Farewell, Summer!

On this last night of summer, there was a distinct chill in the air. The sun-streaked sky turned indigo just before 7:30. It was clear that Fall was eager to start running the show.

Before saying farewell, I wanted to celebrate my favorite season once more, with a meal that would include some of her prized jewels, plus a few signs of the road ahead.

It was a two-dish plate, kind of southern style. Earlier this week, I picked up a bag of fresh butter beans (aka lima beans) at the farmer's market in Clarendon. I brought up a pot of water to boil, then cooked the beans for about 15ish minutes. I drained them and let them rest, while I heated up butter and olive oil in a skillet. To that, I added thinly sliced sweet onion and a wee bit of garlic. The beans followed, and I coated them with the fat and aromatics.

There were some leftover sun gold tomatoes begging to be used, so I chopped them and added to the mix, plus an inch or so of water, so that beans would keep continue to soften on a simmer. I let the beans cook for about 20 minutes, but my dining partner suggested a wee bit more time; the beans had a little too much tooth for his liking (sigh). Before serving, I topped the beans with some chopped basil from the backyard and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, a pot of greens were making magic in another pot. A bag of kale, the kind that needed a little coaxing and some time over the fire, needed some love, and then I remembered the few slabs of bacon tucked away in the freezer, an indulgence I allow myself every few months.

With these two ingredients as inspiration, I turned to the advice of the Barkers of Magnolia Grill fame, in Durham, N.C. See their recipe below (with my notes added) for an easy pot o' greens.

There was no time to make cornbread, but a few slices of a baguette filled in nicely to help sop up the juices.

As Biscuit, the character on "Ally McBeal" played by John Cage, would say, I was having a moment. The ingredients, simple. The preparation too. But the flavors - sublime --- even if my butter beans were too al dente for my southern guy. Ah well. And now, I'm ready to embrace fall (really, I am).

With a new season comes a new name. You may notice some changes at the top of this page; we've shelved the name "Savoring Summer" and have rolled out "A Mighty Appetite" to reflect the blog's year-round focus. (Thanks to all of you who sent name suggestions!)

What's your favorite way to eat greens or butter beans? Or maybe you've got another dish that bridges summer and fall? Send them this way, in the comments area below.

P.S. I'm on Washington Post Radio (107.7 FM, 1500 AM) this afternoon, at 2:20 p.m, with some thoughts on the spinach situation and Plan B greens.

Slow-Cooked Southern Greens
Adapted From "Not Afraid of Flavor" by Ben and Karen Barker

Ingredients: (Enough for 3 side-dish servings; double recipe amounts if necessary)

3 1/2 pounds greens - collards, turnip, mustard, kale
3 ounces pork - bacon or ham or pork belly - up to you (I used a few slabs of thick bacon)
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 small fresh chile, diced
chicken stock or water (I used water)
salt and pepper to taste (for salt, I used soy sauce)
cider vinegar (I used Japanese rice wine)

Clean greens thoroughly. Trim stems and remove ribs if they seem tough. Drain well.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, cook pork over medium heat until rendered and golden brown. (KOD note: With a slotted spoon, I removed bacon to keep crisp and added before serving)
You may find that a smidge of oil helps here, to minimize sticking. Add onion and cook until translucent but not colored. Stir in garlic, chile pepper and cook for 1 minute.
Working in batches, add greens to the pot, stirring to wilt. Add liquid just enough to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender, but not mushy, at least 20 minutes, depending on greens.
Seasons with salt, pepper and a spritz of vinegar.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 22, 2006; 9:58 AM ET Seasonal Produce
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Kim, One of my favorite things about the beginning of fall is how often pumpkin begins to creep up on local restaurant menus. I know restaurants are more of Tom's thing, but do you know anywhere where pumpkin is popping up?

Posted by: Kate | September 22, 2006 6:23 PM

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