I’m a big fan of cooking a pot of greens from whatever’s at hand. This is a great time of year for it because so many delicious things are in the garden and farmer’s market in abundance. I’m thinking of kale, Swiss chard, spinach, even the type of mustard that grows wild in the fields and is tender and sweet when cooked up young –not to mention all manner of pea shoots, bok choy and so forth.
Some of my favorites are often overlooked – beet greens, the green tops of spring onions and even leek tops, which look so tough and forbidding. I think I may like beet greens even more than the beets themselves, so when I shop for them I look for big, fresh-looking leaves. The same goes for radishes; their greens can go in the pot, too, so it’s worth looking for the bunches with the perkiest tops.
The secret to cooking greens up fast and tender is a pressure cooker. I use my stovetop cooker, but an Instant Pot should work, too. A few minutes in the pressure cooker tenderizes even the tough bits, like chard stems and leek tops, and coaxes it all into a yummy whole. (I wouldn’t do this with the more delicate greens like spinach or bok choy, though; just the sturdier ones). Bonus: With this approach almost nothing goes to waste. I make a pot of greens almost every week.
Today’s pot featured odds and ends of little chard and kale plants that were about to bolt in my garden; the tops and chopped up stems from a bunch of beets from the farmer’s market; the chopped tops and stems from a few spring onions; plus a perfectly good bunch of kale that had wilted a little because I couldn’t fit it into the produce bin. I removed the stems from the big kale leaves but not from the little ones.
Here’s how I cook them:
-Wash everything thoroughly – they may need several soaks and rinses if they’re sandy or muddy – and roughly chop. I lay a bunch of beet greens or kale across the cutting board and cut it into pieces about 3 inches wide. Onion stems and tops can be chopped into roughly 1-inch pieces.
-Heat a bit of oil in the pressure cooker and toss in a couple of slices of cut-up bacon, if you’re a bacon sort of person. Add some chopped or sliced garlic if you like, along with the chopped onion. Saute for a few minutes to soften a bit.
-Now throw in the greens a few handfuls at a time, along with a couple of cups of water. (With pressure cookers, the general rule of thumb is that the longer you cook something, the more water you need to add; in this case you’ll be cooking for less than 10 minutes under pressure.) Stir to mix them with the goodies at the bottom of the pot; tongs work well for this. As they wilt add more, until the pot is about half to two-thirds full; you don’t want to fill a pressure cooker more than that.
-Put the lid on, bring to pressure and cook 5-7 minutes.
-Let the pressure drop naturally, then carefully take off the lid and admire your greens. Are they to your liking? If they seem too chewy, put the lid back on and cook for another minute or two.
I don’t like a lot of salt in my food, so mine taste fine with just the salt from the bacon, some pepper and a dash of vinegar.
As for the beet roots: I separate them from the leaves as soon as I get home, being careful not to cut the root itself; scrub them; and cook them in the pressure cooker with 2-3 cups of water. The time after the pressure comes up varies, from 10 minutes for small ones to about 20 for big ones. Let the pressure come down naturally and poke them with a fork; if they’re not done, cook a little longer. (I try to buy bunches where the beets are all about the same size so they’ll get done at the same time.) When they’re cool you can just slip off the skins with your fingers.
I’ve been making beet salads with gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and pepper. What will you do with your beets and greens?