Monday, July 14, 2008

Greek-Style Silky Braised Greens

I bet you were expecting something jazzier than braised greens (like a recipe for grain alcohol, perhaps?), after my yammering about work deadlines in my previous post. I submitted my third and last assignment on Sunday afternoon, finally crossing the finish line of my week of deadlines. I made myself a vodka-cranberry thing (not quite a cosmo, not quite standard mixed drink) and read the slightly outdated issue of Us Weekly that my neighbor sometimes leaves by the elevators for public consumption.

I didn't celebrate the final deadline with my favorite pineapple-rum drink, but I did find a great name for it thanks to a lovely reader. Though I really like Diana's suggestion to call it the "Deadline Chaser," I have to go with Mallika's name: the Pina Libre, honoring my freedom from deadlines. Thanks to everyone who left their thoughts on summer cocktails in the comment section!

I know greens don't sound very exciting, but before you click me away (god, I haven't lost you already, have I?), humor me for a minute. These are the most luscious greens I've ever had, and I'm not just exaggerating for effect here. Cooked for about 20 to 30 minutes, longer than seems prudent, these greens go luxuriously silky. But that's not all.

While your greens simmer away, you caramelize some red onions and make a lemony, garlicky yogurt sauce. Caramelized onions can make anything taste incredible, but yogurt on hot greens? It's a revelation. I got the idea from a recipe on for beet greens with yogurt and onions. I knew it would be a winner when I saw the source: The Glorious Foods of Greece, a book by Diane Kochilas, an authority on Greek cooking whose book, Meze, I own and really like.

I made the yogurt sauce (almost) according to the recipe, but I made some changes to the other elements like using a little less fat and cooking my greens much longer. I used a bunch of Swiss chard and mustard greens, which was a very complementary match. The mustard greens have a spicy (mustardy, actually) bite and tougher texture, and the chard is soft and mellow.

I was so infatuated with this dish that I made it again a week later using turnip greens and spinach (I buy whatever looks good). The turnips greens made it less silky than my first version, but the dish was still wonderful. How do you like to cook greens? If you are a vegetable lover, but have never slowly braised hearty greens, you must give this a try!

Greek-Style Braised Greens
Adapted from The Glorious Foods of Greece by Diane Kochilas
Use any greens that look good. I like to combine, a milder green with a bitter or spicy one. Creamy Greek yogurt is essential; I like Fage nonfat. If you don't like raw garlic, you can leave it out of the yogurt sauce. Za'atar is a middle eastern spice blend of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt. We made some to go with our pita bread and discovered that it was delicious with the greens too. This is great with vegetables, sausage, or grilled meat, like my marinated lamb kabobs.

Serves 2 to 4

2 tbs. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tbs. unsalted butter, divided
6 cloves garlic, slivered, divided
1 to 1 1/2 pounds hearty greens (chard, mustard, collard, turnip, kale, spinach, beet)
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbs. lemon juice
6 oz Greek yogurt
1 red onion, thinly sliced into half circles
Za'atar for serving (optional)

Heat half the oil and half the butter in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 5 cloves of the garlic and cook until golden. Add the greens, in 2 batches if necessary, and stir to coat with the oil. Add enough broth or water to cook the greens without scorching the pot (about 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep). Season with salt and pepper, cover and steam for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the greens are wilted and soft. Remove lid and braise 10 to 15 minutes, or until any stems are completely tender and liquid is almost totally evaporated. Greens should look almost overcooked; some greens will take less time, but it's hard to truly over do it.

Meanwhile, crush the remaining garlic clove in a mortar (or garlic press, or with a heavy object), add the lemon juice and let is soak for a few minutes. Stir lemon and garlic into the yogurt and season with salt and pepper.

Saute onions, seasoning with salt and pepper, in remaining oil and butter over low heat until soft and browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, transfer greens to plates with a slotted spoon; top with caramelized onions, yogurt sauce and za'atar, if using.


Kalyn said...

This looks really good. Fun seeing your photo (and apologies if it's been there forever, I read in rss so I miss a lot of stuff!)

Cheryl said...

I go through phases where I'll eat greens and whole grains for lunch a few days in a row. I don't buy into the whole "cleanse diet" thing, but I do find that eating greens makes me feel super healthy, especially if I've been especially indulgent with the desserts. My husband thinks it makes me a freak of nature, but to each his own, I guess.

Your recipe looks lovely.

Julie said...

Hi Kalyn: I know, I'm an RSS reader too; but I did actually just put up the pic last week. It suddenly occurred to me that it should be easier to see the writer of this blog actually is!
Cheryl: I do that too. When I want to feel healthy I just cook a big pile of greens. Quinoa and brown rice-based things too. And lentils. I agree--No need to "cleanse," just balance everything out, ya know?

R. Mansfield said...

I've created a link to this recipe in our newest "Cast Iron Around the Web" entry at

Gypsy at Heart said...

Hi. I'm new to your blog, found you on someones' blog roll and the name of your place was intriguing. Glad I checked you out. I love the sound of this recipe. Will give it a try and for sure I'll be back. Milena

Julie said...

Milena: Thanks for stopping by! If you try any of the recipes, let me know.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I love your new photo, Julie; you look so pretty! And thanks for this boldly flavored and aromatic recipe. It sounds positively delicious.

Julie said...

Susan: that's a sweet thing to say! thanks!

Paige said...

I love dark leafy greens of all kinds, and this preparation sounds fantastic. My current favorite way to eat them (and I'm loaded with them this time of year!) is
Glad to have found your blog!

crankycheryl said...

With all the spring greens appearing, this is a super recipe (and lovely blog) to find. Thanks for posting.

Julie said...

cranky chery: Cute handle by the way! Thanks for your comment. If only I could fix the images (soon!) you could see how tasty it looks.

dawwad said...

Even though I'm from the Mediterranean region, I've never thought of mixing these flavors together.

Made it for my friends and they kept asking for the recipe, keep it up, this stuff is amazing!