What’s Good on the Farm? + RECIPE: Massaged Kale Salad with Roasted Strawberry Vinaigrette

It’s June now. (Don’t ask me how that happened). Full blown summertime on the farm. The fields are full of happily growing plants. Our fridge is full of delicious green things to eat and inspiration in my kitchen has never been more abundant. Our fourth CSA season began last week and I’m awash in all the new member energy and excitement.

It’s all very fun. It’s all very fresh.

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It’s all also very hot. You wouldn’t think Wisconsin would get so hot, but these past couple of weeks have had several humid days in the nineties. I wasn’t entirely ready for summer to come into full swing so rapidly, but hey here it is. I think we can now officially say that my cheeks and shoulders have gone well-beyond sun-kissed. Some nights we retire to our little non-air conditioned home and I can feel the sun’s energy trapped beneath my skin. I’m flush from the inside out and it feels amazing. But it also feels hot.

Aside from being filled with Vitamin D and perpetually dehydrated, we’ve never loved the farm more. We’ve been farming since 2013 and that may seem like a long time, but farming comes with a steep learning curve and we started with minimal experience. We’re beginning to understand the intricacies of our land and our soils and dare I say it, we are even learning how to manage all the weeds. When we look out over our landscape, it doesn’t feel like a never-ending to do list. It looks like this beautiful thing that we’ve patiently and diligently built that is producing endless heaps of produce for the wonderful families who support us.

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So what’s good on the farm right now, you ask? What’s growing well and what’s prolific? Broccoli, snap peas, snow peas, zucchini, summer squash, scallions: these early summer treats are all beginning to come into their full glory. But spring greens are stunning. Spring greens are where I’m finding the most joy. The greens field is (in my humble opinion) absolutely breathtaking and with all this rain and heat the greens are growing wildly. Lettuce, kale, endives, chard, arugula, spinach, collards, the list goes on and on.

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I can head out to the field whenever I want and harvest a head of lettuce or grab a leaf of chard (or ten). The early plantings of spinach have bolted, but that doesn’t stop me from clipping old tender leaves for quick dinner salads. I head down to the fields for a couple pieces of kale and wind up taking the flannel shirt from around my waist and using it as a make shift harvest basket.

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Salads are my best friend come summer, but I easily tire of the same boring dish. I want textures and flavors that are unusual and exciting. I want dressings that are bright and add depth to my greens. I want a meal that feels hearty without weighing me down and I want to use all the best things that are in season. Kale + Spinach + Strawberries? I’m not sure there could be a better combination right now.

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I swear this strawberry salad came to me in a dream. We’re buying in organic strawberries for our CSA members next week and looking at strawberry pictures before bed is a sure fire way to wake up drooling. All the Instagram photos of fresh berries at market don’t help either. I truly could taste this salad in my mind way before I sat down to make it. When I finally did, it was every bit of my vision.

If I had to choose a favorite part of this salad, it would have to be a tie between massaged kale (a first time experience for me) and a vinaigrette made predominantly from slowly roasted fruit. Bright and fresh, hearty and sweet, this salad needs to be a staple on your June table.

Happy summertime ya’ll!

-Leek

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MASSAGED KALE SALAD WITH ROASTED STRAWBERRY VINAIGRETTE
A lot of people think that kale is too tough or too bitter for using in a salads. I would have to disagree. Kale, when used properly, is one of the best salad greens there is. Often I cut kale really small to use it in salads, but another great method is to massage it (directions below) and/or combine it with another lighter green (like I also did here). People have been telling me to massage my kale for years and I finally listened. I encourage you to do the same. It truly does transform this leafy green.

Takes 40 minutes
Makes 4-8 servings depending on if it’s a side or meal (and how much salad you can eat in one sitting)

1 bunch kale, ribs removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 cups chopped spinach (about 1/2 pound)
1 quart strawberries, halved or quartered based on size
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
Roasted Strawberry Vinaigrette:
1 quart strawberries, halved or quartered based on size
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon whole-grain mustard

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (or you will have a real mess on your hands) and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add 1 quart of halved and quartered strawberries. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 25 minutes.
3. While the strawberries are roasting, prepare the kale. Remove the kale from the ribs (I just tear it right off) and place leaves in a large bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt over kale. Using your hands, massage the kale leaves while working the olive oil and salt into the leaves. Tear the leaves as you massage the kale so they are in bite-size pieces. Continue to massage for about 5 minutes until kale is a vibrant green and has broken down.
4. Remove strawberries from oven and add to a food processor (or small bowl). Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, water, sugar and mustard. Pulse until smooth and emulsified. Emulsified just means that the dressing has turned creamy and the vinegar should not be too pungent but instead well-incorporated.
5. Toss as much dressing as you desire (I used a little over half of it) with greens until evenly incorporated. Add second quart of strawberries, feta and pecans. Enjoy immediately!

Storage tip: If you don’t think you’ll eat all this salad at one time, keep the greens in your fridge with toppings. Store dressing separately and combine just before serving.

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