I went to Columbus, Ohio for a conference last week and got to spend a lot of time wandering around the city, which really impressed me. It looked like it would be great for bicyling around and there was a really nice bookshop and many cool little neighborhoods. But perhaps my favorite part of this neat little town was the North Market which was near the Short North neighborhood. It was really cool--the permanent part of the market kind of looked like a smaller version of the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia (as described in the "what I ate in Philly" post). You could find all kinds of wonderful, locally produced, organic/free range produce, meat and dairy. There was also a great farmer's market going on right outside that day and it featured some beautiful vegetables, so as we walked around I couldn't help picking some up even though I knew I would have to fly home holding them on the plane, thereby fully completing my transformation into my mother. I talked to some of the farmers and they took such obvious pride in their work and their fine looking produce--it was really a pleasure to discuss food with them. I stopped to buy some braising greens from one stall simply because they looked so beautiful and like such an unusual mix--he told me what everything was, but I don't really remember now. I think there were dandelion greens, maybe some varieties of endive & escarole, perhaps some little chards, definetely some burgundy amaranth...can't remember what they all were, but they were delicate and beautiful so I bought them. Then my eye was caught by these cute little yellow roots called mangolds that I was told were related to beets--they were available in a detroit dark-ruby hue or golden yellow, so I took the yellow ones. These farmers let us taste the arugula microgreens they were growing, the flavor was an intense, superconcentrated spicy-nuttiness. They told me to go check out the garlic from another vendor, so I did and bought some fragrant hardneck garlic from him. That was about all I thought I could handle for not actually being in a town with my own kitchen. For immediate sustenance, we found coffee and a delicious pretzel roll stuffed with pancetta and some type of soft cheese...true to form for this market, the bread was freshly made right there, the pancetta and cheese were locally produced...I think I might be in love.
Last night I braised my braising greens--I realize not everybody had access to the Columbus Farmers Market this weekend, but you can use any type of dark green--kale, chard, beet, turnip or mustard greens...if you can find small, young delicate ones, that's great, but you may only be able to find the older, thick stem ones. Just trim the stems and cut out the central stem "vein" as well, if it looks too thick. Then roll up your greens and cut the rolls into slices--this makes a chiffonade that will help your green cook more quickly. But if you are lucky enogh to find delicate baby greens, by all means, use those! You do not need to trim or slice them at all if they are young and tender. Heated 3 minced cloves of my precious hardneck garlic in olive oil, then tossed in my beautiful mixture of greens. Tossed with the garlic and olive oil over medium high heat until they shrank down (if you are not a regular green cook, you will be shocked at how much they shrink down). The greens began to put off liquid which started to evaporate out in the heat--at that point I added 1 cup of chicken stock, salt, pepper, turned the heat down and covered them to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they didn't burn. While that was going on, I took my golden mangolds and trimmed off all but the top inch of their greens and put them whole in a small pan in a 350 degree oven to roast. I eventually added some water to the pan to keep them from getting too toasty. This is usually how I cook beets so I just did the same thing for the mangolds. When they were soft (it took awhile--maybe 30-40 minutes) I peeled off the skins and sliced them up. Meanwhile, I had put up two cups of bhutanese red rice to steam in my beloved rice cooker. The only reason I used this rather exotic rice was because I was pretty much all out of my usual brown rice, but I wanted something with a similarly nutty flavor, and I remembered that someone once gave me a packet of this fancy rice that was hanging out in my cupboard. It's really good, actually, if you see it for sale someplace, pick it up and try it. It cooks much faster than brown rice and has a pretty red color. While the rice, greens and mangold were all cooking away happily to themselves, I sliced 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts in half to make them more thin, then pounded them lightly to equal width. Sauteed them in olive oil, salt and pepper until lightly brown and cooked through, then set aside. In the same pan, I added 1 tablespoon of butter to the remaining olive oil and chicken juices, then after it was sizzly, added 4 cloves of my Ohio hardneck garlic, sliced very thinly. After it was golden and soft, I sprinkled in flour, probably no more than about 2 tablespoons. After that was absorbed and had thickened my butter mixture somewhat, I added 3/4 cup of chicken stock, stirring it until it became a velvety texture, then removed it from heat and added 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar, stirred in well. Put chicken on the red rice, drizzled a little sauce over the top and put the greens and roasted mangold slices next to it. It was a regional Ohio feast.