Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Eating of the Green

To celebrate today, I wanted to create a new recipe that's beyond green. Sure, you're wearing green because it's St. Patrick's Day and that's what one does.  That's lovely, but even better is the green you wear inside.  I'm talking about the eating of the green -- green as in environmentally aware and green as in vegetable and green as in saving green.  This is what I wanted for you, friends, because that's the kind of girl I am.

The other kind of girl I am is cheap.  I have a horror of waste.  This is why I utilize as much as I can in the kitchen, recycling, composting, making soup stock from veggie bits like too-tough stems from the collard greens in my Obama victory garden (see above in all their green splendor).  While my broth puts to work the rich green flavor and nutrients from those woody stems, the waste-hating part of me wishes I could make a sweater from the stem bits or power my computer or at least make a meal of it.

Then I discovered this traditional Turkish recipe.  The Turks, like the Irish, are a fun and frugal people, disinclined to waste.  They make a version of hummus with the familiar trio of tahini, garlic and lemon, but replace chickpeas with Swiss chard stems.  The stems, fibrous to say the least, are simmered until they just give up, then pureed.  The traditional method probably involves using mortar and pestle to smash the greens to the sound of strumming baglamas (Turkey's most popular stringed musical instrument).  I used a food processor and blasted "Turkish Song of the Damned" by the Pogues (they're Irish, a St. Patrick's Day plus ).

I blitzed away, thrilled with the prospect of a nutritionally rich dish that employs every bit of veggie goodness.  However, here's what the recipe did not mention -- hair.  Not real hair, but the little fibrous bits of stem even Cuisinarting can't cure. There's probably some sort of stem cell pun a clever person could make right here.  Go ahead and insert it.  

Okay, okay, there's a razor thin line between frugality and kookiness and perhaps I crossed it. I may go back to the drawing board on this stemmy hummus business because I love green as much as I hate waste.  However, as it stands, the traditional recipe, even with technology and the Pogues on my side, is not a keeper.  

On my best days, I believe understanding the vital connection between what we eat and where it comes from can change the world.  Other days, I think I'm nuts.  I do not have the new green recipe I'd hoped for.  I have an old one adapted from our friends the Italians, because it's green, it's tried and true and who doesn't love bruschetta?  

Irish, Turkish, Italian --  is this post global or what?  It is also green, because greens are our one-stop shopping source of nutrition -- they're rich in iron, potassium, fiber and vitamins A, C and K. They're detox at its most natural and adorably edible.  

Wishing one and all a joyous and green St. Patrick's Day.  To get the full Pogues experience, here they are doing "Turkish Song of the Damned" live albeit many years ago, when Shane McGowan had more hair and teeth and hadn't been kicked out of the boozing band for drinking too much --

Tuscan Kale Bruschetta
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale (roughly 8 ounces)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
6 slices thick whole grain bread
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

optional but very nice:
2 teaspoons butter
1 egg

Rinse greens and pat dry.  Slice the tender leaves from the tough, woody stems.  Save stems for the amazing stem recipe I will soon perfect.  In the meantime, chop leaves into bite-sized strips.

In a large pot with high sides, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat or until oil shimmers.  Add minced garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and fragrant.  Throw in the chopped kale.   Stir for a minute or two until kale starts to wild.  Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.  Squeeze in the juice of one lemon.  Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oven to 375.  Brush bread with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and bake for 7 minutes, until toasty and just slightly crisp.  

Here's where the egg option comes in.  In a small omelet pan, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Crack in the egg and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.  Do not flip.   

Remove toasts from oven and place on platter.  Mound kale atop toast slices and slide optional fried egg atop all. Top with grated cheese and an additional sprinkling of salt and pepper. The idea is to cut into the egg and let the golden gooey yolk run over everything.  It is great for the spirits and senses.  This is no dainty canape, it's a gutsy knife and fork affair.  Dig in.  Have fun. Buon appetito, slainte, and whatever it is the Turks say.

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