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Seasonal pantry: Delicious ways to add more greens to your meals

If you are of a certain age, you may recall your mother, grandmother, or even great-grandmother saving bacon drippings in a can on the stove. Kitchen canister sets once included a tin for this purpose, fitted with a metal filter on top to catch bits of bacon, and often labeled “Drippings”. When it came time to sauté onions, fry potatoes, or cook greens, all that was needed was a spoonful of this fat.

There was a lot of wisdom in this simple act: The precious drippings were not wasted, they imparted their flavor to other foods, and they provided good nutrients. With the increasing popularity of bacon, this bit of wisdom can serve us well today.

Having the drippings of good bacon on hand makes weeknight cooking easier. You can prepare a delicious side dish of sautéed greens in minutes, without looking at a recipe.

All you need to do is clean the greens, remove any tough stems, and slice the leaves into 1-inch thick crosswise strips. Put a sturdy pan over medium high heat, add a generous spoonful of droppings, and when the drippings are sizzling hot, add the greens.

Use tongs to turn them, cover the pan, and cook until they are wilted, from 1 minute for young spinach to 7 or 8 minutes for the sturdiest greens. That’s it.

Add a little salt and, if you like, some red pepper flakes, and you have a delicious, healthy side dish to serve alongside almost anything.

If you don’t eat bacon, consider coconut oil as an alternative. It’s health benefits are now widely recognized, excellent brands are available in nearly any market, and the cooking process is identical.

Most of us know we should eat more vegetables, especially green vegetables, than we do, and this is an easy way to do so. Cooked simply, greens are delicious in their own right and don’t need to be gussied up or eclipsed with a lot of other ingredients.

On a weeknight, this delicious bruschetta, served with a hearty bean soup, makes an easy, healthy dinner.

Bruschetta with ?Sautéed Greens

Serves 4 to 6

3 pounds greens, cleaned (beet greens, turnip greens, chard, spinach, etc.)

1 loaf country-style sourdough bread, cut into thick slices

3 tablespoons olive oil

4-5 garlic gloves, minced garlic

6 garlic cloves, unpeeled and cut in half

- Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

- Kosher salt

- Black pepper in a mill

Cut any large leaves into 1-inch crosswise strips; smaller leaves may be left whole. Set aside.

Toast the bread over a charcoal fire, on a stovetop grill, under a broiler, or in a toaster until it is lightly browned.

While the bread is toasting, heat the olive oil in a wok or large pot, add the garlic and let it cook for about 30 seconds, add the greens, cover, and cook until they wilt, from 2 to 8 minutes, depending on the type of greens. Remove the lid, toss lightly to coat with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

When the bread is ready, remove it from the grill and rub one side of each slice with a piece of garlic, gently pressing the cut side of the garlic into the bread to release its juices.

Set the bread on a platter, drizzle with a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil, and top each slice with some of the greens.

Enjoy right away.

These delicious greens, inspired by a recipe in “The Savory Way,” (Bantam, 1990) by Deborah Madison, are easy to make and packed full of flavor. Serve as a side dish or over rice, quinoa, farro, polenta, barley, or other grain of choice. The mix of greens you choose will determine the final dish . If you prefer strong greens with a bitter edge, use a greater percentage of mustard, collard, and dandelion greens; for a sweeter dish, include more spinach or chard.

Greens with Herbs, ?Garlic, and Olive Oil

Serves 4 to 6

12 cups mixed greens (spinach, mustard, collard, beet greens, arugula, kale, chard, dandelion, etc.), cleaned

4-6 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 lemon, cut into wedges

After washing the greens thoroughly, remove any tough stems from the chard, spinach, and kale and reserve them for another purpose, such as making vegetable stock.

Place the greens in the top portion of a steamer, with the tougher greens on the bottom and

Fill the bottom portion of the steamer one-third full with water, set it over high heat, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and set the greens on top. Cover and steam until the greens are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the top part of the strainer and let drain.

While the greens cook, make a paste of the garlic and herbs by pounding the garlic and salt together in suribachi or mortar and pestle until nearly liquid.

Add the parsley and cilantro and continue to grind until you have a rough paste.

In a large frying pan, warm the olive oil over low heat, add the paprika and cumin, and when it is fragrant stir in the herb mixture.

Add the greens and cook for a minute or two until any excess moisture from the greens is evaporated. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with the lemon wedges, and enjoy right away.

If you can’t get good trout, use Petrale sole, flounder, or similar fish, in this dish. This recipe can be easily doubled.

Sautéed Trout with Garlic, Cilantro & Greens

Serves 2

2 trout, dressed, about 8 to 10 ounces each

- Kosher salt

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 lemon, halved

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 serrano, seeded and minced

6 cups (loosely packed) spinach, chard or arugula, trimmed and rinsed but not drained

2 lemon wedges, for garnish

1/4 cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Set the trout on a clean work surface and season inside and out with a little salt.

Melt the butter or heat the olive oil in a sauté pan set over medium heat.

Add the trout, sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, turn squeeze half the lemon over the fish, cover, and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, until the fish flakes when teased with a fork. Transfer the fish to an oven-proof plate, cover and set in the oven.

Working quickly, add the garlic and serrano to the pan and sauté about 90 seconds. Add the greens and cook 2 minutes for spinach or arugula and a bit longer for chard. Uncover, squeeze the juice of the remaining half lemon over the greens, season with salt, divide between 2 plates.

Drape a trout over the greens, garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro leaves and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com and visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com

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