Simply Perfect Braised Greens
You know you’re a real, actual grown-up when you get truly excited about eating a big bowl of braised greens. Tender, earthy greens, braised with good olive oil and garlic and salt—they’re a true joy to eat. Toothsome and nourishing and deeply soothing, it helps to know that those braised greens are as healthy for you as any food could possibly be. But they’re also just flat out delicious. Dressed with a bit of maple syrup, cider vinegar and speckled with golden raisins, they take on a really special, sort of sweet-savory-tangy flavor that we’re completely in love with. We can’t claim originality here, though. The idea of dressing vegetables with a sweet-tart combination of flavors—in the case of our braised greens recipe, created by combining vinegar, maple syrup, golden raisins—is inspired by Italian “agrodolce”. Agrodolce doesn’t refer to a set list of ingredients, but rather a sweet-tangy sauce made from some sort of vinegar and some sort of sweetener (honey or maple or dried fruit) that’s often used to dress up simply prepared vegetables. Here, it offers a powerful and perfect contrast to the slightly bitter, deeply vegetal flavor of greens and makes for a vegan (if you skip the butter in favor of more olive oil) or vegetarian side dish that’s sure to steal the show.
What Greens Are Good for Braising?
And what exactly do we mean by hearty greens? Well, we mean the kind of big, beautiful greens that seem to overflow at the farmers markets in the last days of autumn. They’re extremely good for you, and often a bit spicy or slightly bitter. They’re also a little tough to eat raw, but you can totally do that, if you want to! We prefer them braised, though. Braising brings out the best from your hearty winter greens, transforming them from tough, leafy and assertive brassicas into tender, earthy bites of goodness. You can use regular old kale from the grocery store, or if you’re feeling adventurous, head to your local farmers market and ask around for braising greens! You’ll likely end up with a beautiful, exciting mixture of local greens—some of which may be totally new to you and all of which will work perfectly in this recipe. A few of our very favorites include:
Italian kale (also called lacinato kale or Tuscan kale). Ubiquitous and gorgeous, it’s our year-round go-to for this braised greens recipe.
Collard greens. Maybe the most sturdy of the bunch, collards are incredibly healthy.
Mustard greens. A bit more tender than the others, and often wonderfully spicy.
Swiss chard. Often available with rainbow-hued stems, chard is irresistible! Keep the stems, if you want, and chop them up into the braised greens for an added burst of color.
Everything You’ll Need To Make Braised Greens
Our braised greens recipe is vegetarian, of course, and can actually be completely vegan if you simply use all olive oil instead of a combination of olive oil and butter. And both ways are simply lovely! Good extra virgin olive oil adds a lot to the recipe—something grassy, rich and vibrant will really complement the vegetal flavor of the hearty greens. Here’s all you’ll need to make this easy greens recipe:
Hearty greens, such as Italian kale, collards or Swiss chard
Extra-virgin olive oil & salted butter or (more olive oil)
Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Sea salt, smoked paprika & freshly cracked black pepper
Unfiltered (always) apple cider vinegar
Low sodium stock (chicken or veggie)
How To Braise Greens
If you want to get technical about it, braising is what’s known as a combination cooking method. All that means is that the braised greens are cooked using two kinds of heat—first they get a quick sauté which wilts the greens a bit. Then comes the liquid and a lid, which creates a moist-heat environment for the greens to tenderize in and become truly silky and rich. Here’s how to make our braised greens recipe:
Prep the greens! This process will vary slightly depending on the type of greens you have. If you purchase a braising greens mixture, you may not need to do much prep beyond washing. If you are working with curly kale, though, you’ll definitely need to remove the tough stems.
Sauté the garlic in olive oil (and butter, if you’re using it) until it is fragrant, and then add the greens. When they’ve wilted a bit...
Add all of the seasonings and liquid! Salt, paprika, pepper, cider vinegar, golden raisins and maple syrup and stock.
Bring to a boil. Cover the pan but leave a small crack so that steam can escape. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
And that’s it! You made braised greens!
As we ease ourselves and our families firmly into the chilly months, we’re swapping leafy, airy salads for hearty, steamy bowls of braised greens. We adore how this catch-all recipe transforms though cool-weather toughies into a tender, irresistible, anytime side dish. When you try, we’d love to know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!