There's been so much going on, but I'm not quite ready to talk about it, so instead I'll share with you my Sunday lunch, something my husband Colin affectionately referred to as "that green horror."
Can we all agree that -- at least on the subject of vegetables -- he should be firmly ignored?
Please put your faith in me and recognize that while greens may not be something you crave with the frequency of, say, gelato or fried chicken, they're still worthy of your adoration. They've got vitamin A, and C! They've got iron and calcium. I could go on, mentioning things like phytochemicals and micronutrients, but if I haven't captured your interest with the photo I'm guessing the word phytochemical may not seal the deal.
Look, the truth is, I had a bagful of chard leftover from last week's soup.
And when I say a bagful, I mean it:
Ready? I'm about to make your life easier and more convenient. Follow along...
No one wants to open their fridge and see a bag of stemmy, soil-speckled, floppy leaves, especially if they're hungry. Greens require a bit of foreplay. So please, take a deep breath, give yourself about 8 minutes tops, and prep your greens as soon as you get home from the market.** I guarantee that the likelihood of your actually consuming them later in the week will increase 70-fold, because you'll have this very conversation with yourself:
Lord, there's that chard again. I can't believe I spent time on Sunday washing them, pulling the leaves off, and chopping the stems, and now it's Wednesday and they're still sitting there in that bag. If I don't actually eat them, that will have been a pathetic waste of time and I will be a loooooooser.
So do this:
1) Cut off the bottom sliver of the stems and discard;
2) Cut off the rest of the stems (set aside), then fold the leaves in half and remove the central ribs;
3) Chop the stems and ribs crosswise, like celery half-moons, and give them a good rinse;
4) Wrap them lovingly in a paper-towel bundle;
5) Stack the leaves on top of one another and roll them up like a cigar, then thinly slice them crosswise into a chiffonade;
6) Toss the now-ribbony greens into the water-filled bowl of a salad spinner, give them a nice swishy soak (or two, or three, depending on their filth); and
7) Spin them dry to within an inch of their life.
8) Place the leaves and the little packet of stems into a large ziploc with about 2 more paper towels to absorb any excess moisture and preserve their freshness. Squeeze out any air and zip shut.
There. Now you have greens that will stay fresh for at least a week, and all you'll have to do is find something to do with them. Like last week's soup, for example.
Or even (dare I suggest?) some garlicky greens atop a swollen mound of warm, buttery polenta.
**UPDATE 3/5/09: Please see the comments section for an important discussion of the nutrient value of pre-prepped greens. You should be aware that in an ideal world, you'd cut your greens immediately before consuming them to maximize their vitamins. If the PITA factor means you might not otherwise eat them, prep them first.
Recipe for Garlicky Currant-Flecked Greens over Polenta
For purposes of this recipe, I'm going to assume that you've followed my advice above and have a bag filled with cleaned, prepped greens at the ready. I used rainbow chard. Pair them with loads of garlic and a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes and sweet currants, then kiss with just a touch of vinegar. Serving over warm polenta turns these greens from health food to comfort food.
Serves 2, generously
3 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cleaned rainbow chard or other greens, stems chopped, leaves cut into ribbons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar (or any vinegar you have on hand, or lemon juice)
Pinch (or several) crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons dried currants
To make the polenta: Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. (Nonstick will aid clean-up enormously.) Slowly stream in the polenta, whisking all the while. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently (I used a nonstick whisk but you can use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon), until the water is absorbed and the polenta is nice and creamy, about 20 minutes. (You should aim for a very low heat with an intermittent sputter.)
Remove from heat and stir in the butter.
Meanwhile, cook the greens: Combine the oil and garlic in a large skillet and set over medium heat. Warm the garlic, stirring frequently, until fragrant and sizzling, but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped chard stems and a good pinch or two of salt and pepper, and continue sauteing for about 2 more minutes.
Now add 3 big handfuls of chard ribbons and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir with tongs, flipping the greens over and over until they're coated with the oil, garlic and water. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the greens are wilted and tender, but still bright. Remove the cover, raise the heat slightly, and cook out the remaining water, about 2 minutes longer.
Stir in the vinegar, red pepper, and currants.
Spoon the polenta into bowls. Top with greens.