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Let’s eat leaves

(post, Cynthia Lair)

While we in the Pacific Northwest sit around pining for our local berries to come through after a (very) cold spring, we must focus on what is available. Sort of like the life lesson of staying in the present as opposed to the future (strawberries) or the past (apples). What cool spring weather makes plenty of are leaves: kale, collards, and chard. 

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Many folks are intimidated by how to cook greens and resort to steaming them, which absolutely does not show them off at their best. A sauté in butter and garlic certainly is tasty, but here are a couple of other techniques that work well.

Quick boiling: This is sort of like a soak in a hot tub without doing the cold plunge after (aka blanch). You put the whole leaves (minus the tough stems) into a big pot of simmering water. Test them by tasting every 30 seconds or so until you get something sweet, not bitter. Drain, squeeze into a ball, chop and dress. Here's a video for collard greens that will give you an idea:

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Dress them with Tahini-Lemon Sauce or Coconut-Peanut Sauce or just your favorite salad dressing.

Braising: Ooh la la. Sauté the cut greens in butter or olive oil until glossy, then pour a few tablespoons of good flavored liquid (like tamari and sake) over the top. Cover and let the liquid do its thing for about 5 minutes.

Massaging: You read that right — it’s a cooking technique taught to me by Jennifer Adler. You cut the greens into thin strips, add a teaspoon of salt, and massage with your hands for two minutes. This breaks down some of the tough plant tissue and pulls out the bitterness. Dress the massaged greens with olive oil and your favorite vinegar, and add things like currants, pickled red onions, glazed walnuts, and gorgonzola. You'll be in greens heaven.

Wilting: Yes, there’s the traditional wilt-in-a-skillet, and that’s OK, but my favorite is to chiffonade the greens, dress them in lemon and olive oil, and then plop some hot whole grains (wild rice, brown rice, quinoa) on top and let the grains wilt the greens. The coolest salad I know uses just-cooked wild rice to do the trick. It’s called Emerald City Salad and here’s a video that shows how to make it:

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