Whether it’s because my tastes have changed in adulthood, or because I’ve found a way of serving sturdy, sometimes bitter summer greens that appeals to me, I’m now someone who gets excited about cooked leafy greens. There are so many ways to use them, and they’re abundant in the local farmer’s market right now. They may not need it, but I’ve also found that bacon really doesn’t hurt this kind of dish.
I usually cook kale from my garden this way, with much more thought about stuffing it into cheesy panini than about formulating a recipe. (More about that sandwich another time!) I also usually create more of a quick saute than a flavorful braise, but I wanted to make a bigger batch that I could use for several dishes as well as just eating it as a flavorful side dish.
I didn’t want to wait for the kale to grow in my garden, so I got some lovely mustard greens and chard from the local farmer’s market to try this out. I started out with bacon, which wouldn’t be necessary if you don’t use it in your kitchen, but which really made for some flavorful greens. Plenty of onions and some garlic are good here, too, and work as well with the zesty mustard greens, as they would with milder greens.
I call this a braise because I added a small amount of liquid to my greens, onions, and bacon fat and let everything bubble away relatively slowly. While I only cooked my greens about 20-25 minutes, that’s way longer than a saute, even if it is far less time than it would take to braise a hunk of meat.
The flavor of the bacon and the onions really permeates these well-cooked greens. You can leave some of the liquid with them, or cook most of it off if you know you’re going to use the greens for something in which the liquid would be a problem. These greens can be served as they are, with the cooked bacon sprinkled over the top. They can go on a bed of rice to soak up the flavorful liquid, or a chunk of bread can do those honors. They can be stuffed into omelets or tortillas (like in this dish), or can be made into a frittata, quiche or other type of savory pie or tart. As I mentioned above, I love to make panini with cooked greens, melting cheese, and a smear of some kind of zesty condiment. With additional bacon, or with no bacon at all, it’s a great way to enjoy some healthy and delicious summer leaves.
Braised Greens with Bacon and Onion
You can use whatever leafy greens you like here, strong or mild in flavor, delicate or more robust in texture. Most recently, I used a combination of mustard greens and chard.
To make this dish vegan, omit the bacon and all the recipe steps that go with it. Substitute your favorite cooking oil for the bacon grease.
3 strips bacon, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced onion
2 medium-size cloves garlic, finely chopped
About 12 cups chopped greens, tough stems removed
½ teaspoon coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
½ cup water or vegetable broth, plus more if needed
1. In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring often, until all of it is well-browned. Remove the bacon from the pot and set aside to drain on a paper towel. Reserve about 2 tablespoons bacon fat. (Pour off the rest.)
2. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt to the hot fat and saute on medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and beginning to get soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute more.
3. Add the greens, a little at a time, continuing to add the rest as they cook down. Stir frequently. Once all of the greens have been added to the pot, scatter on the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Add the water or broth and cover the pot. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at a gentle boil until the greens and onions are very soft, about 15-20 minutes. Lift the lid to stir occasionally. Add more water if the greens are getting dry.
4. Remove the lid and continue to cook until there is just a small amount of liquid remaining, about 5-10 minutes more, or until the liquid level is to your taste. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve the greens with the bacon sprinkled on top. You can serve them in a bowl with a chunk of bread to soak up the flavorful liquid, or drain and use as a filling for a variety of dishes as desired.
Makes about 4 cups cooked greens.
Other recipes like this one: Mustard Greens and Green Bean Stir Fry with Peanuts, Tacos with Sauteed Greens and Fresh Cheese