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
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
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.