Boiled Greens

Bright, fresh tasting, full flavored: These are not your mother’s boiled vegetables.
TIME 10 to 30 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
1½ pounds sturdy greens (like chard) or tender greens (like spinach)
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper

1 Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Meanwhile, trim the greens and rinse them well. If you’re using sturdy greens, separate the leaves from the stems and chop both separately. If you’re using tender greens, roughly chop any big leaves.

2 To cook sturdy greens, first add only the stems to the boiling water; when the stems are almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes later, add the leaves. To cook tender greens, add everything to the boiling water all at once. Cook until the leaves are just becoming bright green and tender: 1 to 3 minutes for watercress and arugula, 3 to 5 minutes for spinach, 5 to 7 minutes for chard, and 7 to 10 minutes for kale, collards, and bok choy.

3 Drain the greens in a colander or strainer, pressing down lightly with a large spoon to remove as much excess water as possible. (Or “shock” them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, then drain and squeeze them dry with your hands.) Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and toss them with the butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve right away.

  • By sturdy greens I mean those that have fibrous veins in the leaves and thick, celerylike stems. (Other examples besides chard are kale, collards, and bok choy.) You can eat some sturdy greens raw, but you’ll have to chop them into small pieces. What I call tender greens are simply the kind you’d also use for salads (like arugula, watercress, spinach, dandelion, or escarole).
  • Not only are boiled vegetables easy to prepare, but their flavor is also the most adaptable to any kind of seasoning. Other vegetables that are best for boiling: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, green beans, peas, potatoes, snap peas, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Peel them if necessary and cut them up into pieces roughly the same size so everything cooks at the same time. Test them frequently; the tiny and delicate vegetables will cook in minutes.
  • Vegetables that are terrible boiled: bell peppers, cucumber, eggplant, summer squash, and zucchini.

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