|"Dinosaur" kale from Paffenroth farms.|
Greens are a constant on my table and in my guts. I rely on them as a quick side, and for flavor and texture in casseroles and soups. They're super-nutritious, easy to cook, versatile, affordable, and GERD-friendly -- what's not to love? One of my favorite ways to use them is simply sauteed-and-braised, Southern style greens slowly cooked in a skillet with a bit of water (and I'll add a bit of olive or sunflower oil, though you can omit this according to oil-free recipes, or use vegetable stock in place of plain water for the braising).
Slow-cooking in liquid softens the greens to an irresistible melt-in-your-mouth texture, and mellows out any bitterness. This method is great for all fresh greens: kale, chard, spinach, collards, turnip greens, sweet potato greens, and whatever other greens come your way.
STEP ONE: Prep the leaves
Rinse leaves. For kales and other greens with chewy stems, remove all trace of the stem parts -- including along the inside of the leaves. This is the key to achieving a smooth texture (versus a smooth mouthful of kale with jarring crunchy bits destroying the buttery mouth-feel). Most restaurants do not go through this trouble, and I'm often disappointed by the results…
To remove the stem from the middle of the leaves, fold the leaf and grasp the stem, and pull…
Soon, you will have a pile of leaves without stems…
Gather the leaves into a pile, stacking them or bunching them in an organized heap. Cut into slices with a large knife so you end up with strips or uniform chunks.
STEP TWO: Cook the greens
I like to saute a few pressed cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil before adding my leaves. Once the garlic is just starting to turn brown, add the greens. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to turn the leaves so they start to wilt from the heat. Keep turning a few times a minute until all the leaves are coated with the garlic/oil and wilting.
Add enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan, below the leaves. You may add more water later -- the idea is to keep the greens in a thin layer of water throughout the cooking period, but not floating in water. Cover with a lid and cook over low to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, and adding more water as needed to keep the greens hydrated. Cooking time will vary depending on the greens. Taste periodically until done to your liking.
I did not take a photo of the finished kale I documented in the previous photos, but here is an example of Swiss chard after saute-braising. In the case of chard, I am more generous with the stems since they soften quickly in the cooking process -- I don't need to remove the stems from the middle of the leaves, and even cook up a few bits of stem with the greens.
Served here with brown rice and red beans.