5@5 - Eat your greens
January 20th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

(Left to right: Christophe Hille is the Chief Operating Officer, Hadley Schmitt  is the Executive Chef, and Chris Ronis is the Managing Partner of Northern Spy Food Co. in New York, New York.)

There’s much high-minded talk in the food world about eating “mostly plants” (per Mr. Michael Pollan’s counsel), but judging from the slick of animal grease on our collective food biz lips, we’re deep in the throes of a meat moment. Meatballs, meatopias, and meat weeks; the cottage industry of top-ten burger lists (as a college professor once said to me in a different context, “I think we’ve taken enough rides on that pony”); and around every corner, another young cook with tattoos of cleavers, solemnly cutting up a pig (note to the non-cook reader: it’s not that hard.)

Our mid-winter redemption for editorial and gustatory carno-chauvinism lies in greenery. Dark, sulfurous, bitter greens, to excise the sins of the flesh and remind ourselves that while any shoemaker with salt, a Boston butt and an oven can make a passable pulled pork sandwich, it is through vegetables that cooks show intelligence and intuition.

To wit: five different ways to eat your greens this winter (not necessarily vegetarian, mind you). The methods are adapted from things currently or recently on our menu at Northern Spy, which in no way means that they’re inviolable. Mess ‘em up. Put the kale where the chard goes and vice versa.

Five Ways to Cook and Eat Dark Greens in Winter

1. Kale salad
This is our workhorse: the mortgage-lifter and rent-payer of Northern Spy. In brief, buy the loveliest dark green lacinato (a.k.a. Tuscan or dino) kale you can find. Wash and dry, cut out the ribs, shred finely cross-wise, and place in a bowl.

Garnish with reasonable amounts of excellent crumbled cheddar for funk, chopped toasted almonds for crunch and roasted winter squash for oomph. Season to your liking with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Top with a dusting of grated pecorino or similarly pungent cheese. This salad holds up very well, so make a big bowl full and pick at it all day.

2. Roasted broccoli
This is something new and fun for us, served occasionally as a snack with a small forest of broccoli florets embedded upside-down in a schmear of herbed mayonnaise. Find a few gorgeous heads of plain ol’ American broccoli, and cut the tops into a multitude of little florets. Toss those in a bit of oil and salt. Roast them in a piping-hot oven to brown them up without destroying the broccolessence.

Cool and toss with lemon juice and grated lemon zest, and more salt and oil if they seem to be asking for it. Take or make some mayonnaise and mix it with an unreasonable amount of finely chopped tarragon, parsley and chives. Alternately, mix up some pimento cheese, which is having a mini-moment of its own. Organize a game of euchre, eat liberally and remember that broccoli is no wallflower.

3. Braised collards
We don’t claim to make these the proper Southern way. We just make them tasty. Buy a heap of big, mean-looking collard greens. Again, wash, dry and de-rib. Chop or tear them up coarsely. Dice some bacon and render it over low heat until it starts to crisp. Toss in a diced onion and let it fry up until soft and sweet.

Pitch in the collards and stir them until wilted. Sprinkle with a splash of sherry vinegar and a smattering of salt. Add enough water to barely cover (or, if you happen to be flush with meat broth, use that instead) and simmer and stir and salt some more until the greens are tender and perfect.

These are best after sitting for a while on your counter and perfuming the kitchen with their inimitably dank smell.

4. Wilted dandelions
To escape the repetitive refrain of bacon, bacon, bacon, we propose butter, butter, butter. And specifically: deep-brown-almost-burnt butter, which has an aroma somewhere between shortbread cookies and pan drippings.

Find yourself a bunch of youngish dandelion greens. Wash, dry and chop into two-inch chunks. Put those into a bowl along with a good sprinkling of toasted crushed hazelnuts.

Take a peeled shallot and slice it (longitudinally, or tip-to-tail) into paper-thin slivers. Slide a couple of tablespoons of butter into a small saucepan. Cook swiftly, swirling the butter as it melts, then foams, and then begins to brown. As soon as it turns the color of medium-roast coffee and smells like inside of the Lu factory, add the shallots. Stir to wilt and toss onto the greens.

Mix the lot vigorously, drizzle with a conservative amount of cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper. These are to be eaten right then and there, while the butter is still hot and its aroma fills your nostrils.

5. Swiss chard
To roast is human, but to blanch is divine. Blanching is the foundational kata that leads to black belt culinary kung-fu.

