Not long ago, we joined a food co-op, to support local NY farming and eat healthfully from real ingredients we could hold in our hands. This means the bounty of the season, whether it is fresh dill smelling like a summer day, or tomatillos that could be slow-roasted with garlic and hot peppers for a chunky salsa or, the most bountiful of all — eggs and greens.
With the co-op we get two dozen fresh eggs every two weeks, and while I love egg sandwiches and my husband likes a good fried egg, two dozen suddenly became a daunting amount to use at first, especially where both our girls don’t care much for the yolk.
And the greens… I grew up in a Filipino Midwest family where “lettuce” meant “iceberg”, or a tiny sliver of green romaine used as garnish for fresh spring rolls. I was not to meet arugula or any other fresh green variation until I went away to college.
So here we were, now bombarded with fresh herbs, fresh nightshades, fresh root crops, fresh greens, and extremely productive hens that provided, without fail, 24 medium brown eggs.
The frugal monster in me could not bear to waste the investment in the co-op nor all this fresh food. I would have sooner hard boiled and eaten every egg for every meal than waste anything. And meanwhile, my husband had taken the odd trusting stance that I would “figure something out” and that, in the end, he would eat anything.
I’m glad that I had to figure it out, because several very good things happened.
There is nothing like a dozen eggs a week to empower you to dream of more advanced interactions than the Pillsbury crescent in the toaster oven. Eggs imply, but also entice, activities in the kitchen: my younger daughter, an adventurous baker, made pumpkin pies and lemon tarts on her own. The bounty of eggs made me bold: I tackled flan (very successful) and pound cake (okay). Hilariously, I would purposefully look for the richest, eggiest versions of dessert, so indeed my flan that made both friends and family coo needed 6 eggs, not 4 or 5. On the flip side, I may have overdone the eggs and flour on my pound cake.
“It’s a little dense,” my husband said on the first bite. “But yummy.” It was gone in less than a day. And thus came the satisfaction of making things for each other and the satisfaction of praising the effort.
Two: a family that tackles greens together eats together.
There were mounds of kale and cabbage and lettuces and turnip greens and beet greens every two weeks. I found it to be quiet, reflective time as I bathed their veined sails or curly tendrils, while my younger one sliced each leaf carefully, or my older one chewed a leaf thoughtfully. A large shopping bag of greens demands that the whole family pitches in and eats them together: as salads; roasted with garlic; as kale/green chips for dinner and weekend snacks. Which means that we started to eat in, save money, and eat more healthfully. I also learned that there were other less obvious greens right in front of us — the humble carrot top, which I started to add as a grassy herbal kick to chicken soup.
Three: I didn’t realize I was losing weight until I did.
One morning, I zipped up an old dress with greatly satisfying ease before going to work.
“Well,” I smiled to myself all the way to the subway, a greater spring in my step, an eager desire to find more greens for lunch.
I came home later that evening, eager to try a new recipe for stir-fry pork with chrysanthemum greens.
“What’s for dinner?” asked the little one.
“Chrysanthemum greens,” I said initially. She made a doubtful face and ran away. I chopped, I seasoned, I cooked, and she returned a while later.
“What smells good?” she asked.
“Stir fry,” I said simply.
“Yummy,” was my husband’s short opinion.
The girls agreed.
Stir-Fry Pork with Chrysanthemum Greens (4-5 servings)
Mix the ingredients from the brown sugar to the sesame oil together, adjusting to taste the amount of sweet (brown sugar, sherry), sour (vinegar), salt (soy sauce) or nuttiness (sesame oil) desired. Cut the pork into easy-to-eat portions. Chop the chrysanthemum green stems into 2 cm pieces, and the leaves into 3~4 cm pieces. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan, add pork, and sauté over strong medium heat for 2~3 minutes. Once the color of the meat has changed, add chrysanthemum green STEMS, plus mushrooms, and saute for about 1 minute. Add chrysanthemum green leaves, and add sauce, cooking briefly over high heat for a minute or until the green leaves are half cooked down. Turn heat down to simmer, blend greens in with a few tosses of the spoon, and remove from heat.
2/3 cup white sugar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup reduced-fat milk
6 medium eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- In a small saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat. When it begins to dissolve, stir to ensure it melts slowly and turns a golden brown but not too much so as not to over crystallize the sugar. Pour the caramelized sugar into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish or a large loaf pan, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. I find that if the sugar hardens right away, some time in the microwave softens it up again so that you can continue to coat the casserole.
- Using a hand mixer, combine sweetened condensed milk, cream, milk, eggs and vanilla on low (1-2). Once mixed, blend on high (3-5) for one minute. Pour over the caramelized sugar.
- Place the filled casserole dish into a larger pan and add 1 inch of HOT water to the outer pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until set. The top should be brown but not burned.
To Serve: Remove from the bain marie (the hot water bath) and allow to cool, and then refrigerate for at least 1.5-2 hours to set. When time to serve, set the casserole in a pan of very warm water for half-an-hour. Loosen the flan with a very sharp knife along the sides, place the intended serving plate upside down on top of the casserole, and then invert the casserole and serving plate together. The flan will have loosened, the caramelized sugar will have warmed to become a sauce and will drip like syrup onto the flan as you lift the casserole. Voila — your just desserts…