Personal Chef Rich Baringer tells us what to do with all these lovely greens showing up at farmers’ markets this time of year. I’ve added one more recipe I tried over the weekend for a swiss chard gratin. Simple and delicious.
It’s spring. Farmers’ markets have opened, pick-your-own farms are thriving and we’ve got our veggies planted in the garden.
Spring brings to mind strawberries, green and spring onions, sugar snap peas and fresh herbs. But some of the best spring crops are the delicious, tender greens that grow this time of year. Most spring greens are very high in vitamin C and fiber, among other nutrients. And they taste really good, too.
Tender spring greens
What are considered spring greens? Well, any kind of green, leafy vegetables that grow in the spring. That makes sense, right? Things such as baby spinach, arugula, mizuna, some lettuces and watercress.
Some spring greens can be cultivated, but are also often found in the wild—dandelion greens, nettles and fiddlehead ferns.
There are other greens—kale, collards, chard, cabbage—that you may think of as fall veggies, but they are young and tender when harvested beginning in June. Some of these can be eaten raw when very young, but are usually cooked.
Picking your greens
When buying spring greens at the market, there are a few things to think about. Choose greens with firm leaves of uniform color that aren’t wilted or torn. Remember that the more delicate the greens, the more perishable they are, so only buy what you will use in a few days unless you’re buying more hearty greens.
Also remember that most similar greens are interchangeable in a recipe even though they may taste a little bit different from each other.
Choose whichever salad greens you like for a raw salad. I suggest using a mixture of textures, tastes (sweet, bitter or peppery) and colors. Spring salad greens are perfect dressed lightly with a simple vinaigrette, a little salt and pepper and maybe a few chopped herbs. Let the fresh flavors of the greens shine through by not overdressing. (The salad, not you. You can wear whatever you’d like).
As for cooked greens, if you’re going to make a collard dish, but the collards don’t look so great that day, use chard or kale instead. Or use a mix of greens. It’s up to you!
I know cooking greens are intimidating to many people for some reason. They think back to some green lump on their plate as a kid. Or they just don’t think they’ll like the taste. If you’re a greens doubter, these recipes will change your mind. I promise.
Chard Sautéed with Garlic
2 medium bunches red or green chard (about 1 ½ lb)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt to taste
Juice of half a lemon or 1 ½ Tbsp red wine vinegar
- Remove stems from chard. Cut stems into ½ inch pieces. Coarsely chop leaves; rinse well, but don’t dry.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes (if using). Cook just until garlic begins to color.
- Add chard stems and season with salt to taste.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are nearly tender, about 2 minutes. Add leaves and cook, partially covered, until tender, 3-5 minutes more. Season with lemon juice or vinegar and more salt to taste.
A better gratin, this time with grain mustard
From Tender by Nigel Slater
1-2 bunches of chard (about 1 lb.) (looks really nice with Rainbow Swiss chard)
1 Tbsp grain mustard
13 oz heavy cream
A “good handful” grated Parmesan
- Cut the chard leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into short lengths, then cook briefly in boiling, slightly salted water until crisply tender. Dip the leaves in the water briefly, until they relax. Drain both. Put chard in a buttered shallow dish.
- Put the mustard in a bowl and stir in the cream, and a grinding of salt and pepper.
- Pour the seasoned cream over the stems and leaves, cover with grated Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees till the top has a light crust the color of honey (approx. 10-15 minutes).
Collard Greens with Rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion or 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 bunch collard greens (about 12 oz), well washed, patted dry, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 c white rice
1 ¾ c hot chicken stock or water
2 Tbsp fresh dill, minced or 2 tsp dried dill
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Hot pepper sauce to taste
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion or scallions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add collards. Stir to combine, then cover and cook gently for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the rice. Cook, stirring, until rice is well coated with oil and starts to look opaque, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in hot stock or water, dill, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, tightly covered for 15 minutes.
- Check rice, and if nearly done, remove pot from heat and let stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes. (If not almost done, cook 3-5 more minutes, then let stand.) Serve with lots of hot sauce.