I just got home yesterday from a rather whirlwind tag-along-with-my-girlfriend’s-band trip to Amsterdam, Antwerp, Arnhem, Berlin, and Krakow. It took me two extra days to get home because of the weather stuff that’s been going on, but luckily in Krakow I was put up in a hotel room…once I got to the U.S. the atmosphere was decidedly less helpful, friendly, or compassionate (thanks, Newark Int’l, I’ll make sure I avoid you like the plague on any future trips abroad). But while there I had an amazing time pretending to be a roadie, hearing new music, seeing all new places, and eating a lot of really good (and free!) food. I got written into the band contract so there was always a vegan option available for me, if the vegetarian dinner wasn’t already so. You can see my food-related photos in the gallery above. On my unexpected extra day in Krakow, I found a mostly vegan organic cafe that was ultra-delicious and so cheap — who knew Poland would have a masala dosa and orange coconut cake that was so tasty? I also got to drink Belgian beers for free (oh, Chimay!) and try some Polish lemon vodka (wodka!).
Aside from the provided meals, though, breakfasts tend to be pretty bread and dairy-laden (butter, cheese, milk), and having to drive to a new city everyday meant a lot of less-than-ideal road food. When I got back home I was in the mood for lots of vegetables, and especially greens. Sauteed greens are one of my favorite things to have with dinner, and sometimes even breakfast or lunch. The most time-consuming part, really, is cleaning the greens, which doesn’t usually take me very long. I do speak from the experience of having worked in a commercial kitchen however, where one particular recipe called for 36 bunches of collards needing to be stemmed and chopped. (Take a tip from me if you don’t already do this, and rip the leaves off the stem by folding the leaves in half, placing your fingers around the base of the leaves, and pulling your fist towards the top. Believe me, it’s much easier than cutting stems out.)
This basic recipe is, for the most part, how I make all my sauteed greens; I always use garlic and almost always balsamic. You can change up the flavor by using different kinds of oil and additions (toasted sesame and tamari is a great combination), adding onions or bell peppers or other vegetables, and/or sprinkling fresh herbs on top. You can use any kind of leafy greens; I gravitate towards kale most often, but also use mustard greens, swiss chard, spinach, or collards…here I used a combination of collards, turnip and mustard greens, and spinach. Greens will always, always reduce significantly, and the softer varieties like spinach and chard reduce even more. As a general rule of thumb for portioning, count on a final amount that is about half of what you started with.
If you love balsamic as much as I do, you can even add some balsamic reduction before serving for a little added sweetness, which is a great contrast to the more bitter greens variety I used here. And in case you’re curious, I ate mine with rosemary mashed cauliflower and some soyrizo.
Sauteed Greens with Garlic and Balsamic
4 cups very tightly packed leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, etc (you may want to use more if using spinach or Swiss chard)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh chili pepper, minced (optional)
a generous pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare your greens by washing, shaking off excess water, removing any tough stems, and chopping or slicing into smaller pieces. The leaves don’t have to be perfectly dry; any water droplets left will help to cook the greens more thoroughly.
Heat the olive oil in a large wok or frying pan and add the garlic and chili (if using). Saute for 30 seconds or so until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the greens and salt and stir to coat, then saute until just tender and still vibrant in color; the time will vary depending on the type of greens used. If the greens seem too dry, add a splash of water to help steam-cook. A little before you are done, add the balsamic vinegar and stir to distribute, cooking for another half minute or so. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve warm.