A Few Notes on Lemongrass
Lemongrass is, not surprisingly, a lemony stalky grass often used in Southeast Asian cooking, particularly in Thai dishes. There is a bulb/stalk end and a leafy end. The leaves can be steeped in hot water (just under boiling to preserve their healing oils) to make a delicious exotic lemony tea. I’m sure you could also use the leaves to flavor soup or stock but you probably would want to remove them after cooking–they are rather woody in texture.
The stalk ends or bulbs are used in many Southeast Asian dishes such as soups, sauces, meat dishes etc… Typically, only the soft inner part of the stalk is used for cooking, mainly because the outer stalk is tough and hard to eat. The lemongrass we will be receiving from the farm is quite narrow so the soft inner stalk will be very small. I suggest mincing up to 6″ of the bulb end very fine or pureeing it in a food processor with some garlic and ginger to make a paste for curries, rather than trying to free the little bit of tender stalk in the middle. You can also use large pieces of the stalk in soups. Using the side of a knife, crush the stalk to break it open. This releases all the flavor and oils. Place the crushed stalk in the soup and then discard it after the dish has cooked.
My favorite way to use lemongrass is in traditional Thai Curry Coconut Soup. Here is a recipe (click here)
Featured Item–Collard Greens
Unless you grew up in the south, collard greens may be at best mysterious and at worst misunderstood. Most people think of them as a southern specialty that involves hours of cooking with a fatty smoked meat. This association has perhaps contributed to collard’s unfortunate reputation as being tough, unappetizing, and unhealthy. But the reality is far from the truth. While long cooked greens in the southern tradition are a highly flavorful dish, quick cooked collards can be equally delicious and may be more nutritious.
Collard leaves need only about ten minutes to cook. Stems, will take longer. Like kale, collards will retain some texture to them due to the amount of fiber in the leaves. Also like kale, they benefit from a liquid to help them soften and to cook all the way before they burn or stick to a pan. There is some suggestion that prolonged cooking can even compromise the high nutritional quality of collard greens, so if you are a fan of super long cooked collards, it might be time to try some different methods.
Like other cooking greens, collards are highly nutritious. They contain high levels of vitamins K, A, C, B2, B6, folate, manganese and fiber and are also a very good source of calcium, iron and protein. There is growing evidence that regular intake of greens, including collards, can reduce cholesterol, cancer risk, and inflammatory response, due in part to their high level of micronutrients like antioxidants.
I was surprised to learn that compared to kale, collards are significantly lower in calories (only about 50 calories per cooked cup) and have almost double the protein. Also, among the most familiar greens (kale, chard, and spinach) collards have the highest amount of fiber. Who knew?
When preparing collards, think kale. Like kale, collard leaves can be eaten raw as in thinly sliced collard coleslaw. The broad leaves can even be used as a substitute for bread in wraps or rice paper in summer rolls. For cooked preparations collards can be sautéed, blanched, steamed, or boiled. Cooked collards are a great source for omelets, frittatas, casseroles, soups and stews, burritos/wraps, rice or grain dishes, and pastas. Blanched leaves can also be wrapped around a filling, as with cabbage in stuffed cabbage rolls.
When choosing collard greens, choose dark green leaves that are not yellowed or wilted. Store in plastic in the refrigerator for up five days. Wash well to remove any dirt clinging to the leaves prior to cooking. Thinner, younger stems will be tenderer than larger, older ones. Rather than throw them away, use the toughest stems in your next batch of homemade vegetable broth!
I love bratwurst this time of year, especially when it is cooked with beer, mustard and collards. You can use any type of sausage, but I recommend an organic, nitrate-free versions.
- - 1 package Bratwurst, (4 links)
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil, or oil of choice
- - ½ onion, thinly sliced on a mandoline
- - 2 cloves garlic, minced
- - 1 large bunch collards, stems removed
- - 1 bottle mild beer
- - 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- In a medium pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add Bratwurst and cook on each side until browned. Remove bratwurst to a plate. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and begins to brown, about 7 minutes. Add beer and mustard and mix well. Add Bratwurst back to pan and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, stack collard leaves on top of one another. Roll up the bunch into a tight cylinder and then thinly slice into order to make thin strips of leaves. After the Bratwurst has cooked in the beer mixture for 15 minutes, add collards, stir in well, and return cover to pan. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until collards are fairly tender and Bratwurst are completely cooked through. Serve with additional whole grain mustard on the side
This soup is warming, hearty and simply satisfying. If you don’t wish to use linguica sausage, you can sub in kielbasa.
Portuguese Green Soup (Caldo Verde)
– 1 package linguica sausage, casing removed if desired, sliced into 1/4″ slices
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
– 1 large onion, minced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
– 1 cup water
– 2 very large starchy potatoes, or 3 medium, peeled and chopped
– 5 cups finely chopped or shredded collard greens, leaves only
– good quality extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1. In a large pot, heat one teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until sausage is well browned. Transfer to a small bowl. Return pan to heat, but reduce heat to medium-low. Add second teaspoon olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add broth, water and potatoes. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are quite soft. Using a hand blender or potato masher, mash potatoes well (you can also put mixture into a blender, just be careful blending hot mixtures).
2. Add browned sausage and greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and greens are tender but still green, about 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and serve.
These beautiful rolls can be made with any crunchy vegetable you have on hand…peppers, radishes, carrots, beets, you name it. You can also add shrimp for a bit of added protein.
Collard Veggie Rolls with Red Curry Peanut Sauce Serves 6
– 1/2 cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter
– 1/2 cup vegetable broth
– 1/4 cup light or regular coconut milk
– 1 teaspoon coconut aminos, or 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
– 2-3 teaspoons Thai Red Curry Paste, to taste
– 1 teaspoon honey
– 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 4 Large collard leaves, washed and patted dry
– 1/2 medium cucumber, cut into thin strips
– 1 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
– 1/4 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
– 8 sugar snap peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
– 1 scallion , thinly sliced lengthwise and cut into 2-3 crosswise pieces
– a few cilantro or basil leaves
1. Make Sauce:
In a small saucepan, whisk peanut butter, broth, coconut milk, coconut aminos, curry paste and honey over medium heat until smooth and bubbly. If sauce is too thick, thin with more broth or water. If it is too thin, reduce over low heat until it reaches desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate for later use.
2. Make rolls:
Cut out about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of stem out of bottom of each leaf (otherwise stem with snap and you will have difficulty rolling up the filling). Place leaf on a work surface with stem end facing away from you. On side nearest you, place a stack of the vegetable filling ingredients in the center of the leaf right up to the edge closest to you. Roll leaf up around filling and roll one rotation. Fold in sides and continue to roll until you reach the end of the leaf. Cut roll in half and place on a serving plate. Serve with room temperature or cold sauce.