by Anna Monette Roberts
Have you ever tried treating kale, collards, and other leafy greens like pasta when you cook them? Yes, I know. Sounds romantic, huh? The culinary technique is called blanching, and it will completely transform your tough, fibrous, bitter greens into something sweet, tender, and totally worth eating. It involves boiling a large pot of water, salting it properly (1 tablespoon salt to 4 cups water), and briefly submerging the greens in the rolling bubbles until it transforms them into a bright green color. This simple technique simultaneously seasons the greens, tenderizes them, and cooks them perfectly in a fraction of the time.
While the water is boiling, stem the kale. I like to use the whole veg, so I'll dice the stem into very small, paper-thin slices and blanch those separately (but that's optional). Otherwise, take those leaves and rip or cut them into bite-sized pieces. Dunk those greens, count to 30, and use a spider skimmer to remove the greens from the water. If you don't have that tool, try a slotted spoon, set of tongs, or simply pour the entire pot out over a pasta stainer. You can then move the cooked greens to a plate and butter them for a fast side. I also like to add a little orange zest and juice to sweeten the deal.
Otherwise, you can shock the blanched greens, which means transferring them to a large bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Shocking is beneficial if you plan to dress the greens as a salad (my favorite is with pomegranate seeds and this pomegranate dressing), reheat the greens later (hello meal planning!), use the greens in a filling, for say, lasagna, or you want to sauté the greens, in which case you want as little liquid as possible. Before you submerge the kale into the bowl of ice water, consider placing a fine-mesh sieve inside the bowl so the kale doesn't go sinking down to the bottom of the ice-cold dish. It's really unpleasant fishing for kale in arctic conditions. Once the greens are cooled throughout, they can be bunched in your hands and squeezed dry. I love this step. It's like extracting all the liquid and bitterness out from the greens. Once you've tried this method of cooking kale, you'll wonder why you ever tried to eat the gnarly green any other way.
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