Saturday, December 12, 2009

"should I take a class to loose my Southern accent?"

the food: Ricotta Gnocchi with Sauteed Collard Greens
the song: "Best Imitation of Myself" Ben Folds Five

It has been quiet around here this week. This cold and dreary weather has put me in hibernation mode, and I just haven't felt motivated to write. But don't you worry- I've been spending plenty of time in the kitchen, in the garden, and at the table. Despite my silence this week, I have managed to do a few things I'm pretty proud of.

1. To ward off our colds that just won't quit, I made another batch of vegetable soup. This time I shared it with friends, and added some garbanzos and spinach. It went over great with the crowd. Soup might be my go-to for easy group dinners this makes a ton, it is cheap, it is oh-so-satisfying, and everyone leaves feeling healthy and warm.

2. I got out in the garden to pull out my last summer vegetables. My okra, peppers, and (sadly) all my basil didn't fair so well in this cold weather, so out they came. But my broccoli and cauliflower babies are beautiful and almost ready. And (as you'll see in a minute) I harvested my first collard greens this week.

3. I attended my first official event as a food blogger (ok, ok so technically my husband's blog earned us the invitation. But that's beside the point.) A shout out is due to Vivo, who hosted a soft opening at their new north location last Tuesday. Vivo, you confirmed what I already knew...your food is delicious, and your margaritas are potent.

4. I made gnocchi. From scratch.

Why yes, as a matter of fact that IS a Texas cutting board.

I made a promise back in October that I would attempt homemade gnocchi this year. And attempt it I did. I used this recipe for easy ricotta gnocchi from the kitchn. The recipe is very easy and written perfectly- the amount of flour was right on, and just as described, the gnocchi bobbed right up to the top of the boiling pot of water. I was slightly dissapointed with the texture, but that's my fault. I have a bad habit of trying to make things healthier by using whole wheat flour, and despite the comments that say it is ok, this gnocchi recipe does not lend itself to the substitution. Next time, I'll use white flour, cut them about 1/2 the size, and add a good amount of salt to the batter. I will definitely experiment with this recipe again, and one day will try a more traditional version as well...the gnocchi must be mastered!

There was something perfect in this dinner, though. I read that collard greens should be harvested after the first frost, which magically takes away the bitter taste. My collard greens are extremely prolific and (because of the bitterness I'm sure) haven't been touched by bugs that keep nibbling my cauliflower leaves.

I grew up with greens cooked in the traditional Southern way- boiled for a long time with pork fat and served sprinkled with a little hot pepper sauce. And man, do I love me some Southen style greens. When I saw collards at Natural Gardener back in September, I didn't think twice about grabbing a few for my fall garden. The husband, however, did not grow up on Southern food. So when I excitedly showed him our newly aquired collard greens, he looked a little puzzled, as if to say "do we even like collard greens?" And he had a point. I was obviously  not going to cook my collards with a ham hock, and I'd never had them any other way. So I did a little research and found a great recipe for sauteed collard greens. These definitely have a strong taste, but they are an excellent way to enjoy a Southern staple, even for those of us that didn't grow up on them.

Sauteed Collard Greens

1 large bunch collard greens
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
red pepper flakes (optional)

First, put a large pot of water on to boil. Remove and discard stems and ribs of collard greens. Stack several of the leaves on top of each other and roll up like a cigar, then cut them crosswise into 1-inch pieces. In a pot of boiling water blanch half of the collards* for about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, pressing out excess liquid with a spoon. Put remaining uncooked greens in the colander with the steamy boiled greens and set aside.

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet heat butter and oil over moderately high heat. Stir in garlic, collards, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté collard mixture, stirring, until collards turn bright green and get a little wilty, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle collard greens with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.

*If you're worried these will be too bitter, or if you're not wild about strong tasting greens, go ahead and blanch all the collards before sauteing. We liked the texture of half and half, which keeps some pieces more crunchy and potent.


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