The Deliciousness of Sautéed Stems and Leaves

The other day, I was about to throw away a the greens I’d clipped off a bunch of radishes when I thought: Why not sauté them? They’re similar to beet or turnip greens. How bad can they be? Over the years, I’ve sautéed all sorts of unlikely greens, from almost-over-the-hill mesclun salad, arugula and dandelion, to the crunchy stems clipped from a bunch of watercress or stripped from a head of Swiss chard or kale. The almost-discarded radish leaves made me realize how patterned my thinking can be.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

So I washed and dried the radish greens in a salad spinner. Then I put them into a pan with garlicky olive oil, and tossed until they were wilted.  They made for a satisfying, mildly pepper plate of greens, perfect for a dinner for one, along with some goat cheese.

Here’s a simple method for whatever amount of stems and leaves you have. For stems, cut off the tough or browning ends; discard any browned or yellowed leaves.

Method: Stems and/or Leaves Sauteed with Garlic and Oil

Cooked this way just about any greens — either stems or leaves or both — make an excellent side dish and are great cold, with a squeeze of lemon. Top with a fried egg for an instant supper. Tossed with pasta with a few pinenuts and some shaved Parmesan, they become an instant meal.  They also make a wonderful topping for bruschetta, alone or with a thin slice of ricotta salata.

Caramelized Garlic Oil

A few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

Pinch hot red pepper flakes

Leaves or tender stems, rinsed and dried in a salad spinner

Salt

Freshly Ground pepper to taste

Lemon wedges

 

For the Caramelized Garlic Oil, in a large skillet over moderately low heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, cover and sauté until the garlic is soft translucent and just beginning to brown.  Gauge the amount of oil you think you need for the amount of greens you have and pour the rest into a bowl or jar, leaving the garlic in the pan. (Refrigerate the extra oil to use for another batch).

Increase the heat to high, add the greens and a pinch of salt and sauté, tossing with tongs or two wooden spoons, until the greens are wilted. If the greens don’t immediately wilt, add 1 tablespoon water, and cover the pan to steam them until they are almost wilted. If the greens or stems are especially tough, add additional water and cook covered, tossing occasionally, until they are tender. Uncover and increase the heat to evaporate any water and continue sautéing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at once with lemon wedges on the side.

 

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