Recipes using fistfuls of greens

This past weekend, I had friends coming over for dinner who are mostly vegetarian, and, at the same time, I was missing all the amazing Greek food I used to eat when I lived in Queens, NY, many years ago. To kill two birds with one stone, I decided to make a Greek pie using lots of tender spring greens and herbs, mixed with onions, fennel and loads of feta cheese all baked between layers of flaky phyllo dough.

I reached for a tried-and-true recipe in Greek food writer Diane Kochilas’ cookbook “Ikaria” and set about performing the ritual chopping and chopping and more chopping it takes to cut all those herbs and greens down to size. My kitchen smelled like fresh-cut grass, and all the heady aromas of the dill and oregano overwhelmed my senses. Once all the greens were prepared, I encased them in more than a dozen layers of olive oil-brushed phyllo sheets and baked the pie until it was exceedingly crispy. It was a hit with my guests, albeit because it looks way more impressive than it is difficult to make.

Making that Greek pie kicked off my obsessive habit to cook with all the leftover herbs I’d bought. But instead of sprinkling them here and there over my dinners — which I did a little — I wanted to mostly enjoy them en masse, like I did in the Greek pie.

The first thought that came to my mind was kuku sabzi, a Persian frittata-like dish of eggs teeming with loads of fresh greens and herbs. I used the same mix leftover from my Greek pie because that’s what I had, so use whatever you have too. Spinach, parsley, dill and cilantro — any “soft” green-leafed herb is wonderful here.

The simplest way to eat the herbs is to just treat them like salad greens, tossing them with a vinaigrette and sprinkling toasted nuts or seeds over them. Or fold greens into a savory pancake batter for breakfast or lunch.

The easiest thing to do is stuff a random mix in your blender — or mortar and pestle, if you prefer — along with some grated cheese, garlic and lemon juice and mix up a batch of easy pesto to keep in the fridge for swirling into soup or spreading on toast.

Kuku Sabzi

Parsley and cilantro, dill and spinach, lettuce and scallions, leeks and fenugreek — any green can all go into a bowl to make this dish. Make it ahead of time and serve it at room temperature.
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Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

Fresh Herb Salad With Seeds

Baby salad greens such as arugula and spinach combine with herbs such as mint, cilantro, parsley and basil here, but use all herbs if you want. As with with all salad greens, wash them and keep them cold until just before tossing and serving the salad.
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Cook time: 25 minutes.

Green Pancakes With Lime Butter

These pancakes are moist and tender and scented with cumin to complement the spinach. The lime butter is fresh and slightly spicy, but optional; serve the pancakes with green salsa too if you have some.
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Cook time: 45 minutes.

Easy Carrot Top Pesto

In this recipe, carrot tops are used in place of parsley, but you can also use flat-leaf parsley. This pesto is made quickly in the food processor and lasts for two weeks in the refrigerator. Dollop it on cooked eggs, toss it with hot pasta or mix it with mayonnaise to spread on sandwiches.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 10 minutes.

(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

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