I know last week I said salad, but I started thinking about a family recipe, one usually made with a headed variety of Brassica and got side tracked. I promise that I’ll return to the salad idea, as it sounds tasty to me, but I just have to share this recipe first.

This is an amalgamation of something my stepmother makes for the holidays. We call it ‘stuffed garbage’ because my sister-in-law, who is French Canadian and has at times a rather pronounced accent, announced one holiday evening her excitement at having “stoofed gha-bbage” for dinner. The name stuck and though the sausage and rice-filled cabbage leaves that are layered over bacon strips and stewed tomatoes is delicious and simple, and one of the many holiday meals I look forward to, ‘garbage’ it remains.

With all the greens that are easily grown in the northwest it stands to reason that a few varied methods of cooking them is in order. Into our culinary arsenal should enter the old standbys: sautéing with onions and garlic until bright green and finishing with lemon juice or vinegar, braising low and slow with stock, a bit of vinegar and a pat of butter at the end, and my favorite as of late – a quick blanch in heavily salted water then quickly cooled under cold running water or in an ice bath.  All of these are quick and easy ways to make a side of any greens – chard, kale, escarole, beet greens, turnip greens, collards, and even raabs and rapini.

The last method, that of blanching and cooling, has become my favorite if only for its ease and the soft yet still crunchy texture it retains in the kales and raabs. This recipe uses this method to slightly soften and salt the chard, which is then used as a wrapper for any number of delicious things, in this case some Italian sausage, summer squash and wild rice. Covered in a simple stewed tomato sauce it is both healthy and delicious. A vegetarian variation could easily be achieved by adding raisins, pine nuts and maybe some goat cheese to the bundles before topping with stewed or fresh tomatoes and baking.

1 lb chard or kale variety

2-3 medium summer squash zucchini, patty pan, sunburst or other variety

2 cups cooked wild rice or 1 cup quick cooking rice

1 lb Italian sausage, or 1/2 ground pork and 1/2 lean ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, savory), minced

4 fresh tomatoes (I used some black prince tomatoes that are delicious!), thickly sliced

2 cups stock

1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350º. In a large bowl mix sausage, onion, garlic spices and rice. Combine until mixed but don’t knead too much, as this will make the sausage tough. Bring a large pot with two quarts heavily salted water to boil, reduce to simmer. In another pot or bowl make an ice bath by adding ice cubes to cold water. Holding the chard by the stems, dip quickly into the simmering water and remove when slightly wilted. Plunge directly in an ice bath and place in a colander to drain.

Oil a 9×13 casserole dish or baking pan. Place a few of the leaves on the bottom to keep the wraps from sticking. On a flat surface lay out one green leaf at a time, place two heaping tablespoons of sausage mixture in the center and wrap into small burrito. Place in the casserole dish. Repeat until all the filling is used. Eat any left over leaves.

Place sliced tomatoes on top to form one layer. Add enough stock to make a 1/4 inch layer in the pan. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for one hour. Serve sprinkled with shredded parmigiano reggiano.

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