What to Do with Overcooked Greens (& a Reason to Overcook Them in the First Place)

You chopped, say, four cups of kale (or spinach or collards or turnips greens), heated a slick of olive oil in a skillet, and added the greens. But, despite every intention to cook them until just tender, oh no! Time got away. The kale is soggy. Sad, right? Wrong!

At least not according to cookbook author Deborah Madison, who understands kale goes from kinda tough to mushy "in a single unwatched moment." In her most recent vegetable compendium, Vegetable Literacy, she offers this:

If it does get overcooked, consider making a pesto, working the drained cooked greens into pounded garlic, pine nuts, and salt in a mortar.

And while you could do this, Madison offers something a little less classic (and, perhaps, a bit more intriguing), a few pages later: Kale Pesto with Dried Mushrooms and Rosemary. When you think about it, the mushrooms only make sense, adding the same sort umami cheese would. Here's how to make it (for further pesto inspiration, head here):

  • Cover dried mushrooms in boiling water and set aside to rehydrate. (Madison uses 4 large slices of dried porcini.)
  • Sauté about 4 slices of onion, 1 clove of sliced garlic, and a couple teaspoons of minced rosemary in a slick of olive oil until the onion softens.
  • Add 4 cups of stemmed kale leaves (you could surely use other sturdy greens instead), season with salt, and add the mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Cover the pan and cook until the kale is tender.
  • Let this cool slightly, then pulse in a food processor until smooth, adding more olive oil as needed to reach your desired consistency.

Madison suggests spreading the pesto on a crostini along with ricotta cheese or stirring it into vegetable soup like minestrone. Here are some more ideas for how to use it (and all other future soggy greens pesto):

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Connie Weissinger Tucker
    Connie Weissinger Tucker
  • deverainnyc
  • Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
    Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
I fall in love with every sandwich I ever meet.


Connie W. October 15, 2016
Since when isn't pesto vegan?
Riddley G. October 16, 2016
A lot of pesto recipes call for grated Parmesan!
Connie W. October 15, 2016
Since when isn't pesto vegan?
deverainnyc October 13, 2016
One of the most delicious ways to use overcooked greens is what we learned in Italy from our friend Judy Witts Francini. Let the overcooked greens (in Italy the greens are purposely overcooked) cool enough to handle. Squeeze out every bit of moisture left the greens with your hands, saving the liquid. Finely chop the "handfuls". Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, with a couple of smashed up garlic cloves, and when the garlic begins to turn, toss in the chopped greens. Add the liquid you saved a little at a time. Cook until warmed through, and add a tablespoon of butter and mix thoroughly. Options: You can use about 1/4 cup stock if you don't get any liquid from the squeezing, and you can use a couple of tablespoons of cream or 1/2 and 1/2 if you'd rather not use butter.