Theme: Basic greens

Just as I started getting this going – wouldn’t you know, my computer died. And took two weeks worth of pictures with it… Oh, well, this was the stage to have that happen – and learn how to make sure it doesn’t happen again!

I do now have some computer access again – and some new pictures. And here I start, yet again.

The CSA is well under way, and we’ve had many bunches of cooking greens. Chard, kale, broccoli rabe, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, radish greens (Yes, you can eat them – I didn’t know that myself, until recently!) and collards. This is my preferred basic cooking method for all but the toughest. I don’t personally like mature collards cooked this way – but some do. (A friend just ate the first collards she ever liked, sauteing them with this method…) I’ll write about them, later.

The washing method is key. I use this to wash lettuce and other salad greens, too. Vegetables from a CSA or farmer’s market haven’t usually made the detour supermarket vegetables may have made to a washing plant – where everything is made nice and clean, at the loss of another day or so of freshness, more handling, another layer of expense… I don’t mind washing the sand from my own kale, but I need to be sure I actually do so.

Take a bunch of greens. I prefer to chop them before washing, though you can do it the other way around. Trim the ends and any tough parts of the stems.  I eat most of the stems of most vegetables, but I remove them if they are getting stringy. Chop the greens if desired.

Fill a sink or a large bowl with water. Place the greens in the water, swish them around, and lift them out. This does a much better job of leaving dirt and grit behind than rinsing them in a colander does. Then place the greens in a strainer or colander to drip dry. Chop them now, if you wish, and haven’t already.

Take a large saute pan or frying pan, and heat it. Add a little olive oil (about a teaspoon or less) to the pan, and let it heat slightly. Put the greens in the pan, with still just a little water clinging to the leaves, and toss them around in the oil. (A pair of cooking tongs is the easiest way to do this, but you can stir with a spatula or spoon, as well.) You want all of the greens to come into contact with the oil.

As they cook, you will see them start to become a darker green. When they are thoroughly tossed, let them continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked to your taste. (I prefer a dark but bright green, not yet olive colored. If you are not sure, cook less to begin with – you can always cook more later.) Note that the vegetables also cook down considerably – a large bunch usually gives us just two or three generous servings.

Variations of this are very easy. The simplest is to saute onion, garlic, or other aromatics in the oil before adding the greens – I almost always do this. Other, flavorful cooking fats, such as a single chopped slice of bacon, substituted for the olive oil,  add flavor. (Butter burns too easily – if you really want that taste, say, with a delicate green such as spinach, mix half olive oil and half butter.)  A splash of good vinegar or pepper sauce at the end is tasty.

And, of course, each different vegetable itself has a very different taste. Spinach, for example, is radically different than the equally tender but slightly bitter broccoli rabe – and they are both different from kale.  It can even be interesting to mix several kinds, such as assertive mustard greens with milder, sweeter chard. Even though we have some form of sauteed greens several times a week, it never feels repetitive – too much variation in taste.

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