Beyond the Kale
Hail to the kale! You’ve probably heard about the many virtues of kale and its mighty nutrient powers, but when it comes to gorgeous bunches of greens, don’t stop there. There are all kinds of versatile and tasty varieties of dark leafy greens that add nutrients and beauty to your plate, bowl, or even glass. I’m always looking to incorporate more greens into my family’s dishes. Whenever I make a pot of beans, soup, chili or stew, in go the greens too. While every variety of greens has its own particular flavor and characteristics, they are easy to use interchangeably in most recipes. Creamy Sesame Greens is another regular recipe on my list and a great one to use when trying out different types of greens.
Here’s my method for braising all types of greens for a simple side. Take a large bunch (or two) of greens, rinse and then shake gently to dry. Cut or strip leaves from the tough stem and then roughly chop. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of stock, water, or white wine in a large pan and add as much or as little minced onion as you like. Sauté, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften and becomes translucent, then toss in your greens. Stir occasionally until wilted and brilliantly colored. Add a splash of tamari if you like. Either stop here, or if you prefer your greens more mild and tender, add about ¼ cup of stock, cover, and simmer for another five minutes. You can cook just about any greens like this, but here are some of my favorites along with other delicious ways to use them.
Tender, mildly flavored and readily available year round, collards are one of my staples. With their flat broad leaves, they are also easier to chop than curly greens, and make delicious and colorful stand-ins for tortillas in wraps or in “sushi” rolls. I’ll cut out the stem and use a raw collard leaf or blanch the leaves to soften them as in these beautiful Collard Rolls. Subtly flavored collards also are lovely with spices such as in Collards with Lentils, Tomatoes, and Indian Spices or in Indian Spiced Garbanzos and Greens.
Swiss, green, red or rainbow, all these members of the chard clan can be used interchangeably. Chard makes a great stand-in for spinach with its velvety texture. But with its large leaves you can be even more creative with it, using it for layering in casseroles, wrapping around fish to bake or as a colorful new take on cabbage rolls. Check out these chard dishes too: Mushroom, Chard, and Caramelized Onion Tacos, Chard with Sherry Vinegar and Walnuts and Swiss Chard with Black-Eyed Peas.
Greens with a Bite
Do you like it spicy? Then don’t skip these sassy greens. You may pull them out of your lawn, but you should be putting them on your plate. Sharply pungent and a bit bitter, dandelion greens can be added raw to salads or sautéed to temper its bite. Mustard greens are peppery, pungent, boldly delicious — and packed with antioxidants and a wealth of other nutrients. Steam or sauté them with other strong flavors like garlic and soy sauce or add them to red beans and rice for a welcome tang.
And whenever I’m buying beets, turnips or daikon radish I always am so happy to find ones with their bountiful green tops attached. Not only do these pretty tops reflect the freshness of the roots, but they are an added valuable bonus! Try simmering turnip tops until silky for traditional Southern-style greens; tossing beet greens in with roasted or steamed beets towards the end of their cooking time; or adding chopped daikon greens to miso soups.
Lastly, perk up salads, wraps and sandwiches with the more delicate of the leafy greens. Mizuna brings a subtle exotic spice to dishes, arugula offers a peppery kick, and watercress, my favorite, brings a buttery texture and a sharp pleasing bite. Try it in Quinoa with Watercress, Pears, and Pomegranates. And keep broadening those green horizons. Mache, endive, escarole and even Italian parsley all provide new dimensions to your dishes and nutrient intake.
What’s your favorite green and how do you like to eat it?