Early spring vegetables are one of my favorite things about the season. A panful of cooked greens with some bacon is all I need for a meal some days.
Whenever I can, I gather new onions, some carrots, and whatever greens are ready in the garden or greenhouse. Here I have spinach and collards from indoors and out, plus some lamb’s quarter leaves. The lamb’s quarter sprouts early in the warmth of the greenhouse, which is fine with me since it’s my favorite edible weed. The leaves taste a lot like spinach, with a more delicate texture.
Fry a few slices of good bacon. I buy mine from the same local butchershop that processes our beef. It’s so good. You can’t imagine how good it is. I’ll never go back to mass market grocery store bacon again. If these guys stop making bacon, I’ll just have to go without.
While the bacon’s frying, chop up the carrots and onions.
Cook the carrots in the bacon grease as soon as there’s room in the skillet. I like to let the carrots cook for a few minutes before adding the onions. Drain the cooked bacon on paper towels or on a cake rack. Or — just set it on a saucer for now because, seriously, when everything else is cooking in the bacon fat, does it really make sense to sop up every drop from the bacon?
The collards take a bit longer to cook than the other greens. I like to cut them into thin slices so they mix well with the other ingredients in the pan. I also cut the thick center rib out of the leaf. Sometimes I chop it and toss the pieces into the skillet with the carrots. Other times I give it to the chickens. It just depends on what I’m in the mood for.
The easiest way to slice a bunch of collard leaves is to stack them together in a flat pile. Then roll them into a log shape and slice into narrow strips. Add the collards to the pan when the carrots and onions are about done. Let them cook a minute or two before adding the more tender greens. You can cover the pan and let the whole batch steam a bit in there. They’ll cook more evenly that way.
Crumble or chop the bacon pieces.
When the greens are finished — and finished is a relative term here — add the bacon pieces and mix well. Keep in mind that some people like their greens more done than others. I like mine tender, with a fresher green color. My grandmother liked hers a lot more done — dark and mushy even. She called that just right, but I called it way over-cooked. But really, the only wrong way is the way you don’t like, right?
What I’d like is a big bowlful of this with a fork. Right now. And maybe some balsamic vinegar to sprinkle on it.
For a lowfat version, you could just steam the vegetables and skip the bacon. If you must. And please accept my condolences if you must skip the bacon.