Your mom tells you, “Eat your greens.” Your primary-care physician tells you, “Eat your greens.” Gwyneth Paltrow tells you, “Eat your greens.”
That mantra is often conflated with “Eat more salads.” One time, I spent 14 of my hard-earned dollars trying to “eat my greens” at a comically disappointing salad chain, only to end up with three peach slices and a handful of mozzarella balls haphazardly scattered atop a bed of arugula.
I was incensed — but also oddly amused — to the point where I dramatically re-told the story to anyone who would listen that week. They had the gall to call that a salad. And charge me $14. Can you believe? Highway robbery.
I suppose it’s my fault for entrusting Big Salad with my greens consumption in the first place. No more.
As far as eating leafy greens goes, I’m Post Salad. I like to stretch the life (and the versatility) of my greens by blanching — a.k.a. quick-boiling and shocking with ice water — them ahead of time.
Blanched greens won’t wilt in your fridge after a day or two, they take up far less space in the vegetable crisper and can easily get chucked into a multitude of quick dinners and blended into pestos. More importantly, blanching maintains the integrity of the greens’ flavor.
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This week's game plan
Mango Summer Rolls With Honey-Sambal Sauce (V)
It doesn’t have to be hot outside for you to enjoy this veggie-forward spin on everyone’s favorite restaurant appetizer (or maybe just mine?) for dinner in.
Timber-Inspired Green Monster Pizza (V)
Come for the “it’s pizza,” stay for the bright Kale Pesto and thinly sliced “zucchi-roni.”
Zesty Bucatini With Collards and Bread Crumbs (V)
Lemony bread crumbs elevate even the simplest of pantry pastas.
V - vegetarian
Your shopping list
Green means go! Click this link for an easy-to-save shopping list that includes ingredients for all three recipes.
Blanch those leafy greens and make some pesto
So what is blanching, exactly? As I alluded to above, it’s when you hit a vegetable with a quick one-two punch of scalding and icy waters. Boiling water quick-cooks the veggie, sets its color, and then an ice-water bath halts the cooking process.
Before setting up a blanching station, we’ll want to prep the greens. Grab a bunch of lacinato kale and remove the leaves from all but one or two stems (you’ll want a bit of raw kale for your Green Monster pizza later in the week). Pinch a stem at the bottom and run your hand against it to easily separate the leaves from it, then tear the leaves into large chunks. Don’t worry about how they look.
For the bunch of collard greens you bought, you’ll want to be a bit more precise. One at a time, lay each leaf flat against a cutting board and use a paring knife to cut as closely to the stem as possible. You should end up with two large halves from each leaf. Try not to rip them; you’ll need eight large, intact halves for those summer rolls.
Onto that blanching station. Fill a stock pot with water. Season it with a little salt and bring it to a rolling boil. Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water and ice cubes and set it next to the stove top.
From there, work in batches to blanch your greens. Once the water is boiling, start with the torn kale and cook it for exactly 3 minutes. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to fish out the kale and transfer it to the ice bath. Let it cool for a couple minutes, then remove and pat dry.
Do the same thing with the collard green leaves (but be gentle, you won’t want to tear them at any point!): Blanch a few pieces for 3 minutes, then transfer them to the ice bath and repeat. After an ice-water bath, lay the collard leaves flat onto pieces of paper towel and thoroughly dry them. To store them, carefully wrap them in a dry paper towel and tuck them into a large zip-top bag and close it. Into the fridge they go.
As for the blanched kale, you’re about to make …
Your girl does not have Pine Nut Money, so I tried a version with toasted almonds and another with toasted walnuts. The flavor from the former was too dominant; if I wanted that I’d just eat almond butter. Mellower walnuts let the bite of kale really shine. But you don’t want too much bite, either, which is why we’re going with a pesto that uses blanched kale leaves instead of the raw stuff.
After a day or so in the fridge, the pesto made with raw kale became too pungent and astringent. But the blanched pesto tastes even better a day or so after you make it. You can store it in a container in the fridge for a week, or press it into a thin layer in a plastic bag and freeze for up to 6 months.
Total time: 10 minutes.
Makes 1 cup. You’ll need:
¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 cloves garlic
Blanched lacinato (dino) kale from earlier
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Food processor (but a blender will work fine, too)
If you learn nothing else from me, just remember: Always 👏Toast 👏Your 👏Nuts 👏. You'll appreciate the warmer, nuttier, more complex flavor a toasted nut brings to the table.
All you need to do is place the walnuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat and toast, tossing them often, for 4 minutes or until they’re fragrant and slightly browned.
Let them cool completely, then pulse them plus the garlic in the food processor several times until they’re finely chopped. Add the kale leaves, Parm and lemon juice and pulse, pulse, pulse. Keep on keepin’ on (blending) as you stream in the oil until you have a smooth, vibrant puree. Give it a taste and season with salt (I like to add just under ¼ teaspoon) and a few cracks of pepper.
Mango Summer Rolls With Honey-Sambal Sauce
Instead of rice paper, we’re reaching for those blanched collard leaves to wrap up these crunchy and bright little bites. As far as the filling goes, tailor it to what’s available to you: If you can find mung bean sprouts instead of water chestnuts, go for it. Use peaches in place of mangoes when the season’s right.
Grab the widest, largest collard halves from Sunday to ensure you have enough surface area to work with. Once things are wrapped and ready, you’ll throw together a sweet and spicy dipping sauce (you should have some sambal oelek, an Indonesian chile paste, in your fridge from Week 5) to tie it all together.
Total time: 15 to 25 minutes.
Makes 8 rolls (2 servings). You’ll need:
For the rolls
1 ripe mango
½ seedless cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks
1 cup shredded red cabbage
8 large, stemmed and blanched collard leaf halves (from Sunday!)
