Beautiful, crispy, buttery, tender greens. It’s what greeted me when I opened my CSA box this morning. When I went outside a little later to work in my garden, I walked around to inspect each bed. More delicate leaves of green. My culinary mind is working overtime, plotting the ways I’ll put all this photosynthesis to work in my kitchen.
Sometimes a box full of leafy greens can be intimidating for folks, so I thought it might be helpful to look at the many ways to put them to use in the kitchen.
The Basics - Storing Greens
First off, you really want to store your leafy greens in the crisper, set to low humidity. This is especially important for lettuce. Skip this, and your lettuce is likely to wilt. If you’re short on space, prioritize getting the lettuce and other leafy greens into the crisper rather than other sturdier vegetables, like snap peas and beets, which don’t require this low humidity space as urgently. If your greens do wilt, you can usually perk them up by soaking them in ice cold water. If you’re dealing with a wilted head of lettuce, carefully cut off the very end of the head before soaking. I prefer waiting to wash my greens right before I use them. Washing ahead of time can lead to a slimy mess if you don’t dry thoroughly.
Greens like chard and spinach, which can be cooked, tend to cook down a lot. What looks like a huge bag of spinach when fresh ends up looking like a whole lot less once sauteed. I often cook a large batch of greens early on in the week so that I can add them to various dishes as the week goes on. They make their way into eggs, soups, chilis, sautes, mixed veggie and grain bowls, burritos...pretty much everything, everywhere. Another way to use greens quickly is to add them to smoothies or homemade juices. Several handfuls of greens can easily hide in almost any smoothie or juice recipe, and although the color will be altered, the flavor really won’t. Not only do these tricks help to ensure your greens don’t go to waste, they also help you squeeze in extra vegetable servings. If you’re not sure exactly how to cook your greens, keep in mind that pretty much all greens are delicious simply sauteed with garlic in olive oil or butter, and sprinkled with salt and a dash of vinegar.
Lettuce doesn’t have to mean salad. Depending on the variety, it can work beautifully as a wrap or cup for other food. If you prefer to use your lettuce in salad, remember that chopping the lettuce into smaller pieces helps you to use and eat it more easily. Large, bulky pieces of lettuce take up more space in a salad than finely chopped lettuce. If you’re looking to up your veggie intake, shredding or finely chopping your lettuce can help. Like spinach, lettuce is also a great addition to smoothies and juices. However, lettuce can be cooked, too. You can grill it, use it to top a pizza, or turn it into a delicious, delicate soup. If you’re looking to move through a lot of lettuce quickly, that soup uses a full two heads of lettuce for four servings! For more creative ideas on using lettuce, check out this article from Bon Appetit.
Greens! Add them to eggs, smoothies, and pizzas. Pair them with salads, soups, and sandwiches. Add a little side salad to every plate you make. Swap out your potato chips for some lettuce sprinkled with olive oil and salt (a favorite amongst my kiddos!). Around here, we’re embracing this beautiful hue. It’s kind of like eating a little slice of summer.