Verdura – The Italian Way with Greens

I’m getting reacquainted with an old cookbook favorite, Verdura – Vegetables Italian Style by Viana LaPlace, a great collection of simple, earthy recipes, published almost 20 years ago but still as appealing as ever.

Because I’ve been on a mission to increase the amount of leafy vegetables in my cooking and to make daily greens a serious habit in my life, getting inspired to cook all manner of vegetables seems to make sense, too.

I have to admit that up until now I never imagined my hunger for green things would get to this point. That is, I love to eat bowlfuls of nothing else but green leaves, raw or cooked. It’s surprising since my hunger cravings have always tended toward heaping piles of tangled spaghetti, crusty bread or anything else with a satisfying load of carbs.

I still do love those things, but found that the more I incorporate some kind of green, leafy vegetable into every meal, the more I want to eat them. I might add some baby spinach leaves to my whole grain English muffin and poached egg for breakfast; a small pile of arugula to whatever I eat for lunch and some kind of wilted greens with dinner.

For wilting, I use pretty much the same method whether I’m cooking Swiss chard, Tuscan or Lacinato kale, bok choy, beet greens, pea shoots, spinach – whatever I have on hand, and it was inspired by Boston chef Barbara Lynch from her book Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition.

I remove the stems and chop them separately from the leaves:

I sweat a thinly sliced shallot in olive oil with a pinch of salt and some red chile flakes until just tender, a minute or two, before tossing in the stems, cooking them until tender. Then in go the washed greens, with water still clinging to the leaves:

I cover the pot for another minute or two, just until the heap of leaves softens and wilts, when they’re ready to adorn the dinner plate or simply get eaten straight out of the pan.

Luscious Lemon Squeezer

I try not to share recipes that require specialized gadgets or unneeded kitchen appliances, but I’ve been loving my juicer so much lately that I’m hoping to inspire you to go out get one of your very own.

Yes, freshly squeezed citrus and vegetable juices can be found in lots of grocery stores, but they are no comparison to the fine stuff you can juice up at home and drink on the spot, which still tastes vibrant, fresh and alive. Another bonus is that you can be much more creative in experimenting with various combinations of your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Most commercial juice is pasteurized, which destroys some vitamins and the other good stuff in the process. There seems to be small chance that the produce we buy – organic, local or otherwise – will have some invisible, bacterial nasties living on their surfaces, so it’s always a good idea to wash the fruit or vegetable you plan to juice if you’re going to throw them in the machine skin-on.

The recipe below is very, very flexible and happens to be what I like to drink right when I’m thirsty, especially after exercising, and depends on what I have on hand. Sometimes I go crazy and add some green leaves to my juice, but I understand if that sounds too hardcore.

Turkey Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil

When I’m not busy making my kids’ lives miserable at dinner time dreaming up new ways to torture them with greens and vegetables,  I come through for them with a little comfort food.

While I would love it very much if people would pay attention to their food and start eating lower on the food chain, I never, ever want to become a member of the Food Cop club. Not because I don’t care about you – I do! It’s just that I would  lose all my friends and my own family would probably drop me off at some Home Depot parking lot, change the locks on the front door, and never come back to get me.

This meatloaf recipe is the classic one in my house, and it never fails to make everyone happy. I use freshly ground dark turkey rather than the shrink wrapped mystery meat found in most grocery stores – who knows how long that stuff has been sitting around and what’s actually in there?

It’s always worth asking your butcher if they will grind a turkey thigh or two just for you; however it’s best to call ahead. Some stores don’t have separate grinders and can’t mix poultry with other meats they process without advance notice.

Turkey Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients

  1. 2 pounds ground dark turkey
  2. 1 small onion, peeled
  3. 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water (oil-packed is ok - drain well); chopped
  4. 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  5. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  6. 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
  7. 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  8. 2 teaspoons salt
  9. 2 eggs
  10. Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  11. 1/4 cup ketchup

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the turkey in a large mixing bowl; grate the onion on the side of a box grater into the bowl. Add the tomatoes, basil, garlic, bread crumbs, chile, salt, pepper and eggs to the bowl. Use a large fork or your hands to combine well.
  3. Form the mixture into a football-shaped loaf on a large baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes.
  4. Brush ketchup over the top of the meatloaf Bake for an additional 10 minutes, then allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/02/turkey-meatloaf-with-sun-dried-tomatoes-and-basil/