Wash and drain more green or Swiss chard than seems practicable (because it will reduce by orders of magnitude). Bring a large cauldron of water to the boil and add enough salt that it tastes of the Mediterranean (as in, salty, yo!). Add the greens to the pot, stir so they all wilt into the water, and leave them be for two or three minutes (if your stove is a milquetoast, cover the pot).

Remove the greens to a bath of icy water just long enough to be able to handle them. Drain, squeeze out the excess water, chop coarsely, and set aside.

Either before, during, or after the blanching, make the sofrito or battuto that your culture or predilection requires (onions, garlic, chiles, anchovies, carrots, and/or tomato paste, etc., seasoned with salt and fried up in ample olive oil or butter until wickedly tasty).

Mix the blanched chard with enough sofrito that the latter’s flavor is carried but the greens aren’t overwhelmed. Add a knob of butter to make it creamier and season with a grating of nutmeg because it’s winter. If you have performed the kata correctly, the chard will be good enough to serve with some meat, if you must. Performed exquisitely, it will be good enough to eat unaccompanied.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Tim

    Glory Foods brand has bagged, fresh collard greens (a from of cabbage) in most produce sections. They come cleaned, stems removed & torn into pieces (takes a lot of work out of it). Braise with chicken stock, onion, diced red bell peppers, garlic, vinegar-hot sauce, (throw in a ham hock for smokey flavor). Serve with corn bread. Don't forget the pot likker. I have this 2 or 3 times a year. . . great as a meal.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:13 am |
  2. MashaSobaka

    My roommate and I have been roasting broccoli for a while. We chop up beets, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli, coat them in olive oil, and then roast them in the oven until the beets can be pierced easily with a fork. We eat it with a sauce made from sour cream, lemon pepper, and thyme. So, so delicious. Especially on the rainy, blustery days we get in our Bay Area winters.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Deb

      It's been a week, so I doubt you'll see this.....but in case you do, can you be more specific on how you make that sauce? Or is that really all there is to it?

      January 31, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  3. VirginiaMike

    Not to rock the boat... My birth family is Southern, but my inlaws are Han Chinese from Taiwan. In my humble opinion, everyone must try leafy greens like spinach or broccoli raab simply stir-fried before they die. My mother-in-law has a method involving crushed (not minced) garlic, a little oil, a pinch of salt, and a hot wok. That's it. To my mother, who was raised on hour-long-simmered greens in smoked pork stock, it was a revelation. Not that there's anything wrong with my mother's way. The article nails it: veggies are so much fun because of their diversity in taste, texture, and preparation.

    January 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  4. ________

    Mustard greens wilted over olive oil with simple garlic, salt and pepper. With a piece of French bread and a glass of cab sav. Top it off with a little bit of Peccorino Romano or parmesan.

    A little bit of heaven here on earth.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  5. Sunflower

    Kale cheese soup is to die for!! Grated smoked gouda, kale, onions, sweet Italian sausage..... OMG! What's not to love??

    January 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  6. southern girl

    To all of you sideswiping southern cooking–keep adding the bacon!!!! R U serious??? That bacon will sure save the heart and arteries far more than a ham hock........Just eat a salad if you like and stay up North that should solve any health problems you may have or get

    January 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • ________

      Well said. Lay off the bacon. Instead, try a little bit (I said a little bit!) of parmesan or Romano.

      Goes a long way for you - and your heart.

      And your family.

      January 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  7. Getagrip

    Although I love my greens the recipes here add enough fat that I may as well eat a pound of pulled pork! I think I like the simple one provided by another commenter using olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar!

    January 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • LAB

      You realize sauteeing in olive oil is the same amount of fat as sauteeing in any other oil mentioned in this article, right? You don't have to drown the greens in oil (notice amounts weren't given in the article), just enough to properly season them. And if you cook pulled pork right (the way we do it, here in NC!), its surprisingly lean....

      January 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  8. liz

    Swiss chard-well here's a recipe that was given to me from a Tuscan grandmother-30 years ago. Chop the greens,
    separating the greens from the white stalks. PUt olive oil in a cast iron pan. Heat oil, throw in garlic. Add white part of
    swiss chard. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring. Add greens. Cook until done. Add more olive oil if necessary. Finish wiht
    balsamic vinegar...Sorry for no exact amounts, I've been doing this for about 30 years and in the words of the ad: Just do

    January 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Natalie

      Same process here, and my grandparents are also from Tuscany!

      January 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
      • Waldirene

        Bravo Sanjaw....Keep on the good work!!! VVVVV Enbelawalen!!! Lela yelem lela....snajaw snajaw!!!!Happy Easter to all St. George players and fans!!!!

