Cooking Up Healthy Winter Greens At Nora's



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Todd Woods and his sous chefs prepare baby greens for a quick saute at Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C. (NPR)
Todd Woods and his sous chefs prepare baby greens for a quick saute at Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C. (NPR)

You might think cooking greens requires a long, slow braise in a big pot on Grandma's stove with a hamhock thrown in for flavor.

Not necessarily, says Washington, D.C., chef and restaurateur Nora Pouillon. She recently took Linda Wertheimer into the tiny kitchen at Restaurant Nora to show her how to prepare tasty, fresh-picked baby greens in a flash.

Pouillon shows Wertheimer what she's chosen — a mixture of chard, mustard greens and kale.

"Actually, this comes from the farmers market," Pouillon says, "and one advantage is they pick things when they're very small."

There's an advantage to their size, Wertheimer notes: "Baby greens like these are tender; they can be sauteed quickly."

Wilted  Hardy Greens with Garlic
Wilted Hardy Greens with Garlic

Chef Todd Woods demonstrates. He heats some oil in a saute pan, throws in some garlic, and adds the sturdiest greens first — in this case, kale.

He quickly tosses them, adds the rest of the greens, a dash of salt and a splash of vermouth for flavor, and they're done in less than a minute.

"You want them to retain a little crunch," Woods says.

Taking a forkful, Wertheimer says: "Very juicy, very good!"

Find out more about how greens like these are grown, even in the dead of winter.

Mixed baby greens perched in their pan, waiting for a quick saute.
Mixed baby greens perched in their pan, waiting for a quick saute.

Wilted Hardy Greens With Garlic

Note: If baby greens (with a 2- to 3-inch leaf) are not available, you may use larger greens (10- to 12-inch), but be sure to remove the tough center rib. Slice the leaves into 1/2-inch to 1-inch strips before cooking.

1 pound mixed baby greens (kale, swiss chard, mustard greens)

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil

1 to 2 teaspoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoons water, vegetable broth or white vermouth (optional)

Wash the greens and drain in a colander, leaving some moisture on the leaves. Heat a saute pan large enough to accommodate all of the greens over medium heat. Add oil, then the chopped garlic. Saute until softened, about 1 minute, stirring often to prevent the garlic from burning. Add the greens. Toss and saute them until they are wilted. Season with salt and pepper. If too dry, add more liquid.

Options: 1) Toss greens with hot pepper flakes and some balsamic vinegar; 2) Saute garlic with 2 anchovy fillets (be careful with the additional salt); 3) Add chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, chives) and some grated lemon peel or juice.

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OK. So let's find out what a successful chef and restaurant owner does with all those greens from the farmer's market. Her name is Nora Pouillon, and NPR's Linda Wertheimer went to find out.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: We found Nora Pouillon in the kitchen at her Restaurant Nora, a tiny workspace built around a huge stove, pots and pans hanging above and a cutting board stocked with bins of greens and garnishes.

Ms. NORA POUILLON (Owner, Restaurant Nora): But now I think they're good. They think like radish.

WERTHEIMER: Nora's wearing her white chef's jacket, checking preparations for a private luncheon. But she's promised to take a moment to teach us how to prepare greens at home without hours of cooking or a ham hock.

Now, we've all been eating roots and tubers all winter.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. POUILLON: I know.

WERTHEIMER: So this is the opportunity to eat the green things. Now, what are we going to look at here?

Ms. POUILLON: It's a mixture of chard, mustard greens and kale. Actually, this comes from the farmer's market and one advantage from the farmer's market is that the farmers pick things when they're very small.

WERTHEIMER: Baby greens like these are tender; they can be saut�ed quickly. Older bigger greens from the grocery store take a little more attention.

Ms. POUILLON: What you do, you sort of rip out the stem because the stem is really very tough. So what you can do, you use the leaves and then what I do is I just slice them thin.

(Soundbite of bang)

WERTHEIMER: Into what's called a chiffonade so they'll cook more quickly.

For the baby greens, Nora's chef Todd Woods, put the saut� pan on the burner and pulls out a container of garlic.

Nora says start with the strongest greens in your mix. And she likes her greens cooked in olive oil.

Ms. POUILLON: So I think what he does he gets the pan hot.

Mr. TODD WOODS (Chef, Restaurant Nora): Okay, I'm going to start off with a sliced garlic into the pan.

(Soundbite of garlic being put in the frying pan)

Mr. WOODS: You want to toast your garlic just a little bit to release the oil and the flavor.

WERTHEIMER: I can smell the garlic. And you're not going to let it brown? Is that the deal?

Mr. WOOD: No. No. You don't want it to brown. It'll take on a bitter flavor if you let it brown.

(Soundbite of food sizzling)

Mr. WOOD: In with the kale first, toss it with the garlic.

WERTHEIMER: You just stir it down till it gets smaller?

Mr. WOOD: You don't want it to go all the way wilted down because you want to retain as many nutrients in the greens as possible, which they have the most of when they're raw.

WERTHEIMER: You added something.

Mr. WOOD: Mustard greens.

WERTHEIMER: You've got a good arm for tossing. I don't know if I could quite do that, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: ...salt?

Mr. WOOD: A little salt. I would normally put a little pepper in with just plain kale, but since we're throwing in all these mustard greens and they're very peppery on their own, probably wasn't needing pepper in here, so...

WERTHEIMER: On top of the mustard green went the...

Mr. WOOD: The rainbow chard. We'll finish off with a little bit of vermouth.

(Soundbite of pan sizzling)

WERTHEIMER: Why vermouth?

Mr. Woods: Well, winter greens are very hearty and they lend themselves to a drier wine for wilting down. You want them to retain a little bit of their crunch. So here we go.

WERTHEIMER: Okay. I'm just going to take a really impolitely large bite.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of clearing throat)

WERTHEIMER: Very juicy. Very, very good. Mm.

(Soundbite of banging)

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: That's our colleague Linda Wertheimer, supping away.

For pictures of Tree and Leaf Farm and cooking greens at Restaurant Nora, visit our website at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.