Cooking With Leafy Greens

Meet the antioxidant-rich leaf brigade—kale, mustard greens, dandelions and more. MOIRA HODGSON creates unfussy recipes that defeat the bitterness and bring out the best in these tangy vegetables

By Moira Hodgson
LEAVES RULE ~ Mirin, tamari sauce and lemon juice dress up this braised–bok choy dish.
Photograph: Anna Williams

BEET GREENS WITH ROASTED BEETS AND PUMPKIN SEEDS
BABY BOK CHOY WITH LEMON-PONZU SAUCE
PORTUGUESE-STYLE STEW OF CLAMS, PORK, KALE AND BEANS
SPICY DANDELION GREENS ON A BED OF CAULIFLOWER PUREE
AVOCADO SALAD WITH SLIVERED SCALLIONS AND SESAME-SOY DRESSING
MUSTARD GREENS WITH QUINOA
SAUTEED COLLARD GREENS WITH NEW POTATOES AND PANCETTA
Tuscan Kale and -Tomato Salad with Pine Nuts

 

BEET GREENS WITH ROASTED BEETS AND PUMPKIN SEEDS
Many people throw away the greens, not realizing how good they are. The beets are roasted in their skins (the best method, since it concentrates their flavor and brings out the sweetness). The skins are slipped off, and the beets are diced and placed on top of the sautéed greens. Austrian pumpkin-seed oil is wonderful in this dish.

Prep time: 23 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Makes 4 side or 3 main dishes

6 medium (not baby) beets with greens attached
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pumpkin-seed oil* or extra-virgin olive oil (or a mix of the two oils) for the dressing
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing the greens
1 large shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted in a small skillet
Sea-salt flakes (preferably Maldon)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Snip the tails off the beets. Cut off the greens, and set them aside. Place the beets on a rack, and roast them in their skins until the largest ones are soft when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour (the time will vary with the size and type of beets).
2. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the lemon juice and vinegars. Gradually add the pumpkin-seed oil and/or olive oil, and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Tear the beet greens off the stalks, and cut them into wide strips. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, and sauté the shallot until soft. Add the greens, and sauté them until they are wilted. Put them in a shallow serving bowl.
4. When the beets are done and cool enough to handle, slip off their skins. Cut the beets into large dice, and add them to the greens. Pour on the dressing, and toss. Sprinkle the vegetables with the toasted pumpkin seeds, and garnish with Maldon sea-salt flakes.
*Austrian pumpkin-seed oil can be ordered at pumpkinseedoil.cc or at kalustyans.com.

 

BABY BOK CHOY WITH LEMON-PONZU SAUCE
Ponzu is a sauce often used for sashimi. It is also very good with bok choy and pairs well with fresh tuna or salmon and rice.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes 4 side dishes

For the Lemon-Ponzu Sauce
2 tablespoons tamari sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice(about ∏ lemon), or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper

For the Bok Choy
8 heads baby bok choy
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 scallions (green and white parts), sliced thin

1. Whisk all the ponzu-sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste, and set aside.
2. Cut the heads of bok choy lengthwise
into halves (or quarters, depending on their size). Rinse them well under cold running water, making sure any grit is removed from the base of the stalks.
3. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet or a wok, and stir-fry the garlic, ginger and scallions for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bok choy, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add ½ cup water, then cover, and reduce heat. Simmer, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes. If necessary, add a little more water, and cook further if the stalks aren’t tender. Place the bok choy in a heated serving dish, and spoon the sauce on top.

PORTUGUESE-STYLE STEW OF CLAMS, PORK, KALE AND BEANS

This can be made a day ahead; add the clams just before the stew is served. It is a lighter, healthier version of a classic Portuguese dish.

Prep time: 1 hour for soaking beans, 40 minutes hands-on
Cooking time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Makes 4 main dishes

1½ cups dried cannellini beans
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1¼ pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 1-inch pieces, excess fat trimmed
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 head fennel, diced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cups chopped canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
1 cup dry white wine
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) or other kale or collard greens
2 pounds cherrystone clams
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. In a large pot, cover the beans with
2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
2. Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the pork pieces, and brown them on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon, and drain them on paper towels. Pour out the fat from the casserole, and replace it with the remaining olive oil (this cuts down the amount of saturated fat in the dish). When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, fennel, red pepper flakes and thyme. Sauté over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft.
3. Add the tomatoes and wine, and bring to a boil. Add the beans with their liquid and the pork pieces. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, or until the beans and pork are tender; season with salt and pepper after 30 minutes (not too much salt, since the clam juices will be salty).
4. Meanwhile, tear the kale leaves from their stalks, and steam them for 10 minutes or until tender (the time depends on the age and variety of kale). Squeeze out excess water, and slice the leaves into ribbons.
5. Turn up the heat under the casserole, and add the kale and clams to the pot. Cover, and cook until the clams open (5 to 10 minutes). While the clams are cooking, shake the casserole a few times to move them around.
6. When the clams have opened, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes more (discard any clams that do not open). Taste the sauce for seasoning. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

SPICY DANDELION GREENS ON A BED OF CAULIFLOWER PUREE

Like spinach, dandelion greens cook down to nothing, so I like to serve them as a spicy topping over sautéed sea scallops. They are also terrific in a hummus sandwich. Choose young, tender shoots if possible (older, larger leaves harvested in winter tend to be more bitter).

