Friday, April 03, 2009

Bitter cravings

It is a gray and rainy day but I have this in my belly:

Bitter Breakfast of Champions. Or Breakfast of Bitter Champions?

I've been craving bitter flavors lately--I've made an eaten 4 batches of slow cooked greens this week (collards, turnip greens, kale and even some escarole). Big batches. And Brian has only consumed one serving. I've wanted hoppy beer and strong black coffee. So for breakfast today I made some cheese grits, topped them with a large mound of re-heated leftover greens and made a cup of black coffee (I'm holding off on the beer. For now.)

God it was good. And eating a bowl of bitterness has put me in a good mood so I am actually sweeter (temperament wise) than usual.

I'm not sure if this is some nutritional cry from my body or just a phase I'm going through but the good thing is that bitter flavor cravings are pretty cheap to satisfy. Vast quantities of collard, mustard and turnip greens can be had for very little money. Kale is only slightly more expensive. And escarole's price depends on where you shop--if it is thought of as an exotic produce item for yuppies in a market where the cashiers know what it is, then it is likely to be a little pricey. But if it is unlabeled, crammed into a far corner of the grocery store, and it stumps the cashiers, then it is usually pretty cheap.

Here's my master recipe for greens:

  • either 1 T of olive oil or 1/2 slice of bacon, diced into small pieces
  • one big fat garlic clove, cut into slices
  • a shake of red hot pepper flakes
  • a sprinkle of salt and grind of pepper
  • two (or more!) big bunches of greens, stemmed and cleaned (no need to dry them) and cut into reasonable sized pieces
  • hot pepper sauce
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Get all of the above prepped and then in a big pot heat your oil or fry up your 1/2 slice of bacon. Toss in the garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and let sizzle for a little bit. Dump in your vast quantity of greens and give them a good stir. You might want to add a little water to the pot (depending on how wet your greens were). Slam on the lid and turn down the heat. If you are using relatively quick cooking greens like kale or escarole then you can come back in about 10 minutes and the greens will be ready for the lemon juice and/or hot pepper sauce. If you are using slower cooking greens (collards in particular) be patient. Go back and add a little more water. Set them on super low heat and let them soften up. Ignore them for an hour (just make sure the pot doesn't dry out because burning collards smell nasty). Then go back and add lemon juice, hot pepper sauce and additional salt and pepper to your taste.

The best thing about using collards is that the leftovers look about the same as freshly made (in other words, kinda ugly) so you can make a jumbo batch. Kale usually looks pretty when it is freshly made and then gets a little disturbing looking after exposure to lemon juice (yellowy-browny edges). It still tastes just fine but leaves a little to be desired in the aesthetics department. Then again, greens are not exactly a pretty-party food so who the hell cares.


Cynthia said...

You need to know that we have the same granite countertops....and I love greens. Can't wait for Lent to be over so I can eat some with a ham hock in it. Longest Lent of my life...NO MEAT.

Unknown said...

Lordy! I could have sworn you were in the Deep South, but you are Way North. But it's true -- bitter greens cooked to death is an early spring ritual. Try some basalmic vinegar on them, if gentrification is desired. And pair them with some cornbread that has been crumbled into a glass of buttermilk, if you want the Real Experience.

Wild Peach said...

If you're craving bitter, try dandelion greens. My Nonna blanched them in boiling water for two minutes, squeezed them dry and then sauted them with olive oil, garlic and seasoned with kosher salt. Sometimes I like to omit the salt and saute them with anchovies!

If you pick the greens yourself (like we used to) it is best to pick them from a field that you know hasn't been sprayed and pick them before the flower buds appear.

Kate said...

Oh man, that sounds good! I always forget the kick that anchovies give, but I bet they'd be fantastic with greens!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mom, greens without ham hock just aren't greens.

Wild Peach said...

By the way, we used to freeze the blanched dandelion greens.

I remember cleaning dandelions greens that filled a burlap sack made for 50lb of potatoes! We froze them all for over the winter.

So if you've got a spade and a field of greens....!

Diana Dyer said...

I have discovered smoked paprika this past year and have lost my desire/need for smoked hamhocks. I feel that this spice has changed my life! Give it a try. :-)