Monday, April 5, 2010

Warning - Curves Ahead

We really had the best intentions to get collard rapini (aka collard bolts) into everyone's boxes this week. But when John got out to the field and discovered loads of aphids all over the collard, he knew that there was no way he could give it to the members this week. It's springtime, which is prime insect and weed season as it happens, and the cost of being organic is that occasionally the insects lay waste to our best plans. It looks hopeful for some more collard next week, and if that happens, we will post this recipe at the top of the page again.

One of the great joys of being in a CSA is getting vegetables that would never make it to your local supermarket, and working them into your diet. Occasionally, this means that you get thrown some culinary curves. This week, it's collard rapini (also known as collard bolts). The good news here is that they are less tricky than they are unfamiliar. Jet helps us work out what to do with them below. I also think she may have finally hit my Holy Grail of food blogging - coming up with a recipe that doesn't already exist somewhere on teh intertubes.

When I first learned that there was an issue with the collards bolting at the farm, it was one of those new CSA member experiences where one is confronted with ones complete lack of understanding about food. I've come to expect these at least once a week. Seriously, I thought I was doing well to have felt confident identifying the collard greens in my box and cooking them in a classic southern preparation, like this, or an asian preparation similar to this. In fact, I stuffed them once with classic flavors of the american south, then another time as though they were dolmas. So I figured that I had collards DOWN. As John went on to explain the problem, my eyes focused in on the plants that seemed to be collard greens, but with little tiny leaves and a long broccoli-like stalk.

As luck would have it, collards were bolting all over Ojai and the Farmer and the Cook was hosting one of their monthly local dinners the next night. The brilliant Olivia Chase had included collard rapini rather elegantly as follows: cauliflower, collard flowers, fennel & kale served in a red cabbage leaf with herbed goats milk yogurt cheese and a walnut oil drizzle, with a walnut, kumquat & smoked piquillo pepper salsa. Sort of like the Italian idea of serving raw vegetables with a banga cauda, but not warm and in no way traditional. Now, I realize that it is unlikely our entire membership will begin cooking with Olivia's inspiration and aplomb, but it did give me an idea to email John and ask for collard rapini. It also gave me an idea to email Christiana and talk her into trying to figure out how to use them.

When she received her first batch of raoini to develop recipes to share with our members, she immediately settled on crustless quiche because the bolts taste so much like the florets of their broccoli cousins. Christiana just knew that they wanted to be with eggs, bacon and onions. This led to the realization that I am really just not as creative in the kitchen as my friends. I was supposed to be adding something new to our understanding of what to do with collard bolts, but couldn't come up with anything other than a frittata, which is not really too different. Happily, at the farmer's market, I discovered that the Solvang Pie Company is now selling fresh pasta and that Lily's is now selling eggs from chickens who eat sunflower sprouts. AHA! Carbonara.

Really, following the breakthrough, I now see that these would work perfectly in the place of broccoli in any recipe (think Beef with Broccoli - also Christiana's idea). The recipe below is an adaptation of Beautiful Zucchini Carbonara from Jamie at Home, possibly my favorite Food Network show in the channel's brief existence and definitely the book that helped me learn how to cook from the farmer's market. We really, truly loved this and the pasta helped it to seem less like quiche.

Salt and Pepper to Taste
One bunch Collard Rapini
Four Eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup of Cream
Grated Parmasean Cheese (two handfuls)
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1/4 pound of Bacon (or Pancetta if you prefer your pork fat with less smoke) cut into lardons
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3/4 pound of Fusilli Pasta

Bring water to a boil in a heavy bottomed pan and season it with salt. In the meantime, cut the collard bolts (everything in the bunch, stems, florets, leaves) into pieces similar in size and prepare a salted ice water bath. Blanch the collard bolts in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes until bright green and remove with a slotted spoon. Thransfer the blanched bolts into the ice water bath to shock them and stop the cooking process. At this point, they will need to be drained and pressed gently with a clean towel to remove as much water as possible.

Whisk the egg yolks, cream, and half of the parmasean in a bowl. Season and set aside.

Heat a frying pan and fry the bacon in olive oil until it is dark and crisp. Add collard bolts and season w/ freshly ground black pepper. Add thyme leaves and stir everything to combine until the leaves are golden.

Drain the cooked pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss pasta immediately in the skillet with the bolts and bacon, then remove from heat. Add a ladelful of the reserved cooking water and creamy sauce and stir together quickly. Serve immediately with reserved parmasean, adding extra cooking water if necessary. The sauce should be smooth and shiny.

- Jet Doye

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There is plenty of gozo at Rio Gozo Farm. That is JOY in Spanish and joy is one of the most dependable products we have. Gozo is commonly found in gardens and farms. Once you get a little gozo up and going it is very tolerant of most pests, withstands dry periods, and grows with a modicum of fertilizer. After gozo becomes a staple of one's diet, it goes with about anything. Actually folks crave it so much it is a wonder everyone does not have a patch of it growing close at hand. Grab up some gozo and get with the flow.