The Dark Days Challenge has 120+ participants from all over the U.S. doing the best we can to eat local during the winter months. Our challenge is to prepare at least one meal a week using only Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical (SOLE) ingredients, and then blog about it. Weekly recaps of the participant’s meals will be hosted by the fine folks at Not Dabbling In Normal every Sunday.
This meal was a variation of a theme I use a lot for our dinners: a local meat, with a couple of simply prepared vegetables from our garden. In this case the meat was some pork tenderloin from Fischer Farms, flattened out into a scallopini (or scallopine) and then sauteed until just cooked. Tenderloin is always a delicacy, since there are only two of them per animal. We don’t eat a lot of pork, but I like tenderloin because it’s lean and a little meat can go a long way in soups and stir fries. I also like to marinate it and grill it, but in this case with rain forecast I decided to stay indoors and opted for the scallopini treatment.
For many of our meals the real stars are the vegetables, and for this one I used the humble turnip along with some Lacinato Italian heirloom kale. This lovely kale (also called black cabbage, Cavolo Nero, Dinosaur Kale or Tuscan kale) used to be somewhat hard to find here in the U.S. but now almost every grocery store and seed catalog has it. It’s an easy to grow member of the cabbage family that doesn’t usually survive the winter here, but as of mid-December ours is still going strong in the garden. I grow kale as a fall crop here, because the taste is much sweeter when grown in cold weather, especially when it’s been frosted on and frozen like it has by now.
For this dish I shredded the kale into thin ribbons before cooking. I fried a couple of slices of locally sourced bacon in a deep pot, then removed the bacon and reserved about a tablespoon of the bacon grease for seasoning the kale (saving the rest for another day). I briefly sauteed a few cloves of our own sliced garlic in the grease, then added the finely shredded kale to the pot with just enough water to steam cook the kale. When it was tender (about 10 minutes), I removed it from the heat and added the crumbled fried bacon and a little salt.
That’s not exactly an Italian treatment, but we’re not in Rome, we’re in southern Indiana! Actually if you used pancetta instead of bacon it might be right at home in a little Tuscan trattoria. At any rate, it made for a great dish that pretty well stole the show.
I fixed the turnips even more simply. I melted a pat of butter in a saucepan, then added the peeled and sliced turnips. I covered the pan, turned the heat down low, and in about 5 minutes the turnips had cooked in their own juices and were fork tender. This was the way my mother usually cooked turnips, and it was likely the first way I ever tasted them. With a dash of salt and pepper, they were ready to eat. Their mild, sweet flavor nicely complimented the full-flavored kale.
These turnips weren’t the purple top turnips of my youth, but rather the all white Japanese types I tend to favor these days. These particular ones were a mix of Tokyo Cross and Oasis varieties, both hybrids which stay tender and mild even when they get quite large.
It all made for an enjoyable meal, and except for the salt and pepper, and the pat of butter, it was all SOLE food, as well as soul-satisfying. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as my wife and I enjoyed eating it!