Greens with lime, honey & fresh basil

Greens with lime and basil

People come up to me on the street all the time, and they say, “Claire, we love to eat greens, but we can’t be bothered to wash them or remove their stupid stems. Should we just popeye them straight from a can into our mouth?” Alright, so this is apocryphal. It’s never happened and it never will. But if it did…I would be ready with an answer. I have a tip. A cooking tip. This is how I wash fresh greens. Even if they’re filthy muddy buggy greens straight from the farm after a horrible storm. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t require a lot of effort. What you do is fill a large bowl with cool water (a salad spinner bowl and basket is ideal – not because you’re going to spin it, but because it’s easier to dump out the dirty water and replace it with clean). You put the greens in and swish them about a bit. Then you let them soak while you go about your business. In my experience, the bugs will float to the surface, and the sand and grit will sink to the bottom. You dump out all the dirty water, rinse the bowl, and soak again. (This is where a salad spinner comes in handy, because you can just lift the greens right out in the built-in basket.) You swish them around a little bit and then let them soak again. How many times you do this depends on the dirtiness of your greens. Once the bottom of the bowl is grit and sand free after a soak, you’re probably clean enough. Now, to remove the stems, and also check each leaf for hidden bugs – you use your fingers. I find this much quicker than trying to chop the stems off. You pick up a leaf, fold it in half lengthwise (they often do this all by themselves) and pull the stem off from the bottom to as far up the leaf as you need to go to remove the unpleasant spiny bits, using your other hand to pinch the leaf so that you don’t lose too much good green stuff. It’s sort of hard to describe, but try it and it will all make sense. This is a surprisingly quick and easy job, even if you have a large batch of greens. Many of the smaller stems can just be snapped off near the bottom. If you have something with giant fat stems like kale, it’s easiest of all – you just grab the stem and pinch the leafy parts right off. It’s that easy!!

I think this is a really nice way to make greens. It’s fresh, sweet and tart. I made it with half broccoli rabe, half chard. So – a little bitter plus a little earthy. I like to pair a more assertive green (broccoli rabe, turnip, beet) with something gentler like spinach or chard. You could use any green you like with this, and just adjust the lime/honey ratio till it’s perfect for you. This is quick and doesn’t make your kitchen too hot on a summer’s day!

Here’s Outkast with So Fresh, So clean, because this tastes fresh, and your greens are so clean!
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Turnip & pecan soup

Turnip & pecan soup

I think if turnips were people, they’d have a good sense of humor. They’d be sweet, but they wouldn’t be universally popular, because that sweetness would be hidden under a fairly sharp sarcastic edge. Now that I’ve personified turnips, I’m going to tell you how I chopped them up and ate them! Mwah ha ha ha!!

It might sound odd, but whenever I feel physically or emotionally low, I start to crave turnips. They’re not a traditionally comforting food, I don’t think, because of their edginess, but they always sound good to me when I’m not feeling well. Usually in soup form. So that’s what I made. This soup is simple but nice. The star of the show is the turnips, but there’s a pleasant nuttiness from the pecans, and a freshness from the parsley. It’s fairly easy to make – it has plenty of flavor without a broth, so you don’t have to take the time to prepare that.

To make it ultimately comforting, you’d serve it with cheese toasts made with sharp cheddar. We had a lot of leftover pizza to get through, so the toasts felt redundant, but I grated some sharp cheddar in mine, and it was very tasty!

Here’s Nina Simone with Nina’s Blues. One of my favorite songs ever. Why? Because it’s a little bit like turnips. Suprisingly comforting. She’s not doing well (she plans to lay her head on a railway track) but in the end she triumphantly declares that the sun will shine in her back door some day. Ba da ba!!
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Daikon braised with ginger & honey

Or… What to do with that strange vegetable you got from your CSA

A daikon is a long white radish. It’s milder than a regular radish, I think, but it still has a bite. I braised it with some little red radishes, and it made a beautiful dish of translucent amber and amber tinged with pink. I added honey and ginger, to temper the slightly bitter after taste. Very easy. And don’t you love the radish spirit from Spirited Away? Surely he’s a daikon!

Here’s Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass with Taste of Honey. I love this video!
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