Mothers everywhere, through the ages, have been telling their children to eat more greens. I heard this so much as a child that it still occasionally echoes in my mind as a grown adult: Mom’s voice demanding I finish the pile of peas on my plate or else I wouldn’t be going anywhere except bed.
Getting older is tough. Eventually your mom stops telling you what to eat and all that’s left is that are those voices inside your head, telling you to ignore it or to take mom’s advice.
So hear me out. My father showed me the Eating & Drinking section of The Wall Street Journal and I saw this recipe ‘Swiss Chard and Sorrel Gratin’ by Ginevra Iverson and Eric Korsch. This was something I had to make.
Soon I found myself pondering in front of the produce section of the grocery store. There was a wall of green stuff. All I could find was a small bunch of Swiss chard but no sorrel. In case you’re wondering, sorrel is just a perennial that is culled and used as an herb or leafy green typically in a soup or stew and can be steamed as well (don’t worry I had to look that one up too). So I did what any chef would do, improvise.
I had all sorts of things to choose from. Collard greens, Mustard greens, Escarole, Dandelion greens, Kale, Turnip greens, Spinach. All would make great substitutes. First I grabbed myself some kale. Then escarole, I’m not sure why but this choice made me feel safe.
Then I took the risk, dandelion greens. I know some of you are thinking, can you even eat those things?
That used to be me. I never tried dandelion weeds until I made this dish. I knew you could eat them, I just didn’t know how to. I figured it was leafy and green and fit the profile, so in the basket it went.
Lastly I grabbed some leeks. I don’t know about you but I love leeks. They have this subtle sweet oniony taste and can give off a great aroma when they are being caramelized. If this recipe was headed for a downward spiral, leeks would be the one thing that was going to save me.
Luckily, I didn’t need saving. My end result was a pretty delicious one. All those greens covered in a delicate light béchamel with a slight sharpness from the cheese. Yes, there is cheese in this dish! And the nice little crust from the panko bread crumbs on top. What isn’t there to love?
I guess making Mom happy isn’t all that hard, even when you’re grown up.
This dish was easy, fun and delicious. I found that all of these greens were a great fit and the leeks helped give the dish its balance. Be sure to rinse your greens well and stick to whole milk when making the béchamel. It is meant to be light and compliment the greens, not smother them.
Leafy Greens and Leek Gratin
1 ½ cup Swiss chard, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 ½ cup Kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
½ cup Escarole, roughly chopped
¼ cup dandelion greens, roughly chopped
3 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, chopped small. Rinsed.
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon all- purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¾ cup Asiago cheese, shredded
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
½ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in swiss chard and kale and blanch until softened and bright green, 1 minute. Strain in a colander and squeeze out any excess water. Turn on broiler.
• Set pot over medium-low heat. Stir in butter and leeks and sauté until leeks start to soften. Add in minced garlic. Continue to sauté until leeks start to brown, 2-3 minutes. Increase heat to medium and stir in escarole and dandelion greens. Saute for 2 minutes or until greens start to soften.
• Sprinkle flour over greens and cook for 1 minute. Add blanched greens to sautéed greens. Add milk and gently simmer stirring frequently. Allow liquid to cook down, about 10 minutes. Remover from heat, stir in cheeses and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
• Using a 9-in round baking dish, pour greens mixture and spread evenly. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top and place under broiler for about 5 minutes or until the bread crumbs begins to golden brown. Serve immediately.