From time to time, it helps to take a different spin on the ubiquitous vegetable salad bowls. The usual suspects are good, but may need some invigorating to keep things interesting. Lately, I’ve been making salads with grains, beans and lentils. There are the salads with proteins: chicken and tuna fish. Then there are salads from different parts of the world: nicoise, French, Greek, fattoush and Japanese noodle salad. I need a change of appetite.
Warming up the temperature and braising the greens, we came up with this salad with leeks and greens. The slightly cooked cabbage and greens offer a delightful and welcoming departure from point of view of temperature and texture. What’s unexpected is: this is an ordinary mixed green dish but it has a remarkably rich, buttery and lubricating texture.
There are so few ingredients in this salad that seems to challenge the busy hands to pile things on top. There is not even the usual tomatoes or a vinaigrette, the constant companions to a green salad. The leeks, which are cooked in one tablespoon of butter until tender, bring the lovely sweetness to the braised greens. I used a head of savoy cabbage with some mixed greens from the garden: kale, chard and romaine. I want to harvest whatever is freshly available at the moment.
The beauty of this recipe is the fact that there is not really a recipe to follow. No timer or a temperature gauge is required. Just follow your nose or taste buds. Taste the leeks until wilted and slightly transparent. Steam the greens until they are tender to the bite. The key is to keep the cooking time short and sweet.
Dishes like these are so simple to do: I wonder why you’d need “a meal in a box” or Blue Apron and the likes. If Blue Apron enables you to put a decent meal on the table, it deserves all the credits. But if you appreciate simple food, fresh ingredients and want to build on some essential cooking skills, this recipe can be your friend or coconspirator. There are no bigger psychic rewards and satisfaction when a dish like this emerges from your kitchen — for anyone with 1- to 100-year cooking experience.
This dish places minimal demand on a home cook, other than the simple desire to cook from scratch.
The shopping list is short: leeks, butter, cabbage and braising greens. But if you have bacon, some eggs and toasted seeds on hand, feel free to add them. This salad allows you to take off in many directions. No meal subscription is needed.
Leeks with GreensPrint Recipe
- 1 pounds of leeks, white parts only
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 savory or other green cabbage
- 2 pounds braising greens or kale
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Slice the leeks finely and give them a good rinse to get rid of any grits. Heat the butter in a large frying pan or a wide saucepan and add the leeks with a pinch of salt. Let them cook gently for 5 to minutes, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally, until wilted and tender.
Meanwhile, trim and coarsely shred the cabbage, greens or kale. Cook lightly, in either a steamer or a large saucepan of salted water, for 3 to 4 minutes, until wilted and tender but not too soft. Remove from the heat, drain well and let the excess moisture steam off for a minutes or so.
Add to the pan of buttery leeks, along with some more seasoning, and stir over a low heat for about a minute until thoroughly combined. Serve right away.
Adapted from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall