We received a shipment (or more appropriately, a semi-clandestine drop-off in the parking lot of a Makati mall) of assorted greens and herbs from Gejo Jimenez of Kitchen Herbs Farm yesterday. A couple of days before, I had asked Gejo to send me whatever he thought was interesting or at the peak of harvest, and I would figure out what to do with the bounty. There were over 15 items in our stash, including petite arugula, wild arugula, baby carrots, baby beet root, baby fennel bulbs, dill, mint, lemon basil, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, mustard sprouts, sunflower sprouts, teeny tiny cherry tomatoes, mixed lettuces, chicory/endive, broccoli rabe and dill pollen. More on the last two items in posts ahead.
For lunch today, I made a simple but incredibly satisfying dish of sauteed chicory/endive/escarole. Just a slight twist on a classic recipe yielded absolutely brilliant results. I used to live in New York many moons ago, and when I ate at more old-fashioned, family cooking style Italian restaurants, I would often order a dish of slightly bitter broccoli rabe or chicory or escarole sauteed in olive oil, garlic, dried peppers and a spritz of lemon. It was the perfect healthy accompaniment to grilled fowl, meat or fish. While I have replicated the dish often here in Manila with regular broccoli, it isn’t quite the same as the original…
Few things are easier to make. Take your endive/chicory/escarole and cut off the base of the bunch and any browning leaves. Blanche the greens (plunge into salted boiling water for say 1-1.5 minutes) and shock them in an ice bath, then place them in a spinner to draw out as much water/moisture as possible. Into a large saute pan, add several tablespoons of olive oil, several whole cloves of garlic peeled, and let this cook until the garlic is slightly golden, and NOT BURNED. Add a pinch or two of dried chili flakes toss this around for a few second and add all of the greens carefully (oil may splatter when water mixes with the hot oil). There should be this chef-like sizzle as the greens hit the pan. Mix the greens, aggressively tossing them in the pan, coating them with oil and garlic/chili goodness. I decided add 1/4th of a preserved meyer lemon, cut into thin slices, before adding the juice of 1/2 of a large lemon. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Serve immediately. The results? Fantastic. The greens had a hint of bitter but also a tinge of sweetness. The preserved lemon did that special something… adding a flavor punch that was most appealing, and the saltiness that comes from brining for weeks in the fridge. You could certainly make this dish without the preserved lemon which isn’t in any recipe I have perused so far, but I highly recommend the twist. The greens were glistening with moisture and garlic infused oil. So easy, healthy and delicious.