Tag Archives: greens

New Leaf

Hi there. It’s been a while, but I’m back. I’m not here to scatter handfuls from my bushel of excuses on lack of posting over the past month–that’s so 2005. Instead, I’ve got more posts that involve acutal cooking and pretty pictures of food. About time, right?

I’ve recently partnered with a certain Ian to get into some healthier habits. I haven’t been very interested in cooking lately, and I feel like everthing I eat comes out of a crackly plastic bag. Sloppy nutrition makes me tired and I don’t want to cook when I’m tired, so I end up in a not-too-pleasant cycle. So in order to feel better, and feel better about myself, I’m going to concentrate on cooking healthy foods more often.  I’m a bit of an amateur nutrition buff, so I’ll be writing about the health benefits of the things I cook. Dessert lovers, don’t worry–this isn’t going to become a shame-dispensing health site. I promise only to share the most delicious recipes and ingredients, including plenty of cookies, jam, custard, and ice cream.

That said, I’m turning over a new leaf–literally (you knew that joke was coming). This bundle of joy is Red Russian Kale, one of my favorite leafy greens. It’s much milder than other kales, and one of the prettiest brassicas around. When it’s young like this bunch, you barely need to cook it at all, and it could even serve as a salad green once de-stemmed, or shredded in a delicate slaw. The leaves are so tender I couldn’t stop myself from taking a bite of one on the way home, even though I prefer them sauteed. I cooked this kale the way I cook most leafy greens. Just a quick stir fry with some oil (about 2 Tbs) and a minced clove of garlic, and it’s ready to go. I chop everything up, heat the oil on high, toss in the stems, stir about 2 minutes, add the leaves, stir for 2 minutes, add the garlic, & stir 2 more minutes.

Everyone knows that the dark green leafies contain lots of iron, calcium, manganese and vitamins A, C , and K. But did you know that they fight cancer and aid brain function? Dark brassicas are commonly used as a liver detoxifier; high fiber content means they cleanse the colon as well. That brings to mind their high sulfur content (it’s why they smell a bit like an unlit match as you cook them), a clever inclusion gives them slight antimicrobial properties.

But forget about all that for a minute, and listen when I tell you that they are delicious. Cooked in a little oil, with some garlic and maybe a bit of red pepper, these greens are soft, rich, fresh, and nourishing. I don’t salt them because their mineral content makes them taste salty enough. And you know, for health. These might be just the thing to wean me off of my Peanut m&m habit. So here’s to the new me, the new you, and the new crop of kale. Consider this new leaf flipped.

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Filed under dinner, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables

Bean and Green Tacos

Only rarely do I let a day go by without planning my meals. I can’t even remember the last time it happened, really. I wake up and think about what I’ll have for breakfast, then what kind of lunch supplements that, and what kind of dinner I’ll have ingredients and time for. Some days start out with a grand plan that turns out even grander in its realization, and on those rare shining days, I feel like I have this life thing figured out.

Most days start with a grand plan that I whittle down to essentials over the course of the day, and maybe instead of the crackly-skinned roast chicken, kale soufflés, and plum clafoutis dinner I’d imagined, I’ll just braise one piece of chicken with some kale and garlic and eat a fresh plum for dessert. But some days, more often than I’d like, I get home too late and too tired to really cook, but hungry. I have such an effective mental block against ordering delivery food that I always fix my meals at home. So even though all I want to do is watch one of my neglected Netflix dvds while dinner miraculously appears, I end up digging through the cupboards and refrigerator for a leftover pita, some wilted chives, cheese, and whatever else needs to be used up. Fortunately, I’ve taken to preparing some quick dinner staples ahead of time so my future self won’t look so pathetic trying to make a pita-za with floppy herbs and a nub of old brie (not that I’ve ever done that).

Today was a perfect example of that tired but hungry but too stubborn to order takeout quick meal. I got in at 6:30 after walking around all day (in heels – what was I thinking?) I needed to start dinner pretty much immediately as I’d long since burned through my hearty breakfast, and I was too tired to shop for the elaborate meal I’d been planning all day. So I put on some Dexy’s Midnight Runners for energy, opened the refrigerator and took out the leftover black beans, sautéed greens, corn tortillas, and salsa, and made some bean & green tacos. Because I’d prepared all of the components a few days ago, I had a nice warm dinner ready in about 10 minutes, which is as close to miraculous as it gets.

They’re vegan and full of vegetables, which makes me feel virtuous after a breakfast of bacon-laced migas, and they’re tasty enough to qualify for a grand-plan dinner sometime. Now if you’ll excuse me, that Netflix isn’t going to watch itself.

