Spring Markets and Kale
Our first month of farmers’ markets has come and gone, and we’re learning what sorts of things people are excited about, as well as what we can probably do without next year. A few observations: although spinach continues to rank high on people’s lists of favorite greens (and our spinach is delicious!), it is not flying off the table; however, spinach’s cousin Swiss chard is a customer favorite! Also, I think we should probably put in some strawberries…
As you’ve probably noticed, our market table has been overflowing with all sorts of greens this spring, including three varieties of kale – lacinato (aka dinosaur or Tuscan kale), red Russian, and Frank Morton’s lacinato rainbow mix.
Kale has been heavy in the dinner rotation at our house lately, so I thought I’d post a few recipe ideas. It’s hard to choose a favorite variety of kale – I love them all! But some recipes are best made with one variety over another. For example, Red Russian tends to be a bit sweeter and more tender than standard kale, so I recommend that variety for raw salads or quick-cooking recipes. If you’re making kale chips, though, a standard green curly type will be better than a flat-leaf variety at holding the oil and seasonings.
This recipe works well for most cooking greens, especially kale and collards. Greens tend to cook down quite a bit, so plan on fixing one bunch of greens per 1-2 people for a main course, or 3-4 people for a side dish.
- 2 medium bunches kale or other greens, washed and sliced into ½” strips
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and then sliced
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil
- 4 cups water or vegetable broth
- salt and pepper to taste
Wash and prep the greens. I usually fill a sink with cold water, submerge the greens, swish them around and then let them rest for a few minutes. The dirt will sink to the bottom, and you can lift the greens out and shake off the excess water. Repeat the process with a clean sink if the greens are especially dirty.
For young, tender bunches, I’ll cook the stems along with the leaves. Tougher stems can be chopped and given a head start with the onions, or you can simply remove them and just cook the leaves. Stack several leaves on the cutting board, roll them tightly lengthwise, and slice crosswise through the entire roll to quickly reduce your greens into a bowlful of ½” strips.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so.
Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the greens all at once, along with the water or broth. Immediately cover the pot and allow it to come to a boil. The leaves should turn bright green and rapidly reduce in volume. Stir, reduce the heat to a strong simmer, and cook to the desired tenderness. I like my greens to still have a little bite to them, so I usually give them 20-30 minutes (if you value nutrition, do not try to replicate your grandmother’s hour-and-a-half greens mush). Test a stem piece for tenderness before deciding that the whole pot is done.
Season the greens with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste, and serve with a side of rice, quinoa, or bulgur. Drizzle with olive oil or some high-quality balsamic vinegar to finish.
You can make chips out of any variety of kale, but the curlier leaves will keep more seasoning on the chip rather than the bottom of your baking sheet. Start by washing the kale leaves, removing the stems, and chopping into generously-sized pieces – 2 to 3 inches or so. The chips will shrink quite a bit as the water is cooked off.
Put the kale pieces in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Add a little more oil as needed, until each piece has a nice sheen to it, but isn’t dripping. Then sprinkle with salt and any other seasonings you want (cayenne? garlic powder?), and toss again.
Spread the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes or until the chips are crispy.