Cookin' with Carol Reveals the Meaning of Green
Mar 24, 2017 01:12PM
● By Melanie Heisinger
Deciding on an interesting topic to share as it relates
to food is always a fun adventure. Every couple of months, our publisher
extraordinaire here at Mansfield Magazine,
Lisa Drake, asks me for article ideas for the upcoming issue. Here’s something
different to start off this article: a little “behind the scenes” look at how
my article comes together.
Nearly thirty years ago, my husband, Kurt, and I started “Cookin’ with Carol,” a project-turned-business, conducting cooking classes in the local Dallas–Fort Worth communities. From the start, we have worked together to develop ideas and recipes for the home cook, to make life easy and delicious in the kitchen and to simply spread the joy of cooking. While I was always the “face” of the business, developing recipes and teaching the classes, Kurt worked behind the scenes as recipe editor, publisher, photographer, videographer, producer - and taste tester!
As our Cookin’ with Carol projects changed and evolved over the years - from cooking classes to self-published cookbooks to local television appearances to websites - we always worked together to share recipes with home cook enthusiasts. And new projects continue to keep us busy through various new technological formats and live appearance venues. One of the “new” projects - the regular articles here in Mansfield Magazine - just celebrated a ten-year anniversary. That’s a lot of ideas and a lot of recipes!
Those of you who have followed these articles for ten years - thank you! Thanks also go to those who might be reading for the first time. We are happy to share lots of cooking information and recipes, and hope you find many interesting ideas throughout the magazine with every new issue. With this history in mind, and getting back to the original thought, it might come as a bit of a surprise that all my articles - for over ten years - start with unique, original ideas that we never repeat. You might find related topics, but always done with a unique twist or updated to meet current signs of the times. (And the recipes are never repeated.)
A Green Perspective
So why does this matter to you? It might not. But it does to us. We want to provide a fresh, new, “green” perspective with each article offered in every year, season or issue you might encounter. It is quite fitting that this discussion comes to light for this issue. When Lisa posed the question about ideas for this issue, she also suggested a few. Over the years, she has been instrumental in providing suggestions that might pertain to related topics that other contributors were sharing in the current issue, or perhaps specific related calendar events that might make for an interesting article topic. This month, it was the latter that prompted much thought and consideration.
Springtime always provides many ideas for food-related topics, and we have often used an upcoming calendar event to base a new recipe and food story upon. But as mentioned above, we like to keep it fresh, keep it new and try not to repeat ourselves from past years, only referring to archived cooking class materials for inspiration. Upon reviewing our list of previous articles and recipes during this time frame during the past ten years, and giving much consideration to Lisa’s date-specific suggestions, one word seemed to be an all-encompassing topic for this time of year, but remained yet-to-be-explored across its multiple definitions: green.
A Word of Many Meanings
Merriam-Webster lists no less than eighteen definitions for the word “green” - ten as an adjective, six as a noun and two as a verb. Plus, many variations of these meanings! From describing a vibrant color, to promoting an organic environment or offering a condition of freshness, to labeling vegetation, “green” is a broad term convenient to use when talking about food.
To explore its many meanings, and to see how it seems most appropriate during this time of year, here are some suggestions - a miscellanea of ideas - to keep “green” in mind while cooking in the kitchen during springtime in Texas.
A Nutty Idea
Green is probably not a word that comes to mind when talking nuts. Unless the nut is a pistachio — a great choice in the world of snacks, but not the choice for this discussion. Lisa brought to my attention the fact that March is National Peanut Month. How does this fit in our topic of green?
Many people do not realize that peanuts are not actually nuts; peanuts are legumes. Unlike nuts that grow on bushes or trees, peanuts grow like the common garden pea. Peanut crops - widely grown throughout the southern United States - form seas of green plants during the half-year growing season. And not only green in color, according to www.nationalpeanutboard.org, the peanut is “a sustainable crop because they add beneficial nitrogen to the soil and require much less water than other nuts.” It goes on to note that “the majority of peanut crops are non-irrigated and rely on (green) rainwater.” I’d say peanuts rank highly as a “green” food, if not for color alone, but for environmental reasons.
From peanut butter to peanut sauces, this marvelous legume adds tremendous flavor to foods ranging from sandwiches to stir-fry dishes. Chopped peanuts are great to sprinkle over Asian noodle dishes, or in keeping with our green theme - fresh green salads. And of course, just out of hand, maybe mixed with a selection of dried fruits, peanuts are always a great snack, packed with protein. National Peanut Month, and then the opening of baseball season, are great reasons to grab a bag of peanuts in the shell and enjoy a spring tradition.
