The rain arrived today, and I was glad. After a morning of fingers slammed in doors and heads caught in bag handles, of favorite shirts gone missing and rain boots on the lam – after that morning, I was ready for some soft edges, craving the fresh clean smell of the wide wet world, anticipating the coziness of twisting steam and rain-blurred windows.
Seeking an adventure to earn our cozies, Lucas and I drove over the hill to Half Moon Bay. Our plan was to walk for a while on the coastal trail, exploring the bluffs above Poplar beach, and then maybe to sneak in a hot cocoa before we picked J up at school. But just as we pulled in to park, the soft drizzle shifted to a fierce slanted rain. I held my arm out my window and the drops felt rapid and pin-prickle sharp. I turned to check in with Lucas in his carseat, wondering out loud if he still wanted to wander if it meant getting really soaked.
He was fast asleep.
I pulled on my hoodie and left him resting, and sat knees-to-chest on a bench on the bluff. (I was maybe ten feet away, don’t call CPS on me!) There was a bird with a quizzical expression and yellow feet, and if Jacob had been there I would have known whether it was a peregrine falcon or a northern harrier. I watched it until it flew away, and then I watched the break, crashing down below. The smell of the coastal scrub in the rain is so alive, and there was chartreuse moss and lichen day-glowing against the weathered fence rails. The Pacific was slate-dark and vast, and right this very moment, not far off the shore, humpback whales are singing as they journey by. There was the grayscale sky, and the dayblind stars/waiting with their light. *
I thought about a short story I heard recently, “a poetic crush of just a few pages“, and about how when we were at school a couple weeks ago J sat crouched underneath the loft and said If I lean back far enough, I can’t see you anymore! and I said, well, I can’t see you but I can hear you, and he said You know what? Actually I can see you. I see part of you, and it is just your feet, but I still know that it is you. And that night we looked at a book about humpbacks, and about how each of them has a unique pattern swirled over their fin, like a fingerprint, and he said Like how I knew it was you from your feet, and I said, in a way. In a way it is like that.
The wind and the time and the cold rivulets on my neck finally sent me back to the car. Lucas and I drove home, past fields ploughed under, and past others, thick with greens.
Around here, much of our coast is agricultural. This time of year, we can get chard, and kale, and collards, gorgeous bunches for next to nothing at the market, and we like to cook our beet tops, which are free-ninety-nine. We get at least one bunch of greens every week in our CSA, and while we do our fair share of saag, and lots of soups, our go-tos are pretty simple. My stepmom keeps texting me to ask “What should we do with our beet tops?!” and as we know, she likes a written recipe; For her, then, and for the rest of you too, here are two of our favorites.
Garlicky Wilted Greens ~ our current fail-safe is to wilt greens (chard, kale, beet tops, collards) with a generous pour of olive oil and lots (LOTS) of minced garlic and a big pinch of kosher salt. I like to stem greens that I’m wilting (Emmy has some good ideas about what to do with the stems) and cut each leaf into ribbons. Let’s get it out there that by “wilt” I mean, um, cook them down under a lid in my biggest cast iron, with a few teaspoons of water to make sure they get really silky smooth and soft. Keep the heat low, cook for a while (at least ten minutes) and keep an eye on it. Add more water to the pan as needed – don’t let the garlic (or the greens) burn. One large bunch of greens makes generous helpings for our foursome; two bunches means I have leftovers to put on eggs, or toast, or beans, or whatever’s for lunch the next day. (Unless lunch is cake.) A squeeze of lemon goes well on top.
Our Favorite Raw Kale Salad ~ If you don’t like garlic, or you don’t like your veg cooked way far down, we also love this: caramelize an onion or two (with a confetti of red or yellow bell pepper tossed in if you have it). While that is cooking, stem your greens (kale is great, but feel free to experiment) and cut them up into small pieces (bite sized or even smaller). In a large bowl, put a minced shallot or two. Cover the shallots with sherry vinegar, and add a generous pinch of sugar and another of salt. Let that sit for at least ten minutes (caramelizing those onions should take you a while, anyhow). Add an enthusiastic spill of good olive oil to the shallots, then add your greens. Mix that all up, then stir in the onions and peppers. If you have orange segments, salty cubes of feta, or a little melty piece of brie, you can work that in here to very good effect. The melty-sweet onions and the sharp-sweet shallots are a combination we also use on pasta, or toast, and on leftover cooked grains. But here with the kale, the heat helps soften the greens just a bit, and the olive oil (make sure you are generous with it when making those onions) coats everything with a subtle sweet-savoryness that is kicked in to gear by the bite of the shallots. It gets me, every time.
* This line, and the title of the post, come from Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things. I know, I know – give it a rest, lady, with the Wendell Berry quotes. NaBloPoMo is totally showcasing my limitations as they pertain to inspiration ;)