Too many greens

Recipes for dealing with abundance

"Greens! Greens, and nothing but greens!" This line from the Witch's entrance in the first act of Sondheim's Into the Woods often runs through my mind on repeat as I attempt to wrangle my unruly midsummer garden. I truly love my botanical refuge and the nourishment it provides, but, honestly, keeping up with the deluge of peak-season produce is sometimes a struggle. There are many days, especially the super steamy ones, where the last thing I want to do after weeding and harvesting and watering is make dinner, but ordering takeout feels criminal when the pantry is spilling over with garden bounty.

Consequently, I've come to lean on make-ahead recipes that make the most of the gorgeous green veggies that keep on giving all season long. Unlike lettuce and spinach, which bolt in the summer heat, cruciferous greens like kale, collards and cabbage will keep on growing all season, as long as there's sufficient water. Swiss chard is another dependable summer green. A member of the beet family, Swiss chard is prized for its large, beautiful leaves and often colorful stems. Unlike kale and collard greens, where the tough center stem is usually removed and discarded, chard stems are tender and flavorful. Pull or cut the leaves off the stems and chop the stems separately. Sauté the chopped stems first in a hot skillet with olive oil and lots of garlic until just tender, then add the chopped chard leaves and cook until wilted for a delicious steakhouse-style side.

Crunchy Kale Salad

½ red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1 ¼ teaspoon salt, divided

8 cups chopped, stemmed kale

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons each cider vinegar and lemon juice

1-2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard, to taste

3-4 tablespoons honey or maple syrup, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

½ cup chopped almonds or pepitas, toasted

cup dried cranberries

In a small bowl combine the sliced onion, sugar and one teaspoon of the salt. Mix well and set aside.

Place the kale in a large bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let stand five minutes, then rinse well with cold water and spin dry. Wipe the bowl dry and return the kale to the mixing bowl.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice, mustard, honey or syrup, black pepper, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Rinse the salted onions well, then wrap them in a paper towel to squeeze out excess moisture. Add the onions to the mixing bowl along with the dressing and toss well.

Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 4 days. Before serving, sprinkle the chopped nuts and cranberries over the top.

Collard Greens

Often thought of as a side dish, these greens are irrationally delicious and make a satisfying main course when served with fresh cornbread or hot rice. The pot likker, or cooking liquid, is as nutritious as it is delicious.

1 tablespoon oil or bacon fat

2 onions, sliced

5-6 cloves garlic, chopped

12 cups chopped, stemmed collard greens

½ teaspoon each onion and garlic powder

1 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 meaty smoked ham hock or smoked turkey neck

4 cups water or broth (less if using a multicooker)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions, cooking for a minute or two until they just begin to soften, then add the garlic. Cook for another minute, then add the collards, garlic and onion powder, dressing mix, salt, vinegar, ham hock and water or broth. If using a multicooker, reduce the water to one cup. Cover and let come to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and cook covered, for 45 minutes until greens are very tender. If using a multicooker, cook on high pressure for 15 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. These greens freeze very well (be sure to include the delicious and nutritious pot likker) and will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Southeast Asian-style Cabbage Salad

4 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 cucumber, halved, seeded and cut into thin half-moons

1 carrot, shredded

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 ½ cups cooked protein such as shredded chicken, shrimp or grilled tofu

¼ cup each roughly torn mint and cilantro leaves

2-3 scallions, thinly sliced

Zest of one lime

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons each lime juice, seasoned rice wine vinegar and brown sugar or maple syrup

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Thai bird or serrano chile, thinly sliced, optional

¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

Layer the vegetables, protein, herbs and scallions in a serving bowl. In a small bowl combine the lime zest and juice, oil, vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, garlic and chile, if using, and mix well. Toss the dressing with the vegetable mixture in the bowl. Scatter the chopped peanuts over the top just before serving.

About The Author

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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