Adventures with greens!

Our beloved Auntie Karen belongs to an organic CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) co-op here in Cincy. She's been out of town twice this summer on the pickup day for her share, and she generously offered the goodies to us, we just had to go pick them up. Free organic veggies and a trip to a farm? BONUS! (Thanks again, K!)

Both of our visits to the co-op netted us familiar vegetables like onions, squash, lettuce, peppers and beans--all of which were eaten quickly and enjoyed unequivocally. What I didn't have any experience with were the greens offered at each visit--leafy broccoli stems the first time and resplendently stalked Swiss chard today. 
I won't recount my experience with preparing the broccoli greens, as the final product didn't even make it to the dinner table. The racoons that frequent our compost pile may have enjoyed them, but I did not. The chard, on the other hand, was a resounding success, illustrated by the fact that both Hoops and Campbell cleaned their plates tonight. Evie did an excellent job of gagging on hers, but that had more to do with my "no noodles/no milk" stipulation (I know, I'm a tyrant), than with her enjoyment of the meal. Three is just a super-fun age!

Anyway, I had no idea what to do with the chard when I saw it on the share table, but I was bound and determined to get Karen's money's worth and took the allotted 10 stems. When we got home, I pulled out my beloved copy of Joy of Cooking and found the only entree that called for chard--Creamy Pasta with Chard and Tomatoes. The recipe sounded pretty neutral and Hoops didn't make a face when I mentioned it, so dinner it became. An added bonus was that the girls--who are certifiably Kung-Fu-Panda-crazy--are very pro-noodle these days, so as long as you call the dish "Po Noodles," they're on board. Hooray for well-marketed animated blockbusters! 

So, using a couple of farm-stand tomatoes (and two pitiful, meager, warty tomatoes from our garden), a small onion that was also part of today's share, a couple cloves of garlic, some half-and-half (the recipe called for heavy cream, but who keeps that on hand for Wednesday night dinners?), Parmesan cheese, a little seasoning and the chard, I made a pretty super sauce to pour over some freshly prepared pasta. You can get the recipe from the cookbook itself, or you can check out these blogs, here and here, which share two other cooks' experiences with the recipe. 

The only adjustments I made to the mix was the aforementioned half-and-half and a hindsight decision to reduce the amount of cheese a bit. If you're going to use the Parm-in-a-shaker that's conveniently located in your grocery's dairy case (not ideal, but again, it's Wednesday night for Pete's sake!), consider cutting back on the amount you use. The recipe called for 3/4 cup of cheese, but 1/2-a-cup would have been more than enough for my humble taste buds. If you happen to have a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano aging in your cheese cellar, however, go ahead and grate with gusto!
Parmigiano-Reggiano = Gourmet Goodness!
Kraft Parmesan Cheese = No Fillers!
This was a great recipe to ease my way into the world of greens. It's uncomplicated, it didn't call for any gourmet-level ingredients/ingredient preparations, it didn't take forever to cook, and it was pretty-darned yummy. It was so tasty, in fact, that Hoops said we should have it again--and coming from my beloved corndog-aficionado, that's a ringing endorsement. I don't think it will replace my favorite go-to pasta, Mario Batali's achingly simple and equally delicious Spaghetti alla Carbonara, but it will certainly get me to walk around to the entire produce gondola at the grocery store from here on out. 

Just so long as I don't have to eat broccoli greens again... .

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