Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Now, Why Didn’t I Think of That?

I like to read food magazines (no big surprise there). Cook’s Illustrated (Sept./Oct. 2009) did an article on making vinaigrettes. For me this was a great article. I like to make my own salad dressings. One problem that I have with homemade vinaigrettes is that the oil and vinegar separate into two layers. Shaking helps for a few seconds, but upon sitting for a few minutes they separate. Oil on top and vinegar on the bottom. That is because oil is less dense than vinegar. Alone they just can’t stay together. 

To keep oil and vinegar together, you need an emulsifier. Emulsifiers have two ends. One end holds water (hydrophilic) and one ends holds oil (hydrophobic). Therefore emulsifiers act to bring oil and water together into one. Egg yolks contain an emulsifier, lecithin. This is why egg yolks are used to make mayonnaise.
Schematic for an emulsifier

So why not use a little mayonnaise to keep a vinaigrette together. You are essentially using an emulsion to make an emulsion. And it worked. The vinaigrette made with the mayonnaise was a little thicker and did not separate. I made a lemon vinaigrette using this method.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes about ¼ cup.

½ teaspoon mayonnaise or light mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
⅛ teaspoon salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. In a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. Gradually add lemon juice.

2. Slowly, add the oil, whisking constantly. Vinaigrette should be slightly thick with no oil on surface.

Note: Recipe makes enough to coat about 8 to 10 cups of salad greens. The original recipe only called for ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard. I happen to love Dijon mustard, so I added more. Finally, I also prefer more acid and less oil, so feel free to adjust the ratio of acid to oil. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Results of the Collard Green Throwdown

The first ever collard green throwdown is over!  Too bad that you missed it!  My colleagues and I enjoyed our share of collard greens, mac 'n cheese, cornbread, and iced tea.  Everything was quite delicious.

I am not sure if Amanda will ever prepare collard greens my way, nor I hers.  However, it was fun to try another method and I gained a higher level of respect for a different way to make a dish that I consider mine.  I believe that being open to new ideas is always a good thing.  Culture should not only be preserved, but shared.  So, on that note, we accomplished our goal.

When southerners prepare greens, they never use a recipe.  They are cooked by taste and personal preference.  For that reason, the list and amount of ingredients are not exact.  Salt may need to be adjusted according to the saltiness of the neck bones.  Instead of ground pepper, pepper flakes can be used or dried pod.  If you don't quite like the first batch of collard greens that you prepare, keep trying (besides greens are very nutritious).  As with most things you get better with practice.  The same is true for Asian style cooking.

If you decide to try collard greens, here are my Southern Collard Greens and Amanda's Asian Style.  Below the recipes are pictures on how to cut and wash the greens.

Southern Collard Greens

1 pound collard greens
About 4 smoked neck bones, depending on size
to ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
to ¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon seasoning salt

1. In a medium saucepan, cover neck bones with about 2 cups of water.  Cook until tender.
2. Remove the main stem of the greens.  Slice diagonally into 1/2 inch wide slices.  Wash greens in at least two changes of water.
3. Drain was much water from the washed greens as possible.  Place greens in saucepan with neck bones.  Cover with lid and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.  Stir and add the seasonings.  Continue to cook until greens reach the desired degree of doneness.

**Southerners will sometimes add condiments to their greens.  Chopped onions, chow chow (pronounced "cha cha" by Southerners), and hot pepper vinegar are common addition to greens.  These are usually added at the table.

Collard Green Stir-Fry

 Tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
1teaspoon ginger, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 pound collard greens
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce (more or less to taste)
teaspoon cracked black pepper

1. Remove main stem from collard greens.  Stack leaves on top of each other and roll them into a cigar shape.  Cut across greens into 1/2 inch strips.  Wash greens well and drain off water.
2. Add oil to a saute pan over medium high heat until oil is hot.  Add ginger and garlic and fry for 30 seconds (or until fragrant).  Constantly move ginger and garlic with a spatula to keep them from burning.
3. Add washed collard greens to the pan.  Move the greens around in the pan until the greens are wilted.
4.  Add red pepper flakes, vinegar, soy sauce, and black pepper.  Cook for 3-5 minutes longer.  Taste the greens and add more of any ingredient according to your preference.

How to Cut and Wash Collard Greens

Beautiful Collard Greens

To remove the stem, take a paring knife and strip the leaf on each side of the stem

Then snap the center of the stem with the paring knife to remove it 
Stack the leaves and roll them into a cigar; cut across the leaves into ½  inch strips
Wash collard greens at least two times to remove dirt
Washed and cut collard greens ready to be cooked!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Collard Green Throwdown

I like collard greens. I grew up in the South and disliking collard greens was not an option. Collard greens have been a staple of the southern diet since the beginning of time.

My family prepared collard greens in the typical southern fashion, that is, fat back (called salt pork by city folk) or ham hocks. Until recently, this was the only method I had heard of. But collard greens and soul food have ‘come up’ in the world. Recently Saveur magazine did an article on collard greens and the many ways to cook them (http://bit.ly/fVdlVt).  It seems that people in other parts of the world have their own ideas about cooking collard greens. Even though I am partial to my version, I enjoyed reading about other methods.

You are probably wondering what all this is leading to. My student recently told me that she would like to learn to cook collard greens my way. She currently cooks them the Asian way. So, I challenged her to a collard green throwdown. This Thursday we will be cooking collard greens two ways – The Asian way and the Southern way. If you happen to be at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln anywhere near Ruth Leverton Hall, please stop by room 206 at 10 a.m. You may participate by voting or bringing your version of collard greens. Next week we will post the recipes for both methods.