Eat green for St. Patrick’s

Published 12:42 am Saturday, March 17, 2012

Recently, we attended a seminar at Sligo Plantation (outside of Natchez, Miss.) on slow gardening and foraging. There are so many interesting things to attend around here it is hard to get it all in. This turned out to be a great day with the morning speaker being Felder Rushing, who has several books to his credit and a public radio show here in Mississippi (Some people in West Alabama can get him on Mississippi public radio). His book Tough Plants for Southern Gardens has as a sub-title, ‘Low Care, No Care’– my type of gardening. He is an interesting guy, very pragmatic. When people get technical about planting, he puts them down with, “Dig a hole, green side up.” And he likes tough plants. He’ll talk about plants that dead people can grow – those found in cemeteries.

The afternoon was spent foraging for edible plants with Dr. Charles Allen, a retired professor of biology at the University of Louisiana. We nibbled our way through the lawn “weeds” and then had samplings of various herbal teas. The tea and the fireplace were welcome treats on that particularly windy cold day. I bought a book of his that I hope will be helpful to me in finding some interesting nibbles – Edible Plants of the Gulf South.

Our lunch was just the best, and I was able to get two recipes from the lunch. Christina Johnson, the owner of Sligo Plantation, prepared the food, and most of it was grown in her garden.

I thought today would be the appropriate day to share these green recipes with you. Try them instead of green beer and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


Parsley Dressing

Take a bunch of parsley, two minced garlic cloves, about ½ cup of nut oil (I used walnut), a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, about ¼ cup raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar, the juice of two tangerines, and puree all these ingredients in the food processor. Ingredients are not exact but this would be enough dressing for four salads.

Instead of parsley, one can use basil when it is in season in the summer. I found the dressing to be really good and easy, and a “keeper.” This was served with different greens from her garden and some mushrooms. I’ve been making the dressing a lot as we eat our salad greens from the garden, which are even now going to seed.

Christina Johnson served a green soup garnished with crème fraîche she had also made. Homemade bread and these two courses was all that was needed, although she had a mushroom lasagna as well. She had adapted her recipe from Lynne Rosetto Kasper.

This recipe is from Eating Well by Anne Thomas, published in 2011. Tweak it as you like. Johnson changed it some, and I added a bit more hot pepper than called for, to give it a little more zing.


Basic Green Soup

Prep time: 10 min; Cook time:

50 min; Total time: 1 hour

8 servings

To make ahead: Prepare through Step 4 (omitting the lemon, cover and refrigerate for up to three days. Season with lemon just before serving.

This chard and spinach soup gets complex flavor from slowly cooked onions and lemon juice; while a sprinkle of rice gives it body and a velvety texture. Serve with a swirl of fruity, fragrant extra-virgin olive oil for richness or serve with a tablespoon or two of crème fraîche. I really like the crème fraîche with it.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

2 large yellow onions, chopped

1 teaspoon salt, divided

¼ cup Arborio rice

1 bunch green chard (about 1 pound)

14 cups gently packed spinach (about 12 ounces), any tough stems trimmed

4 cups vegetable broth, store-bought or homemade

Big pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onions and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown, about five minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add 2 tablespoons water and cover. Cook, stirring frequently until the pan cools down, and then occasionally, always covering the pan again, until the onions are greatly reduced and have a deep caramel color, 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 3 cups of water and ¾ teaspoon salt in a soup pot or Dutch oven; add rice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Trim the white ribs out of the chard (save for another use; such as to add to a stir-fry or other soup). Coarsely chop the chard greens and spinach.

When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, stir in the chard greens. Return to a simmer; cover and cook for 10 minutes. When the onions are caramelized, stir in a little of the simmering liquid into them; add them to the rice along with the spinach, broth and cayenne. Return to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once, until the spinach is tender but still bright green, about five minutes.

Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth or in a regular blender in batches (return it to the pot) Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, if desired. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil or crème fraîche.

Bon appetite viridis (as Dr. Allen signed his book).