Monday, September 26, 2011

Nested Greens with Eggs

I am always on the lookout for new ways to cook greens. I make some sort of greens at least once, if not twice a week for their nutritional benefits, but mostly because I like their taste - bitter or sweet, no matter. Typically, I simply saute them in a bit of olive oil and garlic. Sometimes I add cut up potatoes to help balance the bitter taste of some greens. They are also great added to soups - bean, lentil, vegetable, in particular. So, when I found this twist (literally) on basic sauteed greens I had to try it.

The recipe comes from a beautiful coffee table-style book I bought many years ago called Tuscany The Beautiful Cookbook written by Lorenza de' Medici. Yes, you guessed it, a decedent of those de' Medicis. I was intrigued first by the presentation of individual nests of goodness. Then, by the ingredients themselves, eggs baked within the simply prepared greens. What more do you need for a simple, yet nutritious and inexpensive lunch or light dinner entree.

I took the liberty of embellishing the recipe a bit for fear as printed it would be too bland.  To spice up the greens I added some minced garlic and a dash of pepperoncini flakes. Yes, I too was surprised no garlic was part of the original recipe, but Italians don't really use as much garlic as Americans think they do. Since the cooked greens need to be twisted into the nests, select more tender varieties of greens like mustard greens, dandelions or spinach rather than kale or collard greens whose leaves are much tougher. After preparing this dish I also learned it would be best to remove as much of the stems as possible, especially if they are thick as they make twisting the nest a bit more difficult. Leave the leaves whole or split lengthwise also to facilitate twisting. As a final finish I rested the greens bundles on a small bed of nicely toasted Italian bread topped with some tomato sauce I had sitting in the refrigerator.

Nested Greens with Eggs 
about 2 lbs of greens - mustard, turnip, dandelion, spinach, chicory, escarole
2-3 T. olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
dash of pepperoncini flakes
5 eggs
salt and pepper 

 Wash and trim the ends or tough parts of greens. Leave whole, or split lengthwise. Drain well or spin dry. I used a mixture of turnip greens and dandelion greens.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large skillet, heat 1 T. olive oil. When hot, add the minced garlic and pepperoncini flakes and cook for just a minute or two for the garlic to release its flavor and fragrance.

Add the greens, some salt and pepper and 3-4 T. of water. Mix everything together and reduce heat to medium or medium high. Cover and cook for 5 about minutes. 

Uncover, and continue to cook till the water has fully evaporated and greens are tender. Take off the heat to cool. 

Lightly coat a baking dish large enough to hold 5 nests.  When the greens are cool enough to handle, divide the mixture into 5 portions. With your hands, roll each portion into a ball and place into the baking dish. With your fingertips, make a hollow in the center of each ball to form a nest. As a helpful note, make sure the nests are high enough and dense enough to hold and fully contain the egg liquid.

Break one egg and drop just the egg white into the hollow of the nest, setting the yolk aside.  Repeat with the remaining eggs, dropping the white into each nest and setting the yolks aside so that they can be added individually later. 

Bake the nests until the egg whites begin to solidify, about 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and carefully drop an egg yolk onto the egg white in each nest. Lightly season egg with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Return to the oven and bake another minute or two till yolks are heated through but not fully cooked - you want them runny when you cut into them. 

To serve place a slice of lightly toasted Italian bread on a plate. Top with a spoonful of tomato sauce and place a greens nest on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil or sprinkle with some grated cheese. 

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