Kale Recipe: How to Cook Greens So They Taste Delicious
We all know that deep green leafy vegetables are one of the healthiest of the vegetables—they are a staple of the PMS Balance Diet—but most of us don't eat them very often. Kale and collard, mustard, and dandelion greens have a bitter taste that most people don't enjoy. What to do? How to cook greens so they taste delicious? We've been at this natural foods thing a long time, and we've learned how to cook kale and come up with a greens recipe that makes cooked kale, collard greens, and other greens not just healthy, but downright yummy.
We've noticed that many recipes for kale and greens go to great lengths to preserve every last vitamin and mineral molecule that might be lost in the cooking process. To do this, you have to cook them less, and that leaves in more of the bitter taste. If you don't like the way greens taste, you'll probably never eat them at all! Wouldn't it be better to have a delicious vegetable dish that you'll actually want to eat, that has a tiny bit less vitamins and minerals, rather than a slightly more nutritious recipe that no one wants to eat?
We think it's better to know how to cook greens and how to cook kale with a recipe you'll actually relish. If it allows you to eat greens more often, you'll more than make up for the tiny bit of lost nutrients in this recipe.
Spinach, chard, bok choy, and beet greens are less bitter than kale, collard, mustard, and dandelion greens. If you're new to eating greens, start with the less bitter ones, and then introduce the others.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes prep time, 25 minutes cook time
Serves: Approximately four medium-sized side dishes, but the size of bunches of greens varies widely depending on the retail outlet, time of year, and part of the country you're in.
Cooked Greens, Kale, Collard Greens & Spinach
2 bunches kale (any variety), collard, mustard, or dandelion greens, spinach, bok choy, chard or any other green leafy vegetable
2 Tablespoons canola, olive, sunflower, or safflower oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large yellow or purple onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 strip bacon, if desired
Wash but don't dry the greens. If you are using pre-washed spinach in a bag or plastic container, skip this step. Tear out the center stem of each leaf, trying to preserve as much of the green leaf as possible. This is painstaking but worth it. If you are making bok choy or chard, skip this step as the stems of these plants are tender and not bitter.
If you have a vegetable steamer, steaming is preferable to boiling, but boiling works fine. Steam or boil the greens for 5-10 minutes, trying to turn off and remove from heat before the color changes from a bright vibrant green to a dull, overcooked green brown. Don't remove too soon either: remember, the goal isn't to preserve every vitamin and mineral molecule. Steaming or boiling is essential to soften the greens.
After removing from heat, strain the greens through a colander or just pour off the extra water, being very careful: steam is hot. You can get a serious burn. If you're not sure, wait and let the pot and greens cool down. After straining, let the greens sit for a few minutes to cool off, then spread the greens out on a cutting board. It's best to prop something under one end of the cutting board, and have the opposite end tipped into the sink so that extra water can run into the sink.
After a couple minutes, stir or flip the greens on the cutting board to allow the heat to dissipate. Do this several times over a five minute period. When they're cool, they won't let off steam when you flip them. When you can comfortably handle the greens with your bare hands—having washed your hands before beginning—begin squeezing the excess water out of the greens into the sink.
You'll be amazed how many times you can keep squeezing and more and more water will come out. You'll also be amazed at how small a mass of leafy greens you'll be left with. Squeeze out the water 5-10 times. There will always be water that comes out when you squeeze them, so don't worry about trying to get it all out.
Now you have a relatively small ball of greens compared to what you started with. Place this ball on the cutting board, and chop the greens to whatever size you prefer. We recommend nine cuts: three lengthwise, three across, then turn the ball 90 degrees and cut three more across. Put the greens aside for a moment.
Chop the onion, and chop or crush the garlic, and add this to an oiled pan.
If you choose to use the bacon, it should be cut into six or more pieces, and added to the pan after the onion and garlic.
The onion and garlic should be sautéed for 3-5 minutes at medium heat until they are just lightly browned, and then add the greens and salt.
Cook 7-10 minutes, stirring every 45 seconds or so. Longer cooking times will crisp some of the greens at the edge of the pan. Serve immediately.
The stems of leafy green vegetables are tough, fibrous, and bitter. Removing them makes this dish much more appetizing.
We include bacon as an option because it's traditional in southern homestyle greens, and it tastes great, though we include it on the assumption that your overall diet is low in saturated fat and salt. You could use also ham or turkey bacon, or see the soup stock variation below.
Basil, rosemary, cayenne, black pepper or ginger are all spices that work well with greens. You can create an Asian accent by using 2 teaspoons of soy sauce rather than salt.
If you eat dairy, you can supplement the protein in this dish by adding one-half cup ricotta, cottage, mozzarella, feta, or farmer's cheese in the last few minutes of cooking.
You can also use these cheeses, or a hard boiled egg, crumbled on top as a garnish. Again, we're assuming your diet isn't otherwise high in saturated fat.
As a bacon substitute, add two tablespoons of beef, chicken, or vegetable stock before adding in the greens. This will extend the cooking time by 3-5 minutes while the excess water cooks off.
Wow—where do we begin? Deep green leafy vegetables are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. We have no reservations about calling kale, collard, and dandelion greens true superfoods. Spinach, chard, bok choy, mustard greens belong on that list too. We recommend them as an integral part of our PMS Balance Diet. They're high in vitamins A and C; minerals; and antioxidant sulfurofanes—which, by the way, are powerful hormone balancers. We recommend eating deep green leafy vegetables as often as you can manage, to keep your hormones balanced and to lower your risk of all the major chronic diseases.
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Principal Author: Daniel J. Heller, N.D.
Last Modified: December 13, 2011