Although I was only 100 miles away from Utica, New York when I was in graduate school, I never encountered this magical dish. In fact, it wasn’t until I was back in California (now 2,700 miles away) that Utica greens came into my life. On one hand: SO DISAPPOINTING. On the other hand: so grateful that I know of their existence!
Last summer, a coworker and I found ourselves with mega beets. Both mega in size, and mega in the sheer quantities of beets that we had. And these beets came with all their greens. We decided to divide and conquer, like you do. I took home the roots and roasted all the beets. She took home the greens and returned with one of the most wonderful, unique dishes I had ever encountered: Utica greens.
Unlike other greens, Utica greens are not simply sauteed, blanched, creamed, or stewed. They’re a little bit of everything with a little bit of everything delicious. Adjectives I’d use to describe Utica greens include: smooth, salty, crispy, cheesy, spicy, sour, hearty, cozy. Just to start. Originally made with chicories (those really bitter greens such as escarole and radicchio), the dish is sauteed and then baked with cheese and breadcrumbs.
Utica greens can be made with any kind of greens (in my opinion) but I love the combination of something more tender (like spinach or chard) with something a bit more tough (like kale or collards). It provides a nice differentiated texture when everything has cooked, with the tender greens falling apart and the tougher greens holding on to say, “Yes! I’m still a vegetable!” The key to Utica greens, however, lie in the hot cherry peppers. These pickled peppers are amazing. You can find them in most any store sliced or whole, just look near the pickles and olive for hot cherry peppers.
I make these Utica greens often in the winter when my CSA comes with lots of leafy greens, beet leaves, turnip leaves, etc. They’re a substantial dish and complement pastas, potatoes, and grains. I’ve also been known to make them in the summer to eat with cold pasta salad. Since greens are available all year round here, these Utica greens appear often on our dinner table.
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Cheesy, salty chard and collard greens make Utica greens an excellent stand alone dish or the perfect complement to any pasta dinner.
2ouncesbacon or prosciutto
1onion, finely diced
2buncheschard, stems finely chopped and greens roughly chopped
1bunchcollard greens, stems finely chopped and greens roughly chopped
1/4cupfinely diced hot cherry peppers
2 to 3tablespoonscherry pepper pickle juice (see note)
1/2cupgrated romano cheese
Parsley, for topping
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place bacon or prosciutto in a cool, oven safe pan or skillet. Cook over medium low heat, flipping once, until desired doneness. (See note.)
Remove from heat and transfer bacon or prosciutto to a paper towel lined plate.
Return oven safe pan or skillet to stovetop. Over medium low heat, add onions, garlic finely chopped chard and collard stems to the skillet. Stir frequently and cook until onions are soft and fragrant, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add chard greens and collard greens, stirring to cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.
Stir in hot cherry peppers and pickle juice, then remove from heat.
Mix cheese and breadcrumbs together in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture evenly over greens.
Transfer pan or skillet to the oven and place on the middle rack. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese melts and bread crumbs start to brown.
Remove from oven, let cool slightly. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve immediately.
SEASONED SECRET For the bacon or prosciutto, I go low and slow with heat to prevent burning. For the greens, you can blanch whole leaves in hot water first if desired. To do this, remove stems from greens and blanch separately. Then chop the greens and finely dice the softened stems.
VEGAN/VEGETARIAN Leave out the bacon or prosciutto and use olive oil to cook the onion, garlic, and greens. To make it vegan, instead of parmesan, swap in your favorite vegan shredded cheese or simply go without!
GLUTEN-FREE Leave out the bread crumbs or swap for your favorite gluten free variety. Sliced or crushed almonds would also add a nice toasty crunch to this dish. Add nuts at the end, when the greens are cooling.
CHECK THE FRIDGE If you ever purchase beets with tops on, this is an excellent option to use up those beet greens. Kale and turnip greens are also great for these Utica greens. Collards and kale may benefit from blanching, depending on their tenderness (see note above). Switch out romano cheese for parmesan or manchego. A salty, hard cheese is ideal here, but if you prefer mozzarella, go for it! Skipping the hot peppers? Use a bit of apple cider vinegar or any other pickle juice to add some acidity to these Utica greens.
I’m Elaine and I’m so glad you stopped by! I love bringing together friends and family, especially over food. With this site, I hope you’ll find that eating your vegetables never tasted so good. Learn more