Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cooking Green(s)

The collard greens in my garden are being eaten.

Unfortunately, the eaters weren't me or my hub.
Don't get smart - these are the caterpillars.  We are not one of those couples who look like each other

I know people eat collard greens and I have heard repeatedly from a close friend who grew up eating collard greens that they are the best. Yet I had several healthy collard plants out back which I had enjoyed just for their looks so far. I was intimidated by the idea of actually pulling the leaves off, cooking and then eating them.

Just recently in fact this friend was telling me about getting collard greens in her Greenling box. While she prepared them for her family it brought back memories of her own Momma fixing them decades ago, starting off with rinsing them in their washing machine - the only watertight receptacle large enough to hold the quantities it took to feed a family of six hungry greens eaters.

Then I did my routine check of  Homesick Texan's blog to discover her own salute to the joys of cooking and eating collard greens.Something snapped. Or maybe it clicked. The stars aligned, the wind blew from the correct direction, the barometric pressure hit the right number and I knew it was time for me to harvest some of my own collard plants before the crawly critters got them all.

Part of my hesitancy with regards to greens cooking was a lack of a clear understanding of how these leaves are supposed to be measured. I read "three bunches" or "three pounds" and I am stymied. I am not buying these from a store so how do I know what constitutes a proper "bunch"? I also don't routinely weigh the foods I cook (I don't weigh me after either and I feel we are all much happier that way). So how to proceed?

I did me a bit of a think on that and decided that people have been cooking and eating greens for centuries without measuring or weighing or formalized recipes and living to pass the habit on. I decided to read a few recipes, keep the common elements in mind, and go for it.
My trio - mustard, collard and mizuna greens.
Knowing that cooked greens lose most of their volume, I harvested three different greens types from the garden to give me what I hoped was sufficient quantity for 4 servings.

I checked into how to prepare the green leaves for cooking. All greens require careful rinsing to get the grit off. No matter where you get your leaves - store or garden - they are likely to need one or two thorough rinsings in a deep sink. They don't require a lot of drying off afterwards, they just need to be dry enough to handle/chop safely.Collards, I was told, are best prepped by taking out the central stem and then rolling and slicing the remaining leaves into ribbons. (Chiffonade.)I decided to apply the same technique to my two types of mustard greens as well. The mizuna isn't a large flat leaf so I simply rinsed and then pulled the green portions away from the stems. That might have been a bit of overkill but I figured to err on the side of uniformity of texture this go round.

Taking into account that mustard greens cook down faster than collard greens I figured to do the cooking in two stages so they'd all finish together.Every recipe I encountered (aside from the vegetarian ones) started with some sort of fatty salty pork, onion and garlic.The fat gets rendered out of the pork, the onion first and then the garlic get softened in that fat, water is added, greens are added, gentle cooking happens for varying amounts of time, seasonings are adjusted to taste and Bada-Bing Bada Boom you have you some greens to eat.So that is what I did. I gathered my greens - the collard leaves and two types of mustard greens.I prepped the leaves while the lardons (fancy schmancy term for bacon cut crosswise into little strips) were cooking.I threw the onions in first, after about 5-8 minutes I added the garlic, and a seeded jalapeño for a bit of zip, then I put in two cups of water.

Once that was at a gentle boil, I added the collards and cooked them covered for about 30 minutes. At that point I added the mustard leaves and cooked them covered at a gentle boil for an additional half hour or so.While the combined greens were taking their last half hour simmering together, I made savory cornbread (no big whoop I add dry sage/a smidgeon of dried thyme/pinch of sea salt to my batter), started a couple of chicken breasts in a Dijon mustard/dry sage marinade and heated up the grill.Just prior to serving the greens I added a bit of salt to taste, about 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar, and a ploosh of olive oil to the pot.It is the next day now and I am still stunned at how absolutely delicious the greens were. They had all sorts of layers of flavor. Salty, meaty, nutty, fresh green, a bit of zing from the vinegar and a sweetness that comes from how fresh they are I suppose. They were toothsome - yielding but not mushy - they were velvety - they were heavenly. I am a new convert - an instant fan, can you tell?

If I can throw this together and have it taste this amazing I am dead certain you can, too. Just get yourself some fresh locally grown greens, do your own investigating into legitimate recipes if you wish, haul out a nice large pot and get cooking! You will be wondering as I am now, what took you so long to discover this simple yet simply delicious way to enjoy this traditional Southern delicacy.

If it is not easy being green, it sure enough easy cooking greens. Give it a try and you can thank me later. And hey - if you do try cooking some greens on your own and like them - then let us know here in the comments section and share any tips you might have. Let's work together to see that more folks have their greens and eat them too!


PassivePastry said...

you and your "large pot" recipes.

i had collard greens once in third or fourth grade and remember them distinctly. a gal brought them in for the class. i loved them and forced my mom to make me some. i think they are something i will only eat when they are made for me. like tomato soup. and anything with nuts.

can i name your caterpillars?
Collin and Greta. (Collard greens? no? yes.)

TexasDeb said...

You could probably fix this in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan. I just used a stock pot to get more surface area which speeds up getting the fat rendered, etc.

Collin and Greta it is.

Tiffany said...

I never ate collard greens or kale or anything of that sort until I had two roommates who were vegan. They ate greens frequently because they are so good for you. Of course, we didn't put any bacon into them in the vegan household, but they would still turn out delicious. Frequently my roommate would do a sort of Asian spin on them-- using some fresh ginger, fresh garlic, and soy sauce to cook them in (in addition to some water or vegetable stock).