sabato 26 gennaio 2013

Green, leafy vegetables — Avellinese style and Ciampa style


I confess. I talk often about lard on purpose. To scare people a little bit. To make them pray for me, both for my soul and for my arteries.

The truth, which I admit with hesitation — like a football player who admits that he prefers knitting — is that I use lard rarely and in small doses.  I eat green, leafy vegetables almost every day, prepared with lightly salted, HOMEMADE stock, which contains a jackpot of vitamins and minerals. For it contains all the “junk” that I keep in the freezer — tomato cores, fennel stems and cores, radicchio cores, and especially the stems of broccoli rabe and of dandelions.  In stock I always put a little orange peel. When I already know that I will use that particular stock with greens, I will put lemon peel instead, and will use twice the quantity.

So, in Avellino there is a standard method for cooking green, leafy vegetables: 

* Clean it.
* Parboil it (which I do NOT do — I’ll explain later).
* Cut it.
* In a frying pan, sauté whole garlic and chili pepper in extra-virgin olive oil (in the olden days, lard).
* At the parboiled vegetable to the pan.
* Cook it uncovered.
* The cooking time depends on the vegetable (4-5 min. for spinach; 10 min. for broccoli rabe, chicory, or Swiss chard; 15 min. for escarole).

But excuse me: how is it possible to discard this precious water, filled with nutrients and flavor? I cannot IMAGINE throwing it away!

The Italian-Canadian television chef, Pasquale Carpino (1936-2005), used a verb, probably of his own invention, “to steam-sauté.” The raw but well-rinsed leaves already have a little bit of water; and you can always add a few drops of water or of broth. Cover the pan, and voilà: steam-sauté!

But with dandelions, even Pasquale resorted to parboiling them first. (He also used the long stems, which are rather hard and bitter.)

So, here is the Ciampa method for cooking green, leafy vegetables:

* Clean the vegetable well.
* Cut it in rather large pieces.
* In a frying pan, fry whole garlic and chili pepper either in EVOO or in the lard from HOMEMADE chicken or turkey stock.
* Add 1 cup of HOMEMADE chicken or turkey stock. (Click here for stock recipe.)
* Add the vegetable. (I may or may not add salt, depending on the savoriness of the stock, or of the grating cheese that eventually I'm going to use.)
* Cook until the leaves obtain that beautiful dark-green yet bright color.

I like to add a little freshly grated cheese at the table — either pecorino (the king of Southern Italian cheeses) or parmigiano (which, for whatever reason, I adore with broth).

The lard is very easily obtained: make the stock, put it in the fridge, and the next day the lard will be at the top.

Any bitterness of the greens is sweetened, in a magnificent way, by the taste of the poultry, and also by the lemon flavor.

Kale and collard greens are two greens very well-known in America but unknown in Italy. They are two types of "dark cabbage" (cavolo nero in Italian), both from the Brassica oleracea Acephala group. Kale is curly; collards are flat. If you cook them together (as I did here, in my "Clean-the-Fridge Calzone"), they make a wonderful contrast!

The beautiful, long leaves of the dandelion plant are less popular here in America than the other above-named greens. But in the supermarket I do find it. I remove most of the stems, but if you want to cook them, cut them in little pieces and cook them a good 10 minutes before adding the leaves.



A little dish of Swiss chard, cooked with this method (only a little dish, because the rest I devoured quickly!)
Savoy cabbage is also magnificent with this method.
Any combination of greens works very well. Here I used broccoli rabe, collard greens, and spinach. Washed down with an excellent Falanghina!
This post is based on an earlier one, entitled Dandelion greens, published on 5 November 2012.

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