I’m not only looking forward to crouching down beside my garden plot and clipping many shades of green but I’m also looking forward to the abundance that comes with greens. I’m no longer talking about delicate mesculin mixes from the post below but I’m thinking about leafy greens (and brassicas) like chard, kale, spinach, tatsoi (if you’ve never tasted tatsoi – go! go quickly and find seeds to plant so you can experience these wonderful greens – even after tatsoi bolts you can top your salads with its tiny yellow flowers) and all the wonderful leaves from veggies like beets and turnips and kohlrabi and broccoli.
The following recipe is what I use when the abundance of greens turns overwhelming. The credit for this dish goes to the multitude of women in Sierra Leone who taught me how to cook plasas or sauce made from green leaves (there are many variations – below is just one). Although it doesn’t compare to the heaping plates of plasas sprinkled with sweet crab and whatever fish littered the tables of Freetown seaside markets that morning, I’ve tried to replicate a bit of the experience.
In Freetown, my host mother, Mumai, cooks plasas over an open charcoal stove on the front porch. We mash chillies and onions with a matador – a large wooden mortar and pestle – and cut leaves bunched in our hands. In Freetown, use of palm oil, salt, hot peppers and Maggi (commercial shrimp stock) is very generous. Although the recipe below is vegetarian, in Freetown they add meat or seafood and serve the plasas over rice, eating everything with hands.
Spinach and tatsoi work wonderfully in this recipe but I’ve experimented with kohlrabi leaves, swiss chard, beet greens, and whatever other leafy types I have left over. The biggest difference between all of these is the change in texture. Generally, the coarser leaves don’t boil down as softly, melting into a sauce.
- 5 cups spinach leaves
- 5 cups water
- 1-10 hot peppers (preferably fresh but dried will do as well)
- 1 onion
- 1-2 tbls cooking oil
- 1-2 bouillon(s) veggie soup stalk
- 3 handfuls of whatever type of beans you have around – I’ve used kidney beans and they work well
- Salt to taste
- Soak beans overnight if dried and then boil until soft.
- Finely chop spinach leaves and add to a large pot of boiling water.
- Finely chop hot peppers and thinly slice onion
- Add soup stalk, peppers, and onion to the spinach pot.
- Add oil while stirring slowly.
- Crush large beans with your fingers as you drop into the spinach mixture.
- Add salt and let cook on medium heat.
- Mix and let simmer on low heat for 1-2 hours or until everything has boiled down
The two most important parts of this recipe are chopping the spinach as finely as you can and boiling everything down so it becomes saucy in texture. Good Luck!