How to grill greens: A top chef explains

Galen Zamarra, the owner-chef of Mas Farmhouse and Mas La Grillade, demos a grilled spinach technique that'll make you the star of every summer barbecue.
Mas La Grillade
The finished product: Grilled spinach (Photo: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good)


For most people, heating up coals for grass-fed burgers or salmon steaks this time of year is a no-brainer, but not many think to cook their greens on the grill.

Galen Zamarra, chef and owner of the acclaimed Mas Farmhouse, thinks you should. At Mas’ younger-sister restaurant, Mas La Grillade, Zamarra literally cooks everything—from tuna to ramps to romaine—on a super cool open-flame grill system, using locally sourced hardwoods and techniques like steaming, charring, and grilling.

Galen Zamarra in the kitchen at Mas La Grillade with his just-grilled greens.
Galen Zamarra in the kitchen at Mas La Grillade with his just-grilled greens. (Photo: Melisse Gelula for Well+Good)

Why does the system work well for greens? It’s quick, easy, and adds a delicious smoky flavor. (We stopped by for lunch and trust us, it’s true.)

Zamarra gave us a sneak peek into the wood-burning kitchen and an on-the-spot spinach grilling demo. Follow his instructions below, or watch the four-minute video—and you’ll become the healthy star of this summer’s backyard (or rooftop) barbecue.

1. Heat it up. “It’s important that the grill is nice and hot to start,” Zamarra says, so let it heat up while you’re mixing up a healthy batch of mojitos. “You don’t want any flame, just the radiant heat from the coals.”

2. Prep the spinach. Toss it with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. “But don’t dress it as much as you would a salad,” he says. Just a little bit of oil will help it cook quickly.

3. Use a special bowl. You can use a wire rack, but your best bet is a stainless steel colander-style bowl that has small holes all over it. “If you put the leaves directly on the grill, they’ll just fall through. This way [with the bowl], the heat and the smoke will come right up through the bowl and cook it and flavor it.”

Mas La Grillade grilled greens
Yet another green, grilled, on the menu at Mas La Grillade.

4. Cover it. Right at the start, grab a non porous bowl and put it on top like a lid for a minute or so to get the spinach hot. “Keeping the cover on will also trap some of the smoke inside, increasing the flavor,” Zamarra explains.

5. Toss and stir. Once you take the top bowl off, toss and stir it like you would in a wok, to keep it from charring or burning. The leaves will start to wilt down and get darker in color “This is when you want to be stirring it continuously so that it stays moist and gets nice and soft all over. You don’t want it to dry out and get crispy and brown or black.”

6. Flavor and serve. Once it’s done, squeeze a little bit of lemon juice on it, add another dose of salt and pepper to taste, and serve. —Lisa Elaine Held

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