The blooming of farmers’ markets in New York happens a lot later in spring than I want it to. That’s why it’s always a thrill when the first bundles of spring greens finally arrive.
Of all the cooking methods one could use for greens, I like braising best. The fat adds richness to the lean greens, while the liquid — in this case, a mix of stock and wine — makes the leaves silky and soft. You can braise any type of green or combination of greens using the same basic technique.
With stems that are as succulent and flavorful as their ruffled dark leaves, chard is a pleasure to use in its entirety. Here, the sliced stems are sautéed with leeks, adding texture.
Usually, a pot of braised greens feels like a side dish. But stirring a package of prepared potato gnocchi into the pot transforms it into a satisfying one-pot meal. As the gnocchi simmer, they release starch into the broth, turning it into glossy sauce.
Serve bowls of these soupy greens and gnocchi on cool spring nights. They make a fine bridge between cozy winter stews and snappy salads, perfect until summer arrives.
BRAISED CHARD WITH GNOCCHI, PEAS & LEEKS
By Melissa Clark
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced thinly into half-moons
• 2 bunches chard, stems thinly sliced, leaves coarsely chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
• 2 teaspoons thyme, chopped
• Kosher salt and black pepper
• 3/4 cup dry white wine
• 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
• 1 pound potato gnocchi
• 2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
• 1 cup torn parsley leaves and tender stems, for serving
• Grated Parmesan, for serving
• Lemon wedges, for serving
• Fresh ricotta, for serving
• Red pepper flakes, for serving
In a 5 or 6-quart Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add leeks and chard stems, and cook until tender and lightly brown, 7-10 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme and a large pinch of salt and black pepper, and sauté, about 1 minute. Add wine and let it reduce by half, 2-4 minutes. Pour in stock and 3/4 teaspoon salt, and bring to a simmer.
Stir in gnocchi and chard leaves. Cook, partly covered for 15 minutes. Add peas and tarragon, and continue to cook, partly covered, until gnocchi are cooked through, another 5-10 minutes. Taste and add salt, if needed.
To serve, top with parsley, a generous shower of Parmesan and a big squeeze of lemon. If you like, you can also add a dollop of fresh ricotta and some red pepper flakes.
Total time: 45 minutes, serves 4-6.