Basic Greens Cooking
Basic Greens Cooking
Techniques from Debbie
Live Earth Farm
learn the technique for basic cooking of greens, and then you can use
them all sorts of places! In egg scrambles for breakfast (maybe with
onion and mushrooms); tucked into quesadillas for lunch, or as a side
green or ingredient in the makings of something for dinner.
Debbie's basic greens cooking
First, evaluate the tenderness of the greens you'll be using - on the
tougher/firmer end of the scale, we have collards and Lacinato kale. In
the middle are Red Russian kale and beet greens (and greens from veggies
like rutabagas), then next maybe chard. On the tender end are things
like spinach, mustard greens, radish greens and arugula.
Generally speaking the tougher/firmer greens will want a longer cook
time and the more tender ones a shorter. Cooking time (and technique)
also affects the texture of your cooked greens: some folks like their
greens al-dente, others silky soft. There are always exceptions to rules
(okay, almost always), but if you want somewhere to start, this will get
Basic technique: boiling.
Best for the firmer greens: collards, kale, beet greens. I wouldn't boil
spinach, mustards, or arugula... I might boil chard. Bring a pot of well
salted water to a boil. Wash greens as needed to remove dirt and the
occasional bug, then strip greens from stems (grasp stem in one hand,
slide leaf through the grasp of your other hand and strip them off -
this is MUCH easier than trying to cut the leaves from the stems with a
knife!). No need to chop before boiling! (I'll talk more about this
below.) Drop leaves into boiling salted water, turn heat down to medium-ish
- it just needs to simmer it doesn't have to be a roiling boil - and
cook 3-5 minutes. (Quantity affects cooking time too, so if you're doing
a larger amount, like a couple bunches at once, it may take a little
longer. 3-5 minutes is fine for one bunch of kale or collards.) A longer
boil time will make the greens more tender and soft. If you like them
firmer, don't cook them as long. Over time you'll come to learn what you
A note re: pot-size - greens cook WAY down in volume, so you don't need
a giant pot (though at the start it may look like you will). Just add
the greens a handful at a time if they won't fit all at once, and they
will quickly wilt and make room for the rest.
Once the greens are cooked to your liking (you can always fish a piece
out and try it, just like you would with pasta), drain them well,
squeezing out the water by pressing them with a wooden spoon against
your colander, then plunk them onto a cutting board. NOW chop them. I
find it is WAY easier to chop the greens after cooking than before. If
you do it before, you're working with a large unwieldly pile and have
pieces going everywhere; afterwards, however, you have a nice manageable
clump which can be chopped as coarsely or finely as you like. This is SO
Basic technique: steaming.
Steaming is great for the delicate greens like spinach. It works fine
for the firmer greens too, although I find kale cooked this way to be a
little less tender (if you want that 'silky' feel, boiling works best).
But if you like this al-dente-ness in kale, it's a great way to go -
uses less water, and some say less nutrients are lost because the greens
are not immersed in water. I don't know enough about this fact to say.
The steps for steaming are essentially the same as for boiling, above,
except I will sprinkle salt onto the leaves since they're not immersed
in salted water. FYI the salt sticks better if the leaves are a little
wet (clinging water from washing is fine, otherwise sprinkle a little
Basic technique: sautéing.
Most recipes for sautéed greens include other ingredients and the sautéing
instructions are a part of the overall recipe, but if you ever want to
make plain sautéed greens, it's easy. In this instance, you WILL want
to chop your greens before cooking (so it's a little messier in prep).
The most important thing to remember here is that the greens will need
moisture - you don't want to dry-sauté them or they come out tough.
Water clinging to leaves after washing is usually sufficient moisture.
Just heat a skillet or wok with a little oil, then add greens and
stir-fry. You can turn heat to medium and put a lid on it for a few
minutes (which is essentially steaming them), or continue to stir-fry
and watch, adding a splash of more water if it gets too dry.