Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Braised greens (Χόρτα τσιαγαριαστά)

The wild winter greens are now blooming very quickly with our sunny weather. It's still cold, but the sunshine has made them all grow quite tall, as if reaching for the sun's warmth, which makes them  rather spindly with their fibrous stalks. Last week, when I bought some of my favorite aromatic greens from the street market seller, I noticed that many of them were in flower. They won't be around for much longer!

Wild greens can form a complete meal with some bread and olive oil. This vegan dish suits vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike: some form of protein can be served alongside it, for those who are not complete vegans, while vegans can get their protein from a bean dish. The greens are cooked with onions and garlic, in a light olive oil and tomato sauce.

If that sounds a bit boring to you, you could try cooking your protein with the greens. A simple way to do this is after the greens are cooked; break an egg or two over them in the pot:

... or poach some fish (which never really needs a lot of cooking time) in the liquids of the greens:

If you like to keep things very traditional, you could add some xinohondro (dry milk and wheat rusk) to the finished greens, which gives extra falvour and bulk to a very simple vegetable dish (it's also used popularly with cauliflower, eggplant and snails):

Both wild greens and garden greens can be used in exactly the same way. They need different kinds of cooking times (garden greens cook more quickly than wild greens). I recently cooked a similar dish with the tender parts of cabbage greens, broccoli and cauliflower, once the main heads had been chopped off and the plants kept sprouting:

And in the summer, I do the same thing with zucchini tops, vlita greens (amaranth) and garden-grown corn and beans:

The meals I have described above are very frugal healthy ways of keeping yourself nourished. But they are only as frugal as the climate and the soil allow you to be, as well as your pocket: if you can't afford high quality olive oil, you will not really find these meals so enjoyable. Today, the UK press is full of details about the sorry state of affairs of British health, leading some important-sounding bureaucrat to say something to the likes of:
"It must be worth looking to see how Italy and Greece (ahead of the UK) can do better than us in spite of their economic and political problems...It [is] not difficult to get fresh fruit and olive oil in the UK. It is more the propensity not to stuff yourself with all the wrong things, which we are rather good at."
Sure, it all looks easy, but did he take into account the British climate and the sun factor, which have an impact on what one can grow in their environment?. As a facebook reader mentioned, two weeks of a foreign holiday don't make up for a lifetime of Vitamin D deficiency!

The meals shown above are all based on the same recipe as my braised celery dish. They are all  about making something out of hardly anything - all you need is some high quality olive oil and some tasty aromatic greens.

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