The pizza here in CNY may not be my cup of tea, but what the area does do right is greens. If you’re unfamiliar with the dish, greens are typically some form of leafy green (escarole, spinach, etc.) sauteed with other good stuff like chicken stock, butter, bacon, hot peppers, and more. Utica is famous for its greens. Every restaurant has its own rendition, and every native has their favorite version. Greens are quite possible the area’s best kept secret. Once you try them, you wonder how you lived a complete life beforehand.
Now, I’m well aware that greens are also popular in the South, but Central New Yorkers take green-making very seriously. It’s not just a side dish, it’s an essential that must be mastered if you don’t want to be exiled from the area.
Oh, your restaurant doesn’t serve greens? Good luck with that.
What I love about greens is the versatility. There are so many ways to mix it up and make them your own. Nothing is off limits; pick your favorite leafy green and seasonings, and go to town.
Since there are so many ways to serve up a bowl of steamin’ hot greens with all the fixings, I’m bringing you two versions. Both are delicious, so pick one or try ‘em both. You can’t go wrong.
The first version is my mother’s Classic Kale Greens, consisting of kale sauteed in chicken stock with red pepper flakes, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It’s flavor city, boasting that bit of spicy bite that is essential to good greens.
My variation is a bit different: Kicked Up Caramelized Onion Greens. I use spinach as my green of choice, then saute it with vegetable stock, red pepper flakes, parsley, garlic, and Pecorino Romano cheese. But that’s not all; the crowning glory of my greens is sweet, buttery caramelized onions, creating a green experience like you’ve never seen before. I’ve witnessed a lot of greens during my time in CNY, but never have I seen caramelized onions in them. These greens are crazy flavorful, spicy, and perfectly decadent thanks to the onions.
Whether you’re a greens veteran or virgin, you’ve got to give these guys a go. You will fall in love. No matter if you choose my mother’s classic but crazy delicious version or my kicked up spinach greens, you’re going to be one happy camper. They’re both easy to make and full of flavor. One forkful, and you’ll understand why CNYers loves them some greens.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- Always, always use fresh herbs and garlic. Dried does not compare.
- Got a favorite green? You can switch out the greens in either of these recipes for whatever you prefer: escarole, swiss chard, etc.
- You can easily make my mother’s version vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
- But, if you’re more of the meat-eating kind, add bacon or sausage to either recipe!
- Caramelizing onions must be done low and slow, so save yourself some sanity by making them earlier in the day. Then add them into the finished greens to heat through when you’re ready to serve.
Ma’s Classic Kale Greens
By Mother Cookie
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bunch fresh kale, chopped
- Dash red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large skillet over medium-low heat, saute garlic in chicken stock until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add the kale, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally until wilted.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese until it begins to melt and serve.
Kicked Up Caramelized Onion Greens
By the Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 large onion, sliced
- ½ cup butter (1 stick)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 5-6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- ¼ cup veggie stock or water
- Dash red pepper flakes
- kosher salt, to taste
- 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- In a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook low and slow until caramelized, stirring occasionally (about 20 minutes). The onions should be sweet, tender, and golden brown.
- In a large skillet over medium-low heat, saute garlic in the olive oil until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach, veggie stock, red pepper flakes, salt, and parsley. Stir to coat. Cover and let simmer until wilted, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the cheese and onions until completely warm through out. Enjoy!
Which version are you going to try? Do you have a favorite way to make greens?