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If you're looking for healthy, braising greens are packed full of nutrition.   These dark, leafy vegetables contain fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, folate, calcium, potassium, and phytochemicals like betacarotene, lutein, and zeazanthin that help fight against carcinogens.  Darker colored greens will have a higher nutritional value.  

Selecting Braising Greens:  

Braising greens have strong, assertive flavors and sometimes possess tough, fibrous leaves.  They taste best when young and crisp.  Select greens that are free of blemishes and have good color.  Although braising greens can be eaten raw, cooking them helps break down their fibrous texture and mellows their bitter flavor.  Greens will cook down considerably, so if you plan to cook them keep in mind that 1 pound fresh greens will yield about 2 cups cooked greens.  

Storing: 

            Although some people recommend washing braising greens as soon as you arrive home, I prefer to wrap them in damp paper towels and place them in a perforated plastic bag before refrigerating.  Greens are highly perishable, and moisture hastens their spoilage.  I check the paper towels periodically and re-dampen them if necessary.  Use braising greens within 2 to 3 days of purchase.  

Cleaning:

            Before eating, braising greens should be thoroughly cleaned as they often contain sand and dirt.  Pick through them to remove any damaged, wilted, or yellowed leaves and cut off tough or stiff stems.  Fill a large bowl with cold water and place the greens in the water.  Use your fingers to gently swish the greens around in the water.   Any dirt or sand on the leaves will sink to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove the leaves from the water and refill the bowl with clean cold water.  Repeat the washing process until no sediment appears at the bottom.  Dry the leaves thoroughly.  A salad spinner works nicely for this purpose. 

Italian-Style Braising Greens over Polenta Pie

For the Polenta Pie:  

            4 cups water
            1 ½ cups polenta or coarse-grained yellow cornmeal
            Dash salt
            2 tablespoons butter
            ¾ grated Asiago cheese
            1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Fill a large saucepan with 4 cups of cold salted water and whisk in polenta.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until polenta is the consistency of cereal, about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add butter and Asiago cheese to polenta.  Mix well, until butter melts, then pour mixture into a cast iron skillet or oven proof pan, spreading polenta evenly.  Spread Cheddar cheese evenly over the top and bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and brown.  Remove from the oven and allow polenta to cool to room temperature before slicing into wedges and serving. 

For the Braising Greens:   

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
12 cups braising greens, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt 

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallots and garlic and sauté until shallots are transparent, about 2 minutes.  Add braising greens and sauté 6 minutes.  Season with red pepper flakes and salt and continue sautéing until greens are wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. 

For the topping:  

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
¼ cup Asiago cheese 

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant.  Stir in breadcrumbs and cook 1 minute or until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, add Asiago cheese, and stir to combine.  

To Serve:  Cut the polenta pie into wedges, top with cooked braising greens, and sprinkle greens with breadcrumb topping.  Serves 4. 

Carol Ann Kates is the author of award-winning Colorado cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market, one of the top ten favorite cookbooks of the Denver Post Food Staff.   For more information, see www.secretrecipesfromthecornermarket.com.

 

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