        February 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
      • ivaepl

        aHnwTO tnnabdpacwgx

        February 3, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • ________

      Greens sauteed in olive oil with a little bit of parmesan cheese.

      And a piece of French bread.


      January 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  9. Bev

    As to the collard greens: You don't have to add all that liquid. Simply add a little bit of water (enough to keep them from burning) while you're sauteeing them with the bacon and onion. Keep an eye on them, stirring as they wilt and adding bits of water as needed. They will turn out a bit crunchy with great texture, not slimy and cooked to death like they do in the south.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  10. binky42

    Worth mentioning that for millions of people on some heart medications (like my aunt) too many dark green veggies can be harmful.

    January 23, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • true

      You're right. My mother takes cumadin (sp?) becuase she had a heart valve transplant, and some of the typically healthy foods she can't eat in large portions (basically any dark green as well as strawberries, to name justa couple). What a shame for her...because all of these dishes sound delicious (though I've never had dandelion greens) and are full of nutrients! Now I want to run out and buy some kale...

      January 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
      • jbean


        January 23, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
      • Al

        Ironically, the reason people end up in your mother's situation is from not eating enough greens.

        January 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
      • camille

        @ Al, that's not the only reason. My dad is on blood thinners after a heart attack after a lifetime of being thin, eating fish and veggies, exercising, not smoking, etc. Sometimes, it's just plain old genetics that gives us heart disease. But, yeah, most people don't eat enough green stuff.

        January 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  11. Samuel Getaneh Bogale Calgary Alberta

    Great suggestions!

    January 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  12. charliecookz

    the recipes seem more than decent, especially the kale and broccoli ones, but why such pretentious writing? makes me think the restaurant must be just as precious.

    January 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • rmg

      Seriously! I was so annoyed I could barely finish reading.

      January 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • JR

      Euchre, really? Come on.

      January 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  13. Claire

    Greens are my favorite thing to eat! I have a kale salad, too, but it's warm, and sort of a version of a greek salad.


    A million other recipes for greens, here, too. Soups, savory pies, stews...

    January 22, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Mesi

      We need rdaacil change of EFF even they are from ruling party members, they did sabotage to change the coach Tom Saintfiet, reasoning for salary $ 8000 so, silence is not solution ... due to the only remain wealth of Ethiopian people is SPORT .. and sport should not be control by ruling party as others ..............

      January 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • dyghxfqqf

      uUI4U6 xzsxfvdooakn

      February 3, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  14. Kirk

    IMy Greek grandomoter cooked greens for us all the time
    1) LOTS of leaf greens and and not those "baby" kale and spinach, but the stuff that HAD to be cooked. For us the key was a bit of bacoin, just a few slices chopped and sauteed and most of the fat coming from an added huge dose of olive oil. That and lemon, garlic and salt, a few canonelli beans and hunk of bread is for me the ultimate comfort food.
    2) A dish that was 3/4 string beans (again ones that had to be cooked), a few potatoes slices, ad a small hunk of lamb on the bone. Also lots of garlic, olive oil and a chopped tomato.
    I don't know if I will live to be 100 but I am 74 and in ten times better health that most 40 year olds I know. I chalk that up to my "Yiayia" who made always feel loved and happy eating greens as well as fish.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  15. younsee

    NO passable pulled pork sandwich has ever come from an oven!

    January 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Wrong! Just because you don't know how doesn't mean no one does.

      January 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  16. chi

    I JUST made a big pot of turnip greens with smoked turkey necks (pork free), sweet potatoes, and bake chicken.
    Nothing like some healthy comfort food during a snow storm.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • mike collins

      leaves are not comfort food..they're compost material. meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, buffalo wings, short ribs and maybe nachos are comfort foods.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
      • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

        You obviously didn't read the part about the baked chicken and sweet potatos.

        January 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
      • cope

        Beg to differ but greens with some red beans and rice and cornbread (if you wish) are comfort foods. Personally the greens and red beans with a light cole slaw are perfectly wonderful ........

        January 23, 2012 at 10:14 am |
      • ________

        To each his own. Red beans and rice, a piece of French bread and a glass of cab sav.

        Now, THAT's comfort food.

        January 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
      • sqeptiq

        Beds in coronary units are not comfortable, nor are coffins.

        January 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Niko, San Diego

      What snow storm?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  17. Truth™

    Thanks, but I had an apple on the train...

    January 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
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