“Greens are a dish that most Southerners would walk a mile for.”- Edna Lewis
I loved coming across this quote from the legendary Southern cook, Edna Lewis. And I say “Amen” to that sister.
To most Southerners, a pot of greens means collard greens (or to a lesser extent mustard or turnips greens) stewed, with the residual “pot likker” destined to be soaked up by crumbled cornbread. New Orleanians mix many varieties of greens together in the pot, adding sausage, ham or “pickled meat”, chopping the greens very finely, and thickening them with the ever popular roux, resulting in gumbo z’herbs. When I lived in New York and found my constitution feeling a bit sluggish, and in need of a jolt of super nutrition, I would- yes-walk at least a mile down to the Union Square Farmer’s Market to buy bunches of greens to make myself a pot of gumbo x’herbs (a contraction of gumbo aux herbs and pronounced something like gumbo zab in NOLA)- New Orleans’ gumbo of greens. And yes, btw, there are several different gumbos, in addition to the brothy seafood variety that most associate with Creole cooking. Gumbo z’herbs happens to be my favorite, after okra gumbo, that is- also not a broth based gumbo.
I still love to make gumbo z’herbs, and made a big pot of it the weekend after Katrina hit New Orleans, passing containers of it out to family members, my little act of solidarity with our hard hit home. I’ll be sharing a post and recipe for gumbo z’herbs soon, as it is a tradition in some circles in NOLA on Holy Thursday.
But I also love to simply sauté (well, really sauté/braise) a mixture of many greens, bitter and sweet, in extra virgin olive oil, throw in a healthy handful of minced garlic, and, that’s it- serve. It’s a favorite with my clients, family and guests. I served this dish at a New Year’s brunch a few year back. A friend visiting from New Orleans, exclaimed when tasting it, “I can tell you are a New Orleans cook, because your food has such a depth of flavor”. I consider that one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. Using a combination of greens gives a depth and complexity to the dish that can’t be achieved with a single variety of greens. And it’s so simple- I promise.
The recipe- such as it is- follows…
Sautéed Greens with Garlic
1 Bunch each:
Kale (I was not in the habit of using kale in my New York days, until I was reprimanded by my younger brother for referring to it as “just garnish”. He grabbed it from me, saving it from the trash can, and said, “I’ll eat that garnish”. I’ve been eating it ever since.)
2 bunches of Spinach
Tops of 2 bunches of beets (if I’m lucky, my friends at Tamai Farms will just give me some of the tops they’ve pulled off beets because there are still those who discard them- silly people!)
And/or any other greens you might want to throw in the pan.
Soak the greens, one variety at a time (I soak and cook the tougher ones first i.e. Kale and Collards), in a sink filled with water to clean and dislodge grit. I lift the greens from the water, leaving the grit behind, them empty the sink. then fill again for the next bunch. don’t dry the greens- they need a bit of water clinging to them.
Cut the greens coarsely, then add them to a frying pan (one variety at a time, remember) coated with a healthy amount of olive oil ( I use @ 1/3 -1/2 C. altogether).
Sauté the greens until they are fully coated with olive oil and begin to wilt. Cover the pan (I use foil), and cook down further. Continue adding the greens- along with olive oil, to the pan, from coarser to softer as they cook. I toss in healthy pinches of kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper as I go. When they are all cooked, toss in a very healthy handful of minced garlic- I use about 6-8 cloves or so, but that’s up to you.
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