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10 Simple Ways to Cook Greens

I have never met a green I didn’t like. Mustards. Collards. Broccoli rabe. Bok Choy. Pak Choy. Arugula. Spinach. Radish Tops. Beet Greens. Swiss chard. Kale. Cabbage. I love them all.

Consequently we eat greens at virtually every meal around here, especially at this time of year. Most often I just saute the greens with a bit of garlic and call it good, but I also stir them into eggs, stuff them into empanadas, and add them to soup. Here are 10 simple ideas for eating more greens!

Basic Sauteed Greens

Gather greens from the garden (it is okay to mix and match the greens). Plan on harvesting at least 2 1/2 cups of raw greens per person, as they will really cook down. Remove any tough stems. Chop into slender 1/2 inch ribbons or small pieces. Place the greens in a colander and rinse them well under a stream of cool water. Shake off the excess water and set aside.

Heat one or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Force two plump cloves of garlic through a press and add to the oil. Cook the garlic until slightly softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Raise the heat to medium high and add in the damp greens. Toss with tongs until just barely wilted and bright green. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and red pepper flakes. Serve!


Asian. Add a tablespoon of minced ginger in with the garlic. Instead of salt, toss the cooked greens with a bit of tamari.

Italian. Toss the cooked greens with golden raisins and toasted pine nuts (this version is especially good with broccoli rabe).

Moroccan. Cut a preserved lemon in half, remove the flesh and cut away the pith. Rinse the remaining lemon skin under water to remove extra salt; then mince. Saute the preserved lemon with the garlic and a spoonful of harissa for about a minute before adding the greens.

Sesame. Drizzle a bit of toasted sesame oil (a little goes a long way) over the greens. Toss and then garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Spicy. Finely mince a serrano pepper (I usually removed the seeds) and add it in with the garlic. Or stir a little sriracha sauce into some soy sauce and toss with cooked greens.

Simple Greens-Based Entrees

Easy Empanadas. I got the idea to make these vegetarian empanadas from my friend Katy. Thaw two sheets of puff pastry for 45 minutes. On a floured surface, roll the pastry out to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out 6 inch rounds. Smear a bit of olive tapenade in the center of each round, then place a mound of sauteed greens on top of the tapenade, plus a bit of grated cheese. Fold the pastry over on top of itself (to form a half moon shape). Seal. Brush with egg and bake in a 425 degree F oven until golden brown.

Quick Tart. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out a pie crust into an 8 inch circle (you can use a store bought crust, I won’t tell). Sprinkle a half cup of parmesan cheese over the crust. Mound greens into the center of the crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the border over the outside edge of the greens. Sprinkle more cheese over the center of the tart. Transfer the tart onto a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until the crust is browned.

Lazy Soup. Place 3/4 cup of sauteed greens in the bottom of a deep soup bowl. Top with warmed chicken or vegetable broth. If you like, add in any of the following: thinly sliced snow or snap peas, shelled english peas, roasted asparagus, cooked rice or lentils, cooked tofu or chicken, a bit of grated cheese, croutons.

Green Eggs (Ham Optional). Whisk four eggs together with a bit of milk and grated parmesan cheese. Melt some butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Pour in the eggs and scramble them. When the eggs just begin to form curds, add in the greens and continue to cook until the eggs reach your desired consistency. Or, use the greens to stuff an omelette. Add in ham or prosciutto if you like.

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16 Responses to “10 Simple Ways to Cook Greens”

  1. 1
    Annette Says:

    Thank you so much for these great ideas. I am always looking for a quick and easy way to add greens to our meals.

  2. 2
    gardenmentor Says:


    Willi – where do you purchase preserved lemon…or dare I ask…have you preserved lemon yourself? I love the flavor it imparts but have yet to find a source for it. Granted, I haven’t looked very hard.
    .-= gardenmentor´s last blog ..Bee Wary – Swarm! =-.

