November 25th, 2013

Grateful for Autumn Greens


Light. This is the challenge, this time of year.

Daily, my work alternates from the kitchen to my home office perch; each space has walls of windows to keep me in tune with the rhythm of the day. Lately I’ve been caught off guard, absorbed by testing recipes, cooking meals, or writing articles, only to look up and find myself shrouded in darkness. The hours move so rapidly, yet I think I’m keeping up.

Suddenly, the curtain drops. Night is here. At 4:45!

Some days I fret at my missed opportunities of sunlight, the better photographs, the lifted spirits. I tell myself–tomorrow, tomorrow—although we know, headed into winter, that each tomorrow means even less.

Moving deeper into the season, I have to capture that light in other ways.

Some mornings Bill and I rise very early, drive to Warner Park, and hike the 2 1/2 mile trail that loops around the wooded hills. Wearing headlamps, we begin in pre-dawn darkness, and find our way along the craggy path. Sometimes I’ll hear the who-who of owls call, or the rustle of a wild turkey flock on its own forest trek. Sometimes I’ll see a set of headlamps on the trail ahead of me, only to realize that it is a set of glowing eyes. A deer!

After thirty minutes of so, we turn off our headlamps. The world is dim, almost colorless, but visible. And then, sunrise.
Ah! Surrounded by hickory and beech trees, their leaves already yellow, we become enveloped in shimmering gold light.


Light and Balance. We need these in the food we eat too.

Today I am sharing two light and leafy recipes–one is a salad, the other cooked greens. Both autumn dishes help to balance out the heavy, hearty fare that defines the approaching holiday season.

I have been relishing fennel, its crunch and lively anise flavor enmeshed in a salad of Honeycrisp apples and clementines. My new favorite! This is a salad of fresh contrasts, melding sweet, peppery, citric, licorice and pungent tastes, with no cooking required. Just skilled prep—apples cut into thin batons, clementines peeled, sectioned and sliced, fennel and red onion almost shaved. Liberally season with salt and black pepper, which will help each element release its juices. Add salted Marcona almonds and your choice of a salty blue (gorgonzola, maytag, danish…)


The dressing is basic. Use a good olive oil—this beauty is from my friends’ biodynamic farm in Tuscany near the Tyrrhennian Sea—and a shake of white balsamic vinegar. As I have learned from Rachel in measuring this, use the Italian sensibility: “q.b.” quanto basto-–what is enough—in other words, use your good judgment.


A member of the chicory family, escarole is a beautiful and mildly bitter green that resembles leafy lettuce. Its core leaves, small and delicate, are ideal in a salad. But the whole head, sliced into ribbons, yields to heat readily, collapsing into a great delectable sopping mound. It makes a sumptuous side dish on its own, or can be spooned over rice or pasta. Served with beans or cornbread, it becomes an Italian dish that has migrated to the South.

In this pot, reds complement the greens. Red onion, red wine vinegar, and a handful of currants to bring pops of sweetness to the dish. You may use golden raisins in place of the currants; either dried fruit will gain a jewel-like glisten in the saute.



I could tell you, “Be grateful for your greens!”–because I am really reminding myself of the same.
Enjoy them chilled crisp in the salad bowl, or braised supple in the Dutch oven.
Enjoy your time with loved ones.
In this season of indulgence, enjoy some time of light and balance.


1 Honeycrisp apple, cut into small batons
3-4 clementines, peeled, sectioned, and cut into pieces
1 fennel bulb , shaved or sliced thinly
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 pound mixed leaf lettuces

Place the prepared apples, clementines, fennel, and red onion into a large chilled bowl. Add the almonds and blue cheese crumbles.
Sprinkle the salt and black pepper over the salad ingredients, followed by the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Top with mixed lettuces.

Toss the salad gently but thoroughly, so that the myriad ingredients are well-dispersed and the lightly coated with the oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Makes 8-10 servings


adapted from Cooking Light
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced red onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2-3 dried red chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3-1/2 cup dried currants
1 large head of escarole, leaves washed and sliced into 1/2 ” thick ribbons
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Stir in the red onion, garlic, and dried red peppers. Season with salt and saute the mixture for 2 minutes. The red onion will become translucent. Add the dried currants and saute for another minute.

