Spring has proverbially sprung. The grass certainly is riz – just ask Nick who has already spent a coule of hours of quality time with the lawnmower this year! The daffodils have come and gone, the tulips are still (mostly) around, and we are braaing more and more frequently. All is well with the world!
The other great thing about Spring is the return of the vegetables and fruit that we have been missing all winter long. English Asparagus, zucchini, broad beans and fresh peas are all creeping slowly back into the stores (although I see we are importing blackberries from Mexico at the moment… I despair!), giving me renewed appetite for lighter, more summery cooking. But, that said, nights can still be pretty nippy and sometimes you just don't feel like a crunchy salad, but a more warming vegetable dish.
I had never come across spring greens before I moved to the UK and, truth be told, I was deeply suspicious of these bags of unidentified green leaves for the first few years here. my ignorance is not surprising because, according to the venerable Wikipedia, spring greens were mainly grown and prized in northern Europe because of their ability to withstand the cold Winters and produce a fresh green crop in early Spring.
Spring greens belong to the species Brassica Oleracea which has been cultivated for thousands of years and includes cultivars such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. The particular cultivar group to which spring greens belong is called Brassica Oleracea Acephala, or the "headless" Brassicas, to which kale and collard greens also belong. The name refers to the fact that none of these plants form compact "heads" of leaves in the way that cabbage or Brussels sprouts to, but rather a loose collection of leaves. This loose arrangement of leaves means that each leaf gets full exposure to the sun and elements, which results in greener, coarser leaves that a cabbage. The tough leaves and strong taste are off-putting to some people, but the benefits are that the leaves are particularly rich in Vitamin C, folic acid, iron and dietary fibre.
The recipe that I most often use to prepare these is simple and a little indugent with the addition of the Gorgonzola, but you still get the full benefit of the lovely green leaves and their nutty flavour. I served mine with a tomatoey chicken casserole, but it would also make a great partner for a grilled steak.
It's been far too long since I last participated in my friend Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging event, now administered by Haalo. I'm submitting this post as my entry to this week's hostess, the lovely Chris of Melecotte. Make sure you check out the round-up later this week!
SPRING GREENS WITH GORGONZOLA (serves 4)
1 large head of spring greens (about 4 cups shredded leaves)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
25-50g Gorgonzola or similar blue cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it!)
3 Tbsp cream
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the spring greens thoroughly and slice them into 1cm strips horizontally. Keep the thicker pieces of stem and centre spine to one side. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and place a steamer over it. Place the pieces of stem and spine in the steamer, covered, for about 2 minutes on their own before adding the leaves. Steam for no more than 5 minutes in total, until the leaves and stems are wilted and softening but not soggy.
In the meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion over medium heat. Sautée until the onions are translucent. Once the greens have been steamed, increase the heat under the onions and add the greens. Continue to sautée, stirring continuously to prevent them sticking or burning. Crumble the cheese into the pot and stir until almost melted, then add the cream.
Remove from the heat and stir until all leaves are coated. Check for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste. Serve hot.