Compost Blog

Winter Greens

FOUND IN: The Fare, The Farm on January 11, 2013

                            A tender kale called 'Dwarf Siberian' used raw in salads.


It's that wonderful time of year when the greens are just coming into their own. I don't know about you, but my body craves them when it gets colder. The problem is, they take up lots of room in the refrigerator and need more preparation than some other vegetables. Here are some solutions for you.

If you can, wash them right away and prep them for cooking. This will reduce their mass, considerably and you will be all set to cook them easily. Here's how to do it. Fill the sink with cold water. Have a colander nearby. Wash the greens by agitating them in the water, then gently lift them into the colander. Drain the sink. If there is a lot of sand in the sink, plan on washing them 3 times. If you find only a small amount of sand, you can probably get away with washing only twice. However, nothing is more unappetizing than biting into sandy greens. Rinse the sink and repeat as many times as necessary to remove all the sand.

Examine the stems to see how tough they are. Tender stems just need a little trimming, and the stems of colorful swiss chard are often sliced and cooked separately. However, collards have tough stems as do the large leaves of mustard and turnip greens. Hold the leaf and tear them away, or use a chef's knife to cut a V shaped incision and remove them. I fold them in half to do this. You can store them at this point, for a day, or go on to the next step.

Once the stems are removed, stack the leaves in stacks of 4 or 5, roll them up like a cigar and slice them crosswise into about 1/2 inch slices. At this point you can cook them or put them in a bag for later.

There are many traditional ways to cook greens. Some of them employ large quantities of bacon and bacon fat. Delicious, but eat at your own risk. Here is a quick and easy, as well as healthier method. Put enough olive oil in the bottom of a deep iron skillet  or saute pan to lightly coat. Heat it gently. Add a tablespoon of minced garlic and let it toast, stirring frequently. When golden brown, add the greens by handfuls, letting them wilt  before adding more. The water from the greens should provide enough moisture to braise them. Add a little salt, pepper, and perhaps a tablespoon of vinegar, pepper sauce, or Tabasco. Don't overcook them. The greens should still have some texture and retain their bright color. (Note: the addition of vinegar or pepper sauce will change the brightness of the color, so do this right before serving.)

One other method, which retains more color but involves an extra step: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the whole leaves, stems removed but before slicing, into the water a few at a time. Let them wilt for a few seconds and, with tongs, drop them into a bowl of ice water. When all the leaves have been blanched, drain the ice water. The greens can now be held until ready to cook. They will retain much more of their color (oh, and more nutrients). Slice and cook separately with garlic, onions, or add to a soup or stew.

Enjoy your winter greens. Remember to save the tops of your beets. They are wonderful cooked and served with the beet roots.


Post by Chef Susan Wigley, a regular contributor on the Compost In My Shoe farm team.