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How to Sauté Greens

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How to Sauté Greens

With one simple technique, you can create an array of nutrient-rich veggie dishes.

The research is clear: The more dark leafy greens you eat, the better.

An invaluable source of folate, fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium, these veggies also deliver health-boosting phytonutrients, which can help regulate blood sugar, support your immune system, and aid your body’s natural detoxification processes. The more greens you get into your diet, the lower your risk for chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Salads are good options, of course, but sautéing greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and spinach will make them less bitter and, for many people, more palatable. Cooking them in a healthy fat will make their vitamins more bioavailable to your body, and adding aromatics, such as garlic and red-pepper flakes, infuses them with more flavor. In just a few minutes, a pile of greens will cook down and become sweeter, tenderer, and easier to digest.

Sautéing is a simple technique, making it easy for you to transform your favorite greens into one of these healthy dishes.

5 Steps For Preparing Sautéed Greens

To cook virtually any type of greens, follow this basic formula:

1.  Stem, then chop or tear your greens.

2.  Soak greens in a cold-water bath to remove dirt and grit; drain, and pat dry.

3.  Heat oil and aromatics, such as garlic or gingerroot, in a sauté pan or skillet.

4.  Add greens and sauté until tender and bright. (See “Timing Tips,” below.)

5.  Enhance flavor with herbs, spices, citrus, or other ingredient.

Tip: “Sauté” is French for “jump,” describing the motion of food as it’s cooked.

Simple Sautéed Greens

Simple Sautéed Greens

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: Three to five minutes
Makes four servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch red-pepper flakes
  • 2 bunches kale, Swiss chard, spinach, or other greens (about 6 cups), torn and washed
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (or a dash of ground)
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest

Directions

  • In a medium sauté pan or skillet, heat the olive oil. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes, and sauté for 30 seconds, until aromatic.
  • Add greens to pan; salt and sauté until their color begins to darken and intensify.
  • Add nutmeg and lemon zest; serve warm.

Tip: Removing the leaves from the heavy stems causes the greens to release more phytonutrients.

Tip: Store unused greens in an air-tight container to extend their life.

Asian Sweet-and-Sour Sesame Cabbage and Kale

Asian Sweet-and-Sour Sesame Cabbage and Kale

Prep time: 12 minutes
Cook time: Eight minutes
Makes four servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. freshly grated gingerroot
  • 1 tbs. plus 2 tsp. tamari
  • 1 tbs. lime juice
  • 1 tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch curly or lacinato kale (about 4 cups), torn and washed
  • 2 pinches sea salt
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 tbs. sesame seeds, toasted

Directions

  • In a small bowl combine the ginger, tamari, lime juice, maple syrup, and sesame oil.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add kale to pan with a pinch of salt, and sauté for two minutes. Add the cabbage and another pinch of salt, and sauté for one more minute.
  • Add the sauce and cook for two more minutes or until tender. Serve immediately topped with the toasted sesame seeds.

Tip: Toast seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, shaking the pan a few times for even toasting. When seeds become aromatic and start to brown, transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Indian Greens

Indian Greens

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: Eight minutes
Makes four servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated gingerroot
  • 2 to 3 bunches (about 8 cups) of Swiss chard, torn and washed
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes, drained, 2 tbs. juice reserved
  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and spritzed with lemon juice and a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp. maple syrup

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and sauté until they begin to pop; then add the ginger. Add the Swiss chard to the pan, along with the salt, turmeric, pepper, curry powder, and the reserved tomato juice; sauté for two minutes.
  • Stir in the garbanzo beans and the tomatoes, and sauté for three minutes. Add the coconut milk and maple syrup. Serve immediately.

Cook’s note: If you don’t have cumin seeds, mustard seeds, or turmeric handy, prepare recipe as otherwise directed, and add 2 -additional teaspoons of curry powder.

Mediterranean Greens

Mediterranean Greens

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: Eight minutes
Makes four servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (can also use ground)
  • 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbs. currants
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • 4 bunches spinach (about 8 cups), torn and washed
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ cup sliced kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tsp. freshly chopped mint, for garnish

Directions

  • In a small bowl whisk together the lemon and orange juices, zests, nutmeg, and maple syrup. Add the currants and allow them to soak.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes, and sauté until the garlic turns lightly golden, about 20 seconds. Add a handful of spinach to the pan along with the salt and 1 tablespoon of water. Sauté, adding more spinach in batches as the greens wilt and turn bright green, about three minutes total.
  • Add the currants, along with their soaking liquid, and the olives. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the feta cheese. Serve immediately garnished with mint.

Why No Numbers? Readers sometimes ask us why we don’t publish nutrition information with our recipes. We believe (barring specific medical advice to the contrary) that if you’re eating primarily whole, healthy foods — an array of sustainably raised vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, meats, fish, eggs, whole-kernel grains, and healthy fats and oils — you probably don’t need to stress about the numbers. We prefer to focus on food quality and trust our bodies to tell us what we need.  — The Editors

WEB EXTRA!

Triple-Greens Frittata 

Triple-Greens FrittataPhotography by Andrea D'Agosto; Prop Styling by Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Makes six servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • Sea salt, 3 pinches plus ½ tsp.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch red-pepper flakes
  • 1 cup tightly packed stemmed, washed, and finely chopped lacinato or curly kale
  • 2 cups tightly packed stemmed, washed, and finely chopped Swiss chard
  • 2 cups tightly packed stemmed, washed, and finely chopped spinach
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (or a dash of ground)
  • 10 organic eggs
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 2 tbs. chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a 11-x-7-inch baking dish.
  • Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and a pinch of salt, and sauté for three minutes. Stir in the garlic and red-pepper flakes, and sauté another 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add the kale and another pinch of salt; sauté for five minutes. Then add the Swiss chard and spinach, plus one more pinch of salt. Sauté another five minutes, until the greens are wilted and tender. Remove pan from the heat and stir in a few gratings or a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Whisk the eggs, scallions, marjoram, thyme, ½ teaspoon of salt, and the pepper together in a large bowl. Place the cooked greens in the bottom of the prepared dish and top with feta. Pour the egg mixture over the greens and bake until the eggs are just set, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

MS, director of the Healing Kitchens Institute at Commonweal, is the author of several cookbooks, including Clean Soups and The Healthy Mind Cookbook. She lives in San Rafael, Calif.

Photography by Andrea D'Agosto; Prop Styling by Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman

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