Cooking greens-2nd September 2022

Takes up half the table…

Good grief!! This year is racing past!

I am writing today’s post because, for a large portion of my life, I had no idea how to cook the vegetables pictured in the first photo today. Learning is one of the most precious things in my life and I hope to never stop learning so, just in case you are in the place that I found myself, this is how I do it.

This is (mostly) chard. There are 5 leaves and stalks of chard on top and three leaves and stalks of perpetual beet leaf on the bottom. I left the pencil in the picture to offer some idea of scale for these monsters. As it turned out, I only needed the chard to go with our dinner for two people. So, on to what to do next.

The Ikea Skillet is pressed into service again

Here’s my trusty Ikea Stainless Steel skillet. See post for why I rate this skillet. Again with the pencil for scale- it’s fairly large and has a lid that fits.

First I wash the leaves well but I don’t try and dry them as the water that clings to the leaves is the only added water in this way of cooking them. I trim off the ragged ends of the stalks if they still look a bit like I wouldn’t enjoy eating them and then slice the stalks crossways and put in the skillet. Add two large cloves of garlic, roughly diced, a knob of butter and a glug of olive oil. Add a good grind of salt to this at this point. I scoot the oil and garlic over into the middle and distribute the stalks evenly around the pan.

Surely, you are kidding me?? Chard for two???? It does look like a lot. Here’s the chard chopped up (roll the leaves together into a long cigar shape and then cut crossways to shred them all at the same time).

And here is all the chard in the pan on top of the cut up stalks and the garlic, butter and olive oil. Pop the lid on and cook over a low heat (3 out of 9 on my cooker) for about 10 minutes or so. Check they are not getting done too quickly or drying out and give them a bit of a stir in the middle of cooking.

And this is what it cooks down into when it is done. They should still be quite moist but not dripping wet. Gently cook off some of the water with the lid off if necessary.

If you think you don’t like greens of any sort, I urge you to try them this way. I really don’t think greens and water make very happy bedfellows at times. I am learning though, thanks to “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” by Samin Nosrat, that veg such as cabbage cooks well in boiling water for a very short time IF enough salt has been added to the water. It doesn’t make it overly salty. Promise!

So, what became of the three bits of leaf beet? I didn’t want to waste them (although the garden is FULL of the stuff) so I prepared them as above and then put them in a container to put in the fridge when they had cooled enough. This morning I spooned the cooked and cooled veg into my trusty silicone muffin moulds (see ) pressing them down well to exclude air pockets and make them stick together well when frozen and then put them into the freezer to go solid. I will pop them out of the moulds tomorrow and store the frozen green “hockey pucks” in a marked container in the fridge. I will use them in homemade curry as the bitter greens offset the red curry sauce well and add a different note that is welcome. I just add them in the last 20 minutes or so of cooking the curry at the lid off stage. They could be added to any dish that needs a little bitter lift and green colour, stew, soup, etc….

I know this is one of those vegetables that rarely makes it to the supermarket or grocery store whole these days. It would be a nightmare for producers to package and transport and freshness is essential. We do see it already chopped up, who knows how many days old and in the obligatory plastic pillow but it rarely fails to disappoint as a vegetable when it is bought in this way. If you have a garden, I hope you will find a spot to grow some of this type of green. There are SO many different varieties to choose from, they are just so easy to grow and they keep well in the garden for a good bit of time. I consider them to be one of the more valuable vegetables I grow as they are not available to buy so fresh as they are from my garden. BUT, even the prepackaged stuff will taste better cooked as described above.

My husband calls them the “cream tea” of vegetables as they are so good that each mouthful elicits an involuntary “mmmm…” just like scones, cream and jam. But, different, of course!

Do let me know how you get on?

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