Easy and Healthy: Aromatic Braised Chard and Kale Recipe

Aromatic Braised Chard and Kale - Greens are the basis of so many meals around here; I love them as a side, with big wedges of lemon and a slosh of olive oil at the table. But then I swirl them into soup, chop them into egg dishes, and stuff them into pies. This is a recipe for a lot of greens, since once you’re washing and trimming greens, you may as well cook a tubful. If your pan can’t hold all these greens easily, then cook them in batches.

Time: 15 minutes (10 minutes active)
Makes about 4 cups, plus juices
Easy and Healthy: Aromatic Braised Chard and Kale Recipe

Ingredients for Aromatic Braised Chard and Kale:

  • 2 bunches Swiss chard, stems chopped, leaves cut into 2-inch ribbons
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves cut into 2-inch ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 allspice berries
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar-based hot sauce, such as Crystal
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions for Aromatic Braised Chard and Kale:

  1. Fill a large bowl with water. Place the chard stems and leaves and kale leaves in the bowl and swish them around to clean. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, allspice berries, and Aleppo pepper. After 30 seconds or so, when the garlic is aromatic, lift the chard and kale out of the water (letting water cling to the leaves) and place it in the pot. Sprinkle with salt, cover, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cover and cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then remove the lid. Add 1 teaspoon of the hot sauce and the honey and, using tongs or serving utensils, toss the greens, folding any unwilted ones underneath the softer cooked leaves. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the leaves are tender but still brightly colored, just another minute or two. Taste the greens and add more salt and/or hot sauce to taste.
  3. Remove the allspice berries and bay leaf and serve the greens right away or cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  4. Note: In many recipes, you will squeeze the cooking juices away from the leaves. Save the juices, though, and toss them into your next soup or pesto for extra flavor.

Variations
• Swap out the greens. You can cook almost any greens in this manner, even lettuce, though you’ll want to mix in some other darker greens with it. Cooking greens this way is a wonderful way to cut wasted food; you can cook your beet and radish tops, a half head of cabbage, the last handful of arugula in a bagged lettuce, or the tougher outer leaves of frisée or escarole that you shuck when you are prepping a salad with the tender interior.
• Add herbs. I often have a problem with half bunches of herbs lying around the refrigerator. Parsley, celery leaves, chives—add them with abandon to the braising mix. Cilantro is great but takes your greens in a Middle Eastern or Mexican direction. Tarragon and basil are pungent, so add only a handful. And as always, be sparse with rosemary, sage, and/or oregano (but they can be wonderful, too).
• Squeeze and cheese. If you want to make a delicious spread with your greens, squeeze them thoroughly, then chop finely by hand or in the food processor. Mix with ricotta, chèvre, or a combination of both. Season with salt, pepper, a pinch of Aleppo pepper, and maybe a grating of nutmeg. Then you can spread on crostini, fill cooked pasta shells, or roll into slices of prosciutto for an appetizer.
• Add some pig. If you eat pork, the greens taste great with it: add minced odds and ends of bacon, pancetta, or ham to the pan along with the garlic.

Ways to use Your Greens:
Dippily, in a tangy yogurt dip
Eggily, in a curried soufflé, or in an omelet
Breadily, as the flourish on a ricotta open-faced sandwich
Soupily, in quick vegetable soup
Cakily, in hearty quinoa cakes
Cornily, in veggie tacos, with scissor salsa
Tartly, in the rough-hewn tart

A Way With Beans
A pot of beans is money in the bank, an investment in delicious meals throughout the week. And if you’re investing, you may as well put some oomph into it. Canned beans are 100 percent fine, and I keep myself well stocked for evenings when I have not had any time for forethought. But when you cook your beans from dry, you have an opportunity to infuse them with even more flavor. They will shine on their own and resonate in your tacos or your soups or your salads. And if you are really into this food-saving thing, the bean pot is the perfect place for all sorts of things that might otherwise be wasted: leek tops, ugly carrots, the last two scallions in the bunch, half an onion, six odd mushrooms. If you have them, just throw them into the pot (peel and wash them but don’t otherwise cut them).
People can get a little religious about their bean-cooking methods. In truth, I use all sorts of methods. Most often I will soak them overnight in salted water at room temperature, bring them to a boil in the soaking water, then turn down the heat and simmer until they are cooked, which, depending on the size and freshness of the bean, can take from 30 minutes (for cannellini, black beans, and flageolets) to 75 minutes (for big ones like gigantes).
Since so many people are put off making beans because they forget to soak them, I also give you a very slow but steady method to make delicious beans in your oven or slow cooker. It’s something you can do on a Sunday afternoon without thinking about it and have tasty beans around for the week. While the oven is on, you could also toss some halved plum tomatoes with olive oil and salt and lay them on a sheet pan on the rack beneath the beans. You will have semi-dried tomatoes on hand to top, say, your bean crostini.

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