For the first time in my life I've signed up for a CSA and last week got my first box. It was just crammed with greens! A bunch of lactinato kale, a bunch of rainbow chard, a bag of spinach, two stalks of green garlic, two little red lettuce heads, a bunch of fresh basil, a purple daikon radish, and a dozen eggs! Thankfully we love greens in my household and simple creamed greens is one of my favorite ways to eat them.
You may be familiar with creamed spinach, but in the 18th and early 19th centuries, spinach and cream was more likely to be served with sugar than with garlic. It's really not until the turn of the 20th century that savory creamed spinach becomes a steakhouse staple (and even then it's often still got nutmeg in it).
Although creamed spinach is quite good, I actually prefer to cream sturdier greens. Kale, in particular, especially the curly kind, is very good creamed. It's not as meltingly soft, but I prefer a little more texture. Many creamed greens recipes use a white sauce or cream cheese, and while those are good, the easiest way to make them is simply to reduce cream with a little salt. It gives the greens a creamy coating without overpowering them.
Creamed Spring Greens on Toast
This dish turned out even more delightfully than I expected. Be forewarned - like most dishes of cooked greens, it takes a lot to make a lot. This recipe results in really just two hearty servings - four if you're eating other foods on the side. You can of course substitute just about any hearty greens in this dish. For a richer dish, use heavy cream instead of half and half (which was all I had in the fridge).
2 tablespoons butter
2 stalks green garlic
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 bunch rainbow chard
1/3 cup or so half and half
4-6 small leaves fresh basil
2 inch square of feta, plus extra for garnish
salt to taste
whole grain toast
In a dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Slice the green garlic thinly crosswise, white and green stalk (discard the tough leaves), then mince. Add to the butter. Chiffonade the kale and finely slice the stems of the rainbow chard. Add to the butter and garlic and increase the heat to medium. Sautee until the stalks are tender. Chiffonade the swiss chard leaves and add to the pot. Sautee a little longer, until all greens are wilted. Meanwhile, mince the basil finely. Add the cream, basil, and feta. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until the cream thickens and is almost completely absorbed. Pile on hot toast and garnish with more feta.
The garlic and basil flavors were subtle but delicious. If you like stronger flavors, add more basil and use clove garlic, or add the green garlic later in the cooking process.
You might think that a pile of greens with a few crumbs of cheese is not a very satisfying meal, but you would be wrong. The greens are part silky, with tender but toothsome bits of stalk. The feta adds a salty tang and it's all tinged with fragrant basil and garlic. It is very true, however, that two whole bunches of greens does cook down quite a lot, and my husband and I ate the whole pot, just the two of us. So if you're looking to get more greens in your diet, this is a great way to go! But if you're cooking for a crowd, definitely double or triple the recipe.
Do you have a favorite way to eat dark leafy greens?
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.