We had our neighbor here in Michigan to dinner one day. He was educated in Rome and traveled extensively in Italy during his time there. That day we ate a dish of pasta, enjoyed some wine, and talked. After clearing the table for the next course, I placed a pan of spinach in the middle of the table.
He laughed. “I bet this is the only house in Southeastern Michigan serving spinach from a frying pan.”
Probably not. But I appreciated the remark. And it got me thinking about greens.
One of the pleasures of eating Romagnolo (in the region of Italy’s Romagna) is the erbe di compagna, the local greens. You buy them fresh in the local market—in my wife’s region you can always find chard and chickory—take them home, wash them, trim the stems, blanch them in boiling water (stems and all). To preserve the color, shock them with cold water, which also makes the next step, chopping them, a little easier (and quicker).
Then comes the pan, where the greens are saltati, heated and tossed in olive oil and lightly sauteed garlic. Cooking time varies to taste. You can have them fresh and still brilliant green, the stems slightly al dente, or cooked longer, to the point where the erbe turn a little mushy at first, and then, as they begin to dry in the pan, get just a little stringy. Years ago, on one of my first trips to Rome, I ordered erbe saltati. There was a little bite to them, a pizzico of pepperoncino added. Different. Regional. Tasty.
Where we live in the US, chard is now widely available. To add variety to the pan, I’ll chop a head of romaine or add some shredded cabbage to make a big tumble of greens.
Glorious greens. Let’s hope you have a few leftover–for soup.