Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Greens, greens, greens, greens

I just checked into the likely weekly haul from my CSA, there it includes broccoli rabe and collards. Most weeks the we get greens of some kind: when we are really lucky, lacinato kale, otherwise, things like chard of which even I get tired pretty quickly. I love greens, but not everyone in my family does. With a very few exceptions, like Northern Indian collards with mustard oil, they particularly don't like them long cooked. And, besides, who wants to spend the better part of an afternoon overcooking a veg? So here are three quick alternatives, based on the Brazilian greens served with feijoada, the black bean and meat stew. It is best with greens of the kale and collard family. I got the base recipe from a friend who learned it from his brother's Brazilian partner. They are best with younger greens (I especially like Russian kale here), but if shredded finely enough, they can be used with the tougher greens as well. Any of the kales work well, as do collards, chard, etc.

Brazilian greens
  1. Wash the greens well, and trim the leaves off the tough stems.
  2. Stack the greens and roll them sort of like a cigar. Cut into shreds with a very sharp knife. It the greens are old and tough, make the shreds very fine, like 1/8 inch or less. It really doesn't take that long.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet on medium and add very thinly sliced garlic. For a medium bunch of greens, I would use 4 cloves. Cook, stirring, but don't brown, and then add the greens.
  4. Stir the greens and the garlic together (if the garlic is left on the bottom it might burn), salt well, turn heat to high. Stir fry about 5 minutes until bright green. If the greens are still to tough for you, turn heat down, cover, and cook until tender to your liking. (They should still be bright green.)
  5. This is nice served with black beans, rice, and oranges cut into eighths for a vegetarian dinner. I will post a decent vegetarian black bean dish one of these days. This also took much longer to write than it does to prepare.

Variation #1: vaguely Asian: Use peanut or vegetable oil. Instead of salt, use about a teaspoon or more of Bragg's Aminos. This is an odd soy product that claims to be gluten free. In large bottles, it has both kosher certification and a New Testament reference on the label. It also comes in small spray bottles with a few ounces which seem to last long enough. It is basically a soy sauce substitute, but it is delicious, and tastes to me like a vegetarian version of Southeast Asian style fish sauce, and is great with sauteed greens of all kinds. (Try it with bok choy or napa as well as the kaley collardy ones in the recipe above.) One day I am going to try using it to make a vegetarian version of Vietnamese sweet fish sauce.

Variation #2: vaguely Mexican: Follow the original recipe, but add a small chopped onion, salt lightly, and cook until soft but not brown. Then add the garlic, cook briefly and add the greens. When the greens are nearly done to your liking, add a half to a whole diced, seeded pickled jalapeno pepper, the kind available (whole) in jars and cans and in Spanish as jalapenos en escabeche. Add more or leave the seeds in if you want it really hot. Then finish it off with a half to a full teaspoon of the pickled chili juice just before you turn off the heat. Pickled chili juice is an under appreciated culinary treasure, essential to a good salsa Veracruzana, and it makes a great addition to many sauteed dishes and salads. You might try a similar seasoning with sauteed green beans. If the jalapenos come in a can, transfer to a jar, and it will keep almost forever in your fridge.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blogging, the zone of privacy, and turnips

Linda Ellerbee once talked about "committing journalism" and the toll that it can take on the life of the writer, and especially on the people in their family. Not meaning to be grandiose here, but if it is the case for journalism, it certainly applies to blogging all the more. How to protect the privacy of the people for whom you cook and with whom you eat, when it is integral to the story you have to tell? So I decided to stop worrying about it.

Amy is on a very low carb diet (not Atkins) and as we were about to sit down on Wednesday to a dinner of salad, sauteed broccoli (from the CSA), roasted baby potatoes for Harry and me (also from the CSA) and take-out roasted chicken, she said, "You know, we really have to eat more vegetable dishes with dinner." So, we had to come up with something fast. We had picked up a load of veggies that afternoon, but one of the great unreported problems with CSAs is that washing their vegetables can become a part-time job. Supposedly, in India, dirt on produce is seen as a sign that food is farm-fresh. Regardless, it makes it hard to get another dish on the table quickly. Anyway, we had some lovely young turnips with their greens which were not too gritty. My general preference would have been to steam them together and serve simply with butter, but this is no longer something we do with chicken. Besides, Amy finds this boring in the extreme. So here is what we had, adapted from a recipe of Madhur Jaffrey's for cooking radishes:

Indian-style turnips and greens:
  1. Clean and trim turnips, cut in large dice and save the greens.
  2. Heat about 2 teaspoons oil on medium heat in a skillet. (I used light sesame oil)
  3. Add 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds, turn heat to low, and let them pop.
  4. Fry, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, clean the greens well by soaking and swishing in a change or two of water.
  6. Shred the greens coarsely.
  7. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic, and if you want, a sliced hot green chili to the turnips.
  8. Stir a bit, and then add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, salt to taste. Stir a bit more.
  9. Add the greens, stir around, and the cover and cook until both greens and turnips are tender. The whole process should take between 10 and fifteen minutes, though it will vary greatly with the age of the turnips, the size of the pieces, and the type of pan you use.
  10. Sprinkle with garam masala if you want (I didn't) and serve.

This only works with tender young turnips with their greens. The turnips should be no larger than golf balls and not have developed thick skins yet. Amy's reaction:"It's not my favorite, but not too bad."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What to do with leftover Armico-- Soup!

I am just getting the hang of this blog thing. Rather than edit the old posts with variations, etc, you are supposed to add a new post. Duh.

Anyway, after Kol Nidre we had one chicken leg and thigh and a LOT of vegetables/sauce left. There wasn't enough for dinner for more than one, so we made a soup, and it was great and very easy. Here is how:
  1. Degrease the leftovers to the extent that you can.
  2. Scrape all the vegetables, sauce and jellied juices into a pot.
  3. Add an equal amount of water and bring to the boil. Salt well (but taste!). Simmer about 10 minutes.
  4. Skin bone and shred whatever chicken is left and simmer about 5 minutes more to warm through. Taste for salt again.
  5. That's it, and you won't believe how good it is.

If no one in the house is low-carbing it, you can add a small handful of ditalini pasta or arborio rice. It will make it a lot thicker and more substantial.