With St. Patrick’s Day in our sights, I’m thinking green. Maybe you are, too. Probably you’re wondering what green thing you can pull out of your closet to wear so you don’t get pinched. I’m thinking, as I always do, about food. Green as in greens: kale, cabbage, turnips greens, mustard greens, salad greens, broccoli. I’ve never met an edible green I didn’t like.
As an enthusiastic home cook, I get a little agitated when people tell me they don’t have time to cook. I interpret that to mean that they have other priorities, like taking kids to soccer practice or watching Netflix. If you have even rudimentary cooking skills, it takes no time at all to put a wholesome meal on the table, especially if you went to the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday and picked up some greens. You did that, right?
Cooked greens are an almost-nightly presence on my dinner table from late fall until spring. It takes five minutes to prep them, five minutes (or less) to cook them and two minutes to season them. I use the same boiling water I cooked the greens in to boil some pasta. I toss the pasta with tomato sauce (mine is homemade and I probably added some olives or crumbled sausage, but whatever) and you have dinner.
The Napa Farmers Market right now has more green vegetable choices than there are days in the week. Why not buy something you don’t typically cook and give it a whirl? Here is my foolproof, no-fuss way to cook greens of almost any type. You can toss these cooked greens with whole-wheat spaghetti or penne, add a shower of grated pecorino and call it a meal.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the trimmed greens. Boil until they are tender. Timing depends on tenderness and thickness but just keep checking. Spinach takes less than a minute. Kale or broccoli might take three or four minutes. Drain and immediately run cold water over the greens until cool, then squeeze dry. Chop coarsely. Saute some chopped garlic in a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. (Add some chopped pancetta to the oil, if you like.) Add a red chili or chili flakes if you like the heat. Add the chopped greens and a good pinch of salt. Stir until the greens are well coated with oil and hot throughout, then serve. I love to crumble feta over cooked greens and let the cheese melt in their warmth.
Corned beef and cabbage is the go-to meal for St. Paddy’s Day and you will find the cabbage you need at the Napa Farmers Market. Cafeteria steam-table cabbage has turned a lot of people off of this delicious vegetable. Let me share another approach, which will make you a green cabbage fan for life.
Kids Activities at the Napa Farmers Market: Bring your youngsters to the market’s Education Station on Saturday, March 16, for Story Time at 10:30 a.m.
On the KVYN Music Stage: Mikey Bilello will perform at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, March 16.
Steamed Cabbage with Sour Cream and Paprika
I love thick wedges of cabbage steamed just until they start to lose their crispness. The steaming juices mixed with sour cream (or Greek yogurt) make an easy sauce. Serve with corned beef, pork chops or steamed bulgur.
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1 small head of green cabbage, 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pounds
½ cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
½ cup chicken stock, plus more if needed
1-1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Kosher or sea salt
Cut the cabbage in half, then cut each half into 3 wedges of approximately equal size. Remove any raggedy outer leaves. Whisk the sour cream in a small bowl until smooth.
Lay the cabbage wedges in a heavy skillet in a single, tight-fitting layer. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the cabbage is just tender, about 10 minutes.
While the cabbage steams, cut the butter into small pieces. Use tongs to transfer the cabbage wedges to a warm serving platter, allowing the excess liquid to drip back into the skillet. Dot the cabbage with the butter. Add the liquid remaining in the skillet to the sour cream a little at a time, whisking until the mixture becomes pourable. If you do not have enough liquid in the skillet to achieve the proper consistency, supplement with additional chicken stock. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. Spoon it over the cabbage wedges and sprinkle liberally with paprika. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6