It’s a strange time of year in these parts. The trees are blooming, the grass is re-greening itself, the cooler weather garden plants are starting to sprout and things feel generally, full of hope. But, there is very little fresh food to eat. The local crops won’t be ready to harvest for several weeks. I’m left wanting to follow my ethos of eating and cooking fresh local food, but finding it very difficult to practice.
I spend a lot of time talking with the local farmers in the area. Most of the markets they sell at won’t open until June. It’s April. I found myself asking Malaika, the farmer at Roots to River Farm if I could buy whatever she had available. She walked me out into her fields and pointed to last year’s kale plants, standing skeleton-like in the mud. But, when we got close enough I could see new growth on the plants - little green ruffles shooting out from the stems. Her farm workers were busy planting, so she let me pick some myself. As I did I popped some of the leaves in my mouth. They were crisp and green and sweet from their winter slumber. I left the farm feeling a renewed sense of hope for this in-between season.
We're not far from Philadelphia, a town famous for its sandwiches. One, in particular, lends itself well - the Broccoli Rabe-Provolone Hoagie. Of course, broccoli rabe won’t be in season here for many months, but the fresh growth kale I got my hands on has made a worthy substitution. Go find a local farm (or sign up for Roots to River's CSA) and ask them if you can buy whatever they have available, just be prepared to pick it yourself.
New Growth Kale and Provolone Hoagies
1/2 pound new growth or baby kale leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 hoagie or sub rolls
1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces grated Provolone cheese
Blanch the kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender and bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain the kale.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Split the rolls, then toast the cut sides in the skillet, pressing down, until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer the rolls to a serving plate and line with the radish slices.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet over medium high heat until hot, the stir in the garlic and chile flakes, and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the kale and turn with tongs until hot. Stir in the cheese, then season the kale with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the kale between the rolls and serve.