New South Stir-Fry of Hearty Greens with Garlic

Updated February 23, 2016

The South rises again in these delectable stir-fried greens, a far piece from the slow, slow, slow-cooked greens with a chunk of salt pork that are part and parcel of much Southern cuisine, but that never much appealed to me even when I did eat meat. Here, the great flavor, color, and nutritional value of the greens stay intact, a bit of hot pepper is added, and the garlic is caramelized. It’s important to wash your greens well, remove any tough ribs, stack the leaves, and cut across the grain into delicate, ¼-inch-wide strips.


Cooking Methodsauteeing, steaming



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionFamily Get-together

Recipe Courseside dish, vegetable

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, healthy, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian


Five Ingredients or LessYes



Taste and Texturechewy, garlicky, juicy, savory, tangy

Type of Dishvegetable


  • 3 bunches (about 2 pounds) hearty greens, any combination of kale, collards, turnip, escarole, or mustard, washed and sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 to 7 cloves garlic, halved, any green shoot in the middle removed, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • About 1 dried red chile pepper, broken into a few pieces but not crushed or crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges or vinegar (optional)


Steam the greens in a steamer basket placed over boiling water until just wilted, about 30 seconds, jamming them in to fit. Drain the greens well. (If desired, drink any liquid remaining in the steamer pot; incredibly tonic, and rich in iron, especially important for vegetarians.) Blot dry.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over the lowest heat you can get without the flame blowing out. Add the garlic and red pepper and slowly cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is an even pale golden color. This will take about 8 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and chile pieces. Set them aside, leaving the oil in the pan.

Turn the heat under the skillet to medium. When the oil is hot, add the greens and stir like heck, lowering the heat slightly. Cover for 1 minute to steam just slightly. Uncover and raise the heat a bit. Stir-fry until all the greens are limp, and starting to go from bright to dark green, 5 to 6 minutes. (They will continue to reduce greatly in volume.) Remove from the heat and season with salt and black pepper. Stir in the garlic and chile. Serve at once, with lemon wedges or vinegar passed at table, if desired.


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