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By Merritt Watts for

The food trend burning up this season is, in fact, sizzling: Fresh-off-the-grill greens are popping up on the menus of taste-making restaurants across the country, and they deserve a spot-on healthy home barbecue too. Chefs love flame-cooked greens for the extra dimension they add to standard salads. They’re also nutritionist approved: A side of crispy, charred kale might be the healthiest thing to hit grilling season since the veggie burger.

“Greens are great on the grill,” explains Shanna Pacifico, chef at Back Forty West in New York City. “It’s a really quick and easy way to add deep, smoky flavor and crispy texture to these vegetables, which are usually served raw or just gently cooked.” Kale, escarole, mustard greens, bok choy and romaine hearts all top Pacifico’s list of grill-‘em greens.

A few tips for firing up your leafy greens:

First, be sure to toss the lightly-oiled greens onto a hot grill (about the same temperature you’d use to grill a steak) and watch carefully. “You want them just slightly charred in spots, not black all over,” says Pacifico.

Don’t overcrowd the grill, which could cause leaves to steam rather than char. Once they’re perfectly blackened, let greens cool in a single layer, not in a stack, to maximize crispiness.

Fire up the grill to try Pacifico’s grilled kale salad, a crowd-favorite at Back Forty West that’s a take on a Caesar salad: Grilled kale stands in for romaine lettuce, fresh Spanish anchovies (called “boquerones”) add protein, and chickpeas replace the typical croutons.

Get the recipe for Grilled Tuscan Kale Salad with White Spanish Anchovies, here!

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