Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bitter greens

My go-to solution for unknown or problematic greens is to sauté them with bacon. This works for absolutely everything. Alas, we were out of bacon the other day, when I discovered (in the middle of making dinner) that our "perpetual spinach" had gotten bitter.

"Perpetual spinach" is actually a variety of chard that's supposed to taste like spinach but doesn't. Other than that, it's a pretty good green for the summer months.  The flavor and texture are milder than most chards, but it holds its color and body nicely in a quick sauté or on a pizza. You can eat it raw, though when doing so I like to rip it into small pieces, toss it in some oil and acid, and let it wilt for twenty minutes before serving. It handles warm weather without bolting or going bitter. Until now. 

Lacking bacon, I turned to Mark Bittman's "Leafy Greens," a cookbook I found at our local independent bookstore (Pegasus on Solano) just as I was complaining that all the "Recipes from your Garden" cookbooks were full of recipes that called for a tablespoon of chopped herbs, or a few tomatoes. Where, I asked, are the cookbooks full of ways to use up all the goddamn kale? 

"Leafy Greens" is that book. It's full of ways to make big bunches of greens taste really, really good. Not by hiding them in spaghetti sauce, but by knowing what techniques and flavors work best with each kind of green. Even the bitter ones and the spicy ones that I usually avoid. 

Since Bittman didn't actually have a category for "Chard that didn't get enough water and turned bitter because you're a bad, bad gardener," I skimmed through the recipes for other bitter greens and went with "Broccoli Raab with Sausage and Grapes." Kind of.

   chard instead of broccoli raab
   lamb-pork-arugula sausages instead of "fresh, garlicky sausages"
   peaches (cut up) instead of grapes

I ignored his cooking directions, and just sautéed the sausages until they were close to done, tossed in the washed, raw greens, stirred them around, put a lid  on the pan and let them steam a few minutes until they were tender, then tossed in the peaches, gave everything a quick stir, and sprinkled some pine nuts on top. 

It was really, really good.