Greens – A Favorite January Treat
I’m a gardener, and eat mostly seasonally. By this time of year, I can hardly wait to get some dark, leafy greens on my plate. I crave them – and no wonder. Greens like kale, collards, beet greens, and dandelion greens are packed with nutrition. They are high in calcium, iron, minerals, and antioxidants, all while being very low in calories.
It’s likely you’ll readily find kale (which is at it’s best during cold months) in grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Throughout much of the United States, you can find collards, too. If you have a good farmer’s market, you should definitely be able to find beets with their leaves still on them – and maybe the leaves by themselves. Occasionally, I see these in grocery stores, too. Dandelion greens may seem the strangest addition to the greens list, but you’ll find them in gourmet stores and farmer’s markets. If not, in your own yard. (They must be harvested, however, before the plant sends up stems and buds.)
There are a gazillion ways to cook greens, including in soups, omelets, and the traditional Southern Mess o Greens. But my favorite way to prepare greens (sometimes mixed together, sometimes cooked separately) is to sauté them.
Wash all the greens and cut off the stems. If you have older greens with thick ribs, cut the ribs away. (Save them to add to homemade stock, if you like, or compost them.) Stack the leaves, then roll them into a cigar shape. With a knife, cut the “cigars” into about ¼ inch slices. This makes even the toughest greens quick to cook – which not only saves you time in the kitchen, but retains more of the nutrition in the greens.
In a small bowl, pour about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil, depending upon how many greens you are cooking. To the oil, add 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced. Again, how many depends upon how many greens you have – and your personal taste preferences. Finally, to the bowl, add some coarse salt. I usually add between ½ teaspoon and a teaspoon, according to how many greens I’m cooking.
Place a heavy skillet (cast iron is my preference) over medium high heat. When the skillet is warm, add the olive oil mixture and stir the garlic around for a second or two.
Now add the prepared greens. Sauté until the leaves turn bright green and season with freshly ground pepper. Remove from the heat immediately and serve.
If you like, you can begin the process by cooking some strips of bacon in the skillet. Add the garlic and salt to the drippings; you can add a little olive oil, too, if needed, then cook the greens. Before serving, sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.
Oh yeah. That’s what I call a fantastic January dish.