More than a dozen years ago, Deer Valley co-hosted a fundraising event for Red Butte Garden, a part of the University of Utah. Rotating through Snow Park Lodge’s banquet rooms, turned into classrooms set with portable demo kitchens complete with mirrors and gas stoves, guests enjoyed 3 Deer Valley chefs cooking 3 separate menus, all featuring fresh herbs.
I was one of the “Chefs for All Seasonings” teaching the half-hour classes—and keeping with the herb theme, I made oatmeal rosemary scones, peppercorn and pear tart, and basil ice creams, both plain and chocolate. Another chef followed his Southern heritage and taught pan-fried catfish with cornmeal and thyme, red beans and rice and mess o’ greens. Even though I’d lived in the North Carolina mountains for 2 years, I think that was the first time I heard that term used to describe a bitter-tangy-sweet mixture of greens, like collards, mustard greens, kale etc. If you come from the South, your mother probably made mess o’ greens flavored with salt pork or bacon, cooked for hours on end.
Well I love my greens, and I always make them on New Years Day to insure a profitable year, but I cook them without meat and only until they are just tender, about 15 minutes.
Here is a warming soup to welcome the first real freeze of the fall, and to use several of our CSA veggies of the week: potatoes, leeks, onions, garlic, jalapeño pepper and Ranui mess o’ greens. It’s also a vegan recipe, with cashew milk instead of milk or cream. Serve with corn muffins–I recommend the recipe from my cookbook if you don’t have a favorite corn muffin or cornbread recipe.
Cream of Mess o’ Greens Soup
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup plus 4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, white part mostly, cleaned and sliced into rings
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and veins removed, chopped
2 medium potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 cups mess o’ greens, with the stems stripped and discarded
1 teaspoon Real Salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, optional
In a blender, whir the cashews and 1 cup of the vegetable broth until smooth, about a minute.
In a large soup pot or pressure cooker over medium flame, heat the olive oil. Cook and stir the leeks for a minute; add the onions and cook and stir another minute or so. Add the garlic and jalapeño pepper, the remaining 4 cups of vegetable broth, the potatoes and the mess o’ greens. Add the salt. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Alternately–if you use a pressure cooker, lock the lid in place, and over high heat, bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 6 minutes. Allow the pressure to come down naturally or use a quick-release method.
Stir in the reserved cashew “milk.” Remove from the heat. Puree the soup with an immersion blender directly in the pot, or in the regular blender (in batches.).
Season to taste with salt and the optional lemon juice—to intensify the flavor.