CSA Tip–Blanch Your Greens Before They Wilt
It is inevitable that at one time or another in the CSA season we are inundated with fresh greens. While this is a great reason to celebrate, it creates a challenge for the cook. Greens tend to wilt and lose nutrients very quickly, usually within 3 days. Thus it can be quite a challenge to use up all the greens before they go bad. One solution is to blanch greens to stretch out their use for 3 or 4 more days. Blanched greens are great to have on hand to add to omelets, egg salad, pastas, soups and stews, or to toss with vinaigrette and serve over some kind of noodle or grain, like in a quinoa bowl.
To blanch greens, boil salted water. Add greens and cook just until wilted and tender, 30 seconds for tender greens like swiss chard, or 3-5 minutes for kale and collard varieties. Place in ice water bath to stop cooking and to keep bright green color. Drain well, squeeze out excess water and refrigerate. Blanched greens can also be frozen for later use.
A note on turnip greens. We are receiving some beautiful turnip greens this week. Be sure to cut the greens off about 1-2″ from the turnip bulb and store the bulb and greens separately. Otherwise, the bulb will draw moisture out of the leaves, causing them to wilt more quickly.
Unless you grew up in the south, collard greens may be at best mysterious and at worst misunderstood. Most people think of them as a southern specialty that involves hours of cooking with a fatty smoked meat. This association has perhaps contributed to collard’s unfortunate reputation as being tough, unappetizing, and unhealthy. But the reality is far from the truth. While long cooked greens in the southern tradition are a highly flavorful dish, quick cooked collards can be equally delicious and may be more nutritious.
Collard leaves need only about ten minutes to cook. Stems, will take longer. Like kale, collards will retain some texture to them due to the amount of fiber in the leaves. Also like kale, they benefit from a liquid to help them soften and to cook all the way before they burn or stick to a pan. There is some suggestion that prolonged cooking can even compromise the high nutritional quality of collard greens, so if you are a fan of super long cooked collards, it might be time to try some different methods.
Like other cooking greens, collards are highly nutritious. They contain high levels of vitamins K, A, C, B2, B6, folate, manganese and fiber and are also a very good source of calcium, iron and protein. There is growing evidence that regular intake of greens, including collards, can reduce cholesterol, cancer risk, and inflammatory response, due in part to their high level of micronutrients like antioxidants.
I was surprised to learn that compared to kale, collards are significantly lower in calories (only about 50 calories per cooked cup) and have almost double the protein. Also, among the most familiar greens (kale, chard, and spinach) collards have the highest amount of fiber. Who knew?
When preparing collards, think kale. Like kale, collard leaves can be eaten raw as in thinly sliced collard coleslaw. The broad leaves can even be used as a substitute for bread in wraps or rice paper in summer rolls (see recipe below). For cooked preparations collards can be sautéed, blanched, steamed, or boiled. Cooked collards are a great source for omelets, frittatas, casseroles, soups and stews, burritos/wraps, rice or grain dishes, and pastas. Blanched leaves can also be wrapped around a filling, as with cabbage in stuffed cabbage rolls.
When shopping for collard greens, choose dark green leaves that are not yellowed or wilted. Store in plastic in the refrigerator for up five days. Wash well to remove any dirt clinging to the leaves prior to cooking. Thinner, younger stems will be tenderer than larger, older ones. Rather than throw them away, use the toughest stems in your next batch of homemade vegetable broth!
We have Indian summer coming our way this week. This is a perfect opportunity to try collard rolls. This recipe is very adaptable. Use whatever late summer produce you have on hand such as peppers, zucchini, radishes, thinly sliced broccoli stems, etc for your filling. Adding cooked rice noodles or shiritaki noodles also work great as part of the filling.
Collard Veggie Rolls with Red Curry Peanut Sauce Serves 4
– 1/2 cup Natural peanut butter (can substitute almond butter)
– 1/2 cup vegetable broth
– 1/4 cup light or regular coconut milk
– 1 teaspoon coconut aminos, or 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
– 2-3 teaspoons Thai Red Curry Paste, to taste
– 1 teaspoon honey
– 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 4 Large collard leaves, washed and patted dry
– 1/2 medium cucumber, cut into thin strips
– 1 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
– 1/4 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
– 8 sugar snap peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
– 1 scallion , thinly sliced lengthwise and cut into 2-3 crosswise pieces
– a few cilantro or basil leaves
1. Make Sauce:
In a small saucepan, whisk peanut butter, broth, coconut milk, coconut aminos, curry paste and honey over medium heat until smooth and bubbly. If sauce is too thick, thin with more broth or water. If it is too thin, reduce over low heat until it reaches desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate for later use.
2. Make rolls:
If collard leaf is really large, cut it in half down the stem and cut out stem so you have two halves. Otherwise, cut out about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of stem out of bottom of each leaf (otherwise stem with snap and you will have difficulty rolling up the filling). Place leaf on a work surface with stem end facing away from you. On side nearest you, place a stack of the vegetable filling ingredients in the center of the leaf right up to the edge closest to you. Roll leaf up around filling and roll one rotation. Fold in sides and continue to roll until you reach the end of the leaf. Cut roll in half and place on a serving plate. Serve with room temperature or cold sauce.
Caldo Verde is a traditional way to serve collard greens that hails from Portugal. This soup is great way to use up your homemade veggie broth (you are making it, right?), collard greens, and farm potatoes. Try to find linguica with very few additives and no nitrates. Chourico or polish kielbasa can also be used.
Portuguese Green Soup (Caldo Verde) Serves 4
– 1 package linguica sausage, casing removed if desired, sliced into 1/4″ slices
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
– 1 large onion, minced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
– 1 cup water
– 2 very large starchy potatoes, or 3 medium, peeled and chopped
– 5 cups finely chopped or shredded collard greens, leaves only
– good quality extra virgin olive oil, to taste
- In a large pot, heat one teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until sausage is well browned. Transfer to a small bowl. Return pan to heat, but reduce heat to medium-low. Add second teaspoon olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add broth, water and potatoes. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are quite soft. Using a hand blender or potato masher, mash potatoes well (you can also put mixture into a blender, just be careful blending hot mixtures).
- Add browned sausage and greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and greens are tender but still green, about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and serve.