reasons I like making this? It comes together in just 20 minutes, it uses very few ingredients so I don’t need to have 900 things in the fridge to make it, it uses seasonal produce from the garden, and it has a way of perfectly walking the line between feeling healthy and filling. (Sure, you can serve this exact same meal with fried chicken, which is awesome, and I’ve done many times, but that’s another dinner).
I don’t really feel like necessary to write out full recipes for this, so let’s do it this way….
Greens & Sausage Gravy, or My Feet Hurt But I Still Want Something Good For Dinner
cook time: 20 minutes
The components of this meal:
1. Mashed Potatoes: I’m sure however you make them is fine…
2. Steamed Braising Greens: maybe with a crushed clove of garlic thrown in the pot. I don’t steam them very long, maybe 10 minutes, just until they’re tender. If you’re working with older greens, or tough varieties like collards, you’ll obviously want to cook them longer.
3. A Side Vegetable From The Garden: that’s delicata squash up in the pictures, sauteed in olive oil, but in the summer it might be sliced tomatoes, or a cherry tomato salad.
4. Sausage Gravy: I already wrote out the recipe I use in this post back here, about grinding homemade breakfast sausage. There are a bunch of pictures and instructions for how to make good sausage gravy if you don’t know how. For a fast week night meal, the only notes I would add onto that recipe is that you can substitute milk for the stock if you don’t have it on hand. (And that you don’t need to grind your own sausage for the gravy to be good, just look for a basic flavor of ground pork breakfast sausage, not something with…. maple syrup, or hot peppers in it. That might make weird gravy).