February 23, 2024

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Good Greens

by Fran Claro

Greens, or verdure. I find it’s easy to make a meal of greens, especially when I team them with pasta or make them a part of a savory soup main dish. They're tasty, nutritious, and as leftovers, they add a nice touch to almost any sandwich.

I flavor spinach, escarole, chicory, kale, cabbage, broccoli, even cauliflower in pretty much the same fashion. But I parboil the tougher greens, like escarole, kale, and swiss chard before giving them a bath in warm fragrant oil and strewing them with fruits and nuts.

Spinach with Fruits and Nuts

  • 2 pounds baby spinach, well rinsed and dried (substitute 1 head cauliflower or broccoli florets, 1 head thinly sliced Savoy cabbage, or 1 large bunch parboiled till almost tender kale or swiss chard)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons currants, raisins, dried cranberries, or dried cherries
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. In a large shallow skillet, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add garlic, nuts, and fruit. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Add greens right away. Stir so that fruits and nuts are distributed. Cook over high heat, stirring often for about five minutes or until vegetables are brightly colored and crisp-tender.
  4. To keep the vegetables crisp, for serving, spoon them onto a dinner plate or platter, not into a bowl.

"Broccoli, how we love you, broccoli!" From its first appearance as finger-food, broccoli has always been a hit with my kids. And when I’m searching the vegetable bin for something—anything—green to serve with pasta as either a main course or side dish, I invariably find a crisp green bunch.

If I come up with only spinach or brussels sprouts, I use either of those. To give the following dish grown-up appeal for a dinner party, substitute broccoli de rapé, or bitter broccoli, and don’t stint on the hot pepper flakes.

Pasta with Broccoli or Broccoli de Rapé

  • 1 pound pasta (rotini, rotelle, gemelli)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1 bunch broccoli or broccoli de rapé(well-trimmed, stalks peeled) cut into florets or spinach or brussels sprouts, sliced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • dried red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Bring five quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a covered pot.
  2. Toss the pasta into the rapidly boiling water and stir. Do not cover.
  3. In a large shallow skillet over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil with a generous quantity of salt and freshly ground pepper. Watch carefully.
  4. When the garlic turns golden, stir in the vegetable. Cover skillet. Cook vegetable, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. (For spinach or brussels sprouts, adjust cooking time to your liking.)
  5. Test pasta for doneness after 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and fold it into the broccoli in the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, shaking the pan until the pasta is coated and glistens with the oil and juice of the broccoli.
  6. Dish into individual bowls. Pass dried red pepper flakes at the table. Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish.

About the Author

Fran Claro is a cook and contributing writer to Food & Crafts. She lives in Irvington, New York where she dreams up Italian feasts for her extended family.