Thursday, June 7

Recipe of the Week

Since it's still early in the growing season, my local farmer's market has tons of greens for sale, I thought I'd post about what I do with them. This week's recipe is so incredibly simple--once you know how to do it--that I feel embarrassed putting it up. But I have to admit that in spite of cooking at least one meal a week for the last 30 years, I didn't braise greens until about 3 years ago, when a Mark Bittman cookbook game me the courage to experiment.

Here's the approximate recipe I started with:
Braised Kale

4 slices of bacon
1 bunch kale
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

In a pan with a tight-fitting cover, cook the bacon. Remove and crumble, leaving the grease in the pan.

Wash kale leave and tear into something like 2"x2" squares, removing the center vein.

Put the greens in the pot with the bacon grease. Put over low-medium heat with the lid on. After a minute or two, the greens should have shrunk some and become bright green. Stir them so every piece gets some of the bacon fat on them. Add the apple cider. Steam the greens until they are all bright and shiny and green and the cider is mostly gone.

Put a portion on a plate and sprinkle with bacon crumbles.

One of my mom's meta-recipe lessons was: "when you mix an oil and a vinegar you have a dressing." So obviously this recipe is actually braised kale in a bacon-cider vinaigrette. Which are wonderful flavors together. But while it introduced me to greens, I found myself stuck on two points. Would it work with those other greens I saw at the store? Which parts of the recipe were actually about braising?

The answer to question 1 is that braising works with all greens, including kale, collard, mustard, spinach and the leaves that come on your radishes and beets. In fact, if you run across a really "meaty" salad mix that's a little bitter, try braising it. Braising is just an application of moist heat and it seems to change all kinds of greens in wonderful ways.

The answer to question 2 is that the cider provides moistness, but isn't necessary. And as I said above, it makes a great dressing with the bacon. But totally not necessary. I have a friend who for breakfast fries an egg, removes it from the pan, throws a couple of hands-full of greens into the same pan, braises them a bit, and then serves them up with dressing.

Related to that, you don't even need the pan with the tight-fitting lid. As long as the pan you're using is already warm when the greens go in, and there's some moisture to work with, and you can remove the greens from heat in something like 5 minutes, you can cook 'em in just about anything. Lately, I've been tossing them on a cast-iron skillet as I'm making breakfast.

Once you get the hang of braising greens, they can become a component in other meals. I have a recipe from Lynne Rossetto Kasper that is basically browned hamburger and onions mixed with braised greens. Crescent Dragonwagon calls for braised greens in her Mexican style casseroles... you put them on top of the potatoes and salsa and under the tortillas and cheese.



Biby Cletus said...

Cool blog, i just randomly surfed in, but it sure was worth my time, will be back

Deep Regards from the other side of the Moon

Biby Cletus

monkey said...

this seems like an odd question... or perhaps a "stupid" one.

but why does one braise greens?

Anne said...

Why? It's a method of cooking. Why cook anything? To modify the flavor and make it easier to eat. Braising is less of a sledgehammer than say... boiling. Of course if you like boiled spinach, then there's no need to try out other techniques.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.