Green Eggs and Ham
Yet another food that does not seem like an obvious connection to green, is eggs - unless you are a Dr. Seuss fan. But another tradition always follows the celebration of Easter each year, when bright green grass-filled Easter baskets are overflowing with colorfully dyed-and-decorated Easter eggs. It’s always National Egg Salad Week! Is there a better way to celebrate green than with creamy egg salad sandwiches topped with fresh leafy lettuce greens, or a spicy egg salad served in crispy-cool, refreshing iceberg lettuce cups? Well, maybe …
It’s also National Eggs Benedict Day on April 16! Perfect for breakfast or brunch, top a toasted English muffin half with a slice of Canadian bacon (or ham), a poached egg and a good dollop of hollandaise - a smooth and rich, butter, egg yolk and lemon juice sauce. It’s surprising how many people have never been treated to a great eggs Benedict meal. This is a fresh, new taste treat you should enjoy this spring. Now there’s your “green” eggs and ham!
A Fresh Start
March 20, the first day of spring - the vernal equinox - is also International Earth Day. The United States also celebrates Earth Day on April 22. It is a time to demonstrate support for environmental protection; a true “green” day. Springtime is the season of rebirth and rejuvenation. Green is the color of spring as plants regenerate and revitalize. Flowers begin to bloom. Trees fill branches with new leaves, new growth. We should honor this opportunity to “be green” in our daily lives. It is the time of year for a fresh start.
Plan and plant a garden with lots of herbs and vegetables. Plant a tree - how about a fruit tree? Start a compost pile to recycle leftover food scraps, garden and lawn trimmings and weeds. Be organic. Be responsible in your use and disposal of potentially toxic-to-our-environment substances and materials. Don’t be wasteful with water or food. Share and recycle whenever possible. A little consideration for your environment and others around you is all it takes to begin a path down the “green” road.
Celebrate the Emerald Isle
The Feast of Saint Patrick - more widely known as March 17, St. Patrick’s Day - is a cultural and religious celebration, commemorating the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Green is synonymous with, and the symbolic color of, this very public celebration. This official Christian feast day has become an international day of traditions, with green - the color of the three-leaved shamrock - taking center spotlight in everything from costume and attire, to food and drink.
Traditional Irish food, like corned beef and cabbage or Irish stew, is popular fare on this day. One of my favorite Irish foods is Colcannon (see recipe). This traditional mashed-potatoes-and-cabbage dish is loaded with green foods. There are likely as many recipes for colcannon as there are cooks, so you can easily make it your own, but I like to use a variety of green vegetables and herbs - cabbage, kale, leeks, parsley - in this delicious, peasant dish. Serve with your favorite protein and a pint glass mug of green beer!
Eat Something Green Every Day
It’s not difficult to find an edible green food to enjoy every day. From fresh vegetables to fresh herbs, bean sprouts to salad greens, the produce section is stacked full of green choices for a bite of organic green living. Green choices equal healthy choices.
Beyond peanuts and eggs, you’ll likely find a favorite green vegetable (or fruit) to celebrate during the early spring months. March is also National Bell Peppers and Broccoli Month, Exotic Winter Fruit and Leeks and Green Onions Month, National Celery Month, and National Nutrition Month. April is National Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage Month, Tomatillo and Asian Pear Month, and to cover everything else, National Food Month!
Celebrate National Garlic Day on April 19 and National Zucchini Bread Day on April 23. Plant a tree and celebrate Arbor Day on April 28. Or simply celebrate the green world of nature for Greenery Day on April 29. And coming soon, in May: National Asparagus Month and National Salad Month. In summary, celebrate green and eat something green every day!
Interpreted many ways, but sharing a common theme, green is the way to go. Whether it’s for the luck of the Irish, sipping an herb-flavored tea, crunching through a leafy lettuce salad, selecting fresh veggies at the local produce stand, recycling paper and saving a tree, enjoying the morning sun on the first day of spring or simply stopping along a garden path to smell the roses, celebrate green - celebrate life!
Hop on the green bandwagon and be a green activist, don’t act green or be green with envy, use a pocketful of green at the green farmer’s market for salad greens that are always vibrant green during the green springtime, and enjoy a green-foods picnic at the city center green during this “green” time of year. I think you get the green idea!
Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes & Cabbage)
medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small cabbage (cored), chopped
1/4 pound kale (tough stems removed), chopped
2 medium leeks, white root only, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
In a large saucepan, cook the potatoes in boiling water to cover for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender. Heat a large skillet on medium-high, add oil, and sauté cabbage for 2 to 3 minutes. Add kale, leeks, and garlic, and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, cover skillet, and simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender; reserve.
Drain water from potatoes. Add milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the potatoes, and mash using a potato masher. Add reserved braised vegetables, stirring to combine. Place mixture in a large, shallow baking dish, use a spoon to make furrows in the potatoes, and dot with butter. Bake the mashed potato/cabbage mixture in a preheated 400° F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is lightly golden. Garnish with fresh parsley to serve.
Kale is a winter leafy-green vegetable, a member of the cabbage family with a mild flavor.
Leeks are bulb vegetables that resemble large scallions. They offer a mild onion flavor. Use the bottom few inches of the white root end; the green leaves tend to be fibrous and tough.
Freshly grated nutmeg adds a distinct “warmth of flavor” to this dish.