Sunday, 23 September 2007

How to cook: Horta


Ta xópta, literally translated, is wild greens or green vegetables.

Horta grows wild in the hillsides and is still hand- picked by villagers. It's a medley of edible wild greens, simply braised in a little water and seasoned with olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper. It's usually served cold or at room temperature. The combination depends on the season and availability. Horta can be used as a variation for spinach pie, which is rustic and delicious. Save the cooking liquid, which contains the golden vitamins. The juice can also be added to vegetable drinks or soup stock. For the purpose of availability outside of Greece, and preferred cooking techniques, the following theory is recommended.

Allow at least ½ pound of raw greens per person (arugula, black mustard, dandelion or beet greens, curly endive, sorrel, spinach, kale or collards).
Certain greens require longer cooking time, so add them to the pot in stages.
For instance, simmer kale and collards until tender, then add arugula during the last 10 minutes of cooking time.
A good rule of thumb is the tougher the raw greens, the longer the cooking time.
Add salt or acid (lemon or vinegar) when you're ready to serve because they can turn bright green vegetables brown.
Use stainless steel or any other non- reactive cookware.

General guidelines for six servings

4 pounds of raw greens
1/2 cup olive oil
2 small gloves garlic, finely chopped
3 leeks (white part only) cleaned and sliced
1/2 fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 cup fresh dill, chopped (optional)
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse greens thoroughly and remove tough stems. A water saving-technique is to fill a clean sin or basin with 6 inches of fresh cold water, add trimmed greens, and submerge a bit to allow sand to fall to the bottom of the sink. Transfer greens in small quantities to a colander and rinse again. We have a saying in cooking school “How many times should you rinse the spinach? Until it’s clean!”

Technique:

1. In a large heavy stock pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and heat for 30 seconds.

2. Add leeks and sauté until tender. Add minced garlic and sauté 30 seconds more (browned garlic will turn bitter).

3. Add greens that take the longest to cook (kale, collards) and simmer until tender (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

4. Add more delicate greens like arugula or spinach along with the fresh herbs and simmer just until wilted.

Serve in a bowl with a little cooking juice, splash of lemon and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. To serve as a side dish, drain with a slotted spoon and add the flavorings at the last minute.

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