Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cooked Stems (I mean, Happy Valentine's Day!)

What? Cooked stems don't give you that loving feeling? Whoa-oah, that loving feeling? I understand, but really they should. You think you're all about the Chile Tortilla Egg Bake or the Fall-to-Pieces Ribs, but this. This is the recipe of recipes, I swear to god.

But first, allow me to acknowledge tomorrow, a day you maybe love or maybe hate or maybe have mixed feelings about. Me, I typically love it, what with the near-comical lack of pressure I put on myself. For example, here's the card I'm giving Michael.

It comes from a long and prestigious lineage of such cards. 

I made the first one when I was leading a Valentine-making workshop in Ben's fourth-grade class and we were cutting up an old catalogue of natural history prints. It has proved, as evidenced here, incredible versatile. My other easy-but-good offering this year is this: shirt from Target, embellished with a sewn-on heart, cut from a felted old wool sweater. Birdy's on the hem, Ben's on the sleeve. 

But I have other ideas! Because maybe you are aiming a little higher with your sweeties and children than NEAR INSTANTANEOUS. I understand. I've been there myself.

Valentine's Day Ideas
Heart Beet Valentines
PBJ Valentine Cookies
More Valentine's Day Ideas
Last-Minute Valentines, including Almost-Instant Heart-Shaped PizzaValentine's Day Ideas
Heart Beet Valentines
PBJ Valentine Cookies
More Valentine's Day Ideas
Last-Minute Valentines, including Almost-Instant Heart-Shaped Pizza
Anatomical Heart Freezer Paper Stencil

But enough about love, blah blah, romance, etc., because I am only in it for THE STEMS. If, like me, you make a lot of kale salad or collard rolls or other raw-greens dishes that require you to strip the tender leaves from their vigorous stems, this is your recipe. Also, weirdly, this is my introduction to the Instant Pot, which my brother got me for my birthday in October, and which I am only mentioning here now, for the first time. I know you're wanting a magic recipe where you're at work, thinking about stew, and the ingredients assemble Fantasia-like and cook themselves in your absence, but for now I've just got this. The stems. Because I know you hate throwing them away as much as I do. And, cooked like this, they are a near-perfect food: yielding and mellow, but briny, and with a bit of bite from the vinegar and pepper flakes. Plus, how fun would it be to bring this to, like, a robotics potluck or an algebra party or some other STEM event! Do you feel me?

Cooked Green Stems
These are good hot, room-temperature, and cold. And a container of cooked stems in the fridge is like money in the bank. A really terrible bank, I guess, but still. I love them so. Oh, also, if you don't feel like cooking the stems at the moment you're using their leaves, just stick them back in the fridge until you are. 

1 generous glug of olive oil (a tablespoon or two)
1 or 2 or 3 sliced or chopped cloves or garlic
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon of something spicier)
The stripped stems from a large bunch of collards, kale, or chard, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1/2 cup water
1 generous splash of white vinegar (maybe 2 tablespoons)

If you're doing this in an Instant Pot, then use the sauté function and cook the garlic in the oil for 30 seconds or so, until it is just fragrant. Add the pepper flakes and stems and stir for a few seconds, then add the salt, water, and vinegar. Cancel the sauté function, put the lid on with the venting turned off, and set the pot to cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Allow to release naturally for at least 15 minutes before eating. Yum, yum, yum.

You can follow these exact instructions for a regular pressure cooker (which is what I still mostly use), or you can do this in a small  covered pot over low heat, cooking the stems for about an hour and checking the water level occasionally. You could probably slow cook them too! I just never have.