Top | Margarett Waterbury
(recipe, Margarett Waterbury)
In my family, cooked greens are a staple. My great-grandmother Maria Grossi DiPrete made something she called “spinach pie,” basically an enormous calzone stuffed with nothing but cooked greens and a little bit of celery, that still makes an appearance at celebratory meals. As a child, I loved kale cooked with raw cashews, something my boyfriend refers to as “West Coast stem food.” Perplexingly, I took a long time to grow out of my dislike for spaghetti, but cooked greens were always easy to get me to eat.
Any chicory will work here, but I especially like to use strongly flavored ones like dandelion greens or puntarelle, as the blanching softens their assertive taste and makes the stems taste a little like asparagus. If you are especially sensitive to bitterness, this is also a great way to cook milder greens like spinach, chard, or even kale. Blanching first reduces the cooking time for the sauté, which helps avoid that burnt-garlic taste and lets you really crank the heat up, developing a nice crisp on the edges of some of the leaves. I eat this plain, in a bowl, or as a side dish for almost any protein. It’s an old standard in the aperitivo buffet.
- 1 bunch chicory or other leafy green (puntarelle, dandelion greens, escarole, nettles, kale, chard, or spinach)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly or minced, according to preference
- Pinch of red-pepper flakes, to taste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt, to taste
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil while you wash and coarsely chop the chicory into ribbons. When the water boils, add the chicory and cook for a very short time, 1 to 3 minutes depending on the age and sturdiness of the green. When it is tender but not mushy, drain in a colander and let the greens cool enough to handle safely, then squeeze out all the water you can. Set them aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chile flakes to the oil and cook until fragrant, just a minute or so. Add the greens and turn up the heat to medium-high. (The idea is to quickly raise the temperature of the pan so as to actually sauté the greens, rather than slowly steam them as the pan returns to temperature after their addition.) Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, again depending on the texture of your chosen green, until the greens are tender and just beginning to crisp or brown on a few edges. Add the juice of one lemon, stir again, and remove from heat. I like these with probably too much salt; trust your own judgment.