One 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and/or Thai basil leaves
For the sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
For the rolls: I don’t bother peeling the mango before I cut out the pit because I prefer to keep all 10 of my fingers and those suckers are slippery. Grab your mango and stand it pointed side up. Turn it so the “narrow” side is facing you. The pit is maybe half an inch thick, and we want to cut as closely to it as possible. Position your knife just off center and cut down along one side of the pit, then do the same on the other side. Once you have two halves, use a large serving spoon to scoop out the flesh, then cut into ½-inch-thick slices.
Before we get rolling (ha. Ha. HA.), let’s take stock of our filling. Are your mangoes sliced? Is the cucumber chopped? Cabbage shredded? Arrange each ingredient into neat little piles so they’re easily accessible.
Lay a blanched collard leaf half on a cutting board so that its narrow end is facing you. Grab a slice or two of mango and a couple pieces of cucumber and place them about an inch and a half from the end closest to you. Let’s grab 3 or 4 water chestnut slices and tuck those just above the fruit and top all that with a big pinch of shredded cabbage and herbs.
Take the bottom end of the collard and fold it snugly over the filling. Channel your inner Girl or Boy Scout because we’re basically rolling a sleeping bag you can eat. Pinch in any excess collard on the righthand side and roll, fairly tightly. Repeat with the remaining greens and filling.
For the sauce: Stir together the honey, sambal and soy sauce in a small bowl. … That’s it? That’s it. Now dip those little fruit-and-veggie-stuffed sleeping bags.
Timber-Inspired Green Monster Pizza
If I could eat Timber Pizza for the rest of my days, I’d do so enthusiastically. The D.C. pizza joint specializes in oven-fired “Neapolitan-ish” pies, and it has a Green Monster pizza on rotation that I get when I’m in a “greens, but make it pizza” mood.
For my version, you won’t need a wood-fired oven or even a pizza stone. To mimic the high cooking heat you’d see at a restaurant, we’ll crank up the oven to nearly alarm-ringing heights (you’ve been warned; make sure your oven is clean!) and use a cast-iron skillet to give us a perfectly crisp and round crust. Once you give this method a try, you’ll never make a sheet-pan pizza again.
Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 12 minutes.
2 servings. You’ll need:
12 ounces store-bought pizza dough
Extra-virgin olive oil, for surfaces
3 tablespoons Kale Pesto
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
¼ small zucchini, cut into thin rounds
Torn kale leaves from 1 or 2 stems (see TIP)
Kosher salt, for the dough
Goat cheese, for crumbling
Crushed red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If you can’t take the heat, call Domino’s. A piping-hot oven is the only way to ensure not just decent, but great homemade ’za.
About 20 minutes before you’re ready to start slinging pizzas, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter. It’ll expand a tad. It’ll bubble a bit. Things will generally get a little weird, but all the more manageable.
Lightly oil the countertop and your rolling pin wine bottle and roll out a 12-inch round to the best of your abilities.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. No pressure, but you really only have one shot to place the dough gracefully and accurately into its hot iron pizza vessel. That’s odd, “Eye of the Tiger” just started playing out of a speaker in your kitchen you’ve definitely never seen before. The mood is set, nonetheless. Once the dough is draped neatly in the skillet, carefully tuck in any rogue edges and then turn the heat down to medium while you dress the pie. Season the dough with a pinch of salt.
Look, I know I gave you a pretty specific toppings list. Consider it more of a suggestion, not an edict. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know anyone’s preferred cheese-to-sauce ratio but my own. Just keep in mind that the greens really shine on this pie, which is why I opt for a handful of not-too-thick slices of fresh mozz instead of my usual heavy-handed fresh low-moisture shredded combo. Hit the pie with a few spoonfuls of that Kale Pesto you mastered and then follow with however much cheese you’d like.
We’ll finish things off with some zucchi-roni and torn kale leaves. Grab an oven mitt and carefully transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake the pie for 12 minutes so the cheese melts completely and even lightly browns in spots.
Transfer the pizza to a cutting board with the help of a spatula or two. Crumble some goat cheese on top and hit it with crushed red pepper flakes.
Inspired by the Green Monster pizza by chef Daniela Moreira of Timber Pizza in the District’s Petworth neighborhood.
Leftovers: Zesty Bucatini With Collards and Bread Crumbs
You need a vehicle for that handful of leftover blanched collards. Well get in loser, because we’re going pantry shopping. Let’s grab ½ cup panko, 8 ounces of dried bucatini (or your favorite thick noodle), some extra-virgin olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic and crushed red pepper flakes from the pantry. Great, now head on over to the fridge for a block of Parmigiano-Reggiano, those collards, some unsalted butter and a lemon. We’re on the right track.
You know how to cook pasta. I trust you. But do me and your noods a favor and 1) amply salt your pasta water and 2) shave a minute or so off the cook time listed on the package. While that’s going, you can toast the panko in a skillet with a little olive oil till golden brown; turn off the heat and toss in a lemon’s worth of zest. Maybe chop the collards into thin strips, too. Smash and soften the garlic in another skillet with a knob of butter and a couple glugs of the oil. Save ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water as you drain the bucatini. Whisk the pasta water and as many or as few crushed red pepper flakes as you’d like into the pan with the garlic, butter and oil — sauce! — then add noodles and toss for a minute or so. Gradually add about ½ cup of grated cheese. Tongs are your best friend here, so keep tossing to make sure every single noodle gets kissed by melty Parm. Work in the collard strips and turn off the heat as you finish up. You know the drill: Taste and add salt and/or pepper. You’ll want to squeeze some lemon juice over everything before serving with those zesty bread crumbs.
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