What to do when life hands you an extremely large quantity of leafy greens? Cook them up to arrest them at their peak and then enjoy them over the course of many days. That was my situation last weekend. We’d just done a photo shoot for the Unforgettable biographical cookbook project on Paula Wolfert. The shoot focus was her 1995 book, Grains and Greens. I bought a bunch of gorgeous, locally-grown organic greens so that photographer Eric Wolfinger would have lots to consider for his photo compositions. Plus, Emily Thelin couldn’t find decent red Russian kale at her local grocers.
Needless to say, I came home with a lot of vegetables. On Saturday, cooked up the melange of greens, which included several kinds of kale, chard, dandelion, sorrel, and purslane. I needed to cook them off not only to use them, but also to make room in my fridge.
My cooking method for greens is simple. Wash the greens in a large bowl of water to save water and to ensure that dirt comes off the greens. Tear or cut the greens into rough pieces, discarding tough stems along the way. Put them in a large pot with salt (1/2 teaspoon for a full 6-quart pot), massaging the salt in to soften the leaves a bit. Then cook them over medium heat, covered, for 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs for even cooking.
The greens are done when they’ve softened and are just cooked; they’ve usually lost about two-thirds of their original volume. No oil is needed. The water lingering on the leaves from washing are enough to facilitate cooking. Once cool, I gather bunches of the cooked greens and squeeze out excess moisture, saving that liquid for other dishes, or just drinking it.
Expelling moisture allows me to keep the texture of the greens nice over a period of about 5 days. I made fried rice with the greens, added them to stir-fried noodles, ate them out of the plastic storage tub, and also made this crustless quiche twice. The first time was for my husband’s holiday pot luck and the second was just for us to eat.
There’s no dairy in this mixture and no gluten. I used tofu because I’m mildly lactose intolerant, and I like the protein and texture that tofu adds to dishes like quiche and lasagna. The tofu was seasoned it with sauteed shallot, garlic, and a new favorite brand of Thai red curry paste. Coconut milk softened and enriched, as well as lent a Southeast Asian identity. Of course there was fish sauce. Eggs bound the mixture together. Virgin coconut oil stood in for traditional butter and suited the Southeast Asian theme.
Due to the drought, I have a small harvest of kaffir (makrud) limes from our tree in the yard. To punch up the Thai notes, I grated the zest of one of the limes and squeezed its juice into the mixture. You could use regular lime but the rare kaffir lime imparts an amazing flavor. Then it all got baked and that was it.
Rory’s work colleagues loved it at the potluck – where many of the other dishes involved crudites, dips, and chips. I didn’t get to eat much of it so I remade it today and wrote up the recipe for you to try. We’re having this for dinner, lunch, and as a snack. No potluck sharing this time.
Crustless Thai Red Curry Quiche with Tofu and Greens
Serves 6 to 8
- 2 1/2 cups packed (10 oz / 300 g) cooked leafy greens (e.g., about 2 large bunches of raw Kale)
- 14 ounces (420 mg) firm tofu, such as Whole Foods organic
- 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, divided
- Stone ground rice flour or fine cornmeal, for coating the pan
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- Grated zest of 1 Kaffir (makrud) or regular lime
- About 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- Brimming 1/3 cup (90 ml) coconut milk
- About 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
- Salt, as needed
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- If you haven’t, prep, cook, cool, and squeeze the greens. Chop it to ensure small pieces that will later cut easily after baking. Set aside.
- In 2 or 3 chunks, squeeze and mash the tofu in muslin. Aim to quickly drain and arrive a rough fresh ricotta-like finish. Transfer to a bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200 C) with a rack in the center position. Use 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil to coat the inside of a baking pan (use one that’s for a medium quiche or casserole). Coat with rice flour or cornmeal and set aside.
- In a small skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the curry paste and combine well. Once fragrant, about 1 minute, take off heat. Cool briefly, then add to the tofu. Mix in the grated zest, lime juice, and coconut milk. Add the greens. Season with fish sauce, aiming for a nice savoriness that’s just a hair saltier than you like. Then mix in the eggs.
- Pour into the prepared baking dish. Smooth and flatten out the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the top feels dry. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and use an off-set spatula to remove serving-size pieces. Enjoy at any temperature.
Note: To make this dish totally vegetarian, substitute the fish sauce with about 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and salt to taste. Too much soy sauce may darken the mixture.