If it were up to me (and it is somewhat puzzling that it is not, considering the fact that I do all the cooking around here), every dinner I served would include these greens. Lightly garlicky, slightly bitter, and mildly sweet with just a flash of spice, these are the greens that I turn to when I want to whip up something to accompany a basic meal of protein + carbohydrates. Unfortunately, since many of my house’s food choices are not left entirely up to me, I don’t get to eat these greens all that often. I could try and be polite about this, but there’s just no skirting the issue. My kid, he hates leafy greens.
Many years ago, I was sitting in a Thai restaurant with my husband, pre-child years. We were watching a family of four, two parents, two children, eat their dinner, and I was pleased to see that both kids in the family were happily tucking in pile after pile of sautéed greens, spicy green beans, and grilled tofu. I watched and admired the family for quite some time, soaking in the spicy, vegetable-laden inspiration of their dining choices. So, I thought, kids will eat greens and spicy food. As it turns out, I was only half correct. Those kids will eat greens and spicy food.
For a long time, I thought that the secret to getting kids to like a certain food was just offering that food to a kid many times (the rumored magic number of offerings before a kid will accept a rejected food is 20—that is, your kid has to taste and reject the food on 20 separate occasions before he or she will finally accept it, which is, to put it simply, disheartening and somewhat ridiculous) until the kid just breaks down and finally decides to eat whatever you are shoving at him. I now know that the secret to getting your kid to eat food he claims he doesn’t like is…wait, there is no secret. At least, I haven’t discovered it. It seems as though the choices many kids make concerning the foods they will and will not eat are completely random. My son will demolish an entire avocado that has been bathed in fresh lime juice and cracked black pepper, but his friend down the street suffers from a distaste of avocados that is so intense, he has taken to telling people that he is actually allergic to avocados and can’t even be around them. My son loves salmon, but won’t go near prawns. He will graze through our garden in the summer, stuffing handfuls of basil, parsley, and mint into his mouth, but if you try and offer him a lettuce leaf, he will back away as though you are waving an angry cobra at his face.
Maybe it’s not really a problem. Maybe, because he is five, he is just being contrary. Maybe one day, when he has outgrown his fear of leafy greens and is interested in exploring the world of cooked greens, he will appreciate a recipe like this. There is not much I can do to in the meantime, save for offering him a tiny bite of my greens each time I make them, waiting in earnest for that magical 21st offering when he will fold under my persistence and finally give in. If I am really persistent, I could have this nailed by the time he is six. Maybe seven. Okay, fine. Twenty-seven.
With quinoa and grilled salmon
Cider-Braised Greens Recipe
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
large pinch of red pepper flakes
8 ounces of greens, rinsed and coarsely chopped (I used turnip greens, kale, and chard, but you can also use beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, or whatever other cooking greens you have on hand)
½ cup unfiltered apple cider
salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic and pinch of red pepper flakes, and sauté, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 seconds, until the garlic starts to release its aroma. Add the greens all at once, stirring to coat the greens in the garlicky oil. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the greens have wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the cider over the greens, stir to combine, place a lid tightly over the pan, and lower heat to medium-low. Braise the greens for five minutes, until the cider has mostly reduced and the greens are tender. Remove lid, stir in salt and pepper, and sauté for an additional minute until only a trace of the cider remains.