Even in our kale-besotted burg, there gets to be a point when our blood runs green and we start growing leafy fringes. Maybe not this week, maybe not next week, but it will happen as it inevitably happens each year. And then you’ll stop protesting and thank me for these, my go-to greens recipes. Truth be told, you can them all year ’round, since mustard greens and collards overwinter, but after the first blush of green in April is when you’ll really appreciate a good Chinese, Indian, or Ethiopian treatment to spice things up a bit.
Looking for recipes for raab, or the tops of bolting greens? Look no further.
For each of these recipes, they’re best using the greens specified, but feel free to substitute any green, keeping in mind collards and some kales need to cook longer than tender young Russian kale, mustard greens, or spinach.
Serves 4 as a side dish with another Ethiopian stew or two. I use my fermented peppers all winter long as a substitute for local peppers, but you might try freezing Anaheims when they’re in season; the texture will change but they are fine in long-cooked dishes like this one. Above: with split peas and lettuce salad.
- 1 large bunch collard greens, cleaned
- 1/2 cup chopped red onions
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 stick to 1 stick butter (let your conscience be your guide)
- 2 Anaheim peppers, deseeded and chopped (or substitute fermented peppers)
- handful of fenugreek leaves or a few shakes of powdered fenugreek (optional)
Remove the tough ribs from the collards and chop the greens well. Bring a cup or two of salted water to the boil. Boil collards until soft, about 15 minutes, with the lid on. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, melt the butter and cook onions and garlic until soft and golden over medium low heat. Add peppers and cook until soft, about 5 minutes, then add cooked greens and fenugreek leaves or powder. Cook for another 10 minutes. Serve with rice or injera.
Sichuan Spicy Kale with Celery
This dish, wonderful with any pork preparation, is an adaptation of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard from her cookbook, Every Grain of Rice. You might use chard, but do blanch it ahead of time (that’s the “twice-cooked”). This makes a thoughtful dining experience, as munching on the juicy stems of chard and celery slows one down and turns even the most heathen glutton pensive. You might think about this dish as poverty food: chard, Dunlop tells us, was until recently seen as pig fodder in China. Or just use kale instead, as I do, since it adds a layer of sweetness and provides a more tender experience, and doesn’t need to be blanched. You can now find top-quality Sichuanese chili broad bean paste at Sunrise Market in little brown packages tied up with string. It’s well worth having some on hand.
- 2 bunches ruffled-type kale (I prefer ‘White Russian’)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Sichuanese chili bean paste
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon green or spring onion bottoms (save tops for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon fermented black bean paste (or substitute 2 tablespoons rinsed and drained fermented black beans, chopped)
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/3 cup minced celery
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion tops
Prepare all the ingredients ahead of time. Clean and strip kale from its ribs. Tear into bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil on medium high in a wok but not until smoking or you’ll burn the spices. Add chili bean paste, garlic, and ginger, stirring to break down the bean paste, then add the black bean paste and chicken stock and cook until it turns saucy, another 2-3 minutes. Fold in the kale pieces and stirfry until wilted and soft, about 5 minutes, then add celery and cook for another minute. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and green onions, and serve.
There are roughly a gazillion versions of saag paneer, the ubiquitous creamed, pureéd greens with white, tofu-like yogurt cheese cubes that one sees on Indian restaurant menus. Some are thickened with yogurt, some are more of a thick sauce in texture. Needless to say, anything one makes at home with late-spring greens will be better than the frozen spinach preparations available on the buffet line. As you can see in the first photo, I use tomato paste instead of the more usual tomato and throw a couple paneer cubes in the food processor with the greens to combat the dish’s tendency to be watery.
Paneer can be purchased frozen or fresh, or you can make your own easily if you have some time. I like the color added when you brown the cubes, but browning tends to toughen them up, so you might just add them as is. I’ve seen some recipes recommend soaking the cubes in hot water before browning and even after browning to prevent this issue. If you try that, let me know.
- 2 bunches mustard greens
- 6 – 8 oz. cubed paneer
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium white onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- salt to taste
Clean the greens and remove large stems, and cube the paneer. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch greens in the boiling water for 2 minutes (in 3-4 batches) to make them easier to handle. Plunge in a bowl of cold water, then allow them to drain well in a colander. Add to a food processor with a couple of cubes of the paneer, puree until finely chopped.
Heat the oil in a large skillet using medium heat. Brown paneer cubes on two sides, just until they have a nice golden-brown crust. Remove paneer and set aside.
Using the same oil in the skillet, fry the cumin seeds until fragrant, then add onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook until golden, then add tomato paste and garam masala, stirring constantly to break down the paste and ensure no burning. If the burner seems too hot, add a little water.
Add greens mixture and cook for another 5 minutes or so, blending the flavors. Add paneer cubes and cream and lower heat to a simmer. Salt generously to taste. Cover skillet and cook for 5-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, depending on how soft or fresh you want your greens.