Tuesday, January 24, 2012

winter greens

There is an email that makes its way around as such things do, on a certain cycle, that may or may not have originated with an actual contest in the Washington Post years ago. Do you know the one I mean? The challenge in that mythical contest was to create a new word by changing one letter of an existing one, and the list is one of the few seasonal emails I am generally happy to see, because it has some great words on it. As will happen in the Great Age of Computers, some enterprising soul who was tired of the same email coming around announcing a contest that wasn’t happening anymore, if it ever did, revived the thing. I have just wasted ten minutes I will never get back choosing (in my entirely objective opinion) the best of the words in this year’s contest. I present them to you so you can immediately begin using them. No need to thank me for saving you the trouble of culling the list yourself, and if you prefer to waste your own time directly, the full list can be found here.


automagically - a thing that just happens mysteriously

carcolepsy - the chronic inability to stay awake while riding in a car

eblaborate - oversharing at length and with no clear thesis

jobstacle - when work gets in the way

pregret - Regretting something that you haven’t done yet


All good ones, right? But the ultimate winner, I feel, is this one:


crapacity - Upper limit to the amount of BS you can tolerate


Perhaps you have reached yours, so let’s talk about bitter vegetables. Family legend has it that when I was served an endive at a tender age I did not find it pleasant. I began to refer to anything too bitter to enjoy as “derve,” and that word has persisted in my family’s lexicon ever since. It’s a good word, I think, perhaps not on the order of “jobstacle,” but one I continue to use for things that are too bitter to be palatable.


Very few vegetables these days get the diagnosis, though. I love endive and radicchio and dandelion, and even the most casual research will tell you these are definitely vegetables that will love you back: they are high in minerals and immune-boosting antioxidants, and stimulate your liver to be a better sanitation device.


But that’s worthless data if you can’t make them tasty enough to eat. My favorite way to eat broccoli rabe has always been to blanch it in salted water, then sauté it with garlic and olive oil and and lots of salt. If the very bitterness of this common Italian restaurant treatment has put you off it before, though, fly in the face of your pregret and try eating it raw.


My friends Naomi and Ron served this salad at one of their periodic, epic potluck dinners, and I have been making it ever since. This amused Naomi when I told her, because she forgot she ever made it at all. She is the Queen of Greens, and it is probably hard to keep all her incredible salads straight. Contrary to what you might expect if you have gone to lengths to cook its bitterness away, raw rabe is much sweeter. And the salty-sour dressing makes it go down nice and easy.


broccoli rabe salad with pesto and lemon


1 head broccoli rabe

about half a cup of prepared pesto

the juice of at least one lemon

coarse salt to taste


Trim the woody ends from the broccoli rabe stalks and tear/chop the tender upper parts into bite-size pieces. The leaves and little florets are of much more use here than the thicker parts of the stems. Wash and thoroughly dry. Mix or shake the pesto, lemon juice, and a perhaps a little extra olive oil, depending on how thick the pesto you have is, in a little jar or dish and pour this over the greens, along witha good pinch of coarse salt, tossing or mixing with your hands until everything is well-coated. Pesto can vary quite a bit, so taste for the right balance of sour, salty and pesto-y, and correct accordingly with more of whatever you require.

2 comments:

  1. My favorite word of all time comes from this particular contest: "Frisbeetarianism - the belief that when you die your soul gets stuck on the roof."

    I'm going to think about trying broccoli rabe again, and for me that's a really big step, a sign that you have written a super persuasive essay here.

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  2. Raw? Really? Would not have presumed.
    Is derve an adjective or the opposite of lerve?

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