A Guide to Cooking Greens
Greens, the leafy part of a wide variety of vegetables, including collards, spinach, beet leaves, kohlrabi leaves, and sorrel – are not only delicious, they are extremely healthy, too. Packed with vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, fiber, and folic acid. They are a great way to make your cooking healthier.
Many greens also prevent food waste. For example, beet greens are traditionally thrown in the trash, but they cook up beautifully. So next time you cook beets, be sure to save the greens.
Greens can have a wide variety of flavors, from bitter to more sweet, but they are nearly always interchangeable in recipes. Most recipes for greens reduce any natural bitterness, but greens can be served blanched, wilted, braised, sauteed, or pureed.
Greens cook down more than you’d think. For example a medium head of escarole reduces to about ¾ cup once it’s sauteed. Until you’re used to cooking greens, prepare about double what you think would be eaten raw.
How to Store Greens
Greens store best if they aren’t washed first. Place them in an air tight bag and keep them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to a week or so. You can also blanch greens for 1 to 4 minutes (depending upon how tough they are), refresh immediately in ice water, press (to remove excess water), then freeze.
Basic Recipe for any Type of Green
A good basic recipe for any type of green is to wash the leaves in cool water and remove the stems.
If you’re using older leaves – which tend to be more bitter and fibrous – remove the entire length of stem by folding the leaf in half lengthwise. Then grab the leaf in one hand and yank off the stem with your other hand.
Stack the leaves, and roll them into a cigar shape. Cut the greens about ¼ inch or less wide. In a sauté pan, heat some olive oil. Add 3 to 5 minced garlic cloves, plus ½ teaspoon to ¾ teaspoon salt. Add greens and saute, stirring frequently until greens are tender.
Other Ways with Greens
Try cooking greens in bacon grease and crumble up some bacon in the cooked greens before serving.
Greens also cook well in stock or a mixture of stock and olive oil.
Greens make a nice addition to stuffings, stir fry, soups and stews – especially those greens that are less bitter, like chard. Some greens, like carrot tops, are best used like an herb, chopped up and added to dishes like green salads, soups, stews, and such.
Almost all greens go well with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, or orange juice.
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