Tag Archives: Kale

Winter Greens Lasagna

11 Mar

Winter Greens Lasagna

Everyone loves lasagna yet I know great cooks who won’t bother to make it at home, myself included for a long while, because it seemed too much work. 

Not true, not true!

I’ve learned over the past few years lasagna can be pretty damn easy to make, particularly when someone reveals to you, as my great friend and great cook Tiffiny told me, that you don’t have to boil the lasagna noodles. That blew my mind, given the one time I tried to boil the noodles, then layer them, was a nightmare of near biblical proportions.  I never got that tray of lasagna into the oven and I never tried again until Tiff told me, no you don’t have to do that. Just layer them into the lasagna out of the box.  Genius.

Ultimately, lasagna is simply layers of flavors you stuff in the oven and bake. Yes, the layers themselves determine how good it will be and you want to make sure it isn’t too dry. But particularly with some quality store bought ingredients, you can prep and layer a terrific homemade lasagna in 30 minutes or less. Lasagna also sits beautifully so you can prep it on a Sunday, have it ready to shove in the oven when you get home Monday and then have wonderful leftovers all week. 

While I love me a classic red lasagna, my best version is one I invented a couple of years ago. I call it ‘Winter Greens Lasagna’ because I came up with it in January, a perfect time for this luscious white lasagna made with tons of greens available in winter. But you can enjoy this any time of year with all kinds of greens. I invented it because I am addicted to greens of all kinds. You could even throw some collards in here, though I’m not sure I’d make it with only collards.

Like most lasagnas, Winter Greens Lasagna is ridiculously adaptable and, more importantly, ridiculously easy and ridiculously good. When I made it last week to take some photos and get the recipe firmly set, everyone who was bouncing in and out of the house said it was the best lasagna they’ve ever had. I’ll take the compliment and tell you, yes, this is a killer dish. The only real work involved is sautéing the greens which, while it takes 25 minutes or so, is also high on the easy scale 

Give this a try.


Winter Greens Lasagna



  • This is very much a ‘throw a bunch of stuff together’ recipe that is hard to mess up, as long as you make sure to flavor your greens. I’ve tried to be particular about the amounts, which is not my forte, but a little more here and a little less there won’t mess you up.
  • A ton of greens cook down to very little greens. You want more greens than you think you need. They will reduce. With my latest version I started with three large Costco bags of mixed kale, chard and spinach (so easy, no washing or chopping) and they reduced way way way down. Just keep reducing and adding. Make sure you have enough to start. If you have extra, wow, awesome, more greens. 


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, medium dice
  • 6 – 10 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin 
  • 2 cups cups heavy cream
  • 1 pound red kale, washed, tough stems removed, and coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
  • 1 pound swiss chard, washed, tough stems removed, and coarsely chopped (about 8 cups)
  • 1 lb spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth and/or white wine or combo
  • 2 5 oz containers of crème fraîche (I like Bellweter Farms)
  • 1 9-ounce box lasagna noodles (gluten free is fine!)
  • 1 15 oz tub of ricotta
  • 1 cups finely grated Parmesan 
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese (mix the cheeses)
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes


  • Heat the oven to 400ºF and arrange a rack in the middle.
  • Sauté onion in olive oil over medium-low heat, seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until getting soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and a few good shakes of red pepper flakes and continue to sauté until garlic begins to soften. 
  • Fill your pot (the bigger the better here) with handfuls of greens, toss with the other ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly wilted. Add a few glugs of white wine (if using — which I recommend for flavor — if not start with your broth) and continue adding greens, more handfuls at a time, tossing when you add then, until all the greens are wilted.
    • Note: when the wine is about to burn off, start adding broth. Make sure there is always some liquid in the pot, helping the greens reduce.