Bean & Green Tacos (makes 2, serves 1, easily multiplied)

  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 6 Tbs black beans (see recipe below)
  • 4 Tbs sautéed greens (see recipe below)
  • 2 Tbs salsa (I used peach & tomato salsa from a jar)

Heat a small skillet on high. When hot, add 1 tsp olive oil and swirl to distribute. Place a tortilla in the skillet and cook without moving until slightly puffed, about 2 minutes. Turn over and spread half with 3 Tbs black beans, 2 Tbs greens, and 1 Tbs salsa. Cook 2 minutes, remove to plate and fold the bare half over the filling. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Eat carefully.

Black Bean Filling

  • 1/2 pound dry black beans
  • water
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lime’s juice
  • salt to taste

Put the beans in a pot, cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, cook 1 minute, then turn off heat and soak 1 hour. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch, then return to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 1-2 more hours. In another pot, heat olive oil on medium, add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned. Add cumin and garlic and cook about 2 minutes. Stir in black beans and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro and lime juice and salt to taste. Makes about 4 cups of beans, can be made ahead, keeps about 1 week.

Sautéed Greens with Garlic

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 4 cups lightly packed washed greens (I used a mixture of mustard, dandelion, and collard)
  • 1/4 cup water

Heat the oil on low, add garlic and red pepper and cook gently a few minutes, just until garlic starts turning transparent. Turn heat to medium, sprinkle garlic with a little salt and begin stirring in greens a handful at a time. The heat will wilt the greens and make room for each addition. When all the greens are added, pour in the water, cover the pot, and let steam for 3 minutes, then turn off the heat.

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Filed under Main Dish, Recipe, Vegetables

Practice for Breakfast

sun on egg

I think of daily utility cooking — making food because I need to eat — as practice. Not that I’m consciously testing a recipe idea, nor am I trying to make my food good enough to serve to other people. I’m cooking to keep limber, to maintain my familiarity with food, my kitchen, my hands. Familiarity leads to facility, so once I’m comfortable with a technique or ingredient, I can see more of its possibilities and that makes me want to experiment.

green grits gritcakes, greens, and egg

Last week at the greenmarket, I bought some eggs, cheese, and arugula. Since then, I’ve been making variations on the same dish using my fresh produce and some grits from the pantry. I like seeing how each subtle change stretches the limits of the ingredients and my own limits as a cook. And more importantly, I like a good breakfast. After five or so mornings of experimentation (involving different cheeses, greens, herbs, and grits-cooking methods), I’ve worked out what I like best and the easiest way to make it. This grits and greens breakfast has evolved into something of a whole; a dish, though still flexible, with a point of view. The gritcakes have crisp edges and a creamy interior, and their heat melts the cheese and wilts the greens, the layers blending with each swipe of a fork. It’s the kind of breakfast that gives me energy for the rest of the day but doesn’t make me need a nap. It’s so easy and good that it encourages me to wake up the next morning and make it again, maybe with a few changes.

gritcakes and greens

Gritcakes and Greens

  • Grits, prepared, chilled, and sliced 1/2-inch thick, 2 or 3 slices per person. (I used 1/2c quick grits, cooked according to package directions. Once cooled a bit, but still fluid, I poured them into an ungreased rectangular container and refrigerated them overnight. As the grits cool, they pull away from the sides of the container, making it easy to turn the resulting brick out onto a cutting board with a light tap. This makes 8 slices.)
  • Two handfuls of greens, washed, torn, and in a bowl. (I used arugula, but any spicy salad green with a bit of body would work.)
  • About 1 oz cheese, thinly sliced, laid on top of the greens. (I like a nice sharp cheddar. How to determine an ounce of cheese? Imagine [but do not use] a pre-wrapped Kraft single. That’s an ounce.)
  • 1 egg, optional. (There’s a complex logarithm at work here. If I’m cooking 3 gritcakes, I might not want an egg. If I’m cooking 2 gritcakes, I might want an egg. If I’m particularly hungry, I’ll cook 3 gritcakes and an egg. If I think of it before, I’ll hard-boil an egg to slice and add to the mix. If not, I fry the egg once the gritcakes are out of the pan. If I want to coat the greens and gritcakes with yolk, I’ll cook the egg over-easy, or if I’m feeling squeamish, I’ll break the yolk and flip the egg. If I wanted to go on, I could.)
  • Salt and pepper, as always, to taste

grit slices arugula and cheddar flip eggs

Heat a small non-stick pan on high, preferably near an open window, but not if you have a bird. Add the grits slices, and cook on high until crisp and lightly brown, 4 minutes each side. Slide the hot gritcakes into the bowl of greens and cheese. Frying an egg? Put the pan back on the burner, over medium heat, crack the egg into the pan and cook to your liking. Or have a hard-boiled egg sliced and ready to go. Slide the egg onto the gritcakes and season with salt and pepper.

That’s breakfast. Also works for lunch.

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Filed under Breakfast, Recipe