Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Going Green

Spring’s table is draped with a verdant cloth. It is the time of year when the foods I make are all green: asparagus, fiddleheads, artichokes, but there are all those leafy greens as well. If you don’t like the bitterness of broccoli rabe, I ask you if you have eaten them prior to the development of their yellow flowers? That is when they are the least bitter, most tender and require very little prep (no need to peel the stalk). Of course, young salad greens have pushed through the recently thawed earth and are just begging to be tossed around.

Realize that when cooking greens the adage a little goes a long way is flipped on its ear. When cooked they wilt down dramatically and a pound of spinach cluttering your countertop feeds two once it is cooked. If you are looking for leaves that will give you some mileage go for collard, mustard, kale, broccoli rabe as they hold their own a bit better then most when cooked.

Always wash greens very well in a few changes of cold water as their proximity to the earth makes them always sandy. And, I tend to remove the center rib from the greens before cooking, as it is the most fibrous part of the leaf. Hey, after long, cold, dark months living on frozen spinach and dried fruits I’ll deal with something sandy –

Wilted Greens with Coconut - yields 4 servings

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 pounds greens - such as spinach or Chinese broccoli washed well
1/8-cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4-cup soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a pan or wok, and add the oil. Cook the greens until just wilted (about 4 minutes) then toss with the coconut, soy sauce and pepper. Serve immediately.

Cork Screw Pasta with Sun.Dried Tomato and Greens - yields 6 servings

3 ounces sun.dried tomatoes - dry packed
2 garlic cloves – crushed to paste
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 pound fussili pasta - cooked and drained
1/4-cup olive oil
2 bunches spinach or arugula, young mustard greens - washed well
1/4-cup pine nuts (optional)
3 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a 1-1/2 sauce pan bring 2 cups of water to the boil, and then add the sun.dried tomatoes. Remove from the heat, and let the tomatoes soak for 20 minutes. Drain the tomatoes, but reserve the soaking liquid. Squeeze any excess water from the tomatoes back into the soaking liquid. Roughly chop the tomatoes and hold to the side. Return the sun. dried tomato soaking liquid to the boil, and reduce by half. Add the garlic and Balsamic vinegar, and continue to boil the liquid for until it is about 1-cup. Then whisk in the mustard over the high heat, and once fully incorporated remove from the heat.

Cook off the pasta and drain. Immediately in a bowl toss the pasta with the olive oil, spinach, chopped sun.dried tomato and pine nuts and pour the sauce over the pasta while the sauce is still hot. Toss and season with black pepper and salt. Serve this dish either hot or cold.

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