All About Greens
Selecting: Select greens that are vibrantly green and look crisp and healthy. Avoid greens that are yellowing or wilting. Remember that the greens from root vegetables, such as beets, radishes, and turnips, are edible. I add them to the mix when I’m cooking other greens.
For bok choy, look for dark green leaves and crisp, not wilting, stalks.
Storing: Greens can be wrapped loosely in a damp paper towel and stored in a bag or container. It is best to cook them soon after you bring them home, but they should keep for about a week this way. Do not wash the greens until you are ready to cook them.
Preparing Bok Choy: You want to eat the stalks as well as the leaves of bok choy. Baby bok choy can be eaten whole. For more mature bok choy, you’ll want to separate the leaves from the base. Use a sharp knife to cut off the root close to the base, but preserve as much of the white stalks as possible. Stalks and leaves can be diced or chopped to add to stir-fries.
Freezing: I find that most leafy greens can be cooked and frozen for later. The stalks of bok choy and chard do not freeze well, just the leaves. My method is to sauté them first, though Jackie blanches them.
Here’s what I do: I fill the sink with cold water. Then, I separate the leaves from the stems. Usually, I just run my fingers along the stalk from the stem up to the tip, as you might do with herbs, removing the leaves as I go. I tear the leaves into pieces, about 2-inches square, and place them in the sink to wash. I discard the stems. Once the greens are in the sink, I swish the water around to agitate the leaves. The dirt should fall to the bottom. Then, I lift the greens out of the water and transfer them to a large bowl (this is so I can move the greens from the sink to the stove without making a mess).
Now I heat some olive oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, I throw in a smashed and peeled garlic clove, let it sizzle for a few seconds, then add the greens by the handful to the pot. They shrink a surprising amount, so if the pot seems full, just wait a few seconds. When all the greens are in the pot, I cover it, reduce the heat slightly, and let the greens cook until they are tender. Chard, spinach, or beet greens cook in a few minutes; they are ready as soon as they are wilted. Tougher greens like kale, mustard or collards take longer. Just keep tasting them until they have the right texture for you. Once the greens are cooked, there might be extra liquid in the pan. Transfer the greens to a colander to let any excess liquid drain off. If you like, you can chop the greens finer, before or after freezing.
Here are instructions for blanching greens for freezing.
The frozen greens can be thawed and served as is for a side dish, though I usually add them to savory tarts, like quiches, or frittatas.
Veggie Quiche Patties
- 1/2 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and center ribs removed, leaves cut into thin strips, washed and dried in a salad spinner
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 5 large eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (we used parsley and tarragon)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil or coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until golden and fragrant. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and the Swiss chard and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 7 minutes. Keep a watchful eye and adjust heat accordingly. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Remove to a cutting board, cool slightly, and coarsely chop.
- Place the eggs, cheese, and herbs in a large bowl and whisk together until well combined. Stir in the chopped vegetables. Using a tablespoon measure, pour the egg mixture evenly into each of the muffin cups. (You’ll end up with about 2 tablespoons per muffin cup.) Smooth the tops.
- Bake until golden brown and the eggs are set, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, remove from muffin cups, and serve at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or for a snack.
Nutrition Information per Serving (3 patties): 200 calories, 13g fat (4.5g saturated), 460mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 16g protein, 150% vitamin A, 60% vitamin C, 25% calcium, 20% iron
Liz Weiss, MS, RDN and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN are The Meal Makeover Moms, and together, the dietitian duo is on a mission to help busy families eat better. For more recipes, check out their new app, Meal Makeovers, their cookbook, No Whine with Dinner, read their blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen, or listen to their free radio podcast, Cooking with the Moms.
Creamed spinach, the steak house classic, is a treat, but I find it too rich for an everyday meal. This lighter version keeps the familiar flavors of sauteed onion and nutmeg, but leaves out the cream. You could also try this with other greens.
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ red onion, sliced thin
¼ cup sliced almonds or pumpkin seeds
10-16 oz spinach, trimmed and washed (not dried)
Salt, pepper (black or white), and ground nutmeg to taste
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and nuts, and sauté until the onions are tender and the nuts are browned. Add spinach and cover until spinach is wilted. Uncover and allow some of the extra moisture to evaporate. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg (freshly ground if you have it).
More Ideas for Greens
See ideas on our Bok Choy page.
Sweet and spicy bitter greens
Collard greens and cheddar cheese pakoras — try baking them in muffin tins instead of frying (recommended by CSA shareholder Caitlin Sweeney). You could also serve them in pita bread like a falafel.
Lemony egg soup with escarole
Raw kale salads:
Shred the kale, mixed with shredded green cabbage and lettuce. First wash and dry the kale and massage in a bit of salad dressing or a bit of olive oil with salt and let sit about 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve. This softens the leaves a bit and probably reduces bitterness. Meanwhile you can prepare the other ingredients. Along with the other greens, some nice combinations include:
- Thinly sliced bite-sized apples, mushrooms, celery
- Bite-sized orange or tangerine, marinated beets, sesame seeds or cashews
- Shredded carrots and radish, plus/minus orange or avocado
Creamed kale is really good… It’s the same as creamed spinach but with kale, easily veganized and delicious that way too. Melt 4 Tb earth balance or butter over low heat until no longer bubbling. Whisk in 4 Tb flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes over low heat. Whisk in 2 cups milk or nondairy milk (almond milk works great), bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered until starts to thicken. If it thickens too quickly add some water or more milk. Add about 1/2 to 1 bunch cleaned kale, a bit at a time, adding more as each part added is wilting. If desired, you could blanch kale first – this would reduce volume – but it’s not necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Add more water or milk as needed for desired thinness. Puree in blender in batches as needed, continuing to thin as desired. The vegan version freezes nicely.
Saag – the Indian spinach dish usually served with cubes of paneer. If you have the spices on hand, this is very easy to make. Here are a few variations to explore:
More ideas for spinach from Epicurious
Swiss chard fritters
ANY GREENS OR A MIXTURE
Sautéed greens with garlic
As a pizza topping – the Greens Restaurant cookbooks have some incredible pizza recipes:
- Their “Greek” pizza has spinach, lemon zest, rosemary, olives, feta, sauteed red onions, so delicious! You could use the same ingredients as a topping for orzo or quinoa, eaten warm or at room temperature.
- Another is topped with escarole, fontina, and walnuts. (You can substitute kale or chard.) Here is a similar recipe.
EATING THE WHOLE VEGETABLE
Swiss chard stems with anchovies
Try these other ideas for ways to eat the stems of your leafy greens.