Cooking with Winter Greens

Cooking with Winter Greens

By Michael Jenkins

One of the nicest things about this time of the year is the food—the wonderful winter dishes that only appear with the days grow short and the weather gets cold. The rich, hearty meals that appear at this time of the year are fantastic comfort food, lifting our spirits and filling our bellies as we enjoy the winter season. For most of us, cooler weather means that greens are more widely available whether from our own gardens or from the local market. These marvelous vegetables, which include collards, kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, and the like, are healthy, versatile, and exceptionally tasty when prepared properly. With a little know-how and some basics under your belt, you’ll be turning your winter greens into tasty nourishing dishes in no time!

While it’s been trendy from time to time to serve raw kale in a salad, in our humble opinion these greens are best when they’re cooked. Thus we’ll be focusing more on those kinds of dishes here. Each recipe we share is something that we’ve made ourselves and enjoy, so we feel comfortable passing them along to you.

Let’s dig in, starting with one of our favorite recipes:

Sauteed Winter Greens

This dish is so flexible—you can use collards, kale, or even cabbage (though that may require a bit more cooking time) You can also add flavors as you see fit; some folks like to brown and crumble bacon into this, or add dried garden chilies for a bit of a kick!

2 bunches winter greens

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 whole garlic cloves, or to taste

2 quarts/1.9 liters chicken or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon vinegar

Koshers salt and black pepper, to taste

Start with your greens: remove any tough stalks or stems or yellow/discolored pieces. Rinse thoroughly in fresh water and dry greens. Cut greens into shreds or ribbons roughly 1 inch wide.

Add olive oil to a deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil reaches cooking temperature, add the garlic. Sautee for two minutes or until softened, then add the greens and toss or mix well. When greens are fully coated with the olive oil and garlic, add broth and cover. Cook greens until they are wilted and tender, which generally takes around 45 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Season with salt and pepper and serve!

Kale and Sausage Risotto

This is a hearty, filling recipe that can very easily make a meal on its own and is perfect for a chilly cloudy day. As with many greens recipes, while this is intended as a kale dish you may substitute collards, cabbage, or other greens with an adjustment to cooking time. For a more vegetarian friendly option, feel free to substitute vegan sausage or mushrooms for Italian sausage; just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly!

2 tablespoons olive oil, with more as needed

1 onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, or to taste

10 ounces/300grams of uncooked medium-grain rice

½ cup/100ml dry white wine or dry vermouth, if desired (may substitute vinegar)

3 cups/750ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 pound/500grams sweet Italian sausage with skin removed and crumbled, or appropriate substitute

1 bunch kale or other hearty greens, cleaned cut into ribbons as in our first recipe

Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. When oil is heated, add the onions and garlic, cooking until tender and golden. Then add the rice to the pan, stirring to coat it in the mixture, and cook for about a minute until the rice grains are just a bit toasted. Add vermouth, wine, or vinegar as desired and cook till that liquid has evaporated. Add stock one ladle at a time, stirring and cooking until all stock is absorbed and rice is cooked (should take roughly 20-30 minutes). Keep warm.

Add Italian sausage and fennel seeds. Cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. When sausage is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan and set it aside for now while keeping it warm. Add kale to pan with 1 tbsp water, cook until tender and bright green (2-3 minutes).

Add cooked rice to serving dish, and top with cooked kale and sausage. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese if desired and serve!

Southern Style Collard Greens

A healthy adaptation of a classic dish from the Southeastern US, this is a wonderful way to prepare collards or kale and goes well with many main dishes. Feel free to adjust seasonings as needed—Southern cuisine is never afraid of flavor!

    1 bunch collard greens, washed and finely chopped as in our first recipe

    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

    1/2 onion, chopped

    4 garlic cloves or to taste, minced

    1 medium tomato, chopped

    1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

    2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    1 cup water, or vegetable broth

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until tender and golden. Stir in garlic and cook for a just a minute. Add tomatoes, smoked paprika, thyme, salt and cook stirring for a few minutes until ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Stir in collard greens, coating thoroughly, and cook until wilted. Add liquid, cover saucepan and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with rice, cornbread, or the dish of your choice!


On a quick gardening note: many folks believe that collards and kale taste best after the first frost of the year, so plan accordingly if you’re using fresh garden greens. If you have your own winter greens recipes, we’d love to see them so share them in the comments or find us on social media. We love to hear from you!

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