When I find myself feeling a bit dull or lethargic, I often ask myself these two questions: “When did I last drink a glass of water?” and “When did I last have a nice heap of dark, leafy greens.” Usually if I’m feeling lame, one or both of those things will be lacking. And while I often find that hydration will immediately pick me up on all sorts of fronts — including improving my mood and increasing my patience — there’s something special about filling up on some green stuff. If you already saw my post entitled Green Day, then you know what I’m talking about. I’m willing to admit there’s a mental game or placebo effect potentially in effect here, but I just feel healthier after a side of spinach or a pile of collards. Like Popeye.
Naturally, I’ve been delighted at the wide range of greens to show up in our CSA box from Sol Flower Farm all through the season. This week we had a gorgeous bunch of lacinato kale, also known as Tuscan kale. Yesterday after a big workout, we came home and put together a quick little brunch: iced coffees, eggs over medium, and braised greens. Details on the kale are below, and I’d say you can use these elements for a lot of other greens, too. I’ve done almost the exact same thing with collards and it’s pretty foolproof! Enjoy!
Braised Lacinato Kale
- 1 large bunch lacinato kale (or other hearty, leafy green of choice)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only (I had these on hand from the CSA, but a yellow onion or shallot would work well, too)
- olive oil
- liquid aminos
- 1/2 – 1 lemon
- fresh ground black pepper
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional; not paleo)
Prep your kale. Wash well, then remove the hard stems. This is easily done by folding a leaf in half lengthwise and cutting parallel along the stem. Once this is done, stack several leaves and then roll from the top down towards the base of the leaves, creating a loose cylindrical shape. Then starting at one of the short edges, cut thin strips, maybe about half an inch or so. You’ll end up with long ribbons of greens!
Chop the garlic well. Then clean and chop your leeks, preferably into little half-moon shapes. Simply cut off the thick/dark green part and the very root, then slice lengthwise down the center. Line up both halves and then chop 1/2 inch pieces down to the end. I like to rinse the leeks in a small bowl or strainer after I’ve chopped them, since they often hide and hold quite a lot of dirt.
Now you’re ready. Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium saucepan, preferably with a bit of depth. Once heated, toss in the garlic, taking care not to burn it. The leeks can go in shortly after, and then turn down the heat so things are just lightly simmering in there. Once the leeks are softened after a a couple minutes, start adding the ribbons of kale. I start with a small batch, toss it around a little with tongs, and then place the cover over the pan for a minute or two. Once this first addition has wilted down a bit, start adding more greens. working in batches like this until you can fit it all in. Keeping the cover on will allow moisture to stay in the pan and braise the greens nicely.
As soon as all the greens are in and a bit wilted, then add in the juice of half a lemon and a splash of liquid aminos. I do this to taste, starting with maybe just a teaspoon and then going from there. Just start slow so it doesn’t get too salty. Half the lemon worked well for our big two portions of kale, but if you have a particularly large bunch (and you love the bite of lemon!), you could use a whole one. Grind some black pepper on top, toss with tongs again, and let alone, covered, for several minutes.
Make sure you taste a ribbon or two before you serve. Since these greens are quite thick and fibrous, they need a bit of time in that steamy moisture to soften down. And once they do, it’s heaven!
Serve as a side with your favorite protein, sprinkling some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top to bring out all the incredible flavors!