Page One

Holiday Greens

By Linda Maio Special to the Planet
Friday December 19, 2003

Our family is big on greens—chard, kale, rapini, greens of all kinds, fresh organic greens that are simmered slowly in a big cast iron skillet with lots of garlic. The basic recipe I learned from my mother, who learned from hers. Neither ever cooked from a book. Over time several cooks in our family have come up with a few special touches for birthdays and holidays.  

A few things to know about cooking leafy greens: The golden rule of greens is to start, always, with young, fresh produce. The stems of each type of green are treated differently from the leaves. Kale stems are tough and have to be removed, but the thick spine of young chard softens nicely in a slow, long-cooked recipe. If a stem looks thick and tough, remove it. It is always advisable to trim the big bottom stem of any plant.  


The basic recipe is perfect for broccoli rabe, a southern Italian vegetable. Rabe (also known as rapini) has a strong, somewhat bitter and wonderful flavor that is enhanced by the simple basic recipe. Some people cut the bitterness by parboiling the rabe first. This recipe serves 4 people. 


Two bunches of rabe 

A large, heavy skillet and lid 

A wooden spatula 

Lots of garlic 

Virgin olive oil 

Salt to taste 


Place skillet on the lowest possible flame. I use a big cast iron skillet. While the skillet is heating, mince garlic, about 5-6 cloves, or more if you like. 

Plunge the rabe into cold water, rinse well, and place in a colander. Cut off an inch of the bottom stem and peel the remaining lower stalks so the cooked vegetable will be tender. Chop the rabe roughly into big pieces. The skillet should be hot but not smoking. If it’s smoking, it is too hot; pull it off the burner for a minute or two. Cover the bottom of the skillet with olive oil (4-5 T, or more if you like) and allow it to heat, slowly. Add the minced garlic and simmer until the garlic softens. This will fuse the garlic flavor into the olive oil. Be careful not to let the garlic turn brown. Turn up the flame to medium and add the rabe. Using the wooden spatula, mix the rabe well with the olive oil and garlic until it is clearly hot and simmering. Turn down the heat to quite low and cover. Stir the rabe around every 5 minutes or so. If it appears to be drying out, add a little water. Add salt to taste. The rabe should be ready to serve after 15-20 minutes, but I (and Mama) advise a taste. Makes tasty leftovers. 


To make Holiday Greens: 

Chard, kale, or collards make great Holiday Greens. Add 1/2 diced onion with the garlic, simmering both in the olive oil. Throw in a small handful of golden raisins when adding the chopped greens. A few minutes before the greens are done, stir in a sprinkle of nutmeg. (Note: If I am preparing chard, I chop the chard’s spines and add these at the same time I add the onion and garlic.)