Prep time: 32 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes 4 side dishes

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 1 pound)
1 bay leaf
1 cup milk or chicken stock
Coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, or 1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bunches dandelion greens
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1. Place the cauliflower, bay leaf and milk or chicken stock in a large, wide saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, put the cauliflower in a food processor (remove the bay leaf). Process until smooth, then add the butter or olive oil, and blend for a few more seconds. Season with salt and pepper, and keep warm in a low oven or double boiler.
2. Pull the dandelion leaves from the stems, and tear them into pieces. Blanch the leaves in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes (longer if the leaves are mature). Drain, and rinse in a colander under cold water to stop the greens from cooking further. Squeeze out the excess liquid.
3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, and stir-fry the garlic until it is a light golden color. Add the greens, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste; stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until the water from the greens has evaporated.
4. To serve, place a dollop of cauliflower puree on each plate, and top with dandelion greens. Alternatively, put the puree in a serving dish, and garnish it with the greens.

AVOCADO SALAD WITH SLIVERED SCALLIONS AND SESAME-SOY DRESSING

Lesser-used edible greens such as nasturtium and sorrel mix well with the familiar in this dish. The bold dressing stands up to the leaves’ assertiveness and the avocados’ richness.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Makes 4 to 6 side dishes

5 ounces young mixed greens (beet greens, turnip greens, arugula, kale, spinach, chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, sorrel, watercress, nasturtium leaves)
1 navel orange
4 scallions, sliced thin on the bias, with a small amount of the green part1 clove garlic, chopped
Coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 ripe avocados
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

1. Wash the greens, tearing the leaves into same-size pieces (keep smaller leaves whole). Dry in a salad spinner, and place in a large serving bowl.
2. With a sharp knife, cut a slice from the top and bottom of the orange. Peel away the skin, and pare the white pith. Cut into segments, slicing between the connective membrane. Cut the segments into thirds, and add them to the bowl with the greens. Add the scallions.
3. Make the dressing: Place the chopped garlic in the bowl of a mortar, and sprinkle it with sea salt. Grind it to a paste with the pestle. Mix in the mustard, lemon juice and soy sauce. Gradually add the olive and sesame oils, stirring constantly until you have an emulsion. Season to taste with pepper, and add more lemon juice if needed.
4. Peel, pit and slice the avocados. Cut the slices into thirds, and add them to the bowl of greens. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, pour on the dressing, and toss the vegetables.

 

MUSTARD GREENS WITH QUINOA
Quinoa is a high-protein grain that gets light and fluffy when cooked. It acts as a mild foil for the peppery mustard greens.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Makes 4 side or 2 main dishes

1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin
olive oil for the peppers
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa
1 bunch mustard greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1. Heat a grill or broiler. Cut the peppers into quarters (they char more evenly this way than when they are laid out whole); remove the stems and seeds. Char them skin side to the flame, about 10 minutes. Put them in a paper bag to cool and soften, then peel off the skins (it doesn’t matter if there are charred bits of skin left on; they will add flavor). Cut the peppers into slices, toss them in the extra-virgin olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper. Set aside (they can be prepared 3 days ahead of time).
2. Bring the quinoa to a boil in 2 cups salted water; cover, and simmer over low heat until soft (about 15 minutes).
3. While the quinoa is cooking, tear the mustard-green leaves off the stems, and cut them into wide strips. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet, and add the shallots, garlic, mustard greens and red pepper flakes. Stir-fry for a minute, then add ½ cup water. Cook until tender and dry, adding a
little more water if needed (about
10 minutes). Stir in the bell peppers and thyme, and mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Fluff the quinoa, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve it in a shallow bowl with the greens and peppers spread over the top.

SAUTEED COLLARD GREENS WITH NEW POTATOES AND PANCETTA

Collards are normally cooked for a long time with bacon or ham hocks. In this recipe, they are blanched, sautéed and topped with a little crumbled pan-cetta, the unsmoked Italian bacon that is cured with salt and spices.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Makes 4 side dishes

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 thin slices pancetta
1 bunch collard greens
1 pound small new potatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, chopped
Coarse sea salt and freshly
ground pepper to taste
White or red wine vinegar to taste

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet, and fry the pancetta slices until they are crisp and browned. Drain them on paper towels, and when they are cool, crumble them with your fingers.
2. Tear the collard leaves from their center ribs. Blanch the leaves in salted boiling water, and drain them in a colander. Squeeze out the excess liquid. Cut the leaves into ribbons about 1 inch wide.
3. Meanwhile, steam the potato -quarters until they are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Heat the remaining oil in a heavy skillet, and soften the garlic. Add the greens, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, and cook until they are heated through. Season with salt (not too much, because the pancetta is salty) and pepper, and a few splashes of vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with the crumbled pancetta, and serve.

 

TUSCAN KALE AND -TOMATO SALAD WITH PINE NUTS

Choose tender young kale. Leaves that are thick and large will be tough when eaten raw.

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus
30 minutes for marinating
Makes 4 side or 2 main dishes

1 bunch tender Tuscan kale or curly kale (about ¾ pound)
1 large shallot (or ¼ cup), chopped fine
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (½ dry pint)
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
½ cup Pecorino-cheese shavings

1. Tear the kale leaves from their center ribs, and cut them crosswise into thin shreds.
2. Combine the shallot, vinegar and olive oil in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and add more vinegar if necessary. Add the shredded kale, and toss so the leaves are coated with the dressing. Let marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, tossing from time to time, so the kale softens.
3. Add the tomatoes and pine nuts, and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scatter the Pecorino over the salad, and serve.

MOIRA HODGSON’s memoir, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Anchor), is just out in paperback.

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First Published Thu, 2011-08-04 08:28

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