A couple weeks ago, Joe paused from washing collard greens and pondered out loud, “I wonder how many times we’ve steamed greens.” ”Well,” I laughed, “I’d say it happens at least four times every week…. So how many weeks have I been here?”
My first full day in New Orleans was spent volunteering at Hollygrove Farm with Joe, which meant we each got a gorgeous box of fresh, locally grown produce. We continued volunteering together for a few weeks, and getting two boxes each week, until Joe got a day job. Then I volunteered, reducing us to only one produce box a week, which has still been plenty! Hollygrove produce boxes have meant lots of collard greens, beet greens, mustard greens, chard, turnip greens and kale over the last few months, which means lots of steaming!
Last night, as I stood admiring the gorgeous colors of the collard & beet greens I was steaming (shown above), I decided “hey, I should write about this.” It’s not a recipe, but it’s a great technique to use. Additionally, I tend to serve about half of my meals over greens (instead of rice), as anyone who’s been following this blog knows; so it makes sense to share the technique!
I’d never steamed greens before January, which is crazy, because it’s so fast & simple!
And, so healthy as well! By steaming vegetables over a little bit of water instead of cooking them in the water, you prevent nutrients from being absorbed by the cooking liquid, keeping more of the good stuff in your veggies.
To steam veggies, all you need is a pot (stainless steel is best!) and a steamer basket or colander. Joe has a steamer basket (shown in the first picture), so that’s what we use, but I’ve read that you can also use a metal colander, if it fits inside your pot.
First, select your veggies. My steaming experience has been limited to greens (since that’s what we’ve had a surplus of!), but I know the method works with many other vegetables as well, so experiment! It’s fun to mix it up by combining different veggies, but be careful to pick ones that have similar cooking times. For example, beet greens cook faster than collard greens, so if you’re doing them together, you may want to start with the collards, then add the beets after a couple minutes.
Second, wash & chop your veggies. Make sure they’re good & clean! When cutting them, keeping them in bigger sections is better, because it reduces the area where nutrients can escape from the vegetable. However, you don’t want to by trying to eat a whole big leaf of kale, so I would recommend some chopping.
Third, boil water & add the veggies. You want enough water to almost come to the bottom of the steamer. You can bring the water to a boil before adding the veggies, or it’s also fine to do with the veggies already in the steamer basket. Once you’ve put the veggies in the basket, you want to make sure they’re covered with a lid, so the steam can cook them.
Fourth, stir a little, and check. The veggies don’t need to be stirred much (which is good, because it can be a little tricky, but maybe that’s just because I fill my steamer so full!). I like to use a fork to move them around a couple times, also checking to see if they’re done. The veggies should not be limp; you still want them to retain their texture. This is another benefit of steaming over boiling veggies – that nice crispness. While all veggies take different times, it doesn’t take too long for most of them to cook, so keep an eye on them!
Fifth, season as desired, and eat! Often, we eat the greens as is, without adding anything, or I use them as a base for another dish (such as curry or ful). They taste great by themselves! Last night I ate my greens with some butter, sea salt & fresh ground pepper. Sometimes we use Bragg’s and Siracha, but you can eat them however you like!