Add the escarole ribbons. Stir and fold them in the red onion mixture. The heat will cause the escarole leaves to collapse and wilt. Add the red wine vinegar. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Allow the escarole to braise for 5 minutes.

Makes 8 servings

Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

20 Responses to “Grateful for Autumn Greens”
  1. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Your early morning headlamp hikes seem dreamy. I adore being outside to watch the sun rise, but I don’t enjoy the actual waking up so much, so it’s a bit of a stretch for me, but more plausible this time of year.

    Both recipes looks so perfectly balanced. I know I’ll love both. Thanks, Nancy.

  2. Kath Says:

    I love the sound of your early morning walks. What a lovely way to start the day. I like the salad very much. Happy Thanksgiving. x

  3. Michele / Cooking At Home Says:

    I,too, love your early morning walks. The pre- dawn hours are my favorites. Looking forward to making your bright salad. Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. Tammy Says:

    I do early morning hikes with a headlamp too Nancy. And I also have an abundance of greens right now. I’ll be posting a Chard recipe later today. It has much in common with your escarole.

  5. Wendy Says:

    As much as I love the golden autumn trees,I think you know that an early morning walk with a headlamp is not going to happen—but I love this salad! Very happy you used the white balsamic.

  6. Wendy Says:

    As much as I love the golden autumn trees, I think you know that an early morning walk with a headlamp is not going to happen —but I love this salad! Very happy you used the white balsamic vinegar.

  7. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    I, too, walk in the early, pre-dawn, morning, but with no light. I dress in black and walk quickly and silently. I like that time of day best. It is like I am the only person on the planet. I listen, watch & walk with the rising sun, feeling cocooned. (FYI I always carry my phone which has a really loud siren app downloaded just in case! and a flashlight built in!)
    As to greens, you have said it all beautifully. My chard is back in my garden after a hot summer of dormancy waiting to be picked so I shall do that today and have greens for dinner inspired by this wonderful post. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Bill, Madeleine, Tony & Zachery. I know you will be making some delicious dinners in D.C.

  8. heather Says:

    Wonderful post, thank you Nancy!

  9. ernestine Says:

    One elder
    who moved back to simplicity and the woods 4 years ago
    has never tasted Fennel or Escarole.
    In early years
    probably would have been ashamed to admit :)
    I must try.
    In years past an early walker
    but not now
    with my little rescue dog Callie, a cane at the moment,
    roots from old trees and a long gravel drive I do
    not think it is wise.
    Maybe I will resurrect
    who knows.
    Your recipes and sharing
    a special blessing to this one.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  10. Maggie Says:

    Nance, these both look super tasty! I know what you mean about the light – I would have skylights installed this minute if I thought I could! Have a Happy & Safe Thanksgiving! PS – love that can of olive oil!!

  11. Kathy Says:

    Such a beautiful description of your early morning walks to match this most delicious sounding recipe! Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Adri Says:

    Oh my, but your walks sound wonderful – and so does this dish! Warmest wishes to you and yours for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  13. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    I enjoy escarole and both of your recipes sound wonderful.

  14. Beth Says:

    Have a happy Thanksgiving!
    I have the same issues with light at this time of year – it’s hard to time things to get both a good photo and a warm meal.

  15. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hello Everyone, and Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving!
    We have been traveling and visiting with family–but wanted to check back and say thank you for all of your kind words and thoughtful wishes. I am grateful to have your company.

    Now, the zoom-zoom of the holiday season is on us, for sure! But we shall all take time to savor the moments.


  16. Barbara Says:

    A lovely post, Nancy! I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.
    You’ve posted two recipes I’d love to try. Wonderful combination in your salad, crisp and flavorful and I can’t wait to make the escarole dish.

  17. cquek Says:

    Yummy, love your recipe

  18. Juliana Says:

    Nice Nancy…both dishes look great…and I especially like them because they contain some sort of sweet in it…apples and tangerines and currants…yum!
    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
    Have a beautiful week my dear :D

  19. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    i am having huge issues with light too! I wish you could explain to me more in detail how you are dealing with it! I think you did a great job on the pics because the escarole looks fantastic! Love the addition of the currants

  20. Nicole Says:

    I’m certainly up early enough most days to see the sunrise, but it’s too much work to drag the young ones out all bundled up…these hikes must be lovely. I look forward to the day we leave the city and head towards nature. what delicious looking ingredients. certainly, winter is not all about “typical” comfort foods.

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