By Valaer Murray
There’s a question that has surely plagued many of us these past few weeks: What do with all these greens? In June and July, the ground practically erupts with kales, collards, mustard greens, spinach, and chard. (Check out CUESA’s site for a full list). Throughout the year, these kinds of greens are an affordable choice in the produce aisle, and their health benefits far outweigh America’s favorite green, lettuce. Recently, I came up with a kitchen plan of attack for when the box runneth over with these gorgeous plants, and I promise my recipes won’t leave you feeling like a Brontosaurus as you munch your way through them.
My first line of defense is a side dish of garlicky greens. Any will do for this ultra-simple recipe, although the tougher the green, like red Russian kale, or the more bitter, like mustard greens, the more they will benefit from a longer braising. The best way to wash greens and get all the sand and grit out is by dunking them in a large pot or bowl of cold water, then swirling and rinsing them a couple of times. Dry them in a kitchen towel or with a salad spinner. I like to cook the entire bunch of greens and then use the leftovers for breakfast: Try them on toast with butter, topped with the greens and a poached egg.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1-2 tablespoons of minced garlic)
1 bunch fresh greens of your choice, rinsed and chopped
1/3 cup water
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute, then add the greens. Turn them using tongs to make sure the leaves get coated with oil, then continue to sauté for about 5 minutes until they are a brighter, more verdant shade. Add water and cover, cooking on low heat for another 5 minutes.
Getting creative with greens means thinking of ways they can be substituted for other things, like sandwich wraps. This recipe for Collard Green Wraps on Colourful Palate is such a great idea and sparks inspiration for so many variations. I also think the large chard leaves would work great as wraps as well.
Don’t forget the ever-popular kale chips. Keep it simple by baking them coated in olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt when you take them out. Or you can take it up a notch with Skinny Taste’s version baked with Parmesan. They’re simple, but here are a few tricks I’ve found to make them extra crispy: Remove the entire spine, make sure the leaves are totally dry, and try to ensure the size of the chips are as uniform as possible (1″ x 1″ should do). This method also works beautifully with full-grown as opposed to baby spinach.
For a quick lunch (or brunch or dinner) I always turn to the frittata. Again, any type of greens will work here, but I’d recommend kale, collard, chard, spinach, or beet greens. The best weapon in my arsenal, and one that is key to this frittata, is a good amount of caramelized onions, which are simple if you are vigilant.
Super Greens Frittata
2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
1/3 cup onions, chopped
1 cup greens, washed and chopped
3 tablespoons milk or almond milk
Handful of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, dill, rosemary)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 chopped avocado
Heat oil on high heat, then turn to low and add the onions, cooking on low heat for 20 minutes. Turn the burner up to medium-low heat and sauté the greens with the onions for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the milk, herbs, salt, and pepper. Add to the skillet along with the avocado. On medium-low heat, cook one side and then flip (this takes skill—to be honest, mine often breaks apart) and cook through. Serve with toast or inside a warmed wrap.
Another easy idea for greens is using them to fill out a soup, like a fast version of Italian wedding soup that I throw together for a quick dinner. Heat 4-5 cups of low-sodium chicken stock and add in some sliced raw onions, a few handfuls of chopped greens (like chard, spinach, or kale), and 6 or so frozen meatballs. Simmer over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. To bulk it up, add some cannellini beans toward the end, or pasta in the beginning.
Subbing mild greens like kale and chard for lettuce has become a favorite salad base, especially because the leaves are more sturdy and can handle heavier salad ingredients like grilled fruit, roasted vegetables, or nuts, as in one of my more indulgent salad go-tos, The Bacon and Egg Salad. A recipe is hardly necessary here: Just chop the kale or chard into thin ribbons and add sliced boiled eggs, crumbled bacon, roasted nuts like walnuts or almonds, and minced scallions. Toss with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil (or with your favorite vinaigrette).
At heart, I am a chips-and-dip kind of girl, but it’s hard to reconcile that kind of snack with my desire to eat healthy. To the rescue comes this dairy-free dip that’s super creamy and packs two types of greens as well as some caramelized onions (see what I mean about them being a triple threat?)
Kale and Collard Tofu Dip
Makes 1 cup
1 cup kale, washed and chopped
1 cup collard greens, washed and chopped
2 tablespoons caramelized onions
4 ounces tofu
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 large sheet of roasted nori, torn into pieces
1 lemon, juiced
Dash of cayenne pepper
Blanch the kale and collards in boiling water, then strain and run under cold water. Drain and set aside to cool. In a food processor, blend all the ingredients. Chill and serve with sliced vegetables or rice crackers.
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