So far winter has been mild with only three days of below freezing temperatures. Collard greens and garlic continue to grow. Now, it is time to explore cooking some of the dark leafy vegetable stored in my freezer. Tubular plants are at the top of my menu. Let me start with turnip greens, specifically Tokyo Cross–a lush green vegetable with a pearl white root. I have picked this vegetable mid December when the leaves were small–4 to 6 inches. This is when the leaves are considered to have the sweetest flavor, and ideal for freezing.
Preparing this dark leafy vegetable for freezing requires a few steps. Thoroughly wash and then tear the leaves from the stem, or roll the leaves and then using a knife to cut or chop leaves and stems into 1/2” pieces. This makes blanching or steaming easier. Blanching or steaming is the best way to rid vegetable of bacteria. It is the bacteria that destroy nutrients, change the color, flavor, and texture of food after freezing. Steaming is my prefer method of preparing vegetables to freeze. This is one way to avoid the salted water often used in blanching, and to retain more nutrients. Steaming smaller batches of vegetables generally takes a bit lolonger. That is, if 3 minutes blanching is the recommended time vegetables, then you will need 4 1/2 minutes to steam.
After steaming you will need to stop the cooking process by dumping the vegetables in a bath of ice-cold water. Storing the steam vegetables in “Ziploc” bags is one method of freezing. If you want to remove the air to prevent drying and a freezer burn, then use a straw, seal the “Ziploc” around the straw to suck the air out of the bag. Pinch the straw and quickly remove it while pressing the seal. If this sounds too complicated, then buy and use a Foodsavers sealing as a relative has suggested. She claims “FoodSavers” are much thicker and microwaveable.
Because the Tokyo Cross turnips have been steamed and frozen shortly before Christmas, the additional cooking time is greatly reduced. Cooking greens for me follows my friend’s Genelle trusted vegetarian recipe. You can adjust this basic recipe for the amount and type of greens you plan to cook. In a large heated pan, add olive oil, fresh crushed garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Brown the garlic in the olive oil before adding prepared dark leafy vegetables. Nearing the end of sauteing, I will often add some broth saved from cooking other dark leafy vegetables–collard, kale, or turnip greens. Sauteing is the preferred preparation for this vegetable. Begin with the small pearl white turnips and cook them for few minutes before adding the greens. Also, you can used these uncooked small pearl white turnips in a garden salad sliced like onions.
The important thing to remember when cooking greens is–do not overcook. The delicate flavor and texture of the Tokyo Cross, or any dark leafy vegetable is lost when over cooked. If you really yearn for the cured bacon flavor of southern cooking, try using a smoked sea salt. (I smoked Kosher salt in a small container in my Cameron stove top smoker when smoking fish, or poultry.) Alternatively, you can find smoke salts in your spice section in stores. Experiment with a few different varieties, using liquid smoke works as well. Remember to add the salt at the very end of the cooking process. Salt leeches all the water out of your greens, leaving them a gray, soggy mess just if they were overcooking.
My southern heritage dictates having a slice of cornbread with this vegetable, while my French influence dictates having a pleasant glass of red wine–red Zinfandel. Bon appetite!
(Please return for next post–Smoked and dried Edamame.)
- 4 Tbs olive oil
- 14 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cup water per pound
- 3 lbs greens (collards, mustard, turnips or kale)
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves,
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper seeds (or to taste)
- 1 Tbsp of vinegar (if desired)*
- sea salt to taste
- 1. Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, cooking until the garlic starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
- 2. Cover pot and allow to cook just until the greens are tender, about 30 minutes.
- 3. Add red pepper and thyme near the ending of cooking greens (about 10 minutes before greens are done cooking). Stir constantly.
- 4. Salt to taste at the very end to keep your greens from getting soggy.
- 5. Serve hot.
- DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR GREENS. I repeat, DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR GREENS. Mushy greens are not what you want. Overcook greens just stink and also you miss out on the wonderful texture. Cook green until the leaves are a brilliant shade of dark green and are tender enough to bite through without any fibrous resistance.
- *If you decide to use vinegar, then try Champagne Vinegar. It has a higher acidity than regular white distilled vinegar.
- Once they are done, immediately remove them from the heat, salt to taste, and serve.
- If you are really hoping to get the cured bacon flavor while keeping the recipe vegan, try using a smoked sea salt, which, if you experiment with a few different varieties. Liquid smoke works too. Add the salt at the very end. Salt leeches all of the water out of your greens, leaving them a gray, soggy mess just as overcooking them.
You can use this recipe for any dark leafy vegetable--collard, mustard, turnips and kale. Remember that the cooking time varies according the vegetable you are cooking. Experiment to find the right texture and taste for you.