Beth Dooley: Ditch summer's 'wimpy lettuce' for fall's heartier greens

Veggies bundled together for sale
Rainbow chard for sale at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, with its colorful stalks and leafy greens.
Tom Crann | MPR News

Chef and cookbook author Beth Dooley says that with the temperatures dropping, it’s time to get back into the kitchen. And she recommends easing back in with some of the season’s heartier greens.

Two people look over a display of vegetables.
Emily Mwaga of Minneapolis looks over the rainbow chard at You Xiong’s vegetable stand.
Tom Crann | MPR News

“It’s time to move on from those wimpy lettuces, delicate and darling as they are,” she said on Appetites this week. “It’s cold. I want to cook my greens, or I want a sturdier green — something I can chop up and have in a hearty salad if I’m going to eat it that way.”

All Things Considered host Tom Crann joined Dooley at the Minneapolis Farmers Market for some fresh produce and ideas, from using beet greens over pasta to using cabbage in a salad or wrapped around ground meat.

To hear their conversation, click play on the audio player above. And find two of Dooley’s recipes below.

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Pasta with Kale and Red Peppers

Serves 4

Pasta with Kale and Red Peppers
To take greens from side dish to a main course, toss them with pasta, red pepper and cheese or nuts.
Mette Nielsen

Coarse salt

3 to 4 bunches of collards

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into strips

Freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces pasta, your choice

Parmesan cheese 

Crushed red pepper flakes

Flakey sea salt

Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling, salted water. Strip the collard leaves and cut into ribbons. Blanch the leaves until bright green, about 1 minute. Remove and drain in a colander, rinse under cold water, and squeeze out liquid from the leaves. Keep the water boiling.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot. Cook the garlic and the red pepper for about 3 minutes and season with a little pepper. Add the collards and cook, stirring. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, stirring occasionally until it’s al dente. Using tongs, add the pasta to the collards along with about a cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing and adding more cooking liquid as needed until the sauce coats the pasta, about 2 minutes.

Serve topped with the Parmesan, red pepper flakes, sea salt and more ground black pepper. 

Kale and White Bean Salad with Pancetta

Serves 4 to 6

Kale and White Bean Salad with Pancetta
Beth Dooley's "Kale and White Bean Salad with Pancetta" comes together quickly, offering a good transition when colder days bring us back into the kitchen.
Courtesy of Mette Nielsen

1 bunch dinosaur, or Lacinato, kale

Flake or Kosher salt

3 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil

4 ounces pancetta, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar, or more to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste

½ teaspoon honey, or more to taste

1-1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans* or a 15-ounce canned beans, drained

Ground black pepper, to taste

Fold the kale leaves along the central rib and with a sharp knife, remove and chop them finely. Then slice the leaves into coarse ribbons. Toss all the kale into a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of the oil and massage, kneading it in for a minute to soften the kale.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat and add the pancetta. Cook, stirring every so often until crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate.

Pour the pancetta fat into a small heatproof bowl, whisk in the lemon juice, mustard and honey, to taste. Toss enough of the dressing over the kale to lightly coat. Toss in the beans and any of the leftover dressing and adjust the seasonings with pepper and more salt.  Scatter the crisped pancetta over it all.

* To prepare beans:  Put into a large pot and add enough water to cover by 4 inches. Let sit overnight. Drain, return to the pot and add enough water to cover by 4 inches. Set the pot over high heat, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook the beans until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, drain and set aside.