I had really planned on building a cold frame this winter – unfortunately that will be a goal I’ll miss this year. Fall brought some unexpected challenges and we’re well into the dark of winter (although maybe I’ll get my butt moving for Spring!)
Thankfully we have a thriving community of farmers markets in Toronto and a lot of options though the winter. I was thrilled to find a new-to-me ingredient two weeks ago called Mache (also known as ‘corn salad’ or lamb’s lettuce).
Mache is a hardy green that can withstand the cold of winter (it actually suffers in the summer). It’s texture is a cross between leaf lettuce and spinach (and leans more towards the latter). It’s biggest negative is that it grows close to the ground and can’t be harvested by machine; this adds labor and cost.
When we used to regularly shop at grocery stores, lettuce was often sold by the unit. Shopping at markets has generally shifted our purchases of greens to a by-the-pound pricing structure (even in Canada). I am often intimidated by the price-per-pound until I see just how many greens fill a bag and often feel relieved that it costs far less than I was expecting.
Mache is different from lettuce or spinach in that it’s leaves come in small clusters. Almost like mini-leaf lettuce. I roughly pulled them apart (like you would with basil) to make a quick salad last night. It was slightly sweet with a mild nuttiness that made it dens enough for a winter meal. I also find anything green to be more exciting in the winter when green things are so much more rare.
We tossed it with a quick dressing, a small amount of pan-fried chicken (saving the bones and skin for stock once we have enough) and a few extra bits. It was a lovely early week meal.
Ingredients (all are optional)
- 0.5-1 pounds of mache
- 2 chicken legs (we buy whole chicken, butcher them into pieces and freeze them). Bone them and chop into small pieces.
- 1 small-medium carrot, chopped into pieces
- 0.5 onion, cut into strips
- 1-2 tablespoons dried root vegetables
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon chopped ginger (fresh)
- cumin and hot pepper to taste
- small bit of nut oil
- salt, pepper to taste
- Pick through the mache and break into smaller pieces as you wait for individual steps to complete. Spin dry and add to the bowl.
- Heat the oil to near smoking.
- Add ginger for 5-10 seconds.
- Add carrot, onion and chicken into the pan. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and hot pepper flakes. Stir often as you make your dressing.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a bowl, add salt and stir until dissolved.
- Add oil and whip with fork until everything it mixed together.
- Add tahini and stir to incorporate.
- Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the stir fry, stir and remove from heat. Allow it to partially cool.
- Pour dressing into the mache and toss with your hands.
- Toss chicken in the bowl that you made the dressing in (this will get the last drips of it), serve it on top of your salad.
- Garnish with the dehydrated root vegetables.