Several years ago an old-timer had told me that this was once a common procedure. Fresh produce could be had throughout the winter just by digging under the snow. However, the advent of importing fresh produce from California and Florida made this tradition obsolete. But my interest in at least knowing how to be self-sufficient prompted me to try this preservation technique.

In mid-January and February I picked several handfuls of the leaves. They looked beautiful, and tasted even better. In March the leaves were, frankly, a little droopy and browned around the edges. Figuring that they would not be successful served by themselves, I thought of something else to do with them.

What came to mind was a soup Adelina Loureiro, the lunch cook at my former restaurant, would sometimes make. Being from Portugal, she liked to prepare the Portuguese national soup, caldo verde, whenever we had potatoes and some cabbage-related greens available. My kale and collards, close cousins to cabbage, made me think of her soup.

With a start to a Portuguese meal, I remembered a wonderful salad Mrs. Laureiro and I concocted when we found ourselves short of vinegar and lemon juice for a dressing. Chunks of grapefruit look great and provide a refreshing note of tartness. To be authentically Portuguese, accompany the soup and salad with chunks of yeasted corn bread. Round loaves of this are available in Kensington market bakeries.

An almond pudding similar to the one my Portuguese greengrocer, Sid Petrola, once told me about would be a fitting desert. Accompany this with whatever fresh fruit looks best at your greengrocer.

CALDO VERDE

  • 4 bowls
  • 20 minutes preparation

Try different methods of blending the potato base to find the texture which suits you best.

  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 3 cups stock or use
  • 1 cup white wine with 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch kale, collard or kohlrabi greens
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tbsps. lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground peppercorns

Bring potatoes and bay leaf to a boil. Simmer until softened (about 20 minutes). Meanwhile, fry onion in oil on medium heat until lightly browned.

Remove stems from greens and slice finely. There should be about two cups.

Dip potatoes in cold water and pull off skins. Blend the peeled potatoes with the stock to a velvety texture by spinning in a blender; to a rougher texture in a food processor; to a coarse texture by pushing through a food mill; or to a smooth but slightly lumpy consistency with a potato masher.

Reheat in a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring often to prevent scorching. When simmering, stir in greens, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Simmer until greens have softened (about five minutes). Serve right away.

ROMAINE AND GRAPEFRUIT SALAD

  • 4 servings
  • 20 minutes preparation

For a quicker completion of the salad, you can roast the almonds and peel the grapefruit a day or two before completing the salad.

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce
  • 3 tbsps. olive oil
  • Grind of black pepper

Roast almonds on a baking sheet in a 325 degreesF. oven until aromatic (about 10 minutes).

Blanch grapefruit in boiling water for two minutes to make it easy to peel. Dip in cold water and peel outer skin and the membrane around each section. Break each segment into bite-sized pieces.

Tear romaine into bite-sized pieces. Toss with cooled almonds, grapefruit pieces and olive oil. Top with a generous grind of pepper.

ALMOND PUDDING

  • 8 servings
  • 15 minutes preparation
  • 1 1/4 hours baking

The custard which remains at the bottom of this pudding makes a terrific sauce.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups ( 1/2 lb.) ground almonds
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 3 tbsps. flour (any kind)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degreesF. Bring milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Butter a six-cup souffle dish.

Pour almonds into boiling milk. Remove from heat. Blend in honey, egg yolks, flour and vanilla extract.

Beat egg white to soft peaks. Fold into almond mixture. Scoop into souffle dish. Set into a cake pan containing a half-inch of water. Promptly bake until pudding springs back when touched (about 1 1/4 hours).

Remove from oven and cool. Serve with the custard which settles in the bottom as a sauce over each serving. Accompany with fresh fruit.