Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Andrea Chesman: Cooking Winter Greens

It’s the beginning of March, and the snow has finally arrived here in Vermont, where the western slopes of the Green Mountains have been sorely deprived of our usual white blanket. The wacky weather has brought our early maple sugaring to a halt but promises some much-delayed cross-country skiing. Still, the body knows what it knows. And right now I am craving greens.

Collard greens

The further along we get from the growing season, the more greens I crave. I know I’m not the only one. Last week I cooked winter greens for a very receptive audience at the Rhode Island Flower Show. (Oh! Those masses of tulips…) The recipes that follow are the greens I prepared for the flower show. I cooked kale at the show mainly because kale is my favorite vegetable, but today I made those same recipes using collard greens and bok choy. The recipes work with any hearty green.

Bok choy

Every time I demo making winter greens, I get a comment from someone who says the greens never become tender. At first the comment mystified me; then I realized the problem was that the stems were not being stripped away. You must hold the stem in one hand and strip away the leaves with the other hand. Chop the leaves, and discard the stems. (Or mince them and add to soups.) But don’t try to cook kale or collard greens quickly when they are still attached to those tough stems.

The Chinese-style greens are steamed for just 5 minutes, then drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil. Lately, I have also been adding a drizzle of Chinese black vinegar. This rich vinegar is to Chinese cooking as balsamic vinegar is to Italian cooking — a bold flavor accent. Vinegar is often paired with greens because it cuts through bitter flavors. The greens can be served hot or at room temperature.

Ingredients for Chinese-style steamed greens

Steamed Chinese Greens
Serves 4

It doesn’t get any simpler than this, and this way of preparing greens is simply perfect. It is terrific with kale, especially lacinato kale, and most Chinese greens, including baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, and Chinese or napa cabbage. It is also an excellent method for preparing regular broccoli and broccoli rabe.
1 1/2 to 2 pounds greens, tough stems discarded
Soy sauce
Asian sesame sauce
  1. Fill a saucepan with a couple of inches of water, and bring to a boil. Put the greens in a steaming basket and steam until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Arrange the greens on a platter. Drizzle generously with soy sauce and sparingly with sesame oil.
  3. Serve hot.

Kitchen Notes: For an extremely simple meal, steam cubed silken tofu and place over the greens before drizzling with soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve over rice.

From Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman © 2010
All rights reserved

Portuguese Kale Soup
Serves 4 as a main dish

Chopped kale

Caldo verde (“green soup”) is considered one of the national dishes of Portugal. I like it best when it is kept simple, made with homemade chicken stock, potatoes, sausage, and kale. The only seasoning needed is salt and pepper.
1/2 pound linguiรงa or chorizo sausage (or any garlicky smoked sausage), sliced
8 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
3 to 4 medium-size potatoes (1 pound), peeled and diced
12 ounces kale, stems discarded and leaves chopped (8 cups lightly packed)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine the sausage and stock in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer while you prepare the potatoes.
  2. Combine the potatoes with water to cover in a medium-size saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, and briefly mash with a potato masher for an uneven, lumpy texture. Add to the chicken stock along with the kale.
  3. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the kale is quite tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve hot.

From Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman © 2008
All rights reserved

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1 comment:

commonweeder said...

This is a fabulous cookbook! I have been using it for the last few months - and it starred at a Food Fest last August at our church. Practical and Inspiring. Oh, and delicious!