  3. 3
    aimee Says:

    collard greens boiled then sauteed for 4 hours on low heat with some good ol’ fashioned bacon grease, sauteed onions, apple cider vinegar and some spices, MMMM

  4. 4
    Tiffany S. Says:

    This is such a timely post as our garden is brimming with greens. I think we’re better at growing than harvesting.
    .-= Tiffany S.´s last blog ..It’s not been smooth sailing… =-.

  5. 5
    Lorie Says:

    Willi, thank you so much! I have been looking for such guidelines! Do you use carrot tops in salad? If yes, suggestions? :)

  6. 6
    Julia Says:

    These are great suggestions! My kale plants keep me up to my eyeballs in greens, so it’s great to have more ideas.

  7. 7
    Willi Says:

    Garden Mentor–Actually, I just learned how to make preserved lemons in my Kitchen Garden Series class. Matt taught us how to make them and harissa last month. I haven’t made my own yet because I had a jar of them in my fridge. You can buy them at Metropolitan Market.

    Aimee–Hello! That sounds so good. My mom makes a similar dish with green beans. Yum!

    Lorie–I don’t use carrots tops in salads, but I have whirled them in the blender with yogurt, curry, and garlic to make a dressing.

  8. 8
    Estelle Says:

    Willi, thanks for the links! And I would be curious to know if you ever tried turnip greens… I love every green, but my attempt at liking turnip greens failed miserably yesterday evening, turnip greens are verrry bitter!
    .-= Estelle´s last blog ..Yaourt glacé à la griotte =-.

  9. 9
    Eva Says:

    Great ideas for greens. My husband and I love them too, but we don’t make enoughh of an effort to include them in more things. Thanks for the suggestions on different cusine styles.
    .-= Eva´s last blog ..Confusion =-.

  10. 10
    Jamie Says:

    My boyfriend introduced me to collard greens last year… He does them the old fashioned way in a pot of boiling water with chicken broth, salt, pepper, cayanne, and salt pork or bacon. He cooks them for 2 hours or more while he’s smoking ribs or a brisket and they are spectacular! As a result I’ve got a patch of them growing in my beds for our summer BBQ’s. I’m SO excited to harvest!

  11. 11
    Jenny Says:

    Yummm I have discovered my own great love of greens as I grew them for the first time this year.

    Sesame is my favorite – I like to stir tahini in after sauteeing in the sesame oil, and sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds. So good!

    Also love Smitten Kitchen’s baked kale chips – we find ourselves snacking on greens.

    Great post, I’m bookmarking it to try more of your ideas!
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..From Garden to Table – Radishes =-.

  12. 12
    jess Says:

    My family’s favorite way to sneak in greens is the old irish standard, colcannon. Martha Stewart’s recipe is good enough, and there are endless variations. I’ve made it with every kind of kale, and cabbage, kailaan, and so on. Any green that you can sautee would stand up well in colcannon. It’s a great way to dispense of the “bounty” of the “greens” season in the PNW.

  13. 13
    Chris Says:

    I must be the only one on the planet that can’t seem to grow greens. All of my chard has some sort of worm in the leaves, all of my other greens were mowed down by snails! ugh!

  14. 14
    Peggy Says:

    Any other ideas for carrot tops would be appreciated.

    I have been grilling mustard greens lately. I toss w/ evoo, s&p or other seasoning and put ina grill basket. Still a little chewy, but very yummy.

  15. 15
    Katy Gilmore Says:

    Hi Willi – I’m grateful for all your greens suggestions! We are just back from walking in Spain – a most wonderful trip! – and given the state of the garden and the fridge full of CSA, I’m going to make a Tortilla Espanol with greens rather than potatoes!

  16. 16
    Marisa Says:

    My husband brought home some great picked Collard Greens. I looked up an easy way to cook cook them. I don’t have garlic or any broth.. I just used water, butter salt, and season salt and I don’t have a ham hock. I through in chunks of ham. the juice so far taste good. Does anyone think it will still come out good?????? First time cooking collard greens… I just can’t afford to buy what I needed so I improvised.

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