Green goddess

I love leafy greens, the darker the better, but this wasn’t always so. While I did outgrow iceberg lettuce many, many moons ago, it’s taken some time, patience and perseverance to fully embrace the wide world of really dark, hearty greens. I think some of that is due to being mentally scarred as a child whenever my father would eat a huge helping of cooked spinach (from one of those frozen boxes) with dinner. I thought it was the most disgusting thing, ever.
Even as I reached adulthood, cooked greens reminded me a little too much of slimy, rotten lettuce. But I gradually got my green legs under me, starting with a fabulous Swiss chard gratin recipe out of The Herbfarm Cookbook (add that much Gruyère to anything, and it’s got to taste good). Then I began adding kale to hearty Italian bean soups.
I was determined to expand my green repertoire, because dark leafy greens are, hands down, one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They are nutritional powerhouses, packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Last year, I moved decidedly out of my comfort zone by adding kale to smoothies. They were fantastic. I also continued to experiment with cooking greens and eating them without the benefit of a coating of cheese. Collard greens, steamed and finished with hot sauce, maple syrup and garlic? Love! Oven baked kale chips? Can’t get enough! Kale salad from Whole Foods? Can’t get there enough!
While I’ll happily buy kale, chard and collards by the bunch, I hold a special place in my heart for the bagged mixed braising greens from Full Circle. I would often buy them from their farmers market stands, but now I get them delivered to my doorstep every Wednesday! What’s better than that? I put together a super quick and super healthy dinner tonight featuring those very greens.
First, I dumped a cup of farro (you could also use spelt or wheatberries) in a heavy-bottomed pot, covered it well with water, brought it to a boil, then simmered it covered for about 30 minutes, until the grains were tender but still chewy. I’m becoming quite a fan of cooking grains “pasta style,” then draining them, rather than adding a set amount of liquid and hoping the grains don’t absorb it all before they’re done.
While the grains were cooking, I put some olive oil in a pan with a lid, sauteed a little minced garlic over medium-low heat for a minute or so, then started shoving greens into the pan. I added a little water, put on the lid, and let them steam. I lifted the lid once to kind of move the greens around with tongs. When they were fairly limp, I removed the lid and moved them about more frequently. I also added salt and pepper.
I put some farro in a bowl, topped it with a pile of greens, then layered on leftover grilled steak and a few roasted fingerlings left over from the night before. I had some basil around, so I tore up a few leaves and sprinkled them on top. I used the grains + greens combo as basically a healthy way to round out leftovers, but with different seasonings and a little creativity, the sky’s the limit as for what you could do with that duo.
An absolutely fantastic health-food-meets-comfort-food dish I made last week was adapted from a Full Circle recipe, appropriately. Greens cooked with onions and served on top of creamy polenta was delicious beyond words. I used a whole bunch of green chard from Full Circle, but you can use pretty much any hearty dark green you want, or a mix, of course. Lighter greens like spinach or arugula could be added at the end. I look forward to making it again with the mixed braising greens.

Mixed Greens with Polenta
Serves 4

1 oz sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup boiling water, for rehydrating
1/4 t black pepper
1 C yellow corn meal
4 C low-sodium broth
1 C water
3 T olive oil
2 C onion, julienned
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 C greens: chard, kale, beet or mustard greens, torn into pieces
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

  1. Add tomatoes to boiling water, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. 
  2. Combine cornmeal and pepper in a large sauce pan with 3 cups broth and 1 cup water, stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently until thickened and liquids are absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. 
  3. In a large pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add drained tomatoes and mix in greens. Add 1 cup of broth and simmer until greens are wilted. 
  4. Mix 1/2 of Parmigiano with polenta. Serve with greens over the polenta, then top with remaining Parmigiano; or mix greens in with polenta to serve and top with remaining Parmigiano.