December 15th, 2014

Great GREENS

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My friend Heather had overbought produce for an event, and found her fridge bursting with 12 bunches of assorted winter greens–curly kale, lacinato kale, and great fronds of Swiss chard. She called me, wondering, what could she do? They were becoming limp, and it would be a shame for them to be fodder for the compost.

We talked about some ideas—making kale pesto and kale chips, blanching and freezing chard, when I said, “I’ll take some off your hands. I’ll make some dishes with them. Then, come to dinner.”

Later that day, she arrived at my door, arms laden with grocery bags, a jumble of green leaves, bright and dark, veined and rumpled, some sturdy and sweeping, some starting to look a bit weary.

Great greens, girl. Gotta get to work.

Before I could figure out their destiny, I had to assess their condition. I trimmed their stems, and plunged them in tubs of fresh water to rehydrate. Within an hour, most of the greens had perked up. The chard plumped and straightened, out of the tub. The rumpled kale regained its bounce.

Now, what to make?

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The thing with greens—any sort really—is that what starts out as monumental quickly cooks down to manageable. Nonetheless, I had enough chard to make a great pot of stewy-soup, and plenty of lacinato kale to make this beguiling recipe I’d just discovered on Food 52.

Both are simple wintertime recipes, hearty and delicious. Most of work is in prepping the greens–cleaning, deribbing, tearing, chopping.

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You begin this soup the way you do most soups: You build a foundation. Saute hunks of portabello mushrooms with diced onions and carrots to get a meaty base before adding vegetable broth and tomato paste. The mushrooms and tomato are the powerhouse duo, making the sienna-colored broth in which the chard simmers a veritable umami-bomb of flavor.

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And this kale gratin? Ridiculously easy. Only 6 ingredients, 3 of them being salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Everything gets tossed into a baking dish and then placed into the oven. That’s it!

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I made two modifications.

The original recipe calls for 3 cups of Cream. I know. So rich, so luxurious, so over-the-top—but I couldn’t bring myself to go there. And, I already had a quart of half-and-half in the fridge. I dialed it back a bit–and substituted the half and half for cream. Instead of placing slabs of sharp cheddar over the top of the casserole, I shredded the cheese–4 ounces each of New York yellow and Vermont white—to generously sprinkle over the mass, the pieces nestling in and around the greens.

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Don’t worry about the tower of kale in your baking dish–it cooks down in that hot oven. Some of the leaves get dry and crispy on the top—and boy, is that ever a boon. (Kale chips!) The cheese, as it bubbles and melts, forms a savory caramel crust too. Scoop through that layer of crunch into this compelling press of green, cooked to tenderness, the kale absorbing the nutmeg-scented dairy in the process–a perfect balance of bitter and sweet.

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I cannot overstate the absolute wonder and earthy delectability of this dish. If it’s this marvelous with half-and-half, the cream version must be Heaven. I just want to be a little mindful of my heart, and not get there too soon.

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SWISS CHARD-PORTABELLO MUSHROOM SOUP
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 pound portabello mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 quart vegetable stock
1 small can tomato paste
2-3 bunches Swiss chard, stemmed, leaves cut into ribbons

Place a 6 quart pot over medium heat. When warm, add the olive oil. Then add the onions, sauteing them until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to stir and saute for another three minutes. Increase the heat to medium high, and add the mushrooms.
Season with salt, black pepper, and thyme. Stir. The mushrooms may stick to the bottom, but don’t worry–that will add to the flavor of the base.

Pour in the vegetable stock. Add the tomato paste and a cup of water. Stir well.
Add the Swiss chard, folding into the broth. It will collapse as it cooks. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasonings.

Serve over hot cooked rice.
Makes 10-12 servings

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LACINATO KALE GRATIN adapted from Food 52 and Renee Erickson/A Boat, A Whale, and a Walrus
2-3 bunches lacinato kale (a.k.a. black Tuscan or dinosaur kale)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
3 cups Half-and-Half
1/2 pound shredded sharp cheddar (can be a combination of yellow and white sharps)

Preheat oven to 350 convection or 375 conventional.

Remove the kale ribs and tear the leaves into pieces. Place into a large bowl. Sprinkle the leaves with salt, black pepper and nutmeg and toss. Heap the seasoned kale into a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish. Pour the half-and-half over the kale, taking care that it doesn’t spill over the sides. Top with shredded cheddar, tucking some of the shreds underneath some leaves.

Place into the oven, middle rack, and bake for 45 minutes (convection) or an hour (conventional)

Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Makes 8 servings

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Posted in Casseroles, Gluten Free, Recipes, Soups/Stews, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes

15 Responses to “Great GREENS”
  1. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    okay the soup looks like perfection. The rich greens with the holy trinity per say. It looks dark and flavorful and delicious

  2. Joyti Says:

    These both sound delicious, but the kale gratin sounds like my type of dish. Yum YUM!

  3. Kath Says:

    I would never have thought of making a gratin with kale but it does look very, very good. I am off to google half and half as I have never really understood what half and half actually is and whether we have an equivalent here. I am thinking single cream but I may be wrong. x

  4. Kath Says:

    Oh well googling it hasn’t made it any clearer. They tell me we call it half cream, well I have never seen half cream for sale in the UK. I think it is as it says on the tin then, half double cream (your heavy cream) and half milk. There I think I have settled it. x

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Kath
    Due to our time differences, I have just now gotten up, gotten coffee and read your message.
    Yes, half-and-half is exactly that—equals parts cream and milk. I didn’t know until this moment that it is an American creation. Glad to find out! Thank you

  6. ernestine Says:

    Looks so good..

  7. Adri Says:

    What a wonderful bounty! I gotta say, that’s a lot of greens, but you sure knew what to do with them. I’m with you on exchanging the cream for half and half. I bet it was just as good, just as luxurious. It is raining here today, and I think a bowl of your soup would be the perfect thing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Eileen Says:

    Kale gratin! Such a great idea. I have a bunch of collards, some beet greens, and some very wilted turnip greens in the refrigerator right now. I bet this is the best possible way to eat them!

  9. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Nancy, your is soup is just what I need in this season when all the kitchen mixers are at full tilt turning out sweet treats. It sounds hearty and soothing. Have a wonderful holiday.

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Ernestine–All the best to you this holiday season!

    Hi Eileen–yes, I agree: a combo of those greens prepared in the same fashion would be really really good.

    Hi Michele–I can imagine you in your kitchen, busy turning out fabulous Christmas treats. Best wishes to you and yours.

  11. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    I love the soup so much. Just wonderful in it’s goodness and heartiness. Great ideas for all those Greens Nance. Just Great!

  12. Barbara Says:

    The soup looks wonderful, Nancy. And so does the gratin. My daughter adores kale salads…I love it in soups etc., as long as it’s cooked. Not crazy about it in a salad. I do like chard, though. Got introduced to it with a recipe from The Two Fat Ladies years ago.

  13. Beth Says:

    You’ve sold me. I think both of these dishes look wonderful!

  14. heather Says:

    This was so fun and VERY delicious!!

  15. Tammy Says:

    Love both of these recipes Nancy! I’ve been enjoying kale salads with roasted vegetables strewn throughout.



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