There are a number of vegetables that have edible parts we rarely use, most of these being the leafy tops of root vegetables. Turnip greens are often used, some people use beet greens, but people often don't know what to do with things like kohlrabi greens, radish greens, and carrot tops. Similarly we're often not sure what to do with cauliflower leaves and broccoli leaves and stems. There are also plants whose stems we eat, but we often forget about the delicious roots (roasted parsley root pottage, anyone?). All of these are edible and delicious.
I wonder if supermarket culture has led us away from eating these delicious foods. They're lopped off and thrown away or composted before the veggies even make it to the produce section. Even one of the farmers at my local Greenmaket offers to take the tops off of the carrots when you buy them. He then dumps all of the greens no one wants into a large bin, presumably to take them back to the farm to compost. These greens are things that in the 1950s, with the rise of processed, canned foods and the end of war-era rationing and Depression-era frugality we didn't need anymore (I believe I read this in a Michael Pollen book, perhaps The Omnivore's Dilemma, but I'm not sure. Anyone know the source?).
People don't know what to do with these greens. But they're both tasty and healthy. Carrot greens, to me, have a flavor profile similar to parsley. I toss some of them into my stock bag in the freezer, but put the rest anywhere that I would use parsley. They can be eaten raw or they can be cooked. There are some people that say they aren't safe to eat because carrots draw too many nitrates from the soil--this shouldn't be an issue with organic, sustainably grown carrots, but maybe you don't want to eat the tops of the ones you pick up at your local grocery. Radish greens, on the other hand, must be cooked. If you've encountered them before you'll know that they have a fuzzy, almost prickly coating on the leaves. Imagine biting into that in a salad. Not pleasant. Not pleasant at all. They can be washed and steamed or they can be sauteed. The taste is slightly spicy, like a radish, but with a bit of the bitterness that is common to a lot of dark, leafy greens.
As for what I did with these greens... It all started with a recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers. I have been kind of dying to make this recipe since I got the cookbook for Christmas. The recipe called for some things I didn't have on hand, so I made some substitutions. I also decided to make the recipe vegan by omitting the yogurt called for in the original (also, I was cooking for D, and while yogurt in the frozen form or as part of a smoothie is fine, it is not something that is OK in pasta sauce). We made about half the amount of pasta the recipe called for, so we did have quire a bit of leftover sauce. I mixed the leftover sauce with some yogurt and tossed it with pasta. I preferred it with the yogurt. I also spread some of the leftovers on a pizza crust and topped it with mozzarella and oil-cured black olives (obviously sans yogurt). That was even better. But, what isn't better if you turn it into pizza (ok, lots of things, but still...)
I loved the combination of bitter greens with bright cilantro and spicy red pepper flakes; however, the texture wasn't my favorite. The recipe below is how I made it, but if I were to make this again (and I likely will) I think I would try cooking only the radish greens and leaving the rest raw, giving the dish more of a pesto feel and less of a baby food feel. That said, it came together nicely as a creamy sauce with the yogurt. Maybe only skip cooking the spinach and carrot tops if you're going vegan. The version you see below is how I actually made this recipe the night we ate it with pasta. It doesn't reflect any of the changes I cited above, except that it has enough pasta for four servings instead of two.
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Pasta with Carrot Top, Radish Green, and Spinach Puree
Heavily adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers
Tops from one bunch of carrots
Leaves from one bunch of radishes
4 c loosely packed spinach
1 small bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/4 t salt
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil or more as needed
12 oz long pasta such as spaghetti or linguini
1/4 c almond slices, toasted
Wash all of the greens but the cilantro. Place them in a pot with just the water that is clinging to the leaves. Cover and cook over medium heat until collapsed, about 3 minutes.
Toss the cooked greens, the cilantro, garlic, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and lemon juice in a food processor. Turn it on and drizzle in the olive oil. Continue to puree until you have a smooth paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add a bit more olive oil if necessary.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Toss the hot pasta with a tablespoon or two of the cooking water, adding more water as necessary. Plate and top with toasted almonds.
Shared with Cast Party Wednesday, Tastetastic Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday