Friday, November 30, 2012

Serious Eats' Thanksgiving Salad

I think it's about time I gave a shout-out to one of my favorite food blogs on the net, Serious Eats. If you love food, cooking, and reading about food and cooking, this blog is likely right up your alley. I could wax poetic for a good two, three stanzas about SE, but I'll stick with the point of this post, which is thanking them for this Thanksgiving Salad recipe. If you scroll into the comments (it's safe - I assure you that SE is one of the few places in the web where there be no dragons in the comments section), you'll see me declaring my intent to make it for dinner, and a few hours later, declaring that it was awesome. And it was.

Thanksgiving Salad

Even disregarding the fact of their clearly superior photography, it's clear that this dish is not quite the same. I made a few changes when I made it last week. I still had brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes around, so I decided to make it again today, with even more changes based on Keith's feedback. I replaced the turkey with black beans, because we almost never have meat in the house. I used orzo instead of Israeli couscous, toasted it in butter, and cooked it in no-chicken broth. I tossed everything in a punchy lemon vinaigrette (with a good dose of dijon mustard).

I gobbled it down for lunch, and before Keith had the chance to taste it and declare his clear approval for my changes, I gobbled down the rest for dinner. Gobble, gobble.

This dish lays in an interesting limbo from a dietitian's perspective. The sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts are obviously great choices, as are the black beans and toasted almonds (actually toasting your almonds is terrible for their nutritional quality, but whatevs). On the other hand, those are tossed in a bowl of white pasta, and let me tell you: I did not hold back on the fat with this dish. There's probably a good six tablespoons of fat in this recipe, between the olive oil and butter, plus the fat in the other ingredients.

But did I care about this as I wolfed it down for the 2/3 of my daily meals? Not really. Because, you know, maybe dishes like this aren't really in "limbo," but instead they strike the perfect balance. A variety of healthy choices, mixed with a few indulgences. I could try and look at this meal, chide myself about the six tablespoons of fat, and say, "This is a bad food, and you should feel bad about it." But I don't. And no one eating like this should!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Color Are Your Greens?

[Did you know that I started this post over two weeks ago, started writing it while my greens were on the stove and overcooked my greens, and didn't look at my photos until just today... only to discover that not a single shot turned out? Yes. I am an epic blogger. Oh well.]

Have you had collard greens? Do you remember, by any chance... what color they were?

It seems like a silly question, I know, and I wish it were. But bear with me here for a sec - were they by any chance... kinda brown?

I'm a fan of some traditional recipes. I believe that, when it comes to food, traditions are made for a reason, and I've given traditional collard greens a try several times. And I'm tired of eating collard browns. So here, I'll just go ahead and say it:

You're probably cooking your greens wrong.

I'm a firm believer, with some exceptions, that vegetables should be brighter in color when you serve them than they were raw, and traditional recipes for collards have you cook your greens for 45, 60 minutes - I've seen up to two hours. They're not going to be green anymore. I'm skeptical they will be food. You'll also sacrifice significant Vitamin C content, as it's not especially heat stable (not that most Americans have trouble getting enough C).

A few years ago, I had a bunch of greens in the fridge and wanted them for lunch. Knowing that I didn't particularly care for the traditional long-cooked style, I started hunting for a new approach. I'm not sure exactly what search terms I used to led me to this Epicurious recipe, but I do know that I am forever grateful to them. I basically haven't cooked hardy greens any other way since then, and this is essentially still the exact recipe I use, though I sometimes use thinly sliced onions instead of garlic, often add crushed red pepper, and always, always finish with a splash of lemon. The one caveat I'll add is that the cooking time does vary widely. I've had tender, smaller leaves that cooked up in 3-4 minutes, but it's not always the case. The greens I was cooking for this post were larger than some pets I've had, and they needed nearly ten minutes to get past that "eating roughage" texture. Either way, though, ten minutes beats an hour or more, and you end up with a quick dish that's more attractive and healthier. If that ain't a trifecta, I don't know what is.

As I said, my photos turned out terribly, but contrasting two Google image searches tells all the story you need: Brazilian collard greens vs. collard greens.

I guess this one photo didn't turn out too badly, so I'll toss it in here just to break up the text.

Collard Greens