Friday, December 8, 2017

Wild Greens Jam

The holiday season is upon us, and I’m knee-deep in ordering gifts, deciding which cookies to bake this year, and making a wreath for our front door. Bear in mind that crafting is not actually on my list of enjoyable hobbies, but two trips to the craft store, one to the hardware store, and an online order later, the homemade wreath is almost ready to hang. Speaking of gifts, I have one for two of you! I want to tell you about the book Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life of which I received a review copy. And, I have one book to offer to each of two winners. Just leave a comment on this post with your email address so I can contact you, and I’ll pick the winners next week on Friday, December 15th. (The winners will need to provide a mailing address in the US or Canada.) 

You’re going to enjoy this story of Paula Wolfert’s career in food. She started writing about Moroccan food before several of the key ingredients could even be found in the US. Her focus has always been on authentic international cuisines, and her recipes don’t tend to cut corners. I was intrigued to learn that before she wrote her first cookbook, she was the series editor and organizer of an epicurean subscription program called International Home Dining that was part of Columbia House. She created a different box each month for an international-themed dinner that included recipes and ingredients for a unique meal. During this time, “Paula developed another element of what would become her visionary cookbook-writing style: unapologetically complex recipes, engaging descriptions to capture their flavors in vivid detail, and mail-order sources to bypass the limited American supply chain.” That is my favorite kind of food- and cookbook-writing. Wolfert’s first cookbook was Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco written in 1973, and her ability to learn the stories behind the food and draw the techniques and recipes from the cooks as she did for this book became her way of researching all of her food topics. She wrote about the cooking of Southwest France before Americans knew much about cassoulet, and then moved on to writing about sumac, pomegranate molasses, and Aleppo, Marash, and Urfa peppers in Eastern Mediterranean. So many ingredients and dishes we take for granted these days were introduced to cooks in the US by Paula Wolfert. She’s now living with a condition of mixed dementia, and this book was written while she could still contribute memories of her life and career. After reading about how she traveled, learned, and cooked her way through so many cultures, I’m looking forward to adding a couple more of her titles that are missing from my cookbook collection. 

This book moves through Wolfert’s life chapter by chapter, and there are recipes at the end of each. There’s Mussels Saganaki from Thessaloniki, a Mint and Egg Salad suggested as an accompaniment to Turkish kofte, and Tuscan White Beans with Sage and Garlic for clay pot cooking. Some other dishes I want to try are the Leblebi which is a Tunisian soup served over chickpeas and bread cubes with an egg on top and the Sprinkle Pie made with greens and feta with a light cornmeal crust. Since this time of year is definitely greens season here, I had to try the Wild Greens Jam recipe. This dish is firmly in the savory category despite jam being in the name. The greens are cooked until very tender and mixed with spices and olive oil to end up in a spreadable or spoonable form. It’s made with a mix of greens, and purslane and mallow are suggested. Sadly, once the other greens appear at our farm stands and farmers’ markets, purslane is gone for the fall. I used a mix of collards, kale, and arugula. The greens were cleaned, stemmed, and chopped before being steamed. Parsley leaves were added to the greens along with unpeeled garlic cloves, and everything steamed for about 15 minutes. After cooling, the greens were squeezed in a towel and then chopped finely. The garlic was peeled and pureed with cilantro leaves. That mixture was then sauteed in a large skillet with olive oil, and smoked paprika, ground cumin, and cayenne were added. The chopped greens were then added and cooked for another 10 minutes until the liquid evaporated. Lemon juice was stirred into the greens with a little additional olive oil, and the mixture was served with preserved lemon and oil-cured olives for garnish. 

The silky greens with bright pops of citrus from the preserved lemon made a great combination. I spooned the jam onto crostini and made sure to top each one with an olive. Now, there’s so much more to explore that Paula Wolfert brought to life through her books. To be entered to win a copy of Unforgettable, just leave a comment here with your email address so I can contact you. I’ll pick the winners next week on Friday, December 15th. (The winners will need to provide a mailing address in the US or Canada.) 

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  1. Bet your book shelf is overloaded. This wild greens jam looks healthy and delicious, esp. for veggie fans like me.

  2. I've heard lots about this book on Paula Wolfert’s life, but I've never heard of wild greens jam! This novel recipe sounds like something I would make. I'm always looking for a new slant on vegetable cooking. Thanks for sharing Lisa!

  3. Wow! this jam sounds amazing and I bet it is wonderful on toast just like pictured. Sounds like a great book.

  4. very impressed that you are crafting your own wreath... you could offer me 100 thousand dollars and 6 months time frame, and I still could not do it.

    leaving a comment with my fingers crossed to be the lucky winner!

  5. This looks fantastic. Thank you for the giveaway!

  6. Love the idea of this jam! Such a neat idea. And the Paula Wolfert books sounds wonderful. I think I own most (maybe all?) of her cookbooks! Her recipes aren't always the easiest to follow, but they're good.

  7. such a unique idea! i'm not as familiar with paula wolfert as i'd like to be!


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