September 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
I have been remiss. More than
four six months have gone by without a peep from me. I would ask how this happened, but I know. It’s twofold, really. One, I cannot be bothered, most of the time, to photograph my dinner, for fear it will suffer before my very eyes. Have you ever photographed a bowl of pasta, just served? You can hear it weeping. I can never reason that a blog post is worth the pain, the pasta’s or mine. But I don’t eat pasta every night. Or even every week, although I should. Which brings us to this: for someone who calls herself a writer, I spend a remarkable amount of time avoiding it. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except that this week I decided that enough was enough, and I asked this little pile of New Zealand spinach to hold tight, just a minute, while I grab the camera.
Because I’ve been meaning, for awhile now, to write about greens. I’m not sure where to start, except by saying that I think my veins must run green with their pot liquor. And so summer can be a difficult time in this part of the country, the weather too hot to suffer the likes of many things green and leafy. Around June we blow a sweet kiss to kale, turnips, collards, mustards, and all their pungent, spicy friends, thanks, it was lovely, we’ll see you in September. Maybe. Maybe October. This year we had the most marvelous sendoff, with weeks upon weeks of flowering greens—collards, turnips, kale—coming around to markets, impossibly tender and sweet, the florets so delectable it was hard to prep a bunch without gobbling half of them raw before they even hit the oil. In those times of abundance, with months of gorgeous summer produce so close you can almost taste it, it’s difficult to sense what the loss of greens will feel like three months from where you are. And then three months hence, you find some of the first great arugula of the season, and you buy two full bags and commence to stuff your face with the leaves, intensely peppery and a little cooling, and you realize you’re filling a void that’s grown deeper and deeper each month since all these greens left off in early summer.
The point of all this is to say that if one is a little more industrious in shopping habits, as I wasn’t this year, the advent of leafy greens in early fall doesn’t have to inspire such desperate relief. Early this summer, I brought home a couple of bags of New Zealand spinach, a marvelous little green that’s not really spinach at all, but no matter—when cooked, it turns beautifully silky, with a sweet, faintly briny flavor I find wholly compelling. Usually I cook a lot more of it over the summer than I did this go-round—along with sweet potato greens, malabar spinach, and a green called molokai some farmers are calling Egyptian spinach—and this tends to satisfy just fine. But I was lazy this year in my sourcing, and so here I am.
In two weeks, we’re leaving this coast behind and driving to Seattle, where, so I hear, leafy things are for the getting year-round. I’m not yet decided on how good of a thing this is; there’s something wonderful about the whole-hearted welcome we give to to those deep green leaves when they show up around here as the weather cools. I certainly wouldn’t want to begin to take them for granted. Perhaps I’ll impose a little greens moratorium every summer as it is, keep the spirit of things going and all.
In the meantime, I’m posting, per my usual, about something nearly irrelevant, at the end of its season. New Zealand spinach should still be around in some parts for a few more weeks yet, though. If you find it, cook it simply:
Sauteed New Zealand spinach with garlic and hot chile
Heat a wide-bottomed sauté pan or dutch oven over medium heat, add a bit of oil, swirl to coat, and when it’s hot, add a clove of garlic, slivered, and a dried hot chile; arbol chiles work well, smoky and sweet. Saute the garlic and the chile for a few minutes, just until the garlic begins to turn pale golden around the edges and the chile is fragrant. Add the greens, just rinsed and with their tough stems snapped off, but leave whatever water is still clinging to the leaves. Swirl them around in the pan to coat with the oil—I usually use my hands, but if you’re more sensible maybe grab a wooden spoon. They should wilt pretty quickly, so keep stirring, reducing the heat a little. Add a pinch of salt and cook just until they’re tender, 2-3 minutes at the most.