The Greens Guide
Sautéing greens like kale and collard will bring out the best in these tasty leaves.
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With greens, size and taste tell you what to do. When greens are small and mild, put them in salad, or stir-fry them until they wilt.
With big leaves, trim away stems and ribs and wash well. If they taste strong, tame them by boiling in water, or by steaming. Dandelion, escarole, beet greens and curly endive need 2 to 5 minutes of simmering. Kale, collards and mustard greens need 15 to 20 minutes. You can eat them just like this with a little olive oil, hot sauce or crushed nuts, or an Asian sauce.
Or you can "melt" the cooked greens. That is, sauté them slowly, turning them silky tender by adding liquid, cooking it away and adding more. Each addition deepens flavors, giving the greens a nice lushness. If you use mild greens like chard and Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato), no pre-boiling is needed. Use this recipe for the precooked greens as well.
Easiest Silken Greens Sauté
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
leaves from 1 pound Tuscan kale or chard, washed, dried and chopped (save stems for another use), or well-drained precooked greens
about 1-1/2 cups water
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in onion, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and sauté until golden -- about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and greens, and cook over medium to medium-low heat until wilted.
Add 1/2 cup water and continue cooking uncovered over medium to medium-low heat 5 to 10 minutes, or until almost dry. Stir in another 1/2 cup water and repeat process, cooking chard slowly. Add the last 1/2 cup, simmering 5 minutes. Taste to see if very tender. If not, cook in a little more liquid. Greens should be moist but not soupy when done. Cover and hold up to an hour. Serve warm or hot.
Variations: A tablespoon of minced fresh ginger could be added with the garlic. Finishing this version with a topping of peanuts and minced fresh chilies gives the greens an Asian take.
Two chopped small tomatoes and fresh basil added with the first quantity of water turn the dish back toward the Mediterranean.
Cooked potatoes or canned beans added in the last minutes of cooking take this into the main-dish area.
Serves 2 to 4 and reheats well.
This is my runner-up for best Bloody Mary, a hearty drink with a hint of the sea. Serves one.