The upside of the miserably cool rainy June we have had here in the Northwest is that our greens and peas are thriving, (while the beans and tomatoes are shivering). Last night, I harvested a handful of Dwarf Syberian Kale, Orange Swiss Chard, and Chinese Mustard greens.
They all are young enough to braise lightly. First, I cubed thick slices of pancetta (Italian type of bacon, the best choice but ham or bacon will do) and fried them, taking the bits out when crispy and brown. Saving about 1 T. of bacon grease, I added the washed and loosely chopped greens, stiring to coat with the flavored oil. (Cool down the pan somewhat before adding water or you will get a spitting oil explosion) I added 1/2 cup of water and braised them for about 3 minutes (longer if your greens are tougher). I threw the greens on a platter with the pancetta, squeeze of lemon juice, and black pepper. It was refreshing to have such a simple dish. Usually I add garlic, onions, balsamic vinegar to the greens while braising, but I didn't want to overpower the tender and fresh flavor of the hand picked greens. The Chinese Mustard had a sharp peppery flavor while the Kale and Chard were sweet and mild. For a vegetarian version, substitute olive oil and sea salt with a dash of smoked spanish paprika for the salty pancetta.
I served this with creamy Polenta, faithfully stired over the stove for 30 minutes with a wooden spoon. I added maybe 2 cups of dried polenta to hot broth consisting of a tall carton of vegetarian broth and 1 can of evaporated milk, salt and pepper. I added garden fresh herbs of chopped rosemary and tarragon to the mixture, later adding chopped chives. Just before serving I melted gorgonzola into the mixture and topped with lavendar petals.
Is there something better than "perfect science" in the kitchen? How about the fun of improvisation. This totally experential type of cooking adapts to the moment. Every recipe is either created new or revised to better fit the moment. No recipe is ever the same twice because every day has different circumstances. Why should it be? Perhaps the moment is inspired by a basket of local food from the farmer's market. Perhaps it is adapting to the food needs and tastes of a friend. Maybe it is the romantic notion of seasonal food dishes. Other times it is a journey into another place and time. Instead of arm chair traveling, how about dinner table cultural odysseys? You do the best you can with the knowledge you have. And everyone has a good time.
If your goal is exotic cuisine, or simply rearranging the food at hand, this approach to food is fun. Cooking outside the book, the cookbook, this is the best!
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Isobel Davis is the author of this site and is responsible for all the creative content including images, writing and recipe inventions. She holds the copyrights to everything published on this site unless otherwise noted.