Green Things & Popcorn

Crispy, crunchy Green Things.

If you need a quick, healthy, and delicious snack that will satisfy the pickiest eaters in your household, it’s time to try green things. You’re probably thinking: what are green things? We’re referring to leafy green vegetables, like kale and collard greens, slowly dehydrated in the oven with a little olive oil and salt. These crunchy veggies offer a fun way to eat your greens. If you haven’t had leafy green chips before, this is a must try. The leaves dry out in the oven and become brittle and crunchy instead of chewy and tough. With the addition of a little salt and smoky paprika, the flavors deepen, tasting like the delicate leaves have been slow roasted.

In addition to our oven toasted “chips,” we’ve recently rediscovered an all-time favorite American snack-food: popcorn. In spite of all the kernels that have been popped over the years, it’s one of those snacks that we haven’t embraced, until now. The air popcorn maker we own is a super cheap one that we bought for the purpose of popping corn that we then used as packing material (just another one of our dirty hippie tricks). Cheap works for popcorn poppers, and if you prefer to pop in oil, a pan and a little oil on the stovetop works well and costs pennies.

In the last couple of months, we have pulled out the air popper and started trying out a variety of flavors and spices on our popcorn. A little olive oil, salt and pepper is delicious. Add a bit of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, even better. We’ve even had the occasional sweet tooth that requires something a bit more decadent than salt. Jason recently made a nice maple crunch popcorn that we couldn’t stop eating. Our favorite flavor, so far, comes as a result of an experiment with the green things described above, crumbled and added to a bowl of fresh popcorn. The result is a wonderful, complexly flavored crunchy snack that is packed with nutrients.

Green Thing Chips

Bunch of Kale, Collard, Chard (or any other leafy vegetable)
Drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle of smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 250 – 275 degrees. Wash the greens and remove the stem. Spin the greens dry in a lettuce spinner. Lay the greens out on a baking sheet, or two, trying not to overlap the greens. Drizzle a little olive oil over the greens and toss with your hands. Sprinkle salt and paprika and bake for about 12-15 minutes, checking and rotating the pans every 5 minutes. Pull out of the oven and eat as chips or toss the chips in a bowl with air popped popcorn.

Mustard Greens

Eat your green veggies.

Steve’s first taste of cooked greens came in the late-‘80s. They were prepared in a modest home somewhere in central Florida (Tampa? Ruskin?) and they were amazing. It would be years after those first tastes before he rediscovered collard and mustard greens. Our diets improved dramatically when we moved to San Francisco in the mid‘90s in part because we started including fresh, bold greens into our grocery routine thanks to all the ease of access created by the purveyors in our neighborhood. And unlike the way greens are cooked in the South, long and slow, when you cook them the California way, they’re a quick sauté, spending time on heat just long enough to become a little tender while still chewy.

Mustard greens are sharp with their peppery, spicy and slightly bitter flavors – perfect with olive oil, garlic and chili pepper flakes. These greens are real “super food” that delivers impressive quantities of vitamins and minerals in a single serving. They’re delicious added to hearty soups and clear broth noodle soups. They can be baked in gratins or shredded and added to stir fry. We like them pan cooked in hot olive oil. They retain their bite and their herbaceousness when cooked quickly at high heat until just wilted.

Pan wilted greens make a perfect side to rich meat dishes. The astringent greens cut nicely through the sweet puree adorning the roast as well as the cheesy polenta that we served with it.

Sauted Greens

1 bunch mustard greens, kale, or chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Wash the leaves and remove the stems. The stems can be used in the sauté, or frozen for another use, or composted. If using the stems, cut into small pieces and sauté for 5 minutes before proceeding.

Roll the leaves together and cut into 1” ribbons. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Smash the garlic and cut into large pieces (at the stems at this point if you’re using them, add to the hot oil, cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, along with the red pepper flakes if using and cook for 10 seconds then add the greens. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, turning with tongs. Add a little water, about 2-3 tablespoons, to the pan along with the greens to avoid burning the garlic. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for another 5 minutes. Check the pan often and add more water if necessary to make sure the pan doesn’t dry out. Check the salt and pepper and re-season if necessary.