My New Favorite "Must Use": Knife Shredded Greens (and Asian Fish Noodle Bowl)


So, we're attempting some new "crops" in our small but generous raised beds this year, and I'm learning by necessity about thinning. You know that feeling of arrival that is borderline bittersweet with the realization that the eager anticipation is about to end? I'm not necessarily talking about achieving a hard-earned goal, or even being mid-way through a much longed-for vacation. It's more on a par with beginning to tear the wrappings off a Christmas present. I always feel this twinge of fragility couched inside a gift or reward, the quiet but persistent recognition that all things pass, good and bad. Ah, needless to say, I do over think things! But thinning the plants can bring about that familiar, fleeting sensation nevertheless. Picking is essential for abundance, but to a newbie like me, it can feel painful. Fortunately, it also offers plenty of pick-me-ups. Baby carrots, for instance, add a delicately crunchy elegance that innocently snubs its more aged superiors. Another big bonus, thinning has allowed me to become more versatile in my knife skills, which are wide open for tuition in general. We've got plenty of splendid greens just bursting with nutrition, including lettuces, chard, and beets, which I only recently discovered can be wholly appreciated, not just for the roots. As much as I love to admire the garden's  growth, I'm hyper sensitive to what appear to be the sunburn and age spot equivalents in the plant kingdom. And because time is always at a premium for everyone, even when school's out for the summer, I tend to gravitate towards dinner salads or big pot meals more often than side salads and mains. I jump on opportunities to throw torn leaves into soups, stews, and sauces, but now I know that knife-shredding greens is oh sooo much better, in nutritional and culinary terms. Cooking is quick, texture is better, and reheatings retain fresher appeal. I never really thought about knife-shredding as a specific technique, but then one week I read it as part of the cooking instructions for 3 different recipes in as many cookbooks. From what I have since gathered from investigating a little further (and thank you for bearing with me if I'm revealing appalling naivete for a simple means of cutting), there are specific words to describe the same action, shredding and chiffonade. Both aim to make ribbons of leafy greens or herbs by rolling leaves into a long cigar-like shape and slicing from one end to the other. Shredding applies to heavier leaves, and chiffonade for thinner. I'm not sure if this blanket definition is accepted or interpreted the same everywhere, but I do know that shredding has allowed me to add more delicious greens to just about everything, from omelets to scones, and has enhanced flavor and consistency, so I just love it.

Here's an Asian-inspired fish noodle bowl, modeled after a Cooking Light fish stew, that hit just the right spot at the end of an allergen-riddled late spring day. This is another one of those beloved throw-it-all-in recipes, where you nearly always deviate to a laughable degree, but it's great to have the template as a guide. Use what you've got on hand, and don't worry about perfectionism. I must confess, I wrote in the instructions to pre-cook the noodles, but I don't actually do that, most of the time. I like adding to the one pot, and I always enjoy the texture of the noodles regardless. But given the range of noodle varieties and cooking times, it made more sense to fall back on the old familiar line, "prepare according to package directions". Play with different ingredients and seasonings, and trust your intuition. It's tough to be dissatisfied with a hearty healthy noodle bowl, whatever the weather or season. : )

Asian Tilapia Noodle Bowl

  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 cup crimini (or shitake/assorted) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 4 ounces udon noodles
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 cups knife-shredded greens (beet, spinach, chard, mustard, or other)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, for garnish if desired

*Swap tofu or any meaty white fish for the protein, and try any vegetables or noodles (such as cellophane or soba)

1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, heat the sesame oil and sweat the onion, mushrooms, carrots, and ginger, stirring consistently.

3. Add stock, water, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

4. Salt and pepper tilapia to taste, and add to pot. Continue simmering approximately 10 more minutes.

4. Stir in knife shredded greens and noodles. Simmer uncovered, about 5 minutes. Serve in bowls sprinkled with green onions.

Photo credit: Flikr user Sifu Renka