Well, that’s what we call them, even if we do risk evoking those ghastly neon-green dyed objects foisted upon the world every year in mid-March… Ours are much better! (And infinitely more useful.)
So, backing up… if you think I’m obsessed with making or freezing things in muffin tins, you are probably right. My muffin tins hold roughly half a cup in each space, and it is such a handy single serve size. Those little “muffins” of food chill quickly, reheat quickly, can be stored in a freezer bag and pulled out one or two at a time for use. And the tins fit nicely in the ice cube section of the freezer.
The green muffins started with leftover greens. We were doing the CSA, so it was sometime in the last 6 years – and I really don’t know now whether Rich or I first thought of it. (He cleans up after dinner, so usually he’s the one making them.) Bunches of cooking greens come in many different sizes, but most are more than two people want in any one meal, though they’d be fine for a larger family. At first we had stray containers cluttering up the fridge, but you know how leftovers hide behind other things… and somehow, along the way, we started freezing greens in these neat single serve discs. Rich fills up cups in the six cup muffin tin when he’s clearing up, and in the morning I pop them out into a bag (and replace the ice tray) and we’re ahead of the game.
I’ll make a whole batch of them, though, if the greens get ahead of me – and that’s just what happened this week. We’ve had an odd year – it was unseasonably cool for a long time, so planting was late, and then it abruptly got very hot, so the spring crops that had been set out grew like wildfire – and I assume that’s the reason we’ve had vast armloads of greens the last few weeks. I don’t know how Rich shoehorned the last pickup into the fridge! Between last week and this, we had two huge heads of escarole, two large bunches of chard and three of kale, the greens from kohlrabi and radishes, as well as assorted lettuce, herbs, and so on.
I decided to process several bunches at once. For one thing, they take less room once cooked. And I try to always have some frozen vegetables on hand for days when I don’t have the time or energy at dinner time… I chose to cook just the kale, and the radish and kohlrabi greens. I really want the lovely tender chard fresh, so we’ll eat that in the next day or so. And escarole doesn’t cook down as far, and the inside leaves are good in salad, so it made less sense to cook that ahead.
I ended with an assembly line! Chop the leaves on the cutting board. Wash them in the sink, and hang them to drain. Cook them. The first batch held a lot of water for some reason, so I also drained them a bit – and I used the strainer to let all of them cool… Don’t put hot greens in the freezer, of course.
Once the cooked greens cooled to room temperature, I filled the muffin tins. I used my hands to pack the leaves down and release some liquid – there needs to be enough to hold the leaves together, without actually sitting in water that would make another dish soggy. I froze the first batch as soon as I had enough cooked – let the second cool while I was busy with other things, and then froze it. Once the greens are frozen solid, I take them out, warm the cups a moment with my hand, and press – they pop right out.
I now have nearly two dozen single serving muffins of cooked greens. I can just pop one on a plate and microwave it – and I regularly use them that way when we carry meals. But I can also use a heavy knife and chop one more finely, and add it to another dish – a casserole, stew or soup. That alone really perks up a can of lentil soup if I’m sick or in a tearing hurry… gives me more nutrition, yes, but also much more flavor. (And more staying power, I have learned…)
And remember these, any time I give you a recipe for cooked greens. You absolutely can start Eggs Florentine, for example, with a beautiful bunch of fresh spinach, and usually I would choose to – but if starting with a couple of Green Muffins means you actually will make it on Sunday for brunch, I say go for it!
If you want, and have the freezer space, you can separate your vegetables, but we toss everything in the same bag… if anything, we like the variety of flavor. You might, though, want to divide them by cooking style or ingredients. I occasionally use bacon or butter, not just olive oil, to cook greens, or put ham in a simmered green like collards, and if you do, but also ever cook for someone who would not eat them (or any other ingredient) it would make sense to set up separate bags for them. (We toss everything together – and if I’m cooking for a vegetarian, I start from scratch.)
Right now, the bags of cooked vegetables are more a convenience than anything else – but they also help me preserve the harvest. In the Fall, we’ll have armloads of greens like this, again, but also bags of other vegetables. I keep my cooked green muffins – from leftovers or cooked in batches – in the freezer and continue to eat fresh greens while I can get them from the CSA or eventually from Greenmarket – because in February (even in mid-March!) we will really appreciate these!