In season: hon tsai tai

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In season: hon tsai tai

AT LOCAL FARMERS MARKETS

Cooking demos:

10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24. Chef Jeffrey Wall of Kimball House. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com

Many markets offer chef demos on an occasional or regular basis. Check your market’s website or Facebook page for more information.

FOR SALE

Just coming into season: collards, escarole, frisee

Vegetables: apples, arugula, Asian greens, Asian pears, beets, carrots, chanterelles, chard, chestnuts, cucumbers, eggplant, field peas, garlic, ginger, green beans and pole beans, green onions, grits, herbs, kale, leeks, lettuce, muscadines, mushrooms, Napa cabbage, okra, pecans, peppers, persimmons, popcorn, potatoes, radishes, roselle, spaghetti squash, summer squash, sweet potatoes, sweet potato greens, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips, winter squash

From local reports

Justin Aiello of Skylight Farm in Douglasville grows lots of vegetables, but Asian greens are some of his favorites. Here in late October, one of the Asian greens he’s bringing to market is hon tsai tai, a Chinese green with a mild mustard taste. Hon tsai tai resembles Swiss chard as much as it does other Asian greens like bok choy. The purple stems are sturdy like chard stems while the leaves are tender with only a hint of mustard’s bite.

When Aiello talks to his customers about Asian greens, he recognizes they can be a little intimidating because they are not the most familiar vegetables. “Some, like hon tsai tai, have funky names. But we live in a really great climate to grow a diverse range of Asian greens and they’re so versatile. And easy to cook,” says Aiello.

Aiello farms at the historic Glover Family Farm, a property that serves as an incubator for local organic farmers. Aiello is in his third and final year as farm manager there. Next year he and Skylight Farm will find themselves in a new home.

In the meantime, the Skylight Farm booth can be found at the Saturday Sandy Springs farmers market. He also sells to metro Atlanta restaurants and the hospital in Douglasville, and offers a community-supported agriculture program with pickups at the farm and in Atlanta.

“Hon tsai tai is one of my top three Asian greens. I love that the entire plant is edible. It has tasty purple stems, delicious leaves and pretty yellow flowers all with a nice mild mustard flavor,” Aiello says.

Hon tsai tai also produces harvestable greens in a fairly short amount of time.

“It should take about 40 days to maturity, which for a green like that is pretty quick. And the plants are very productive,” he says.

Aiello grows hon tsai tai with succession plantings. “Every two and a half weeks, we plant two 90-foot rows. It’s still something of a special item so we can’t grow a ton of it. For example, we only grow about a third as much hon tsai tai as we do bok choy. But it’s absolutely one of the more eye catching greens at the market.”

Hon tsai tai is hardy down to about 28 degrees, so the farm can keep bringing it to market into November, depending on when the Atlanta area gets its first really hard freeze.

When customers stop to ask about the pretty vegetable, Aiello tells them they can cook it like they do bok choy. “I tell them every bit of it is edible. And I like it cooked pretty simply. I recommend a quick saute of the stems and leaves and some garlic in olive oil. If they were lucky enough to get hon tsai tai with blossoms, then they could sprinkle the flowers on top when it’s done.”

Jarrett Stieber’s Hon Tsai Tai with Apple-Garlic Puree and Streusel

Chef Jarrett Stieber of Eat Me offers this dish for quickly pan roasted and wilted hon tsai tai. “Finish with a pinch of nice sea salt (like Malden or fleur de sel) and enjoy alongside anything from mild white fish to heart-red meats!”

The ingredients are an inspired combination of the traditional take on greens with vinegar and hot pepper, while the apple-garlic puree will make you look at applesauce in a whole new light. Stieber makes his streusel with grits, but you may want to use smaller-grained cornmeal instead.

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided

1/4 cup uncooked stone-ground grits

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Kosher salt

2 red-skinned apples, divided

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1 1/2 cups apple juice, divided

1 tablespoon honey, or as needed

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, or as needed, divided

1 pound hon tsai tai, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Sea salt, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make streusel: Cut 4 tablespoons butter into small dice. In a medium bowl, combine grits, flour and diced butter. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, cut butter into mixture until it resembles wet sand. Spread this mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake 10 minutes or until it’s lightly golden and smells fragrant. As Stieber says, “It should taste like toasty heaven.” Allow to cool and break into pieces.

While streusel is cooking, prepare garlic-apple puree. Chop one apple into small pieces, seeds and all. In a small saucepan, combine chopped apple and garlic cloves. Add 1 tablespoon butter and turn heat to medium-high. Saute mixture until apples and garlic begin to brown. Season with salt and add honey and 1 cup apple juice. Bring mixture to a boil, add a pinch more salt and continue boiling, stirring constantly, until liquid is almost gone. Remove from heat and add another tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vinegar. In the jar of a blender, puree mixture, until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, honey or vinegar as necessary. Keep puree warm.

In a large heavy skillet, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. When butter starts foaming, add hon tsai tai. Saute 1 minute, then turn heat to high and add remaining 1/2 cup apple juice. Boil and cook until liquid is almost gone, then add pepper flakes and remaining teaspoon vinegar. Cut the remaining apple into thin slices and add to pan. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt. Quickly divide greens and pan sauce between serving plates. Divide garlic-apple puree between serving plates and sprinkle with streusel. Finish with sea salt and serve immediately. Serves: 4

Per serving: 408 calories (percent of calories from fat, 50), 6 grams protein, 47 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 24 grams fat (14 grams saturated), 62 milligrams cholesterol, 36 milligrams sodium.

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