Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Getting Creative With Late-Winter Greens, Spinach, Broccoli

Add color to your plate with late-winter greens; the perfect wilted spinach; and Tuscan-style broccoli is substantial enough to eat as a main course.

Four Varieties Of Cabbage

Photo: Flickr

Four varieties of cabbage (clockwise, starting in upper left): Savoy cabbage, red cabbage, green cabbage, and Napa cabbage.

Finding Variety In Your Salad Bowl

Winter farmers markets may lack the colorful fruits and vegetables that make summer markets so fun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find variety in food in the cold months as well.

Late-winter greens are chock-full of nutrients, and they have a much stronger flavor than Oak Leaf Lettuce, for instance. They also store well when wrapped in wet paper towels and stored in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can enjoy the greens this way for another couple weeks.

Since the taste can be so robust, using a combination of flavors is important, especially in salads. Get a smokey flavor with rich fattiness by adding bacon, and the sweetness of honey will cut the astringency of the greens.

Various nut oils (like walnut, pistachio, or pumpkin seed oil) also pair well with late-winter greens.

Spotlight On Collard Greens

Collard greens are a hearty plant that can survive in the garden into January.

Many preparations involve cooking the greens for two or three hours with a knob of pork shank. That is indeed delicious, but it is also tasty to enjoy them like the Brazilians do.

Brazilian Style Collard Greens (“Couve a Mineira”) involves slicing the greens into thin strips and sautéing them with garlic and ginger. This dish is served with orange slices.

Cooking Spinach Two Ways

No more soggy spinach! These two methods for wilting spinach do the trick without any added water.

Before cooking, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, garlic powder, and a dash olive oil. But, remember that all types of greens will cook down from a heaping plate-full to a manageable serving, so it’s best to under-season them initially. You can always add more flavor later.

  • Microwave: In a plastic container, cook the spinach for 4-5 minutes. This length of time wilts the greens completely (depending, of course, on the strength of the microwave).
  • Broiler: Place the spinach in a metal pan under the broiler. It will begin to wilt immediately. Remove it at your desired consistency. The greens will continue to cook slightly after you remove them from under the broiler.

wilted spinach with grated parmesan cheese and lemon wedge

Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU

The spinach wilted under the broiler maintained its leafy texture (front, left), while the spinach cooked in the microwave wilted more completely.

Get creative in your plating by sprinkling the dish with Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and a dash olive oil. (Instead of olive oil, consider adding bacon fat or butter if you prefer). Make sure to serve it with wedges of lemon. The acidity opens up the flavor even more!

In its simplest form, the spinach is wonderful as a warm salad, or you can serve it as a bed for smoked trout, roast beef or sliced veal.

Tuscan-Style Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli can often be shoved to the side of a dinner plate, especially if it’s competing with a foil-wrapped baked potato and a big hunk of meat. “But in Italy,” says Chef Daniel Orr, “they treat broccoli more as the star of the show.”

This dish is served with enough extra goodies that it can stand strong as a main course: anchovies, Gorgonzola cheese, black olives, toasted pine nuts, and tomatoes. It’s also a quick dish to prepare. Since we have blanched the broccoli ahead of time, it will only take 2-3 minutes under the broiler for them to slightly caramelize.

Tuscan Style Roasted Broccoli

Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU

This dish is served with anchovies, gorgonzola cheese, tomatoes, black olives, and pine nuts.

Ingredients (cooking broccoli):

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 10-12 basil leaves
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (garnish):

  • anchovies
  • gorgonzola cheese
  • black olives
  • toasted pine nuts
  • tomatoes
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Method:

  1. Cut broccoli florets into thirds and blanch them. (Cook them in salted water, al dente. Then plunge them in ice water to stop the cooking.)
  2. Tear the basil leaves and spread them and the rosemary on a pan. Place blanched broccoli on top. Sprinkle with olive oil.
  3. Cook broccoli under broiler for 2-3 minutes. Watch for caramelization on broccoli to know when it’s done.
  4. Arrange broccoli, basil, and rosemary on a platter. Top with anchovies, Gorgonzola cheese, black olives, toasted pine nuts, and tomatoes. Finish the dish off with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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