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Choosing and Handling Greens


Leafy greens are a popular Southern dish that can be healthy and paired with a number of foods

Greens include such leafy vegetables as kale, turnip, mustard, spinach, chard, collards, and beets. Each of these have varying degrees of flavor; some can be served raw (baby beet greens) and others must be sauteed or blanched before combining to other foods.

Southern United States cooks traditionally cook greens in a big pot with a ham hock or salt pork. The greens are served with cornbread and beans. Italian cooks use greens in an entirely different way. They blanch the leaves, then remove them and use the water to cook pastas.

Many folks believe that greens do taste better with some type of meat or broth infusion. Hence, the long cooking times for such varieties as collards. Other ways to use greens include chopped chard and scalloped potatoes, stuffing, stews, and soups.

Mild greens, including kale and collards, can be blanched and served. Mustard greens, however, will become more palatable if blanched and then sauteed. Most greens will be bitter if they are not blanched and/or sauteed. Blanching is simple: just add clean leaves to boiling salted water or broth. Chard: up to 4 minutes; kale: about 5 minutes; beet, mustard, and turnip greens: up to 8 minutes; and collard greens: as long as 15 minutes.

At the grocery, choose greens that are fill and green. Greens usually come from the grocer's with a little dirt and even a few bugs. Each leaf must be thoroughly washed to loosen dirt. The easiest way to do this is in a sink half full of water. Add about one-quarter cup of vinegar and the leaves. Leave them for about ten minutes and then drain and rinse. This should leave the greens shiny and clean, but without a vinegary flavor. Otherwise, you can fill a sink and keep rinsing the leaves until no more dirt remains.

If you want to avoid the bacon and drippings that usually flavor up a pot of greens, use chicken parts and beef broth instead. You can control some of the sodium content as well.

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