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Eat Your Vegetables: Kale, Chard, Beet Tops, and More

Check out the leaf that arrived in our Farmhouse Delivery basket recently:


Sure, you know leafy green things like kale*, chard, beet tops, mustard greens, and collards are the definition of Good For You, but what do you do with them? I’m not a fan of the “throw in a pot with bacon and water, cook for hours, and hope for the best” approach. I know there is probably some elderly but still elegant lady in the south who wears pearls, smokes cigars, and makes  a mean mint julip that can slow-braise greens with some secret recipe that makes them taste yummy. But she doesn’t live in my house.

I turned to Cook’s Illustrated for guidance, did some experimentation on my own, and came up with the two recipes that I will use for the rest of my days (or until something better comes along).

Greens: Simple & Garlicky
You need: greens, olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, a lemon wedge

Directions:
1. Wash the greens. Remove any tough and/or thick ribs, then roughly chop or tear the leaves. Don’t dry the leaves; you want that water for steaming.

2. Heat a large skillet and throw in about half the greens. Stir ’til starting to wilt, then add the rest. Put a lid on it! (I love saying that.) During this process, you may need to add more water – bonus! beef or chicken broth – to convince the leaves to mellow out. Kale takes a while; beet tops are a little more willing to give it up.

3. When the leaves are dark green and as wilted as you like them – as all things, I like mine very well-done, which means quite wilted – take off the lid and let any remaining water evaporate.

4. Turn off the heat and drizzle some olive oil over the greens. Crush a clove or two of garlic into the pan. Stir. Smell. Smile.

5. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper, then, if you like, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Greens: Creamy & Spicy
You need: greens, coconut milk, fresh garlic, Ras el Hanout

Directions:
1. Wash the greens. Remove any tough and/or thick ribs, then roughly chop or tear the leaves. Don’t dry the leaves; you want that water for steaming.

2. Heat a large skillet and throw in about half the greens. Stir ’til starting to wilt, then add the rest. Put a lid on it! (I love saying that.)

3. When the leaves are dark green and as wilted as you like them – as all things, I like mine very well-done, which means quite wilted – take off the lid and let any remaining water evaporate.

4. Pour about 1/2 cup of coconut milk into the pan. Stir, then add 1-2 teaspoons of Ras El Hanout, and a crushed clove or two of garlic. Add salt to taste.

5. Sauté until the sauce begins to thicken and your nose is delighted by the aroma.

Note: If you haven’t had a chance to make Ras el Hanout yet (I know you’ll take my advice eventually.), you can substitute an on-the-go Moroccan blend of 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon coriander – and if you’re really in a hurry, just throw in some cumin and move on.)

Bonus addition for either recipe:
You can make the delicious bitterness of the greens really sing (Sing, people!) with the addition of just a few raisins or dried cranberries… like, a tablespoon for the whole batch. The dried fruit adds minimal sugar and maximum flavor. Just throw it in while you’re wilting the greens. The steam that softens the greens will plump up the dried fruit. Magic!

* For what it’s worth, during the last few months, I’ve tried kale, red swiss chard, red beet tops, and collard greens. My favorite is kale, which also happens to be packed with antioxidants, calcium, and Vitamins A and C. One cup delivers more than 1300% of the daily value of vitamin K. And oh yeah, it’s delicious.

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17 Responses to “Eat Your Vegetables: Kale, Chard, Beet Tops, and More”

  1. Melissa says:

    Aha! I just bought a big bag of kale at the grocery store this weekend. This'll be my first encounter with it, and now I'm armed with even MORE Paleo ways to bend it to my will and render it delicious! Thanks. :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh
    My
    Freaking
    God

    I made the creamy version last night. I lost my mind, it is so good. I typically just toss in some balsamic and call it day, but this is a new high.

  3. Veronica says:

    This looks excellent! I don't fix Kale as often, as it tends to take longer to cook, but I think it might be worth the time with your recipe above. Yum!

    I also LOVE LOVE LOVE collard greens! Here's my favorite recipe: http://thelabelsayspaleo.com/2009/12/09/collard-greens/
    This runs more along southern lines with the bacon, but without the 'let's cook the life out of our food' attitude.

    I enjoy you're blog!

  4. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Thanks for the recipe swap, Veronica! I'm going to try that one. I ate frozen, chopped collard greens for breakfast yesterday, and really enjoyed them, so I may be opening the door to collards ;-)

  5. leeny says:

    I love greens! Can't wait to try these recipes out. I've also broiled Kale and it's delicious. I call it "Krispy Kale" and you basically brush washed leaves with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper and then place them on a cookie sheet and broil them until the leaves get crunchy. It almost tastes like fried spinach. My kids love it.

  6. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Leeny, kale chips are on my "must try" list — I'm thinking about making them for the Superbowl. Thanks for posting!

  7. Brandy says:

    "Sauté until the sauce begins to thicken and your nose is delighted by the aroma." My nose was definitely delighted by the aroma. Fabulous! Thank you so much for sharing. I still need to do the Garlicky ones, but the creamy ones are going to be made around here often!

  8. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Brandy, the creamy ones are really good, aren't they? I have a new recipe I need to post for yellow squash cooked with coconut milk — and tonight I'm trying okra. If it works, I'll definitely share.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The "creamy" version is really great with green beans too!

  10. Dara says:

    I am a bad cook. However, I used your recipe for the creamy kale and it tasted like something that someone else made… that is one of the highest compliments that I can write. GREAT flavor! Thanks.

    • Mel says:

      Dara, this made me laugh so hard. You’re sweet — and now you can no longer say you’re a bad cook.

      Hope you’re having some fun in the kitchen!

  11. Renee says:

    I’m just starting to explore a healthier diet and bought some red chard tonight. I thinly sliced a couple shallots and a small handful of garlic cloves then through them into some olive oil. I let them cook on low for a while, giving them a stir every now and then until they were caramelized. While they were cooking, I chopped up the chard stems and leaves separately and threw the stems into the pan. When everything else was done (steak, baked apples, sauteed brocollini, salad with pears, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, balsalmic/walnut oil/dijon dressing), I threw in the leaves until they were wilted and added some salt and pepper flakes. So yummy I can’t wait to try more recipes – your creamy recipe sounds good.

    • Mel says:

      I love adding the chopped up stems to the leaves… well done, friend! Your dinner sounds ridiculously yummy. And yeah, the creamy greens are out of this world.

  12. Shawndra says:

    I’ve made the creamy version a few times, but never with Ral el Hanout… oh man my tummy and tastebuds are so freaking happy right now! Definitely making this many times to come!

  13. Kelly says:

    Best. Recipe. Ever.

  14. [...] or local spice shop and go buck wild. Using spice blends on greens really jazzes them up. I use this recipe every week, and never get sick of [...]

  15. Jillian says:

    I made the Creamy Spice Market Kale recipe (from my copy of Well Fed) tonight and it was the first time my five year old son has admitted to LIKING KALE. He tried two bites, and have it a thumbs up. Thank you for creating a method of cooking kale that works!

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