Americans are obsessed with convenience. I don’t blame us; it’s nice having products and services available that take small, time consuming tasks off our hands, so we can focus on the things we really need or want to do. It’s the reason everything from laundromats with same day service and drive thru restaurants exist, because if there is any task we can outsource to others, in order to give us more time for work or leisure, we love it! But while this works great for laundry, a task where it's really just annoying to do it and it doesn’t require a lot of practice or skill, when we outsource our daily food consumption to others we lose... big time.
Not only do we generally eat less healthy meals than we otherwise would cook ourselves at home, cooking does require a little bit of practice and some basic skills to be good at it, and when we eat out or order out for most of our meals, we lose those skills and become out of practice. This is not a new problem for Americans, and different people have tried different ways to make cooking at home easier for us, from Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals to Blue Apron's already assembled “just chop and cook” meal delivery services, it seems that everyone has the solution for you to start cooking at home again. And yet, Americans continue to order out.
Many of our students at The Chopping Block will often mention that it is so easy to order out, and I think being able to cook the fabled “quick and easy home cooked meal” is a very important part of getting cooking more frequently and living a healthy life. Allow me to add my voice to those with the solutions to your cooking problems, because everyone is making it harder than it really is.
Here is my recipe for a sensible, cheap, easy to prepare meal that I adore. It is full of nutrients, really freaking tasty, healthy (yes, it has a strip of bacon in it, but give me a break), and the best part is I often prepare this in my kitchen in no more than 20 minutes. Rachael Ray, eat your heart out.
Braised Greens with Bacon, Almonds and Herbs
Serves: 1-2 people with leftovers
½ a bunch of hearty greens, (i.e. Swiss chard, Turnip greens, Collard greens) cut into wide strips
1 strip bacon, cut into thin slices
½ white onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ a can of Cannellini Beans, rinsed
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
A small bunch of your favorite herb or herbs (I used tarragon and basil.)
1/8th cup of your favorite crunchy vegetable, sliced thin (I used radish, but I also love green beans in this dish.)
A few shreds of your favorite sharp cheese (I like to use Asiago or Parmesan.)
¼ cup toasted almonds, chopped
Begin by heating a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium low heat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until some of the fat has rendered out, and the edges just begin to crisp.
Add onions and sauté over medium heat until bacon is crisp, and onions are translucent, maybe 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for thirty seconds. Add your greens to your pan, if not all of them fit, don’t worry, allow as many as you can, allow them to wilt, and add the remainder. Deglaze your pan with the apple cider vinegar and a ¼ cup of water, scraping any browned bits of bacon off of the bottom of the pan.
Simmer until greens become tender, how long until that happens will depend on the type of green you chose, but for turnip greens this turns out to be about five minutes. Do not worry if your greens begin to darken in color at this time, this is normal, and if all of your liquid evaporates before you are happy with the texture of your greens, simply add a splash of water to the pan and keep cooking.
While the greens simmer, tear your herbs into large pieces, and mix them in a bowl with your chopped almonds and cheese. Dress this little salad however you like. I dressed mine in salt, olive oil and apple cider vinegar, (because I already had the vinegar out, this is about convenience people) just a few drops of each, but feel free to use lemon, avocado oil, or your favorite salad dressing, just go light. I like to call this mix the lazy man’s pesto, and it take no time to throw together, yet can elevate any plate you put it on.
Set the “pesto” aside and once the greens are texturally to your liking, go ahead and stir in your rinsed beans, and your vegetable of choice. Continue cooking until the new additions are just warmed through, and then taste the fruits of your labor.
You may need to add a bit of salt to the dish, and a few extra drops of vinegar can also be welcome to help wake up the dish. Now onto a plate the braised greens go, to be topped with the lazy man’s pesto. And there you have it: a one pot meal for the modern American. It's packed with smoky flavor from the bacon, bright notes from the herb salad, protein, vitamins, low carb, (relatively) low fat, and all being able to be done in a time that I think puts both takeout and Rachael Ray to shame. America, cook your heart out.
Want to learn more easy, weeknight meals? Our cooking classes are a great place to start!