This vegan Italian-style dish makes a great side or main
Dark, leafy greens are some virtuous eats. Cooked Italian style, they bring on the flavor, too.
Best of all, greens cook quickly. So you can whip up this dish on a weeknight. It makes an extra-tasty side. Or pair it with some bread (we favor cornbread or garlic bread) and you have a complete meal.
Virtue never tasted so good.
Recipe: Braised Greens with White Beans
Greens are good any time of year, but we find them particularly appealing during the cool days of early spring. Plus, they’re nutritional and flavor powerhouses. Add beans to the mix, and you have one healthy dish.
Almost any kind of green works in this recipe. Escarole is popular. But you could also use Swiss chard, spinach, kale, broccoli rabe, mustard greens, or cabbage.
We used canned white beans in this recipe because they’re a convenient pantry staple (and their quality often is quite good). But the dish would taste even better with dried white beans that you soak overnight (cannellini beans are our favorites for this recipe). If you go this route, cook the beans long and slow.
Or you could skip the beans and just go with braised greens. The dish will be lighter and a bit less tasty, but still good.
A large bunch of greens (about 2 pounds) plus a 15-ounce can of beans yields 2 or 3 main-course servings (twice that many when served as a side dish).
Prep time for this dish is 10 minutes or so. Cooking time adds about 15 minutes.
Leftovers keep OK for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 large bunch of dark greens (about 2 pounds; see headnote for choices)
- ½ medium onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons water (optional — see Notes)
- 1 15-ounce can white beans (or 2 cups cooked white beans)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (several grinds for us)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (optional)
- Wash the greens (no need to dry; let some water to cling to them). Cut off the tough stems, then chop the greens into pieces of 1 to 1½ inches.
- Peel the onion and cut it in half, reserving one half for another use. Cut the remaining half into thin slices. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and cut it into thin slices or mince it finely. Set aside.
- Place a large, deep frying pan or a wide cooking pot (like a Dutch oven) on medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer), add the onion. Season to taste with salt, then sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute.
- Add the red pepper flakes and the chopped greens (you’ll probably need to add the greens in several batches, adding a fresh batch as the previous one wilts in the pan). Cook the greens until they have all wilted (a couple of minutes). Add the water (optional – we use because we like soupy greens) and the white beans, then cover the pan. Cook until the greens are tender (8 to 10 minutes).
- Add black pepper to taste. If you want to sharpen the flavor of the dish, add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Add more salt if necessary, then stir to combine.
- Serve and enjoy.
- We often like to use a couple of different kinds of greens when we make this dish.
- If you don’t want a vegan dish, you can substitute chicken stock for the water (Step 5).
- Using water (or stock) isn’t strictly necessary in this dish – the water that clings to the greens will be enough to braise them. But we like this dish to be just a bit soupy, so we add additional liquid.
- In addition to adding lemon juice at the end of cooking, we like to top the greens with a shot or two of extra virgin olive oil right before serving.
- You can cook this dish with bacon if you want, although of course it will no longer be vegan. If you’d like to do that, here’s how: Cut two or three slices of bacon into ½-inch pieces, then brown them in the frying pan that you’ll be using to cook the greens. Remove the bacon pieces and set them aside. Then proceed with the recipe, leaving out the olive oil in Step 4 (the rendered bacon fat will take its place). Add the cooked bacon pieces to the dish right before serving.
- Ham also goes nicely with this dish. Stir in a cup or so of cooked, diced ham with the beans in Step 5.
- Rather than finishing the dish with lemon juice (Step 6), you could use balsamic vinegar.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. This is coarser than regular table salt, so it doesn’t seem as “salty” by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But, as always, season to your taste, not ours.
Dish of a Different Color
“Love braised greens,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “They’re gorgeous! Not to mention tasty.”
“I’ll say,” I agreed. “And this dish pairs so nicely with the cornbread you baked. Comfort food!”
“Nice corn meal color, too,” said Mrs K R. “So, mellow yellow?”
“I’m green with envy at that joke,” I said. “Hey, we’ve almost finished this. Shall we just polish it off?”
“I’ll green light that,” said Mrs K R.
My Mrs K R. She likes to show her true colors.
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