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A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden by April Bloomfield
Chef and restauranteur April Bloomfield schooled us on all things pig in her cookbook-memoir, A Girl and Her Pig, and now she's turning our attention to the bounty of the garden (and the farmer's market) with A Girl and Her Greens. Filled with seasonal recipes and anecdotes, Bloomfield tempts us to give greens a chance with dishes like Swiss Chard Cannelloni or Ramps with Fried Eggs. We asked Bloomfield to recommend some greens we really should try and here she gives us her top five along with a recipe from A Girl and Her Greens (one of April's Best Cookbooks of the Month) that makes my mouth water:
5 Unassuming Greens to Love
Watercress: I find this peppery green to be rather sophisticated. My favorite variety to find is the wild kind of watercress that grows by the water. Its flavor is strong and it has a crunch and juice texture. It’s great thrown into a mixed green salad, as a garnish meat or fish, or even ground up into a pesto.
Swiss chard: A beautiful green with silky, lemony leaves. When it’s fresh, it’s best to simply boil it quickly and then drizzle with olive oil, salt and lemon. However, the leaves are thick and almost velvety, which allow them to stand up to more substantial cooking techniques and preparations. I think Swiss chard can take on everyone’s beloved kale any day.
Carrot tops: These greens get overlooked far too often. Carrot top greens may be used just like any herb—as a garnish or to add freshness to a salad. The flavor is delicately carrot-like with a pleasant heartiness, and best of all, they come free with carrots!
Beet greens: What is better than a two-for-one deal? For the beet lovers that overlook the greens attached to the top, you are missing out! Earthy and fresh at the same time, give these greens a quick bath in boiling water, season simply with olive oil, salt and pepper, and you will be glad that they’re on your plate and not in the trash.
Broccoli rabe: Bitter takes time. It took me a while to turn the corner on broccoli rabe, but I am glad I put in the effort. At first taste, the bitterness may overwhelm you, but over time, you will really come to appreciate the way it bites the back of your mouth. When you’re at the market you should always give your vegetables a taste—rabe should offer a real bite with some minerality in the background. I love to prepare broccoli rabe sautéed in olive oil with garlic, salt and chile, to help balance out the bitterness. Don’t give up on this green!
Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto and Burrata
If you can get your hands on burrata—a really special cheese, like delicate mozzarella with a creamy center—then you’re already most of the way toward a great dish.
In the spring, I’ll serve burrata with Snap Pea Salad (page 23); in high summer, I’ll pair it with slices of ripe tomato, good olive oil, and flaky salt. When summer fades, I crave burrata with roasted carrots, a pairing that’s less common but no less worthy of your attention.
The two are like good mates, each helping the other along: the sweetness of the carrots sets off the tanginess of the cheese; the cheese’s tanginess makes the carrots tastes even sweeter. Pesto made from the carrot tops adds color and salty, herbaceous wallops throughout the dish.
Serves 4 to 6 as a Side
- 20 small carrots (the size of pointer fingers), scrubbed well but not peeled, all but ½-inch of the tops removed and reserved
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon plus a few pinches of Maldon or another flaky sea salt
- ½ pound room-temperature burrata, drained
- About 3 tablespoons Carrot Top Pesto (page 234 -see below for this recipe)
- A five-finger pinch of basil leaves, torn at the last minute if large
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 500˚F.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into a heavy ovenproof pan big enough to hold the carrots in a single layer. Set the pan over high heat and bring the oil to a light smoke. Add the carrots, sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of the salt, and turn the carrots to coat them in the oil. Cook, turning over the carrots occasionally, until they’re browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes.
Pop the pan in the oven and roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the carrots are evenly tender, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of your carrots. Let the carrots cool slightly. Halve the burrata and arrange the halves on a platter. Arrange the carrots on the platter so they’re pointing this way and that. Add the pesto here and there in little dollops.
Pluck enough 2-to 3-inch delicate sprigs from the reserved carrot tops to make about 1½ lightly packed cups and toss them in a bowl with the basil. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil with the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt in a small bowl until the mixture looks creamy. Use a little of the lemon dressing to lightly dress the carrot top–basil mixture, sprinkle on a little more salt, and toss well. Arrange the mixture on top of the carrots and burrata. Drizzle everything with the remaining lemon dressing and serve.
If you’ve never nibbled a carrot top, you have a happy surprise waiting for you. The greens are delicious: a little less carroty than the roots, and almost briny, like heartier borage. Arriving home from the market with not only a collection of sweet, colorful roots but also a big old tuft of bushy tops is like ordering pork shoulder and finding out that the kind butcher has snuck a couple of trotters into your bag.
I treat the tops as I would a tender herb, adding little sprigs to salads as I might parsley or dill. And because each bunch of carrots can bring twice the volume in tops, I make pesto. As much as I like the particular flavor of the tops themselves, I also like how they carry the flavor of basil, which comes through quite a bit considering how few leaves you use.
Makes about 1 cup
- 4 cups lightly packed delicate carrot tops (stems discarded), roughly chopped
- A small handful of basil leaves
- ½ cup walnut halves
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 medium garlic clove, halved lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the carrot tops and basil in a small food processor, pulse several times, then add the walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, and salt. Pulse several more times, add the oil, then process full-on,
Stopping and scraping down the sides of the processor or stirring gently if need be, until the mixture is well combined but still a bit chunky. Taste and season with more salt, if you fancy.