Thursday, November 18, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving: 7 days, 7 recipes

Thanksgiving is one week from today. Are you ready? I am. Mostly for the few days break it will provide right before finals. I'm not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. Last year, I cooked my first solo turkey for my boyfriend and I. It came out well, but my favorite part was still the stuffing. It always is...

Side dishes and desserts are my favorite Thanksgiving foods to cook and to eat. So, each day for the next 7 days I'll be sharing a recipe for a side dish or dessert with fresh, seasonal ingredients to spice up any holiday (or any day) meal. Some of the recipes will be family favorites, others will be new ones I've put together over the past couple of weeks. All will feature ingredients from my CSA boxes (I picked up my last one yesterday *sniffle*).

Dark, leafy greens are in season once again as the growing season winds down in western PA.  The health benefits of these greens are tremendous so there's no better time than to eat them right now as we're entering a season marked by delicious sweets. They're full of fiber, which can temper how quickly carbohydrates are absorbed in the bloodstream, thus reducing big spikes and dips in blood sugar levels, which can mess with our appetites and moods. And with the days getting shorter and darker, we don't need any other potential mood dampeners. Luckily, the folate in greens also contributes to serotonin production and serotonin is good for moods! Yay! :) So if you can't get out in the sun, you can at least make some Southern style greens to warm up your body and mind.

Bowl of fresh greens: spinach, kale, carrot, and radish

With that in mind, I bring you the first side dish of the series: Slow Southern Greens. You can put these in the Crock-Pot on Thanksgiving morning and they'll be ready with the turkey (if they're ready early just switch to the warm setting and they'll be fine until dinner time). I used all my dark greens from my CSA box last week and I've been enjoying these dense cooked greens with sausage for lunch either as a side dish or on their own.
Greens and sausage in the crock

Slow Southern Greens

1.5 pounds (24 oz.) of fresh greens (whatever you like and that's local...collards and kale are both very good)
8-12 oz. sausage (sweet or hot, you choose)
2 T apple cider vinegar
½ c water
1 small chile, halved (optional)
1 tsp. sugar

Wash, de-stem, and chop greens. Prepared greens will nearly fill a 6 quart slow cooker, but will shrink to about a 1/5 of the original level. Add to greens: sausage (chopped or crumbled), cider vinegar, water, chile, and sugar. Cook for 5-7 hours on low or until greens are tender. Remove the chile halves before serving.

The greens shrank a lot and created a dense, spicy dish. If you're not into spicy, skip the chile. I used a sweet chicken sausage in a pork casing from Trader Joe's and the sweet and spicy combo suited my tastes well. You could easily go all sweet or all spicy with your choice of sausage and deciding whether or not to use the chile. Also, if you use the chile, you really do want to pick it out to avoid surprises. I put in a red chile so the two halves were easy to find.

Finished product...not pretty, but delicious. Promise.

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