Leaf lovers are grateful to kale and its current rock star status—it’s the darling of restaurant chefs and home cooks, food blogs and magazine spreads. This jaw-exercising leaf has single handedly dragged greens into the culinary mainstream, when for generations many of us have done our best to avoid them. The surprisingly revelation that kale is not only nutritious but tasty as well, has opened the door to a whole new ruffly green world populated by the likes of spinach and bok choy, collards, beet greens and more.
Take collards for instance: they’ve been regulars in kitchens across the globe for eons, from Africa to India, Spain, Portugal and even the American South. Collards are loaded with good stuff including Vitamins K, A and C, folate, manganese, calcium, iron and even protein.
Sturdy collards hold up to lengthy cooking in stews and braises, but are perfect candidates for a quick stir-fry too. Try using the steamed leaves as a wrapper for healthy summer rolls or the packaging for a savory rice stuffing. Cut the leaves into ribbony lengths and sauté with garlic and red pepper flakes. Toss with cooked pasta, grated Parmesan, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
You might also appreciate this Portuguese favorite, Caldo Verde—especially as summer sashays into cooler fall. Simply flavored with potatoes, onions and garlic, this humble broth is about as easy as soup—or for that matter, dinner—gets. You’ll have a warming potful on the table in half an hour with minimal prep. Add a simple salad, and you’re set.
Caldo Verde (green broth, in Portuguese)
Traditionally served with sliced, cooked sausage, this vegetarian version features fresh summer tomatoes instead. You might also toss in a drained can of cannellini beans if you want to up the protein content.
- olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 5 1/2 cups broth or water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves cut into thin ribbons
- 4-5 small tomatoes, cut into quarters
- Warm a tablespoon or two of oil in a large soup pot. Add onion and cook until soft, then add garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add potatoes and water or broth along with the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 20 or so minutes.
- Remove bay leaves and discard. Ladle 2 to 3 cups of potato cubes from the pot, into a heat-proof bowl. Blend the soup that remains in the pot with an immersion blender until fairly smooth. You can puree the soup in a food processor in a few batches, if you like. Add potato cubes back to the pot.
- Bring the soup back to a gentle simmer and add the greens and tomatoes, plus 1/2 teaspoon, or more, salt (if using water or low-sodium broth you will need additional salt). Taste the broth to decide how much salt to add. Cook until greens are wilted and tomatoes are barely soft, about 2 minutes.
Quick Tips for the Week:
Shelled fava beans are fabulous sautéed with garlic and lemon.
Roast fennel and tomatoes for a quick side dish with deep flavors.
Finely diced melon and mix with lime juice and cilantro for a simple salsa. Add cubed radish or peppers for crunch.
Tomato and peach wedges create an unusual and winning salad combination. Add red onion slivers, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle of olive oil and finish with coarse salt.