In between winter and spring, we seem to still be stuck with winter—as far as vegetable choices go.
Wintertime sucks the resolve of good intentions dry. At least when it comes to your pledge to eat local food. Remember that one? You made it when the bounty of last summer had your kitchen overflowing with tomatoes, squash, green beans, and every kind of berry you could imagine? You felt so good about yourself, so virtuous, so pure, and yes, just a little bit smug.
Winter slaps all of that self-satisfaction right out of you. Not a lot grows around here between fall and spring. And the stuff that does grow is kind of funky: things like collards or turnips or cabbage, and of course, the ubiquitous winter squash. What kind of food is that?
It sounds a lot like the kind of food grandmothers used to serve. And although grandmother food is technically considered comfort food, winter vegetables don’t really do it for me. They’re decidedly unsexy and all of them seem to be pretty stinky. Greens have a lot of sulfur compounds, and they annoyingly billow out from the kitchen while you’re cooking, masking whatever little allure they originally might have had.
Guilt, however, informs a lot of what I do and what I don’t do. Over the winter, I managed to join three co-ops which have had me driving all over town each week. In order to justify the endless driving, I’ve been forced to figure out how to cook the available vegetables in a way that doesn’t drive them from the plate straight into the trashcan.
Pork fat is key.
Please stop screaming now, I can explain. Pork fat (otherwise known as LARD) is actually making a comeback. In some circles, it never even went away. Here's a link to reprint of a piece I wrote for Style Weekly's lovely, glossy, offshoot Belle a while back that goes into the particulars.
The short version is this: Despite recent reports,* more compelling studies have shown animal fat really isn’t all that bad for you.
Now, I’m not advocating throwing large amounts of lard or butter into everything you cook. I don’t, in fact, advocate throwing large amounts of olive oil into everything either (although it’s one of my very favorite things). All I’m trying to do here is preach a little variety along with moderation.
But I’ve veered off course. Back to the vegetables. Not too long ago, I looked with suspicion at a head of collard greens sitting on my counter. Most recipes call for a quick five to ten minute sauté, and I almost always end up with a lot of chewy, fibrous greens that make me feel virtuous because they taste so healthy.
Recipe after the jump