EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The autumn CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) baskets have arrived. Tough food for colder months, full and alive with Vitamin A. I get my "1/2 share" - enough for about 4 people from Giamarese Farm on Wednesday afternoons. This week, I really did not know what to expect, but I new that the blueberries and strawberries of balmier days would not be in my basket.
Here's the inventory:
- an enormous cabbage. Actually, it was a bit of a Little Shop of Horrors/Day of the Trifids sort of experience. I am unwilling to wrap that many hundreds of stuffed cabbage leaves. I cannot afford enough corned beef to go along with that much cabbage, nor could lift the large quantity of accompanying potatoes. I am still a little afraid of it, to tell you the truth.
- broccoli. Cool. I can deal with broccoli and so can you. No worries.
- acorn squash. Delicious. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and top with a bit of butter and maple syrup. Bake until soft.
- butternut sqaash. Also delicious. Cube it, boil it in a bit of salted water, and mash it. A great side dish.
- apples. Of course. A couple of different kinds. Don't "gild the lily." They are perfect as they are.
- collard greens. There they were, right on the top of the basket just daring me to interact with them in some way. For us Yankees up here in the North, collards aren't the beloved staple they are in the South. In the way many New Jerseyans work for years to perfect their "Sunday gravy," Southerners and African-Americans raised in a Southern tradition work on their greens. This vegetable, dark green leaves of gigantic proportion - even when compared to the hearty kale and Swiss chard of the summer - was a new adventure in cooking for me.
Here's what I made:
East Brunswick Bears Rockin' Collard Greens
- 5 slices of thick and smoky bacon
- 1 large vidalia or white Spanish onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of pepper
- 3 cups of chicken stock (I made my own - just showing off!)
- 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- your CSA collard greens with the ribs cut out, torn into small (2") pieces
1. Cook slices of bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and crumble. Add onion to the pan and cook until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Return crumbled bacon to the pan. Add greens and cook, stirring, until they start to wilt.
2. Add chicken stock, seasoning with salt, peppr, and red pepper flakes. (Use more red pepper if you're one of those "sriracha-on-everything" types!) Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are tender.
*Do not boil away the "pot likker," the flavorful broth that forms around the cooked greens, onion, garlic, and bacon. That's the best part! Serve your greens with some roasted chicken and some fresh corn bread. Yum!
*Want to be healthier? Cut the bacon down to three slices. Remove the bacon fat from the pan and swap in a tablespoon of olive oil. You will not have the intense bacon flavor of the original (Besides, real pros use smoked ham hocks!) but you will be able to live with yourself.
Summer is finally here and our local veggies are blooming in the Garden State. This column throws around a few ideas about how to use those farm favorites when they are at their freshest.
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