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CSA Share Report: How to Tame Spring Greens

With area farms, grocers and CSAs yielding lots of varieties this time of year, locavore Jessica Walsh digs deep for recipes to go from loathing to loving greens.

When we first became members of the program, the cooking greens were probably the most intimidating to me. Our first year as CSA members also happened to be a cold, rainy growing season, so we were getting a lot of greens.  I had never been a big fan of cooked greens to begin with, and I suddenly found myself staring down a fridge that was overtaken by kale, chard, dandelion greens, collard greens.

Ok, I should be more honest. To say that I wasn’t a big fan of greens is a massive understatement. I actually loathed them. I remember being a kid, having to eat two or three bites of my spinach at dinner and barely choking it down. Just thinking about cooked greens brought back memories of the bland, bitter mush sitting on my plate, daring me to put a spoonful in my mouth and swallow.

Yet here I was, trying hard to buy and eat local, and apparently Mother Nature decided to throw me a curve ball right from the get-go. I knew that lots of people liked eating cooked greens, and I became determined to figure out the secret to preparing them.

Let’s Get Cooking…

I am pleased to report that I have made substantial progress toward conquering my greens-loathing problem.

Here are some of the tricks we rely on for preparing greens:

Balance the bitter. For those of us who don’t care for the bitterness of many cooked greens, balancing the bitter with something sweet or at least neutral can really help. Try adding raisins, cranberries, or apples when sautéing greens. “Meaty” beans—like kidney beans or cannellini beans—are also great choices to pair with bitter greens. In fact, Epicurious.com offers this recipe for Sauteed Greens with Cannellini Beans and Garlic.

Maintain (or add) some crunch.  In addition to the bitterness, I always struggled with the mushy texture of cooked greens. My neighbor recommended this trick: sauté up your garlic, oil, and whatever else you are cooking with the greens.  When the other ingredients are cooked, add the greens, cover, and turn off the stove. The greens will steam without over-cooking. 

Alternatively, try adding toasted nuts to your sauté. I have included my favorite greens recipe below, which incorporates raisins and toasted nuts. Or, for something entirely different, try making kale chips—toss chopped kale with olive oil and salt, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and then bake at 350 until they are crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Kale chips have become a summer staple at parties and everyone enjoys them.  

Hide them. Okay, this may seem like cheating, but I have learned that just plain hiding the greens in some yummy dish works. We have added sautéed greens to lasagna with fabulous results. This weekend, I added radish greens to our Sunday frittata; combined with eggs, potatoes, cheese, onion, pepper, and chourico, we barely even noticed the greens. They simply added a rich background flavor.       

Kale with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

From "Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers" by Janet Fletcher

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 lbs kale (or other cooking green)
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 TBSP pine nuts, toasted  (to toast: spread on baking sheet & bake at 350 until golden brown for 8-10 min.  less time in toaster oven)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Put raisins in small bowl, add hot water, and soften for 20 minutes. Drain.
  2. Remove ribs from kale and rinse throroughly.
  3. Bring large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. Add kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately run under cold water to cool. Drain again and squeeze to remove excess water. Chop coarsely.
  4. Heat olive oil in large skillet over moderate heat.  Add garlic and sautee until fragrant and lightly colored, about 1 minute. Add the kale, pine nuts, and raisins, and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are well mixed and the kale is evenly coated with oil and hot throughout. Serve immediately.

Countdown to Summer Market Season...

Look for area markets to open in early and mid-June:

  • Aquidneck Grange Farmers’ Market opens Thursday, June 2, 2011, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., , Middletown
  • Aquidneck Growers' Market, Saturday Market opens June 4, 2011, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,  Middletown
  • Aquidneck Growers' Market, Wednesday Market opens June 8, 2011, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., , Newport
  • Sakonnet Growers’ Market opens Saturday, June 18, 2011, 9:00am-1:00pm, Tiverton Four Corners, Tiverton

Until then, check out the and in Middletown for fresh local greens and other great local produce!

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