      My first handfuls of greens

  • When all the greens are wilted, pour in a cup of cream and cook over low about 5 minutes more, tossing frequently, reducing the liquid a little more. Season with additional salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes and remove from heat.
    • NOTE: The greens are the main source of savory flavor in the dish. Get these greens seasoned well. I like them with some kick because the creaminess of the rest of the ingredients will temper the spice considerably.
  • Spread a carton of the crème fraîche evenly over the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Cover the crème fraîche with a layer of noodles: break them up to fit… if they overlap slightly no big deal. Using tongs, spread 1/3 of the greens mixture from the pot and evenly spread over the noodles. Then cover with 1/3 of the ricotta and 1/4 of the Parmesan. Pour a little cream over the top. Repeat to make two more layers, ending with a final layer of noodles on top. Evenly pour more cream over noodles, about 1/4 cup but use more if you need it. Mix together the second container of crème fraîche with the remaining Parmesan/Pecorino mixture and spread evenly over the top.
  • Cover with foil and bake until bubbling and starting to brown, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned completely and sauce is bubbling, about 10 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Winter Greens Lasagna, out of the oven, resting

Winter Salads

13 Dec

Even though it is freezing cold and there are no fresh spring or summer vegetables flooding farmers’ markets and grocery stores, you can still enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures: the salad.

I’ve been a fanatic for salad as long as I can remember, all kinds. Even the simplest of salads, correctly prepared, can be sublime. One of my favorite dishes in all the world, for instance, is Union Square Cafe’s  Bibb & Red Oak Leaf Lettuce Salad, their version of a dinner salad that thankfully never leaves the menu. I dined there once with a friend who is not partial to salad. Given my raves about the salad, she decided to order it, figuring she might as well try one of the world’s best dinner salads to see if her mind might be changed.

She tasted it, waved down the waiter and ordered a second one before continuing. Her reaction for the next few minutes eating the salad was not unlike Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

That’s what can happen when you have good salad.

You can always make a simple, wonderful green salad with fresh lettuces any time of year. Add a few herbs and toss with a wonderful vinaigrette (never ever store bought, learn to make a great one, with variations, here) and you will have the perfect start, or end, to any meal.  Let me also, however, give you two salads tailored specifically for the ingredients and tastes of winter: a fantastic Raw Kale Caesar (with video!) as well as a delicious and crunchy Nutty Pesto Vegetable Salad.


Here is a video demo I did with some friends prepping a few videos to use for the website. I of course left out the anchovy when I made it! See the additional notes and written recipe below for more details:

NOTE: When you make this, be sure to add the anchovy! Sautéed pancetta is a wonderful addition I often toss into the salad, particularly if I omit the rustic croutons. If you want the salad really healthy, add no croutons, no pancetta and very little cheese… it’s still terrific. But a touch of cheese and pancetta won’t kill you! Those are tastes where a little goes a long way and does not get in the way of healthy eating.

Click here to get the full recipe: Raw Kale Caesar recipe.


Cabbage Salad

The next winter salad has become one of my favorite dishes to make. It’s my own version of a salad I had at one of my favorite places in the world, Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. This rustic inn, located in one of the most beautiful locales imaginable, is one of the best havens from the outside world you can find. While the inn is down the road from a couple of the most expensive hotels in the world, Deetjen’s itself is very reasonable. And romantic. And relaxing. No phones, no TV’s, not even locks on the doors. Comfortable beds, a glorious woody setting right across from the Pacific… I get lost there for days.

Deetjen’s has a terrific restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner, both glorious. The restaurant’s Eggs Benedict are the best I’ve ever had. Ditto their Blueberry Pancakes. Best ever as well. At night, the restaurant is soft lit, warm, romantic and, again, rustic. Oh, and wonderful food. For me, Deetjen’s is heaven on earth.

The last time I was lucky enough to stay there a few nights, they offered a special salad made with cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes and a variety of nuts, lightly tossed in a wonderful pesto vinaigrette. I liked it so much I ordered it two nights in a row then came home and figured out my own version.

This is a terrific salad, very much a ‘throw together’ salad that is virtually impossible to mess up. Just be sure to include a variety of nuts and don’t miss using the peanuts: they help give the salad a wonderful, salty kick. While you can make this any time of year, I make it all summer, it’s great on a cold winter’s night as a starter to your dinner. Or as part of a buffet with other winter salads and dishes. Or, if you are eating light, a solid meal on its own. Get the recipe here: Nutty Pesto Vegetable Salad.