I have a feeling that our household is one of those that likes interactive food. I grew up in the eighties in Denmark where pita breads were all the craze. We’re talking store-bought pitas. canned tuna, (un)frozen peas, canned corn, iceberg and thousand island dressing. All my fellow Danes know what I’m talking about! This was the hit menu for family dinners and kids’ birthdays alike. Although the memory of that toasted pita with the thousand island dressing is something I hold on to, fondly, I have thought to myself once or twice, hm, I wonder why we were all so fond of pitas. But I think it had to do with the fact that you could put your pita together yourself. Everything was served in small bowls (or possibly tupperware, that would fit with the decade), and you got to assemble everything in the proportions that you liked.
Modern day me still likes the type of food where you can do stuff yourself. Case in point – Korean BBQ. I never tried that before moving to the states, but once I did I never looked back. At Korean bbq, you order raw meat (sometimes marinated) and you grill it yourself, at the table. And your get to create many little perfect bites with each piece of meat you eat, by adding their delicious pickles, salads, rice, kimchee and condiments. If only we didn’t have the fridge bursting with farm fresh vegetables, then we could go to Korean BBQ!
The point of all this rambling is interactive food. Things like pitas, wraps, tacos, rice paper rolls and even possibly sushi rolls are foods where each diner gets to become part of the cooking process for a little bit. And they are generally successful dinner choices at my house.
So when I saw those big, beautiful, flat collard leaves in my CSA box, I had the fleeting thought that maybe I could wrap stuff in those. At first, I dismissed the thought, though. In the past when I have wrapped stuff in any kind of leaf, it has generally involved baking in the oven. And I must say that I have chewed my way through an impressive amount of tough leafy wraps as a result. But what if you could avoid the oven entirely, I thought to myself. This was an attractive thought as the idea of turning on the oven is not so very appealing in these days when the San Diego weather has forgotten than it’s supposed to be fall, and the temperature in our below-the-roof apartment is hovering between 35-45 degrees celsius.
In the end, I opted to blanch the collards. In the past, I always removed the stem entirely, leaving the leaf flappy and tattered and quite frankly not very suitable for wrapping. Today, however, google taught me that you don’t need to go crazy with collards, you simply need to cut the back bit off of the stem, so that it is approximately level with the rest of the leaf.
And then you blanch for 30-60 seconds in salted water.
Followed by a quick shock in ice water.
Followed by a nice toweling.
At this point you can stack your leaves and store them in the fridge for up to a few days, for future use. I didn’t do that.
I wanted to have them for dinner, with a minced beef sauce type of thing (using the sage from the CSA box as well).
I also made what we could call an aioli, but which was actually just mayonnaise mixed with garlic.
There were also yellow wax beans (also from the CSA box), served with a sweet chili paste that I made last week.
And now let’s get interactive:
take a collard leaf and spread it out on the plate…
spread with garlic mayo…
add a bit of meat sauce…
then wrap it all up…
Happy, interactive food, and also lots of vegetables. That’s a good dinner anywhere.