To beat winter blues, 'jump' some greens

February 05, 1997|By Rob Kasper

FEELING BEATEN down by winter, I decided to "jump" some greens.

At first I didn't know I was "jumping" them. I thought I was just boiling them in salted water, draining them, and then heating them again in olive oil flavored with garlic. This treatment adds a little verve to side dishes during the winter, a stretch that tends to be "down time" on the verve front.

I discovered I had been "jumping" greens by reading a book, another activity I engage in to get me through the dark months. I was reading "Red, White & Greens," (HarperCollins 1996, $25), when I came across a recipe for "jumped greens." The author, Faith Willinger, a contributing editor to Gourmet who lives in Florence, said "jumped" is how Italians refer to twice-cooked greens flavored with either butter, garlic, hot red pepper or extra virgin olive oil.

The actual term the Italians use for the reheated greens is "saltare," which, according to Willinger, is the past participle of the verb to jump. I'll have to trust her on that. My Italian is meager and all I know about participles is that they aren't supposed to dangle.

This news on greens stirred me up. I realized that for some time now I had been "jumping" rapini, a bitter green that has more aliases than a con man. Rapini is also known as raab, rape and is alleged to be kin to broccoli.

I spent some time checking out whether rapini was really a relative of broccoli. I am not sure why I did this, other than it was winter and I had a lot of time to kill.

One report said that the green was a relative of the turnip. This news turned up in "The Seasons of The Italian Kitchen" by Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca (1994, Atlantic Monthly Press, $25). The authors said that even though the green's skinny shoots, abundant leaves and blossoms make it resemble broccoli, it is actually the top of a type of turnip. These authors called the plant a "charming little turnip top."

However, another report on the green's background claimed that the green was part turnip, part broccoli. I found this description in "Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables" by Elizabeth Schneider (1986, Harper & Row $17). The author referred to the green as "turnip-related" and noted that one of its names, "raab" is from "rapa," the Latin word for turnip. I had to take the author's word on this. When I was in school, I took enough Latin to conjugate the verb "amo," to love, but am, nonetheless, very weak in the Latin roots of vegetables.

Schneider went on to say that despite its turnip-leanings, the green is "a kind of broccoli ... a nonheading type."

My background check left unsure whether rapini was a brother to broccoli or the cousin of a turnip. But I do know that if you "jump" this green or other strong greens like chard or spinach, you end up with a good tasting dish. And, in the process, you liven up a dreary time of year.

Jumped greens

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 -2 pounds greens (spinach, rapini or chard)

4 quarts water

fine sea salt

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 hot red pepper, chopped or dried hot pepper flakes to taste.

Toss the greens in a sinkful of water. Rinse greens until all grit and sand are removed. (Spinach may need more than one change of water). Lift the greens from the water and drain in a colander. Remove any bruised leaves and thick stems.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Salt the water, immerse the greens in boiling water and cook 3-5 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Remove the greens with a slotted spoon, place them in a colander and run under cold water to cool the greens. Divide the greens into three parts and squeeze between both hands to form balls and remove all the excess water.

Untangle the greens and chop roughly.

Place the garlic in a large nonstick pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, stir to coat the garlic, and place over moderate heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the pepper. Cook until the garlic barely begins to color.

Add the greens and 1/4 cup cooking water to garlic and season with salt. Raise the heat and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes to heat the greens, amalgamate the flavors, and evaporate the water. Remove from the heat, add the remaining extra virgin olive oil, and stir.

-- "Red, White & Greens"

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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