“Sustainability” is a slippery term with a meaning clouded by overuse. At its core is the notion of maintaining a healthy existence. That's something I take seriously in all my cooking. At my last Portland restaurant, Rocket, we had an enormous rooftop garden where some of Oregon's finest produce enjoyed the city's best view. I'm pleased that this garden reduced our carbon footprint, but I'm overjoyed that in downtown Portland I could climb out of a hatch and snag tiny radishes, crisp peas, sparkling lettuces, and loads of fresh herbs just before serving them. When I or my cooks dashed upstairs with a bucket and scissors in hand, we became part of the argument for sustainability; pulling vegetables from the dirt buoys the spirit and gives a tangible rationale for protecting our planet. Here are some of my favorite springtime recipes for an Earth Day feast, using ingredients found easily at most natural groceries.
Black Kale Gratin
Serves 8-10 / This dish is loaded with iron and antioxidants. Ingredient tip: Lacinato, or dinosaur, kale works best, but any dark leafy green will do. Prep tip: Use one side of your sink to drain kale and the other side as an ice-water bath to stop the cooking.
Arugula Salad with Citrus Dressing
Serves 4-6 / In early spring, I spike salads with radishes, dill, mâche, and rocket flowers. In high summer, it's basil, tarragon, delfino (a cilantro cousin), nasturtiums, and finely sliced raw beans. The dressing is a citrus mix, reduced to concentrate flavor. It's a friendly and accommodating dressing that encourages you to concoct your own mix of herbs and greens.