Sweet Green

Sweet Potato Greens As a chef, when it comes to food I’m always on the lookout for underappreciated-readily available-edible plants. They appeal to my curiosity about trying and using all things edible and satisfy my ingrained frugality about wasting food. Last week a friend who always grows a big vegetable garden, gave me some sweet potato greens that were destined for her compost pile. I’ve never seen them for sale at my farmer’s market, but I knew they are eaten in many parts of the world, including the South. Unlike the root, they can be harvested multple times in the year and can be eaten raw or cooked. Often compared to spinach, sweet potato greens contain a lot of the same nutrients, but they lack the oxalic acid found in spinach, which is responsible for the chalky film that can coat your teeth after eating –a definite plus.

After a good washing, I trimmed away the bigger, tougher stems and gave them a quick 2-3 minute sauté. Like spinach, the leaves wilted and shrank down to nothing almost instantly. The stems stayed much crunchier and had a mild flavor with a lingering citrus-y finish. Delicious!Cooked Sweet Potato Greens

My usual go-to-in-a-hurry-never-go-wrong recipe is greens, olive oil and garlic, but here, to play off the delicate tangy flavor of the sweet potato greens, I left out the garlic and used spices, a small amount of hot chile and toasted coconut flakes. This combination of hot and spicy with the toasted richness of the coconut creates a balanced contrast to the fresh greens.

Sweet Potato Greens with Mustard Seed, Cumin, Chiles and Toasted Coconut

Makes 2 servings

½ pound sweet potato greens

2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or try coconut oil for a more pronounced coconut flavor)

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon minced chile pepper

Salt to taste

  1. Wash the greens well and remove any especially long stems.
  2. Warm a 10” or 12” sauté pan over medium heat. Add the coconut flakes and stir for 1-2 minutes until the coconut begins to turn a golden brown color. Scrape the coconut into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the pan, return it to medium he and add the olive oil. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook briefly, 1 or two minutes, stirring, until the seeds darken slightly and begin to pop. Add the chiles and continue to stir for an additional minute.
  4. Add the sweet potato greens and season with 1-2 pinches of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the greens are gently wilted. Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the greens and stir to mix. If the greens have released an excessive amount of water, transfer them to paper towels and drain briefly before serving.

Endless Summer

Tomatillo Salsa

I love summer and this time of year, as the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, I avoid looking at the calendar and try to extend the season as long as possible. And while this sometimes means I make questionable choices (like wearing flip flops at Thanksgiving), with food it means trying to enjoy my summer favorites as long as they’re availble locally.

This year, Mother Nature seems to agree with me: the Northeast last few weeks have been full of sunshine and my farmer’s market is still full of warm weather vegetables. This weekend, with temperatures in the mid-80’s, I avoided the pumpkins and apples already for sale and picked up some tomatillos to make salsa and a riff on gazpacho. Great with steak or fish, the salsa can also be the base for enchilladas. The gazpacho has avocado, which adds a creamier texture to the soup.

Turn up the air conditioning!

Steak with Tomatillo-Poblano Salsa

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds of steak, about 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick (I usually like it with hanger or skirt)

salt and pepper to taste

canola oil for sauteing

Salsa:

8-10 small tomatillos (about 1-1/2 cups), husked and cored

3 poblanos, roasted, peeled and chopped

1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

1 jalapeno, seeds removed (if desired) and chopped

1 teaspoon vinegar or lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. To cook the steak: Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add enough canola oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Carefully add the steaks to the pan and cook, about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium rare, flipping the steaks when they develop a well browned exterior. Remove the steaks from the pan and rest on a platter for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  2. For the salsa: Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.Thin sauce with cold water if too thick.

 

Tomatillo Gazpacho

Makes 4-6 bowls

2 pounds tomatillos, cored and chopped

1 seedless cucumber

1 medium onions, peeled and chopped

1 avocado, halved, pitted and peeled

1 small jalapeno

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons mint leaves

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

  1. Combine the tomatillos, cucumber, onions, avocado, jalapeno, garlic and lime juice in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the herbs and olive oil and puree again briefly. Taste and season with salt and pepper.