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A lucky twist on New Year's greens

Recipe: Baby kale (or collards) with capers cooks quickly

Here's a quick New Year's dish: Stir-fry baby kale or other baby winter greens with shallots, garlic
and capers. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Like all holidays, tradition packs New Year's celebrations. That includes food.

Black-eyed peas and collard greens are a longtime Southern standard, bringing good luck and fortune for the new year. The peas represent coins that will find a way to your pockets; the greens, "folding money" for your wallet.

We've had black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's most of my life. But I always thought the slow-cooked collards looked more like ragged dollar bills that had been through several wash cycles than fresh, crisp notes. A new year deserves new money.

So I subbed baby greens for their mature counterparts. They cook in a fraction of the time. Plus they look and taste fresh -- like a New Year should. Also, I tend to have a lot of baby greens in mid-winter; baby greens are what you harvest when you thin vegetable rows.
Baby kale or chard is more common at farmers markets or grocery stores than baby collards. Any of those greens will work in this recipe. Just make sure the greens are well washed. (Dirt tends to cling to tiny crevices.) Submerge them in a bowl or basin of water, then drain in a colander.
For this recipe, I used baby Lacinato or Tuscan kale (also known as dino kale). Its dark blue-green, nearly black leaves turn emerald green when cooked. It becomes tender in minutes, not hours, retaining most of that bright color. (Faster cooking also tends to retain more of the greens' high nutritional value.)
This is a meatless version of greens; no ham hock, bacon or chicken broth. Instead, capers, red pepper flakes and white wine vinegar add a kick of extra flavor (and no fat).
Besides lucky, these greens are healthy, vegan and quick. That could make "more baby greens" part of your New Year's resolutions.

Baby greens and capers
Makes 3 to 4 servings

May baby greens with capers bring you luck and good
 health in 2019
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound baby kale, baby collards and/or baby chard
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil, then sauté shallots and garlic until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Wash greens well. Tear larger leaves into 2- to 3-inch pieces, removing any large center ribs or tough stems.

Add greens by handfuls to pot, stir frying with each addition. Stir until leaves start to wilt and turn bright green. Add water and seasoning; cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 5 minutes.

Uncover and stir in capers. Keep cooking until remaining water evaporates, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat. Drizzle with vinegar and stir.

Serve immediately.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 14

Your garden needs you!

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to reduce the chance of fungal infection and to conserve moisture.

* Feed vegetable plants bone meal, rock phosphate or other fertilizers high in phosphate to stimulate more blooms and fruiting. (But wait until daily high temperatures drop out of the 100s.)

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week.

* Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more. Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* It's not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers.

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