Thursday, August 16, 2012

Namuru - or how I learned to love greens

 I'm not a natural leaf eater. 

It wasn't until my late teens that I learned that the tops off beets weren't poisonous and another ten years after that before I could find a way to stomach them.  Other than frying them with bacon, there really aren't that many ways to eat greens like chard, beet greens or kale, that doesn't feel like you are eating slug vomit.

But then, Japanese cooking comes to the rescue (yet again).  Or, rather a Japanese take on an old Korean recipe.

This namuru I made with beet greens.  I basically follow the recipe in the Just Bento cookbook, changing the amounts depending on the amount of greens I have.  The recipe found here, the website by the same author, is basically perfect.   So I'll just refer you there than writing it all out again here.

I do have a few hints that make the namuru even more yummy.

  • Chop up the stems quite small.  If the stems are wider like chard, chop them finer, if they are thinner like the beets, the chop them coarser.  
beet greens are leggy as it's mid summer and in the middle of a drought
Chard chopped up and ready for blanching (don't blanch the garlic)
  • Bring the water to the boil and toss the stems in first.  Cook them 1 to 4 minutes.  If it's early spring and the greens are tender, then they don't need much cooking, but if it's the middle of a hot period, the stems especially, become tough and need about 2 to 3 minutes.  If there has been a frost, then cook the stems a whole 4 minutes   
  • Once the stems are partly cooked, toss the leafs in the same water (leave the stems in there) and cook for between 2 to 6 minuets.  The key is not to overcook these, especially if you want to eat them in a bento.  Like the stems, it depends on the weather, but also on the freshness of the greens (garden fresh greens need less time than store bought ones).
  • If you are making this for bento the next day, use slightly less salt.  Salt brings out moisture in the greens and seems to intensify the garlic flavour in this dish. But don't be too sparing with the salt, as it also preserves the garlic which can cause quite a stomach ache if it spoils.
  • If you are using a wooden bento box, be sure to put the namuru in one of those little cups.  Otherwise, the oil may stain the wood.
  • After you blanch the greens, squeeze them really well to get rid of the excess moisture before mixing with the garlic and oil.  

Namaru is a wonderful side dish that tastes good hot or cold and will last up to three days in the fridge.  It's surprisingly popular with guests who have conveniently stopped by right around lunch time.

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