Sunday, July 17, 2011

Greens 101

Curly Kale at Kirk's Farm in Massachusetts
I didn't grow up eating a lot of greens. Cabbage. Iceberg lettuce. Occasionally frozen spinach. The cabbage was always boiled, often with corned beef or salt pork- Grandma would make that. The iceberg would be in a salad with cucumbers and tomatoes and bottled Thousand Island dressing. But as a CSA member, we get a lot of greens in the beginning of the summer. And, if we don't take care of them, my guess is a lot of them end up spoiling before they can be used.

Greens basically fall into two categories- tender and sturdy. Tender greens include all lettuces and baby greens, including Asian or 'Braising' greens. Left in plastic bags without air circulating around them they will very quickly (within 48 hours) become soggy and slimy. Not so delicious. Lettuce leaves should be separated, rinsed, and wrapped in paper towels. Then they can be popped into a plastic bag and stored for 4 to 5 days.
Sturdy greens-- mature spinach, kale, collards, bok choy, cabbage-- can simply be placed in the vegetable crisper in your refrigerator. Before cooking, strip off the center stem and wash them- well.

Tender greens are best eaten raw, but sturdy greens can be eaten raw or cooked. Simple sauteing is the fastest method, and tends to bring out the flavor of the greens most. There are several recipes on this blog for that method. But I also like greens that have been slow-cooked to be so tender they melt in your mouth. This method is most often seen in the South, and is traditionally served with cornbread to sop up the cooking liquid. I recently served greens this way with grilled chicken and potatoes. The leftover greens and potatoes made a great Colcannon.

Crock Pot Mess O’ Greens
This takes minutes to prepare, and is absolutely yummy and very easy on a hot and/or busy day. Serve with cornbread to help sop up the sauce.
8-10 servings

4 oz salt pork
2 bunches of greens (collards, kale, turnip—they don’t have to be the same kind-  I like a combination of collards and kale)
1 large onion
1 fat clove garlic
2 bay leaves, torn in half
8 cups water with 1 chicken bouillon cube or 1-1/2 teaspoons chicken base

1. Strip the leaves from the woody stems of the collard greens and kale. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Cut the stems on the diagonal in 1/2” pieces.
2. Peel the onion and coarsely chop. Peel the garlic and chop. Tear the bay leaves in half.
3. Place all ingredients in the crock-pot—the salt pork on the bottom- and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

To make this a 'leftover' dish, skip the steps of cooking the greens and the potatoes. Go straight to step three.
1 pound white cabbage or kale
1-teaspoon salt
2 pounds potatoes
2 medium leeks
1-cup milk
1/4 teaspoon mace
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic
8 tablespoons butter

  1. Trim and slice the cabbage or kale into thin strips (if using kale, strip off the thick stems). Place in a large pot of salted water and boil until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. 
  2. Scrub the potatoes and slice (with the skins still on). Bring another pot of water to a boil and boil the potatoes until tender. Drain off the water and set aside. 
  3. Trim the leeks and cut in half lengthwise. Rinse well, separating the layers to remove any sand or silt. Put the leeks in a saucepan, cover with the milk, bring close to boiling, and then turn down to a simmer until tender. Set aside.
  4. Add the mace, salt and pepper, and garlic to the pot with the potatoes and mash well. Add the leeks and their milk and mix in, taking care not to break the leeks down too much. Mash in the cabbage, and then the butter. 
  5. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and place under broiler to brown.  
  6. Serve hot in bowls, topping each bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

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