By Farm Shop Team Member Seth Wright, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop
Greens are back folks and they are back in a big way. From now until summer, a diversity of greens will be a big part of your diet. This is because they thrive in the cool, wet weather that is quickly approaching. This is one of the fun challenges of eating seasonally. At times you have to get used to eating similar vegetables again and again. Therefore, it’s time to get creative and come up with some ways you can prevent the seasonal eating blues, specifically with regard to greens.
One of my favorite ways to prepare greens is by quickly wilting them in some olive oil. This is a great way to prepare them if you work a lot or work late, and need to make a quick nutritious vegetable side. It’s also a great way to cook those bitter greens (some of which should be familiar to you by now) such as endive, escarole, beet greens, collards, and rapini. Wilting them helps take that bitter edge off, especially if you add a little acidity at the end. Spicy greens like mustard greens are also excellent prepared this way.
The first step when dealing with greens is to wash them thoroughly under running water and then dry them by using a salad spinner or by patting them dry with a towel. Before wilting the greens cut out any thick and woody stems and cut the leaves into smaller pieces; then heat up a little olive oil (butter, other oils or bacon grease also work well) in your favorite sauté pan on medium high heat. Throw the greens into the pan once it is up to temperature and add a little salt, pepper, minced garlic and any other spices that you prefer. Let the greens wilt in the oil for a minute or two, and then add a splash of apple cider vinegar. Freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice and stocks work well too. Cover the sauté pan with a tight fitting lid and let them cook down to a consistency you prefer. Voila! Tasty, nutritious greens that will take you less than ten minutes to cook. I would encourage you to take chances, make mistakes and add your own variations to this simple recipe.
There are lots of great ways to enjoy a hearty bunch of greens, but lately, I have really enjoyed adding fresh greens to soup, pho and udon. The hearty leaves of cabbage and bok choi work well in this application but you can use almost any type of green. When preparing greens this way cut out any thick and woody stems and cut the leaves into manageable bite sized pieces. You can skip this step if you are using baby bok choi with small and tender leaves. Add the greens when your soup or pho is nearly ready. Let them wilt and become tender, and then you are ready to eat. Adding greens to your favorite canned soup adds some much need flavor and nutrition, and is another great way to easily make use of the bountiful greens that grow here in the Capay Valley.
You’ve probably seen kale chips at the grocery store, but did you know they are really easy to make? They also make a great midday snack at work and are a great item to send in bagged lunches. Making your own kale chips will take less than 20 minutes. The trick with kale chips is to make sure the leaves are really dry before you put them into the oven. Pat them dry with a towel before you start cutting out the stems and into chip sized pieces. Once you have cut all of the kale, the next step is to arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Throw them into an oven preheated at 350° F and bake for twelve minutes. Make sure you check them a couple of times so that they don’t burn (this can intensify the bitter flavor in kale). After they have cooled season with some salt and any other spices that you prefer.
These are just a few ways to use greens but greens are great in so many things! Entertaining? Add some greens to a risotto. In the mood to have some greens with your breakfast? Quickly wilt them and add them to that morning omelet. Greens are chock full of flavor so be adventurous, use them often, and don’t be discouraged when they don’t turn out the way you expect them too. Kitchen failures are the best way to learn what you like, and how to cook! Happy eating!