Farmers' Market Share: Braise Those Greens!

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Save those greens, beet fans! - USER "QUADELL," WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Despite riding my bike in shorts on Monday -- shorts! in November! -- there is something about the trees losing their leaves and three straight weeks of rain that begs for hoodies and comfort food.

Since I care about your colon, I'm not going to pass along a bunch of bacon recipes today. However, I will pass along that Greenwood Farms bacon is delightful, and I ate a bunch of it this week on Companion Bavarian Pretzels, the last of my garden tomatoes and the first of the fall mixed greens.

You see, the other nice thing about fall is that it means a comeback for all of the early spring vegetables, along with the slow-growing hearty root vegetables. This means that there are lots of dark leafy things in the markets. These are packed with iron, calcium and folic acid -- great for the ladies, in particular, but I do like my men not-anemic, so try it out, dudes.

I feel like the non-spinach greens lack appeal, which is a bummer. My best guess is that they're just not as easy, since they require a little bit of prep. However, the visual appeal of chard or kale is a huge plus -- in my experience, kale is actually used for garnish more than it is for actual eating -- and they tend to hold up to heat way better so they retain some substance in soups.

In a pinch, I tend to stir-fry kale, but lately I've become a big fan of braising greens. It allows for a concentration of flavors and also gives the leaves a chance to really cook. It's a good technique for collards (especially if you don't feel like blanching), chard, turnip and beet greens.

Oh, right, those root vegetables again. So here's another thing that gets me jazzed about beets and the like: They come with extra food attached. Beet greens can be used exactly like kale, and since you might otherwise be thinking about throwing them away, why not be thrifty?

With regards to combinations and amounts: a lot of this will be to taste. Try to stick with complementary flavors: soy sauce, mirin and rice vinegar for Japanese flavors, stock and sherry vinegar for French and so forth.

A Formula for Braised Greens
1 bunch (around 1 pound) leafy greens, ideally something like beet greens, swiss chard, bok choy, etc.
1 tbsp olive oil 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
Braising liquid of choice, like soy sauce, stock, sherry or wine. You can also use a combination.
Complementary vinegar: rice, sherry, balsamic, apple cider, you get the idea.
1. Separate the stems from the greens and slice into one-inch pieces. Then slice greens into one- to two-inch strips. Keep separate.

2. Heat the oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant but not browned. Add the stems and cook for a couple of minutes, until just starting to get translucent.

3. Add the greens, a splash or two of your braising liquid, stir and cover. Cook only until just wilted, then remove the lid, add a splash or two of vinegar and crank the heat. Cook until the liquid has all reduced and your greens are tender.

Alissa Nelson is a graduate student and compulsive buyer of cookbooks. She enjoys scouring seed catalogs and thrift stores alike. Every Wednesday she seeks the bounty of local farmers' markets -- and then cooks it.

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