Monday, July 7, 2014

OMG a Recipe: O-M-Greens - Lost in the Antioxidant Jungle

You look in the fridge and realize you have a ton of produce, specifically leafy greens, and it's like a ticking time bomb. Except that instead of a terrible explosion, you're simply left with a sludgy pile of green goo and wasted food. NEVER AGAIN. The final installment of Oxbow Box Project: Part Deux, focuses on all those random veggies and greens you wind up with, whether you've gotten behind on eating your CSA goods or you went overboard at the farmers market and are in need of a Kale Intervention. However you got to this place, I feel your pain. Come and have a hug, and let's have a grown-up talk about Eating Your Greens

O..M...Greens - what to do with this antioxidant land of plenty? - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Last week's post was all about perfectly planned meals, selecting the ideal goods from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box to fit your patio dinner plans. That's nifty. But what about the bundle of chard, leftover spinach and kale, and random odds and ends from the previous CSA delivery? There's probably over a week's worth of produce to gnaw through, are you really going to eat nothing but kale/chard salad? This is the argument brought up by so many people who are hesitant about getting a CSA subscription, but I say, don't fear the leafy greens. I'm showing my prep photo of two CSA deliveries' worth of greens, and while one bundle of kale was used for a salad, everything else was used in a single, not-salad meal that was totally delicious.

Behold the Everything Enchilada Casserole - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Meet your new BFF - the Everything Enchilada Casserole. There's plenty of articles that give great suggestions about using up produce -- soups, stews, stir frys. All great solutions, and I use each and every one of them. But what about when I want something rich and decadent? I love Mexican flavors and frankly, any excuse to add cheese to my food. I make a rich, crema-based white sauce, which gets layered between corn tortillas, a veggie/bean filling, and plenty of sprinkles of queso fresco, all piled high in a casserole dish and baked until bubbly and browned. It's inspired by enchiladas, minus the individual tortilla-rolling, and makes a ton of food. Great for families or in our case, many days of leftovers and take-to-work lunches.

So much Everything in this enchilada, you'll forget it's meatless! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The best thing about leafy greens is that when they cook down, they shrink at least by half, if not more. I used a whole head of chard, kale and spinach in this, and they cooked down to a softball-sized clump of wilted greens. If anything, you'll be looking for additional vegetables to round out the filling for this enchilada, so even better if you have other leftovers like mushrooms, spring onions, peppers, squash -- literally anything works. I add black beans and frozen or fresh corn, and you have a hearty filling that's so hefty, you'll totally forget it's meatless. Yes, you can add meat to it, but honestly, it doesn't need it. I share the recipe below, if you ever find yourself drowning in leafy greens.

The Thai-inspired beef salad that's so filling, you'll forget you had a salad - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I said you wouldn't be drowning in salads if you were doing a CSA subscription, but don't think salads are a bad thing. Having a CSA, I've learned to fall back in love with salads, treating them like meals, not just leafy starters before a larger meal. I love Thai food, not just their hot dishes, but their salads, which truly eat like a meal. I like the combination of cooked and raw ingredients, the combination of temperatures, and the intensity of flavor. The Oxbow Farm box had a bundle of lovely, young carrots, fresh sugar peas, cilantro, and two bundles of gorgeous lettuce -- I kept these aside for a delicious Thai-inspired beef salad.

Color, texture and flavor - the stuff that makes salads into a meal - Photos by Wasabi Prime
This salad was also a great opportunity to use goods from our own garden -- we have two different kinds of mint, plus my "scrap garden" of scallion roots that I stuck in a pot of soil, and the greens just continue to grow, so you'll never have to buy green onions again. This salad took a little bit of prep, chopping and slicing things to just the right size, but once that's done, it's very quick to assemble. I finely minced the mint, cilantro and scallions, tossing together to make a fragrant mix of fresh aromatics. In another small dish, I set aside crushed peanuts. I cut the carrots into matchsticks and sliced the peas into small bite-sized pieces, and set those aside in a container. I took some help from the grocery store, picking up a container of those fried onions that you usually put on green bean casseroles -- they're fantastic on salads, especially Asian-style ones with lots of strong flavors. I cooked some ground beef with garlic, onion and seasonings, and the dressing was a combination of soy sauce, vinegar, citrus, sugar, sesame oil, and peanut butter, warmed over the stove, so the peanut butter could incorporate with the other ingredients. The lettuce was chopped into ribbons, almost like noodles, making it easy to toss with all the other small ingredients, so you wind up with this incredibly fragrant, flavorful chopped salad that eats like a hearty meal, minus the ugh-I-ate-too-much-Thai-food coma afterwards.

Everything Enchilada Casserole
15-20 small corn tortillas
2 cups Mexican crema fresca (or sour cream watered down with a little milk will do)
1/4 cup whole milk
3 bunches of leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard - any combination or single variety)
1.5 cup black beans
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups corn - frozen or fresh
2 cups crumbled queso fresco
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried Mexican or Italian oregano
3 teaspoons cumin powder
zest/juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper 
cooking oil
Prepare the cream sauce in a large bowl - mix the crema fresca with a little of the whole milk, adding incrementally, stirring until it has the consistency of a thick but pourable sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper. Add the zest and juice of one lime, and chopped cilantro. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. It should have a spiced, zesty flavor. 

To make the filling, prepare the leafy greens. If using kale or chard, remove the leaves from the stalks. If the kale stalks are tender, chop into a fine dice. Chard stalks will tenderize as it cooks, just chop into a fine dice. Take the removed leaves and chop into small, bite-sized pieces and set aside. 

Take a large pot and add about a tablespoon of cooking oil, heating to medium high. Add the chopped onions, sweating until translucent. Add the mushrooms next, then all the chopped greens. Cook until the greens have fully wilted and shrunk down by half. Turn down the heat to medium and add the black beans, corn, remaining teaspoon of chili powder, two teaspoons cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and then remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 375F. Take a large casserole dish and spoon a little of the cream sauce on the bottom, spreading thinly - this will keep the tortillas from sticking. Place a layer of tortillas down - cut them to fit, if necessary. Spoon some of the cream sauce over the tortillas, spreading in an even layer, then sprinkle the vegetable topping over evenly, and then a sprinkling of crumbled queso fresco. Repeat with the same layering of tortillas/sauce/filling/cheese until everything is used up, with a final layer of tortillas, sauce, and cheese. 

Cover casserole dish with foil and place into the preheated oven. Cook for about 10-15 minutes covered, then remove foil and cook uncovered until top starts to brown. Remove from oven, allow it to set for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Thai-Inspired Beef Salad
1 pound ground beef
2 cups carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cups sugar snap peas, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup fried onion topping (yes, the stuff you put on green bean casserole)
2 small bunches or 1 large bunch of lettuce, sliced into ribbons
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili paste, hot sauce, or Sriracha

1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
juice/zest of one lime
1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

To prepare the dressing, place a small pot on the stove and heat to medium. Add all the ingredients and stir until fully combined and peanut butter is melted down. Remove from heat and place in a jar. Can make ahead and just allow the dressing to come to room temperature and shake well before serving.

Prepare the ground beef by cooking beef over medium high heat until fully browned and cooked-through. Add the chopped red onion, cooking until translucent. Add the minced garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and chili paste, stirring to combine. Keep warm until ready to serve with salad.

Mix the chopped cilantro, mint and scallions together in a bowl. Mix the carrots and peas together in another bowl. Leave out the peanuts, chopped lettuce, fried onions, along with the beef and dressing, so that people can construct a salad to fit their taste.

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