The Power of Greens

Last night Tad and I went out to dinner with friends to Barbuto- Jonathan Waxman’s wonderful restaurant in the Meat Packing District of NYC. As you faithful readers know, Jonathan and his wife Sally are dear friends. But, what you don’t know is that they were at the dinner table too! So, instead of ordering off the menu, food just arrived. And, boy was it good. We had many wonderful dishes- too many to recount here-but the dish that sent me to my own personal nirvana will surprise you (it certainly surprised me): steamed greens. Okay, I can see you rolling your eyeballs…but hear me out…they were incredible.

Before last night, if you had said “steamed greens” to me, I would have rolled my eyes too and thought, “ugh, how limp, waterlogged and unappealing.” But, at Barbuto, when a plate of steaming and delicate greens arrived at our table, I was struck by how pretty and light they looked. So, I took a bite and immediately fell in love. The greens, a mix of kale and escarole, were light and slightly crunchy, not the limp and heavy stuff I had imagined. And they had a lemony spice that was to die for. I practically ate the entire serving- only reluctantly sharing because social mores demanded it of me. In fact, if I could have ordered a second serving to go, I would have. They were that good.

This morning I woke up still thinking about the greens. Jonathan had told me briefly how to prepare them and I vowed to give it a go. I had no illusions that I could completely replicate Jonathan’s brilliance- but I wanted to see if I could satisfy my cravings for more of his with a reasonable facsimile of mine. I went out and bought kale and escarole. I could not wait for dinnertime. I even started early-I just had to get some more of those greens! I did what you might expect: I cleaned them, steamed them, then briefly sauted them in a tiny amount of olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes. Finally, I dressed the whole of the greens with the juice of a lemon. I could barely contain myself. I dove in. While they were not as subtle as JW’s- they were very, very good and I was very, very happy! So, thank you to Jonathan for giving me a wonderful meal and, as a goody bag, a new wonderful way to prepare an edgy veggie!

Steamed Greens
Adapted from Barbuto
Serves 6-8

1 head of escarole, cleaned and roughly chopped into large pieces
1 bunch kale, cleaned and roughly chopped into large pieces
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t red pepper flakes (more or less depending on taste)
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt/pepper

Steam the greens in a stovetop steamer until soft- but not mushy, about 4-5 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and let cook for a minute or two. Add the greens and quickly sauté for 1-2 minutes. Squeeze the lemon juice over the greens, toss, season with salt and pepper, toss again and serve immediately.

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