Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kitchen Sink Greens Part 2: A Recipe Appears

Greens do not need a recipe. Accordingly, this rather exhaustive list is not so much a recipe as it is a set of notes. No measurements have been given, because none are (or should be) used. Greens should not be about an intensity of focus. Cooking them is really about throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and letting it simmer until it is delicious. This is the essence of the recipe, and greens may be cooked as simply as that. If one wishes to incorporate these techniques into the cooking process, however, something that is already delicious will only get better.

When I made these greens for the brunch in March, I utilized several different approaches towards the cooking of greens, involving flavors and techniques from several different green-friendly cultures. The oil infusion is drawn out of the standard Indian approach towards spices. The liquid mix—tossing together wine, broth, and brown sugar—is second-generation American. The reservation of the pot likker was drawn from the south; and the uses that it is put to, found in the third installment to come, will be French and Portuguese.

Fusion is nothing new, of course (white guys with dreads and 3-inch ear plugs are collecting social-security right this moment), but greens are so direct, happy, and non-confrontational that they are a great opportunity to practice these techniques. This dish will always be satisfying, but when you get something just right it will let you know.


Notes on Equipment.

Large cooking device: This can be a pot, saucepan, or a dutch oven. Make this as big as you can.

A large bowl: You will want somewhere to put and move your heaps of greens. This should also be used for reserving the pot likker, so it should be large enough to handle…

A colander. A large mesh sieve will do as well.


Kale (get twice as much as you think you’ll need, as it cooks down)
Collard Greens
Onion (1 onion per big bunch of kale or collards)
Garlic (as much as you like)
Raisins (optional)

Brown Sugar
Cinnamon Stick


  • 2 parts Tumeric
  • 2 parts Cumin Powder
  • 1 part Coriander Powder
  • 1 part Garam Masala
  • 1 part Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 part Smoked Paprika
  • ½ part Ginger Powder


  • Red Wine
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Hot Sauce
  • Vegetable broth

Cooking Suggestions:

This recipe takes place through 4 steps: Prep, Infuse, Wilt, Simmer, Drain.



  • Rinse the greens for grit: This can be done by hand, in a colander, or by waving them through a large bowl of water. Dry if you wish.
  • Prep your workspace. Greens will take up a lot of space, so make sure to have an extremely large container to deposit them into. You will want a large bowl for the greens, a medium bowl for the stems, and a small trash bowl for the iffy bits.
  • Strip the leaves from the stems. One easy way to do strip the leaves is to draw a paring knife along the stem on each side. With kale, it is often easy to pull the leaves from the stems in pieces.
  • Chiffonade: Spread the leaves flat in a stack, like you’re about to roll a cigar. Roll them up, and tuck the edge under, where it will be held by the cutting board. Slice your tube o’ greens into thin strips. If you’re doing this with a flat-leaf green, cutting the tube at an angle will give you grade-school thunderbolts.
  • Chop the Stems: Gather together a handful of the stems. Chop off the cruddy ends and discard. Chop the stems reasonably short, in 1/8th inch segments.

Onion and Garlic

  • Cube the onion into 1/8th inch size: there’s a billion ways. Look out for future notes on my favorite onion techniques.
  • Mess up the garlic: You have three options—press, mince, or mash. If you want mashed-up garlic and don’t have a press on hand, you can grind the garlic across the cutting board with the flat of the knife, dragging the spine of the knife against the cutting board.

Spice Blend

  • Throw all the powders together into a small cup or shot glass—they will all go in together.
  • Crack the cinnamon in half, and leave it on hand. It’ll go in first.


  • Mix everything in the liquids header together. Dissolve the brown sugar into it, and stir. The taste should be that of a balanced vinaigrette. Keep it in a glass (with a spout, if possible) on hand by the stove.
  • If you are including the raisins, drop them in the liquid to plump.


1. Infusing Oil

  • Heat your huge pot to medium. Add the butter and the ghee (the oil) in equal parts. Wait until they are liquid.
  • Drop in the onions. Cook them until they begin to turn translucent, then scoop them out of the pan or scrape them out to the sides. You don’t need to be precise and get every one, but the oil needs to pool at the bottom of the pan free of onion. If there is little oil left, add some more to the pan.
  • Drop in the cinnamon stick and the garlic. Once the smell of cinnamon wafts out of the pan,
  • Throw in the spice powders. Stir vigorously to combine with the oil. Once the smells start coming up (10 to 30 seconds),
  • Incorporate the onion back into the pan. Stir to coat the onion with the spice-ghee.

2. Wilting the Greens

  • Take two generous handfuls of greens, and throw them into the pot. The pot should not overflow, but you should no longer be able to see the bottom
  • Stir lazily, tossing the greens every minute or two, until the greens have turned bright and their volume has decreased.
  • Pull them out of the pot, and repeat for another generous clump. If you’re feeling cavalier and you have a really big pot, don’t bother pulling them out—just add more greens.
  • Once all the greens are wilted,

3. Cooking the Greens

  • Throw all the greens back into the pot. Pour the liquid mixture in there.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, for as long as you want. Add in salt and pepper to adjust the flavor. Taste often.
  • You can pull the greens out early, when they have just turned a darker green and still have a bite to them—then the flavor will be light on the outside, with the distinctive greens bitterness. Or you can wait until they melt down soft and lose a little color—then you’ll have a full incorporation of flavors with a little less green presence.

4. Draining the Greens

  • The greens should be cooking in a nice pool of liquid by then. This is the pot likker, and it is spectacular and amazing. Its got a significant portion of the nutrients of the greens, all the flavor of the spices, and a deep savoury richness to boot. The pot likker is half the reason to make greens this way, so make sure to reserve it.
  • Put a colander over a wide pot or bowl. If you are using the same bowl that housed the raw greens, don’t forget to rinse it out.
  • Put the assemblage in the sink (this may get messy).
  • Pour the greens into the colander. Spill as little as possible. Check the level of pot likker. If the level is below the bottom of the colander, leave it in the bowl. If it comes above the bottom, place the colander on a wide plate or bowl with a lip.
  • Let the greens drain for 2 minutes.
You now have both greens and pot likker. The greens are ready to serve, if you wish to reserve the pot likker for another task—it will taste fabulous paired with stock as the base for a soup, or as a stock replacement in sauces. For the ultimate greens dish, however, the pot likker should be turned into a sauce on its own, to be paired with the greens. These options will be the subject of the third post.

Greens are really meant to share the plate, so they will taste best when paired with protein and carbohydrate. Cheese and meat will mix well with them. Neutral carbohydrates will also appreciate them: think about grits or polenta, or thick hunks of bread. A poached egg will do wonders when cracked into a bed of these greens. Your mouth will love you.

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