The crisper overfloweth

I understand we’ve received three weeks in a row of certain vegetables.  Some of them (maybe collards?) are things with strong smells or unfamiliar flavors.  Others are just coming in volume, week after week.  This passes, as the summer heat causes things to bolt, mature, and wither, and so we just learn to love them in their season — too soon they will be gone.

This week, I’m going to cheat a bit and direct you to a college friend’s farm blog in Virginia.  Lisa of Frog Bottom Farm has a great rundown on collards, and I challenge you to try a couple of her ideas.  I think the turnip greens, and probably the mustard, would substitute well for all but the longest cooking methods.

I’m going to cheat again by directing you to a Mark Bittman article on slaw salads in the New York Times from 2011.  The recipe of interest for what is probably building up in your fridge is the Kohlrabi-Sesame Slaw, but as we head towards summer we should also see Asian radishes, lots of choy-type cabbages, and a few beets that overwintered and are growing again.  A little chopping (OK, a lot) on delivery day and you have a side salad that only improves in flavor all week.

Another item you’re going to be inundated with, if you don’t use several stalks a day with your greens, is young garlic.  They’re basically the garlicky version of green onions — not as strong as garlic, but stronger than scallions.  Use them as a cross between the two, and you’re set for soups, sautees, stir-fries, and sauces.  Add them to your simple skillet greens, your omelets, your asparagus, and your pilafs / fried rices.  Replace the basil in pesto and you can use up a large amount of them all at once, and this can be frozen or keep in the fridge for many weeks.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I will repost a favored link on the blanching and freezing of greens (almost everything except lettuce).  Piles of mustard building up?  Spinach you can’t use this week?  They’ll keep in the freezer, and you can add them to soups or serve as pot greens (with ham and potatoes?) later in the summer without any loss of quality.

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Greens

Greens — There will be a lot of them for the next month or more.  Below is the recipe that I included in a recent Edible Wasatch article (page 47).

“Any CSA member can be easily overwhelmed by the spring greens.  Spinach, chard, a plethora of choys, lettuce, braising greens, arugula, overwintered kales. The bunches come fast and furious, and for many newcomers, they seem pretty foreign. They can all be handled the same way, with a bit of adjustment on cooking time based on how thick they are, and a simple approach is best to appreciate their fresh flavors.

Braise ’em — Braising greens requires a quick saute in oil followed by a short simmer in a small volume of water, wine, or broth. Wash and shred the greens, toss them in a skillet with hot oil for a minute or two, then add 1/2-1 cup of liquid and reduce heat. Stir occasionally, covered or uncovered, until tender. Serve immediately.

Blanch ’em — Drop the greens briefly (a minute for spinach, three for a sturdier bok choy) into boiling, salted water. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a sauce. Vinegar comple- ments bitter greens. A ground up mix of sesame seeds, sesame oil, and soy sauce compliments spinach and chard. Toasted pine nuts and a splash of balsamic gives it a Mediterranean flare.

Blast ’em — This is my go-to recipe for greens. Start browning a clove or three of garlic (sliced or crushed) and a minced shallot over medium heat in olive oil. Add chopped greens with a pinch of salt and pepper, turn up the heat and stir until al dente. Serve. Less than ten minutes, start to finish.

You’ll find that most spring greens can store for over a week in the crisper if you wrap them in paper towels and then loosely in a plastic bag. If they start to get a little too soft and wilty, throw them in a soup instead.”

And a little tip that didn’t make the article:  stronger or bitter greens can easily be tamed with a bit of oil, salt, and/or acid.  Kale, when rubbed liberally with oil and salt, makes a lovely raw salad (try with garlic, apples, avocado, and dates).  Collards and mustard greens benefit from a splash of vinegar, and even sweet chard improves with a squeeze of lemon.  But if in doubt, make soup.  I added a handful of chard, sliced into ribbons, to a chunky sweet potato soup last night (stems for about five minutes, leaves for the last minute).