Thursday, 1 October 2015 | 13 comments

Harvest & Chardonnay-braised greens

I arrived home from Botswana to full-on fall. No matter how how much of a jaded, ungrateful traveller I become, I don’t think the whole other-side-of-the-planet thing will ever get old. One day, you’re sweating it out in the southern part of the African continent, in the country that is seventy percent Kalahari Desert, in a city that gets eleven inches of rain per year. After thirty hours hurtling around in metal tubes, you begin descent into the mid-Atlantic U.S., the first pops of orange and red flashing up at you from the ground. Stepping out of the airport, your hair curls from the damp. It smells like dead leaves. A hurricane is coming. What a world.

There were hints of it before I left, the garden slowing down, the train ride in the mornings becoming darker, but the perennial harbinger of autumn for us is the grape harvest.


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The calendar is a solid-booked schedule of long days. For Ben, this is the Main Event, the thing he’s been working for all year. Harvest is punctuated by little rituals: we’re up even earlier than normal, taking care of morning chores by the beam of a headlamp in the wee hours, a strange pre-dawn vigil (the ducks hate this; they must think we’re some kind of scary bioluminescent raccoon come to kill them all—they wake up and start running into themselves and the walls, it’s horrible). There are particular playlists, for when you just need to rock out while you’re cleaning barrels. Beers at the end of a long day. Last year Ben made t-shirts for the crew with totally inappropriate jokes about maiming yourself on farm equipment. We develop “harvest palate”, a taste for juice that has just barely started fermenting into wine, sweet and fizzy and cloudy and just slightly alcoholic.

With harvest on the brain and temperatures dropping, I’ve been feeling the shift in what I want to eat. Long-cooked actually sounds appealing, after a summer of eating mostly tomatoes. I’ve been braising greens with wine for easy dinner with eggs and bread. The recipe is a bit like this kale skillet, but the substantial pour of wine in the braising liquid makes them stand out, with some nice fruity flavor coming through.

The swing of seasons feels really good after a long summer, and I’m grateful for it. We have the windows wide open and the cool air rolling in. I am pouring more wine. Here’s hoping there’s something good to be toasting about wherever you are.

Chardonnay-braised greens

I have used tuscan kale and green cabbage for this recipe, but am looking forward to trying this with red cabbage soon. It makes excellent if not necessarily visually appealing leftovers, especially piled on garlicky toast.

You’ll need

  1. 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  2. 1 red onion or 2 shallots, sliced
  3. 3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and roughly chopped
  4. 1-2 pounds of cabbage-y or leafy greens, whether kale, red or green cabbage, or collards, de-stemmed if necessary, and roughly chopped into about 1 inch pieces
  5. 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth/stock
  6. 1 cup Chardonnay or other white wine
  7. Kosher salt
  8. Black pepper
  9. Pinch of red pepper flakes
  10. Parmigiano, for serving


  1. In a wide, heavy bottomed skillet or other pan, heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion or shallots and cook, stirring, until they begin to lose structure and become transparent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant but not browned.
  3. Add the greens, working in batches if necessary, stirring with the onions and garlic and coating with a bit of oil. They will get shiny and cook down a little.
  4. After all the greens are in the pan, add the stock and the wine, along with a healthy few pinches of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a rapid simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced down and just coats the bottom of the pan. This will take 10-15 minutes. The greens will reduce substantially in size. Remove from heat.
  5. Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary. Service dusted with freshly grated parmigiano.

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§ 13 responses to Harvest & Chardonnay-braised greens

  • Aaron

    Just want to pop out of the woodwork to say that I love and appreciate your writing so very much. Chez moi it is a toast to that which feels in order. Cheers.

  • I usually have something worth toasting to going on! And who not braise some greens to go along with it?! This sounds lovely :)

  • I’m toasting to an evening all to myself, home alone. with a nice glass of lovely Corsican rose.

  • Oh fall – colours, cool weather and harvests. I want some of that wine. Sounds like a sweet low alcohol lambrusco. Plus, I love that photo of the deer. Gorgeous! Now when I get on a plane I’ll think about how I’m hurtling around in a metal tube. Also I’m feeling for your little ducks.

  • Aku

    As a DC-area native who now lives in Northern California, I turn to your blog for reminders of how how wonderful the seasons can be. It’s incredible how doing different things at different times of year changes both your perspective and your palate–and you capture that sensation perfectly. Thank you!

  • Those grapes look wonderful, and the colour of that juice! How many vines do you have?

  • What a world, indeed! Enjoy this grape harvest. It sounds like a perfect entrance into fall. after a hectic (but loved) summer.

  • Mari

    I cook so many greens all year- greens in winter desperation. Greens in celebration of spring. Greens in summer laziness. Now I’ll try this fall recipe.

    I love your writing. I just finally, FINALLY after many years of searching found appropriate grapes to make your harvest focaccia. Love every post and recipe. Thank you.

    • Mari, you are so kind—and I can’t believe you’re going all the way back to that harvest bread! It’s a good one. I need to make it again soon. Thanks for this nice note. –S

  • Cooking with the wine harvest sounds wonderful. In Germany there is a great tradition of enjoying young proto-wine you describe under the name “Federweisser.” There is red and white, and it’s sold cheap in bottles with loose lids to let out the fermentation gases. During the brief period in October when it is available, everyone bakes Zwiebelkuchen, an onion tart with yeasted dough, which is served in squares with the sweet yeasty Federweisser.

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