peppery, mustard greens have strong flavor but a
we enter our greens days. When the weather turns damp and
chilly, when a surfeit of holiday festivities has you
feeling spent and lethargic, there is nothing like a pot of
long-simmered greens to warm you and fill your empty spaces.
wife and I regularly pick up a bucket of them from Johnny
Rebs’ barbecue stand (the ’cue is pretty good; the sides
are outstanding). A big bowl with some crumbled cornbread is
about as good a winter dinner as I can imagine.
delicious and soul-satisfying as greens are stewed with
smoked pork, there are many other ways to cook them. Here
are a few of my favorites. (You’ll find full recipes for
all of them and more in our online California Cookbook,
collards, chards, mustards, dandelions, even turnip and beet
greens each have their own distinct personality, but they
can be used more or less interchangeably. The result will be
different in character but still delicious. Choose whatever
looks best at the market or, preferably, a combination of as
many as you can find.
packages of already chopped greens mixes are a convenience
but tend to be a little sloppily sorted for my taste. Poke
through and toss as many of the woody stems as possible. If
you’re starting from scratch with whole leaves, trim the
stem to the point that it becomes easily flexible.
seem paradoxical, but fresh greens are actually at their
best after they’ve been cooked for a while. The color
fades, true, but the flavor, which can be a bit harsh and
bitter when raw, mellows to become sweet and complex, and
the texture becomes silky.
thing to be aware of: Greens shrink incredibly during
cooking. What might seem like a sinkful when you wash them
will wilt quickly when you heat them. The best way to cook
greens is by the handful. Use a wide pan to accommodate as
many as possible, and add another handful only after the
first has reduced.
you’ve cooked the greens low and slow until they’re
almost melting, you can start playing with the flavorings.
greens with roasted peanuts and crushed red peppers: Add
peanuts you’ve toasted in oil to blanched greens flavored
with lots of garlic and chile.
with crisped bread crumbs: Toast bread crumbs in olive oil
to add crunch to blanched greens.
chard with golden raisins and lemon bread crumbs: Toast the
bread crumbs with lemon zest, and add them and soaked
raisins to greens you’ve braised to sweet silkiness.
with spicy lemon-cumin oil: Make an aromatic oil by warming
olive oil with cumin seeds, red pepper and lemon zest. Add
this a teaspoon or so at a time to braising greens so they
absorb the flavor slowly.
stuffed with greens and feta: Fry corn tortillas you’ve
stuffed with braised greens and feta or goat and mozzarella
herb soup: Simmer tough greens and potatoes until they’re
tender, then finish with tender greens such as spinach or
comfort soup: This is my go-to when the flu calls. Simmer
shredded greens and lots of garlic, then stir in cooked
rice. A bit of sherry vinegar and a happy grating of
Parmigiano at the end makes all the difference.
guide to greens
a vest-pocket guide to which green is which.
darling salad green has always been one of the best cooking
greens. The flavor mellows nicely; the texture is tender.
Befitting its star status, there are a variety of kales
available today, and the darkest tend to be the best
Southern specialty, collards have a mild flavor, but the
thick leaves have a rich, meaty texture when cooked.
peppery, mustard greens have strong flavor but a delicate
bitter when raw, the sweet, earthy side of chard comes out
with cooking. Red chard has a touch of beet flavor. It’s
equally prized for its stalks and greens, which are usually
bitterest of the greens, with cooking it remains assertive
but turns more earthy and nutty.
leaves that taste like milder versions of the roots.