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A lucky twist on New Year's greens

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)

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

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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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

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

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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