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Adventures in food for curious cooks.

Gorgeous Greens

Mostly Plants Series

How to use whatever produce you find at your farmers market or CSA. Roots to leaves and flowers, here's how to cook with what you've got.

Gorgeous Greens

Lynley Jones

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GORGEOUS GREENS

 Beets from my CSA with greens intact

Beets from my CSA with greens intact

Root vegetables with the greens still attached, like beets, are like two veggies in one. They're a root vegetable plus a leafy green. A convenient, store-and-use-later root that also comes with a convenient, use-it-in-breakfast-tomorrow top.

(As described in here, cut the stems off the roots right away so they don't suck nutrients from the roots. Then, the roots will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.)

QUICK-COOKING GREENS

Spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard and are all pretty quick to make, and can all be cooked in about the same way. My standard approach is usually to just give them a quick rinse, don’t bother drying them off, and toss them into a skillet with some sautéed onions and garlic. I sprinkle on some salt and pepper, maybe some red pepper flakes (like in this recipe or this one), and I’m good to go.

STEMS AND ALL

Recently, I've been cooking the stems of leafy greens along with the leaves. The stems usually have a similar flavor to the leaves, but often less strong. So, what do they bring to the table? A little crunch.

My usual approach is to cut them into very small pieces, then toss them into the pan a short time before the leaves, since they take a bit longer to cook.

With beet greens, each leaf comes with a lot of stem. In this week’s recipe, I used ½ cup of the cut-up stems, which probably won’t be all of the stems you have (it wasn’t for me), but seems like enough in this dish. I’ve stashed the rest in my freezer, awaiting their supporting role in some future soup or smoothie.

(NOT) A BUNCH

I am always (still!) a little awestruck at how a pan-full of greens, so nearly overflowing you can barely get the lid on, cooks down to such a small amount when you remove the lid just a few minutes later. Because of this, I usually end up buying about twice as much as I think I need while I'm in the store (and I'm usually glad I did). You’ll see that my Cremini Beet Greens recipe calls for one large bunch of beet greens; if your greens aren't quite as ample, you may want to use two bunches of greens, or just adjust the other proportions downward, to your taste.

Because of their propensity to cook down so much, I usually think of greens like these as an accompaniment or ingredient in some other dish, rather than as a main dish (or even a main side dish) of their own. When I have greens like these at home, I try to cook them right away, then will usually stow them, cooked, in my fridge to jazz up some other dish in the near future. They may end up strewn over toasted slices of baguette at breakfast, topped with a fried egg and maybe a little cheese. Or they might get chopped up and mixed in with scrambled eggs or an omelet, or maybe spread onto a tomato or steak sandwich. Or, I may stir them in to a quick cream sauce, to be served over pasta on some busy weeknight.

Or these days, they may very well end up on…

GRILLED PIZZA

This is one of my latest favorite things this summer. If you're new to grilled pizza, you’re in for a treat.

I used to think grilled pizza was just a party trick. Look everybody, this zany cook is putting pizza on the grill! But it's actually the perfect summertime backyard food, and it's genuinely delicious in its own right.

The crust is soft on the inside but crispy on both the top and bottom, so you get a nice crunch in every bite. Plus, there's no need to heat up the house, and once you have all the toppings at hand, it only takes a few minutes to make. It takes perfectly to all kinds of summer produce. And best of all, it's a crowd-pleaser, adored by kids and grownups alike.

I used store-bought dough for this recipe and this recipe. I have made pizza dough, but summer isn’t really a time when I relish the idea of working on lengthy culinary endeavors, indoors by myself. Plus, in all honesty, I first created this recipe for an informal backyard gathering, partly as a way of cleaning out my fridge (see this post for more about fridge-cleaning parties). Grabbing premade dough at the grocery store was just much easier than making it myself.

One final note about grilling pizza: I have a gas grill, so that’s what I’ve used here. I personally can’t imagine managing the temperature on a charcoal grill well enough to attempt it there. If you’re a charcoal grilling pro, and think you can make this work there, then be my guest (and let me know how it turns out!). In the meantime, I’ll be sticking with my gas grill for this.


Recipes

Here are some recipes for beet greens and Swiss chard, as well as some other recipes you can use the cooked greens in.

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