Wilted Greens with Pancetta
I recently read this article in the New York Times by Mark Bittman about three simple recipes that can get people to begin eating at home again. He recommends a stir fry of fresh vegetables, a salad, and a bean or lentil and rice dish. With these three, Bittman suggests, a home cook can open the door onto a loaded pantry of styles and tastes. As I was reading Bittman’s article I began thinking about some of my favorite dishes, my go to meals when I’m hungry, but in a hurry.
My most often cooked meals are usually the easiest to prepare, but for their simplicity they are not lacking in flavor. They are also my favorite dishes because they highlight the ingredients, the freshness of the vegetables, the sharp bite of vinegar. Nothing hid, nothing unidentifiable. But full of the raw flavor of earth and rain. It happens that my favorite and often most cooked of all of these simple go-to recipes is sauteed kale.
When I first discovered sauteed kale I was astounded by the flavor, the sweetness of the green even when lightly wilted or brightly crisped in the oven. I began preparing it in a number of different ways, southern style braised, lightly wilted and tossed in a salad with rice and radishes, and just slightly sauteed with garlic, onions and finished with lemon juice.
Good food, doesn’t have to be complex. And all though I love my eggplant parmesan, I realize that a dish that takes a good hour and three pans might be too much for some people. In fact, it is often too much for me. Unlike some food bloggers that I admire and read religiously, I don’t spend my days skipping through the kitchen, my afternoons perched on the sofa reading old recipes, or prepare mid-week five course meals for my friends over a hardwood fire. I work like many of you do, eight hours a day and then come home hungry.
It is to this hunger that I offer up this recipe. A simple, quick and easy sauteed kale recipe that works in infinite variation. In fact, the last time I made this I used collard greens and frisee with country ham we brought back from Kentucky. I think the reason I like this recipe more than others is that it’s the best of both worlds. The sweet, silky texture of braised southern greens, with the crisp and crunchy texture of lightly sauteed greens. All tied together with your choice of cured meat, or none at all. Finished with lemon juice, or any vinegar and you have a great dish. Add on top of wild rice and you have a meal.
All in less then about 15 minutes. Enjoy.
- 1 bunch green kale, cleaned, de-stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch green chard, cleaned, de-stemmed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 pound sliced pancetta, bacon or ham, chopped
- 1/2 cup stock
- 2 T olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper
- Start by heating the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or saute pan. Add pancetta, bacon or ham and saute until lightly browned, remove most of grease when browned if using bacon, leaving 2 tablespoons. Add garlic to meat and saute lightly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Do not let garlic brown. Add the softer of the two greens, in this case the chard, and saute until fully wilted, about 5-8 minutes. Add stock and cover until chard is fully wilted, about two-3 minutes. Add kale and mix in until just tender and bright green, about 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and finish with lemon juice. Serve as a side, over rice or with eggs for a healthy breakfast.