Leafy Green Recipes: Sautéed Greens and Kale Chips
One of my favorite things about teaching cooking is observing people’s discovery of a new food they’d previously dismissed as unappetizing. At the beginning of class, I can see the skepticism on my students’ faces as I excitedly talk about how delicious leafy greens are. But by the end of class, after a few hesitant bites, my students start to smile and nod at me as that flicker of realization occurs – they are actually enjoying them.
Feeding someone a meal that tastes wonderful is such a powerful way to inspire a new way of eating. While many people think that leafy greens are bitter – that only happens when they aren’t cooked properly. If cooked correctly, they actually taste kind of sweet. Here are some tips and two recipes for you:
SHOPPING for and COOKING with leafy greens:
1) A lot people may not realize that collards, kale, turnip greens and mustard greens are in season right now. While shopping, look for (organic, if possible) bunches with crisp leaves and a fresh green color. When determining how much you should buy, keep in mind that they will shrink by about 1/4 of their original size.
2) To clean them, give them a “bath” in a large bowl of cold water and keep rinsing them off until there is no dirt residue on the bottom of the bowl. Dry them in a salad spinner (if they fit) or towel dry well.
3) Remove hard stems and stalks by cutting or ripping them out.
4) The key is not to overcook or undercook them, otherwise they will taste bitter. I like how the author of an article on greens wrote, “The greens are just right when chewing a piece releases sweet juices in your mouth. If the color is gone or there is no flavor left when you chew it, they’ve cooked too long.” And likewise, if they are too fibrous and chewy, then they haven’t had cooked long enough. Try tasting them throughout the cooking process and let your taste buds guide you.
4. I tell my students to note when they turn bright green and then cook them for a couple more minutes – until they should start to wilt and soften. You can then drizzle them with a little vinegar – any flavor – which, counter-intuitively, makes greens taste sweet. One of my students would add an entire balsamic vinaigrette which was delicious. I usually just add tamari (a naturally brewed soy sauce).
5) Try adding other flavorful ingredients such as ginger, chilis, crushed red chili peppers, Indian spices – or, anything else you fancy. Leafy greens can easily be integrated into just about any cuisine.
One of my students created a great kale chip recipe which is the ideal way to introduce leafy greens to kids and/or picky adult eaters. I will also include my “standard” saute recipe for leafy greens – feel free to experiment and change it up.
Preheat oven to 250° F. Rinse kale and dry it really well in a salad spinner or with a towel – so that it will crisp up in the oven. Discard stalks and rip leaves into small pieces that are a little larger than bite-sized since they will shrink when baked.
Spread them on a baking sheet in only one layer so that they will cook evenly. Spray all pieces generously with a Misto Olive Oil Sprayer or drizzle with olive oil and gently toss. Sprinkle on kosher salt (don’t be shy with the salt) and bake for 15-20 minutes – or until all kale is crispy and dried out. Keep a careful eye on it since kale burns easily. Recipe by Chrissy Atkins ©2009
BASIC SAUTÉED GREENS
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced or diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large bunch greens (collards, kale, Swiss Chard, etc.), washed and dried
¼ cup of water
1-2 tablespoons of tamari (or soy sauce)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté them until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes (or longer to caramelize them). Stir them frequently – add a tablespoon of water if they start to stick and burn.
Stir in garlic to onion mixture and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add greens to pan and begin moving them around continuously until they turn bright green, about 5-8 minutes. Pour water over greens and cover with a lid. Once greens have wilted down to at least half their size, drizzle them with tamari. Sauté for another 2 minutes or so without the lid and remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Julie Negrin ©1998