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Prepare, Cook and Dress-Up Greens
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What can you do with those greens?
You can chop raw, fresh herbs and tender leaves like arugula, spinach, and watercress and add them to soups, salads, and grains, or you can use them lightly steamed. More mature greens such as bok choy, kale, dandelion greens, and collards will taste bitter if you serve them raw. The texture gets tough for easy chewing, as well. Steaming the greens actually intensifies the bitterness. You need to cook them in liquid so the bitter flavor can disperse.

The first step is to prepare the greens. Remove large stems and/or break off any small ones. Fill a sink with cold water and submerge the leaves. For herbs, leave the stems and hold on to them as you give the leaves a dunk. If you have sediment in your water, drain the sink and repeat. If you plan to put the greens in a salad, spin them dry. Leaves destined for cooking can have excess water shaken off and be placed on a towel or chopping board.

To cook the greens so they lose as little nutritional value as possible while shedding their bitter flavors, you can try three cooking techniques. Those are quick-boiling, simmering and sautéing. Following are some tips on each technique.

Quick Boil
To quick-boil greens, bring two quarts of water to a boil. Do not chop the leaves, but submerge them whole into the boiling water. Use a wooden spoon to move them from top to bottom. The leaves will begin to wilt slightly, but the bright green color should still be present. At this point, bring a leaf up with your spoon, tear off a piece, and chew it. If the flavor is bitter, let them cook more. The greens are just right when chewing a piece releases sweet juices. You will know you cooked them too long if the flavor is lost and the color is gone. The amount of time depends on the maturity of the green and the amount of leaves you're cooking. For something like tender mustard greens, a thirty- to sixty-second dip should suffice. Mature collard greens can take about five minutes. Once you test the green and get a sweet flavor, pour the contents of the pot into a colander. Save the water - the name for this is pot-likker. Many cooks enjoy drinking this nutritious broth. Alternatively, you can use it to water your plants if you wish. Next, run cool water over the greens gently to halt the cooking process. Once they are cool enough to touch gather them into a ball and gently squeeze out the excess water. Chop on the cutting board and they are ready to dress and serve.


To simmer greens, bring about one inch liquid of choice to simmer in a large skillet. Chop the washed greens into strips. Place the strips in the simmering liquid and keep them moving with a wooden spoon. You are looking for the same results as described above - a bright green color and a sweet flavor. The difference here is you chopped the greens; therefore, cooking time will be shorter.


When sautéing greens, work with just-washed greens. The water will aid in wilting and releasing the bitterness of the greens. Heat one or two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add a minced clove of garlic if desired. The garlic will tell you if you have the heat right. If it becomes too hot, the garlic will burn and if it becomes too cool, the garlic will not do anything. If there is too much water on the greens or the oil is too hot, the oil will sputter, so be careful as it is very hot. Chop the greens you are using into bite-sized pieces. To make uniform cuts, stack the washed leaves. Place the cut leaves into the skillet and keep them moving. Stay with the process and test every minute or so for doneness. When the leaves are still full of color and the taste is sweet, not bitter, the greens are ready.

Dress-up Your Greens
Once you have cooked your greens to your satisfaction, you have a limitless amount of possibilities as to what to do with them. If you prefer to keep things simple, give them a dash of vinegar and sprinkle them with a little tamari, a squeeze of lemon or orange juice with garlic and a touch of chipotle sauce. Toss the mixture and eat. You can add your cooked greens to soup, grain dishes, and salads to add color, flavor, and nutrients. In addition, you can prepare a favorite sauce to drizzle over greens, or toss them with toasted sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, if you like an Asian flavor. For serving greens to company, you could try adding slices of polenta. Use your imagination and have fun experimenting with different flavors and ways to incorporate your greens into your healthy vegetarian diet.

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September 23, 2017

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