jan-15-2009-005

It goes without saying that greens are a nutritional powerhouse. Kale, spinach, chard, collards, turnip, mustard – they’re all a wonderful addition to a nourishing diet.

It wasn’t until almost three years ago that I discovered cooking greens. I was pregnant for the first time and my midwives kept talking about eating lots of greens, “and not just spinach.” So I brought some kale home for the first time, with no idea what to do with it. I sauteed it with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and it was alright, for kale. I figured it would be bitter no matter how it was prepared, and I just had to eat it without enjoyment. So I did. I also figured out that you can put greens in just about any soup, casserole or stir fry with great results – you don’t even know they’re there.

When I was low in iron during this last pregnancy, and needing to eat greens a couple of times a day, it was time to find a way to eat them – and enjoy them – in large portions, all on their own. Then I discovered a side dish at a local restaurant – southern style braised greens. I ordered them, thinking it would be wise to choose those over a potato dish. I figured I would choke them down and get my serving for the day. Boy was I wrong!

I could turn this dish into a meal all in itself. I don’t know if it is simply because I need iron, or because they are so delicious, but this is the best way to eat your greens. Most of the bitterness of the greens melts away into a smokey, peppery flavor which is accentuated by the smoky bacon and tang of vinegar. Onions and garlic add depth, and of course great flavor. I like to make a single or double batch of these one night, eat them alone the next day for lunch and as a side dish the following night. They are best the day you make them and for a couple of days beyond that.

If you don’t think you like greens, try these – I think you’ll like them.

Southern Style Braised Greens

Recipe notes:

  • When I don’t have a lot of time for vegetable trimming, I like to purchase a bag of mixed greens already trimmed. This particular bag was an organic variety from Trader Joe’s containing mustard, turnip and collard greens.
  • I like to add the red pepper flakes last to impart sporadic bits of heat. If you prefer greens that are spicy throughout, simply add them with the garlic.

Ingredients

3 strips of bacon, chopped (turkey or pork)
1 large onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb. trimmed mixed greens (approximately two bunches)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

In a large soup pot, fry the bacon over medium heat until it has rendered it’s fat and is crispy. Add the onions and cook in the bacon grease with a pinch of salt until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about two minutes. Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan. Deglazing means to bring the chicken stock to a slow boil and scrape up all of the browned bits off of the bottom. This infuses the stock with great flavor from the bacon, onions and garlic.

Add the greens with a good pinch of salt and cook until they have wilted down enough to be able to stir easily. You may have to work in batches. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and allow to simmer for at least thirty minutes, or up to two hours. Shortly before serving, stir in vinegar and red pepper flakes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Best when served warm, not piping hot. The flavors are lost a bit when just off the stove.

jan-6-2009-036

Growing up I ate a lot of condensed tomato soup and grilled cheese. To this day it is such a comfort food to me. My mom always made it with a combination of milk and water and I love the creamy counterpart to the acidity of the tomatoes. What I didn’t realize was how much sugar was in there.

Most tomato soup recipes I have found call for sugar. I just can’t bring myself to put sugar into a warm pot of soup. That being said, my taste buds distinctly remember the sweetness found in that old bowl of comfort. My solution: balsamic vinegar. Yes, it’s acidic, but also sweet. The result is not the tomato soup you grew up on, but perhaps a more sophisticated and definitely more nourishing version. It is also really simple to make and easy on the budget. And it’s still ultra comforting.

Tomato Soup with Balsamic Vinegar

Recipe notes: I stir creme fraiche into individual bowls for the creamy flavor. You could easily substitute a bit of cream, preferably raw of course :).

Ingredients

6 cups water
2 – 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper to taste
5 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
creme fraiche, sour cream or cream for serving

Directions

In a medium sauce pan bring water to a simmer. Whisk tomato paste in until smooth. Turn heat to medium-low. Season with salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your taste.

To serve, fill bowls and add a tablespoon of creme fraiche, sour cream or cream and stir through. Enjoy while piping hot.